Financial struggle is sometimes the main concern affecting veterans, and it can depend on various factors like years in service, retirement age, health, financial management, etc. Veteran benefits can allow them to ease out this part of the struggle.
While the legal process for a Veteran’s benefits claim can be initiated by the individual alone, hiring an experienced attorney has a lot of advantages. And, being aware of the benefits and filing the applications accurately on time is crucial to avail of these benefits.
Filing for benefits on your own can be daunting and confusing if you are not well aware of the law and its technicalities, bearing in mind that the law relating to Veteran Affairs undergoes frequent changes.
An attorney accredited by the Department of Veterans Benefits Administration (VA) – which provides financial and other forms of assistance to veterans and their dependents – can assist veterans in preparing and filing VA benefits while they are in service or separation (e.g. retirement). Such accredited veterans benefits attorneys can also represent veterans for all associated legal formalities including the prosecution of the claims.
Thus, hiring an attorney can be a good option due to their knowledge of the law, it technicalities, and the rules governing the eligibility for Veteran benefits, as well as any updates.
What Should You Know Before Hiring An Attorney?
|Check for Accreditation||An accreditation from the VA’s Office of General Council is a must for any agent or attorney acting on behalf of veterans claiming VA benefits. Therefore, choosing an accredited Veterans Benefits Lawyer is a prime factor.|
|Years of Experience||This can be helpful, especially when going for an appeal. In any case, an experienced attorney will have clarity of the legal process as well as the deadlines for filing documents and evidence. Hiring an experienced lawyer is important because they will confidently guide you through all the complexities.|
|Specialised Areas||There are different areas for which you can file for benefits and compensation including disability compensation. Check if the attorney is experienced and would be helpful with your area of concern.|
|Accurate Information||Providing accurate information with your application is also crucial in avoiding rejection.|
|Availability||Make sure the attorney will be readily available for consultation and advice through the entire process of availing the benefits. From understanding the requirements, finding the eligible benefit schemes, filing the application, and checking for more options to going for an appeal – the attorney needs to assist and represent the veteran all the way.|
Why Hire a Veterans Benefits Attorney?
When a veteran first approaches an attorney with their benefits claim, the veterans benefits attorney assesses the claim and gives preliminary advice giving an overview of the attorney’s services. This free consultation can give you an idea of how the attorney can assist your case.
If after the first meeting, you find the attorney’s services valuable, the attorney must enter into a written agreement with you defining the scope of services and the legal fees. The VA must approve this agreement before the attorney can officially represent your matter.
Coming to the major advantages of hiring a Veterans Benefits Attorney, we share how they will help you receive the best benefits through a smoother process.
Doing It Right
Disability claims can be denied on technical grounds, including:
- Insufficient evidence supporting the fact that your disability occurred during service;
- Failure to establish physical or psychological disability;
- Lack of required documents;
- Missing out on procedural requirements like appearance for the medical exam;
- The VA disagrees with the medical opinion supporting your application; and/or
- Your disability does not appear chronic.
Most often veterans struggle to establish that their disability is service-related, especially if the disability is a psychological one or when a disability develops years after they have left the military.
The legal advice and assistance from a veterans benefits attorney can help you get overcome such legal hurdles.
Disability Rating and Further Claims
A veterans benefits attorney can be particularly helpful with filing the benefits application accurately, and as such they can:
- Retain your case files for a detailed study and simplify the legal scenario for you, whether it is the disability rating or the benefits you maybe eligible for;
- Assist you with the preparation of the required documents and evidence;
- Assist in applying for the benefit by ensuring no false or wrong information is submitted; and
- Also confirm that no important part or detail is omitted.
Avoiding these mistakes will allow the application to be processed without delay and reduces the chance of rejection.
A committed veterans benefits attorney will also be available for you if your claims position changes in the future or if a claim needs to be reopened. For example, if your claim has already been allowed, the attorney can also guide you about the procedure for a new or increased claim, any special claims, supplemental claims, or secondary-service claims.
Veterans often do not realise how crucial it is to time their disability claims. A pre-discharge disability claim must be filed within the 180 days preceding retirement.
A veterans benefits lawyer can help you file an accurate claim early (at least 90 days before retirement) under the Benefits at Delivery Discharge (BDD) programme and ensure that you start receiving benefits immediately on retirement/separation. If you file the claim after this 90-day window, you will miss the opportunity to recover the benefits as soon as you transition to civilian life and the strong financial support for this new phase.
There is nothing wrong with filing a disability claim after you are discharged from service. Of course, you will have the time and energy to tackle complicated legal formalities. However, from a practically standpoint, the process will only get more complicated. If the injury is completely healed, the VA may even reject your claim stating that you are ineligible. Therefore, if you are injured, instead of waiting until you are in a condition to gather the evidence and file the disability claim on your own, it would be better to contact a veterans benefits lawyer to aid your in the process. The VA also officially recommends that you file your claims sooner rather than later.
Go For Appeal
And if you want to contest the benefits decision, you better not lose a single precious moment. Why?
You have a year for filing the appeal, and the clock starts ticking from the date of your benefits decision notification. If you think one year is a convenient time frame, think again. Although the reasons for the rejection of applications vary, collecting more evidence to dispute the decision could test your nerves and patience, especially when you think you have done your best while applying for the initial claim.
Further, do not forget that until you get a favourable decision on the claims appeal, you will not be able to receive any benefits.
In some cases veterans receiving benefits have had those benefits reduced, or prematurely terminated, by the VA.
A veterans benefits attorney can help you avoid this situation by keeping a check and addressing any issues that arise as soon as possible. For example, the attorney can inform you if your disability rating is protected or if it can be re-examined and under which circumstances it can be reduced or increased.
Secure Your Future
A Veterans Benefits Attorney will help you secure your future financially.
They provide guidance and advice for accessing the benefits you deserve and are entitled to. They assist with the entire process of claiming the benefits and compensations, going for appeal, and keeping an eye on other qualifying benefits. This could be more problematic for an inexperienced individual to manage alone.
Paying an Attorney
As discussed earlier, your first consultation with a veterans benefits lawyer does not cost you anything, it is a free consultation. When you discuss the matter with the attorney, take peace in the fact that you are not pressed for time or money and can get all your doubts cleared.
Disability laws set strict guidelines regarding the legal fees that can be charged by a veteran’s attorney or agent.
The veteran and the attorney should agree to all the terms and conditions regarding the legal fees for attorney services. This written contract should be approved by the VA. The parties should also specifically acknowledge in the agreement that the attorney fees would be paid by the VA directly out of the past-due benefits. The legal fees will become due only after the “Notice of Disagreement” disputing the benefits decision is filed in court.
Most veterans benefits attorneys follow the contingency-fee model, meaning the fee needs to be paid only if the attorney wins your past-due benefits.
One should check the law regarding the fee as the current law only allows the attorney to charge a minimum of 20% to a maximum of 33% of the recovered past-due benefits. A lower or higher amount is permissible only if there is compelling evidence justifying the need to charge beyond the permissible range.
Hiring a veterans benefits attorney can have a number of advantages versus doing it yourself. Veterans benefits attorneys can help you through the entire process, ensuring it is systematic and error-free as possible, so that you receive your benefits in a timely and hassle free manner.