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Denied Once Too Many Times By the VA?

by Eva Holmes

Most veterans have heard some kind of horror story about dealing with Veterans Affairs before getting out of the military. There's no shortage of advice about having your paperwork in exact order, being prepared to wait, and expecting a routine denial as some sort of initiation. Things are not the same for everyone, but with strict anti-fraud policies, it's understandable that a veteran's claim may be denied on the first review because of clerical errors. If you've corrected your information and have been denied again, it's best to get a lawyer's advice. Here are a few traits of the VA disability claim system as well as ways that disability lawyers can help.

Dealing with a Service-Connected Conundrum

To be approved for VA disability benefits, your condition must be both related to the military and currently causing a problem. This means that you'll need some sort of evidence that was created while you were in the military, complaints in your military medical record about the issue, or some sort of official documentation that argues "this happened during my military service." This also means that you need to prove your current suffering.

Proving a military connection is only a sure-fire victory if the documentation is in your military medical record already. This filters out most fraudulent claims as well as veterans who were afflicted before or after their military service with no significantly worsening symptoms. If you don't have an exact scan or diagnosis of the problem, you'll at least need proof of a few visits to medical professionals with statements matching up with your condition.

If you don't have that evidence, it's a tricky game to prove how old a condition may be. This means that medical professionals need to prove that your condition looks old enough to be from your military years or that some event could be linked to your condition. Agent Orange is the prime example of such claims, since many veterans didn't know of the link between the chemical and their conditions until after their discharges. 

Such claims are called presumptive claims (as listed in this PDF document from the VA). They presume that a condition links up with situations and potential risks that can be proven by your military record, such as where you were, what you may have handled, or what you were exposed to.

Get a Lawyer to Connect the Dots

Some conditions are harder to link than others. Agent Orange was a terrible experience for the involved veterans in terms of both symptoms and the fight to be recognized as an afflicted group, and although it paved the way to a more open and understanding VA decision system, it's still difficult to link conditions such as tumors, seizures, or psychological conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) to certain events.

A lawyer is needed to find the historical data, trends, and evidence and place them in legal language that supports your claim. Disability lawyers have more experience with researching the required evidence or being open to certain unfounded ideas that could lead to a successful claim.

Contact a team of disability lawyers, such as one from Cooper & Bayless PA, to discuss your claim and to find more evidence to support your next appeal.