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Attorneys Devoted to Veterans Benefits

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The Process of Filing a VA Disability Compensation Benefits Claim

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has many forms that may be confusing to veterans starting the process of filing a claim for VA disability compensation benefits.

File an “Intent to File a Claim”

For instance, the VA has a form titled “Intent to File a Claim”, which is VA Form 21-0966. Another form, titled “Application for Disability Compensation and Related Compensation Benefits”, is VA Form 21-526EZ. It is very important for veterans to understand the difference between these two forms.

An “Intent to File a Claim” is not a claim at all. This form lets the VA know that you will be filing a claim in the future. This form is normally used when you know you need to file a claim but haven’t gathered all the necessary evidence yet. The form is very simple and short; it does not ask for any specific information regarding your service or the disability you are claiming.

Gather all relevant paperwork and evidence

By filing an “Intent to File a Claim” form, you have a year to gather all paperwork and evidence needed. If the VA awards the benefits, it will be from the date you filed your intent to file claim.

For instance, say a veteran receives a cancer diagnosis which he believes was due to exposure to Agent Orange. It may take a while to gather his service records, medical opinions, or other evidence that prove he is entitled to the benefits. If he files an Intent to File claim in January 2020, he has until January 2021 to file the actual claim with supporting documentation. If he files the claim in January 2021 and wins, the VA will backdate the effective date of benefits to January 2020.

However, it is important to understand that an “Intent to File a Claim” is not a claim at all. If the veteran does not follow up with an actual claim within a year, the VA will close the case.

Apply for VA disability compensation

To file an actual claim with the VA, a veteran needs to file an application for Disability Compensation, VA Form 21-526EZ. This form provides the VA with more information as to where you served and the type of benefits you are seeking. Once you file a claim with the VA, you have a year to complete the claim by filing all the necessary evidence to support your claim.

Once you have filed your claim, the VA will make a decision regarding disability compensation.

Appeal the VA’s decision, if necessary

If you received a decision from the VA and are dissatisfied with the outcome, contact us at 1-877-838-1010. There may be something you can do to have a better chance of establishing entitlement to VA disability compensation benefits. Our experienced veteran’s benefits attorneys will be happy to review the decision and provide you with a free consultation.

How Veterans Can Afford Legal Help

At least 5 of the top 10 problems leading to homelessness are issues that cannot be resolved without legal help, according to a study from the Department of Veterans Affairs. Those issues that may lead to veteran homelessness include:

  • Housing and landlord/tenant matters
  • Upgrading military discharge
  • Restoring a driver’s license
  • Disability/pension benefits

Fortunately, there are several affordable avenues for veterans to secure legal help.

Work with a veterans benefits attorney with no little to no upfront costs

The Veterans Benefit Group of Goodman Allen Donnelly proudly offers legal representation to veterans on VA cases with no upfront legal fees. We do not charge veterans or their families any retainer fees or consultation fees in order to take on their case. In most cases at the VA, our attorneys agree to work on a contingency fee basis, which means we only get paid if we win benefits for our client.

The benefit of this approach is that veterans and their families can retain an attorney who specializes in VA disability benefit claims to handle their case, and they don’t have to worry about paying upfront for our legal help.

Attend free legal clinics

The Veterans Benefit Group works with local nonprofits and universities to provide pro bono legal clinics to veterans and their families. These clinics give veterans the opportunity to meet one-on-one with an attorney specializing in veterans benefits. During these meetings, the veteran can ask questions about the process of filing a claim, the benefits available to them, and how to proceed with their claim (if they have filed one).

Find groups that offer free legal services

There are many groups that provide free legal services in other areas of the law. For example, attorneys at Goodman Allen Donnelly attorneys may provide pro bono representation on certain legal matters, such as uncontested divorces and social security claims.

Many states, including Virginia, have legal aid programs established to provide legal services to people who meet the income requirements. Legal aid can provide assistance with a variety of matters, such as bankruptcy, advanced medical directives, employment, child custody, divorce, foreclosures, evictions, and landlord tenant matters.

