Do VA Disability Attorneys Delay Your VA Claim?
VA Claims and Appeals Process: Brief Overview
If a veteran develops a medical condition in connection to their military service, they can apply for disability benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).
To apply for most VA benefits, you typically need to fill out and submit VA Form 21-526EZ. You must also provide evidence of the following three elements of service connection:
- An in-service event, injury, or illness;
- A current diagnosis by a medical professional; and
- A medical nexus, or link, between the in-service event, injury, or illness and current diagnosis.
If VA denies you service connection or assigns a disability rating that does not match the severity of your symptoms, you have the option to appeal the decision. Under the Appeals Modernization Act (AMA) system, veterans have one year to file an appeal in one of three ways:
- Request a Higher-Level Review of your current claim by a senior VA employee;
- Submit new and relevant evidence as part of a Supplemental Claim; or
- File a Notice of Disagreement appeal to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals (BVA).
Following this, VA will issue another decision. Specifically, the Higher-Level Review and Supplemental Claim lanes will yield additional VA rating decisions, while the Notice of Disagreement lane will produce a Board decision.
If you receive another unfavorable VA decision, you can continue your claim by filing another appeal. This CCK interactive tool helps veterans decide which appeal lane to choose next.
How Long Does VA Take to Decide Claims?
The VA disability claims and appeals process can be long and frustrating, and it can sometimes take multiple years to obtain a decision on disability benefits. This is due to several factors, such as backlogs in almost every area of VA’s claims and appeals process, the type of claim filed, how many disabilities are claimed and how complex they are, and how long it takes VA to gather evidence.
VA Claims and Appeals Backlog
As many veterans are aware, there continue to be massive delays in the processing of claims and appeals due to issues within the VA system. In addition to challenges presented by the ongoing pandemic, claims and appeals are taking longer to process due to:
- Backlog of Compensation and Pension (C&P) exams
- Mail delays
- Record request delays at the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC)
- BVA backlog, especially in the hearing lane
- Addition of new presumptive conditions and Blue Water Navy Act
- Passage of the PACT Act (i.e., new toxic exposure presumptions, Camp Lejeune water contamination, etc.)
This means that hundreds of thousands of veterans must continue to await their rightfully owed back pay from VA.
What Is VA Disability Back Pay?
VA disability back pay is the money owed to veterans from the effective date of their claim to the date they were granted those benefits. If you claim or appeal has been pending in VA’s system for a while, you may receive back pay when your claim is approved.
To determine your potential back pay amount, veterans can use CCK’s 2023 VA disability back pay calculator.
Hiring a VA Disability Attorney for Your Appeal
As previously mentioned, the VA appeals process can be very long and difficult to navigate. As a result, many veterans seek assistance from VA disability attorneys. An experienced attorney can significantly increase your chances of winning VA benefits on appeal.
When researching representatives to handle your VA disability claim or appeal, it is important to determine whether a representative is accredited by VA. VA-accredited attorneys or representatives are individuals recognized by VA as legally authorized and capable of assisting claimants in pursuit of benefits before VA. Accreditation is crucial because it helps determine whether the representative meets or exceeds the minimum standards set forth by VA to represent you.
Types of Accredited Representatives
VA-accredited representatives can include:
- Attorneys – Lawyers who have passed the bar and have been accredited by VA.
- Accredited claims agents – Not attorneys (i.e., did not go to law school), but they have been trained to practice VA law.
- Veteran Service Organizations (VSOs) – Organizations officially recognized by Congress that are typically free of charge. Examples of VSOs include Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), Disabled American Veterans (DAV), and American Veterans (AMVETS).
- State or county government entities
- CAVC non-attorney practitioners – Can practice at CAVC under the CAVC bar with supervision of an attorney.
Veterans can use the VA Office of General Counsel (OGC) database to find out if the representative who wants to help them is accredited.
Will a VA Disability Lawyer Delay Your Claim?
No, VA disability attorneys do not delay your claim. In fact, they may be able to help speed up the overall process.
However, choosing the wrong attorney can delay your case. In addition to the delays caused by the claims and appeal backlog, an unaccredited or otherwise unexperienced VA attorney may slow down the process if your claim is repeatedly denied. Therefore, it is essential to choose an accredited and experienced attorney to assist with your claim.
Can a VA Disability Lawyer Speed Up Your Claim?
While a veterans disability attorney cannot speed up VA’s decision-making process, they may be able to help you develop a stronger claim or appeal to get a more favorable decision the first time around.
At Chisholm Chisholm & Kilpatrick LTD, our team of accredited attorneys and claims agents helps accelerate the process for our clients by:
- Avoiding Board of Veterans’ Appeals hearings whenever possible. This is because BVA appeals take longer than other types of appeals.
- Filing motions to expedite claims or appeals whenever possible. For example, in situations when a veteran is terminally ill, 75 years of age or older, facing severe financial hardship (e.g., being evicted or foreclosed upon), has faced a natural disaster, or meets the criteria for another qualifying circumstance.
- Monitoring the progress of your claim through VBMS. This allows our team to spot any issues and see who at VA is working on the case so we can reach out directly if needed.
- Utilizing direct upload. By doing so, we do not have to mail things to VA, which avoids delays within the mail system.
Why Hire CCK for Your VA Appeal?
If you have a service-related disability but VA denied your claim, Chisholm Chisholm & Kilpatrick may be able to assist you in appealing the decision. The accredited attorneys and claims agents at CCK have the experience and resources needed to help you successfully secure the VA benefits you deserve.
Call CCK today at 800-544-9144 for a free evaluation with a member of our team.
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