Veterans Affairs (VA) claims and appeal can be hard to file, even if you have all of the right information on hand. There are a lot of requirements for the types of evidence used, and you need to get it right the first time to avoid jumping back into paperwork queues because of long wait times after a denial. To avoid unnecessary delays, here's a few claim system details and ways that a lawyer can help.
Getting Service-Connection Just Right
The crucial point of a VA disability claim is creating a link between your injury or condition and military service. You need to prove that your condition was caused by or happened during your military service and that you're still suffering from the problem. This link is called service-connection and is the main deciding factor behind whether your claim is accepted or not.
Veterans have quite a few medical and support benefits, such as basic medical coverage that allows you to visit clinics and hospitals to give the kind of care you'd expect at general practice doctor's offices and emergency rooms. The problem is that to get referrals to specialists, most veterans need referrals that require review or a co-pay, while VA disability-rated veterans can simply file referral paperwork for referrals of their choice.
The VA will only provide monetary compensation to injuries and conditions related to the military. This means that any problem that happened before or after the military—or a condition that you can't link to military service yet—won't be eligible.
How Are Service-Connected Links Created?
The easiest way to have a service-connected link is to have a military record entry that confirms your condition. This usually means a military medical record entry showing examination results that prove your condition or a service record entry showing that you dealt with an event that could have lead to your problem.
The service record part is helpful because not all military service members have immediate access to medical assistance, and it's understandable if you decided to end your career after a life-altering injury that didn't quite kill you on the spot. It can also help you with presumptive claims (VA PDF document) where you didn't get additional medical examination before leaving the military, but you have symptoms that are generally associated with your type of service. Agent Orange and Gulf War syndrome are two types of exposure examples.
You may need a lawyer to find the evidence if your medical record is written in complex language and you're not sure which parts to highlight. The VA won't scour your medical and service records to find the problem for you, so the exact set of relevant evidence needs to be presented.
If you don't have any evidence at all, a personal injury lawyer can examine your entire set of military records and connect you with non-VA medical team to get the evidence you need. This is helpful when VA medical center wait times are too long or when your usual doctors aren't familiar with injury systems to write evidence in ways that confirm certain disability diagnosis.
Contact a personal injury lawyer, such as those found at Elliott & MacLean LLP, to have a pair of experienced eyes on your situation for greater claim system success.