Many state bars have information on pro bono services available on their website. In states such as Virginia, the state bar has a webpage dedicated to resources available to veterans in the community. Often, the state bars provide links to organizations that provide assistance to veterans in a variety of legal matters. There are also many nonprofits that provide veterans with either legal or financial assistance.

Get a free case evaluation

While there are a variety of legal challenges veterans face, the good news is that there are resources available. If you are a veteran who has an issue on a claim with VA, or a question about what benefits may be available to you, we offer free veterans benefits case evaluations.

If you need help with a non-VA claim matter but aren’t sure where to turn, give us a call and we will do our best to point you in the right direction. Call toll free 877-838-1010 (877-vet-1010).

5 Ways to Show Appreciation for Veterans

Every country has its customs for showing veterans appreciation. For instance, November 11 is a national holiday in France and Belgium. Canadians wear poppies to honor those who have served. In Great Britain, the British Royal Family honors veterans with two minutes of silence on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month—Remembrance Day. In the United States, we have many opportunities to show our deep gratitude and respect for the many sacrifices veterans make on our behalf and in the cause of freedom and justice.
How will you commemorate this important date?

1. Attend a Veterans Day Event

From the luminaries lighting graves at military cemeteries to charity runs, Americans have designated Veterans Day a time to honor those who have gone before and celebrate those who now serve.

Be sure to check your community calendar for parades and special events. Many businesses will be offering discounts to veterans: when we patronize them, we are endorsing their commitment with our dollars.

2. Show your Patriotic Pride

Veterans Day is a time to signal your love of country with flags. Be sure to point out to youngsters the symbolic importance of the flag’s colors and design. Red means courage and strength while the white symbolizes purity and blue is the color of justice. Explain to them the importance of the 13 stripes, each representing one of the original colonies and of the 50 stars in the union.

Hang a flag at home. Place flags at headstones in national cemeteries. Signal to all who can see that we are a nation indivisible.

3. Support Veterans’ Causes

Veterans carry visible and invisible wounds. We are fortunate that so many military and veterans organizations attend to the needs of veterans after they have left active service. These groups rely on donor generosity to sustain programs addressing issues such as veteran homelessness, PTSD, and suicidal ideation..

At a more personal level, consider volunteering at a local shelter, creating a care package for active military overseas, or just preparing a meal for that military service family down the street.

4. Educate Your Children to Say Thank You

Children love stories and telling tales of the sacrifices of earlier generations are important for them to know. Show them photos. Encourage their questions. Take them to a special event honoring veterans. Invite them to send a card or letter to active military personnel. Help them create ways they can express their sincere appreciation to those who serve us so well.

And let them know that they also serve by doing all they can to make their community and the lives of those around them better.

5. Make Every Day Veterans Day

After all, our freedoms have been dearly won and one day a year seems hardly adequate. Each individual who has served leaves loved ones and familiar ground behind. The 2.8 million military families have also made tremendous sacrifices that ultimately ensure our safety, protect our interests, and keep the world a safer place. While their mothers, fathers, husbands, wives, sisters and brothers serve, they deserve our wholehearted support and goodwill. Lest we forget…

Free Veterans Benefits Legal Clinic to be held at UVA School of Law

580 Massie Road, Charlottesville, VA
Monday, November 12, 2018 4:00 to 7:00 pm

The attorneys of the Veterans Benefit Group of Goodman Allen Donnelly will return to the UVA School of Law for another free legal clinic for Central Virginia veterans. In collaboration with the UVA Maxine Platzer Lynn Women’s Center and the UVA School of Law, the clinic will be held on Monday, November 12, from 4:00 to 7:00 p.m. at the University of Virginia Law School (580 Massie Road, Charlottesville, VA). Veterans and family members are welcome to register for the clinic, where they will meet with an experienced attorney one-on-one to discuss questions about disability benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs.

