Four Things You Need to Know About VA Disability

Veteran on a wheelchair

VA Disability can be available to Veterans who can prove a connection between current illnesses or medical issues and their previous or current military service. While this is a seemingly straightforward idea, it is indeed much more complicated.

As a Veteran of military duty for our nation, navigating the veterans’ benefits system following your discharge from service can be a difficult transition. The process can be emotionally, physically, and mentally draining. If you are also dealing with a disability related to an injury or disease that occurred as a result of your active duty service, you deserve a fair evaluation of your case by the VA. Receiving your disability from the Veteran’s Administration (VA) shouldn’t be so challenging, but often it is. 

Unfortunately, during the daily striving that characterizes active-duty military service, many veterans find it difficult to document and keep track of each and every instance of illness or injury sustained in the line of duty. For those to whom this sounds familiar, be prepared to do some personal research. Because, as can be seen in the endless amounts of paperwork required, that the VA requires documentation for everything.

Proving Eligibility 

VA Disability benefits are available for both physical and mental conditions, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). There are several specific conditions you must meet to prove your eligibility for a VA disability rating. In addition to showing proof of active-duty service,  in most cases you must meet certain requirements that clearly document your condition to a particular time and place during your prior service. For example, a veteran claiming to have sustained an injury related to agent orange must show military records that document that veteran’s presence in areas where the Air Force deployed the infamous herbicide. 

According to the Veterans’ Administration:

Both of these must be true. You:

  • Served on active duty, active duty for training, or inactive duty training, and
  • Have a disability rating for your service-connected condition

And at least one of these must be true. You:

  1. Got sick or injured while serving in the military—and can link this condition to your illness or injury (called an inservice disability claim), or
  2. Had an illness or injury before you joined the military—and serving made it worse (called a preservice disability claim), or
  3. Have a disability related to your active-duty service that didn’t appear until after you ended your service (called a post-service disability claim)

Proving a Service Connection

A difficult part of VA Disability approval is connecting your condition to your service. Is your bad back a result of several parachute landings gone wrong, or a natural part of aging? Are your respiratory problems connected to air quality issues in Afghanistan, or because you were once a smoker? Is it a combination of both?

Proving the connection between your condition and your service means that you have a history of service records, medical records, and doctor’s opinions that show a clear line between your condition and your service. By working with the right legal team, your attorney can insure that you have the correct documents, completed thoroughly and with the right medical evidence highlighted to prove that your condition is connected to your service. 

If you’re not sure where to start, contact us today for a free case evaluation to help you determine where you stand with your potential VA disability claim. There will be no attorney fees unless we win your case on appeal.

Several Common Conditions Connected to Service Include:

  1. Bilateral hearing loss and tinnitus
  2. Bilateral Foot conditions
  3. Cervical or lumbar strain and degeneration, radiculopathies, instability, amputation
  4. PTSD
  5. Range of motion (problems moving your body)
  6. Breathing problems, Diabetes Mellitus
  7. Scar tissue, Ulcers
  8. Diseases related to Agent Orange exposure
  9. Cancer caused by toxins chemicals or other dangers
  10. Traumatic brain injury (TBI)
  11. Depression and /or anxiety

Determining the Severity of Your Condition

Severity of disability, according to the VA and their system, rates between 0%-100% disabled. Often times the VA will service-connect your condition, but not give you the rating that is truly deserved based on your symptoms and functioning. The VA can and does often grant service-connection with a “zero percent” impairment rating. While there may not be any immediate monetary benefit from a zero percent rating, this service connection could still be very important as your health worsens over time, and especially if you appeal your decision or file a supplemental claim down the road.

At each level of severity that the VA assigns, benefits increase, not only for you, but also for your dependents. Your monthly benefits will be based on the percentage you are considered disabled.

At the 10%-20% rate of disability, benefits will be paid for the verteran only, excluding dependents. Once you pass the 30% level of severity of your condition, your dependents will be included in the amount of your benefits. 

Receiving the proper percentage for the level of severity of your disability is critical for your future livelihood for the future of your family. If paperwork isn’t complete or correct, your claim may be denied or approved at a lower level than you deserve. A free case evaluation is a good place to start in your search for help with your VA disability claim. Remember, at the earliest levels of reviews, your case is being decided by a neutral examiner at the Department of Veterans’ Affairs that has almost certainly not met you as a person. They are tasked with helping to develop your record under Duty to Assist Regulations 

Determining the Effective Date of Your Benefits

The effective date is a very important element of your claim for service-connected disabilities. The proper documentation and description can affect the amount of your past due benefits. The VA will backdate your benefits to the date you filed your claim. If you’ve left active duty within the year that you file your claim, your back pay can be dated to the date of your discharge. There are a few other exceptions to obtaining back pay prior to the date of application. This is why it’s important that you file your claim as soon as you can. With the help of the right legal team who have experience with VA disability, you can file a complete and correct claim and receive the benefits you deserve. 

Did You Know?

  1. You may file for disability at any time after your service.
  2. Of all original claims filed each year for VA disability, 31% are denied. 
  3. You may have all, none, or some of your claims denied
  4. Of those initially denied, 60% are denied in error. 
  5. If your original claim is denied, you typically have one year to file a Notice of Disagreement (NOD).
  6. The average decision time for an initial VA disability claim is 94.3 days. However this is only an average, and every case is different based on the complexity involved.

At Affleck & Gordon, helping Veterans receive their disability benefits is a primary area of practice. Serving Metro Atlanta and the greater Columbus/Phenix City area, the attorneys with Affleck & Gordon care deeply for their clients and assist them with problems that may arise with their disability claim. 

If your VA Disability claim has been denied, or you’re thinking about filing and don’t know where to start, Affleck & Gordon can help. We’ve been helping people in Georgia just like you for decades. Sign up for a free case evaluation here, or call us (404) 990-3945.

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