Frequently Asked Questions About Veterans Disability Benefits Claims
Veterans and their families often have very similar questions about navigating the VA disability benefits process. Here, we have answered some of the most frequently asked questions we receive. Please browse these questions and answers to learn more.
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How long does it take to get a decision on a VA disability claim?
Once you file your application for VA disability benefits, one of your top questions will probably be, “How long will it take to start receiving monthly benefits?” Unfortunately, the time period for the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to make a decision on a Veteran’s eligibility can vary widely. It can take anywhere from months to a year or longer for an application to be approved.
Factors That Can Affect the Time it Takes to Begin Receiving VA Disability Benefits
The VA estimates that it takes them 94 days to review a VA disability application. However, many cases take much longer than that. Here are some factors that can shorten or extend the time it takes to reach a decision:
- Type of claim filed. There are many different types of claims filed for disability benefits, and some take longer than others to process. For example, if you file your claim under the “fully developed claim” program, you may receive a quicker decision. However, if you must appeal a denial of benefits or are reopening your claim, it could take longer to obtain the evidence you need and for the VA to review it.
- Number of disabilities claimed. The number of disabilities or injuries you are claiming benefits for, and their complexity, can affect how long the application process will take. If you have numerous, complex injuries, it will take the VA longer to make a decision.
- Evidence needed. If you do not include all the evidence necessary to support your application or the VA requests additional documents, this could slow down the VA review process.
- Field office location. The time period can also be affected by the field office where you file your claim. If you live near one that serves more Veterans, it could take longer for the VA to reach a decision than if you lived near an office that serves fewer Veterans.
In some situations, you can ask that your claim be expedited. For example, if you suffer from a terminal disease, are 77 years old or older, or are suffering severe financial hardship, such as possible homelessness, you can ask that your application be fast-tracked.
What You Can Do to Make Your Application Review Process Go Faster
If you want your application to be decided as quickly as possible, you should retain an experienced VA disability lawyer in Roswell to help you collect the evidence you need to support your disability claim and to file your application, so it is done properly. He can also follow up with the VA to be certain that they are reviewing the claim and can provide them with any additional information they need to approve your claim. To learn how we can help, call our office to schedule a free consultation today.
What evidence do I need when I file my VA disability claim?
When you file an application for VA disability benefits, you must establish that you are eligible for benefits. How do you do this? You provide the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) with the evidence they need when making a decision on your application.
Evidence You Should Include When Filing Your VA Disability Application
In order to receive disability benefits, you must prove that you suffered a disability that is connected to your service in the Armed Forces. Here is the evidence that the VA requires you to submit to establish this:
- Service records. You must prove that you were in the military service and were not dishonorably discharged. You do this by providing the VA with your DD214, which is the separation document you would have received when you were discharged from military service, or another separation document.
- Medical records. You will need to provide your medical history, VA hospital records, private physician medical records, diagnostic tests, and any other medical documentation to prove that you suffered a disability and that it is connected to your time in the Armed Forces.
- Family records. Supporting statements from family, friends, people you served with while in the military, or other individuals who have information about your disability can be helpful. They can share information on how your disability occurred, how it got worse, and how it affects your life.
You can provide your evidence directly to the VA or give them permission to obtain this documentation when reviewing your application. If you suffer from certain disabilities, such as traumatic brain injuries, you may be required to submit additional types of documentation.
Contact Us for Assistance in Filing Your VA Disability Application
If you are applying for VA disability benefits, providing the correct evidence is crucial to being approved for benefits. Our experienced VA disability attorneys can help you collect the documentation you need and complete your application so that you receive the disability benefits you deserve. Call our Roswell office or fill out the online form on this page to schedule your free, no-obligation consultation today.
My disability has gotten worse. Can I get an increase in my VA disability rating?
When the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) approved your application for VA disability benefits, they gave your physical or mental impairment a disability ranking of between 0 and 100 percent. This rating directly affects the amount of disability benefits you receive. If your medical condition has gotten worse over time, which is common, you have the right to ask for an increase in your disability rating.
How to Obtain an Increase in Your VA Disability Rating
If you are thinking about asking for an increase in your disability rating, it is important to understand how to do this properly and the possibles outcomes of your request. Here are the steps you need to follow:
#1: Consider the Possible Consequences
When you ask the VA to increase your disability rating, they will review your entire file. They could decrease your benefits if they determine that your condition has gotten better or that a mistake was made in the initial determination of your disability benefits. Before deciding whether to request an increase, you should consult with your physician and an experienced VA disability lawyer.
