If you’re a Veteran who’s been denied your initial disability claim, or you’ve received a rating lower than you believe is fair for the injuries and illnesses incurred by your service, you are now faced with the option to appeal or challenge the VA’s ruling.
An appeal is when you return to the VA with additional evidence supporting your claim. A challenge to a rating means that you disagree with the level of disability assigned to you by the VA, and you present supporting evidence to raise your rating to a higher level.
VA-accredited lawyers only handle appeals in VA disability. By law, attorneys cannot charge fees to assist Veterans in filing their initial claims for disability benefits. If you’ve suffered injuries or illnesses related to your service, and have been denied your initial claim, now--at the time of your appeal--is when to seek the assistance of a VA disability lawyer.
There are four primary reasons to retain an attorney in your VA disability appeal.
A VA Disability Lawyer Knows How the Appeal Process Works
The VA appeals process for disability claims changed in February 2019, giving Veterans three review options. Each review option has multiple steps to take, and several forms to complete. If you wish to appeal your claim, you now have these three choices:
- File a Supplemental Claim
- Seek Higher-Level Review
- Request a Board Appeal
Filing a supplemental claim means that you have new evidence relative to your case. This includes relevant information that existed at the time of your original filing but could have been omitted and new evidence that shows a change in your disability status. A supplemental claim must include new evidence that the VA didn’t have when making your original decision. The VA has set the goal to complete supplemental reviews within 125 days.
If you are seeking a higher-level review, it’s because your supplemental claim was denied. You may file a separate supplemental claim with new evidence as well if your first supplemental claim is denied. Because of the multiple forms, options, and language used in appeals cases, it’s important to have an attorney on your side to ensure that the VA receives correct information regarding your appeal.
With a higher-level review, you cannot submit new evidence. That’s only for a supplemental claim or a board appeal. You have one year from your initial claim to seek a higher-level review. This review requires a presentation and negotiation of why your supplemental claim should be approved, and a VA disability lawyer is the experienced voice you will need on your side during this process. Higher-level reviews are also processed within 125 days.
A board appeal is when you are appealing to a Veterans Law Judge on the federal level. The judge reviewing your case is an expert in Veterans law. Having a VA-accredited attorney on your side is imperative if your case reaches this point in your appeal. In a board appeal, you may request a direct review, submit more evidence, or request a hearing.
A VA Disability Lawyer Understands the Three Decision Review Options
Each of these options exists for your benefit, yet you must take complicated, specific steps in order to fulfill each level in a way that pleases the court. A VA disability lawyer understands the intricacies of these steps, and will ensure that all forms are completed properly with the verbiage expected in a court filing. If you are filing an appeal, the potential fees associated with an attorney are worth the payoff in the end. Because, in the end, receiving your disability benefits is the most important thing.
A VA Disability Lawyer Only Gets Paid for Help on an Appeal
Remember--a VA disability lawyer only gets paid if you win your appeal. In addition, a consultation with Affleck & Gordon is always free. We can assess your initial claim, evaluate the evidence, process new evidence, and advise you on how to best move forward with your claim. We can also help in showing a clear correlation between your injury or illness and your service, something critical in receiving benefits from the VA. Guidance from our team of VA disability lawyers can help you make the right decisions regarding your appeal, which process you should follow, and what additional evidence may be necessary from your physicians to help strengthen your appeal.
By law, attorney fees range between 20% and 33.5%. You can discuss the specifics of your appeal during a free consultation and come to an agreement on the fees for your specific case.
A VA-Accredited Lawyer Assures You’re in Compliance with all Laws
When filing an appeal, completing forms, seeking higher-level reviews, or asking for a board review, your attorney will function as both your partner and your advocate. Having a VA-accredited law firm working on your behalf to ensure you receive the benefits that you deserve can make a huge difference in the outcome of your appeal. Keep in mind that VA disability lawyers are experts at navigating VA disability law. They know the ins and outs of the system, they know what judges are looking for when it comes to service-related evidence. They can make sure that you’ve filed properly for all specific injuries and claims. For example, if you are suffering from a post-traumatic stress disorder and hearing loss, your attorney can make sure that the evidence is presented to the court regarding both disability claims.
For more information about VA Disability, check out the following articles:
At Affleck & Gordon, helping Veterans receive their disability benefits is a primary area of practice. Serving Metro Atlanta and the greater Columbus/Phenix City area, the attorneys with Affleck & Gordon care deeply for their clients and assist them with problems that may arise with their disability claim.
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 at (404) 373-1649.