National Veteran Affairs Disability FAQs | Jackson & MacNichol Law Offices

You Fought for Us

Now Let Us Fight for You


National Veteran Affairs Disability FAQs

How To Select A Reliable Veterans Benefits Lawyer

Selecting a reliable benefits lawyer for veteran’s matters is just as complicated as selecting a lawyer for any other important matter. But there are certain things you can look to. Probably the best single guide is whether the lawyer is a member of the National Organization of Veterans Advocates. That organization has been the premiere organization for those representing veterans for the last 25 years. And those who are members are, generally speaking, the most experienced and qualified attorneys in the arena. The other things that you can look at are whether the veteran representative is a person who is listed on the Court of Appeals for Veterans Affairs Web site. If you look at that list, what you will find are lawyers with considerable degree of experience and with a breadth of knowledge who handle complicated cases at the court level. The other list that you can look at alternatively and these only partially overlap, are whether the attorney has been certified by the Veterans Administration, the Department of Veterans Affairs itself. But certainly those are the topics you should know or sources you should start with. The other question that you should ask every veteran’s lawyer if you intend to hire them to represent you is how many cases like this have you handled? Because a number of people, although accredited by the Veterans Administration, actually have handled very few cases and as a result may not have the breadth of knowledge necessary to get the right result in your case. 

How To File An Appeal

Filing an appeal in V.A. compensation cases has become much more complicated. At one time, You could simply send any written document to the V.A. explaining that you wanted to appeal. Unfortunately, now the V.A., in order to make its processing of cases simpler internally, insist that you use a particular form. But the good news is you can get the form on the website. You can either fill it out on the website and file it electronically, or you can print it out and take it or send it to the V.A. The only requirement is that it be in writing and on the form and received by the V.A. Unfortunately, sometimes things go astray, so it’s important to use certified mail or to hand deliver the document to the V.A. and get a receipt. But as long as the document gets to the V.A. on the form, your appeal will be valid.

How To Appeal Your Denied Claim

Appealing a denied claim in the Veterans Administration system is more complicated than it used to be in the past. Now a requirement has been imposed by the V.A. that you use a specific form. Generally speaking, the most common form that you would encounter for the appeal is a form 10182, which is an appeal from the denial to the Board of Veterans Appeals. There are some other alternatives, but that is the primary one. 

How To Get Your Disability Benefits Back Pay

The way the Veterans Administration, now the Department of Veterans Affairs, handles retroactive benefits is fairly straightforward. From the time you file your claim with the V.A., the clock starts, if you will. When the V.A. finally decides your claim, they can typically pay you back to the date you filed the claim. There are some exceptions where you might not be able to go all the way back to the date of the claim, or you might, under some very limited circumstances, be able to go back a year earlier than the date you filed. But generally speaking, your benefits will run from the date you filed your claim. 

How To Apply For Veteran’s Compensation Benefits

The way you apply for veterans compensation benefits now is to submit a specific form, the 526EZ form, to the Veteran’s Administration. However, if you send a letter to the Veteran’s Administration asking them to open a claim, under most circumstances you will be protected from that date because the V.A. has an obligation to re-contact you in response to that letter and to start a claim or help you to start a claim by sending you the appropriate forms. It’s better if you start your claim with the form every time, but the written document to the V.A. saying you want to open a claim will usually protect you, although not always. 

How To Apply Online For VA Disability Benefits

The way you apply online for disability compensation with the Department of Veterans Affairs is by going on the V.A. website and opening a form 526EZ. You can fill that in on the form, on the screen, on the Internet and submit it electronically, or you can print out the form and fill it out manually and either mail it or take it to the V.A.

