VA Disabilities: Tips on Fighting Back

Every military veteran knows what it means to be outnumbered, but many never feel as outnumbered as when they’re trying to secure or protect their assistance benefits.

A denial of a claim by the Veterans Administration (VA) launches a long and complex appeals process that can easily overwhelm the average citizen. Disability claims with government agencies and insurance companies are founded on a constantly shifting foundation of laws, regulations and administrative procedures.

In addition, it’s not an area where a veteran can turn to a family lawyer. Disability insurance is a specialized area of law, and disability claims against federal agencies requires special authorization by each agency. Only accredited veterans’ claims attorneys can represent a client in an appeal before the VA.

Congress had to step in to the veterans rights arena again in 2000 with the Veterans Claims Assistance Act of 2000, which required the VA to make its applications process easier. The act, spurred by a growing trend of administrative and legal barriers to veterans seeking VA assistance, allows veterans to apply for benefits without a full legal substantiation of their disabilities at the time of initial filing, and requires the VA to fully reveal what information it requires and assist a veteran in obtaining that information.

Congress also expanded benefits in May 2010 with a new law providing benefits to family members who care for wounded veterans.

A veteran can also get caught in other fights among government agencies or between levels of government. In many states right now courts are giving all or part of veterans’ VA disability benefits to former spouses in divorce settlements, despite federal law expressly forbidding such attachments.

National law firms specialize in dealing with the VA. They give free consultations to evaluate a person’s claim. In fact, certain assistance cannot be charged to a client until an application is denied and a formal appeal process is underway.

Veterans’ organizations also give assistance and support, but nothing has the weight of a law firm that specializes in this field.

When VA clerk dismissed a veteran’s initial claim for benefits, they are hoping he or she will just go away and give up. The secret is not to give up, and having a team of experts at your side sends that message most clearly.