Veteran disability claims provide men and women who served in the United States military the ability to live stable and fulfilling lives by providing benefits that ease the cost of permanent injuries and illnesses.
Sometimes, accessing veterans disability benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs can prove arduous, complicated, and, at times, hostile. Expeditiously submitting a claim is no guarantee that the VA will review it speedily, nor is a speedy review a guarantee that the compensation or rating degree will prove commensurate to the injuries sustained.
That is why some veterans in pursuit of disability benefits decide to contract a veterans disability attorney to assist them in navigating the bureaucratic maze of contemporary VA benefits law. At Dolman Law Group, PA, our veterans disability claims lawyers have a proven track record of client success in getting the degree rating and attendant benefits to which they are entitled.
If you have had your veteran disability claim denied or have struggled in receiving the rating degree and compensation you believe you are entitled to collect, consider contacting us today at (727) 451-6900 or fill out a contact form here on our website.
Table of contents
- VA Disability Benefits for Service-Related Injuries
- Documentation for Establishing a Service Connection
- Presumptive Conditions in Veterans Disability Claims
- Process of Filing a Veterans Disability Claim with the VA
- VA Form 21-526EZ
- VA Forms 21-4142 and 21-4142a
- The Importance of Effective Dates for VA Disability Benefits
- Filing a Supplemental Claim with the Department of Veterans Affairs
- Higher-Level Reviews in VA Disability Claims
- Board of Veterans Appeals (BVA) and Veterans Disability “Board Appeals”
- U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims (CAVC)
- Common Areas in Veterans Disability Benefits Law
- The Benefits of Hiring a Veterans Disability Lawyer
- Veteran Benefits Claims FAQs
- Why Choose Dolman Law Group’s Veterans Disability Lawyers?
- Contact Dolman Law Group Today for Help With Your Veterans Disability Claim
VA Disability Benefits for Service-Related Injuries
Veterans disability benefits are designed to provide the financial support some former servicemembers require after sustaining serious injuries in the line of duty. Although there are many versions of VA disability benefits, they most commonly come in the form of monthly, nontaxable disbursements from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
However, acquiring the financial assistance you need may result in a lengthy process characterized by collating evidence, submitting disability benefits claims, and waiting as VA reviews, ratings, and decisions pour in.
If you are considering pursuing disability benefits from the VA, you must satisfy the following criteria put forth by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
- Both of the following statements must apply:
- You are currently suffering from an illness or injury (known as a condition) that affects your mind or body
- You served on active duty, active duty for training, or inactive duty training
- One of the following must also apply:
- You were diagnosed with an illness or injury while serving in the military and can link this condition to your current illness or injury (in-service disability claim)
- You had an illness or injury before you joined the military and serving made it worse (pre-service disability claim)
- You have a disability related to your active-duty service that didn’t appear until after you ended your service (post-service disability claim)
Documentation for Establishing a Service Connection
The most important element of submitting a VA disability benefits claim is sufficiently establishing a service connection, which refers to the definitive causal link between your injury and your service in the military. Although it may seem straightforward, the VA has a tendency to assume a degree of skepticism in assessing the evidence you provide for establishing a service connection.
Consequently, it is imperative that, in preparation for filing a claim, you acquire:
- VA medical and hospital records
- Private medical and hospital records
- Supporting statements from family and friends
The VA does not require that you file such documentation alongside your initial claim. Nevertheless, curating a powerful and persuasive set of evidence proving a service connection is a critical component of ensuring that you stand the best chance of receiving the compensation you receive.
Presumptive Conditions in Veterans Disability Claims
In certain areas of VA disability benefits law, the Department of Veterans Affairs relies upon a list of “presumptive conditions” for the assessment of select veterans disability claims. Presumptive conditions are diagnoses that the government automatically assumes are definitively linked to an individual’s time in service.
At times, Congress has established lists of presumptive conditions. In the context of Camp Lejeune disability benefits, for example, the Honoring Our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics (PACT) Act of August 2022, amongst other things, promulgates a list of presumptive conditions associated with toxic chemical exposure at the North Carolina Marine Corps Base (MCB).
Under these circumstances, filing a claim that seeks compensation for a presumptive condition only requires a veteran to produce sufficient documentation to prove the service connection.
Process of Filing a Veterans Disability Claim with the VA
As a general rule of thumb, the press, public, and veterans tend to be highly critical of the disability benefits claim process – and for good reason. We believe that quick relief is key when an injury severely impacts an individual’s ability to work, support himself or his family, and pay for the mounting costs associated with treatment.
