Should You Hire a VA Disability Lawyer? 5 Reasons Why
By Space Coast Daily // April 21, 2022
If you’re a U.S. Veteran seeking disability compensation, a Veterans Affairs or VA disability lawyer can help with your claim and save you money—and a lot of stress.
According to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) website, 75 percent of initial applications for disability benefits are denied. Those that aren’t are assigned a disability rating that determines the level of benefit.
For many Veterans that initial disability rating is lower than what the applicant might qualify for.
There are a number of reasons you might be denied benefits, or given an insufficient rating.
■ Insufficient medical evidence was provided.
■ Your condition couldn’t be ruled service-connected.
■ Issues with deadlines or paperwork (on your part or theirs!)
■ Your condition was deemed pre-existing.
Suffice it to say, there are legitimate reasons you might want to appeal your decision, or your rating. And it helps to know that there’s not just one kind of claim: in addition to your original disability claim, there are claims for increases, secondary claims connected to the original, special claims, supplemental claims, and altogether new claims.
That’s where your local VA disability lawyer comes in. They’re a critical resource for Veterans who’ve received an unfavorable decision in their benefits case.
So should you hire one? Maybe. Off the bat, you should rest assured that there are laws protecting Veterans with regards to legal fees and cases, so don’t let cost dissuade you (yet).
Here are five reasons why you might want a VA disability lawyer:
If you don’t have a presumptive disability
Presumptive disabilities are those the VA automatically presumes qualify you for benefits.
This includes causes such as:
■ Being a former prisoner of war
■ Exposure to Agent Orange during service in Vietnam
■ Exposure to atomic ionizing radiation
■ Gulf War service
If you DON’T fall into one of these categories, you may have to prove that your disability is connected to your service, using evidence you provide. That might include documentation from your service, your medical records, a Nexus letter written by your doctor detailing your service-connected condition, exams by VA doctors, and more.
The right VA disability lawyer can help you gather and present evidence of your disability in a way that maximizes your chances of a positive outcome in your case. They can also help you avoid common mistakes that could lead to your being disqualified, like missing deadlines, or incomplete or incorrectly filled-out paperwork.
If you’re appealing a denial or low disability rating
If you’re just starting out with your application for benefits, you should know that when the VA determines that a Veteran suffers one or more service-connected disabilities, they assign a disability rating between 0% and 100%.
This rating is based on a combination of all approved disabilities, but the math gets complex; if you have one service-related disability that is rated 20% and another that is rated at 30%, you aren’t automatically rated 50% disabled. (Here’s a great blog post explaining more about these ratings and how they are calculated.)
Your combined rating is then used to determine the level of benefits your family will receive.
Needless to say, you’ll want to make sure you get the maximum rating you qualify for. Some Veterans apply, then don’t get the rating they feel they deserve, and may need to appeal that decision.
That appeal can involve filing a supplemental claim with new and relevant evidence. It might mean requesting a review from a more senior claim reviewer, or it might require appealing to a Veterans Law Judge at the Board of Veterans’ Appeals.
A VA disability lawyer can advocate for you during the appeals process, help you understand how best to present your evidence, and ultimately help increase your disability rating and get you more benefits.
If your VA disability claim is complex
There are a few scenarios that could make your claim a lot more complicated. The most common is when you need to file for multiple disabilities at once. Another instance is if you’re suffering from disabilities that have worsened over time, and you’re filing for increased compensation.
Or you might develop special needs related to your disability, such as driving equipment that needs to be installed in your vehicle, new clothing to replace items damaged by prosthetics or skin condition, dental care, and so forth. All of these require money that you might be entitled to. Same goes for time spent in the hospital, convalescence or recovery from surgery, or the simple inability to perform your work.
There are honestly a LOT of different complicating factors that the VA will consider, and a good VA disability lawyer can guide you through the steps required for your claims.
If you’re filing a secondary disability claim
Sometimes you end up with disabilities that are caused—or worsened by—your primary service-connected disability. Even if you’ve already been approved for benefits for the primary disability, you might qualify for additional benefits…if you can prove your secondary issue is connected to—that is, caused, aggravated, or worsened by—the primary disability.
That secondary connection not only requires you to use the same types of medical evidence and service records, but you’ll also need a Nexus letter from a doctor describing the connection in detail. Filing secondary connections is challenging but, if you are approved, you can increase your disability rating and thus the benefits paid to you and your family.
Your VA disability lawyer can help you tie these issues back to your military service, can medically prove the severity of your secondary condition, and can help you receive the highest disability rating possible under your circumstances.
If you need your claim to be expedited
It sounds easy enough, but anyone with experience working with the VA understands that things seldom move as quickly as you might want or need them to. And there are specific instances when a Veteran may truly need a case to be expedited.
If you’re experiencing financial hardship, if you’re 75 years old (or older), if you’re homeless, or if you’re terminally ill, you have excellent reasons to want the VA to decide quickly on your claim.
If you’ve received a 100% disability rating from the VA and are seeking Social Security disability benefits, you may be able to expedite your Social Security claim.
A VA disability lawyer can tell you if and when your case may be expedited, and how to proceed, both with VA and Social Security claims. Their job is to explore every possible opportunity to minimize your waiting time.
Note that what we’ve described here are just five reasons why you might want to hire an attorney. Everyone is different. The process can be long and complex; luckily there are people specialized in precisely these matters who are here to help.