How To Know Which VA Benefits You Are Eligible For

Generally speaking, most veterans do not seem to know what benefits they’re eligible for. There are three kinds of veterans benefits that you can look to primarily for disability compensation. One is called a non-service connected pension. That benefit is available to any veteran who is disabled and who served an appropriate period in a time of war. They don’t have to have been in combat, but they have to serve during a recognized period of war, such as World War II, the Korean conflict, Vietnam, or the current ongoing difficulties in the Middle East. The second and most common type of benefit is for a disability or illness that is connected to service. For example, mental health conditions such as PTSD that spring from someone’s combat experience are a source of entitlement to benefits. Others are much more obvious: injuries in a Jeep accident, injury to your back when lifting a heavy footlocker. Any current medical condition that is tied to or caused by your time in the service and that you can demonstrate a medical connection, usually a written medical opinion from a physician tying the current disability to an event or illness in service, will entitle you to benefits at some level. Unfortunately, it’s not practical to explain without knowing the specific facts what level of disability benefits you would be entitled to because the V.A. rates disability benefits at a whole scale ranging from zero percent to 100 percent. And it depends a great deal on what the nature of the disability is. The third type of benefit that I wanted to mention that’s related to disability is what the Veterans Administration, now the Department of Veterans Affairs, calls total disability based on individual unemployability. And that benefit is unusual, it doesn’t follow the usual veterans schedule, 0 to 100. What it does is to say if the combination of all the service-connected disabilities that you have makes you unable to work, then in that instance, even if you are not rated at 100 percent, the Department of Veterans Affairs can pay you at the 100 percent rate. That’s a very important benefit for folks who are now disabled as a result of service, connected injuries or illnesses, but whose combined rating under the V.A. combined rating table does not reach 100 percent. 

What Is The Most Common VA Disability?

The most common V.A. disability is actually ringing in the ears, or tinnitus, because so many people in the service are exposed to various kinds of noise, whether it’s tank exhaust or cannon fire or rifle fire or mortar fire or just the noise that jet aircraft make taking off and landing. But the ones that generate more extensive percentages of compensation tend to be back injuries and neck injuries and mental health injuries. Those are all very common. Knees are also very common, particularly among folks who’ve been paratroopers. 

What is a Veteran’s Lawyer?

A veteran’s lawyer is an attorney who is either admitted to practice before the Court of Appeals for Veterans claims or certified by the V.A. to represent veterans at the lower levels of the veteran’s practice and who represents veterans as the primary nature of their legal practice, as opposed to someone who primarily does family law but occasionally represents a veteran. 

How To Know If You Qualify For VA Benefits

Knowing whether you qualify for V.A. benefits can be quite confusing. Generally speaking, it’s helpful to consult a veteran’s lawyer to find out about your eligibility, but the basic rule is this: to qualify for disability compensation with the V.A., you must have a current medical problem, an illness or condition; that illness or condition must be related to something that happened in the service or has grown out of something that happened in the service; and there must be a medical opinion connecting the current disability with service. 

How To Check Your V.A. Appeal Status

Checking your V.A. appeal status is actually very complicated, but in recent years, the V.A. has tried to make it simpler. There is an Internet access called E Benefits, which any veteran can sign up for, and that will show the current status of the claim. The tricky part about E Benefits that is very confusing to people is that the E Benefits will show a projected date for action on the claim. What many people don’t understand is that that is not a hard date and that the V.A. sets these projected dates for completion of the claim, but then resets them periodically internally. It is not, as some folks have found to their chagrin, a firm date for action on their claim. 

Alternatively, there is a system known as VBMS, which veterans service organizations and veterans lawyers can access, to tell a particular veteran the status of his claim. If you don’t have access to either of those, it’s a plain old fashioned “pick up the phone and call.” Unfortunately, the V.A. hotlines often have a waiting time of 20, 30, 40 minutes for you to get access to a person, and that person often doesn’t know exactly what the status of your case is. We’ve seen a number of instances where the correct status of the claim was not reported by the person on the hotline causing problems in multiple ways.

How Much Does A VA Lawyer Cost?

A V.A. Lawyer costs less, as a rule, than a personal injury lawyer or a worker’s compensation lawyer. Most people have heard that personal injury lawyers charge 33 percent or 40 percent of the amount that’s received. Veterans lawyers, on the other hand, generally charge 20 to 30 percent of the amount received. Typically, the fee agreement will either be 30 percent based on direct payment by the veteran to the attorney or 20 percent of the past-due benefits based on direct payment by the Veterans Administration to the attorney. The important part is that, unless you have a very unusual fee arrangement with your lawyer, the only time you will have to pay a fee is when you actually receive benefits and it will only be from the retroactive or past due benefits. There will be no requirement to pay money out of your ongoing benefits. 

