Yes. Veterans’ law is a very complex and ever-changing area of law that few lawyers are willing to undertake. Attorneys must apply to the VA and be accredited. Hiring an accredited VA attorney to represent you in the VA law and regulations to decide claims is vitally important to your success in court. When you engage accredited attorneys at Howard & Reed, you are hiring a team skilled at gathering and developing the medical and other items of evidence needed to present your best case. An attorney will also help you prepare for, and attend the hearings held before the decision review officers and veterans law judges.
If you have been denied benefits or received a rating lower than what you deserve, your Howard & Reed attorney is your ally who will represent you and fight for every dollar you may be eligible for.
Contact your local VA Regional Office, 1-800-827-1000 or log on to www.va.gov/ogc/accred_faqs.asp
Mail to your local VA Regional Office VA Form 21-526, (Veterans Application for Compensation and/or Pension). Attach copies of any supportive evidence, such as medical records to the application. Request the form be sent to you by calling 1-800-827-1000 or print a copy from the VA website, www.VA.com. You can also apply online at www.VA.gov. Remember to keep a record of your documents, your user name and password.
Once decided and not appealed, Veterans’ disability claims become final and binding. There are two ways to challenge a decided claim.
1. Use of “Clear and Unmistakable Error” (CUE), a legal argument that a VA decision was wrong. If the claim is successful, benefits are paid dating all the way back to when the claim was originally filed. The required legal proof is very strict. The veteran is required to show that the regulations and facts compiled in the Case File at the time of the prior decision could lead only to one conclusion, and that the VA got the wrong conclusion. CUE claims are not often granted by the court.
2. Use of “New and Material Evidence” to reopen a finalized claim. This approach is an attempt to reopen a denial of a “service connection” for a claimed disability.
You may file a claim seeking to increase the disability percentage which is not reopening the claim. If the VA determines the evidence is both “new” and “material”, the VA will reopen the claim, you will be given another chance to prove the merits of the claim. “Total Disability based on Individual Unemployability” or TDIU, is also called IU and Unemployability. It allows veterans with a certain rating to receive 100% disability pay where the service-connected disability causes a total inability to work based on ratings qualifications.
It is a special court to hear appeals arising from an unfavorable decision by the Board of Veterans’ Appeals. This Court has limited jurisdiction. It reviews the processes followed by VA and determines if it was correct according to law. When error is uncovered, the Court remands, which sends a matter back to the VA for correction.
A remand erases the prior Board decision as if it did not occur, keeps the original filing date and allows another review of your case and submission of new evidence.
Initiating your appeal will involve establishing the official Record to be considered by the Court. A conference will be scheduled with the VA attorney to discuss errors noted in the prior litigation of your claim in an attempt to have your case remanded. If the VA does not concede to error, we will be required to submit a brief that outlines the legal bases for error. The VA has 60 days to respond with its brief. Once the matter gets assigned to a judge, we can expect another 8 – 12 months for a decision.
The VA and Court operate under a substantial backlog. It can take months just to get the record ready and over a year for decisions to be finalized. At Howard & Reed, our goal is to keep your case on track and get your appeal back to the VA for correction of errors at the earliest opportunity and work toward a favorable decision. We negotiate with the VA attorneys in an attempt to shorten the appeal period.
Go to www.VA.gov and click on the “Contact VA” link at the top of the home page.
The VA process is complicated and difficult to navigate alone. We are well versed in the process and welcome you to contact us and discuss your particular case.