Caring for our veterans is a mandate, and one the Veterans Administration has carried out since Lincoln’s foundational work following the Civil War. Though the name and identity of the VA have changed over time, today the VA is responsible for administering pensions and disability payments and providing medical care for Americans who have served in the armed forces. But poor funding, personnel shortfalls, and subpar administration have made it increasingly difficult for the more than 20 million veterans currently living in the U.S. — 1.5 million of whom live in the state of Florida — to obtain the benefits they so sorely need.
Morgan & Morgan’s veterans’ benefits attorneys in Sarasota have the knowledge required to cut through the mountains of red tape surrounding veterans’ benefits. We are one of only a handful of firms practicing in this challenging area of law and we’re proud to assist Sarasota veterans in obtaining compensation for their service-related injuries, disabilities, and diseases. To learn more about how we may be able to help you, fill out our free, no obligation case review form.
What Benefits are Available to Florida Veterans?
United States veterans are entitled to a number of benefits after being discharged from the armed forces. Most are granted fairly routinely. However, qualifying for some benefits, particularly veterans’ disability benefits, requires the veteran to meet a number of complex criteria. Specifically, they must show:
- That they suffer from a fully or partially disabling disease or condition, and
- That condition is “service-connected” – in other words, that it was caused by something they experienced in military service. This is similar to workers’ compensation benefits.
Clearly, if a soldier is badly injured in the line of duty, establishing this connection is not typically difficult. However, soldiers who develop chronic conditions later in life, those who develop diseases due to chemical or radiation exposure, or those who suffer from severe mental health conditions, most notably post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), may have a more difficult time.
While numerous non-profit Veterans Service Organizations exist to help with the initial application process, these organizations often lack the resources, experience, and training to carry on when initial claims are denied. This is where an experienced Sarasota veterans’ benefits lawyer comes in.
The Veterans’ Benefits Rating and Appeal Process
In Sarasota, veterans’ disability benefits are awarded and calculated based on a percentage system. Unlike Social Security Disability, which requires the claimant be totally disabled, a veteran can qualify for benefits if partially disabled. A percentage rating is assigned to each service-connected condition. These individual ratings are totaled together using a complicated formula to reach an overall disability rating.
A veteran who has at least one condition rated at 40 percent and a total rating of 70 percent can argue that they are totally unable to work, despite having a rating of less than 100 percent disabled, by making a claim for total disability by means of individual unemployability (TDIU). Because it is so difficult to reach 100 percent, even with multiple service-connected conditions, this is often an advisable route to take.
When the government workers evaluating initial veterans’ disability claims determine a condition is not service related, or assign a rating that does not reflect the seriousness of the disability, the claimant can have their case heard before a judge of the Board of Veterans Appeals. A further appeal can then be taken to a special federal court, the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims, and ultimately to a United States Court of Appeal and the United States Supreme Court.
Types of Disabilities That Qualify for Benefits
A veteran must be at least 10 percent disabled to qualify for benefits. Our attorneys can help veterans with the following types of injuries receive disability benefits from the VA. This list is not exhaustive.
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
- Exposure to toxic chemicals
- Cancer caused by exposure to harmful substances
- Back and spinal injuries
- Orthopedic or back problems
- Gulf War syndrome
- Hearing loss from prolonged exposure to loud sounds
- Medical conditions caused by exposure to deplete uranium
- Traumatic brain injury
- Tropical diseases, such as dysentery and malaria
- Gunshot wounds
- Shrapnel wounds from improvised explosive devices
- Knee, leg, and arm injuries
The VA maintains a list of specific classes of veterans with certain conditions whom it presumes to be disabled and therefore automatically eligible for disability benefits. Veterans who may automatically qualify for benefits include:
- Former prisoners of war
- Veterans who have certain chronic or tropical diseases that become evident within a specified period of time after discharge from service
- Vietnam veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange
Who our Attorneys can Help
Our Sarasota veterans’ benefits attorneys have experience helping the following types of individuals qualify for benefits:
Veterans: For purposes of qualifying for benefits, the VA defines the term “veteran” as “a person who served in the active military, naval, or air services, and who was discharged or released under conditions other than dishonorable.”
Surviving Spouses: A surviving spouse of a veteran may receive Dependency and Indemnity Compensation. In general, to qualify for Dependency and Indemnity Compensation, the veteran must have died while on active duty, active duty for training, inactive duty training, or have died from an injury or disease that was related to military service.
Surviving Children: Surviving children of veterans who are under the age of 18 (or 23 in the case of students) and who are unmarried may be eligible for benefits. In addition, certain disabled adult children may qualify for benefits.
Florida Veterans with Disabilities Deserve Experienced Representation
Unfortunately, Sarasota veterans who are suffering because of service-related disabilities frequently struggle to get the compensation they deserve from the Department of Veterans Affairs. The process can be confusing and even a small misstep can set a claim back by months or years.
The Morgan & Morgan veterans’ benefits attorneys understand the operating procedures of the VA, the Board of Veterans Appeals and the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims. We have helped numerous Florida veterans navigate the disability claims and appeals process successfully, and we may be able to help you too. Contact us today by filling out our free case evaluation form to learn more about your legal options.