What is VA Disability?
The Veterans Administration provides monthly, tax-free compensation to former service men and women who were injured or suffer from a chronic disability related to their time in service, or who had an existing condition made worse by their duty. Veterans may qualify for benefits for physical or mental conditions that developed during or after their service. Physical injuries during service are common, as are mental conditions brought on by active duty, including post-traumatic stress disorder. Chronic conditions and pre-existing conditions that are made worse by your service are also covered by VA disability in some situations when the connection to your service is established.
How Does the VA Define Disability and Determine my Disability Rating?
If you served on active duty, were honorably discharged, and have a service-related condition or injury, you are a candidate for VA disability. Once the service connection is established, a disability rating is assigned to you based on the severity of your impairments. This amount you are paid each month is based on the percentage assigned to you in your disability rating. You may be assigned multiple ratings for separate injuries or conditions, but instead of adding them up, the VA calculates them for you based on their own specific formula, and you’ll be compensated accordingly.
NOTE: Sometimes, an Other than Honorable discharge does not preclude applying for VA service-connected benefits
When Can I File for VA Disability?
Most veterans are allowed to begin your claim between 180-90 days before you separate from military service through the Benefits Delivery at Discharge (BDD). There are some exceptions to that rule. However, if you have less that 90 days of active duty remaining, you won’t be able to file through BDD, and although you can file before your discharge, your claim won’t be completed until after separation.You can however begin the process of filing your claim(s).
A post-service claim can be made any time following your discharge from active duty. However, the later you file your claim following your service, the more challenging it may be to prove your claims: after all, you are trying to connect the in-service issues to your current medical problems. Relating to an injury only several years ago, versus decades ago, can be a world of difference. If this is your situation, know that the right legal team can be invaluable to help you navigate the system.
In addition, claims can be made for specific disabilities connected to events or areas of service, including disabilities related to your time in Vietnam and possible Agent Orange exposure, as a prisoner of war (POW), disabilities related to time spent in Southwest Asia (Gulf War related) or disabilities with symptoms that present following exposure to hazardous materials. In any of these cases, retaining an attorney could make the difference between proving your disability and winning your case, or being denied.
How Do I Prove Eligibility to File for Benefits?
There are several specifics 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 document your condition to a particular time and place during your prior service. Once you’re proven eligible, the VA will want to connect your condition or injury to a service-related event, and then they’ll rate the severity of your condition.
How Do I Prove my Service Connection? What is a Nexus Connection?
Proving the connection between your condition and your service means that you have a history of service records, medical records, and doctors’ opinions that show a clear line of cause and effect between your condition and your service. Proving this requirement can be broken down as follows:
- Do you have a current medical condition that was diagnosed and causes you disability or limitations?
- Do you believe there was an in service event, injury, or illness that either caused or aggravated that disability?
- Do you have amedical nexus linking the current disabling condition you experience to an in-service injury, illness, or event?
*A claim for presumptive connection does not follow the above guidelines.
How is the Severity of my Condition Determined?
The VA rates the severity of your disability between 0%-100% disabled. While the VA may establish the connection between your condition and your service–a very important step– they often won’t rank the severity of your disability as high as you may expect. The VA often grants 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 later.
What is a C&P Exam?
A C&P exam–short for compensation and pension exam–is a medical examination performed by a VA physician or contracted physician who will evaluate and document the current severity of your condition or injury under consideration for disability. This exam may be very very brief, but has long-lasting consequences when it comes to the amount of benefits you may receive. Not only that, but the actually written findings from examiners can be brief as well. The VA code ratings are very specific, and require detailed findings by an examining medical professional.
Sometimes, only one C&P exam is necessary to determine your level of disability. However, if you have specific injuries or conditions related to your hearing, vision, or a dental or psychological condition, you may need additional C&P exams with a specialist.
You have the right as a Veteran/claimant to submit your own evidence in the form of an examination that you acquire. These exams can be used to re-but the findings in prior C&P exams. These exams can provide the level of required detail to properly address how yourconditions apply to the ratings codes.
How Long Does a VA Disability Case Take?
Disability claims are notorious for taking months, if not years, to resolve. However, most initial VA disability claims are determined anywhere from three to ten months, on average. Every case is different, and more complicated cases can take much longer. If an appeal to the BVA (Board of Veterans’ Appeals) is required after a denial, that can add years to the claim unless you meet one of three very specific criteria for expedited processing.
Why Might I Need an Attorney for my VA Disability? Isn’t that Expensive?
Thirty-one percent of VA disability claims are denied. And that does not begin to explain the numerous claims most veterans have within each claim. If you’re one of the thousands of veterans denied disability benefits each year, the right legal team can advise you, help you file appeals, assist you with proper and complete documentation, and can fight for you and with you as you navigate your next steps.
Perhaps most importantly, they can help identify logical theories that provide a path to victory, amidst the chaos of multiple claims and level of appeal.
If you’ve been approved for VA disability benefits but feel that your rating wasn’t adequate, which is very common, the right legal team can help you appeal your case for a higher rating.
The law protects veterans specifically in regards to legal fees and cases. Before 2007, veterans weren’t allowed to have legal representation from attorneys regarding their disability claim. Veterans groups and other advocacy groups petitioned Congress to change the laws to protect the rights of veterans. Contact us today for a free case evaluation. We can quickly determine if we can help you win your case.