Phoenix, AZ Lawyers helping veterans and their families get the VA benefits they need and were promised.
The Department of Veterans’ Affairs, “Veterans Administration,” or VA, estimates the American veteran population to be 20 million, with almost 5 million receiving VA Disability Compensation or Pension. In Arizona alone, there are half a million veterans, and between 10-20% of them have a service-connected disability. If you are having problems getting the VA benefits you deserve, contact the veterans attorneys at Dyer, Bregman & Ferris, PLLC. We represent veterans from Arizona and across the country, with appeals at VA Regional Offices, the Board of Veterans’ Appeals (BVA), the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims (CAVC), and beyond. We will give your case personalized attention and fight for the VA benefits you deserve.
What are Disabled Veteran Benefits?
All veterans who served to protect our country deserve the best care our nation can offer. The VA Benefits Administration provides benefits to veterans that suffered a disability as a result of service, certain wartime veterans based on need, and eligible dependents.
VA’s programs are designed to help disabled vets as much as possible, with all manner of physical and mental conditions. VA Disability Compensation is for “service-connected” conditions. When a condition is related to an in-service event, injury, illness, or disease, it is often referred to as direct service connection. Secondary service connection is when the condition in question stems from an already service connected condition. And even if the condition pre-existed military service, if it was aggravated during service, it can be service connected to the extent of the aggravation. VA understands that not all disabilities occur during or immediately after military service, so there’s no special window in which you have to apply for benefits. If service connection is granted, Compensation is provided based on the severity of the disability, with an emphasis on functional impact, i.e. the ability to work and earn a living. In fact, even if a veteran’s service-connected conditions do not combine to 100%, the veteran can be granted a total disability rating.
For non-service connected war-time veterans, there’s VA Pension. VA Pension is for certain disabled veterans whose conditions are not service-related, but who are in financial need or over 65 and served during the war.
Generally, Compensation and Pension Benefits can also be provided for spouses, dependents, and widows or widowers of deceased veterans who struggled with a disability prior to death (e.g. Dependency and Indemnity Compensation or DIC).
VA’s goals, vet-friendly approach, and wide parameters are laudable. Unfortunately, VA’s adjudications often fall short of the lofty rhetoric, and veterans must navigate and/or fight a massive Kafkaesque bureaucracy through a time-consuming and confusing process. Some examples of problems veterans experience with the VA include:
- The forms and paperwork are intended to be easy to fill out properly but can be confusing.
- Submitted paperwork is lost by VA.
- VA tried to gather the evidence necessary to establish service connection (e.g. service medical or personnel records), but couldn’t find them and gave up.
- In the case of veteran appeals, veterans experience difficulty obtaining new evidence which is often required for the VA to overturn the previous denial.
- Veterans with multiple disabilities receive partial decisions, addressing some conditions while ignoring others.
- The decisions that veterans receive are unclear or confusing and veterans are left not knowing what the VA needs to make a more favorable decision.
It is very common to feel overwhelmed by bureaucratic responsibilities and buried under a mountain of paperwork. If you want legal help, call us.
VA Disability Claims Process
Veterans disability claims are processed in an administrative, not judicial, process, using VA forms, various other correspondence, and other “development” consistent with VA’s rule and regulations.
Initially, claims must be filed by the veteran directly with VA. This applies to original claims, claims for increased ratings of service-connected conditions, claims to reopen previously denied claims, etc. Veterans cannot hire attorneys for these claims (for advice or assistance, contact a Veterans Service Organization). Once a veteran receives a VA decision, the veteran can hire legal counsel.
VA will issue a Rating Decision that either fully grants, partially grants, or denies the claim. If the veteran disagrees with any part of the Decision, the veteran has one year to submit a notice of disagreement (NOD). Then, VA will issue a statement of the case (SOC) with reasons for the denial/ratings decision. If the veteran is still not pleased with the decision, s/he can appeal to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals (BVA) by filing VA Form 9 within sixty (60) days from the most recent SOC or one year from the rating decision, whichever is later. Approximately 2.5 years after filing a VA Form 9 / Formal Appeal, an appeal goes to the highest level of appeal inside the VA – the BVA in Washington, DC. The BVA sends many cases back to the RO level to correct a mistake made in the case. If the BVA denies the appeal, the next appeal is to the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims (CAVC). The veteran has 120 days to appeal to the CAVC. At the CAVC, the case becomes adversarial, i.e. the Veteran versus the government. Click here for a VA document explaining the appeal process.
What Can a Veterans’ Disability Lawyer Do?
Again, a veteran cannot hire an attorney for a VA case until s/he appeals a VA decision. But if you have a VA decision you want to appeal but don’t know where to turn, seek legal help. When you do, be ready to answer this question – what did VA get wrong? Maybe VA determined that:
- Your condition was not service connected, even though it is
- Your condition pre-existed service, but it didn’t
- Your pre-existing condition was not aggravated by service, but it was
- The assigned rating of your service-connected condition is correct, but it is not
- Your condition is not related to an already service-connected condition, but your doctor says it is
- Your condition is not presumed to be service connected, so therefore, it cannot be service connected
- Your service connected conditions are not severe enough to render you unemployable, but you haven’t been able to hold down a job for years
- You are not eligible for survivor benefits because your spouse’s cause of death was not service connected
These are just a few of the many kinds of situations we’ve helped veterans overcome. We also help with these issues and many more:
- Physical conditions, orthopedic, nervous, muscular, vascular and pulmonary
- Agent Orange
- Mental disorders, like depression, anxiety, PTSD
- Military sexual trauma
- Special Monthly Compensation
- Aid & Attendance
- Clear and Unmistakable Error
If you are veteran in Arizona or anywhere and have a VA appeal, we can help. We’ll work closely with you throughout the appeal process. We guarantee you individual attention, helping you gather the evidence you need, strengthening your case, fighting back with appeals, and working our hardest to make the process as smooth and efficient as possible. You’re applying for disability benefits because you need help now — we don’t want you to wait any longer.
Phoenix Lawyers for Veterans Fight for Your Benefits!
Don’t let the VA benefits system intimidate you. No matter your level of disability, you could be entitled to benefits. You’ve already given your time, passion, and health for our country. Now let us invest some of our own time and passion in you. The veterans’ disability lawyers at Dyer, Bregman & Ferris, PLLC, pledge to give 100% to your case, bolstering your claim and fighting through the appeals process.
If you have a recent VA decision and would like to appeal, contact us now at (602) 254-6008 to get started on your consultation.