What is the difference between VA disability compensation and Social Security Disability?

VA disability compensation is only available for conditions which began during, or which are in some way related, to a veteran’s active military service. If a veteran suffers from a condition that is not related to his or her active military service, VA disability compensation is not available. Alternatively, a veteran who cannot work due to a physical or mental disability, irrespective of whether it is related to their military service, may apply for Social Security Disability benefits. Veterans who would like to seek Social Security Disability benefits will need to contact an attorney who handles such claims. Our representation is limited to claims for VA disability compensation.

What is the VARO?

Every state has at least one VA Regional Office, and some states with larger populations, have more than one. All new claims and evidence submitted in support of those claims prior to an appeal being filed are reviewed by the decision makers at the VA Regional Office (VARO). The VARO is responsible for implementing favorable decisions and making sure that veterans are paid any compensation that they are granted.

What is the BVA?

The BVA is the Board of Veterans’ Appeals and is located in Washington, D.C. When you express disagreement (Notice of Disagreement or “NOD”) with a Rating Decision from the VA Regional Office and subsequently perfect the appeal by filing a VA form 9 at the VA Regional Office, the BVA decides the appeal. The BVA has the same scope of review as the VA Regional Office and can therefore consider new evidence that the VA Regional Office did not. The BVA has the authority to grant or deny claims, or if necessary, remand a claim back to the VA Regional Office for additional development of the evidence.

What is the CAVC?

The CAVC is the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims and is located in Washington, D.C. It is a Court of Judicial Review and is not part of the VA. Its only job is to determine whether or not the Board of Veterans’ Appeals (BVA) applied the law correctly when it denied your claim, which means no new evidence can be submitted in support of your appeal and all arguments must be founded in the law. When the BVA denies your claim and you appeal that decision, the CAVC is the court that decides the appeal. The CAVC will consider argument from both sides, your attorney and the VA’s attorney, and will then do one or more of the following: affirm the BVA’s decision, vacate the BVA’s decision and remand your claim back to the VA Regional Office, or reverse the BVA’s decision denying your claim.

What is TDIU or unemployability?

If a veteran is unable to work due to a service-connected disability or the combination of several service-connected disabilities, but he or she does not have a 100 percent disability rating, they may be entitled to an award of total disability based upon individual unemployability (TDIU). For example, even if a veteran’s overall VA disability rating is only 70 percent, he or she may nevertheless be entitled to monthly compensation at the 100 percent rate if TDIU is granted. In order for TDIU to be granted, the evidence must establish that the veteran cannot follow a substantially gainful occupation due to his or her service-connected conditions. If the veteran is unable to work due to a condition that is not service-connected, TDIU is not available.

Can I file for a service-related disability if I served during peacetime?

Yes. As long as you suffer from a condition or a disability that is related to your period of active military service, you may be eligible for compensation. The primary difference between a peacetime and wartime veteran, for purposes of disability compensation, is that a wartime veteran may be entitled to a non-service connected pension if he or she is unable to work, regardless of whether this inability service-related.

Can I file for a service-related disability if I was dishonorably discharged?

No. A dishonorable discharge is a bar to entitlement to benefits. If you need to have the character of your discharge upgraded, you will need to contact an attorney who handles issues involving military law and/or the Department of Defense. The scope of our representation is limited to claims for VA disability compensation.

Can you help me file a claim?

Yes. We assist veterans in filing new claims free of charge and without any obligation. We will prepare the claim application and submit the information necessary for VA to make a decision. If benefits are granted and no appeal is necessary, there is no charge for our services.

How much will I receive if I am awarded VA disability compensation?

The amount of compensation that veterans receive for conditions which have been determined to be service-connected depends upon the specific rating criteria created by the Secretary of Veterans Affairs and the veteran’s symptoms. Each year, VA determines the amount of disability compensation that a veteran can receive depending upon their overall disability rating. This amount is adjusted each year in response to Federal cost of living figures. A separate rating is assigned for each condition that VA finds to be service-connected. Where a veteran has been granted benefits for multiple conditions with different ratings, the ratings are combined in a manner that represents the veteran’s overall disability picture. This means that where a veteran has been granted multiple disability ratings, the ratings are not added together, but are combined with each other to achieve an overall disability rating that cannot exceed 100 percent. A veteran’s combined disability rating will never be more than 100 percent.

Is service-connected disability compensation taxable?

No. The income you receive from service-connected compensation is not subject to income tax. However, non-service connected pension may be subject to taxes, depending upon the veteran’s personal financial situation.

How do I become a client?

Anyone who is interested in our services will need to complete our online Intake Questionnaire or contact our office to request that one be mailed to them. Our toll free number is 888-511-9675. Once we have reviewed your questionnaire, we will contact you by telephone to discuss your situation and to determine whether we think we can assist you and what steps need to be taken in order to begin the evaluation process. If we believe that we might be able to assist you, we will enter our representation and request a copy of your VA claims folder. However, full acceptance of a case is contingent upon our ability to conduct a thorough review of your claims folder, at which time the veteran will be notified in writing that his or her case is being formally accepted.

How does ABS get paid?

All of our fee agreements are contingent upon our ability to obtain a favorable decision on your behalf following an appeal. No attorney can charge a fee for representation prior to the filing of a Notice of Disagreement. Even though we may ask you to sign a fee agreement before an appeal has been filed, you will not owe any attorney fees unless you are awarded benefits as a result of the appeal. If an award of retroactive benefits (back pay) is granted following an appeal, our contracts provide that we will be entitled to receive up to 30 percent of the lump sum paid to the veteran by VA. If we are not successful on appeal, or if no back pay is awarded, our services are free.

For those cases that must be appealed to the CAVC, veterans are eligible to have their attorney fees paid by the government under the Equal Access to Justice Act (EAJA). If we obtain a favorable decision from the CAVC, we apply for payment of our fees with the CAVC. If our application is granted, VA pays our attorney fees on your behalf.