Florida's Department of Veterans Affairs: What You Need to Know
Florida's Department of Veterans Affairs
14229 US 441
Tavares, FL 32778
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Florida's Department of Veterans Affairs
The Florida Department of Veterans Affairs (FDVA) was formed in 1989 and is headquartered in Tallahassee. The FDVA provides veterans with vital services, including benefits such as healthcare, disability allowance, pension, housing, and others. However, accessing the help they need and deserve can be a time-consuming and challenging undertaking for the 1.5 million veterans currently living in the state.
Completing stacks of paperwork only to have your legitimate claim for VA benefits denied, delayed, or reduced, can be frustrating. At Morgan & Morgan, we believe it is wrong that veterans who gave so much to this country now struggle to get their rightful benefits. We want to help. If you have trouble getting what you deserve from the Department of Veterans Affairs in Tavares, FL, our veterans benefit attorneys can fight in your best interests. Get started today and contact us for free advice.
Benefits Available for Florida Veterans
Veterans in Florida can qualify for numerous benefits such as healthcare, employment services, property tax exemptions, dedicated home loans, education benefits, access to military cemeteries, and many others. Benefits are generally awarded to those honorably discharged and, in some circumstances, to their family members. Some veterans could also be entitled to monthly payments such as disability benefits or a pension. You can find out more about the various benefits you are entitled to and how to apply for them on the VA website.
Disability Benefits for Veterans
If you suffer from a service-connected condition or aggravated a pre-existing condition due to serving, you could be entitled to VA disability benefits. Disability benefits are generally paid out as a monthly tax-free payment.
A range of illnesses could qualify a veteran for VA disability benefits, provided the conditions are connected to serving. Examples of injuries include:
- Mental conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Head and brain injuries
- Nerve damage
- Illnesses caused by exposure to toxic substances
- Back injuries and chronic back pain
- Spinal cord damage and paralysis
- Loss of mobility and function
- Lung conditions
- Loss of limbs
- Loss of hearing or sight
- Shrapnel wounds
Despite suffering from an eligible condition, getting VA disability benefits can be a challenging and lengthy process. One of our veterans’ affairs attorneys can help you navigate the claims process.
Application Process for Disability Benefits
According to the VA, you can file a claim online, by mail, and in person at your regional Department of Veterans Affairs near Tavares, FL. Make sure your claim includes all the supporting documentation and evidence, such as the relevant medical reports, military records, and others. Depending on the current VA workload, getting a decision could take three months or longer. In some cases, the VA will ask for more information or schedule a medical exam. Cooperating fully with the VA will work to your advantage.
Florida Veterans’ Disability Ratings
The VA assigns veterans with a disability rating, expressed as a percentage and based on the severity of the disability. This rating determines the amount of your monthly benefit and eligibility for other potential benefits from the VA. The rating is generally based on:
- The evidence you provide, such as medical reports
- The results of your VA medical exam, if applicable (C&P exam)
- Other supplemental information requested by the VA
Appealing Against Your Rating
If the VA issues a low disability rating, you may not be eligible for any disability benefits or only receive reduced benefits. However, you can launch an appeal against your rating by filing a supplemental claim accompanied by new evidence of your condition within one year of the rating.
Getting your disability rating adjusted can be tricky and require a considerable amount of supporting evidence. One of our veterans’ affairs lawyers can help you appeal against the VA’s decision and fight for r right to an adequate disability rating and benefits.
Pension Benefits for Florida Veterans
Some Florida veterans qualify for pension benefits from the VA. You could be eligible if you did not receive a dishonorable discharge and your yearly family income is below a certain threshold set by Congress. Specific qualifying criteria regarding your length and dates of service also apply. Further, at least one of the following must describe your circumstances:
- You are at least 65 years old
- You are permanently totally disabled
- You are receiving long-term care in a nursing home due to a disability
- You are receiving Social Security Disability Insurance or Supplemental Security income
Which Benefits Are Available for the Families of Florida Veterans?
Families of veterans could be entitled to a range of benefits, depending on their circumstances, including:
- Life insurance
- Education and training benefits
- Housing benefits and home loans
Benefits for the Survivors of a Deceased Veteran
The spouse, dependent children, and dependent parents of a deceased veteran could receive benefits such as:
- Burial expenses
- A survivors’ pension
- VA Dependency and Indemnity Compensation
If You Care for a Disabled or Elderly Veteran
Family members providing daily care and assistance to a veteran are generally entitled to VA benefits, which can include a monthly stipend (payment), healthcare benefits, training for caregivers, respite care, and others.
A Veteran Benefits Attorney Can Help Families of Veterans
If you are a family member of a deceased or disabled veteran and cannot recover the benefits you need, consider contacting us for help and advice. Our attorneys feel honored to be able to help our veterans and their families.
Appealing Denied Veterans Benefits in Florida
If your claim for veterans’ benefits is denied, you have one year to appeal. It is important to note that the time starts ticking down on the date the denial letter was sent out, not from the date you received it. According to the VA, an appeal should include the following documentation:
- The appeal form
- A statement that you disagree with the decisions contained in the VA denial letter
- A statement that you intend to appeal against the decision
- The date of your denial letter and rating decision
You may also have to include other information, depending on your specific circumstances.
