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5 Real Issues All Veterans Need to Know About the VA Disability Timeline

When you have been involved in VA disability for as long as I have, your start to hear the same questions repeated consistently. The most common question we get from new clients involves the Jason Watkins 066timeline. “How long will my VA Disability claim take?” I don’t blame Vets for asking this question. Most people filing for VA disability aren’t having a great time in life, and they need their compensation to help alleviate some of the stress of working with a disability. Honestly, in almost every instance, the answer to “how long will my claim take,” is answered with the following response: “a long time.”

Veterans are frustrated with this process, and they have every right to be upset. I talk to dozens of Veterans every week. Most of us who have never served will never experience anything close to what a majority of the Vets I talk to have described to me. One would think these people wouldn’t have to wait two to four years for their final decisions. But, our country is focused on other things right now, and fixing the VA is only a talking point. Since I am not wealthy enough to run for public office, I will instead share my knowledge about the VA disability timeline. These are 5 actual issues all Veterans should know about the timeline.

  1. It’s not improving. Our government is doing a good job of spinning the numbers pertaining to the VA Disability backlog. The VA states that the backlog is being reduced. Honestly, the way they present that information makes me want to believe it’s true too. However, as I reported back in November of 2015, the backlog reduction only pertains to new applications, not the claims that are on appeal. So yes, they may have reduced initial backlog, but the appeals process still takes just as long. If there is one thing I want a Veteran to take away from this list, it’s the appeals process, and the disability process as a whole, is not going to be quick.
  2. Active Duty Military Personnel approaching discharge have an advantage. There is actually a program in place for active members called Benefits Delivery at Discharge. This is often referred to as BDD. You have to apply between 60 and 180 days before your discharge date. The VA expedites these claims and BDD participants are supposed to receive their decision within 60 days of applying. However, the VA does not always meet those deadlines. This plan is far superior to waiting until you receive your discharge. If you wait until discharge, you will have to wait 8-12 months before a decision is made.
  3. Your location matters. As you may already be aware, each state has its own VA Regional Office. The Regional Office houses the individuals who work on all of the disability claims for the state. Fancy states like Texas have more than one regional office. The Regional Offices process all claims and they decide who gets benefits and who doesn’t. It’s also the place in which hearings are held. So, when our attorneys venture to a regional office to represent a Veteran, it’s reminiscent of the scene in “The Hunger Games” where Katniss breaks into the capital. However, President Snow is a saint compared to the pure evil that exists in the VA. Nerdy references aside, your location makes a huge difference in your case. There are a lot of factors that determine why a state has more Veterans than others. Generally speaking, if you are a Veteran who lives in the North East, or the West (excluding California,) you’re going to have a shorter wait than Veterans who live in the south or the Mid-West. Because of our firms experience with VA Disability, and the fact that we do represent Veterans in all 50 states, we know which Regional Offices have the worst backlog. I don’t really want to bash any office because there are great people working for the VA, and many of them are actually Vets. However, if you live in the city that forgave Lebron James, you’re wait time will not “rock.”
  4. The further along your case is, the longer the wait is for the next step. This is especially true when you get to the BVA level. I have witnessed a few Veterans wait more than two years for a BVA hearing. Granted, not everyone will have to wait that long, but a BVA wait is often quite lengthy. There are ways to alleviate this. On average, if you request a video hearing over a traveling board or in person hearing, you likely won’t wait as long.
  5. Do not wait to file an appeal. Here is a situation we see far too often when Veterans come to us for representation. After you file your initial claim, you will receive a decision. You have migraines-vet-disabilityone year to file that appeal. Do not wait until week 50 to file an appeal. So many Vets come to us just a few weeks before their decision expires. While that May not seem like a big deal, think about this scenario. (Be patient, I am about to do math for the first time since undergrad.) Lets say that you filed your first claim in March of 2013. The VA then decided your case in March of 2014, and you were of course denied. You then have until March of 2015 to file an appeal. If you wait until March of 2015 to file the appeal, you likely won’t receive a decision again until March of 2016. I am going to try to make this a little less convoluted. If you wait the full year to file the appeal, you will only be at the third step of the process, and you’re now already three years into the claim. If you file your appeal in March of 2014 (When you received your initial decision) you will save one whole year. I get it though. I love putting things off, that’s what I have so many cavities. But when someone who procrastinates as much as I do tells you to “get on it,” take my advice.