#2: Make the Correct Request
The way that you request an increase in your disability rating will be based on how long it has been since your claim was approved. If it has been less than a year since the VA awarded you disability benefits, you cannot file a motion for reconsideration. You will need to file an appeal, which can require you to attend hearings and court proceedings.
If your request for disability benefits was granted more than a year ago, you can request a reconsideration of your rating. You do this by filing Form 21-526b.
#3: Provide Medical Documentation
You will need to provide the VA with medical records showing that your condition has worsened. If you are being treated by a private doctor, you will need to complete Form 21-4142 so that he is authorized to speak with the VA and to release your medical records to them. If your doctor is a VA physician, you will need to provide the name and address of the VA medical facility where you are being treated.
Contact a Roswell VA Disability Attorney for Assistance With Your Claim
Do you need to ask for an increase in your disability rating? Call our Roswell office or fill out the online form on this page to schedule your free consultation to discuss your situation and whether filing this request is in your best interests.
Should I file a Notice of Disagreement with the VA if my application for disability benefits is denied?
If you received a letter from the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) denying your application for VA disability benefits before February 19, 2019, you must file a Notice of Disagreement (NOD) to appeal their decision. You would also file a NOD if the VA approved your application, but their rating of your disability was wrong. If you received a denial on or after February 19, 2019, you must follow a new process to file an appeal.
What Is a Notice of Disagreement?
A Notice of Disagreement is a VA form that must be completed to begin the appeal process. This Notice should be provided to you by the VA when they send you a decision on your application.
The deadline to file the NOD is one year from the date of the VA’s notification letter to you.
Tips on Filing Your NOD
If you want to receive a favorable decision, you need to complete the NOD properly. Here are seven tips you should follow:
- Use the correct VA form. This form is VA 21-0958 “Notice of Disagreement.”
- Do not miss the one-year deadline to file the NOD.
- Select whether you want a Decision Review Officer Review (DRO) or a Traditional Appellate Review. An experienced VA disability lawyer can advise you which option is best for you.
- Be specific on what decisions of the VA you disagree with and why.
- Include any additional supporting evidence that supports your right to VA disability benefits and refutes the VA’s decision denying your application.
- Retain a skilled attorney as soon as possible to help you file your NOD and collect all the evidence you need to be successful.
- Keep a copy of your NOD and any supporting documents for your records.
Are you considering filing an appeal of the VA’s decision to deny your application for disability benefits? Call our Roswell office to schedule a free consultation with a member of our legal team to get your questions answered and learn how we can assist you.
Can my Veterans disability claim be reopened?
Filing for VA disability benefits can be a long and frustrating process. If you were denied benefits or have completed the appeals process unsuccessfully, you may have another option other than starting the process over again by reapplying. You may be able to request that the VA regional office reopen your claim.
However, you do not have an automatic right to reopen your claim. You must provide the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) with new and material evidence, and your claim must be one that is eligible to be reopened.
What VA Disability Claims Can Be Reopened?
You may be eligible to reopen your claim for benefits if you have exhausted all of your appeals and they were denied, or you missed a deadline to appeal. There is no statute of limitations, or deadline, to file a request to reopen your claim.
Only certain types of VA disability claims can be reopened. These types of claims are eligible:
- Service-connected disability benefits
- Burial benefits
- Dependency Indemnity Compensation (DIC)
Other types of claims, such as for an increased disability rating, must be started over by filing a new application.
What Is Considered New and Material Evidence?
If your claim is eligible to be reopened, you must provide the VA with new and material evidence for this to happen. New and material evidence is evidence that you did not submit before that is substantial to your claim. It has to address the specific reasons for the last denial of your claim by the VA. The information must be so substantial that it would be unfair for the VA to refuse to reopen your claim.
Let Us Help You With Your VA Disability Claim
Filing a VA disability claim, appeal, or request to reopen your claim is complicated. Let our VA disability lawyers help you file your claim and provide the VA with the documentation that they need for your application to be approved. Call our Roswell office today to schedule your free consultation.
Why will a nexus letter from my doctor help my VA claim?
When you file an application for VA disability benefits, you must establish that you qualify for these benefits. One of the most difficult elements to prove is the nexus, or link, between your illness or disability and the in-service event that caused it. One of the best ways to establish this is to submit a strong nexus letter to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).
What Is a Nexus Letter?
A nexus letter is a document prepared by a physician or other medical professional that explains how a Veteran’s medical illness or condition is directly related to his military service. While a nexus letter is not required when applying for VA disability benefits, it can make the difference between an application being approved or denied. A nexus letter can be submitted with an initial application, while the VA is evaluating whether the Veteran is eligible for benefits, or after an adverse C&P exam.
