Exploring the Role of VA Disability Lawyers in the Claims Process

VA disability lawyers usually charge a fee based on a percentage of retroactive benefits secured for veterans through appeals. However, the VA regulates these fees to ensure they are within the legal maximums.

Mistakes in the application process can cause delays and denials.

Why Hire a VA Disability Lawyer?

While veterans service officers can be a valuable resource for filing initial disability claims and assisting with the VA appeals process, there comes a time when it is best to hire a VA disability attorney. Attorneys can help with complex legal arguments and find subtle and technical legal arguments that could make the difference in winning your claim or getting you a higher percentage rating. Best VA disability lawyers will know how to identify and correct these errors.

Unlike VSOs, who may have multiple clients at a given time, a VA-accredited lawyer focuses solely on veteran disability cases and is familiar with the many rules and regulations that affect veterans’ eligibility for benefits. These specialists also follow federal court decisions that could change how the VA processes a particular case.

It is not uncommon for the VA to mishandle disability applications or overlook necessary evidence. When this happens, you want a VA-certified lawyer to ensure mistakes are not repeated during appeals.

Appealing the VA’s Decision

When veterans disagree with the VA’s decision to award disability benefits, they have three different ways to appeal. Each path requires different types of evidence and takes a varying amount of time to complete. An experienced VA disability attorney can help a claimant choose the most effective route and maximize the chance of winning their case.

Whether the veteran opts for the legacy VA appeals process, higher-level review, or supplemental claim, a veteran-accredited lawyer can help them. Higher-level reviews and supplemental claims aim to be adjudicated within 125 days, while a board appeal can take one to two years, depending on the chosen option.

Non-attorney representatives, such as a Veterans Service Organization (VSO) representative or accredited claims agent, can also help veterans with their VA appeals. However, they aren’t bound by the same standards as attorneys and may not have the resources to build a strong case for your claim.

Filing a Supplemental Claim

For veterans who believe that the VA missed something in their decision or gave them a rating lower than they deserve, they may choose to file a Supplemental Claim. This is another appeal option where they can add what VA now calls “new and relevant” evidence to their case.

This could include medical tests or assessments that have not been of record before, a new personal statement from a doctor explaining your symptoms and how they impact your life, and even lay evidence such as statements from people in your life who can attest to the severity of your condition.

You must also specify which parts of the original Regional Office decision you wish to appeal and include any new or relevant evidence that you have or would like the VA to help you get (this is their duty to assist). You can find this information in your decision notification letter or rating decision.

Filing a Board Review

If you disagree with the VA’s denial, there are several options for appeals, including a Supplemental Claim, Higher-Level Review, or Board Appeal. Your attorney can help you decide which option to choose. They can also help you determine whether to submit new evidence or request a hearing via videoconference at a VA office near you.

It is essential to hire an experienced attorney who specializes in VA claims. A lawyer with experience, focus, and specialization will be infinitely more valuable than one who takes any client who walks through the door. In addition to experience, you should consider whether the Department of Veterans Affairs accredits the attorney or works as part of a team with an accredited representative.

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