Many veterans who serve their country will become injured in the process. Those who are hurt while on active duty may be entitled to receive disability benefits. These benefits can provide you with important income that helps you provide for yourself and your loved ones, which can be especially important if your condition is severe enough to prevent you from working.
While veterans’ disability benefits are supposed to ensure you have the help you need if your health suffers because of your service, navigating the system to get benefits can be very complicated. A New York City veterans disability lawyer can help you to manage the bureaucracy to make the system work so you get the benefits that you deserve.
You should contact an attorney for personalized help obtaining your benefits. You can also read on to get answers to some frequently asked questions about the process of obtaining benefits and the nature of benefits that you may obtain.
Who Is Entitled to Veterans Disability Benefits?
If you were honorably discharged from military service and you have a service-connected medical issue, you should be entitled to receive disability benefits. You can receive benefits for a physical or mental injury that occurred as a direct result of your service. If you have become ill because of your military service, such as developing cancer due to exposure to herbicides or radiation, you can also receive disability benefits. And, if you had a pre-existing condition that your service made worse, benefits should also be provided to you for the increased severity of your symptoms.
How Do You Apply for Veterans Disability Benefits?
You can apply for disability benefits online using the eBenefits website, which the Veterans Administration recommends since this can be the simplest approach. You can also print out Form 21-526EZ, Application for Disability Compensation and Related Compensation Benefits or call 1-800-827-1000 to have a copy of the benefits form mailed to you.
If you have not yet been discharged from the military and know you will need to obtain disability benefits, you could use the Benefits Delivery at Discharge program in order to obtain benefits more quickly and easily.
When you apply for benefits, you’ll need to provide proof you were honorably discharged or separated from service; will need to include medical records documenting service-connected illnesses or injuries; and will need to include information about your dependents including a marriage certificate and birth certificates for your children.
What Is a Disability Benefits Rating?
When you receive disability benefits, you are assigned a disability rating. This rating represents the percent that you are disabled. For example, you may be 10% disabled or 50% disabled. The rating goes up in increments of 10 and the more severely you are disabled, the larger the amount of benefits you should be entitled to receive.
How Much Can I Expect to Receive in Veterans Benefits?
The Veterans Administration will pay you a set amount of benefits based upon how disabled you are. However, you can be paid additional amounts in circumstances where your disabilities are very serious, such as when you have loss of limbs. If you have a spouse who is severely disabled, you will be paid a larger amount of benefits. If you have a spouse, children, or dependent parents, your benefits will also be higher.
Cost of living adjustments change the basic benefits amounts periodically, so you’ll need to find out how much your benefits will be worth each year. Beginning December 1, 2017, those who are 10 percent disabled without children will receive $126.24 in monthly benefits. Benefits go up from there. For example, a veteran without children or a spouse who is 60% disabled will receive $1,038.52 monthly. But, a veteran who is 60 percent disabled with a spouse would receive $1,182.52.
Because your benefits will vary based on the year when you apply, your disability rating, and your family circumstances, your best option to understand your anticipated benefits is to talk with a New York City veterans disability lawyer to find out the amount of money that you are likely to receive.
Can You Receive Both Social Security and Veteran Disability Benefits?
The Veterans Administration is not the only source of disability benefits in circumstances when you cannot work. The Social Security Administration also provides disability compensation through Supplemental Security Income and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). Supplemental Security Income is a means-tested benefit, but Social Security Disability Insurance is not.
In many cases, if you meet qualifying criteria for both, you can obtain both SSDI benefits and Veterans disability benefits. Neither benefits program is based upon income, and both will provide you with monthly support in the event that you have a covered disabling condition.
However, you should be aware that the VA provides disability benefits if a service-connected disability causes even relatively minor impairments while the Social Security Administration provides disability benefits only when you are so severely disabled that you cannot have any job for which you’re qualified based on your past experience or transferrable skills.
How Do Military Special Credits Work?
When you receive Social Security benefits, a formula is used to determine the amount you’re entitled to receive. This is based on your work history and wages, adjusted for inflation. If you haven’t earned a sufficient number of work credits, you won’t be entitled to Social Security. And, if your wages have been relatively low and you’ve paid little into the Social Security system, your disability or retirement benefits may be small.
However, the Social Security Administration gives special credits to military veterans for their service. When a veteran applies for either disability benefits or retirement benefits, the Social Security Administration (SSA) will check their record and will provide credit for additional wages for military service. The extra credit for service is added to the veteran’s lifetime earnings record, which increases the average wage that is used to determine the amount of monthly benefits a disabled or retired veteran receives from the SSA.
