The Complicated State Of Veterans’ Disability Benefits

by Jan 9, 2019

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If you are a veteran receiving or seeking VA disability benefits, you probably are already aware of the complicated state of the program. Veterans’ benefits, administered by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), provide critical help to those whose service-connected disabilities make it difficult to earn a living or carry out daily living activities. But the process of applying for benefits, appealing denials, and taking advantage of those benefits once approved is complex.

The confusion begins when applying for benefits. If you get denied, which happens to many veterans the first try, the confusion continues throughout the appeals process, which can easily stretch to a year or longer. When you finally get approved, your compensation level is unpredictable, and it is rarely secure — the VA can reevaluate your case at any time. And you might have to travel for miles to enjoy certain benefits, such as healthcare.

A VA disability lawyer can help you simplify your benefits and make sense of them. Call 865-566-0800 for a free case evaluation with the Disability Advantage Group.

The Application and Appeals Process

The confusion that is VA disability starts long before you receive your first benefit check. The application process is full of uncertainty. If the VA denies your claim, a common occurrence for first-time applicants, the appeals process is even more complex. While the VA offers approval guidelines for various health conditions, many of which seem simple, it is known for being erratic and arbitrary when approving and denying claims.

So, how can you cut through the confusion and enjoy the best chance of approval? A good general rule to follow is the more evidence you have, and the more clear it is, the better off you are. It is better to overwhelm the VA with proof of your eligibility than to omit anything that could help your case. A disability lawyer can help you build a thorough and compelling claim.

Recent Changes to the VA Disability Appeals Process

As maddening as the VA can be, you have to give it some credit. In 2017, recognizing that wait times had gotten out of control, it overhauled its disability appeals process, giving more control to veterans over how their appeals get handled. Now, when you file a VA disability appeal, you have a number of choices on how to submit it:

  • You can submit it to the same review queue that evaluated (and denied) your initial appeal, but with new evidence and supporting documents, ideally bolstering your claim.
  • You can submit it to a higher-level review queue (but cannot include new information or evidence).
  • You can appeal directly to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals (BVA).

Based on the specifics of your claim and the reason for your denial, a VA disability lawyer can offer advice on where to submit your appeal. Some good news is that, so far, the overhaul is achieving its stated aims. Regardless of which lane they choose, veterans are reporting much shorter wait times between submitting an appeal and hearing a decision.

Unpredictability in Benefit Levels

When you finally emerge from the other side of the byzantine application and appeal process, your approval in hand, the confusion goes away, right?

If only it were that simple.

Veterans’ disability is as complicated for current recipients as it is for applicants. It starts with the lack of predictability or stability in your benefit level. Depending on a number of factors, your monthly compensation could be anywhere from under $200 to more than $3,000 per month. The benefit level you receive may not be what you expected to receive or what you believe you deserve. Moreover, even if you are approved for a high benefit amount, it is subject to change at any moment.

If your approval of VA disability benefits was for a lower compensation level than you believe you should have gotten, or if the VA has notified you it is reevaluating your benefits, no doubt to determine if it can lower your monthly award, a VA disability lawyer can help you fight for the compensation you deserve.

Lack of Convenience in Receiving Benefits

Veterans’ benefits include not only monthly compensation but also perks such as free healthcare. If you are a veteran with a service-connected disability, and you are approved for veterans’ benefits, you can receive treatment for your condition for free at a VA facility.

But it is not always as simple as making a short drive to your nearest hospital.

Many veterans have complained that their assigned VA hospital — where they must go to receive free healthcare guaranteed by their benefits — is hours from their home address. For veterans with mobility issues, often the result of their service-connected injury or illness, an inconveniently located medical facility can effectively take away the ability to receive free healthcare to which they are entitled.

If you are having difficulty taking advantages of your VA disability benefits because of logistical challenges, a lawyer can help.

Disparities in Benefit Spending by State

Something as arbitrary as the state you live in can have substantial implications on how well taken care of you are as a disabled veteran.

According to an NPR analysis from 2013, states vary wildly in how much they spend on veterans. For instance, while West Virginia spends almost $7,700 per veteran per year, Delaware spends less than $4,600, even though in both states veterans make up 10% of the population.

Call 865-566-0800 Today for a Free VA Disability Case Evaluation With the Disability Advantage Group

The VA disability lawyers at the Disability Advantage Group can help you navigate the complicated system of veterans’ benefits. No matter the issue you are facing, we want to help you make the most of your VA disability. For a free consultation and case evaluation, call us at 865-566-0800.