Thursday, February 4, 2010

Quatrini Rafferty Announces New Practice Area: Veterans' Disability

The attorneys at Quatrini Rafferty are pleased to announce a new, full-time practice area: Veterans' Disability. QR attorneys Brian Patrick Bronson and Michael V. Quatrini were recently certified by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to represent members of the armed services who suffer service connected disabilities or diseases.

In short, Veterans' Disability is available to members of the armed services who suffer physical or psychological injuries or diseases while on active duty. This even includes injuries or diseases that were made worse by active duty military service.

The amount of the monthly benefit depends on the degree of disability. In certain instances, additional benefits are payable where there is a loss of limbs, a spouse/children/dependent parent, or a seriously disabled spouse.

Applying for Benefits

The process for obtaining benefits is similar to Social Security Disability. The veteran submits an application, through our office, outlining his or her injuries, and detailing the connection between the injuries and a particular event during their time in service.

A specific description of the precipitating event is critical, along with medical evidence supporting the connection between the event and the injury. Official military documentation of the event is very beneficial to the claim, as are testimonies from fellow services mates. We will also need discharge or separation papers (DD214 or equivalent). It should be noted that disability benefits are not available for those who were discharged under dishonorable conditions.

Some conditions, depending on the dates and locations of your active duty, are eligible for "presumptive" status, meaning that the VA process presumes that active duty service caused these conditions. It is then up to the VA to disprove the connection. These include, but are not limited to, Lou Gehrig's Disease (ALS), Hodgkin's disease, prostate cancer, diabetes mellitus (Type 2), chronic lymphocytic leukemia, chronic fatigue syndrome, and fibromyalgia. Prisoners of war, for any length of time, can receive presumptive status for psychosis, anxiety, post-traumatic osteoarthritis, heart disease, stroke and a few other medical complications.

Once the application is complete it is submitted to a local office for review. The local office makes a decision as to whether the claim is (1) service connected, and if so, (2) the percentage of disability assigned to the injury.

The Appeal

Where the local office either denies the claim (i.e. saying the injury is not service connected) or assigns a low, or zero, percentage of disability to the condition(s), the claim can be appealed to a Veterans Law Judge at the Board of Veteran' Appeals. This must be done within one year of the initial decision.

There is some bad news:the average wait time for a hearing is 971 days.

Prior to the hearing, we will meet with the veteran to review the initial decision, the veteran's file and collect additional, updated medical evidence.

The Hearing - Veterans' Law Judge at the Board of Veterans' Appeals

Again, similar to the Social Security Disability process, the hearing will involve testimony from the veteran concerning the disability - how is happened, how is it limits the individual, etc.

After the hearing, the BVA can do one of two things: they could affirm the Regional Office's denial of your claim. Or, they can reverse the decision made by the Regional Office and grant you benefits.

Should the BVA affirm the denial of your claim, the next appeal would go to US Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims.

To have attorneys Brian Patrick Bronson or Michael V. Quatrini evaluate your Veterans' Disability claim, contact our Greensburg or Latrobe office at 1-888-288-9748 or at our website