Our St. Petersburg attorneys have extensive experience helping veterans and their families receive the benefits they deserve. Whether you are appealing a denied claim or an insufficient award of benefits, our attorneys can help you navigate the veterans’ claim process.
The Department of Veterans’ Affairs (“VA”) often delays or denies claims because of minor errors on application paperwork or failure to follow the VA’s rules and procedures. In the case of a denied claim, our St. Petersburg attorneys can examine the VA’s decision and provide you with representation during the appeals process to increase your chances of receiving a favorable decision.
How A Veterans’ Benefit Attorney Can Help
In many cases, the most challenging aspect of a veterans’ disability claim is proving that a veteran’s disability is connected to his or her military service. It is often the case that the disabling condition is not discovered until many years after the veteran’s military service has ended. To help prove that the medical condition is linked to military service, the veterans’ disability attorney may work with medical experts to establish a service connection between a veteran’s disability and their military service.
Far too often, the VA initially denies claims because of administrative errors or the failure to supply sufficient medical evidence regarding the disabling medical condition. While claimants are provided the chance to appeal a denied claim, a report issued by the Government Accountability Office stated that it may take as long as 25 months for a claim to be resolved through the VA appeals process. Your attorney can prepare your appeal in compliance with all VA rules and regulations so that it moves as quickly as possible.
The VA Appeals Process
The veterans’ benefits attorneys in our St. Petersburg office can help you with all stages of an appeal, including:
Review by the Local VA Office: Your attorney may file a Notice of Disagreement with the VA regional office if your claim has been denied by the St. Petersburg VA office. The Notice of Disagreement must be submitted within one year of the date that your local VA office mailed its original decision denying your claim.
After the local VA office receives the Notice of Disagreement, it will create a Statement of the Case. The Statement of the Case is a detailed explanation of the evidence, laws, and regulations that were used by the local VA office in deciding your claim and the evidence contained in the Statement of the Case.
As part of the review process, a decision review officer at your local VA office will review your claim. Your attorney may also request that a personal hearing is conducted. A personal hearing is an informal hearing presided over by the decision review officer who will review your claim. Your St. Petersburg veterans’ attorney will evaluate your case to determine if a personal hearing should be requested in your case.
File an Appeal with the Board of Veterans’ Appeals: If your claim remains denied after the review by the St. Petersburg VA office, your attorney may file an appeal with the Board of Veterans’ Appeals. As part of the appeal to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals, you have the right to a personal hearing. The personal hearing may be one of three types:
- A hearing in Washington, D.C., where the Board of Veterans’ Appeals is located
- A videoconference hearing with your local VA office and the board member in Washington, D.C.
- A hearing at your local VA office with the board member present
At the hearing, your attorney may ask questions to help you explain your medical condition and how it was caused by your military service. The VA Board Member may also ask you questions during the hearing, and your attorney may submit any new medical evidence that supports your claim for disability benefits. Prior to the hearing, your attorney may practice questions with you to help you prepare. It is important that you be able to clearly explain the extent of your disability and how it is connected to your military service.
File an Appeal with the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veteran’s Claims: The final step in the veterans’ appeal process is filing a lawsuit with the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veteran’s Claims. If you claim has been improperly denied by the Board of Veterans’ Appeals, your attorney may file a Notice of Appeal with the United States Court of Appeals for Veteran’s Claims. Your attorney will prepare a legal brief detailing why you are entitled to veterans’ benefits and may present an oral argument to the judge in your case.
Who Our Attorneys Can Help
Our St. Petersburg 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.
Types of Disabilities That Qualify for Benefits
A veteran must be at least 10% 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
Please complete our free case review formto learn how a St. Petersburg veterans’ benefits attorney can help you qualify for benefits.