Being able to qualify for VA Disability can make a world of difference for Veterans and their families. Monetary compensation and other benefits connected to VA disability benefits, such as health care, may play a crucial role in how Veterans navigate their post-service lives.
The VA expects Veterans to take a proactive role in pursuing a disability claim. That means that, whether you hire a lawyer or go it alone, the onus is ultimately on you to follow up on your claim and navigate the process.
Affleck & Gordon has specialized in Veterans’ disability law for nearly four decades. We want to help give you the right tools, so you have the best chance possible of winning your VA disability benefits.
Presumptive Disability Benefits
“Presumptive” disabilities are those that the VA presumes are connected to your service because of unique circumstances that the VA has already identified. Thus, you don’t have to actively attempt to prove a connection between your service and your disability.
According to the VA, a few of the main categories of presumptive disability include:
- A chronic (long-lasting) illness that appears within one year after discharge
- An illness caused by contact with contaminants (toxic chemicals) or other hazardous materials
- An illness caused by your time spent as a prisoner of war (POW)
Some examples of specific presumptive disabilities include:
- A condition of a former POW that’s at least 10 percent disabling
- A condition caused by Agent Orange exposure during service in the Vietnam War
- A condition of Atomic Veterans exposed to ionizing radiation
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
The VA has special regulations related to Veterans suffering PTSD who are seeking disability benefits.
A VA mental health professional will evaluate whether the Veteran is suffering PTSD related to a traumatic event connected to their military service. If approved, the Veteran may receive compensation benefits, medical care, and specific treatment for PTSD.
To qualify, the VA says all of these must be true:
- The stressor happened during your service
- You can’t function as well as you once could because of your symptoms
- A doctor has diagnosed you with PTSD
The Main Ways to Qualify for VA Disability
If you’re a Veteran with a service-related injury or illness, there are three main types of disability claims, related to the time that the disability occurred in relation to your service.
Note: Regardless of when the disability began, you must be able to medically prove it was caused by or worsened by events during your service.
The types of claims are:
In-Service Disability Claim: This means you got sick or injured while serving in the military and can link your current condition to the illness or injury.
Pre-Service Disability Claim: You had an illness or injury before you joined the military, and serving worsened the condition.
Post-Service Disability Claim: You have a disability that didn’t appear until after you ended your active-duty service, but can be medically proven to be connected to your service.
Evidence and Different Types of Claims
Often, qualifying for VA disability is complicated by the nature of your condition. For instance, you may be applying for multiple claims at once, a condition may have worsened, or a new disability may occur.
Each of these requires different types of medical evidence used to qualify you.
These claims can include:
- An initial claim for disability benefits
- A claim for increase compensation for a previously approved disability
- A new claim for additional benefits
- A secondary claim for a disability medically connected to an existing disability
- A supplemental claim for additional evidence for a previously denied claim
- Special issues such as PTSD, temporary 100% disability rating, or a seriously disabled child
When Don’t You Qualify for VA Disability Benefits?
There are times when a service-connected disability won’t qualify you for VA disability benefits.
You can be disqualified from receiving benefits if:
- Your disability was caused by misconduct
- You were dishonorably discharged
- Your injury or illness occurred while you were AWOL
- Your injury or illness occurred while you were detained or imprisoned due to court martial or a civil court felony
Severity of Disability
An additional hurdle you will face when seeking benefits is how the VA will rate the severity of your disability, on a scale of 0% to 100%.
For instance, if the VA determines based on medical evidence that the severity of your disability is less than 30%, you may receive benefits, but your dependents will not, unless at a later time your disability worsens beyond 30% severity.
There are measures you can take to ensure the best possible chance of getting the proper severity rating in order to win the benefits you deserve.
Next Steps for Qualifying for VA Disability
There are steps you can take to give you the best chance to qualify for your VA disability claim.
Keep good records. It’s important to keep detailed service records, medical records, and doctor’s opinions related to your disability claim. The VA will use these to determine if you qualify for benefits and your severity of disability rating.
Obtain a Nexus Letter. This is a letter from a medical provider that summarizes how your injury or condition relates to your time in service. Preferably this would come from a specialist in the area of your disability.
Fill out a Disability Benefits Questionnaire. A DBQ for your specific illness or condition can help the VA expedite your claim.
Determine if you need a C&P Exam. Depending on the medical evidence and the strength of your Nexus letter, you may or may not need a compensation and pension exam.
Anticipate a wait. An initial claim can take from three to ten months. It can take additional months or even years if the case is more complicated or is going through an appeals process with the Board of Veterans’ Appeals.
Finally, consider consulting a disability attorney.
How an Attorney Can Help with Veterans’ Disability
An attorney experienced in Veterans’ disability law can advise you, help you file appeals, assist you with proper and complete documentation, and can fight for you and with you as you navigate your next steps.
An attorney can also:
- Identify strategies to maximize your best pathway to winning your claim
- Help navigate multiple claims or appeals
- Appeal for a higher disability rating
The law protects veterans specifically regarding legal fees and cases. Additionally, an initial consultation with attorneys at Affleck & Gordon is completely free.
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) 795-7165.