posted on January 3, 2018
Most veterans in Virginia and across the country served out of a sense of duty – not because they expected reward or recognition. However, out of respect for their service, Congress created a benefits program that helps veterans who suffer from a service-connected disability and can no longer fend for themselves. To qualify for these benefits, veterans must essentially show the following:
Veterans’ benefits typically consist of a monthly stipend that is designed to defray a veteran’s ongoing medical expenses. However, veterans who received a bad conduct discharge may not be eligible for these benefits.
Here, we provide a brief guide to how the veterans’ disability benefits application process works and what to avoid as you go through that process.
When you are ready to apply for benefits, you can submit your application by:
If you file the application yourself, a personal visit may be the best route. You can get assistance from a veterans’ service officer at the VA office.
Generally, you have no time deadline for filing your claim. This is because many service-related illnesses – for example, illness from asbestos exposure – may not become apparent for several decades.
Your application must list your medical conditions. While it may be tempting to include a laundry list of conditions to convince the reviewer of the severity of the matter, this approach often backfires because it significantly delays the approval process. So, you should only list those conditions that a doctor has diagnosed and that have a relationship to your period of service.
In most instances, if you can show a temporal relationship, it should be sufficient. For example, if you served in the tropics while in the Navy and contracted malaria, the two are almost certainly related.
Some common VA disability claims include:
You should include a very brief narrative summary – perhaps a couple of sentences. That summary could serve as a roadmap and make your application easier for the reviewer to navigate.
Next, you should include as many relevant and available medical records as you can track down. The VA approves well-documented claims at a much higher rate than poorly documented ones. Also, even though the VA normally requests medical records to fill in any gaps, those requests can delay the approval process. If possible, your records should reflect both the diagnosis and prognosis of your condition.
Finally, you should include relevant military records. If these documents are absent, the VA may not consider the claim. At a minimum, the application package should include any discharge papers, specifically including the DD214, and all available service treatment records.
VA review officers try to weed out as many claims as possible as early as possible. So, if you make a mistake during the application process, it could be costly. Some common mistakes to avoid are:
Your ability to pursue an appeal must meet deadlines, so you should not delay seeking legal help if the VA denies your claim.
At Marks & Harrison, we help veterans to seek the benefits they deserve by aggressively pursuing VA disability appeals. Contact us today for a free consultation from an experienced VA disability attorney in Richmond or at one of our eight other offices in Virginia.
Joel R. McClellan is a graduate of the University of Virginia and the Valparaiso University School of Law who has represented hundreds of personal injury victims throughout Virginia as an attorney with Marks & Harrison. Joel is licensed to practice in Virginia, the District of Columbia and the U.S. District Courts for the Eastern and Western Districts of Virginia. He has also chaired the Virginia Trial Lawyers Association’s Young Trial Lawyers section and served on the Legal Aid Justice Center’s Advisory Council and on the Executive Committee of the Richmond Bar Association’s Young Lawyers section.