According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, Virginia has one of the highest concentrations of veterans in the country. Observances on and around Veterans Day, November 11, honor the patriotic commitment and sacrifice veterans made during their term of service. Many veterans, after having served their country, suffer from conditions related to their service, and are eligible for disability benefits. “The legal clinics recognize and help resolve the continuing challenges faced by these veterans and their families. Regardless of how, when, or where they served, we work with veterans around the world on a daily basis, helping them navigate the claim process”, said Erin Ralston, an attorney with the firm’s Veterans Benefit Group. “The Charlottesville clinic offers Central Virginia veterans and their families an opportunity to meet with an experienced attorney to review their claim, and discuss their options.”

The clinic is open to all Veterans who pre-register. Free, convenient parking will be available, plus student greeters will be on hand to guide attendees to the event. Those interested in attending may call (804) 565-5961 to pre-register for the event.

For more information on the Legal Clinic program at UVA Maxine Platzer Lynn Women’s center, visit https://womenscenter.virginia.edu/free-legal-clinic

Free Veterans Benefits Legal Clinic to be held at UVA School of Law

580 Massie Road, Charlottesville, VA
Monday, November 6, 4:00 to 7:00 pm

The attorneys of the Veterans Benefit Group of Goodman Allen Donnelly will return to UVA School of Law to hold another free legal clinic for Central Virginia veterans. In collaboration with the UVA Maxine Platzer Lynn Women’s Center and the UVA School of Law, the clinic will be held on Monday, November 6, from 4:00 to 7:00 p.m. at the University of Virginia School of Law (580 Massie Road, Charlottesville, VA). Veterans and family members are welcome to register for the clinic, where they will meet with an attorney one-on-one to discuss questions about disability benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs. According to Erin Ralston, attorney with the Veterans Benefit Group, “As Veterans Day approaches, we are reminded of the tremendous sacrifices of service men and women, and the fact that many veterans continue to suffer from conditions related to their service. These free legal clinics offer a unique opportunity for veterans and family members to meet with an experienced attorney to help navigate the complicated VA disability benefits process.”

The clinic is open to all Veterans who pre-register. Free, convenient parking will be available, plus student greeters will be on hand to guide attendees to the event. Those interested in attending may call (434) 817-2193 to pre-register for the event.

For more information on the Legal Clinic program at UVA Maxine Platzer Lynn Women’s center, visit https://womenscenter.virginia.edu/free-legal-clinic

Firm to sponsor Veterans Consortium Pro Bono Program 25th Anniversary

The Veterans Benefit Group of Goodman Allen Donnelly has been a mission partner with the Veterans Consortium Pro Bono Program for many years.  The firm is proud to be a Veterans Defender sponsor of the Consortium’s 25th Anniversary dinner and awards banquet on October 4 in Washington, D.C. The Pro Bono Program helps provide legal services to veterans in need and their families, caregivers, and survivors. The firm’s Veterans Benefit Group has supported the program through more than 30 successful attorney appellate engagements before the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims, and by providing volunteer mentoring for attorneys of the program for many years.

Free Veterans Benefits Legal Clinic to be held at UVA School of Law, 580 Massie Road, Charlottesville, VA

Monday, July 17, 4:00 to 7:00 pm
The attorneys of the Veterans Benefit Group of Goodman Allen Donnelly will return to UVA School of Law to hold another free legal clinic for Central Virginia veterans. In collaboration with the UVA Maxine Platzer Lynn Women’s Center and the UVA School of Law, the clinic will be held on Monday, July 17, from 4:00 to 7:00 p.m. at the University of Virginia School of Law (580 Massie Road, Charlottesville, VA). Veterans and family members are welcome to register for the clinic, where they will meet with an attorney one-on-one to discuss questions about disability benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs. According to Erin Ralston, attorney with the Veterans Benefit Group, “These clinics offer a unique opportunity to meet with an experienced attorney to help navigate the complicated VA disability benefits process. The attorneys in our group have years of experience dealing with the VA, and we are proud to assist Veterans through these free clinics.”

