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Things You'll Need
Research Your Claim
Fiduciary Program Manual
New data sheets from VA
If you’ve already been scheduled for a VA
claim exam, but need to reschedule the date
and time, be sure to change your
appointment using the phone number
given to you as soon as possible. For more
information about the claim process, go to www.benefits.va.gov/compensation
VA Benefits for Sleep Apnea
as a service
connection to PTSD
Brett Valette, Ph.D.
Licensed Clinical Psychologist
Speak With A
Veterans Law Attorney
An Expert Physician
Case Evaluations Are
requests to Add Dependents
Pit Registry for Veterans and Servicemembers
Home Based Primary Care (HBPC)
This is a series of stories
bringing light to the dark side of the
VA’s treatment of some Veterans
applying for disability. Whether out
of frustration, desperation, anger, or
‘just to make it right” they contacted me, and together, we fought the injustice.
These are actual cases and claims.
I have changed names and identifying
information for confidentiality reasons.
This is the first in a series of stories bringing
light to the dark side of the VA’s treatment
of some Veterans applying for disability.
Claim Killer DBQ Questions.
VA Spotlight is a series of stories bringing
light to the dark side of the VA’s treatment
of some Veterans applying for disability.
Whether out of frustration, desperation,
anger, or ‘just to makeit right” they contacted
me, and together, we fought the injustice.
America's Leading Resource For
Military Veterans News & Benefits Information
Over Ten Years of Service to America's Military Veterans
Since 2005 This Is The Site VA Reads When They
Want To Learn What They've Been Doing
OK Jim, I get it. Hiring a veterans law attorney isn't difficult and won't cost me any money
up front or out of my pocket, I understand all that now.
But...how do I hire a lawyer who is right for me?
What Are You Waiting For?
Get started right now.
The lawyer can't help you if you don't make contact right now.
All it will cost you is a little of your time.
Go for it! Find your lawyer now.
You have to make the first move. Attorneys are there for you but
they can't help if you don't reach out to them.
Look around on the pages of the VAWatchdog and you'll see a select group of veterans law attorneys
who are featured here. By clicking on those banners you'll be taken to that lawyers web site
where you can learn more about the attorneys in that aoofice and who they are.
Many offices will ask you to complete a contact form. Those forms send priority messages to the
attorney so they can get right back to you. Using the contact forms helps to
prevent spam emails and such getting to the lawyer...your message goes to the top.
Others publish toll free phone numbers or email address for you to use.
No matter HOW you contact the attorney, it's important
that you proceed now and get the process started.
Click the banners you see. Study the details about that attorney. Make contact.
Repeat as you think is necessary until you find the attorney who is right for you.
Speaking with these attorneys is always free. Nobody will ask you for money.
What will your attorney do for you?
A lot but you may not see most of it.
There isn't much hand holding in VA appeals. The lawyer won't call and update you regularly
and you aren't encouraged to call in and check frequently.
Once you and the lawyer agree that he or she will take your case, you have more papers
to complete and sign. The lawyer will need a fee agreement, a POA (power of attorney)
and other documents that will be filed with VA. Once the papers are filed and your appeal
is in the process, you and the lawyer have nothing else to talk about until VA acts.
There is nothing your lawyer can do to speed up the process. While retaining an attorney
means that your appeal is being done by a professional, it doesn't mean the lawyer
can get it done any faster than the VA will allow. There is no reason for you and your
chosen lawyer to maintain regular contact untill VA makes a move.
Be patient, once the process begins, patience really is a virtue.
This Isn't A Spectator Sport
You have to be intelligently engaged.
This means that you must be able to provide the lawyer with details of your claim that
was denied. You should have copies of all the correspondence you've had with VA.
You should know dates of claims and denials. You are responsible for getting your
attorney the evidence and supporting documents to use when appealing your case.
The bottom line is that if you can't convince the lawyer that you have a well grounded
case for appeal, how can that lawyer convince the VA?
Be involved from the beginning.
What will your attorney NOT do for you?
These are lawyers, not magicians.
The lawyer can't help you if you don't have a well grounded claim or appeal.
The lawyer won't fabricate evidence or stretch the truth. Veterans law attorneys are
perhaps the most regulated professionals there are and they have any number
of professionals licenses and certifications required to practice their trade. Your
lawyer won't jeapordize all that by putting forth anything that is less than accurate.
The lawyer you've chosen can't help you with other problems that you may encounter
while you wait for your claim. Your veterans law attorney is accredited by VA to
represent you for that claim or appeal only. Other life problems you may run
into won't be addressed by your veterans law attorney while you wait for your appeal.
The veterans law attorney you retain will guide your VA case,
anything else is up to you.
The most common type of fee is the percentage or contingency fee, which is the most favorable
fee structure for most veterans in most veterans benefits cases. This is because the attorney is
only paid if (1) an award is made and (2) there is an amount owed to the veteran at the time
of the award. The attorney is then paid a percentage (usually between 20% and 33%) of the amount
owed to the veteran when an award is approved. This amount, also known as a “retroactive” award,
is the amount of due to the veteran from the effective date of the award up to the date of the award.
If the award was made following an appeal to the Board and theeffective date is the date the claim
was originally filed (as it is in most cases), the retroactive amount could be 3 or 4 years of benefits.
If the case goes up to the Veterans Court and back, the retroactive period could be ten years or more.
As an example, assume a veteran filed a claim on January 1, 2004, and enters into a 20%
contingency fee agreement with an attorney. On January 1, 2008, the veteran is awarded a
100% disability rating. The retroactive amount is the 100% monthly payment for the period
between January 1, 2004, and January 1, 2008 (four years), which is approximately $120,000
at current rates. The attorney’s fee would be 20% of the $120,000 or $24,000.
When do you call a lawyer?
To hire or "retain" an attorney to guide you through a VA disability benefits appeal, you must first
have a denial of an application that you submitted. The lawyer usually can't help you before that
happens. About 70% of original claims are denied. It's very likely you'll have something denied so
you can start thinking about an attorney now. Hiring a lawyer isn't difficult.
The first thing you need to know is that you probably won't find a lawyer who is local to you. Veterans law attorneys work at the federal level so as long as they are certified by VA to represent veterans,
you can choose a lawyer who lives anywhere else away from you. You may never meet your lawyer
face to face. He or she will do all the work for you by mail, electronic mail and filings and on the phone.
There isn't much hand holding to be done in VA cases, the evidence and the law will take care of
itself with your lawyer guiding things. To find the lawyer who is right for you will require that you
pick up the phone or send some emails. The attorneys who are featured on this web site are
known to be reliable and committed to winning for veterans. I urge you to talk to at least 2 or 3
prior to signing up with any attorney. Look for an attorney who is prompt in getting back to you to
discuss your case. If you are shuffled from one "paralegal" to the next and you aren't able to
speak with the lawyer, move on to someone else. The lawyer should seem interested in your
case and spend enough time with you that you believe that he or she understands all the
issues. If you are rushed or if the conversation is interrupted by other calls or people barging
into their office, you'll want to move on to the next person on your list. Next up...the expense of
hiring a lawyer. I hear it a lot, "Jim. I don't have any money. I can't afford a lawyer!"
You're about to be pleasantly surprised when I tell you that
even if you're dead broke, you can afford a great lawyer.
Reasons to Consider Hiring An Attorney
First things first. The only reason for a veteran to hire an attorney is because the veteran
believes that an attorney can help achieve a more favorable result than the veteran alone
would otherwise obtain. That’s it. There is no other good reason.