A nexus letter is especially crucial if no medical records were provided in support of the application and the C&P examiner does not find a link between the Veteran’s illness or disability and his military service. In this situation, the application will be denied unless a nexus letter is submitted.
How to Make a Nexus Letter Stronger
It is best to choose a doctor that is currently treating you to write a nexus letter on your behalf. You should select a doctor that is board-certified in the area of health that is at issue in your case.
The physician must use specific language, certain phrases, and the correct medical standard when writing the letter. Here are some tips on how he can ensure that the nexus letter strongly supports your claim:
- The letter should be brief, but thorough. It should focus on the facts and the doctor’s conclusions.
- The doctor should mention in the letter that he has reviewed your entire VA file and medical records. If he fails to do so, the VA may disregard his letter.
- The letter should mention that the doctor has recently examined you. The VA may find the physician’s conclusions more persuasive if this is true.
- The physician does not need to draw an absolute conclusion as to the nexus between your disability and your military service. It is sufficient if “it is at least as likely as not.”
Ask a VA Disability Lawyer If You Have Questions
If you are a Veteran applying for VA disability benefits, the experienced VA disability attorneys at The Injury & Disability Law Center can help you file your application and work with your doctor so that he understands what information should be included in your nexus letter. Start a live chat to schedule for your free consultation to learn more about your rights to benefits.
How will the VA rate my disability?
After the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) determines that you are a Veteran who suffers from a disability and are eligible for benefits, it will assign a disability rating to your disability. This rating will be crucial to the determination of the amount in monthly disability benefits you will receive. If your rating is set too low, it can cost you hundreds or thousands of dollars in monthly benefits.
What Is a Disability Rating?
A disability rating is an average detriment to your earning capacity resulting from your service-related illness or disability. The VA uses a Schedule for Rating Disabilities that contains over 500 diagnostic codes for physical and mental disabilities as part of its assessment. Once your disability is assigned a diagnostic code, the VA uses a rating scale of 0 to 100% in 10% increments to set your disability rating. Your disability may be rated at anywhere between 10 to 100%. The greater the percentage, the more severe your disability is considered, and you would receive a larger monthly disability payment.
If you are like many Veterans, you may suffer from more than one disability. The VA will not just add the percentages for each disability to establish your rating. Instead, they will use a different rating table and complicated formula to set it.
How Your Disability Rating Will Determine Your Monthly Benefits
The VA sets the disability rate of payment every year to take into account Cost-of-Living Adjustments (COLA). In 2019, as a single person, you could receive these monthly payments based on your disability rating:
- 10%: $140.05
- 20%: $276.84
- 30%: $428.83
- 40%: $617.73
- 50%: $839.76
- 60%: $1,113.86
- 70%: $1,403.71
- 80%: $1,631.69
- 90%: $1,833.62
- 100%: $3,057.13
If you are married or have dependent children or parents, you would receive additional monthly benefits based on your disability rating. For example, if you are married with one child, here is what you may receive depending on your percentage of disability:
- 30%: $516.83
- 40%: $735.73
- 50%: $1026.36
- 60%: $1,290.86
- 70%: $1,609.71
- 80%: $1,867.69
- 90%: $2,098.62
- 100%: $3,352.41
Discuss Your Disability Rating With a Roswell VA Disability Lawyer
As these examples show, it is crucial that your disability rating is set at the correct rate so that you receive the disability benefits that you are entitled to. Our experienced VA disability attorneys can help you ensure that the VA rates your disability properly. To learn more about your entitlement to benefits and how we can help, call our office to schedule your free consultation today.
What is a service-connected disability?
If you are applying for disability benefits with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) as a member of the armed forces, you must be eligible for these benefits. One of the first things that you will need to show is that your disability or illness is connected to your military service. This is also called showing that you have a service-connected disability.
Ways of Establishing a Service-Connected Disability
There are five basic ways to show that you have a service-related disability that entitles you to benefits. They include the following:
- Direct Service Connection. A direct service connection can be shown if there is a specific incident that is linked to an illness or disability. For example, if a Veteran becomes paralyzed as a result of gun shot or a helicopter crash while in combat, he can show the direct service connection between his disability and service in the military. Hearing loss due to repetitive exposure to extremely loud noises would fall under this category as well (see Tinnitus).
- Presumed service connection. Some illnesses and disabilities are presumed to be service-connected by the VA. The VA has a list of these conditions and the length of time a Veteran would be presumed to be disabled. Examples of presumed medical conditions include chronic illnesses, tropical illnesses, tuberculosis, and multiple sclerosis as long as the disability rating is 10 percent or more.
