VETERANS’ BENEFITS | TIM MILES LAW OFFICE
For The Veterans®
At The Law Offices of Timothy L. Miles, we are dedicated to helping veterans and their loved ones recover the benefits they deserve. We understand that obtaining benefits can be a complicated and frustrating process that often involves multiple appeals. Our firm has handled countless claims for veterans’ benefits, including disability benefits, survivor benefits, employment benefits, educational benefits, healthcare, life insurance, and more.
If you’ve been denied disability benefits or death benefits, we may be able to help you appeal this decision and recover the compensation you need to lead a full life. To learn more, fill out our free, no-obligation case review form.
Who Is Eligible for Veterans Disability Benefits?
An applicant must meet four basic requirements to qualify for disability benefits from the VA:
- They must be a veteran.
- They must have a current medical condition.
- They must have sustained an injury or disease during service.
- Their current disability must be related to their tour of duty (this includes diseases or conditions that were exacerbated during service).
Obtaining disability benefits often hinges on whether a veteran can prove that their injury or condition was related to their service.
What Types of Injuries Qualify for Benefits?
Our attorneys have experience recovering benefits for veterans with the following injuries and conditions (among others):
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
- Back and spinal injuries
- Knee, leg, and arm injuries
- Gulf War syndrome
- Traumatic brain injury
- Tropical diseases such as dysentery and malaria
- Gunshot and shrapnel wounds
- Illnesses from exposure to toxic chemicals or uranium
Please note that this is not an exhaustive list, and if your condition does not appear above, you could still be eligible for benefits.
How Do I Prove That My Disability Is Service-Related?
To show that a disability is service-related, a veteran must demonstrate the following:
- Medical diagnosis of a current disability
- Medical proof of the development or aggravation of a disease/injury during service
- Medical evidence of a connection between the in-service disease/injury and the current disability
How Do Disability Ratings Work?
When reviewing an application, the VA issues a rating decision through the Regional Office (RO) where the application was filed. The total benefits a veteran receives are based on the VA’s determination of how disabled they are, on a scale from 10 to 100%.
When a veteran suffers from multiple service-related disabilities or conditions, a special (and confusing) formula is used to establish their total disability rating level. First, the VA will rank the veteran’s disabilities from most severe to least severe. Then, by examining the most serious disability, the VA will determine how efficient the veteran can be.
For instance, if the VA assigns the most severe disability at 30%, the veteran is still 70% efficient. Next, the VA will consider the second most serious disability. If a veteran’s second disability warrants a 10% rating, then 10% of the remaining 70% efficiency will be evaluated.
In this instance, this number (7%) will be added to the original disability rating (30%) for a total of 37%. Finally, this number will be rounded up or down to the nearest multiple of ten — so this veteran would be considered 40% disabled instead of 37%.
This is not a perfect system, of course, but if you have multiple disabilities, they should all factor into your rating.
Can I Appeal My Disability Rating?
Yes, if a veteran believes their disability rating is too low, they can file an appeal. This is crucial because a rating that’s too low will amount to inadequate benefits for their injury. To prepare for this appeal, the veteran must visit the VA medical facility where they received their compensation and pension physical.
Next, the applicant should contact the Freedom of Information office to obtain a copy of the physician’s report. If the report doesn’t accurately describe their disability, the veteran can write the VA to request another medical exam and to explain why they feel their condition has not been accurately documented. (As an alternative, the veteran can visit their own doctor to obtain another medical report, which they can send to the VA. In these cases, the VA may order a re-examination.)
A veteran may also ask for a review by a decision review officer (DRO). This is an officer who was not involved in determining the veteran’s disability rating who will carry out their own review. Most often, they will either leave the rating unchanged or raise it. They cannot lower a disability rating unless an egregious mistake has been made in assigning a higher rating than warranted.
If the veteran doesn’t approve of the decision rendered by the DRO, they can appeal further to the Board of Veterans Appeals (BVA). The claimant is permitted to bring a representative — such as an attorney — to the meeting. If a claimant is denied again, they can appeal once more to the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims (CAVC).
Note that there are very small windows of time between each of these steps, and if a service member misses a deadline, they may become ineligible for benefits.
If this process sounds tedious and overly complicated, that’s because it is. That’s why so many vets decide to hire a lawyer who knows the appeals process inside and out. They can guide the claim to a successful resolution while the veteran focuses on managing their disability and spending time with their loved ones.
Can My Disability Rating Change?
Yes, the VA is permitted to alter it in certain situations. The VA may require a re-examination six months after the veteran has left service, and then follow-up examinations two-to-five years later to determine if the disability still exists and if its severity has lessened.
These exams often occur if the veteran’s disability is expected to improve, evidence has been presented indicating a change in disability, or the current disability rating percentage is incorrect. In these instances, a veteran’s benefits may be reduced or stopped completely.
But there are also a number of instances in which a veteran’s disability rating cannot be reduced. For instance, if the veteran has received a 100% disability rating, this cannot be lowered unless the VA orders a re-examination or evidence shows that the veteran can maintain a job for 12 straight months and exhibits “material improvement” in their physical and emotional health.
Additionally, if the veteran has been receiving benefits for more than 20 years and suffers from a permanent and total disability, they cannot have their disability rating decreased. The VA can order a re-examination if the veteran has been receiving benefits for 20 years for a disability which is not permanent or total; however, their benefits cannot dip below their original level of compensation.
Am I Eligible for Retroactive Awards?
As you may know, the VA can take months or even years to approve a disability benefit claim. For that reason, they usually award benefits retroactively for the time period between when a veteran applied and when they were approved.
For example, if you applied for benefits in March 2019 but weren’t approved until September 2019, you would be entitled to six months of backpay for that span, in addition to the monthly payments you would receive moving forward.
Unfortunately, unless you were discharged from the service or exposed to Agent Orange, you are unlikely to recover retroactive awards for the time period prior to your benefits application (regardless of when you were diagnosed with your condition).
What Survivor Benefits Does the VA Offer?
The VA offers a wide range of benefits and services for the spouses, dependent children, and dependent parents of deceased veterans. These benefits include the following:
- Education Program Refund
- Civil Service Preference
- Commissary and Exchange Privileges
- Burial-Related Benefits
- Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC)
- Parents’ DIC
- Death Pension
- Education and Training
- Home Loan Guarantee
- Life Insurance Proceeds
If you or a loved one was denied these benefits, you may want to speak with a veterans benefits attorney.
Why Should I Speak to a Lawyer?
If you’re a veteran who has filed a disability claim, talking to an attorney could save you a massive amount of time and help you recover the maximum number of benefits that you need and deserve.
The VA frequently denies legitimate claims. They also award inadequate benefits because of mistakes made on application forms, or because a veteran failed to demonstrate the full extent of their injuries. Don’t let that happen to you.
The VA appeals process is confusing and time-consuming. According to a report issued by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO), the VA appeals process can take as long as 3-5 years to resolve. Wouldn’t you do anything in your power to shorten that timeline?
An attorney can help you navigate the appeals process as quickly as possible and recover all the benefits you need to manage your disability or injury.
How Much Does It Cost to Hire a Lawyer?
It costs nothing up front to hire a veterans’ benefits attorney. We never charge by the hour, and we get paid only if we successfully resolve your case. That fee comes out of the money we recover from you, not your pocket.
If you don’t win, we don’t win. It’s that simple.
How Do I Get Started?
The VA doesn’t make it easy enough for injured veterans to receive the benefits they need. You served us, now we’d like to return the favor. Contact us today to see how we can help you with your benefits claim.