Frequently Asked Questions: Veterans' Disability
We at Donati Law, PLLC understand that navigating veterans' disability issues can be confusing and stressful. Our Memphis Veterans' disability lawyers have collected some of the most commonly asked questions and provided the answers below. We hope you find this information useful for your specific case.
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What is required to qualify for service-connected compensation benefits?
We spend most of our time working on service-connected compensation benefits. In order to receive service-connected compensation benefits there must be proof of the following:
- Proof that while in service the veteran suffered an injury or accident, or had a specific medical condition diagnosed for the first time, or that the veteran's pre-existing condition was aggravated beyond its natural course
- Proof of a current diagnosed medical condition
- A medical link (nexus) between the in-service disease, injury or accident and the current diagnosed medical condition.
What is the general claims process?
After a veteran has filed a claim with the Department of Veterans Affairs Regional Office (VARO), the local Regional Office will gradually begin to work on the claim filed with the agency. At this juncture, it is possible the Regional Office will send the veteran out for a compensation and pension exam with a physician or mental health doctor. The Regional Office is supposed to obtain evidence in the case and make an informed decision about the claim. Once a decision has been made, the Regional Office will compile a ratings decision. If the claim is denied, the effective date is erroneously calculated, or the percentage assigned is not correct, the veteran must submit a notice of disagreement (NOD). The veteran only has one (1) year to file the NOD with the Regional Office.
Once the NOD has been received, the Regional Office should submit a statement of the case (SOC). The SOC should provide a detailed outline regarding the Agency's rationale for the ratings decision. The veteran only has sixty (60) days from the SOC to file a VA Form 9 to the Board of Veterans' Appeals (BVA). When the veteran completes the Form 9, he or she can make the determination about whether or not to have a hearing before a Veterans Law Judge in Washington, D.C. If a veteran chooses to have a hearing, he or she will have an in-person hearing or a video hearing at their local Regional Office. The BVA can grant a claim, deny a claim, or send the claim back down to the Regional Office for further development and review.
If the BVA denies the claim, the Veteran only has one hundred and twenty (120) days from the date on the BVA decision to make an appeal to the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims (CAVC). Unlike at the BVA, the Court does not have the ability to review any new and material evidence. The Court is only permitted to review the record as it stood before the BVA. The CAVC will have attorneys advocating for them and you should too. The case becomes adversarial and even more difficult at this stage in the process.
Can I put in a claim for an increased rating?
If the veteran's symptoms or impairments have increased since the last rating from the VA, you can put in a claim for increased benefits. It is important to note a few things about putting in these types of claims. First, the VA will treat this like a brand new claim. Therefore, you will have to begin by filing a claim with the Regional Office. Second, a veteran should only put in this type of claim if there has been a worsening of their service-connected disability. If there is no medical evidence to support the worsening of the condition, the VA does have the authority to lower your rating. It is very important to talk to a lawyer before you try to obtain a higher disability rating. The veteran does not want to do anything that could cause their benefits to be decreased or ceased.
Do I qualify for Total Disability Based on Individual Unemployability?
If the veteran's disability prevents him or her from working, the veteran can put in a claim for TDIU benefits. The veteran must be a recipient of service-connected compensation disability benefits. There must be proof from a medical expert or a vocational expert that the veteran's service-connected disability and only the service-connected disability is preventing the Veteran from maintaining gainful employment. This is a more complicated area of the law, and we would encourage you to speak with one of our attorneys about what it takes to establish benefits for TDIU.
If you have more questions, do not hesitate to contact us as soon as possible.