Veteran Disability Benefits
A veteran may be entitled to VA disability benefits if he/she has a service–connected medical disability. “Service-connected” in this instance means that the “disability was incurred or aggravated, or that the death resulted from a disability incurred or aggravated, in line of duty in the active military, naval, or air service.” 38 U.S. Code §101(16).
Following the initial application for compensation benefits, the veteran’s Regional Office will issue a decision. If the decision is not completely favorable, you have one year from the date of the decision to file an appeal to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals. An appeal can be filed for any reason though the two most common basis for appeal are: (1) VA denied benefits for a disability that began in, or was aggravated by, service; and (2) VA failed to appropriately rate the disability.
The veteran has to prove, by a preponderance of the evidence, that his/her medical condition incurred while in service or that the service aggravated a pre-existing medical condition. In service and post-service medical records and physician opinions are often used to meet this burden of proof. In some cases, symptoms of a medical condition, although incurred in service and known to be connected to service do not manifest until a year or more after discharge. With some of these such conditions, if the veteran becomes symptomatic within a specific number of years after discharge, it is presumed that the condition is service-connected if the veteran demonstrates that he/she is at least 10% disabled by that condition within the required time frame. In addition, there are cancers and other diseases that are presumed to be service-connected regardless of when the symptoms manifest, depending on whether the veteran is a former prisoner of war, exposed to radiation while in service, or exposed to Agent Orange during the Vietnam War.
Should the Regional Office find the veteran’s condition service-connected, the degree of disability the condition causes the veteran is important. The percentage of disability dictates the amount of compensation to be paid to the veteran, as well as whether other benefits are available to the veteran.
To file an appeal of the Regional Office’s Decision, a Notice of Disagreement must be filed within one year of the date the Regional Office mailed the veteran its decision. From there the veteran can have the Decision Review Officer (DRO) hold an informal hearing on the claim with the hope that the DRO will issue a favorable decision, or proceed with the appeal. To proceed with the appeal, the Regional Office will provide the veteran with the Statement of the Case and VA Form 9, Substantive Appeal Form, which the veteran must complete within 60 days of the date the Regional Office mailed the veteran the Statement of the Case, or within one year of when the Regional Office mailed the original unfavorable decision, whichever is later. A member of the Board of Veterans’ Appeal will hold a hearing on the appeal and eventually issue another decision.
Contact our dedicated Pittsburgh legal team today
Do you have questions about VA benefits or were you or someone you know denied VA benefits? Contact Rudberg Law Offices, LLC for a free consultation. Call us today at (412) 488-6000, toll free at (866) 306-2667, or complete our quick contact web form.