The VA Disability Benefits Process: A Closer Look
Published May 14, 2020
Single-disability claims, such as a bad knee, are usually rather straightforward. A Compensation and Pension doctor (C&P) performs some range of motion and other tests, grades them, and that is the veteran’s disability test. An independent examination could increase your VA disability rating, but then again, it might not.
Multiple-disability claims are much more complex. That is especially true if one disability causes another. For example, a veteran’s bad knee might cause a limp, which in turn causes hip problems or a gait disorder.
As a result, it is difficult to navigate many disability claims without an experienced VA disability attorney. A lawyer can walk you through the complex process. Moreover, a lawyer can evaluate your claim, so you do not have to accept the C&P’s conclusion at face value.
Filing an application is the first step in the process. For many veterans, this is also the most challenging step. Most people are self-reliant and do not want to depend on the government or anyone else for assistance. If help is available, it is usually a good idea to accept it.
However, a properly-completed application and the correct supporting evidence might not be enough to obtain the benefits you deserve. So, if the Claims Examiner denies your request, at least in part, do not be discouraged. You are definitely not alone. An initial denial does not mean your claim is weak. It just means you must look closer at your application.
Part of that application includes a service-connected disability. Most people establish a direct connection between their military service and their disabilities. Sometimes, the C&P doctor makes this connection. More often, however, attorneys obtain independent medical opinions in this area.
Alternatively, the applicant could establish a continuity of symptomatology. The symptoms have been present from the service period to the diagnosis date. Veterans who use this approach do not need a medical expert. However, the Claims Examiner and even the BVA might not recognize this method, so the case might need to go all the way to the CAVC.
A service-connection aggravation might suffice, as well. The veteran argues military service unreasonably aggravated another disability. In other situations, mainly Agent Orange exposure, there is a presumptive service connection.
This final component is usually the most complex part of the application process. The VA gives disability rankings ranging from 10% to 100%, usually depending on the veteran’s symptoms.
Things get really complex if the veteran has multiple disabilities. In these cases, the agency uses VA math to determine overall disability.
Assume a veteran has a 40% disability and a 60% disability. The VA does not add the two values or even use their average. Instead, the agency uses the Combined Ratings Table to reach a 76% disability. That figure is then rounded up to 80%.
Contact an Assertive Attorney
VA benefits applications have three components, and none of them are simple. For a free consultation with an experienced VA disability lawyer in San Diego, contact the Veterans Law Group. We represent veterans on a nationwide basis.