Typically, attorneys who are accredited by the VA – like the dedicated VA disability lawyers at Stone Rose Law – only get involved in a VA disability claim after it has been denied by the VA. Unlike other law firms, however, Stone Rose Law is more than happy to assist veterans with well-grounded claims for new disability benefits at no cost to the veteran.
Whether you’re working with us or not, the best possible outcome from a disability claim is a grant of the benefits you’re entitled to receive. Here, we’re going to discuss some tips and tricks we use to maximize the chance of success for filing a new claim.
As VA accredited attorneys, we only charge a fee if we turn a denied claim into an approved one. While we only charge a mere 20% of past due benefits, that is an additional 20% that many veterans can avoid paying by simply putting together a comprehensive claim that is easy to lead to a grant.
So, do a little bit of work up front, and save yourself a whole lot of time and hassle (and cash) later!
Service connection for a disability requires a showing of three things:
Without a doubt, the vast majority of new claims get denied because one of those three elements are not obviously met. By that, we mean that the VA is under tremendous time constraints to decide the ever-growing backlog of claims. So, VA rating staff have to review the extremely dense claims file to see if those three element are plausibly raised by the record.
Unsurprisingly, they frequently overlook, or ignore, evidence which supports one of the three elements.
The first, and easiest, way to increase your likelihood of success on a new claim is to explain how the three elements are met. Consider the following examples.
“Veteran makes a claim for service connection for left knee condition.”
“Veteran claims left knee condition due to overuse as a result of strenuous hiking and forced marches in service.”
In the first scenario, the Veteran is trusting the VA rating staff to review their medical and service treatment records to see if a “left knee condition” is shown by the records. Then, assuming the left knee condition isn’t shown in the records (or many times, even if it is) they are trusting the VA staff to connect their activities in service with the current disability. This is almost always a losing proposition.
Compare to the second scenario, where the Veteran specifically notes what “in service event” they believe caused their knee disability. In this scenario, the VA rating staff should develop the claim and order examinations, as there is sufficient evidence to justify examinations.
Most veterans are not trained medical professionals with qualifications to diagnose disabilities or their likely origins. Recognizing this fact, the VA is supposed to “sympathetically read” all claims applications and broadly construe claims for benefits. As with anything when dealing with the federal government, the actual application is hit or miss.
Consider the following examples:
Scenario 1: Veteran makes a claim for Left Knee ACL laxity and instability. At VA examination, no instability is shown. However, a diagnosis of chronic patellar tendonitis is rendered.
Scenario 2: Veteran makes a claim for left knee condition. At VA examination, instability and pain with limited range of motion is shown. Chronic knee strain and instability were diagnosed.
Now, in both scenarios, the VA should then determine whether or not service-connection is warranted for those particular diagnoses. However, it is more and more common for the VA to outright deny the claim in Scenario 1, because the veteran specifically claimed Left Knee ACL Laxity and instability and was not found to have those conditions on exam.
However, in scenario two, the veteran broadly claimed “left knee condition” which inarguably encompasses the knee strain and instability. Thus, the veteran in Scenario 2 is less likely to get an erroneous denial.
The same holds true for mental conditions as well. Instead of claiming a specific mental condition, try claiming “an acquired psychiatric condition with symptoms of . . . .”. Instead of shoulder dislocation, try “shoulder condition”.
Many, many veterans work for the VA. However, many more civilians work there. And even those VA employees who are veterans may not know exactly what your job entailed or the physical and emotional demands required to be successful.
So, we need to tell them.
This means preparing a detailed statement about your time in service – what your MOS is, what that encompasses. This should be detailed and paint a picture of what a day in the life of a soldier/sailor/airmen/Marine/coast guardsman/space force defender with that MOS does.
For example, instead of saying “knee pain due to ruck marches”, you could provide a detailed statement about your particularly military occupational specialty and describe what these ruck marches entail – the weight, distance, speed, frequency, etc.
Furthermore, corroborating these accounts can go a long way in getting your claim approved the first time around. Thus, statements from people with whom you’ve served regarding your job description, the incurrence of injuries, duties, etc. serve to corroborate your testimony and strengthen the claim overall.
While these tips do not guarantee success, they can greatly improve your odds of getting your claim approved the first time around. However, if you have ever had a claim for benefits denied from the VA, don’t hesitate to call the team at Stone Rose Law today to see how we can assist.
Give us a call for a free consultation at 480-498-8998.