It can be difficult to know when you need to hire a veterans disability lawyer to help you with your claim. You may wonder if it is worth paying an attorney or if an attorney is necessary to file a VA disability claim. Knowing more about what a VA disability attorney does for clients can be helpful when making these decisions.
What Does a Veterans Disability Attorney Do?
Explain the types of disability benefits that are available for veterans
Explain the application process for VA disability benefits
Review the case to determine if you may be eligible for VA disability benefits
Help complete and submit the application
Collect medical information to support your claim of disability
File an appeal for a denial of veterans disability benefits
Applying for veterans disability benefits should be a straightforward process. While the process is easy for some veterans, that is not the case for all individuals. Some veterans have a difficult time qualifying for the benefits they deserve. Many veterans find that hiring a VA disability attorney provides them with the legal advice, support, and guidance they need as they navigate the VA disability process.
How Much Does a Veterans Disability Attorney Get Paid?
Most VA disability attorneys work on a contingency fee basis. They are not paid unless they recover back pay for your disability claim. With an approved contract, the Department of Veterans Affairs deducts the VA disability attorney fees for the veterans disability lawyer from the veteran’s back pay before any money is paid to the military veteran. The Department of Veterans Affairs sends the amount for attorneys’ fees directly to the veterans’ disability attorney. The remaining veterans disability back pay is sent to the veteran.
How much does a VA attorney cost?
A veterans’ disability attorney sets his or her attorneys’ fees. Most attorneys accept VA disability cases on a contingency fee basis. With a contingency fee basis, the attorney only receives payment for VA disability attorney fees if the attorney recovers back disability pay for the military veteran.
What is the Maximum Attorney Fee to Expect?
Many attorneys’ fee agreements for VA disability claims are written for a 20% contingency fee. However, the maximum charge the VA approves for attorneys’ fees related to veterans claims is 33%. If the VA believes that a fee charged by the lawyer is unreasonable for the work provided, it can order the fee reduced.
A lawyer can only charge you to work on veterans appeals of disability claims. Attorneys are not permitted to charge you for assisting you with the filing of an initial claim. Before you hire a VA disability claims attorney, you should read the retainer agreement carefully.
While most attorneys represent veterans on a contingency fee basis, you need to ensure that you will not owe any money if the attorney fails to recover back pay for your claim. A clause that the retainer agreement is contingent upon VA approval is a sign that the attorney agrees to abide by the VA rules for payment of fees.
Additionally, make sure to pay close attention to charges for expenses and costs, such as expert witness fees, medical records, and doctors’ reports. You do not want to be responsible for these costs if the attorney does not recover money for your disability claim. Confirm with the attorney that you are not expected to pay these case expenses unless you receive money for your back pay.
RELATED: WHAT IS TOTAL DISABILITY INDIVIDUAL UNEMPLOYABILITY (TDIU)?
What type of accreditation does a VA disability attorney require?
Veterans Affairs closely monitors attorneys that represent veterans. A veterans disability lawyer must be accredited by the VA’s Office of General Counsel (OGC) to represent a veteran. The VA carefully reviews all attorney fee agreements to help protect veterans.
A VA-accredited attorney is an attorney that has been approved by the Department of Veterans Affairs to assist vets with veterans disability benefits claims. It does not necessarily guarantee that the lawyer has a certain level of experience or success in handling the claims.
What it does mean is that the attorney has met the requirements for handling VA disability claims. Maintaining VA accreditation requires that an attorney complete mandatory CLE (continuing legal education) and remain in good standing to practice law.
What Does a Veterans Disability Attorney Do?
A VA disability attorney provides a variety of services for disabled veterans. Let’s take a look at the ways a VA attorney can help.
TYPES OF DISABILITY BENEFITS THAT ARE AVAILABLE FOR VETERANS
Depending on the situation, a disabled veteran may be entitled to supplemental security income. Veterans disability compensation replaces the income the applicant would have been able to earn if not disabled. Receiving VA disability compensation from Veterans Affairs means that the veteran may also qualify for VA health care.
Service connected disability compensation is paid when a veteran is disabled because of an injury or illness sustained during active duty military service. Special monthly compensation is an additional amount that might be paid to a disabled veteran in cases of severe injuries or multiple disabilities.
For example, special monthly compensation may be paid if the injured veteran requires a caregiver. Other veterans benefits that might be available to disabled veterans include automobile allowance, vocational rehabilitation, education assistance, service-disabled veterans’ insurance, and presumptive disability benefits.
Understanding disability law is essential for disabled vets to receive every benefit they deserve. An experienced veteran disability lawyer understands VA disability law. The attorney explains the various VA benefits you might receive and the steps you can take to apply for each benefit. Research your VA disability lawyer to determine whether they offer a free consultation.