- Pre-existing injury. A pre-existing injury can be used to establish a service-connected disability if the Veteran had the medical condition prior to his service in the military and it was made worse by an event while he was serving. In most cases, the pre-existing injury or disability must be noted on the serviceman’s initial medical exam.
- Secondary service condition. A secondary service condition is one where one service-related disability causes another one. The second disability may not be connected to the veteran’s service, but would not have occurred if he did not have the first service-connected illness or disability. For example, if a serviceman contracted tuberculosis, which is presumed to be service-connected, and suffered hearing loss due to taking medication with this as a possible side effect, his hearing loss would be considered caused by the first service-related illness.
- Treatment by VA. If a Veteran suffers an injury due to his medical treatment by the VA, this would automatically be considered a service-related disability.
If you are a member of the armed forces and are disabled due to your service, our experienced VA disability attorneys can help you file your application and gather the evidence you need to ensure that you receive the benefits you deserve. To learn more about how we can assist you, fill out our convenient online form.
Why should I hire a VA disability attorney instead of using a VSO?
Many injured Veterans rely on Veterans Service Organizations (VSOs) for help when pursuing Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) claims. VSOs are typically non-profits run by volunteers that are established to support Veterans. Some of the most popular VSOs include American Veterans, Disabled American Veterans, The American Legion, and Veterans of Foreign Wars. Representation by VSOs offers some advantages, but there are drawbacks, as well.
Veterans Service Organizations
Representation by a VSO offers some important advantages, including:
- Free help. VSOs typically assist Veterans with the filing of their disability claims free of charge. Veterans are not required to be a member of the organization to take advantage of their services.
- Relatable. Most VSOs were created by Veterans, for Veterans. This means that disabled Veterans can have a representative who understands what life in the military entails.
Veterans Disability Attorneys
While Veterans sometimes choose a VSO since the services are free, many Veterans have benefited considerably from hiring an attorney to guide them through their disability claim process. An experienced Veterans disability attorney can:
- Gather evidence. An attorney can locate various necessary pieces of documentation, such as medical bills and records, to support a disability claim.
- Request an independent medical exam. The VA often requires very precise information from a physician, and a doctor’s report may be rejected if this information is unsuitable or insufficient. An attorney can request an independent medical exam to ensure that the VA receives the information necessary to process the claim.
- Navigate VA claims and appeals. The VA claims and appeals processes are complicated, and the laws governing them are often difficult to understand. Attorneys know how to interpret the regulations that are applicable to a disability case.
Hiring a VA Disability Attorney
While there are no mandatory certifications or credentials for VSOs, Veterans disability attorneys must undergo years of education and training before they are permitted to represent Veterans. Hiring an attorney can significantly increase your likelihood of collecting benefits, by ensuring that you receive personalized attention when submitting or appealing your claim. To learn more about what a disability lawyer can do for you, call us today or complete the contact form on this page.
Can I afford to hire a VA disability attorney?
Hiring a lawyer to assist with a Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) claim is very affordable, thanks to the contingency fee arrangements that most disability attorneys use. Under a contingency fee agreement, a lawyer is only paid for legal services after the case has been won.
Contingency Fee Arrangements
Contingency fees are typically paid directly out of a Veteran’s lump sum payment from the VA, provided that the veteran and attorney have entered into a fee agreement that allows for this. The VA will send the percentage of past-due benefits specified in this fee agreement to the attorney, and will then send the Veteran the balance of the lump sum. Clients benefit from contingency fee arrangements in several important ways, including:
- No payment is required up front. Disabled Veterans are often already suffering under an immense financial strain due to their injuries. Contingency fee arrangements allow Veterans to secure the legal representation they need regardless of their economic circumstances.
- Clients only pay for results. Veterans will never owe legal fees unless their attorney is successful in obtaining the disability benefits they are owed. Veterans with a successful claim will also be responsible for payment of their case expenses, such as the cost of obtaining medical records and hiring expert witnesses.
- Disability attorneys have a strong performance incentive. Since lawyers are only paid if and when they secure compensation for their clients, they have a powerful incentive to provide quality representation.
Receiving VA Disability Benefits
If you’ve been injured in service to your country, you may be entitled to receive VA disability benefits. Unfortunately, pursuing these benefits is frequently a struggle, since it is a long process requiring extensive documentation. An experienced attorney can help you receive the compensation you deserve. The consultation is free, and there is never a charge for providing assistance during the application process. To learn more about what a disability lawyer can do for you, call us today or complete the contact form on this page.