We Provide Answers to Your VA Disability Benefits Questions Here
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What are the differences between a “new” and “reopened” VA disability claim?
Many veterans will have their initial claims for benefits denied, leaving them to wonder if they should appeal the decision, or file a new disability claim. Since there are many levels of appeal, it is important to know the difference between new and reopened VA disability claims.
The VA classifies claims in the following ways:
- Original claim. An original claim is the very first claim that you file for VA benefit compensation. This can be filed by active service members, veterans, or surviving spouses of deceased military members. If this claim is denied, veterans have one year from the date of denial to appeal the decision.
- Reopened claim. If your benefit claim was denied and was not appealed before the time limit expired, your case can be reopened if there is new evidence available that could change the VA’s decision. In order to reopen your claim, you would send "new and material" evidence (such as medical testing or evaluation) to the VA and ask them to reconsider their decision.
- New claim. A new claim is any claim that relies on new evidence. An original claim may be considered a new claim, but there are also new claims that can be made by veterans who are already receiving some form of aid through the VA. New claims may be filed to re-evaluate the percentage of a person’s disability, to apply for pensions or compensation for special circumstances, or if a service member is applying for individual unemployability.
- Secondary claim. A secondary claim involves a disability that has been caused (or worsened) in relation to a condition that has been connected to military service. The two conditions must be related in order for the veteran to get compensation.
We Can Explain Your Benefits at No Cost to You
At Cuddigan Law, we provide veterans with the information they need to get maximum compensation for their disabilities. We can help you appeal your VA claim denial, and also examine whether other benefit sources such as Social Security Disability are available. Fill out the short contact form on this page to find out how we can help, or click here to read through a free copy of our book, The Essential Guide to VA Disability Claims.
My father was injured during military service and I am his caregiver. Will a VA disability attorney charge us more than we have?
That is actually two questions. The first question, how much can a VA disability attorney charge, varies with each attorney. By law, disability attorneys cannot charge more than 33 percent of a veteran’s past due disability benefits. The VA will only withhold and pay directly to attorneys twenty percent of the past due benefits. Cuddigan Law only charges and collects fees that have been approved. The amount charged is paid with the money from your benefits if (and when) your attorney wins approval. The benefit of this system is that it is less risky for veterans, as they will not have to pay an attorney until (and unless) they have won the funds to do so.
The second question--how much do we have?--is equally important. Disabled veterans who rely on a caregiver for their daily living activities are entitled to many forms of benefits, both within and beyond the VA. One of the biggest benefits the VA offers is Aid and Attendance, a pension benefit that can help pay for long-term care.
Here are a few basic facts about getting Aid and Attendance through the VA:
- Who qualifies? Veterans who have served 90 days or more in service and at least one day in wartime, and their spouses.
- What does it pay for? Assisted living facilities, nursing home costs, payments to in-home caregivers other than spouses (including sons and daughters who provide daily care).
- How much does it pay? Veterans can be paid up to $2,019 per month, while surviving spouses can collect up to $1,094 per month—or between $13,128 and $24,228 per year.
Is it Worth it to Hire a VA Attorney?
While you can apply for pension benefits without legal help, an attorney can be invaluable when it comes to maximizing your monthly payments. There are many types of benefits that veterans and their families qualify for, but are not aware of.
At Cuddigan Law, we help veterans get much-needed income from a variety of benefit sources, taking the worry out of paying monthly bills and costs of care. Call us today to find out how we can help, or click here to read through a free copy of our book, The Essential Guide to VA Disability Claims.
I’m worried my VA disability application will be denied. What can I do while I wait for a decision?
All too often, waiting for a VA disability decision means waiting for a notice of denial. While it is true that many veterans will be denied benefits on their first try, there are several levels of appeal that give them the opportunity to fight for their benefits—and each appeal may hinge on what you are doing in the meantime.
While you are waiting to hear back from the VA about your disability, you should:
- Keep your doctor’s appointments. While you are waiting for a benefit decision or appealing a denial, everything you do can affect your case. For this reason, you should continue to take your prescribed treatments and see your doctors as usual. This includes checkups, physical rehabilitation, counseling sessions, or anything that can be linked to your disability. If you cancel your appointments, the VA may assume that your condition has improved and you are able to work. Any gaps in your treatment will look suspicious or may have to be explained, so you should be doing your utmost to follow your doctor’s orders.
- Apply for other benefits. There are many state and federal benefits that veterans may qualify for in addition to VA disability. The Social Security Administration offers both disability benefits for injured workers (Social Security Disability Insurance) and monthly payments for based on financial need (Supplemental Security Income). The VA helps also offers veterans pension payments for families who are struggling with extreme financial problems.
- Stay on course. If your rejection letter does come, appeal the decision as soon as possible. Most of the months it takes for veterans to get a favorable decision is spent waiting on the VA, and that wait doesn’t start until you have requested an appeal. Although you have up to 12 months to file your appeal, you should do so within a few weeks of the denial.
How Can an Attorney Help With My VA Disability Appeal?
A qualified VA disability attorney will argue your case at every level, and will not charge you to take your case until you finally receive your benefits. At Cuddigan Law, we do not charge any upfront fees when representing veterans, and can tell you what to expect in your first visit. Call us today to find out how we can help, or read through a free copy of our book, The Essential Guide to VA Disability Claims.
