In recent years, according to the Boston Globe, “America’s newest veterans are filing for disability benefits at a historic rate….” The newspaper reports that 45 percent of the 1.6 million Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans are now seeking or receiving compensation for service-related injuries. In fact, of the more than 19 million U.S. military veterans, it is estimated that about 3.8 million suffered some kind of service-related injuries that resulted in some level of disability.
If you are a U.S. military veteran and you are dealing with your own service-related disability, you may be qualified to receive monthly disability benefit payments through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). These disability benefits are tax-free and paid to veterans who have injuries or diseases that were sustained while on active duty or were made worse by active military service.
As of 2017, unmarried veterans with no children who have received a 100 percent VA disability rating can expect $2,906.83 in monthly benefits from the Veterans Administration. If you are a disabled veteran living with parents or dependent children, you may be eligible for additional monthly benefits. Veterans who cannot care for themselves and require the aid of another person in order to perform personal everyday functions may also qualify for “Aid & Attendance” benefits.
HOW IS THE AMOUNT OF YOUR VA DISABILITY BENEFITS DETERMINED?
The amount of the monthly benefits available to a disabled veteran will depend on that veteran’s VA disability rating. The severity of your disability and impairment is what determines the disability rating that you are assigned.
If you struggle with several impairments, your impairments are added together using a VA formula to arrive at your disability rating. However, if you have two 20 percent impairments, that does not necessarily mean that your VA disability rating will be 40 percent.
The VA’s disability benefits system is complicated and quite arduous, to say the least. Applying for VA disability benefits is always a lengthy and oftentimes a baffling procedure with an abundance of opportunities for mistakes, misunderstandings, and unnecessary delays. Too many disabled veterans finally seek an attorney’s help only after months of trying and failing to obtain VA disability benefits.
However, here in Indiana, an experienced Evansville disabled veterans attorney can help disabled veterans apply for benefits and help them understand how the VA arrives at a particular disability rating. Some veterans who apply for disability benefits will be told, at least at first, that they are ineligible.
Below is a general summary of the VA disability benefits application guidelines:
- A dishonorable discharge disqualifies a benefit applicant for VA disability benefits.
- A benefit applicant must have been considered on active-duty.
- A benefit applicant’s disability must have been caused or made worse by military service.
- Disabled U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine, and Coast Guard veterans may qualify for VA disability benefits.
- National Guard veterans and Reservists may qualify for VA disability benefits if they were activated by a federal order.
WHY CAN ONGOING MEDICAL TREATMENT BE IMPORTANT?
Any particular applicant’s chances of receiving a 100 percent VA disability rating will hinge entirely upon the evidence of mental and physical impairments that is presented in the claim. A veteran who is not receiving some kind of ongoing medical or therapeutic treatment for a disability should consider obtaining treatment before filing an application for VA disability benefits. Treatment creates the medical records and documents that you will need to present to the VA as evidence of your mental or physical disability.
After filing the initial application for disability benefits, a number of veterans are denied the VA disability benefits that they genuinely deserve. However, that’s not the end of the story or the end of the VA disability benefits application process. If you were denied benefits or denied the disability rating that you feel is accurate, and if that denial was issued less than a year ago, you may be able to appeal the VA’s decision.
As you might imagine, however, VA disability appeals can often be quite complicated and take weeks or months to resolve, but a good disabled veterans attorney can guide an applicant through every step of the process so that disability benefit payments can begin as quickly as possible.
In the state of Indiana, veterans who are seeking VA disability benefits should work alongside an experienced Evansville disabled veterans attorney who can help with the application process as well as with any appeals that may be required.
WHAT IF YOU LEFT THE SERVICE YEARS AGO?
If you left military service a number of years ago, you may nevertheless still qualify for VA disability benefits and even for a 100 percent VA disability rating. After someone leaves military service, no time restriction is placed on that veteran’s right to apply for VA disability benefits. Many veterans who do not apply for years are still qualified and able to receive monthly VA disability benefit payments.
WHAT IF SOME OF YOUR MEDICAL RECORDS ARE MISSING?
The initial records of the mental and physical impairments of thousands of veterans are missing for a number of reasons. Sometimes the VA simply misplaces or loses someone’s records. Thousands of the medical records of older veterans were destroyed in a St. Louis warehouse fire in 1973.
A good disabled veterans attorney will be able to help most veterans with missing medical records. If you are a disabled veteran, don’t let missing records stop you from applying for the benefits that you genuinely need and deserve.
A good disabled veterans attorney can also assist disabled veterans by referring them for independent medical examinations that may add support to their disability claims. A veterans disability attorney can help veterans obtain the testimony of doctors and disability specialists, employers, and vocational rehabilitation experts who can review a case and provide expert opinion regarding a veteran’s disability.
Finally, disabled veterans should know that an Indiana disabled veterans attorney will usually accept disability cases on a contingency basis, which means that the legal fees are deducted at the end of the process from any benefits that may be recovered on a veteran’s behalf. This is convenient for many disabled veterans who may not have the funds to pay to an attorney in advance.
Additionally, when you are represented on a contingency basis, if your disability attorney cannot help you obtain VA disability benefits, you pay nothing. Indiana disabled veterans attorneys usually also provide free initial consultations, so a disabled veteran in this state has nothing to lose by seeking legal assistance to obtain the disability benefits that he or she has earned and deserves.