The clinic is open to all Veterans who pre-register. Free parking will be provided in front of the Law School, and greeters will be on hand to guide attendees. Those interested in attending may call (434) 817-2189 to pre-register for the event.
For more information on the Legal Clinic program at UVA Maxine Platzer Lynn Women’s center, visit https://womenscenter.virginia.edu/legal-clinic/

Conference for the National Organization of Veterans’ Advocates (NOVA)

In April 2017, Erin Ralston will be traveling to San Antonio, Texas, to attend the Spring conference for the National Organization of Veterans’ Advocates (NOVA). The conference will bring together veterans’ advocates from across the country, and they will discuss important topics which pertain to the VA claims process. The NOVA conference is an opportunity for advocates to meet and exchange information about their experiences representing veterans on claims at the VA.

9 Benefits of Having an Attorney Represent You before the VA

Securing veterans benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) can be a long, intimidating battle. Don’t go it alone—partner with an attorney to guide you through the process and secure the benefits you deserve.

  1. Attorneys are trained in interpreting regulations and understanding case law.
    The Veterans Benefit Group of Goodman Allen Donnelly is made up of attorneys that have dedicated their entire legal career to helping veterans. We know how regulations and case law impact your individual case.
  2. Attorneys keep abreast of any changes in the law.
    If there is a change in law that will affect your case, we can analyze how that change affects your case and discuss any implications to your case with you.
  3. Attorneys are trained in identifying the issues that have prevented you from winning your case.
    Many times we see veterans submit the same evidence over and over or make the same arguments time and time again, and are frustrated because they don’t understand why the evidence or arguments are not “good enough” to prove their entitlement to benefits.  We can help you identify what information is missing so VA can grant you the benefits you are entitled to under the law.
  4. Attorneys can help collect missing evidence.
    Evidence such as service records, medical opinions, and statements from family and friends are critical to a case. Attorneys can outline a timeline for gathering all of the necessary evidence and help you obtain missing evidence, necessary medical opinions, and remove obstacles to getting the benefits to which you are entitled.
  5. Our attorneys have access to VA’s computer system.
    With access to the VA’s computer system, we can see the current status of a case. This access allows our attorneys to be more up to date with milestones such as whether you received a decision or letter.
  6. Our attorneys can represent you at all stages of an appeal.
    We can appeal to the Regional Office, Board of Veterans Appeals, and, if necessary, appeal the case to the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims, and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.  Whether your case has been recently denied by the Regional Office, or the Board of Veterans Appeals, or even if you are already at the Court, our attorneys can step in at any point.
  7. Our law firm dedicates an attorney and case manager to each case.
    Having team members dedicated to your case ensures continuity, and allows our firm to become very familiar with your case throughout the various stages of the legal process. By staying by your side from start to finish, we can continue building on the evidence without any fear of something getting lost or making you feel as if you are starting from scratch at every new stage.
  8. Our attorneys will not stop until we have secured all available benefits to you.  
    Because we are so familiar with the benefits and regulations offered by VA, we can determine whether you qualify for additional benefits which the VA has not offered you.
  9. Our attorneys work at the agency level on a contingent fee basis.
    Contingent fee basis means that we don’t get paid unless we secure retroactive benefits for you.  This fee structure also means that you do not have any out-of-pocket expenses for legal fees or any up-front costs.

Whether you are thinking about filing a claim, or have received a denial from the VA, give us a call for a free consultation.  We look forward to hearing from you.

David Shulkin nominated to head the Department of Veterans Affairs

President-elect Donald Trump has nominated David Shulkin to head the Department of Veterans Affairs. 

Shulkin is the VA’s current undersecretary for health, a position in which he has overseen more than 1,700 health care sites across the United States.  Shulkin is a board-certified internist, and was the chief executive or chief medical officer of several hospitals and hospital systems. Shulkin’s nomination will require Senate confirmation, and if confirmed by the Senate, he will become the first non-veteran to oversee the department.

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