As a veteran the day you realize you are now in a difficult situation with the Veterans Administration over your well-deserved benefits can be just as frightening as the first time you ever saw live combat. Horror stories from other vets, investigative news reports and just the general overall lackadaisical attitude you’ve already encountered, combined with your health concerns have you at the end of your rope and not sure where to turn. In the past veterans were at a real disadvantage when it came to dealing with the VA as they mostly had to go it alone when filing a claim. And then if an appeal was necessary they were only allowed to use VA approved legal representation. Over the years this created a huge backlog of cases. Finally in June, 2007 the federal government passed a law allowing veterans to hire their own attorney. While the claims and frequent subsequent appeals still involve a long drawn out process, at least now you can rest assured you have an attorney whose priority is your case.
Why Hire a Greenville Veterans Disability Lawyer?
Your first step needs to be connecting with J. Robert Surface, a VA certified attorney. With over 32 years experience, Mr. Surface is a well respected advocate who has represented veterans from all branches of the military including Army, Navy, Air Force, Special Forces and Marines. He specializes in assisting veterans with both VA disability benefits and VA disability claims and because he deals with these situations on a regular basis, he understands the inner workings of the Veterans Administration and how to move your case forward through the system.
Throughout his years of practice, Mr. Surface has always been committed to ensuring his clients get the maximum level of available benefits for both physical and/or psychological injuries which, in many cases, have ultimately led to a long-term, or permanent disability.
Generally having an attorney when you first file for benefits isn’t necessary. It is when you receive a denial letter in the mail that you find yourself in need of an experienced attorney. It is important to keep in mind, Mr. Surface (or any other certified veteran’s attorney) cannot prod or cajole the Veterans Administration into ruling on your claim any faster. But Mr. Surface can and does work diligently to ensure once a ruling has been reached you will be receiving all the benefits you are entitled to.
Veterans Administration rules and regulations are complex and in some cases seem to change on a regular basis. Mr. Surface spends a great deal of time making sure he stays current on all the latest changes when it comes to any and all disability claims and rulings.
Many veterans just beginning the process aren’t completely sure they have a legitimate claim. If you have been physically injured or diagnosed by a medical professional with certain conditions, syndromes, diseases or disorders it is your legal right to apply for all veterans’ benefits available.
Veterans Administration cases deserving legal attention include:
Agent Orange Exposure-Veterans exposed to Agent Orange served either during the Korean or the Vietnam War. In both these countries, our military sprayed this deadly herbicide mixture onto the surrounding dense tropical foliage in order to reduce enemy camouflage. These same types of chemicals were used to a lesser extent on US military bases back in the 1950’s.
Exposure to Agent Orange is now presumed to be the leading cause of elderly veterans suffering from a wide range of cancers, skin conditions, heart and organ diseases and when they were younger, sometimes producing offspring with birth defects.
While the VA is now accepting Agent Orange claims filed under the “presumptive policy,” claims are still frequently denied. Plus, there is now evidence other medical conditions not previously associated with Agent Orange herbicides may be service connected.
Bile Duct Cancer(Cholangiocarcinoma)-If you are a veteran suffering from Bile Duct Cancer(Cholangiocarcinoma) you may have gotten cancer while on active duty. If you ate local raw fish in Vietnam like in this LA Times article, then you may be entitled to compensation. Call our office at 864-300-4994 for a free consultation to discuss your options.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder-One of the most common and best known psychiatric disorders, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) can be difficult to prove.
Before a claim can be filed there must be a current PTSD diagnosis from an accredited psychiatrist or other licensed mental health care professional. Then, there must be documentation that the veteran’s PTSD was caused by some type of service related traumatic event or stressor. The third requirement is proof of the causal link between the in-service event and the disability.
Gulf War Syndrome– More than 100,000 of the almost 700,000 servicemen and women who took part in the Gulf War have contacted the Veterans Administration about a wide variety of health concerns. While many of these vets have been given specific medical diagnoses, approximately 20 percent still suffer from undiagnosed illnesses, often without adequate care or treatment because no formal diagnosis has been reached. Many in the medical field believe these conditions have been caused by exposure to harmful toxic chemicals and/or medical vaccinations.
Sexual Assault. Any veteran, male or female, who has suffered a sexual assault while on active duty, should have an attorney who is sensitive to both the physical and emotional suffering involved in this type of claim. In many of these cases because of the rank of the parties connected with the past assault and the delicate nature of the subject matter, the victim faces within the Veterans Administration itself, obstacles unique to this type of benefits/disability claim. The vet should obtain as much supporting documentation as possible. Letters home, a police report, newspaper articles, emails, counseling records, visits to a chaplain–all provide support. The stressor must be identified. The name of the person who assaulted you is important, and whether you reported it to your superiors. The VA will not accept your word alone
Total Disability Based Upon Individual Unemployability– Federal law states if service connected disabilities prevent a vet from obtaining and keeping gainful employment, they are entitled to a one hundred percent disability rating. These claims, in VA parlance are called Total Disability Individual Unemployability, (TDIU.) Anytime a vet is unable to work because of his or her service related disability, they may quality for TDIU. The VA requires a certain form to be filled out. It helps if Social Security found you disabled.
There is a wide range of VA approved disabilities, all with different percentage ratings. Technically these percentages can be combined, making an injured vet eligible for a one hundred percent disability rating.
This is a very brief overview of some of the challenges a veteran with service related health concerns or disabilities may face attempting to deal on their own with the Veterans Administration. If you have any other physical or psychological diagnoses that you and your physician believe to be related to your time serving our country, it is imperative you seek expert legal advice. While the thought of dealing with all the legal intricacies of the Veterans Administration can be daunting, Mr. Surface with his years of experience can help navigate the rocky waters of a VA appeal.
Nothing is more frustrating than trying to deal with the VA when you or a loved one is disabled due to a service related event. Disability claims have risen dramatically over the last several decades and since the majority of all first claims are denied, the VA is dealing with a huge backlog of complicated appeals processes.
A June 2013 Time Magazine article on the VA backlog said as of July, 2012, active claims and appeals numbered over 800,000. Because of both the backlog and the complicated appeals process, unfortunately, it is not unusual to have a case drag on literally for years. There are specific steps and complicated lengthy paperwork which must be started within one year of when your claim was initially denied.
As we mentioned earlier in the article, no attorney has the authority or power to expedite a claim or an appeal. But an attorney well versed in the entire Veterans Administration process, can and will ensure you eventually get all the benefits you are eligible for.
My 3 Cardinal Rules:
Get Medical Care
File a Claim & Follow the Rules
NEVER Give Up.