Often times, Veterans ask me why they should choose our firm over the DAV, American Legion or local VSOs office? The answer is simple. A Veteran should absolutely utilize these invaluable organizations. They provide free claims and appeal assistance that our law firm can’t provide. While there may appear to be bad blood between these organizations and “check chasing” attorneys, the reality is, we work hand-in-hand to provide as many resources as possible for the Veteran.
The VSO handles the claim application and initial appeal. If the case gets too complicated, the VSO will refer the Veteran to a private attorney.
Another reason a Veteran would hire a private attorney is because a VSO cannot represent a Veteran at the Court of Appeals for Veterans’ Claims (CAVC). Only an accredited, state-barred attorney can represent at that level. Much of the work we do at A&G is casework at the CAVC-level. We even have the ability to appeal a CAVC case to the federal district court in the state where the Veteran resides.
In addition to courtwork, we also handle Board of Veteran Appeals cases and Regional Office appeals. While VSOs have the ability to handle these claims, many times the reason the VA denied the claim is nuanced and complicated. Many VSOs are overwhelmed and understaffed and don’t have the time to spend hours on a single case. However, spending hours on one case is exactly how an attorney finds the VA’s errors that will overturn their decision. It is this level of tediousness and due diligence that a Veteran pays for when they hire a private attorney.
A Veteran came to our office insisting that the effective date for his Upper Extremity Radiulopathy related to parachute training should go back to 2009. Our office was able to request every document in his military personnel file, his entire service treatment record, and all the evidence he submitted with his claim since 2009.
After conducting the records review, we noticed that the Veteran submitted a medical record from his doctor just two weeks shy of the appeal period deadline back in 2010. The record was pertient to proving that he had symptoms of radiculopathy. The VA never acknolwedged the medical record. However, the VA is required to address ALL evidence submitted. Since it was submitted within the 1-year appeal period and the VA never made a decision that included that medical record, the claim remained open and pending. Because the claim remained open and pending since 2010, it meant that the effective date should have gone back to the date he originally filed the claim back in 2009.
This type of case is an example of a nuanced case that would best be filed at the Board of Veteran Appeals level. Having an earlier effective date back to 2009 meant the Veteran would received 10 years of retroactive pay for the benefit. The outcome was life changing for the Veteran!
It is unlikely that a VSO would have the time to go through every page of the Veteran’s claims file, let alone find ONE document that changed the entire case. That is why hiring a private attorney can be in the Veteran’s best interest!