Do I need an attorney to obtain veterans’ disability benefits, or can I use a service organization?
After sacrificing so much for our country and finally returning home from service, you may find yourself in need of disability benefits in order to receive the treatment you need to cope with lasting injuries. Unfortunately, navigating the disability process can be overwhelming and frustrating. There are dozens of veterans’ service organizations out there that exist in order to provide you with assistance. A better option, however, is to seek out a knowledgeable and experienced attorney who can serve as a zealous advocate in your corner.
Three Reasons to Hire an Attorney When Seeking Veteran’s Disability Benefits
Why should you consider using an attorney instead of a service organization? The following is an overview:
- We have the time and resources to make you a first priority. While veteran’s service organizations provided a much needed and valuable service to the community, they simply cannot provide the same amount of time and resources as a private attorney. We will assess the unique aspects of your entire history and help determine the best and most efficient path towards helping you obtain the disability benefits that you deserve.
- We provide personalized service and all of the attention that you deserve and desire. For many veterans, this is the first time that they are applying for these much-needed benefits. We are available to answer all of your questions and ensure that you are fully involved and apprised of the status of your claim throughout the entire process. Service organizations are notoriously backlogged and can often take days to respond to your needs.
- If your benefits were denied or you need a discharge upgrade in order to qualify for benefits, you need a strong advocate in your corner. According to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals Annual Chairman’s Report for 2011, veterans represented by attorneys have the lowest rate of denial by the Board of Veterans’ Appeals, at 17.7 percent. The overall average denial rate for all veterans is much higher at 24.2 percent. Veterans represented by an attorney also have a high success rate when it comes to having their appeals allowed and collecting Equal Access Justice Act fees. These fees are awarded when it can be shown that the government’s position was not substantially justified.
Ready to learn more about pursuing your right to veterans’ disability benefits? We encourage you to get started today by downloading our free guide, The Essential Guide to VA Disability Claims.
How long will it take to get my VA benefits?
One of the most common questions we hear is, “how long is this going to take?” Unfortunately, the length of time it takes to get a VA benefits claim approved varies from person to person. Generally speaking, it can take anywhere from a month to a year (sometimes more) to get approval for VA disability. However, the length of time you will wait for a decision in your case will depend on several key factors, including:
- Type of claim filed. There are many kinds of VA disability claims, and each requires a different level of processing. For example, a Fully Developed Claim (FDC) has a faster processing time than an original claim. If you were denied benefits but are appealing the decision, you have a reopened claim, which may take additional time due to the gathering of further information.
- Type of disability. The VA will base its disability decision (and percentage of disability) on the medical evidence that you provide of your condition. If you have an extremely complex disability (such as PTSD or a mental disorder) or are claiming disability for more than one condition, your processing may take longer.
- Evidence. One of the most time-consuming aspects of your claim is gathering the necessary evidence to make a determination. If you did not provide enough information, or the information needed to make your disability decision is not readily available, you will likely see further delays.
- Location. Finally, your processing time will vary depending on where you live. Claims for Nebraskans will be processed at the Regional Benefit Office in Lincoln, which currently has an average of 100 processing days for new claims.
Is There a Way to Get My Benefits Faster?
There are several ways to get your benefits approved more quickly. If you apply under the Fully Developed Claims program, you may get a faster decision as long as you can provide all medical evidence needed for your claim up front. You can also hire an attorney to collect information and follow up with the VA on your behalf, increasing your chances of approval. Send us an email at [email protected] or fill out the quick contact form on this page to have us look over your claim.
How common is post-traumatic stress disorder in veterans?
You just returned to your home in Omaha after fighting for our country overseas. It seems like nothing changed while you were gone. The Old Market, Henry Doorly Zoo, and even Memorial Stadium all seem the same. You, however, are different now.
You suffer the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) on a daily basis. The flashbacks that cause your heart to race, the nightmares that make you avoid sleeping, the terrifying thoughts that have you afraid to leave your home—they are all preventing you from living the life you had before you went into combat.
You Are Not Alone
Your family doesn’t understand why you have become this different person. Even some soldiers who fought alongside you don’t get why you are reacting this way. Because those you are closest with don’t relate to what you are experiencing, you may feel alone. However, you are far from the only person who is dealing with this anxiety disorder. Here, we take a look at just how often returning soldiers suffer from PTSD:
- Operation Enduring Freedom/Operation Iraqi Freedom. In 2008, the RAND Corporation and the Center for Military Health Research examined the prevalence of PTSD among previously deployed Operation Enduring Freedom/Operation Iraqi Freedom service members. Among the 1,938 soldiers studied, 13 percent had suffered from PTSD.
- Gulf War. A population-based sample of 11,441 Gulf War veterans was studied from 1995 to 1997. Among them, the prevalence of PTSD was 12.1 percent.
- Vietnam War. Of the 3,016 veterans who were studied from the Vietnam War era, the estimate lifetime prevalence of PTSD was 30.9 percent of men and 26.9 percent for females.
We May Be Able to Help You
After all you have done for us, we want to return the favor and help you receive the veterans’ disability benefits you may be entitled to. Contact the attorneys of Cuddigan Law today to find out how we may be able to help.