Veterans Disability Info Blog

Compassion in Practice: How We Advocate for Veterans’ Rights Every Day

Our VA disability law firm is committed to advocating for the best interests of persons who have heeded the call of duty and served in the U.S. Military or other qualifying organizations. If you or a loved one served in the military and an event or incident caused an injury or illness that you are experiencing symptoms from today, you could be entitled to VA disability benefits. 

Determining what you could be entitled to for your service-connected disabilities requires gathering evidence, applying, and receiving a VA disability rating. The VA rating that you receive determines the tax-free payments you might receive on a monthly basis, and whether or not your medical treatments are covered and provided by the Veterans Health Administration (VHA). 

We practice compassion each and every day in our advocacy for veterans, and in the client-centered approach we take with each individual case that our firm handles. Our focus is on helping veterans whose claims have been denied, or who have experienced the development of new or worsening service-connected disabilities that need to be added to their VA disability rating for which VA has denied them.

#1 We Demistify VA Disability Claims 

A big part of our practice is helping to educate veterans on what their rights are, and in doing so we are able to identify which cases we are able to accept. While we can only help you with appeals and supplemental claims on matters denied more than a year prior, it is important to understand the process through which you get your claim started. 

To file your initial VA disability claim, you can contact your local VA office to provide you with referrals to free VA-accredited representatives to help. The process requires that you file VA Form 21-526EZ to get started. The form can be filed through the mail, online, or at VA centers. You’ll be able to receive assistance from the VA in applying, and they will also help you gather information or review information that you direct them toward within the context of your application. 

Your Physician Can Provide Evidence On Your Behalf

It can be helpful to see your own physician for an assessment and to discuss how your condition might be linked to your active service. A Statement in Support of Claim, VA Form 21-4138 can be used to submit information from parties who are familiar with your current condition, and/or its link to your active service. This could be information submitted by your physician after a review of your service-related injury or illness and current condition, or a statement from someone who served in the military with you and witnessed the event or incident that caused your injury or illness. Generally, physicians are reluctant to get involved with matters for patients that are the subject of legal proceedings.  So, when you approach your doctor it is important to emphasize that he will never be called to testify in court.  You must also explain to him that proving a connection to service does not need to be shown to a level of reasonable scientific certainty.  Instead, explain that the connection to service must be “at least as likely as not” or a 50/50 standard.  This means that 

VA-Approved Representatives Provide Free Assistance with Your Initial VA Disability Claim

A VA compensation lawyer, even if they are VA-accredited, is unable to provide assistance on initial VA disability applications. The completion of the initial portion can be done without charge, and with the cost-free assistance of VA-accredited representatives. During your initial claim, you’ll often undergo a Compensation and Pension Exam (C&P Exam), which will provide a current diagnosis of your condition or disability, and through a review of your service records and other information will determine whether or not your current diagnosis is linked to your active service. 

What are My Rights During the Appeals Process? 

When you file a VA disability claim and it is denied, you have the right to appeal the decision. It is important to understand that the process can take quite a bit of time, and the VA presently estimates that supplemental claims and basic appeals can take anywhere from 12 to 18 months. However, some pathways to appeal can take significantly longer, and it may be years before a final decision is made in your appeal. 

When you disagree with the outcome of your VA disability application through VA Form 21-526EZ, then you will file VA Form 20-0995. This form is filed when:

  • You disagree with an evaluation that was decided by the VA in the prior year, and you have new and relevant evidence, or
  • You are filing a supplemental claim and have new and relevant evidence 

A VA compensation lawyer from our firm can help identify which of these pathways is most viable in your individual case or claim. The present status of your disability, and how the symptoms are impacting your ability to work, are central to your claim and should be what the evidence that you provide to the VA focuses on. 

There are Many Pathways to Appeal 

Determining what appeal pathway is best requires an understanding of the VA disability appeals system, and also which options are relevant to your claim. While we don’t discuss them at length here, there is a legacy appeals system, in addition to one in place for claims filed in the past 4-5 years. These are the bulk of claims we assist veterans in the appeal and supplemental shifting of. 

The gathering of additional evidence and incorporation of it into the appropriate form/s will determine the outcome of your appeal. You generally have 3 options on appeal:

  1. Supplemental claim – through this method, you are able to submit additional evidence for the VA to consider in the rating of your service-connected disability, and also allows for your VA compensation lawyer to provide the broadest amount of assistance and value. 
  2. Higher-level review – this process does not allow you to submit additional evidence, but instead a fresh review of your current evidence with the issuance of a new rating, which may or may not have a beneficial outcome. 
  3. Board appeal – through this particular process, you appeal your case to a Veterans Law Judge, who provides an original review of the evidence in your claim and issues a binding decision. 