APPLICATION PROCESS FOR VA DISABILITY BENEFITS
The application process for VA disability benefits usually begins with an online application using the Veterans On-Line Application (VONAPP). Disabled veterans can also apply for benefits through the mail or by telephone. A veterans disability lawyer explains the application process in detail to help the veteran understand the steps necessary to receive disability benefits.
DETERMINE IF YOU MAY BE ELIGIBLE FOR VA DISABILITY BENEFITS
Not all disabled veterans may be eligible for disability benefits. The VA has strict guidelines and requirements that must be met before it pays disability benefits to veterans. A VA disability attorney reviews your case to determine if you qualify for VA disability. The attorney can also review your case to determine if you might qualify for other benefits as a disabled vet, such as VA pension or benefits based on active duty.
Complete and Submit the Application
A complete application for VA disability benefits can increase your chance of being approved without unnecessary delays or problems. An attorney can help you complete and submit the application to avoid problems and common mistakes made during the application process. In some cases, mistakes on the application can hurt your VA disability rating or result in the necessity of filing veterans appeals.
COLLECT MEDICAL INFORMATION TO SUPPORT YOUR CLAIM OF DISABILITY
A veterans disability lawyer can also collect the medical information necessary to support your claim of disability. The lawyer can help you take advantage of the VA’s “fully developed claim” or “Fast Track” program. By submitting all required medical evidence with your application for disability, you can speed up the process.
If you do not submit all required medical evidence, the VA must request your medical records from each physician who treated you for the injuries or conditions that are the subject of your disability claim. That can take a great deal of time. Therefore, it benefits you to submit the required medical records and other information necessary to process your claim with your application. By doing so, you may receive your VA disability benefits sooner.
FILE AN APPEAL FOR A DENIAL OF VETERANS DISABILITY BENEFITS
Unfortunately, many veterans are denied disability benefits on their first application. Do not give in to the urge to give up the fight. A VA disability appeal attorney can help you appeal a VA claim denial to get you the disability income you need and deserve.
However, the disability process can be confusing. There is also a short filing deadline during many stages of the disability appeals process. If you do not act quickly, you could lose your right to appeal a VA claim denial. You must also know which of the appeals processes you must use, or you could jeopardize your appeal.
Legacy VA Appeal
The legacy VA appeal only applies to decisions that are dated before February 19, 2019. The VA does not accept new appeals under the legacy process. If you are already appealing a decision through the legacy process, there are two steps during the process where you can opt out of the legacy review and move to the new decision review process. You can discuss the pros and cons of opting for the new process with a veterans’ disability lawyer.
Decision Review Process
The VA now uses a decision review process to handle appeals of disability denials. The decision review process applies to decisions dated on or after February 19, 2019. There are three decision review options that you can choose from when appealing a disability denial — Board Appeal, Higher-Level Review, and Supplemental Claim. If you are not satisfied with the outcome of the first option you choose, you may be able to try another option.
Since each disability denial review option has a unique process, benefits, and disadvantages, it is best to let a qualified VA disability appeal attorney review your case to help you determine which review process may give you the best chance of having your VA disability benefits approved.
Do I Need a VA Disability Lawyer?
That is not always an easy question to answer. Many veterans believe that they do not need a VA lawyer because they can apply for VA disability benefits for free. However, it is good to remember that Veterans Affairs is a government agency. It can move very slowly, and the agents working for the VA do not work for you. They are not your lawyers or representatives. They are doing their job.
A veterans’ disability lawyer represents your best interest. He works for you. His goal is to get you all the veteran disability benefits you deserve as quickly as possible. With that goal in mind, your lawyer develops a strategy that gives you the best chance of success.
You will not receive this level of expertise, guidance, or support from working with a free organization or an agent from the VA. Hiring a VA disability claims attorney to handle your claim can ensure that all steps are taken to get you the social security benefits you deserve.
Should I Hire A Lawyer to File A VA Disability Claim?
That decision is up to you. However, if your application for VA disability benefits is denied, it's in your best interest to talk to a veterans' disability lawyer immediately. The process of appealing a denied disability claim can be complicated. Missing a deadline, failing to follow procedure, and failing to provide the required information could result in not receiving the VA disability benefits you deserve.
Choosing the right attorney to help you with your VA disability claim can increase your chance of winning the case. The attorney you choose should have substantial experience handling veterans' claims and appeals. You also need an attorney that is VA-accredited.
Ask for help from your VA regional office, and only consider lawyers who are dedicated to representing you throughout your VA disability case, including at all the highest levels of appeals. Attorneys who handle only lower-level appeals could leave you without the legal representation you need when you need it the most.
And remember, Benefits.com is here to help you with disability claims, from consulting to medical evidence development. We have experience consulting thousands of veterans so they get the benefits medically, legally, and ethically deserve.