How To Pay Your VA Lawyer Once Your Case Is Won

Generally speaking, V.A. lawyers get paid after the case is won one of two ways: either you will have a fee agreement that calls for you to meet with the attorney and, when the payment is made, to settle with the attorney, as you would in a personal injury case or a compensation case, literally dividing up the money and paying your agreed percentage to the attorney or, in firms like ours where we don’t try to put veterans in that situation, you can have a fee agreement where the attorney will simply be paid directly by the Veterans Administration and you won’t have to pay anything other than expenses out of your pocket. 

How To Check Your VA Claim Status

There are limited ways of checking your V.A. claim status. The most common for individual veterans is to call the veterans hotline. And unfortunately, you have to wait, often as much as a half an hour or more, to get a person and then wait for them to check on the status of your claim, and unfortunately, not always get it right. There are some electronic ways to check if you’re more technologically sophisticated. You may wish to open an E Benefits account which will show you the projected status of your claim, and by projected status, I mean E Benefits will show a date when the V.A. has internally set as their best guess on when they’re going to complete the claim. Unfortunately, that’s not a hard date and it gets pushed forward quite frequently. The other alternative is to work with a veteran’s attorney who has access to their internal system called VBMS, which will show electronically the current status of your claim. 

How To Get A VA Award Letter

The way you get a V.A. award letter is by starting a claim with the V.A., pursuing that claim to the point that the V.A. grants the benefits, and what they will do at that point is to issue an award letter. And in that letter, they will say what claim or claims, can be multiple claims, they have found you eligible for compensation for; what percentage rate they have applied to those claims; what the combined rating percentage is; and the date that they started the payments from, so that you can calculate. Just hypothetically, you’re going to get a thousand dollars a month, and it started two years ago, you know that you’re going to get twenty-four thousand dollars, but you have to calculate that based on the percentages.

What is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)?

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a new term for an old problem. Military personnel have always suffered from the horrors they experience during combat. PTSD is a term that originated around 1980 to describe the emotional impact of those incidents on human beings, especially veterans coming home from the Vietnam War, particularly veterans returning from heavy combat.

Unfortunately, it is not an easily detected problem because there are no external signs a person is suffering from PTSD. It’s not like being shot or wounded by a mine. It is a much more subtle problem to detect, but very disabling for many veterans.

How can a veteran go about filing a disability claim with the Department of Veterans Affairs?

It’s very easy! All you have to do is simply contact your local Department of Veterans Affairs Office. There is at least one office in every state, most likely in the state capital, but it varies from state to state.

When contacting the VA, just tell them you want to make a claim. The VA will send you a form. If your disability prevents you from making a claim, your local congressman or senator can send a letter to the VA on your behalf and they will open a claim based on that letter.

How long does it take to get VA benefits once I apply?

The time varies enormously. It can happen relatively quickly (6 months to a year) or it can take as long as 10 or more years depending on your claim. But typically, if there is a relatively clear case and you have a representative who presents your case effectively, your claim will be decided within 6 to 18 months depending on which Regional Office of the VA you’re dealing with.

What makes a person eligible for Veterans Disability compensation?

You’re eligibility for Veterans Disability compensation depends on the relationship between your physical or emotional disability and your time in-service. Typically for physical things, it will be an injury while serving. Sometimes an injury doesn’t seem serious at the time, but the injury develops more seriously as you age. Or, it can be a mental or emotional problem that becomes more severe after leaving services.

What is the difference between Veterans Disability compensation and Veterans Disability pension?

The Department of Veterans Affairs has two different programs for veterans who suffer from disabilities. Disability compensation is a program to compensate those whose disabilities, whether physical or emotional, are directly tied to service. Disability pension, on the other hand, is a program for veterans who have served in times of war and have become disables but whose conditions are not directly connected to service.

What should I do if my Veterans Disability claim is denied?

The very first thing you should do if your Veterans Disability claim is denied is contact the VA immediately and tell them you disagree with the decision by putting it in writing. The VA calls it a “Notice of Disagreement” or NOD. You only have to send a short note or letter saying you disagree with the decision and that you want to appeal. You must say you want to appeal.