The VA, on the other hand, has a tendency to create situations where veterans are not able to access necessary benefits due to any number of reasons related to the square wheels on which the VA's bureaucracy runs.
If you are currently suffering from a service-connected injury and are in need of financial support from the VA, we want to help. The process can get you the financial relief you need, especially with the assistance and expertise of a VA-accredited attorney at your disposal.
Although every claimant’s journey with the VA is different, the following outline provides a general overview of the resources and recourse that every eligible veteran can access to receive maximum compensation.
VA Form 21-526EZ
Before filing a claim with the VA, it is important to collect sufficient evidence to submit either alongside your initial claim or over the course of the ensuing 365 days. After assembling a sufficient body of evidence substantiating your claim, you must then complete and file with the Department of Veterans Affairs a VA Form 21-526EZ.
Although you have up to one year upon the submission of a VA Form 21-526EZ to submit additional evidence, a failure to notify the VA within a period of 30 days of your intention to provide it may result in the review and decision of your claim prior to the one-year deadline.
VA Forms 21-4142 and 21-4142a
VA Forms 21-4142 and 21-4142a, which a claimant must complete and submit, essentially constitute requests that the VA collect appropriate medical documentation for an initial claim. The Authorization to Disclose Information to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and General Release for Medical Provider Information to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), respectively, permit the VA to submit document requests to relevant healthcare providers on your behalf.
However, the VA does not have the authority to demand that a provider release the requested documents if it refuses outright or requests a fee for disclosure. Under these circumstances, the VA is obligated to inform you of its inability to access the relevant records and return to you the responsibility of evidence collation.
The Importance of Effective Dates for VA Disability Benefits
An effective date in the veterans disability benefits claims process is one of the most important factors because it determines the amount in retroactive payments to which a claimant may be entitled. Before the review and issuance of a decision/disability rating, a veteran, however compelling his case is, will not receive any compensation.
When the VA finally returns a decision on the strength of the initial claim and disability rating, a veteran is entitled to the amount in compensation he would have received during the period bookended by the effective date and initial decision. Although the VA tends to keep track of effective dates, some veterans have reported being denied full retroactive payment on account of disagreements with the administration over the valid effective date.
Initial Review and Potential Complications in the Veterans Disability Claims Process
The Department of Veterans Affairs is notorious for issuing disability ratings that inadequately address the severity of a claimant’s injuries and, therefore, fail to provide sufficient compensation. When this occurs, veterans often decide to appeal the decision, beginning a complex and lengthy bureaucratic process. Consequently, veterans often seek the assistance of VA-accredited attorneys at this point in the proceedings.
Filing a Supplemental Claim with the Department of Veterans Affairs
The first appeals option open to veterans wishing to contest the initial decision and/or rating degree from the VA is the submission of a Supplemental Claim (SC). The main purpose of a VA Supplemental Claim is to include new and relevant evidence in an effort to bolster a prior claim.
The major benefit of submitting a Supplemental Claim is that it permits a claimant to revise and strengthen his initial claim without necessarily requiring him to seek readjudication with a higher and more authoritative body. Furthermore, Supplemental Claims, on average, take roughly 136.9 days to process with the VA, during which period it is necessary to maintain thorough records to ensure that your effective date is not lost.
Higher-Level Reviews in VA Disability Claims
If you submitted a Supplemental Claim and received yet another inadequate or insufficient rating, you can request a VA Higher-Level Review from an adjudicator who assumes a more senior rank in the VA. The major qualitative difference between an SC and a Higher-Level Review is that the latter is designed to provide a reassessment of the factual record and claim as is.
Consequently, a claimant is not permitted to submit additional evidence alongside a request for a Higher-Level Review. With an average wait time of 125 days, Higher-Level Reviews must be sought within one year upon receiving a decision for a Supplemental Claim.
Board of Veterans Appeals (BVA) and Veterans Disability “Board Appeals”
Despite waiting, on average, over a year from the submission of the initial claim to the decision of a Higher-Level Reviewer, some veterans still fail to receive the compensation in disability benefits to which they are entitled.
Nevertheless, you can still appeal an unsatisfactory decision with the Board of Veterans Appeals (BVA) in Washington, D.C., a request which typically takes 730 days to realize. With digital or in-person scheduling options, a veteran can request that antecedent and novel evidence be reviewed by the presiding Veterans Law Judge in a “direct review” and respond to inquiries from the VA magistrate.
Although the appeals process in VA disability law can appear linear, a claimant can legitimately request a hearing with the BVA after an initial claim, Supplemental Claim, or Higher-Level Review.