Can You Receive a VA Pension and Social Security?
It is possible to receive both a VA pension as well as Social Security benefits. You will need to independently qualify for both the pension and Social Security benefits. A New York City veterans disability lawyer can provide insight into whether it is possible for you to get both of these types of benefits in your particular situation.
What Happens If Your Benefits Claim Is Denied?
If your claim for veterans’ disability benefits is denied, you can appeal the denial and fight for the money that you deserve. While it can be frustrating to get a benefits denial, many applications end up being denied because of errors in processing the claim or because of simple mistakes that are easy to correct. You simply need to take appropriate actions to prove you are actually entitled to benefits so you can get the funds you need to support yourself and your loved ones.
The appeals process begins by filing a Notice of Disagreement with the Regional Office. This indicates that you want to begin the appeals process. As part of this process, you will need to determine if you want a traditional review or if you want a decision review officer to take a close look at your application.
If you opt for a traditional review, a rating staff member will analyze your claim to identify errors and determine if your claim was complete and accurate. However, the decision cannot be reversed in a traditional review unless there was a clear and unmistakable error in the initial process, nor can the reviewer request that you provide new evidence. If you want a decision review officer to take a look at your claim, it will be reviewed de novo, which means that the decision review officer will look again at all of the details of your claim as if reviewing it for the first-time. Decision review officers have the legal authority to reverse or uphold the prior decision that was made on your claim for disability benefits.
You have a limited period of time to decide on your own and express your preferences for whether you’d prefer the traditional review or would prefer to have the Direct Review Officer assigned to your appeal, so it’s smart to reach out to an experienced attorney to find which course of action is best for you. After the first phase of review, you may receive a Statement of the Case (SOC) explaining that your appeal has been rejected and detailing the reasons why. You can then continue with additional phases of the appeals process, including appealing to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals. The BVA can grant your request, can deny your claim, or can send your claim back for additional review.
When you reach this phase of appeal, you can request a formal hearing. This will take place before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ), which means that the judge works for the Veterans Administration rather than working as an independent judge as part of the federal judiciary. Although ALJ’s work for agencies, they still can form unbiased opinions in hearings related to your disability benefits.
If you are still not happy with the decision made by the Board of Veterans’ Appeals, you’ll have exhausted all of your options for appealing the denial of benefits within the Veterans’ Administration system and you will need to try to appeal the benefits denial in federal circuit court.
A New York City veterans disability lawyer can provide assistance throughout the entirety of the appeals process and can help you to ensure you are doing everything possible to maximize the chances of your appeal being successful. You can submit new information and supporting documentation at any time when you are appealing, and our legal team will help you to gather the evidence that you need to try to bolster your claim that you are deserving of benefits.
How Many Times Can You Appeal a Claim Denial?
There are multiple phases of appeal within the VA system if your claim for benefits is denied. You can have your initial application reviewed again, you can go to court and have a hearing, and you can have the Board of Veterans’ Appeals review your case. You can also go to federal court.
This means that when your benefits are denied, you have multiple opportunities to try to convince someone at the VA or within the federal court system to change the initial decision and ensure you can get the money that you need to support yourself and your loved ones.
Why Hire a Veterans Disability Attorney?
A veterans disability attorney can provide help throughout the entire process of applying for veteran’s disability benefits. An attorney can:
- Help you to determine if you’re likely to qualify for benefits based on the nature of your condition.
- Assist you in submitting an application for benefits and in providing the required proof to document the illness or injury that you experienced and to show that is a service-connected condition.
- Help you to appeal a benefits denial through multiple steps in the appeals process, including when you initially receive notification that your claim for benefits has been denied.
- Provide assistance in understand the amount of benefits that you should be entitled to receive given the number of dependents you have and your disability rating.
These are just a few of the many key reasons why it can make sense to hire a lawyer with experience in veteran claims. When you are coping with your own serious health issues or with the health concerns of a loved one, the last thing you need is to try to navigate a complicated bureaucracy and hope you can successfully convince the VA to give you the benefits you need.
Our firm can take care of all of the technical processes of applying for benefits on your behalf so you can work on getting better while we get you the money you need. To find out more about how Turley Redmond Rosasco & Rosasco can assist you, contact us online or call us today at 877-693-2529.
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