Decoding the Claims Process – How Veterans Disability Lawyers Navigate VA Applications

Whether you are looking to file your initial disability claim or appeal a denied one, an attorney is necessary to maximize the compensation you deserve. VA-accredited attorneys can help you at any phase of the process.

They work on your behalf to track down the medical information needed and ensure you are getting the highest possible rating for your disabilities.

Gathering Evidence

To win your disability claim, you must have the right kind of medical information and evidence. This can include lab test results, hospital records, doctor’s notes, physical therapy reports, and X-rays. The firm can help you gather the correct information and proof for your case.

Other evidence that we might use for your claim include buddy statements, proof of military service, symptom logs, and psychological reports. Having the right kind of evidence can make your claim go faster.

Congress designed the VA claim process to be veteran-friendly. However, the bureaucracy can sometimes slow things down. Moreover, veterans disability lawyers can help veterans avoid these delays by providing the appropriate documents and ensuring they have the necessary evidence to support their claims. This includes requesting federal records like social security disability, VA medical, and private health care records. It also means preparing for C&P exams and submitting medical evidence to support the claim.

Preparing for C&P Exams

When veterans attend their C&P exam, it is essential to be honest about the severity of their symptoms. It is also a good idea to bring additional evidence that shows how their condition negatively impacts their daily life and their ability to work.

During the exam, medical examiners will ask questions and conduct a limited physical exam based on information in the claim file. They will also complete a questionnaire known as a Disability Benefits Questionnaire (DBQ). Veterans can have their doctors, who know the veteran’s condition better than the one-time examiner, fill out this DBQ on their behalf.

In addition, it is a good idea to be proactive and request the specific sex of the examiner if they are conducting a sensitive exam like a gynecological or breast exam, an a/r, or a mental health evaluation. Often, this simple step prevents mistakes that could hurt the claim decision. For example, an error in the examiner’s assessment of a condition’s severity can have drastic consequences.

Getting a Disability Rating

Depending on the severity of the injury or illness, Veterans receive a disability rating. This determines the monthly disability compensation a Veteran will receive and eligibility for other benefits like healthcare.

If a Veteran has more than one condition that affects their ability to work, they’re likely to be rated for multiple diseases at once. This is called a combined rating, and contrary to popular belief, it doesn’t just add up the percentages of each state. For example, suppose a Veteran has a TBI and back injury rated at 50% each. In that case, the VA takes 100 (representing a fully efficient person) and subtracts the highest individually ordered condition, the TBI, at 50%. The remaining effective percentage is then added to the second condition, the back injury at 25%.

If you’re unhappy with your rating and within the 1-year window to file a Notice of Disagreement, you can request that your rating be increased. This process can involve a C&P exam and will require supporting evidence.

Appealing a Decision

When a decision from the Department of Veterans Affairs isn’t what a veteran wants, it is essential not to give up. A skilled attorney can help veterans navigate the VA appeals process to get a more fitting decision.

The first step of an appeal is filing a Notice of Disagreement. This is where veterans list their points of contention about the decision and why they disagree.

After a Notice of Disagreement is filed, the next step is a Request for Reconsideration. This is where new evidence can be submitted for review by a higher-level VA official. For example, suppose a veteran was denied service connection or received a lower rating than they believed they deserved. In that case, this may be the time to submit supplemental medical evidence to prove that claim. This is also the time to consider requesting an additional exam by an outside doctor. Veterans can simultaneously have multiple appeals in the system, depending on the situation.