In some ways, applying for veterans’ disability benefits is easy. You download the form from the Veterans Administration website and you fill it out. But, truth is, applying for benefits is NOT as simple as that and a good VA disability attorney can help significantly. Here are the top reasons why you need a skilled and experienced VA disability attorney like the ones at Ascend Disability Lawyers, LLC.
Being a Good Source of Information
According to reports, as many as half of disabled veterans do not even apply for benefits even though they are eligible. Part of the explanation is lack of information; veterans are not aware of the benefits that are available and are not aware that many conditions are partially disabling. A good VA disability attorney is first, and foremost, a good source of relevant and necessary information.
Helping to Navigate the Process — Application, Service Record, Doctors Reports, etc.
In general, to be eligible for and obtain VA disability benefits, a veteran must show three elements:
(i) A current diagnosis that constitutes a disability
(ii) Which is connected to — or has a nexus with —
(iii) A service-related incident
One of the most frequent reasons that the VA denies benefits is because the veteran did not provide enough evidence on one or more of these elements. Maybe there was plenty of medical evidence, but not enough evidence of the in-service incident or of the nexus between the medical condition and the incident. A good VA disability lawyer can help see the gaps in the evidence and help fix the problem(s).
Knowing the Law for VA Disability
Related to the above, a VA disability lawyer can help by knowing the law. Most importantly, they will help you know the changing law.As an example, as mentioned, one of the three elements that is necessary is an “in-service incident”. Sometimes that is easy to show and is straightforward. If you injure your leg, that is an “in-service incident”. But what about an accident while on base? Or, what about an injury during a training exercise? A good lawyer knows the law. In these examples, each would be considered an “in-service” incident. As for changes in the law, a good example is a recent change with respect to other-than-honorable (“OTH”) discharges. Under a new law, veterans with OTH discharges will be eligible for mental health services.
Working With Your Team
It may sound odd to think of yourself as part of a team when applying for benefits. But you are. Your team is your family, your doctors, your buddies from service and your trusted attorneys. There are several ways to provide evidence of an in-service incident. Your service record might describe the incident. However, often it is necessary and/or useful to obtain what is called “buddy statements.” These are statements from soldiers with whom you have served that provide their written testimony about what happened. Such can be very helpful. Sometimes, family members can provide statements helping to provide evidence of the disability. This is often the case with post-traumatic stress disorder cases. In some cases, such as military sexual trauma, “buddy statements” and statements from friends and family provide the necessary circumstantial evidence of the service-related event.
A good VA disability attorney works with your team to coordinate and gather the best evidence.
Getting the Benefits on Appeal — the Importance of not Giving up
Many veterans are denied benefits at first for reasons that are not necessarily related to whether you are disabled. As an example, missed filing deadlines are a common reason for denial. But that does not mean you are not disabled; it just means you missed a deadline. Another example might be obtaining the wrong type of report from your physician or not understanding the need for/importance of a buddy statement. A good attorney can help if you have been denied. This begins with the receipt of a Disagreement Letter from the VA. Indeed, if you did not have an attorney helping you up to the point where you receive a Disagreement Letter, it is time to shift your tactics and hire a good VA disability attorney.
More Benefits — Thousand More Per Year
Veterans represented by an attorney obtained an average of $6,225 more per year than those who had no representation. The report also studied the variation in payment rates and amounts from state to state. The report found a correlation between a high state ranking for compensation payments and the percentage of attorney-represented applicants. As the report stated: “… the high cluster of states shows an average representation [rate] of 69.5 percent, while the low cluster averages 54.7 percent representation.”
Making You Eligible by Helping Upgrade/Overcome Discharge Status
Although there is no clear standard, the VA often denies disability benefits for discharged veterans for reasons less than honorable. Denial is not automatic, but the OTH discharge complicates matters. A good lawyer can help with efforts aimed at upgrading your discharge status or showing a connection to a medical condition. One example might be a circumstance where post-traumatic stress disorder led to drug use or behavioral misconduct.
Contact a VA Disability Lawyer at Ascend Disability Lawyers, LLC
If you are a veteran and you think you might be disabled — partially or wholly — contact the experienced New Orleans VA disability benefits attorneys here at Ascend Disability Lawyers, LLC. Good lawyers can help with the complicated process of applying for VA disability and appealing denials. Ascend Disability Lawyers, LLC has years of experience helping New Orleans and Louisiana veterans file for and keep their VA benefits. Contact us via email or by calling (855) 631-2544. Call today.