We run into a lot of misconceptions about what an attorney can do for a veteran seeking disability compensation from the VA. When deciding whether you should hire an attorney, consider the following:
Should I Hire an Attorney?
If you have received a denial from the VA, it might be time to contact an attorney. If you have filed claims in the past and need to reopen those claims, an attorney may also be helpful at that point, particularly if you need to appeal your claims to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals (BVA) or the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims (CAVC). We’ll get to why an attorney can help in a moment.
Will an Attorney Make My Claims Go Faster?
In some instances, yes, in others, no. There are things an attorney can do that may expedite a claim on appeal, but it you just want to request that the VA expedite a claim, your service officer should be able to do it for you.
An effective attorney can put you in a position to win your appeal the first time around, which will make your claims go faster. Veterans’ claims often get caught in a cycle of denial, appeal, remand, denial, appeal, remand, denial, appeal, remand, and so on. This can add years to a claim. An attorney experienced in veterans’ disability law can effectively present the law and the facts to the VA the first time around, which in many instances gets veterans their disability benefits faster.
However, just hiring an attorney does not make the process go any faster. According to a recent report, over 440,000 veterans have pending appeals, including 80,000 veterans who have claims over five years old and 5,000 with claims over a decade old. Most VA Regional Offices try to work the oldest claims first, and while new claims are being processed relatively quickly, appeals just take a lot longer. Just keep in mind that your attorney doesn’t get paid until you do, which means he or she is highly motivated to win.
Then What Can an Attorney Do for Me?
Although the VA disability compensation system is supposed to be veteran-friendly, the reality is that the rules and regulations governing the claims process can be confusing for everyone involved. Just as most people would not want to go through other legal processes without competent representation, veterans deserve to have representation as well. A good attorney understands the claims process, what evidence is needed to establish service connection, and how to maximize an evaluation. They may be able to find benefits you didn’t even know about. An attorney will also track appeal deadlines to protect your interests.
What Can’t an Attorney Do?
Generally speaking, an attorney cannot intervene with doctors or the VA healthcare system. If you’re not getting the treatment or medication you think you need, an attorney cannot force a doctor to help you. The contract that you have with your attorney will determine the services being offered. An attorney who focuses solely on VA disability compensation may not be able to help you with other legal problems, although you can always ask.
When you’re communicating with your attorney, focus on what you need to do to get the compensation benefits to which you’re entitled. Your attorney wants to help you; he or she can best do that by focusing on your appeal and your records. Remember to keep your communications short and focused – your attorney will not only thank you, but they’ll also have more time to work on your case.
If you are a veteran and your disability claim has been denied by the VA, please call us at (402) 817-6550 or contact us online. Your consultation is free.