Veterans Disability Attorneys
Nationwide Veterans Advocacy
If you become sick or injured as a result of your service to our country, you deserve to be appropriately compensated for your sacrifice. Unfortunately, the VA system for processing claims is notoriously difficult to navigate and often fails our veterans. In some cases, a non-attorney veterans’ service officer will be able to capably assist a veteran with their claim. In other situations, however, a veteran may need the assistance of a qualified legal professional.
Our team at West & Dunn provides appellate assistance to veterans seeking disability compensation from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. We understand the challenges veterans face when they are unable to access their benefits due to technical complications or bureaucratic ineptitude. Our experienced veterans’ disability lawyers represent vets at all levels, from the Regional Offices to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Service Connected Disability Benefits
The Department of Veterans Affairs exists to compensate veterans for injuries incurred during military service that result in chronic disabilities. Unfortunately, every year the system gets more complex. The failure to understand the rules and regulations can lead to denial of even the most well founded claims.
In order to obtain service connection, a veteran must prove three things:
- An injury or disease began during military service. This injury could be obvious - a broken bone, or head injury - or it could be exposure to a toxin, or a stressor that causes unseen mental health issues.
- A current disability. A veteran who suffers an injury in service, which later heals completely and causes no disability cannot be service connected. Service connection requires that the veteran is still experiencing disability related to the in-service injury.
- The in-service injury must be the cause of the post-service disability. This is called the nexus. Most of the time, the nexus is in the form of a medical opinion that states that it is at least as likely as not that the in-service injury caused the current disability. In some cases, a veteran’s statements may be sufficient to establish the nexus.
Common Causes of VA Denials
The three elements of service connection listed above are relatively simple. Unfortunately, the claims process is not. Some of the most common causes of denials of benefits are:
- Filing the wrong form. VA recently overhauled the claims process. Previously, a veteran could write what they were claiming on a piece of paper and send it to VA. The onus was on VA to correctly interpret the veteran’s claim. Today, VA will only consider claims filed on one of four forms. Choosing the correct form requires the veteran to determine whether a claim was previously filed, whether that previous claim was granted or denied, whether they plan to submit additional evidence, or whether they have identified a legal error in the claim. If the veteran chooses incorrectly, VA will not consider the claim. They may send the veteran a letter advising that a new form is required, but they will never advise which form must be used.
- Failing to explain the claim. Often, veterans will list the disability they wish to claim on a form and file nothing more, assuming that VA will understand the basis of the claim. A statement from the veteran describing the in-service injury, the post service diagnosis, and the symptoms the veteran experienced between the in-service injury and the post service diagnosis should always accompany the claim.
3. Lack of nexus. When a veteran has proven that they suffered an in-service injury and have a current condition consistent with that in-service injury, VA must provide a medical examination to determine the severity of the current condition, and request a medical opinion to determine whether the current condition is related to the in-service injury. Unfortunately, these exams, known as compensation and pension (C&P) exams, are often of very low quality. VA used to maintain a C&P department within VA Medical Centers. These few doctors were responsible for nearly all C&P examinations conducted. Recently, VA moved away from this system and began using contract examiners to conduct these exams. The old system was flawed. Many of the C&P examiners were jaded from years of conducting these exams, resulting in less than favorable opinions. The new system is worse. Veterans are being asked to drive hundreds of miles, and when they arrive often find that the exams will be conducted in unprofessional, non-medical locations. The examiners are usually not MDs. The examinations are often very short, the examiners are often unprepared, and the resulting reports contain little information. Relying upon VA’s examiners to provide a medical opinion often means going back numerous times until they get it right. If a veteran is able to obtain a medical opinion from a treating provider, that can be very helpful.
Filing a disability claim with the VA is rarely as easy or straightforward as it should be. In many cases, the process can take months or even years. We can help you understand all relevant aspects of veterans law and the often-complicated claims process used by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Our veterans disability attorneys are prepared to assist you with every element of your claim and can help ensure you are correctly filling out the appropriate forms and submitting a sufficient level of evidence.
If your VA claim is denied or if your claim is granted, and you are given an evaluation that does not compensate you for all of your symptoms, you must act quickly. In most cases, you will have one year from the date of the decision to file your appeal. Involving a knowledgeable advocate in the appeals process will help get your appeal resolved in your favor as soon as possible. We can review your circumstances, assess why your claim was initially denied, and prepare a strategic and comprehensive appeal.
In many cases, a veteran’s claim for a service-connected disability can be resolved by the VA Regional Office or the Board of Veteran Appeals. However, there are some claims that cannot be settled at the administrative level and may require the attention of the courts. Our team at West & Dunn stands ready to provide sophisticated legal assistance in these scenarios. Our veterans disability lawyers are admitted to practice before the courts involved at all levels of the VA claims process, including the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, and the U.S. Supreme Court.
At West & Dunn, we are committed to fighting for your right to disability compensation and are ready to provide the personalized attention your case deserves. We understand how these appeals are adjudicated at the administrative and judicial levels and will work to leverage our knowledge to secure a favorable outcome.
If your VA disability claim has been unfairly denied or you have been assigned an inaccurate disability rating, call (608) 490-9449 or contact us online to discuss your options with our legal team.
This firm is very knowledgeable in VA Laws and Regulations, understanding that every case is unique to the individual.- Ray Reid
The professional skills and commitment Attorney Dunn has consistently shown in each of my appeals is confirmed by her success.- Tedd Welch, Vietnam Veteran
They were extremely responsive, professional and honest.- Michael B.