When a veteran of the U.S. Armed Forces returns home with a disability, he or she faces many challenges. One of the biggest obstacles is supporting himself or herself and his or her family.
This is why the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) offers disability benefits to veterans who have a disability that meets certain criteria. Unfortunately, the process of applying for benefits can be complex and discouraging. This is why you should consider working with a veterans' disability lawyer in Stuart.
The Stuart veterans' disability lawyers at Gordon & Doner can not only help you compile the information you need to apply for benefits, we can also guide you through every step of the appeals process if your claim is denied. We are prepared to fight for all of the compensation you deserve. We take cases on a contingency fee basis, so there is no charge for our services unless you receive fair compensation.
What Are the Benefits of Hiring an Attorney?
You are free to pursue veterans' disability benefits on your own, but the process is often complex and time-consuming.
If your claim is denied you will need to file an appeal to have a chance of obtaining benefits, and the appeals process could last anywhere from several months to more than a year. Without qualified legal help, you might not collect important evidence that could bolster your claim and possibly improve your chances of recovering compensation.
This is just one of the many advantages of working with a Stuart veterans' disability attorney throughout the process. An attorney can also help you in the following ways:
- Help you complete all the required paperwork and do so as thoroughly as possible
- Ensure everything is accurate, because something as small as a typo can cause a claim to be denied
- Help you gather all evidence you need, including medical records, pictures and statements from witnesses to your personal injury
- Work with you to upgrade your discharge status, as anything less than an honorable discharge from the military makes you ineligible for disability compensation
- Guide you through the appeals process, including representing you at appeal hearings
- Help ensure you meet all deadlines for filing legal paperwork
- Review all aspects of your disability to try to ensure you receive a fair disability rating so you receive all of the compensation you deserve
If you have a disability you believe is connected to your military service, contact our Stuart veterans' disability lawyers today about filing a disability claim. If you have a viable claim, we will get to work right away trying to secure the compensation you deserve.
Call 1 (855) 722-2552 right now to schedule a free consultation with a Stuart veterans' disability lawyer.
What Types of Disabilities Qualify for Benefits?
Veterans suffering from a variety of disabilities may be eligible for benefits, including:
- Traumatic brain injuries
- Visual impairment
- Hearing impairment
- Radiation poisoning
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Cushing Syndrome
- Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis
- Severe burns
- Spinal cord injuries
However, the type of disability you are suffering from usually does not have much of an effect on your eligibility for benefits. There are certain criteria you must meet to obtain compensation.
How Does the VA Determine if I am Eligible for Benefits?
There are four eligibility requirements for VA disability compensation. You must:
1. Be a Veteran
This includes veterans who served on active duty, active duty for training or inactive duty for training. However, if you served on inactive duty for training, you must have a medical condition that resulted from an injury, heart attack or stroke that occurred during your service.
2. Have a Medical Condition Connected to Your Service
You must establish a causal connection between your medical condition and your time in the armed forces. In other words, you must show that your disability is the result of an injury during your service or that your service aggravated a pre-existing injury. This will require medical records and testimony from medical experts and possibly other evidence.
However, in certain situations, the VA will likely presume there is a service connection:
Prisoners of War
The VA presumes that there is a service connection for prisoners of war who suffer from anxiety, post-traumatic osteoarthritis or frostbite. A service connection is also assumed for those who were prisoners of war for more than 30 days and have chronic conditions like:
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Peptic ulcer disease
- Chronic dysentery
- Liver cirrhosis
Gulf War Veterans
If you served in the Gulf War and have symptoms lasting longer than six months, the VA may also presume there is a service connection.
If you develop certain types of cancer after being exposed to radiation, the VA assumes a service connection. The VA also does this if you were exposed to certain herbicides, like Agent Orange, and developed certain types of cancer, such as:
- Hodgkin's disease
- Multiple myeloma
- Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma
- Some respiratory cancers
- Prostate cancer
3. Receive a Disability Rating of At Least 10 Percent
Your disability rating is a measure of the severity of your disability. The higher your rating, the more severe your disability and the higher the amount of compensation you are eligible to receive. However, your disability rating must be at least 10 percent to qualify for benefits.
4. Not Have a Dishonorable Discharge
You can qualify for veterans' disability benefits if you have any discharge from the military other than dishonorable.