After all of those negatives, let’s end on a positive note. Stick with your claim. Do not let the frustration get the best of you. I have seen people wait for years and finally get approved. On rare occasions we’ve gotten individuals connected up to 10 years after they filed their initial claim. In fact, I’ve worked in this industry for 5 years now. People I talked to way back in 2011 have received their final decisions. If you feel like this is overwhelming, ask for help. I know this may be hard to believe, but I work with a bunch of people who actually like VA Disability Law. Well, maybe not the law per se. We like working with Veterans. We are passionate about helping Vets. If I’m honest, I personally enjoy talking to those who have served. You won’t find that level of commitment other places. In other words, call me. Tell me your story, and I will let you know what we can do to help. If we can’t help, we’ll be honest with you.

If you like what you read today, call us for a free consultation. Our number is 1-877-526-3457. Or, fill out this form, and I’ll call you instead

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(Almost) Everything Veterans Need To Know About eBenefits

There aren’t a lot of guarantees in this world. However I think we can all agree that we will all eventually pass away, we will never see Vin Diesel win an Oscar, and if you’re a Veteran, you know that ebens 2if you call the VA, you are in for a long wait. It’s a reality too many Veterans are aware of in our modern time. Now, my goal is not to shame the VA, that’s not my job…but wait times can get ridiculous. A friend of mine recently called the VA’s 1-800 number and was put on hold for more than four hours prior to hanging up. And while it may seem like I am just making this up to make my blog seem more entertaining, he actually sent me screen shots of his phone during the wait. So, what other options do Veterans have when it comes to obtaining information about their disability benefits, healthcare, and other VA programs? The internet may have the answers.

We find that a lot of the Veterans we interact with are often not aware of the VA website “eBenefits.” Before we get too far along I want to inform my readers that my information is not a result of first-hand experience with the website. As I am not a Veteran myself, I can’t actually access most features of the site. My experience comes from what I can obtain as a civilian as well as my interactions with Veterans over the past several years.

So, what is eBenefits? Essentially the eBenefits website is a web portal in which Veterans can access information about their disability benefits, healthcare records, and even enroll in programs for education and housing. I am a cynic, especially when it comes to the VA, and even I was impressed by everything you can do on this site. I was also surprised to learn that it has been around since 2007. I mean the same organization that sends my firm claim files in paper form, and as we learned this week, has a finical management software dating back to the 70’s, actually started a web portal just a couple of years after Facebook was created. (I told you I was cynical.) However, I actually do applaud the VA for this program. Many facilities did not make online access a priority until several years later. As someone who works in social media, I will also say that the VA does really great job with their social media presence. However, if your waiting months to see a doctor for your PTSD, a nicely worded Tweet isn’t going to do you much good. Maybe the social media team can share some of their efficiency with disability administrators.

You might be wondering why you, as a Veteran, should use eBenefits. That’s actually a simple answer. It offers a great alternative to calling the 1-800 number. Further, you have quicker access to your medical records. With eBenefits you can see what is going on with your VA Disability Claim, and you can even file for benefits by way of the site. Due to the fact that I am not a Vet and I have no first-hand knowledge of this tool, I decided to ask some friends of mine what their thoughts were on the eBenefits site. My buddy John stated that he found it pretty helpful. He went on to say “I use it to keep track of claims and to get proof of payment, rating, etc.” Further, another friend of mine, Jamie, is the spouse of a Veteran. She states that they always use the website as opposed to the 1-800 number. Further, she states that they actually find it very helpful. As a whole, if you aren’t being represented by an attorney, it’s a good way to stay up to date with your VA Disability timeline. A warning though: you will likely go very long periods of time without a status change

photos_4_005_w640Is it accurate? Well, sort of. Honestly, from what I have been told by Veterans, it is better than it used to be. It’s not flawless, but it works well enough for what most people need it to do. When I first started working with Vets, most people complained that it was not very accurate and rarely updated the status of a case. Now it’s not as much of an issue. It’s not completely without issue, but it’s getting there.

