After serving your country, you may return to civilian life to find that you bear the literal or physical scars of your service. Military veterans who suffered a service-connected disability may be entitled to disability benefits through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Unfortunately, the process to get VA benefits can often be challenging, with layers of bureaucracy and endless forms.
While applicants cannot be represented by a VA disability lawyer at the initial stage of the disability claim process, an attorney can help you file an appeal if your claim is denied or if you receive a lower disability rating than you should have. Through the appeal process, you may be entitled to retroactive benefits, including service-connected disability benefits and non-service-connected pension benefits.
At Cap & Kudler, we are proud to represent veterans through all stages of the VA disability claims process, including appeals of hold decisions on disability. No matter how long ago you received this decision, we will work to recoup money for you. Our team will use its experience representing victims of injury accidents to help you with your VA disability claim appeal.
What Are the Types of VA Disability Benefits?
The VA offers two main types of disability benefits. The difference between the two types of benefits is whether your disability is linked to your military service. Both types of benefits are tax-free and come in the form of monthly payments.
Service-connected disability benefits are available to disabled veterans who were diagnosed with a medical or mental health condition that was (1) caused by their military service or (2) made worse by their military service. Both veterans and their qualified dependents are eligible for these benefits, which are paid monthly. The benefit amount is based on a disability rating schedule, which expresses disability as a percentage from 0 to 100%. There are additional levels of disability known as Special Monthly Compensation (SMC) which are, generally, available to those Veterans who have suffered more severe or disabling injuries
By contrast, non-service-connected pension benefits may be claimed by any veteran who was active duty during a period of war. To qualify for this type of benefit, a claimant must be aged 65 or older with limited to no income, totally or permanently disabled, a patient in a nursing facility, or receiving either Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI).
Filing a Claim for VA Disability Benefits
Although the VA has set up its disability claim process to be user-friendly, it is often a frustrating and time-consuming process. Currently, it may take up to 6 months or more for the VA to make a decision on a disability claim once you have submitted all necessary paperwork. The length of time that it takes to get a decision is based on a number of factors, including the regional office involved, the type of claim filed, how long it takes the VA to collect necessary information, and the number of disabilities that you have claimed.
The process starts with the filing of an Application for Disability Compensation and Related Compensation Benefits (VA Form 21-526EZ). Although we cannot represent you in your claim at the initial level, we would be happy to go over the form to make sure it is completed properly. Once you have completed your paperwork and filed your claim, you will receive a notice from the VA that your claim was received. A VA employee will then review your claim and gather evidence, including medical records, to determine if you are eligible for veterans’ disability benefits. Once a decision has been made, you will receive a notice in the mail.
You may file a claim for a range of service-connected disabilities, including (but not limited to):
- Exposure to Agent Orange
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Traumatic brain injuries (TBI)
- Anxiety disorders
- Musculoskeletal lower back, neck, and shoulder injuries
- Hearing loss
As long as your disability is service-related, you can file a claim for veterans’ disability benefits and seek compensation for your injuries.
Appealing VA Disability Determinations
If you receive an unfavorable decision on your right to disability compensation, you have a right to file an appeal. At this point, you can be represented by a law firm that is experienced in handling VA disability claim appeals.
There is a one-year time limit, or statute of limitations, to file an appeal. You can file an appeal in one of three ways:
- File a supplemental claim, adding new and relevant evidence to your original claim;
- Request a Higher-Level Review from a senior reviewer; or
- Appeal to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals.
Currently, an Appeal MUST be filed using a Form 10182 – Decision Review Request: Board Appeal (Notice of Disagreement). Until recently, ANY communication of dissatisfaction with the decision sufficed as a Notice of Appeal. We can help determine if you still have the right to your Appeal.
An appeal may be based on a denial that a disability was service-connected or an inadequate rating decision. You may also appeal a VA claim deferral, or hold decision. This type of decision is often issued when there is not enough evidence to approve or deny the disability claim, or when the evidence is incomplete. It effectively puts a “hold” on your claim.
If you have been issued a hold decision, you can appeal this decision with the help of an experienced veterans disability lawyer. This type of appeal may be filed even if the hold decision was issued 20 or 30 years ago. Your attorney can submit further evidence to support your claim, and fight to recoup that money that you are owed for your service-connected disability.
How Much Can a VA Disability Lawyer Charge?
Under rules established by the Department of Veterans Affairs, VA disability lawyers are limited in how much they can charge their clients. By law, attorneys can charge between 20 and 33.5% for handling a VA disability appeal. This fee is typically paid out of a lump sum payment awarded to the claimant and is only paid if the veteran wins the appeal and is awarded benefits.
What Percentage of VA Disability Appeals Are Approved?
In 2020, the VA issued decisions on 85,461 disability appeals. Of those decisions, 28,896 claims were approved – or 33.8%. 40.6% were remanded or sent back to a lower level for further action, and 20.3% were denied.
What Is a Service-Connected Disability?
A service-connected disability is any injury or illness that either occurred, was aggravated during, or stemmed from, active military service. As long as the condition began, was aggravated during military service, or stemmed from military service, an experienced veterans disability lawyer can establish a connection for purposes of disability compensation.
Importantly, to qualify for service-related disability benefits, a claimant must have been separated or discharged from service under conditions other than dishonorable, other than honorable, or were given a Bad Conduct Discharge. In other words, as long as you did not receive one of these three discharges, you may be eligible for VA disability benefits.
Fighting for Disabled Veterans
At Cap & Kudler, we are proud to represent service members who have served in all branches of the U.S. Military. For each of our clients, we work hard to get them the benefits that they deserve, appealing unfavorable decisions and denials to achieve the best possible outcome. We will stand by your side throughout the appeals process, working to get you the disability compensation that you deserve.
If you are a veteran with a service-connected disability, we are here to help. With more than 50 years of experience representing victims of injury accidents, our legal team is well-suited to meet your needs. To schedule a free consultation with a VA disability lawyer, call us today at (702) 878-8778 or fill out our online contact form.