After serving our country, risking your life for our freedom, you deserve every benefit available to you upon returning home. Because Veterans Disability Benefits, commonly referred to as service-connected disability compensation, are not based on income, you may be able to receive VA disability benefits at the same time that you’re receiving SSD (Social Security Disability) benefits if eligible. Unfortunately, many veterans are unsure which benefits may be available to them and how to best go about the process. The last thing you should have to worry about, upon returning home to be with your family and loved ones, is mountains of paperwork and bureaucratic red tape surrounding the process to apply and appeal for your benefits. We understand the many different federal disability programs and how to qualify for each, or multiple, depending on the case. More importantly, we see the tremendous impact and financial relief that additional benefits available for our veterans can make when receiving their benefits owed, through the Department of Veterans Affairs and/or the Social Security Administration.
While applying for any type of government benefits can be complicated and intimidating, having an experienced veterans disability attorney on your side can make the process go more smoothly. This is especially true if you are applying for both Veterans’ Disability and Social Security Disability benefits. Our attorneys and staff at Disability Law Group are fully prepared and dedicated to ensuring you receive the benefits you deserve.
Veterans Disability Benefits
Veterans’ Disability Benefits, including service-connected disability benefits and non-service connected pension, are monthly payments to veterans from the U.S. government. For service-connected disability benefits through the VA, the higher degree of disability the veteran has, the higher the payment may be. Depending on the rating of your service-connected disability, you may also be entitled to other benefits to help you and your family.
For example, a finding of Permanent and Total (P&T) disability through the VA, accompanying a 100% service-connected disability award based on one, or a combination of, conditions, are protected from being reduced. Veterans with P&T ratings may also be eligible for VA healthcare for dependents in addition to the veteran, certain state-level benefits, Chapter 35 Dependents Educational Assistance Program (Chapter 35 DEA), DIC benefits (Dependency and Indemnity Compensation commonly referred to as “death benefits”). A finding of P&T through the VA may also allow for a quicker finding of disability at Social Security. While SSD criteria is similarly rigorous and complex, an experienced disability attorney can help you understand the process and the programs you may be eligible for.
If you are a veteran with a low income, disabled and over 65, you may also be entitled to a Disability Pension which is based on financial need and is intended to supplement your income. There is, however, a stipulation that you must have served at least 90 days in active service and one day or more during a war (longer, for those who entered the service after September 1980).
Further eligibility requirements for Veterans Disability Benefits include:
- Having a diagnosed disease or disability following an incident during active service
- The disability must be “service-connected,” i.e. caused by the military incident
- Filling out a Veteran’s Application for Compensation and/or Pension
- Providing separation or discharge paperwork from military service
- Providing copies of all medical records demonstrating your claimed disability
- Presenting copies of requested records, which may include marriage, divorce, birth, adoption and nursing home records
Nexus required for Service-Connected Disability through the VA
In order for a veteran to receive service-connected disability benefits, there must be a nexus. In other words, the veteran’s disease or disability must be directly linked to the time spent in military service. Many claims are denied at this step with a finding that there is no nexus or correlation between the veterans claimed disability and their time spent in the military. There are different ways to go about satisfying the nexus requirement:
Direct Service Connection
A disability is considered to have a direct service connection when it occurs due to a military incident, such as a combat injury or friendly fire. In this type of case, our attorneys will help provide medical evidence supporting your current diagnosed disability in addition to other evidence that may be helpful for your claim. For example, statements from your fellow service member (‘buddy statement’) may be helpful to obtain if possible, as well as witness testimony, letters from doctors, and other support.
Aggravated Service Connection
An aggravated service connection exists when you entered the military with a pre-existing condition and now can provide evidence that a single incident from service, such as an injury (like an explosion or fall), or environment (like being cold and wet for a prolonged period), worsened your condition to the point that you are now disabled. Attorneys well-versed in the specialized and ever-changing area of VA disability benefits law can help you navigate the best path to take for your case.
Presumed Service Connection
A presumed service connection can be established when a veteran (who has spent at least 90 days in military service) develops a condition considered to have at least a 10 percent presumed correlation to that service. There are a number of chronic, debilitating and/or degenerative diseases statistically tied to military service. While some, like malaria, may be more common depending on what part of the world the veteran has served, others, like ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) and multiple sclerosis, are connected statistically to military service in ways not yet fully understood.
Certain conditions are presumed to be connected to being held as a prisoner of war, such as malnutrition, chronic dysentery, and osteoporosis. Many cancers are known to be associated with herbicides like Agent Orange, such as prostate cancer, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and multiple myeloma. Other cancers often result from exposure to radiation, such as during testing of atomic bombs.
Despite clear statistical links between particular health problems and military service, you should be prepared for a “rebuttal of evidence” which the VA can bring against any claim of presumed connection. The VA may ultimately decide that your current disease or disability has not resulted from your military service and, therefore, that they are not responsible to pay you disability benefits. This is precisely the type of case in which you’ll be glad you hired an experienced, caring veterans disability attorney. Our well-versed attorneys at Disability Law Group will be vigorous fighters for your rights just as you were for our freedoms. We promise to show you the respect and dedication you deserve in fighting for your rights.
Depending on what level your claim is at as well as the type of benefit (SSD or VA), a decision on your case provides a limited timeframe to appeal. For example, most denials of disability through the Social Security Administration (such as for SSD and SSI), typically provide a 60-day deadline to appeal in order to have a hearing. Most importantly, you will want to read your disability decision carefully to ensure your appeal is timely filed and to avoid potentially losing benefits you were otherwise entitled to. A denial by the Department of Veterans Affairs may allow for one-year to file an appeal, or less, depending on where you are in the process. Hiring an experienced attorney who specializes in disability benefits can not only guide you throughout the process but ensure your rights are protected by meeting important deadline and represent you throughout your appeal hearing.
Call Disability Law Group for Extraordinary Legal Service
As a disabled veteran, you deserve the highest level of service, care and respect. Our team of talented, skilled attorney on your side provide exceptional legal advice as well as all-inclusive, empathic legal representation. From the initial consultation to the last call, you will understand why Disability Law Group is highly rated and endorsed by our clients and peers alike. We will always put you first and treat you with the utmost respect you are owed while fighting to protect your rights. You can reach us by phone, email, or by filling out a contact form on our website.