It’s possible that a veteran can be found mentally incompetent if he has a mental disability, is of advanced age, or is physically frail or weak. For the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to determine that an individual is incompetent, there must be medical evidence to support this or a court ruling.
If you’re found to be incompetent and unable to handle your financial affairs, the VA may appoint someone to serve as a VA fiduciary under its Veterans Fiduciary Program. This person is similar to a guardian or representative of someone’s estate.
Responsibilities of a Fiduciary
It’s important to understand the role of a fiduciary and the limitations of this person’s authority. A fiduciary must use the veteran’s VA benefits for their personal care and/or well-being. The veteran must be provided the same standard of living like any other person with similar finances, and the fiduciary must be sure the veteran receives the appropriate medical and mental health care.
It’s also important to understand the following limitations of the fiduciary:
- The individual isn't appointed by the court.
- They have the authority only over the benefits a veteran receives from the VA. Sometimes, this authority extends to managing all of the veteran’s financial affairs if their VA benefits are combined with other funds.
- The VA—and not the court—has oversight for this arrangement.
How the VA Determines Incompetence
Most often, the VA relies on the results of the veteran’s Compensation and Pension (C&P) Exam to determine if he’s incompetent. The C&P exam is a standard assessment taken after you apply for disability.
In this report, a doctor provides a medical opinion about your disability and whether it’s service-connected, as well as information about your mental ability to handle money. Additionally, the VA may also look at the results of your regular doctor visits to determine your ability to handle VA benefits. Usually, it’s the C&P examiner who brings up the issue of incompetence—often during an exam where a veteran is looking for an increase in his rating for a mental condition.
While it’s usually up to the VA rater who reviews the case to make the determination of incompetence, the rater most often agrees with the opinion of the examiner.
Contact Cuddigan Law
The experienced legal team at Cuddigan Law recognizes and respects the sacrifices veterans have made to protect this country. They understand that PTSD or any mental illness is a debilitating condition that can severely and negatively impact a veteran’s life.
If your C&P exam results indicate mental incompetence, or you’d like a free evaluation of your disability case, call Cuddigan Law. Our attorneys will answer your questions and ensure that you have accurate information about your rights as they relate to your mental health diagnosis. Our attorneys have supported veterans for years, and we’ll carefully examine your case and advise on your rights. Call us today, and you’ll speak to an intake specialist for free.