A Denial Is Never Final
It is natural to feel frustrated when you receive a denial letter. However, denials of VA benefits happen frequently. You could still receive benefits after an appeal. A veterans attorney can support you at every stage of your appeal, prepare you for hearings and ensure that your paperwork is completed correctly.
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What Are the Most Common Reasons for a VA Claim Denial?
In some cases, simply not providing enough information on supporting documentation could lead to your claim being denied. Other factors that could delay or deny your claim include:
Your Disability or Condition is not Considered Service-Related
To receive disability benefits, you have to prove that your disability is connected to your military service. After an exam by a qualified doctor, the VA may decide that your condition is not related to serving. However, you can appeal against this decision.
You Do Not Have a Specific Diagnosis
To qualify for benefits, you must receive a specific diagnosis for a disabling medical condition, for example, post-traumatic stress disorder or spinal cord damage. Symptoms such as general back pain or breathing difficulties typically do not qualify a veteran for disability benefits.
Your Disability Rating is too Low
Even if you have a diagnosis for a service-connected condition, you could struggle to receive benefits if the VA assigned you a low disability rating. A rating of less than 10 percent does not qualify for disability benefits.
You Are Lacking Professional Legal Representation
While veterans can file claims on their own, having a lawyer in your corner can be advantageous, particularly after receiving a denial letter. An experienced veterans’ attorney knows how to gather and present evidence that could help get a claim approved.
Can I Get Benefits Without an Honorable Discharge?
The application process for VA benefits in Florida will take your service history into account. You may not be able to receive benefits if:
- You were dishonorably discharged
- Your injury or condition occurred during misconduct such as absence without leave (AWOL)
- Your injury or condition occurred during detention for misconduct
However, you could potentially apply for a correction of discharge status in some circumstances, for example, if you suffered from a mental health condition at the time.
If you are trying to receive veterans’ benefits but were not honorably discharged, an attorney from our firm could help get your status reviewed by the VA.
Could I Receive Social Security Disability Benefits and VA Benefits at the Same Time?
Yes. The two programs are not mutually exclusive and veterans’ benefits are not considered income. Therefore, to determine your eligibility for disability benefits, Social Security does not add veterans benefits to your total income.
Can I Work While Collecting VA Disability Benefits in Florida?
You are generally allowed to work even if you are considered 100 percent disabled by the VA and receive disability benefits. However, if you are receiving a VA pension, you may not be able to work.
How Can I Claim Educational Benefits from the VA?
If you are looking to go back to full-time education or train for your career, the VA can offer a variety of benefits such as:
- Tuition fee payments
- Monthly housing assistance
- Education and career counseling
You could receive funds for traditional degrees, on-the-job training, apprenticeships, and other educational programs. The application process can vary depending on your circumstances and on which type of benefit you seek. You can find more information about the benefits available and how to apply on the VA’s education and training website.
Why Is My Claim Delayed?
Currently, the waiting time for a decision from the VA is more than three months due to backlogs. Other reasons your claim could take a while to get processed include insufficient medical evidence or delays at your regional Department of Veterans Affairs near Tavares, FL.
While there is not much you can do to speed up the process, veterans in the following circumstances could qualify for an expedited decision:
- Suffering from a terminal illness
- Extreme financial hardship
- Old age
Can I Afford a Veterans Attorney?
Generally, attorneys set their own fees depending on what type of service the veteran requires. Some may charge upfront fees for certain services, such as upgrading discharge status. However, according to federal law, attorneys may only charge between 20 and 33½ percent for handling a VA benefits appeal. Attorney’s fees usually come directly out of the lump sum paid to the veteran.
If you are having problems getting the benefits you deserve, you deserve professional help regardless of your financial situation. Morgan & Morgan’s veterans’ attorneys have your back and will not charge you anything to start working on your case. We only receive our fee when you receive your settlement.
How Can a Veterans Affairs Attorney Help Me?
While the VA should make it easy for veterans to get help from the government, the reverse is often the case. Veterans can face one hurdle after another. Moreover, the appeals process can be slow. You could wait for your benefit payments forever while your bills are piling up. An attorney from our firm can help veterans with all aspects of their VA claims and appeals, including but not limited to:
- Filing appeals
- Preparing you for hearings
- Tracking your claim through the appeals process
- Making sure your paperwork is complete and submitted on time
- Liaising with medical providers to gather evidence supporting your claim
- Helping to fight a too-low disability rating
- Identifying and recovering back pay you might be owed
- Assisting families of veterans receive the benefits they are entitled to
Contact Morgan & Morgan for Help Today
Dealing with the Department of Veterans Affairs in Tavares, FL, can be time-consuming and challenging when applying for benefits. However, it should not be this difficult. Many of our attorneys have served themselves and understand the challenges veterans are facing.
If you or a loved one is unable to get help from the VA, get in touch. We have helped countless veterans and their families receive what they deserve. Contact us now to find out for free how we could help you too.