If veterans come to us with a VA disability claim that has been denied by the VA, they are understandably frustrated and wondering what they can do to ultimately prevail on their VA disability claim.
Never Miss a VA Deadline
Our first piece of advice is to never miss a VA deadline. Failure to submit the appropriate documentation by the VA imposed deadlines will result in the VA stating that the claim is final and cannot be appealed. The VA will then use this against a veteran forever. This blog post explains the VA deadlines.
Submit Correct VA Forms
Secondly, we tell veterans to ensure that they are using the correct forms as far as an initial claim form, notice of disagreement, and VA form 9. These blog posts and links explain these forms.
Finally, as far as the substance of the claim is concerned, veterans can do a number of things to enhance and help their VA claims. In order to be successful with a VA disability claim, the veteran must have a current disability and this current disability must be related to an event in service, which is commonly referred to as “service connection.”
If a veteran is seeing a current treating physician, we advise veterans to bring what military medical records they have to their physician and ask their doctor to put together a letter to the VA discussing the veterans current disability and, if the doctor can so opine, state that:
“based upon my knowledge of the veteran and, after examining the veteran and reviewing the veteran’s medical records, it is my opinion that the veteran’s current disability or disabilities of ______________________ is/are more likely than not related to his/her active-duty military service.”
If the VA denied a veteran’s claim stating that it was not service-connected, the best thing a veteran can do is to get “buddy statements.” These are statements from former military service colleagues who can write a statement saying why the current disability that a veteran has is related to his military service. For instance, if a veteran hurt himself on active duty, one or two of his close friends would most likely know about it and recall the incident. These buddies may also recall the veteran complaining about a certain something that happened and they can write a supporting statement of what they recall. In this day and age of Google and Facebook, it is easier than ever to locate two or three military friends who can recall the specific and usually traumatic event that caused the veterans disability.
Ron Sykstus is a Managing Partner of several of the Bond & Botes Law Offices throughout Alabama. He holds a Bachelor of Science from the University of Arizona, Tucson, and a Juris Doctorate from the Northern Illinois University College of Law. Ron has served in numerous positions throughout the U.S. Army and now utilizes his expertise in the areas of VA issues, security clearances, military law, and bankruptcy to assist his clients when they need it most. Read his full bio here.