If you have a dishonorable discharge, you may be able to upgrade your discharge by filing an Application for Review of Discharge with the branch of the military where you served. You must prove one of two things to have your discharge upgraded:
- Your discharge was incorrect because it did not fit with traditions and policies of the service
- The discharge you received was improper because it was either factually wrong or was in violation of a regulation or law
You will need solid evidence to have a chance of overturning your discharge, such as signed statements from witnesses.
In some cases, people receive a dishonorable discharge because of PTSD. In these situations, you will need a medical opinion explaining how your condition led to the behavior that caused your dishonorable discharge.
The Stuart veterans' disability lawyers at our firm have a detailed understanding of the eligibility requirements for benefits and how to build a detailed claim that could help improve your chances of being eligible for benefits.
Contact Gordon & Doner today to schedule a free, no obligation legal consultation.
Applying for Benefits
Before you apply for benefits, you need to collect various types of documentation to complete your application, including:
- Discharge papers (DD214 or equivalent documents)
- Service treatment records if they are in your possession
- Medical documentation, including reports from doctors and hospitals
If you participate in the Fully Developed Claims (FDC) program, you are responsible for obtaining any relevant records not held by federal agencies. This includes medical records from private doctors and hospitals, along with records from state or local governments or current or former employers.
The advantage of doing an FDC is that your application will be processed faster. However, you and your representative must certify that your application meets all of the criteria of the FDC program.
You can also submit a standard claim, where you authorize the VA to obtain documents by providing them with the necessary information to do so.
When you meet with our attorneys, we will evaluate your situation to determine the process to use for your claim.
Once we determine the best process to use, there are three main ways we can file your application for disability benefits:
- Applying online on the VA's benefits website
- Printing out an application and mailing it to the nearest VA office
- Going to a regional office and having an employee assist you with filling out an application
Call 1 (855) 722-2552 to learn more.
What are the Different Types of Benefits?
Our veterans' disability lawyers in Stuart will thoroughly review your situation to determine all of the forms of compensation that you and your dependents should be eligible to receive, which could include:
Veterans Compensation Benefits
This is the main form of disability compensation for veterans with a service-connected medical condition. It is meant to compensate veterans for the loss of the ability to work to support themselves. This benefit is tax-free and the amount you receive depends on the disability rating assigned by the VA.
According to the veterans' compensation benefits rate tables, a veteran with no dependents who has a disability rating of 10 percent can receive $133.57 per month. A veteran with no dependents and a 100 percent disability rating can receive $2,915.55 per month in compensation.
You cannot receive compensation for your dependents, such as your spouse and children, unless your disability is rated at 30 percent or higher. If you have a 30 percent rating and a spouse and child, you can receive $492.97 in monthly compensation. The amount increases as your rating and number of dependents increase.
A common question veterans have about this form of compensation is what happens when they have multiple disabilities.
The VA has a formula for determining your combined rating when you have two or more disabilities. First, the VA rates all of your disabilities to determine the one with the highest rating. The ratings of your other disabilities are combined with the rating for your most severe disability.
For example, if you have two disabilities rated at 40 percent and 30 percent, your combined disability rating would be 58 percent. The VA would add 18 to the rating of your first disability since that is 30 percent of 60, which is what remains after your first disability rating is calculated. Your rating is calculated as a percentage of 100.
Dependency and Indemnity Compensation
This is compensation for spouses and biological children of veterans who were killed while they were on active duty. Parents who were financially dependent on the veteran may also qualify for this form of compensation.
However, spouses, parents and children must meet certain qualifications to be eligible.
Spouses who were married to a veteran who is now deceased due to a service-connected injury qualify for this form of compensation if they meet any one of the following criteria:
- Married a veteran no more than 15 years from discharge
- Stayed married to the veteran for a minimum of one year
- Married a veteran who died on active duty, active duty for training or inactive duty training
- Married a veteran before January 1, 1957
Spouses also qualify if they meet all of the following eligibility criteria:
- They lived with the veteran until he or she died - if they were separated, the spouse cannot be at fault for the separation
- They had a child with the veteran
- Did not remarry
There are three requirements for children of a deceased veteran to receive compensation:
- They were not included on the spouse's application for benefits
- They have not been married
- They are younger than 18, if not, they must be attending school and younger than 23
Parents' Dependency and Indemnity Compensation
Biological, adoptive and foster parents could all be eligible for this form of compensation if their veteran child died as a result of a service-related injury or disease.
