Navigating a VA Claim – Do You Need a Lawyer?

Veterans who experience an injury while serving on active duty may qualify for disability benefits. However, filing for these benefits isn’t always easy and can lead to a lengthy filing process with a false denial. If you’re struggling to access the disability benefits you deserve, you may be exploring your options. We’ll review a few signs that you may need a VA disability lawyer. This guide also reviews a few other resources you can use for assistance in claiming your benefits.

You’re Unsure How to File

Filing a VA claim is relatively simple and can be done online. However, you’ll want to make sure your application is complete with all required information and evidence. You don’t likely need a disability lawyer to file your initial application. Instead, you could visit your nearest Veterans Administration (VA) office or call the VA hotline for assistance.

You’re Finding It Difficult to Track Down Your Records

Ideally, you should include all of your medical records in your initial application to help prove your disability claim. However, it may not always be easy to track down your records, especially if they’re in different states, cities, or offices. Some veterans may even have a trail of medical records that spans across different countries.

The VA is required to assist you in tracking down your records. However, while they will make a reasonable effort to find all documents, it’s possible that they could miss a few. Even one or two missing documents could lead to the VA denying your claim. If you can’t provide the VA with copies of your medical records, you can help point them in the right direction of where to find them. Otherwise, consider working with a Veteran Service Organization (VSO) or claims agent, both of which should be capable of helping you locate missing medical records.

You Were Approved, but You Disagree With the Disability Percentage

Some veterans may receive approval but disagree with the amount. The VA calculates how much compensation you receive based on your disability percentage. A higher percentage translates to a higher monthly payment. If you believe your disability percentage doesn’t accurately cover the impact of your disability, you may appeal the decision. Sometimes, submitting additional evidence can increase your disability percentage. The VA requires at least a 10% disability percentage to receive any payments.

For some disabilities, it can be difficult to prove just how impactful and disabling it is to your daily life. For example, many veterans deal with chronic pain, which is also one of the hardest-to-prove conditions. Other common conditions, like anxiety and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), can also be difficult to prove.

You Were Approved, but Have Yet to Receive Payment

Once approved, you should begin receiving payments within 15 days. An approved application but delayed payment is usually an issue with your bank account information and can typically be solved by contacting the VA helpline. Currently, the VA pays disability payments via direct deposit or check.

Your Application Was Denied

You have a right to appeal if your VA application is denied. Your denial letter should include a reason or reasons why the VA is denying your request for benefits. If you disagree with the reason, you can begin the appeals process. One of the most common reasons for a denial is stated as not service-connected.

Not service-connected means the VA doesn’t have an official medical diagnosis of a disability, your application didn’t include a clear Nexus to prove your disability is connected to service, or there isn’t enough evidence for your current disability. There are many reasons why you may not have sufficient evidence that fits into either of three causes, including a lack of physician visits during active duty or not realizing an injury until after you left service. The VA allows you to add more documents to your initial claim during the appeals process.

You can still file an appeal, even with a lack of evidence. Additional resources, like a VA buddy letter or VA Lay Statement, may qualify you for benefits. You likely shouldn’t need a lawyer to file your first appeal. Instead, you might work with other veterans or representatives who can help you navigate your way through the appeals process.

If your appeal claim is also denied, then you might want to reach out to a disability lawyer. A VA lawyer can also be helpful in upgrading your discharge papers if your claim is denied based on a character of discharge review.

If your time serving has left you with a disability that threatens your finances, it’s only right that you qualify for benefits. Veterans have many options for helping guide them through the application process, including the VA and VSO representatives. When you’re not getting anywhere with the VA, reaching out to a lawyer may be worth it.