#2 Our VA Compensation Lawyer Team Helps with Appeals and Supplemental Claims 

The time to contact a VA compensation lawyer is after your claim has been denied and you need to appeal, or if your condition has changed since your initial claim was reviewed and a decision was made. This means that if you had a prior claim that was approved and you received a VA disability rating for a condition, you can still apply if your condition changes or you develop other related conditions. 

What is a Supplemental Claim? 

A supplemental claim is a claim after your initial claim for the same or a similar benefit to what was previously decided. A key aspect of your supplemental claim is new evidence in support of an addition to your VA disability rating for a new, related condition, or the adjustment of the rating for a currently rated condition. 

For example, if you have a VA disability rating of 40 percent for a traumatic brain injury, and you have developed depression, you can file a supplemental claim for depression. If you receive a VA rating of 30 percent for your depression, your combined VA disability rating is 70, and you could be eligible for compensation at the 100 disability rate through TIDU. 

In order to have your supplemental claim approved, you must demonstrate to the VA that your current diagnosis of a disability is linked to your active service and has either worsened or branched into another condition altogether. Back injuries that lead to knee injuries. Pain management drugs that result in hypertension or obesity. Physical injuries that result in PTSD and other psychologically linked issues. There are quite a few instances in which a supplemental claim is appropriate, and discussing your situation with a VA compensation lawyer can be helpful in framing what your options are. 

For example, veterans suffering from traumatic brain injuries, TBIs, experience a shift in brain chemistry from the injury to their head. This can be caused by a blow to the head, in a motor vehicle collision, or being in the proximity of a blast. In time, veterans with TBIs often develop depression and anxiety. If you already have a rating for your TBI, you can file a supplemental claim for anxiety and depression. 

Physical injuries that result in secondary conditions can also lead to a new or added-on VA disability rating. For example, back pain can lead to the necessity of ongoing pain management medicines. These in turn can impact your capacity to function at work, and can also lead to secondary health conditions like weight gain, diabetes, or worsened anxiety. When a service-connected disability results in another VA-rated disability, you can combine ratings to receive a higher amount in VA disability benefits. 

#3 We Help You Create an Effective Nexus Letter 

As noted, one of the most effective pieces of evidence in support of your VA disability rating within an appeal or a supplemental claim is a nexus letter. The nexus letter is the opinion of a medical professional who has taken the time to review both your medical history and service records, that determines the following: 

  • You have a current diagnosis for a disability or other condition 
  • That current diagnosis is linked to an event or incident during qualifying active service that directly caused your disability or condition 
  • When your present disability or condition is a result of a different injury or illness during active service, you may still receive coverage if it qualifies as a secondary condition 

The information presented by the medical expert must be provided within the context of VA forms, and to be most effective should also employ the terms that the VA is looking for. What is best for your claim is to work with a medical expert who is familiar with VA disability claims, and can provide feedback that is directly supportive of your claim. 

Where do you find medical experts who are well-versed in VA disability claims? It can be difficult to determine which private practitioners are able to provide this kind of information, and which are not. When you rely on overworked VA medical professionals with general practical knowledge to be the sole source of your evidence, you risk not receiving an accurate and complete VA disability rating. 

One of the benefits of working with our VA disability firm is not only our client-centered approach, but the network of professionals that we have to refer our clients to. Our firm has a number of medical experts in our network, and we’ll be able to help you schedule appointments to gather the evidence you need for a successful appeal or supplemental claim. 

Connect with a VA Compensation Lawyer to Discuss Your Appeal or Supplemental Claim

Our VA compensation lawyer team is available to review your unique situation to determine if we are able to help. If your initial claim has been denied, or your condition has changed or worsened since you last applied, we can help you through every step of the process. We have a network of medical experts that we’ll assist you in scheduling appointments with to ensure that you have adequate evidence in support of your claim. 

We’ll draft the appeal, incorporate your evidence, and submit it to the VA in the most effective manner possible to support the efficient processing of your claim. We do not have a fast-forward button for the process, however, but we do whatever is possible to help the claim move forward as quickly as the VA allows. If it takes years to process your appeal or supplemental claim but it is ultimately approved, you are entitled to compensation from the time that you applied in a lump sum. 
We charge nothing for your up-front consultation, and if we are able to take your case, there is no out-of-pocket expense, ever. Our pay comes out of a portion of the lump sum award that we generate, and you are able to then continue forward while collecting a higher and more accurate level of compensation based upon your adjusted VA disability rating. Call us at 1-888-878-9350.

We are Here to Help

If you are having trouble obtaining benefits, contact us online or at 888.878.9350 to discuss your case.