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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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.
How do I file a VA disability claim?
There are a few critical requirements when filing a claim with the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Processing the initial claim for VA benefits may take as little as a few months or as long as several years, so there is no time to waste. To secure your compensation as early as possible, you should apply for benefits as soon as you determine that you are disabled.
Ways to Apply for VA Benefits
There are a few options when applying for benefits. You may apply for VA benefits by:
● Calling 800-827-1000.
● In person by visiting your local VA office.
● Online by using the eBenefits website.
● Completing and submitting Form 21-526EZ.
Specify Your Illnesses and Injuries
When you complete the application, list the specific illnesses and injuries for which you are requesting disability benefits, along with the date your symptoms appeared. You should only claim disabilities or illnesses you had in service if you are still suffering from the condition, or if you suspect that you may develop complications in the future.
Gather Documentation of Your Illnesses and Injuries
You’ll need documentation of your injuries to support your claim. Documents you should submit with your application may include:
● Medical clinic and hospital records related to your injury or illness. While your benefits application allows you to sign a medical records release, many private medical providers ignore VA requests for these records. Submitting medical records with your application eliminates this problem.
● Supporting statements from friends, family, clergy, law enforcement, or other veterans regarding your injury or illness.
● VA medical and hospital records related to your injury or illness.
Help With Your VA Disability Claim
If you need assistance with your disability claim, you can visit your local VA office. You may also get help from a disability lawyer. An experienced disability benefits attorney can review your claim, gather vital evidence, and prepare the necessary paperwork to help you receive the compensation you deserve. If you’ve been injured in service to your country, we can assist you with your VA benefits claim. Call us today or complete the contact form on this page.
Am I eligible to receive VA disability benefits?
Disability benefits are available to Veterans with a history of active service and specific service-connected disabilities.
Military Service Requirement for VA Disability Benefits
The most basic Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) benefits requirement that must be met is a history of active service. To be considered active, a Veteran must have served either:
- Full-time in the United States Marine Corps, Army, Navy, Air Force, or Coast Guard
- As a cadet at a United States Military, Air Force, or Coast Guard academy or as a midshipman at the U.S. Naval Academy
- In the Reserve or Air or Army National Guard, when service is activated by the federal government
The active service requirement may also be satisfied in some cases by having a history of:
- Service in certain national organizations affiliated with the Armed Forces
- Engaging in training for the Armed Forces
- Enrollment at a preparatory school at the Military, Coast Guard, or Air Force academies
There are a couple of conditions which may prevent Veterans from qualifying for benefits. These include:
- Dishonorable discharge. A Veteran who has met the active service requirement still won’t be eligible for benefits if he or she has received a dishonorable discharge. However, Veterans with other types of discharges, including honorable discharges, discharges under honorable conditions, and general discharges will still qualify.
- Willful misconduct. Willful misconduct is behavior that involves conscious wrongdoing or a known prohibited action. Veterans seeking VA benefits due to a disability created by their own willful misconduct will be ineligible to qualify for those benefits. However, the burden of proof is on the VA to show that the Veteran’s willful misconduct led to the disability.
Military Service-Connected Illness or Injury Requirement
To be compensable, a Veteran’s disabilities must stem from a disease or injury sustained or aggravated in the course of active military service. These disabilities are considered to be service-connected, and they are rated from zero percent to 100 percent. A Veteran must be at least 10 percent disabled by a service-connected injury or illness in order to receive compensation, and pay rates increase as this percentage rises.
Help Obtaining VA Disability Benefits
The process of qualifying for and receiving disability benefits can be confusing, but an experienced Veterans disability attorney can provide the assistance you need to get the maximum allowable compensation for your service-connected injury or illness. To learn more about how we can help, contact us today by clicking the Live Chat button on this page.