Veterans are people that have sacrificed much for the good of the country. As such, veterans are entitled to certain benefits. When these benefits are unfairly denied, there may be legal options that veterans can pursue. It is important to find an attorney that has experience handling veterans’ benefits cases, as these cases may become complex and the approval process may be time consuming.
Denied Veteran’s Benefits
Veterans’ benefits claims are often denied because of clerical or administrative errors. Veteran’s benefits may also be denied because of the difficulty in proving that injuries occurred during service. In many cases, injuries and conditions are not noticeable until months or years after service has ended. An attorney may be able to assist veterans in proving that disabilities are a result of service.
If a veteran is disabled due to certain conditions and circumstances, benefits are guaranteed. Agent Orange exposure, time served as a prisoner of war, or diseases which were contracted as a result of being in a foreign country during service make veterans automatically eligible to receive benefits. These situations and conditions can only have occurred as a result of service, so it is not necessary to prove causation in these cases.
Other injuries and conditions that may qualify disabled veterans for benefits include:
- Traumatic brain injuries
- Hearing loss
- Cushing’s syndrome
- Sexual trauma
- Limb amputation
- Spinal cord injuries
- Post traumatic stress disorder
- Eye injuries
- Radiation poisoning
- Gunshot wounds
- Shrapnel wounds
Appealing Denials for Benefits
There is a formalized process in place for appealing denied veteran benefit claims. The appeals process may take up to two years, however. Hiring an attorney to assist with the appeals process may help to reduce the amount of time until benefits are approved.
An experienced attorney can help with all stages of the appeals process. This will help to ensure that errors are detected before the claim is filed, increasing the chances of approval. Veterans must first file a Notice of Disagreement within one year of the claim denial to begin the appeals process. If an attorney feels that the case would benefit from a personal hearing in which the case reviewer, attorney, and client meet, the attorney may request a hearing. If the reviewer denies the claim, a new appeal can be filed with the Board of Veteran’s Appeals.
Board of Veteran’s Appeals
After filing an appeal with the Board of Veteran’s Appeals, a hearing will typically be scheduled. This hearing may be scheduled in Washington D.C., via video conference to Washington D.C., or at a local office with a member of the Board present. At the hearing, an attorney will be able to present evidence related to the benefits claim. Veterans should be prepared to clearly explain all aspects of the disability and how it occurred at a Board hearing.
U.S. Court of Appeals
As a final step, veterans may be able to file an appeal with the U.S. Court of appeals if a claim is further denied by the Board of Veteran’s Appeals. If a case goes to the U.S. Court of Appeals, an attorney must prepare a legal brief to be presented to the court. In some cases, an attorney may be able to speak before the court regarding the case as well.
Rising Veteran’s Benefits Claims
Advances in protective gear and medical treatment have greatly increased the number of veterans that survive battlefield injuries. New administrative policies have also caused many older cases to be reviewed for veterans that have suffered injuries as a result of Agent Orange exposure and similar issues. Unfortunately, the large amount of claims being filed for veteran’s benefits has caused the VA offices to become overwhelmed. Due to the number of backlogged cases, many cases are inappropriately denied and claim approvals may involve lengthy processing times. An experienced veteran’s benefits attorneys will be able to help reduce approval time and ensure a greater likelihood of having benefits approved.
“Accreditation.” U.S. Department of Veteran’s Affairs. U.S. Department of Veteran’s Affairs, 9 Sept. 2014. Web. 14 Oct. 2014. <http://www.va.gov/ogc/accreditation.asp>
“Law Update.” The Veterans Law Group. The Veterans Law Group, 1 Jan. 2012. Web. 14 Oct. 2014. <http://www.veteranslaw.com/vso-center/law-update>
NVLSP. National Veterans Legal Service Program, 1 Jan. 2014. Web. 14 Oct. 2014. <http://www.nvlsp.org/>