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Case Spotlight – February 2023

John Leverenz, a veteran, came to Disability Law Group with an August 2021 Rating Decision, wanting to appeal claims related to finger numbness which has been present since a deep cut to several fingers from concertina wire in 1980. When he first filed for this in 2004, he also filed for hearing loss due to noise exposure during service. VA granted service connection for hearing loss at 0% but denied the claim for his fingers.

In the appeal he filed in October 2004, he appealed the denial of the finger claim and requested an increase for his 0% hearing loss. In addition to asking for an increased rating for hearing, he provided a statement informing VA of continuous ringing in his ears. VA issued another decision which continued the denial for the fingers, continued hearing loss at 0%, and ignored the veteran’s claim for ringing in the ears.

The next claim filed by the veteran was not until early 2021, when he filed to reopen his claim for finger numbness and requested an increased rating for hearing loss. The VA again denied the fingers claim but a C&P examiner noted tinnitus and that was added to the veteran’s file. However, VA only granted tinnitus as of the 2021 filing.

While reviewing the veteran’s file for the finger claim – the claim for which the veteran contacted Disability Law Group in the first place – Attorney Jason Pearson noticed that the veteran’s statement that he had continuous ringing in his ears was not addressed by VA. We filed a Higher-Level Review and scheduled an informal conference with VA to address the effective date for tinnitus. Jason pointed out the 2004 statement and VA agreed that it was missed, and that the tinnitus claim had therefore been pending since 2004. In August 2022, VA issued a decision granting an earlier effective date for tinnitus, changing from 2021 to 2004.

Because our attorneys pay such close attention to detail, reviewing every document in the VA file, and they possess the knowledge and skill to know what to do with this information when they find it, this veteran was able to get seventeen years of benefits that he did not expect. By the way, we were also able to get the fingers claim granted. If you have a decision from VA you would like to have reviewed, contact us today.

Author: Erika A. Riggs

Attorney Erika A. Riggs, a partner at Disability Law Group, is a renowned legal advocate and community leader. A graduate of Wayne State University Law School, Erika co-founded The 313 Project, a non-profit providing scholarships and pro-bono legal advice for at-risk youth. She actively contributes to community well-being as a board member and community activist, spearheading pro bono events and volunteer initiatives. Erika specializes in Social Security Disability and Veterans’ disability benefits. Recognized for her outstanding contributions, Erika has received accolades such as the ‘Oakland Together 40 Under 40’ Class of 2023, 2022 ABA On the Rise Top 40 Young Lawyer award, eight consecutive Avvo’s Client Choice awards, and the esteemed 2023 Rising Star award for the sixth consecutive year by Super Lawyers (extended to less than 2.5% of attorneys practicing in Michigan). Her multifaceted achievements showcase her commitment to excellence, community service, and advocacy for those in need.