The people who serve in our Armed Forces are some of the bravest members of our society. Yet too often, their military service either causes a disability or makes an existing disability worse. In this situation, the injured service member may seek disability benefits through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).
To qualify for VA benefits, you must file an application and submit proof of service as well as evidence of a service-connected disability. This may be a disability that occurred in the line of duty, one that made an existing condition worse, or a disability that did not arise until after discharge. If you are approved for veterans’ disability, then you will continue to receive benefits for as long as you are disabled.
At Bross & Frankel, we advocate for veterans throughout New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Delaware. We work hard to help our clients get the highest possible disability rating so that they can obtain maximum benefits for their injury. Reach out today to schedule a free claim review with a Cherry Hill veterans’ benefits lawyer.
How Can You Be Approved for VA Disability Benefits?
There are several steps involved in filing a claim for VA benefits. You will have to apply for benefits through the VA. In addition to filing the application, you will need to submit documentation – such as medical records and records of service – to support your claim.
To be eligible for VA disability compensation, you must have a current illness or injury (referred to as a condition) that affects your mind and/or body. You must also have served in a branch of the military on active duty, active duty for training, or inactive duty training. In addition, your condition must have:
- Occurred while you were serving in the military (an “in-service disability claim”);
- Been pre-existing, and aggravated while serving (a “preservice disability claim”); OR
- Caused by active-duty service that did not appear until after discharge (a “postservice disability claim”)
The VA will review your application and supporting documentation. If they approve the claim, they will assign what is known as a disability rating. This is a percentage that is assigned to a service-connected disability, based on the severity of the condition. A disability rating ranges from 0 to 100%.
Based on your disability rating (or ratings, if you have more than one service-connected disability), the VA will determine the amount of benefits that you are entitled to based on its Impairment Ratings Chart. You will then receive a monthly tax-free payment based on your disability rating and the associated ratings chart.
Importantly, you cannot be represented by a veterans’ disability lawyer when you initially apply for benefits. However, if your application for benefits was denied or if you believe that your impairment rating is too low, you can file an appeal with the help of an attorney. Our law firm offers free claim reviews for veterans who want to know more about their rights before filing for benefits for the first time. We also advocate for clients throughout the appeals process.
How Long Will My Veterans Disability Benefits Last?
Once you are approved for VA benefits, then you will continue to receive benefits as long as your disability continues. In other words, if you continue to have a condition – such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or hearing loss – that was connected in some way to your service, then you will continue to receive disability benefits.
In some cases, a veteran may receive benefits for life because of a service-connected disability that never improves. However, the VA may reevaluate or reexamine your case. This may result in an increase, decrease, or no change to your disability rating. If your rating is changed, then it will likely affect the amount of benefits that you receive.
Consider a situation where a veteran was initially approved for VA benefits based on PTSD that was caused by their active duty military service. Over time, as they receive treatment, their condition improves so that they are not as severely affected by the condition. If the VA reevaluates the case and finds that there was a “material improvement,” then it may lead to a lower disability rating and reduced disability payments.
The VA may require medical reexaminations 6 months after leaving service and then again between 2 and 5 years after leaving the military. This exam will verify the severity or continued existence of a disability. The VA typically requests a reexamination when there is evidence that indicates a significant change in a veteran’s condition, it is likely that a veteran’s condition has improved, or there is reason to believe that their current disability rating is incorrect.
The VA usually does not typically reevaluate a veteran with a permanent or long-term disability, one whose condition hasn’t improved in 5 years and isn’t likely to improve, or veterans over the age of 55. Similarly, if a reexamination wouldn’t change a veteran’s current impairment rating, then the VA won’t mandate a reexamination. For example, if you lost a limb due to your service, then the VA will not require you to undergo a reexamination as that condition is permanent and will not improve.
Notably, a veteran can request a reexamination of their own. This typically happens when a veteran develops a new disability or disease related to their service, or when their current condition worsens. A seasoned New Jersey veterans disability attorney can help you file the required form to have your claim reevaluated.
Get Help with Your VA Disability Claim
The process of applying for and being approved for benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs can be frustrating. If you have been diagnosed with a mental health or medical condition related to your military service, then you may be eligible for monthly benefits. Our law office can assist you with any appeals or related proceedings after you file an initial application for benefits.
Based in Cherry Hill, NJ, Bross & Frankel represents veterans in New Jersey, Delaware, and Pennsylvania. For each client, our goal is to get you the highest possible disability rating so that you can get the compensation that you need (and deserve) for your service-connected medical or mental health condition. To learn more or to schedule a free claim review with a veterans disability attorney, contact our office today at (866) 859-1061 or fill out our online contact form.
Rich Frankel is the managing partner of Bross & Frankel. He is a member of the New Jersey and Pennsylvania bars. He has focused exclusively on disability and social security benefits since 2005.
Mr. Frankel joined what is now Bross & Frankel after having watched his father struggle with disability, fighting a lengthy illness. Mr. Frankel founded the firm’s veteran’s law practice and substantially grew the social security disability practice, focusing Bross & Frankel’s ability to fight for all of the disability benefits available to his clients.
Mr. Frankel additionally fights for clients in court, obtaining frequent victories in Social Security appeals and against insurance companies in Federal court.