U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims (CAVC)
The body of the highest authority for veterans disability claims is the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims (CAVC). Only those claimants who have received an unsatisfactory decision from the BVA can appeal a claim to the CVAC within 120 days.
As in BVA appeals, veterans can submit new evidence to substantiate their claims and schedule virtual or in-person hearings with the court. Depending on the complexity of the case, a single judge or a panel of judges will be appointed to oversee proceedings and make a decision about the appellant’s claims.
Common Service-Related Injuries and Disabilities Involved in Veterans Disability Claims
The following are some of the most common injuries and illnesses veterans seek benefits for from the VA when filing a claim. While these are some of the more common injuries we encounter they are by no means a complete list of all the injuries a veteran can file a benefits claim over.
- Cancers (from contact with hazardous chemicals)
- Hearing loss (especially severe hearing loss)
- Breathing problems (caused by a lung disease or condition)
- Range of motion loss
- Scarring and disfigurement
- Traumatic brain injuries (TBI)
- PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder)
- Permanent loss of mobility
- Spinal cord injuries
- Knee and other joint injuries
- Chronic back pain
- Nerve damage
Common Areas in Veterans Disability Benefits Law
There are many practice areas in VA disability benefits law. Some are more general in nature, such as traumatic brain injuries (TBI) or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), while others are designed to address specific incidents, like toxic chemical exposure at Camp Lejeune.
At Dolman Law Group, PA, our experienced veterans disability lawyers possess legal and institutional expertise, which, when coupled with our personal injury trial track record, delivers results. If you have any concerns about accessing VA disability benefits, consider contacting one of our VA-accredited attorneys today.
Camp Lejeune Toxic Chemical Exposure
With the ratification of the Camp Lejeune Justice Act (CLJA) in August 2022, Congress prompted an overhaul of the VA rating system for Camp Lejeune toxic chemical exposure claims. Ever since, our veterans disability lawyers have been assisting veterans, their families, and other eligible claimants to seek the compensation they deserve for illnesses they suffered due to negligence on the part of the government.
The CLJA, a provision in the comprehensive PACT Act, enumerates presumptive conditions connected to toxic chemical exposure at Camp Lejeune, thereby removing the previously steep requirements for accessing disability benefits. In order to qualify for compensation from the VA for Camp Lejeune presumptive conditions, an individual must have:
- Served or resided at Camp Lejeune between August 1, 1953, and December 1, 1987.
- Developed one of the presumptive conditions
Although having a presumptive condition as a service connection will streamline the processing of your claim, the list of illnesses does not invalidate veterans from seeking compensation for other diagnoses.
Burn Pits and “Airborne Hazards” Inhalation
Another area of VA disability benefits law with which our VA-accredited attorneys have extensive knowledge addresses the severe conditions connected to the inhalation of airborne hazards from burn pits. As with Camp Lejeune claims, the PACT Act recently streamlined the processing of burn pit disability claims with the VA for those who satisfy location of service requirements and currently struggle with one or more of the 23 diseases designated as a presumptive condition.
Veterans who served in the following military operations have a noticeably higher risk of developing serious illnesses associated with the incineration of waste and are eligible to enroll in the federal burn pit registry:
- Operation Desert Storm / Desert Shield (ODS)
- Operation New Dawn (OND)
- Operation Iraqi Freedom / Enduring Freedom (OIF / OEF)
Total Disability Individual Unemployability (TDIU)
TDIU benefits are designed to provide necessary financial assistance to veterans whose service connection condition(s) has rendered him or her incapable of maintaining long-term employment. The Department of Veterans Affairs relies upon both formulaic and subjective factors to determine an individual’s eligibility to receive monthly TDIU benefits, including:
- A compound disability rating of 70%, with one disability ranked at 40%
- One disability with a rating of 60%
If the VA grants an individual TDIU benefits, he may be able to receive up to $3,000 / month, with additional funds granted to veterans claiming dependents.
Dependence and Indemnity Compensation (DIC)
DIC VA disability benefits ensure that the spouses and children of former servicemembers whose service connection caused their death receive posthumous monthly payments for financial support. In contrast to other VA benefits, DIC awards can cover the costs of:
- Home loans
- Vocational training
The Benefits of Hiring a Veterans Disability Lawyer
Making the decision to seek disability benefits from the VA can seem like a daunting prospect. In much the same way that victims in personal injury lawsuits experience stress when considering whether to add legal worries to medical woes, veterans struggling with service-connected injuries may pause before entering into a potentially protracted claims process.
