Just about anyone who’s a veteran has had a Veterans Affairs claim at some point in his or her life. Those who haven’t filed a claim likely will at some point in the future. And yet, despite the claims process being somewhat simple, the appeals process can be complex, and if your claim is denied, it’s good to know what rights you have.
Today, Pleading Ignorance looks at how to file a VA Claim—and what to do if it gets denied. We asked attorney Ben Stewart of Stewart Law, P.L.L.C. for some pointers.
So, to start, let’s assume you’ve filed your VA claim. Once you’ve filed that paperwork, the VA will make a decision about what benefits will be provided to you, if any. So far, so good.
But, if the VA denies all or part of your claim, you have options—three in fact:
1. Reapply for benefits
2. Request a review of the decision
3. File an appeal
While you can try to reapply for benefits or request a review of the VA’s initial decision on your claim, you may have more success if you file an appeal. If you appeal the decision you may want to have a lawyer help you. This is because a lawyer who is experienced in veteran claims will know the applicable regulation that can be used to overcome a denial. The lawyer can also represent you in a hearing before the VA appeals board.
Making things complex is that laws concerning veterans’ benefits are constantly changing. Some of those changes are retroactive and some are only applicable from the date they are put in place. With retroactive changes, you may have previously been denied benefits for a specific condition but can now reapply and receive back benefits from the date of your previously denied claim.
When the changes are only applicable from the date they are put in place, it doesn’t matter if you previously met the new requirements for benefits, you won’t receive back benefits. But, you may still be eligible to start receiving benefits from the point the regulation was changed going forward.
For example, the VA has recently relaxed the rule for establishing claims of veterans post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The move makes it easier for veterans to prove they have a disability due to service-related stressors. Veterans who did not qualify for PTSD benefits before, or who were denied benefits under previous rules, may now qualify. But, they will not receive benefits retroactive to their first claim. Rather, they will receive benefits starting from the date of the application filed after the rule change.
Furthermore, some changes in benefits related to Agent Orange use in Vietnam will be retroactive to the filing date, meaning veterans should file their claims as soon as possible.
“File now,” says Ben Stewart, attorney at Stewart Law, P.L.L.C. “Even if your claim is denied, you can start the claims period. That way, if it is accepted later, your benefits will go back to the original date when the claims were denied.”
New medical conditions added to the list of those linked to Agent Orange include heart disease, Parkinson’s disease and B-cell leukemia.
“There are new regulations all the time, that’s why veterans should consider a veteran’s benefits attorney who has been tracking changes in the law and advocating for veterans,” Stewart says.
J. Benton Stewart II, attorney at Stewart Law, P.L.L.C., is an experienced prosecutor, municipal magistrate and civil trial lawyer. Stewart Law specializes in the following areas of practice: Professional Negligence, Legal Malpractice, Securities Litigation, Class Action Litigation, Products Liability, Personal Injury and Wrongful Death.