You can also hire legal representation to help you with appealing your denial.

What are DIC benefits and accrued benefits?

DIC benefits and accrued benefits are the benefits that the Department of Veterans Affairs can pay to the spouse of a deceased service member. Essentially the purpose is to compensate them financially for the loss of the service member.

There are two types: DIC benefits and accrued benefits. DIC benefits are payable for the loss of the service member and their income. Accrued benefits are payment of benefits that the service member was entitled to be paid during his lifetime.

How does the VA determine my level of disability and compensation?

The way the VA determines the level of disability and compensation by what they call ratings exams. The VA will send you to an evaluation by a physician (or psychologist psychiatrist for mental health issues) who will give the VA a report on various criteria about the severity of your condition. Depending on the nature of your condition, your rating can be anywhere from as low as 0 percent up to 100 percent. Typically, many claims are rated in the 10 to 30 percent range, but more severe claims may be rated anywhere from 60 to 100 percent.

What is compensation for unemployability?

Unemployability or TDIU is the VA’s short-hand term for Total Disability based on Individual Unemployability. This just means there are certain cases where the veteran’s disability is so severe it prevents the veteran from working. In those cases, the government compensates by giving a higher rating, a 100 percent benefit payment, even though the actual percentage rate assigned by the VA is less than 100 percent.

What is secondary service connection?

If you have a condition caused by service in a war that later results in another limiting condition, that secondary condition can be claimed as a secondary service connection just as if it were caused by service.

Are Veterans Disability benefits taxable?

No, veterans’ benefits are not taxable.

How much of a benefit does the VA pay?

The answer is somewhat complicated. It depends on two things: whether or not you’re receiving non-service connected pension or service-connected compensation.

If you’re receiving service-connected compensation, it depends on the percentage rating of disability you have been assigned by the VA. If you have a rating of 10%, you can receive up to $123 per month or up to $2,673 a month if you’re rating is 100 percent. It varies depending on your rating from the VA.

If you’re receiving pension, the maximum amount you can receive per year is up to $11,830 per year, or with a spouse, up to $15,493 per year.

What benefits are available to veterans affected by Agent Orange?

Benefits available for veterans affected by Agent Orange vary considerably It depends entirely on what condition or conditions have been determined by the VA to be service-connected based on Agent Orange. There are a number of conditions that can be service-connected based on Agent Orange such as soft tissue problems, cancers, Type II Diabetes and more. The compensation rate varies depending on your rating from the VA.

Do I need a lawyer to apply for VA benefits?

Technically, you don’t, but it is helpful to have experienced representation like the attorneys at Jackson & MacNichol. There are many helpful veterans’ services organizations such as the American Legion, the VFW, the Paralyzed veterans of American, or Vietnam Veterans of America. Make sure you have an expert in the claims process who is dedicated to your claim. Unfortunately, many local VA offices are overwhelmed with the volume of claims and don’t have time to focus on your individual claim and prepare it effectively.

Contact our office today for a FREE evaluation of your claim.

Monthly Disability Benefits
disability benefits
Learn More
Total Disability Based On Individual Unemployability
Total disability based
on individual unemployability (TDIU)
Learn More
Veterans Disability Compensation
disability compensation
Learn More

Need Legal Assistance?

See How Our Attorneys At Jackson & MacNichol Can Help You

Social Security

Social Security Disability Insurance payments are available to wage earners who have become disabled. Supplemental Security Income payments are available to those with limited income who are disabled.

We represent SSD cases in Maine, Boston, and the whole of New England.

Veterans Disability

As a proud member of the National Association of Veterans' Advocates (NOVA), we offer representation at all stages of the benefits claim process.

We represent Veterans in their disability benefits cases nationwide.

Estate Planning

Estate planning involves more than just writing a will. It’s an active process of evaluating your needs, keeping track of your assets, and determining what legal actions need to be taken to meet your goals and protect your loved ones.

We offer a no obligation, complementary estate planning and asset protection review.

Contact Us Today!   Call toll free (888) 492-2941 or

Get started!