Although veterans disability benefits attorneys cannot completely mitigate the frustration and disillusionment a claimant may experience, they can deftly maneuver through the intricate and, at times, confusing bureaucratic processes to get veterans the compensation they deserve.
Every case is unique and so is every lawyer. We believe it is necessary that veteran claimants vet their potential representatives, ensuring that they will:
- Collate all relevant private and military medical records
- File all necessary VA Forms
- Inform you of your options
- Prep you for potential BVA and CAVC hearings
Having an accredited veterans disability lawyer by your side could mean the difference between getting the compensation you deserve and walking away with nothing. Aside from resolve, claimants need resources. Fortunately, Dolman Law Group’s veterans disability lawyers provide both.
Veteran Benefits Claims FAQs
What Are VSOs, and Should I Contract One?
VA regulations prohibit veterans disability benefits lawyers from charging for legal services in the preparation of initial claims. Consequently, some veterans, for want of an alternative, seek the assistance of Veterans Service Officers.
Trained representatives from regional Veterans Service Organizations, VSOs provide free services and can help you understand the general nature of the veterans disability benefits proceedings. However, they often lack the expertise and resources which VA-accredited attorneys possess.
For generic guidance and aid as you begin your disability benefits claim journey, VSOs are a worthwhile resource on which to rely. For the appeals process, the resources and skills of an accredited veterans disability attorney generally offer you a better chance of getting the compensation you deserve.
How Expensive Are Veterans Disability Lawyers?
Most veterans disability lawyers work on a contingency fee basis, which means they take their fee out of the compensation they manage to attain the client. This portion is capped at 33% for veterans disability claims so most lawyers will work for between 20-30%. If your attorney fails to get you anything then they collect 33% of nothing.
How Much Can I Get in Disability Benefits from the VA?
It is difficult to state definitively how much an individual claimant may receive from the VA without a free and individualized consultation. Nevertheless, VA disability benefits take many forms, including:
- Up to $3,000 / month
- Special monthly compensation
- Auto allowance
- Special adapted housing
Moreover, pecuniary disbursements tend to be non-taxable and asset-tested.
Will the Camp Lejeune Litigation Impact My VA Disability Benefits?
Pursuing a Camp Lejeune lawsuit against the government will not impact the amount of monthly disability benefits you receive from the VA. However, the settlement figure which you negotiate with the Justice Department may be offset by the amount of disability benefits you receive.
Seeing as none of the current Camp Lejeune lawsuits has been settled, it is difficult to determine with precision the relationship between veterans disability benefits and compensation payouts.
Why Choose Dolman Law Group’s Veterans Disability Lawyers?
With over 120 combined years of experience and more than $400 million in settlements, Dolman Law Group is one of the most competitive and skilled personal injury law firms in the country. Determined to provide the assistance and individualized care critical for success, we fuse large-scale resources with close dedication to each client.
As you embark on the appeals process to get your VA disability benefits, we will assist you not only in devising a pragmatic strategy but executing it with success. On top of filing VA Forms and preparing you for potential hearings with the BVA and CAVC, Dolman’s qualified veterans disability claims lawyers will help you complete Supplemental Claims and Higher-Level Review requests.
We honor the commitment and sacrifices active servicemembers, reservists, guardsmen, veterans, and their families have made to protect and defend our country at home and abroad. If you have struggled in receiving the compensation you deserve from the Department of Veterans Affairs and had your claim denied we are prepared to offer you the advice and counsel that will get you the benefits you need.
Contact Dolman Law Group Today for Help With Your Veterans Disability Claim
Those who risked their lives in service of their country should not be placed in greater medical and financial peril outside the military than when they served within it. Although we recognize that the VA provides indispensable resources and support to veterans, it can be slow in addressing their disability claims.
Consequently, Dolman Law Group’s veterans disability lawyers work around the clock to ensure that the Department of Veterans Affairs is responsive, accountable, and fair to disability benefits claimants. Combining personal injury law expertise with an intimate knowledge of the complex VA claims process, Dolman’s clients praise the heft we bring to extensive and high-profile claims and cases.
The sooner you speak with a qualified veterans disability lawyer, the closer you are to concluding an exhausting process and returning, at long last, to the maintenance of your health, well-being, and peace of mind. Dolman Law Group offers free consultations to veterans seeking assistance with their veterans disability claims. To schedule a meeting with our veterans disability lawyers you can either call our office at 727-451-6900 or fill out a contact form here on our website.