Answers to some of our clients most common concerns
Click any of the questions below to display the answer.
If you have additional questions, please email or call us.
How long have you been helping veterans?
The attorneys in our firm have been working for veterans and their families since 1990, first with medical malpractice in VA hospitals and branching out to defend veterans’ benefits since 1998. Our lead attorney previously worked for the VA both at the Board of Veterans’ Appeals and at the VA General Counsel (the lawyers who defend the VA in the court of Appeals for Veterans Veterans’ Claims). Another attorney on our vet team served as a law clerk for a Judge at the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans claims. Combined, our attorneys have over 80 years of experience in veterans’ benefits law.
Where are you located?
Our firm’s offices are located in Virginia. We have attorneys and case managers in our Virginia offices as well as in the Washington, DC area. We serve veterans and their families living in every state and territory of the country, and throughout the world.
If you represent me, will you stay in touch and work with me?
We have seven attorneys who work on veterans’ cases. Every case is initially reviewed by a lead attorney, after which a second attorney is typically assigned to work on the case. Our offices also maintain a toll-free number, operated by an experienced case manager, that you can call at any time to discuss your case. This means that you will always have at least two attorneys and a case manager you can call with questions about your case.
What percentage of cases do you win?
Because every case is unique, it is considered unethical for any lawyer to say that he or she wins a certain percentage of their cases. Giving a “winning percentage” could mislead a client into thinking their case will succeed when it might not. When the case is still before the VA itself, we create a plan for gathering evidence and information and presenting argument that we believe will give our clients the best chance of establishing entitlement to the benefits they seek. During the course of a case, we often represent veterans at the US Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims. The Court almost never grants benefits, making it difficult to talk about “winning” cases at the Court. What we usually seek to accomplish at the Court is to get the case sent back to the VA for the agency to reconsider the award of benefits. So, when lawyers say they win a high percentage of their cases at the Court, what they mean is that they have a high percentage of cases that are sent back to the VA to be “redone”, rather than “lost”. Since we only choose to represent clients where we find errors in the BVA decision, the vast majority of our cases have historically been “sent back.”
Will you continue to represent me if my claim is remanded?
We offer continued representation to almost all of our clients when we finish work at the court. You will have the option for continued representation by our firm (ordinarily for a 20- percent contingent fee). You also have the option to work with a Veterans Service Organization (such as the DAV< VFW or American Legion) for free, or to represent yourself. Contingent attorneys’ fees refer only to those fees charged by attorneys for their legal services. Such fees are not permitted in all types of cases. Court costs such as filing fees and other additional expenses, i.e., medical evaluations, photocopying costs, courier fees and fax charges of the legal action usually must be paid by the client. If we do represent you at the VA, our firm may need to obtain additional medical opinion evidence to substantiate your claim and if so, there may be an additional expense to you.
How long does it take to resolve a case?
All cases vary in how long they take to resolve. Simple cases with easily obtained evidence can sometimes finish in a year or less, but because the VA is currently far behind, delays associated with more complicated cases can sometimes take years to complete. For cases at the Court, if we can convince the VA lawyer that there are errors in your case, it typically takes six months to a year for a case to work its way through the Court process and back to the VA. If the VA fights us, it can take one to three years to get a decision from a Judge. Even after a case is sent back to the VA to be redone it may take many more years to resolve, and even then, a claim may remain denied. Because of this, our firm has developed practices to help our clients do two things: Understand and seek the evidence that is needed to have the best chance to win a case and do what is needed to get a decision made as quickly as possible.
How do I get started?
It’s easy to get your consultation. Just fill out and submit the online Contact Us form, with all the requested information. Once we have received your information we will review it, contact you promptly to discuss your case, and let you know if we will be able to help with your appeal. You may also contact us through our toll free number 877-838-1010, and we will be happy to work with you to get the information we need to determine if we can assist you. We look forward to the opportunity to review your case and perhaps have the chance to work with you!
How much do you charge for representation?
Generally, our representation is under a contingent fee agreement for a percentage of any past-due benefits you receive as a result of our representation. For work at the US Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims, we usually can apply on your behalf for payment of attorney’s fees and expenses under the Equal Access to Justice Act, which do not come out of your benefits. Contingent attorneys’ fees refer only to those fees charged by attorneys for their legal services. Such fees are not permitted in all types of cases. Court costs such as filing fees and other additional expenses of the legal action, i.e., medical evaluations, photocopying costs, courier fees and fax charges, usually must be paid by the client. If we do represent you at the VA, our firm may need to obtain additional medical opinion evidence to substantiate your claim and if so, there may be an additional expense to you.
Can you represent on a new claim?
We generally represent veterans on claims where there has been a recent decision, a pending appeal, or still time left to appeal. If you are thinking of filing a new claim, we are happy to talk to you about how to do so, what the general requirements are for various benefits, and we can explain when we may be able to get involved in your case.
Are there any new presumptive disabilities for the VA?
Usually, in order for a veteran to receive benefits for a disability, the veteran has to prove that a current disability is caused by an in-service disease or injury, or that the condition itself started in service. There are a few special exceptions where the VA will presume that a current condition is related to service. These presumptive disabilities involve when:
- certain conditions arise within a year of service
- a veteran was exposed to an herbicide such as Agent Orange
- a veteran was a prisoner of war
- a veteran was exposed to radiation
- the veteran served in a tropical area
- a veteran had service in the Southwest Asia theater of operations
The list of which diseases are presumptive differs for each kind of service. Periodically, and especially for the Agent Orange presumptive conditions, the VA adds new diseases to the list of presumptive conditions. These changes are made based upon recommendations of the National Academy of Sciences which in turn bases its findings on the latest scientific studies. In recent years, the VA has added new presumptive conditions for those who were exposed to Agent Orange. These include: diabetes mellitus, ischemic heart disease and prostate cancer. The latest study from the National Academy indicates that stroke may soon be added to the list.
How can I ask the VA to not change my disability rating?
Unless the VA has rated you as permanent and total, it may request that you attend an examination to determine if your disabilities have improved or worsened. Disability ratings are generally based upon the the vetran’s symptoms, which are determined by the VA’s examination results If the VA is proposing to reduce your disability rating, you have several options. Often, the best option is to document that you have symptoms that allow your rating to stay the same or increase. If you look at a copy of your rating decision (the document that lists all your service-connected disabilities and your percentages), you will see a four-digit code next to the disability. This is called a “Diagnostic Code.” If you look at 38 C.F.R. Part 4, you will find the Schedule for Rating Disabilities. The Schedule contains a list of all the diagnostic codes and what symptoms correspond to what ratings. If you believe VA is assigning you the wrong rating, you can look at the symptoms needed for the rating you want, and if you can document that you have those symptoms (especially in a medical report), you can ask VA to assign you the proper rating. You can find the rating schedule here: https://www.ecfr.gov/cgi-bin/text-idx?rgn=div5&node=38:184.108.40.206.5.
I have developed kidney cancer, possibly from Agent Orange. Can you help me?
We may be able to help you. While kidney cancer is not currently on the list of conditions related to Agent Orange exposure, that does not mean you are not allowed to make a claim or be granted benefits. If your condition is not a presumptive condition, you will generally need to have a medical opinion before your claim can be granted. If you have a non-presumptive condition, such as renal cancer, a good option is often to ask your doctor several questions about your condition to confirm your current diagnosis and to see if the doctor thinks your current condition was either present in service, or caused by something that occurred in service (including Agent Orange exposure). If we are able to help you, we can ask your doctor the right questions or help you find a doctor who can review your case.