The amount they receive depends on their monthly income. There are separate rate tables depending on the parents' marital status. For example, a sole surviving parent who has not remarried can receive a monthly benefit of $622 if he or she has an income that is no more than $800 per month.
If a parent is not living with his or her spouse, he or she can receive $450 in monthly compensation if he or she has a monthly income of no more than $800.
Special Monthly Compensation
This is a benefit you can receive in addition to other forms of disability compensation. It is for veterans, their spouses, surviving spouses and parents who require more benefits for special circumstances. An example of a special circumstance could be the veteran needing aid from another person. The amount of compensation awarded is based on need.
Claims for Special Circumstances
This provides compensation to veterans for the following:
- Automobile and clothing allowance
- Dental care
- Birth defects
Our trusted Stuart veterans' disability attorneys will carefully review the details of your injury to determine what forms of compensation to pursue.
Fill out a Free Case Evaluation form now.
What is the Process for Appealing a Disability Claim?
No matter how much work we put into filling out your application and providing evidence to prove your eligibility for benefits, your initial application could be denied. Even if your application is approved, you might disagree with the rating the VA assigned your disability.
This is why the VA gives you the right to appeal the denial to try to obtain a more favorable decision.
The Stuart veterans' disability lawyers from our firm are prepared to guide you through every step of the appeal, working to obtain the compensation you deserve.
Steps in the appeals process include:
1. Notice of Disagreement
You must begin the appeals process by filing a Notice of Disagreement with the VA office or medical center in your area. The deadline for submitting this form is one year from the date you received the VA's original decision to deny your claim. Make sure to submit this form before the deadline or you could lose your chance to appeal the decision.
You should strongly consider working with our attorneys because we can carefully review your denial letter to determine all of the areas we should dispute with the VA. We will help you gather any additional medical documentation and evidence that might help overturn the VA's decision.
2. Statement of Case
It could take 200 days or more for the VA to review your Notice of Disagreement and send you a Statement of Case explaining the decision on your appeal.
If the VA does not overturn the original decision, you have two options for appealing, both of which must be done within 60 days of receiving a statement of case or one year from the date of the original decision, whichever is later:
Filing a Substantive Appeal
You can file VA Form 9 to appeal your claim to the Bureau of Veterans' Affairs (BVA). This form will be included with your Statement of Case. You can submit additional evidence or ask the VA to obtain additional information to help overturn the decision.
Request a Hearing with a Veterans' Law Judge
You can request one of two types of hearings:
- An in-person hearing where you will provide testimony at your local VA office OR
- A video teleconference hearing where you provide testimony at your local VA office to a judge in Washington, D.C.
After reviewing testimony and other evidence you provide, the judge will make one of the following decisions:
- Approve your claim
- Send the claim back to your local VA office to collect more evidence or fix errors
- Deny your claim
3. Appealing the Judge's Decision or a Substantive Appeal
If your claim is denied by the judge or the BVA, you have a few more options for appeal, including:
- Filing a new claim
- Filing a motion requesting that the BVA reconsider your appeal or review it because there is a clear error with the decision
- Filing a Notice of Appeal with the United States Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims within 120 days of the date on the decision from the BVA
Our skilled veterans' disability lawyers in Stuart are prepared to guide you through your appeal no matter how long it takes. We will keep your best interests at the forefront throughout the process, working to secure the compensation that can help you and your family move forward.
Schedule a Free, No Obligation Legal Consultation Today
Whether you are preparing to apply for veterans' benefits or you have already been denied, you should contact our skilled Stuart veterans' disability lawyers.
Our experienced attorneys know what it takes to succeed and obtain the benefits veterans deserve. We are prepared to review your situation carefully to determine all of the evidence and documentation you need to recover the benefits you deserve.
You have bravely served our nation and deserve compensation for your service-connected disability so you can support your family and move forward with the next chapter of your life.
Our Stuart veterans' disability attorneys take all claims on a contingency fee basis, which means your initial consultation is 100 percent free and you will not be charged legal fees unless you receive fair compensation.
Complete a Free Case Evaluation form right now to get started.