Legal Help for Veterans: When To Find a Lawyer
November 6, 2019 @ 9:30 am
As a veteran who proudly served, you probably never thought you’d need a lawyer to get the benefits due to you. However for those injured, what’s right can become lost in timelines, deadlines, red tape and forms that only end with a denial of benefits. Meanwhile, the need for assistance may leave you no choice but to pursue legal action.
Veteran-Associated Health Conditions
Deployments to the Persian Gulf and other locations over the last three decades have left many returning soldiers with physical and mental conditions that don’t necessarily fit neatly into one easily identifiable, VA-approved injury. Nevertheless, the effects are very real.
- Chronic multisymptom illness and undiagnosed illnesses are terms that the VA favors over Gulf War Syndrome or Gulf War Illness to describe a cluster of “medically unexplained chronic symptoms” that many veterans seem to suffer—chronic fatigue, headaches, joint and muscle pain, digestive issues, trouble sleeping, dizziness, respiratory problems, concentration issues, memory loss and rashes.
- Chemical exposures to nerve agents like sarin and cyclosarin mixes, oil well fires, pesticides and ingestion of PB—a prophylactic to protect against nerve gas—have been linked to Gulf War Syndrome as well as heart attacks, long-term heart damage and disease, brain cancer, stroke, diabetes, ALS, chronic bronchitis, endocrine and immune system dysregulation, autonomic nervous system problems and brain irregularities.
- Traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) can be the result of jolts, blows, penetrations or blasts experienced during war. These injuries can lead to slowed cognitive capabilities, reduced motor coordination, speech problems, concentration issues, headaches, irritability, sleep disorders, memory loss, agitation and depression.
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) can result from experiencing or seeing disturbing or life-threatening events, which leaves victims to deal with flashbacks, nightmares, severe anxiety and depression for months or years.
- Military sexual trauma (MST) is a type of PTSD that both men and women may suffer if they were the victim of sexual harassment or sexual assault at any time while in the military. According to the VA, even though MST is more common in women veterans, “over half of all Veterans with military sexual trauma are men.”
Unfortunately, this list is not exhaustive, and even when injuries can be clearly diagnosed, the complexity of the problem and the parts of the body affected may make obtaining treatment difficult.
To complicate the problem, while the VA may recognize an injury’s existence, it may try to deny the severity of the injury and its full impact on your ability to function as before.
The Effect of Priority Groups and VA Ratings
Gaining appropriate veteran benefits is a painstaking process because the level of care and assistance that you receive is tied to the priority group and rating that the VA assigns to your case.
Your priority group determines how quickly you get health care services and how much you might have to pay for them.
Your rating is a percentage from zero to 100 that represents your degree of disability.
Many problems arise from the fact that these ratings are insufficient. The VA may underestimate the severity of the injury, or it may classify it as something else that their benefits don’t cover. This in turn affects your assignment to a priority group and your ability to obtain care. If you disagree with the VA rating, you can appeal it, but by the VA’s own admission, the process is lengthy, legal and binding:
- New appeals take 12-18 months for the VA to decide whether to grant some or all of the appeal.
- If you disagree with the VA’s decision on your appeal, your case will be sent to a judge at the Board of Veterans’ Appeals. However, the board may take 5 to 7 years to issue a decision.
- If you disagree with the board’s decision, you can appeal to the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims.
Meanwhile, additional treatment and assistance that you need will continue to be delayed for years or your debt will accumulate to unmanageable levels. Meanwhile, your conditions can worsen or manifest in new ways that also remain unacknowledged.
Get the Representation You Need
When bureaucratic walls bar you from health, purpose, security or happiness, it’s time to find a personal injury lawyer who values your sacrifice and has solutions for many of the common problems that veterans face.
At the law offices of Morrow, Morrow, Ryan, Bassett and Haik, we believe in the responsibility our country has toward the warriors who have served. If you are a veteran facing unfairness, discrimination, inadequate compensation or the results of negligence, we may be able to help. Call us at 800-356-6776 for more information, or schedule your free consultation online.