If you’re a Georgia veteran wondering how to apply for VA disability benefits, you’re not alone. There are thousands of veterans throughout the state with service-connected disabilities.
All must go through the process of applying for benefits through the Department of Veterans Affairs, which is a lengthy process that can often take months to complete. Appealing for a higher disability rating or a claim that’s denied can cost you even more of your valuable time.
While you can go through this process alone or with help from your local VA regional office, consulting a local VA disability attorney can be a major asset in helping you receive your benefits.
Applying for VA Disability Benefits: Basic Steps
Veterans across the country apply for VA disability using the same steps and process. If you have a disability that is caused or worsened by your service in the Armed Forces, or you have a service-connected disability that appears after service, you may qualify for benefits.
- In many cases you can begin the application process between 180 and 90 days before discharge through the Benefits Delivery at Discharge (BDD) program, or any time after that by going through the regular process.
- During your claim you will be asked to provide service records and medical evidence linking your condition to your service. You may also be asked to undergo a compensation and pension (C&P) medical exam and provide additional paperwork.
- If you qualify, you will receive a disability rating from 0% to 100%, which will determine the level of benefits you and your family receive. If you’re denied or unhappy with your rating, you may choose to appeal.
You can apply online, by mail, or by phone. You can also visit your local VA regional office to apply in person.
Hiring a VA Disability Attorney Who Knows Georgia
When you choose to consult a VA disability attorney to help you with your claim, it’s important to understand the benefits of a local firm with connections to the veterans’ community and experience handling these claims in your state.
There are 13 military bases in Georgia, such as Fort Benning in Columbus, Marine Corps Logistics Base in Albany, Dobbins Air Reserve Base in Marietta, and the Kings Bay Submarine Navy Base. These bases are spread across the state and beget an active local military culture.
Local attorneys are strongly connected with veterans and the military in Georgia and have years of experience working with them and their families. They will also have experience working with VA regional offices in the areas where veterans live.
VA Offices in Georgia
There are VA facilities throughout the state of Georgia. You can find your regional office here.
These are locations where you can apply for benefits, undergo necessary exams, get help with your claim, and undergo other veterans’ medical services.
The main Atlanta VA Medical Center is located at 1670 Clairmont Road, Decatur, GA 30033. You can call them at 404-321-6111.
Local law firms will have experience working with local VA personnel, and may have offices you can visit nearby. For instance, Affleck & Gordon has an office located at 211 Perimeter Center Parkway, Suite 1050, in Atlanta. This is a short drive from the Atlanta VA Medical Center.
Proving Your Claim Means Getting the Right Medical Evidence—Local Attorneys Can Help
For VA disability claims, you must prove that you are “at least as likely as not” to have a service-linked disability. That means you must show there is at least a 50% chance or more that you are disabled in connection to your service.
While this is much less stringent than other types of benefits programs that require overwhelming evidence of severe disabilities, you may still be denied or receive a disability rating that is too low if your evidence is insufficient.
Evidence you’ll need to prove your claim includes:
- Service records such as DD214s or service treatment records
- Medical evidence proving your condition (doctors’ reports, imaging, test results, etc.)
- Potential exams by VA or other doctors
- A nexus letter from a doctor detailing the nature of your disability and its connection to your service
A Nexus letter must meet the VA’s standards in detailing the necessary proof that your condition qualifies you for benefits. A doctor who is inexperienced with working with VA disability claimants may not be as familiar with the VA’s expectations in terms of the burden of proof for your condition.
However, a local attorney with experience assisting veterans with their claims will understand the VA’s expectations and be familiar with local physicians who can help. Some doctors may have more experience than others with working with VA disability patients and serving as medical expert witnesses. A Georgia VA disability attorney will be able to connect you with doctors with direct VA disability experience.
A denial or low disability rating doesn’t mean you should give up on your benefits claim. An attorney can help you navigate the next steps of your case, including:
- Filing a supplemental claim
- Requesting a higher-level review
- Appealing to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals (BVA)
- Appealing to the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims
A qualified attorney will guide you through these next steps and advocate on your behalf. They will be familiar with how the VA and BVA reaches claims decisions and can help identify any errors that could win you your benefits. They can act as legal counsel in court and advise you about your chances for success.
If your VA Disability claim has been denied, or you’re thinking about filing and don’t know where to start, Affleck & Gordon can help. We’ve been helping people in Georgia just like you for decades. Sign up for a free case evaluation here, or call us (404) 795-4972.