One of the first questions I am often asked by veterans when they call me is whether or not they need an attorney at all. It’s a very important question that is complicated by the fact that many veterans’ service organizations provide free representation to veterans seeking VA benefits. Some members of these organizations believe that no veteran should ever hire an attorney, when their organization provides similar representation for free. It is true that many service organizations assist veterans in filing claims for free, but the old saying “you get what you pay for” applies. Prior to 2007, a veteran was not allowed to hire an attorney until the VA had denied the claim multiple times and the veteran had no recourse but to file a lawsuit against the VA. In 2007, the law was amended to give veterans the option of hiring an attorney at any point after the VA had made an initial decision that the veteran isn’t satisfied with (either a denial, or a less than fully favorable Rating Decision). In fact, attorneys representing veterans tend to charge fairly modest fees. Most attorneys charge a “contingent fee,” a fee paid only if they obtain benefits. While some attorneys charge up to a third of retroactive benefits, our firm, and many others limit our fee to 20% of back benefits. Nothing comes out of current monthly benefits. You will usually be expected to reimburse expenses for items such as medical reports and records, but these expenses tend to be very modest. In all cases, fees may only be charged to a client if and when the Department of Veterans Affairs approves the fee. Therefore, because attorney’s fees are strictly regulated, you can get an experienced veterans benefits attorney at a very affordable cost. Choosing to hire an attorney provides many benefits that working with a service organization may not. Attorneys are typically highly trained in the law and regulations utilized by the VA to decide claims, and disability lawyers are particularly skilled in gathering and developing the medical and other evidence needed to present a claim in the best possible light. An attorney can also help you prepare for, and attend the hearings before decision review officers and veterans law judges. Perhaps most importantly though, when you hire an attorney you gain another significant advantage: motivation. This simply cannot be overstated. When you hire a lawyer, in addition to hiring someone with the expertise and training in VA laws and procedures, you’re hiring an ally who is directly impacted not only by wining your case, but by securing the highest possible rating and earliest effective date to which you are entitled. This is not to say that service organizations are not interested in helping veterans win their claims. Most service organizations are staffed by passionate employees (many of whom are also veterans) who want nothing more than to do exactly that. However, without the direct relationship you have with an experienced attorney, you can’t be sure that your representative is going to fight for every last dollar you may be entitled to. Having an attorney is not an absolute necessity to obtaining VA benefits, but for cases where a veteran has been denied, or received a rating well below what he or she deserves, having a highly motivated, highly experienced veterans law attorney can make a world of difference.
The Department of Veterans Affairs provides disability compensation for veterans who were discharged under conditions other than dishonorable, and have a current illness or injury that began during, or was made worse during their service. The VA pays compensation based on a Rating Schedule with increasing benefits as the level of disability increases (from 0% to 100%). The VA may also pay benefits at 100% if, solely due to service-connected impairments, a veteran is “totally disabled.” The current rates for VA compensation can be found here. A veteran may receive special additional compensation under certain circumstances for very serious injuries. Additionally, disability pension benefits are available to wartime veterans who are unable to work (regardless of whether their impairments are service-connected), and have limited income. If you have not applied for these benefits, but believe that you may be eligible, you can apply online by completing the “Veterans Online Application,” at the VA’s “eBenefits Portal” here. Currently, the law only allows a veteran to hire an attorney after it has issued an initial rating decision. This can be either a denial, or a less than fully favorable Rating Decision. If you have been denied or received a Rating Decision that you are not totally satisfied with, please contact us today. Even if you have not yet applied, one of our experienced veterans law attorneys would be more than happy to discuss your case. Please don’t hesitate to call and speak with one of our skilled veterans benefits lawyers. You fought for us, now let us fight for you!
By David S. Bross, Esquire One of the most common questions I am asked by people applying for Social Security Disability and SSI benefits is: “Do I need a lawyer for this or can I just do it on my own?” My first response is this: “You need a lawyer only if these benefits are important to you!” Continue reading
By David S. Bross, Esquire The Social Security Disability (SSD) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) entitlement programs are the product of the first major expansion of the Social Security Act in 1954. These programs were radically expanded by amendments to the Social Security Act in 1957, 1960, 1965 and 1967. Continue reading
By David S. Bross, Esquire In previous columns, I have offered mostly “nuts and bolts” instructions for filing and succeeding in disability claims. Here is a modest suggestion, which I think, kills two birds with one stone: LISTEN TO YOUR DOCTOR. This strengthens your chances of winning when you make a disability claim, while also (it is hoped), helping restore to you some quality of life. Continue reading
By David S. Bross, Esquire If you read my first two columns about disability insurance, you should now have a basic understanding of both the need to protect one’s ability to earn an income and the essential features of disability insurance policies. What happens, however, if you actually suffer the misfortune of a disability, file a claim, provide all the necessary documentation to the insurance company and then have your claim denied (or terminated)? Continue reading
By David S. Bross, Esquire While most Americans insure their lives and material assets, like their homes, cars, etc., many overlook the need to protect their most valuable asset — the ability to earn an income. In my last column, I reviewed individual disability insurance (“D.I.”). This article will look at group disability insurance policies, commonly referred to as “LTD” policies. First, though, everyone should be familiar with New Jersey’s law, which provides up to six months of disability benefits. Continue reading
By David S. Bross, Esquire While most Americans insure their lives and material assets, like their homes, cars, etc., many overlook the need to protect their most valuable asset — the ability to earn an income. Continue reading
By David S. Bross, Esquire Julia Robertson (a pseudonym) is a 42 year-old mother of two. After earning her associates’ degree in nursing, she worked full time as an RN for several area hospitals for 14 years. When she decided eight years ago to stop working so that she and her husband could start and raise a family, she was earning over $75,000.00. Julia had intended to return to work on a part-time basis when her youngest child entered kindergarten this past fall. Continue reading