So, why would I be telling my readers about eBenefits? Honestly, I have a vested interest in this site because it is helpful for what we do at the firm. Too often we encounter Veterans who aren’t aware of the status of their case. Either they had a representative who didn’t keep them informed or it’s simply been too long for them to remember their most recent decision. Well, with eBenefits a Veteran can get all of the up to date information we need to determine eligibility for their claim. This includes the status of their claim, their percentages, and what disabilities they have applied for in the past. This can be a big help for our initial appointment.

So, if you have you want to get some answers a little quicker from the VA, check out the VA eBenefits site. It’s free, works pretty well, and can be pretty helpful. If you want to know what we can do to help you with your claim, fill out this form so that we can contact you for a free consultation. Or, if you’d rather talk to me, call me toll free today: 1-877-526-3457.

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5 Simple Rules For Filing Your VA Disability Appeal

Who else likes putting things off? I know I do. In fact, to illustrate how much I procrastinate, I was intending on writing this blog two weeks ago.  Full disclosure, I was in undergrad for 6 years Appeals blogbecause I did not take the proper classes the first time they were available for my major. It really held me up and created a lot more problems for me down the road. So, it’s safe to say that I know the consequences of putting things off. One area in which an individual really shouldn’t procrastinate is the area of VA Disability.

I know what you are thinking. The VA takes their sweet time when making decisions, why should I be in a hurry to get back to them? I agree, the VA is slower than a person from Ohio in the passing lane on the interstate. However, they don’t mess around when it comes to your deadlines for your decisions. If you are even one day late past the deadline your claim will close. This can mean a total loss of back pay for your claim and you will likely have to start over from the beginning. No one wants that. So here are some helpful reminders for filing your appeals in a timely manner.

1. The appeal deadlines aren’t the same for every decision. It would be awesome if every decision had a time limit of 120 days, but that is not the VA way. Every type of decision is different when it comes to response times. Here is a quick way to remember the time limit for each decision.

Proposals to sever or decrease your benefits:  30 days to appeal.

Rating Decision: One year to appeal.

DRO Decision: One year to appeal.

Statement of the Case: 60 days to appeal.

Supplemental Statement of the Case: 30 days to appeal.

BVA decision: 120 days to appeal.

2. The clock starts ticking the on the date posted on the decision. We’ve seen a lot of Veterans get confused by this before coming to our firm. A lot of people think that it starts when they receive the decision. That is not the case. I’ve heard too many stories of Vets getting their decisions weeks or months after they were sent out. So, the date on the decision is the one you go by.

3. Speaking of mail, don’t wait until the last minute to file your appeal. In fact, if you can avoid using regular mail, please do so. The reason is that if you mail your appeal in, there is no way to guarantee the VA received it. Some people will send it certified, other will submit it electronically, but we find that faxing works well because you receive a confirmation from the receiving fax machine. If the VA tries to say that they did not receive your appeal prior to the deadline, a confirmation can be used to argue the effective date.

4. Beware of multiple timelines. The easiest thing to do in VA disability is file for all of your claims at once. If you do this, you are more likely to have all of your claims decided at the same time. That is not a 100% guarantee, but it is more likely to happen. Dealing with one timeline is much simpler than dealing with several. Granted, you may have to add claims on at later times. If so, make sure you appeal every decision you want to pursue. You could possibly file an appeal for one decision thinking it covered everything, when in reality; it only covered a few of your claims.

5. Keep it simple. People often ask us why they should hire an attorney. Among all of the other services we provide, we also have the people in place to keep claims from closing. We have protocols to file appeals in a timely manner. We also have dedicated computer software that helps our case managers stay on track. Hiring an attorney can greatly reduce the stress associated with the VA process. I know it may seem like a sales pitch, but we have helped thousands of Veterans get the benefits they deserve. It gives me great joy to tell a Veteran we are helping them with their case, and then hear the relief in their voice after. No one should have to fight the VA alone.

If you would like to know more about VA Disability, or if you’d like to schedule a free consultation, give us a call today. Our toll free number is 1-877-526-3457. If you can’t talk today, fill out this form, and we’ll give you a call at a later date.

 

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