Veterans Disability Benefits

The United States Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) is responsible for making determinations on whether a veteran qualifies for Veterans’ Disability benefits. Many veterans who believe they should qualify for Veterans’ Disability benefits end up feeling frustrated when they find out that their application has been denied by the VA. It is not uncommon for applications to be denied, and it is also not uncommon for the VA to make mistakes when they are reviewing the cases of applicants. It is important to know that being denied benefits after filing the initial application is not the end of the road. The VA has an appeals process that allows veterans to challenge the decision, and overturn the denial of benefits.

The process of applying for veterans’ disability benefits, and the appeal process can be frustrating, confusing, and time consuming. Here is a summary of the stages an application might go through in the course of the application and appeals process.

The initial application process

You can apply for benefits online, by mail, by phone or in a local VA office. Individuals at a veterans service office, veterans’ organizations, and disability attorneys can assist you in completing your application.

You will have to provide details about your medical condition, and how it was caused, or worsened by your time in service, and that you were discharged under conditions other than dishonorably.

You also must show that you are at least 10% disabled, that your disability resulted from your time served on active duty in the Uniform Services, served on active duty for training purposes, or served on inactive duty for training. If the service was training while on inactive duty, an injury, stroke or heart attack must have been the cause of the disability.

I think I meet the requirements, why was my claim denied?

Your claim could have been denied for a number of reasons, here a few of the more common reasons:

  • The VA does not believe that you are disabled – The VA will require an actual diagnosis of the disability you are suffering from. It is not enough that you are being treated for symptoms associated with a certain disease or injury, you must have a doctor’s diagnosis of the disabling condition.
  • The VA does not believe your disability is related to your service – If you had a Compensation and Pension Exam (C&P Exam), the physician might have given an opinion that your disability was not related to your time serving in the military. You can and should get another doctor to state that your injury is related, so give your doctor or an independent examiner your records related to the injury and your service.
  • Your doctor’s review was not thorough enough – The VA will want your doctor to have reviewed your entire file, and to have explicitly linked your disability to your service. Anything that is not specific or thorough enough will work against you.
  • The VA did not find proof of your in service injury  – If you suffered an injury during your time serving, the VA will expect there to be a record of the injury occurring. If you think there should be records, you can check with the National Personal Record Center, and if you there are no records, you can get witness statements from others who know what happened.
  • You missed your C&P Exam – The VA can deny you benefits if you do not appear for your C&P Exam. This has happened before in cases where the VA neglected to tell the veteran about the exam.

My claim was denied, what do I do now?

If your claim was denied, and you believe you are owed benefits, you should begin the appeals process. This will begin with filing a Notice of Disagreement with the VA. If you are still denied benefits, you may file a Substantive Appeal to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals. You may elect to have an in-person hearing with a Veterans Law Judge, or to have one via teleconference.

If you are unsuccessful with this step as well, you can file a new claim with the VA, file a motion to reconsider, a motion for an additional review of your claim, or file a Notice of Appeal and take your claim to the United States Court of Appeals for Veterans.

Is the appeals process complicated?

Unfortunately, the laws regarding veterans’ disability benefits are quite complex and the process can be confusing. You have the right to have an attorney represent you and help you to navigate the process. Having someone experienced and knowledgeable about the process can greatly improve your chances of a successful outcome.

Contact Stern Law, PLLC for A Free Consultation

At Stern Law, PLLC, we have compassionate and caring attorneys ready to work with you to seek the benefits you are entitled to as a veteran. Contact Stern Law, PLLC today at (844) 808-7529 for a free consultation with an experienced veterans’ benefits attorney.

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