Strategies our Georgia disability lawyers use to win your appeals claim
Military service-related health conditions can make it hard for you to cover your daily living and health care expenses. Due to the dangerous nature of many military positions, it’s common to experience injuries that can leave you disabled long after your time in service is over.
Filing for VA disability benefits is your first step towards receiving the help that you need, but the process of getting your claim accepted can often be challenging. If your initial application is denied, you may need to attend a disability appeals hearing.
Although there are no guarantees, you can use these tips to understand how to win a VA disability claim appeal and ways to help your attorney.
Start documenting your medical claims immediately
Service members who develop health conditions while they are still actively serving should document their medical problems soon as possible.
The VA leaves the burden of proof on you, and it can be harder to demonstrate the relationship between your military service and the health issue as time goes on. Creating a clear history of your health problems that begin during your service can help you now or down the road.
If you’ve already missed that critical time window, then you still have options. You may have to dig a little deeper, but it might be possible to find proof of your health condition that traces back to your military service such as medical records and bills.
Certain health conditions, such as those related to specific chemicals, are also sometimes recognized as being common in people who have served in the military.
Request statements from trustworthy family and friends
Your medical records show the clinical side of your story, but they don’t always tell the whole truth about what you deal with every day. During an appeals hearing, you can use statements from your friends and family members to highlight the emotional and physical toll that your service-related health conditions take on your life.
When you choose people to provide a statement, make sure that they are reputable. People who live with you or spend large amounts of time with you are best.
For example, your live-in partner might be able to detail how they have had to take on many of the burdens of caring for your house or children if your health condition limits your abilities significantly. Or they can talk about seeing you in pain or having to help you with your activities of daily life.
Explore every opportunity to support your claim
The best way to appeal a VA disability claim denial is to get the evaluators to see the possibility of connections between your health conditions and your military experience. This often means going through your entire case file to identify patterns in your service treatment records as well as your post-service treatment records.
For example, you might be able to show that your current mental health diagnosis is related to severe pain or injuries that you experienced during your service. Or you might be able to show that you repeatedly went for treatment for back pain during your military service, and this could have been the beginning of a major spinal injury that presented later in life.
Using your treatment history to create a bigger picture of your medical issues makes it easier for the evaluators to see that your past symptoms could be connected to your struggles today.
Get a medical expert’s opinion
You have the right to seek an evaluation from a civilian medical expert. Although the VA evaluators may conduct a thorough investigation, it’s always possible that they could miss something.
A physician who is working directly for you can give your situation the time and attention that it needs to develop the best possible diagnosis and connection to your military service. This can be provided to the evaluators to get them thinking about alternatives to their own findings.
Don’t lock yourself into a single diagnosis
One issue that sometimes arises is that a veteran will claim a single diagnosis in an effort to simplify their case. Unfortunately, this can sometimes lead to a claim denial if evidence suggests that other health conditions could be causing your symptoms.
You’ll also want to avoid self-diagnosing. Let the medical team come to their own conclusions based on your symptoms and health conditions.
Take advantage of your right to hire an attorney
You relied upon your fellow service members to help you during your service. Now, don’t try to fight a VA disability claims battle alone. Once you notify the VA that you disagree with a denial of your claim, you have the right to hire a disability lawyer.
Your lawyer can potentially help you find new records from your service treatments that could further prove a link to your disability. They’ll also know how to prepare you to counteract the common arguments that evaluators tend to make against a claim.
Attending a VA disability appeals hearing is uncharted territory for most veterans. Working with an experienced lawyer helps you to navigate the appeals process and present a strong case that makes your need for financial assistance clear. You can proceed with full confidence that you have the right representation for your upcoming hearing.