Veterans are men and women who have served in the armed forces, dedicating their lives to protecting our country and its citizens. After their time in service, veterans face many challenges transitioning back to civilian life.
From physical and mental health issues to financial and legal troubles, veterans often need support and assistance to successfully reintegrate into society. This is where speaking to a lawyer can be immensely helpful for a veteran.
Lawyers have the expertise to guide veterans through complex legal processes to get the assistance they need and deserve. Below are some key reasons why veterans should speak to a lawyer.
Upgrade Discharge Status:
Veterans who have been dishonorably discharged lose access to the full range of VA benefits. Upgrading the discharge requires filing a Discharge Review Board appeal or a Board of Correction of Military Records appeal. The lawyer can request records, gather evidence of extenuating circumstances, and write a persuasive brief.
For example, undiagnosed PTSD may have contributed to actions leading to the discharge. Evidence from mental health professionals can attest to this. Records of exemplary service and awards can also demonstrate the discharge status is inconsistent. The lawyer presents arguments at the hearing and cross-examines witnesses. If denied, they can help file a lawsuit in federal court. Proper procedures must be followed, or the case can be thrown out.
The VA health system is challenging, but a lawyer can help veterans get coverage for critical services. One prominent health issue that many veterans, especially those who served in navy ships or shipyards, confront is mesothelioma due to asbestos exposure.
The Mesothelioma Veterans Center is an essential resource, providing valuable information on treatments, doctors, and support groups. A lawyer can guide veterans to resources like these and assist in filing disability claims for medical conditions like mesothelioma, ensuring the condition is recognized as service-connected. For non-service injuries and illnesses, they help enroll in VA health programs and apply for low-income waivers.
If the VA denies treatment, the lawyer files appeals and represents the veteran at hearings. They present medical evidence and question VA experts to show treatment is medically necessary. If claims are improperly denied, the lawyer demands corrective action under the Veterans Claims Assistance Act. Veterans can receive home health services with lawyer aid by proving confinement to the home. Lawyers make sure veterans get the care they are entitled to.
File Disability Claims:
One of the most important reasons for a veteran to speak to a lawyer is to get assistance with filing for disability benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). The process of filing a disability claim and appeal is complex, with strict deadlines and documentation requirements.
A lawyer can guide veterans through the process and ensure complete documentation is submitted. The lawyer understands what medical evidence, service records, and nexus letters are needed to link disabilities to military service. They will obtain all required medical exams and opinions. The lawyer will also advise on how to thoroughly describe the disability’s impact on work and daily activities.
If the claim is denied, the lawyer can identify reasons for the denial and gather additional evidence as needed for an appeal. Appeals must meet deadlines and follow specific processes. At a hearing, the lawyer can present arguments and question witnesses. If the appeal is denied, they may recommend taking the case to the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims. Thorough knowledge of VA statutes, regulations, and case law is required to win appeals.
A lawyer can provide critical assistance if disabilities prevent working or medical bills overwhelm finances. They help file for Social Security and VA disability benefits to increase monthly income. Veterans can receive guidance on managing debts through payment plans, credit counseling, or bankruptcy. The lawyer can assist with obtaining mortgage modifications, preventing foreclosure, and halting debt collection harassment.
For tax liabilities, lawyers negotiate offers in compromise or currently not collectible status. They advise on the use of severance pay and disability lump sums. Lawyers also help veterans create budgets, access financial counseling and obtain basic necessities through aid programs. Thorough financial analysis and planning provide stability.
Obtain Survivor Benefits:
When a veteran dies, the surviving spouse and dependents may qualify for Dependency and Indemnity Compensation, survivor pensions, or education assistance. A lawyer helps the family file for every benefit available based on the veteran’s service history and disability rating. Required documents include the death certificate, marriage license, birth certificate, and VA forms.
If benefits are unjustly denied, the lawyer files supplemental claims with additional evidence or formal appeals. At hearings, they present arguments on why survivors meet all legal requirements. The lawyer can help get benefits quickly for terminally ill veterans and file substitution claims if a veteran dies during the application process. Legal expertise secures the family’s rights.
The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act protects veterans from workplace discrimination based on military service. A lawyer can send a letter to the employer demanding corrective action for violations like failure to rehire or improper termination. If negotiations fail, an experienced employment law attorney helps file a USERRA lawsuit in federal court.
The lawyer handles collecting evidence through interviews, documentation, and depositions. At trial, they question witnesses and refute employer defenses. Arguments highlight how the employer’s conduct violated USERRA protections. If the case succeeds, the veteran may recover lost wages, benefits, reinstatement, and damages.
Access Housing Assistance:
Veterans often struggle to find affordable housing, but a lawyer can connect them with assistance programs. They help veterans facing homelessness get transitional housing and essential services. HUD-VASH vouchers can provide long-term rental assistance for low-income veterans. The lawyer guides veterans through the application process and follows up frequently to resolve delays.
For homeownership, VA loans help veterans purchase homes with no downpayment. Lawyers assist with the mortgage process and counsel veterans on their legal protections and tax benefits as homeowners. They may also help veterans avoid foreclosure if they are facing financial hardship. Accessing housing aid programs provides veterans with safe, stable residences.
Receive Social Security Benefits:
Qualifying veterans can receive Social Security disability benefits or Supplemental Security Income in addition to VA disability compensation. A lawyer helps veterans file applications highlighting how service-connected disabilities prevent substantial work. If denied, the lawyer requests reconsideration and presents additional medical evidence. At hearings, they question experts to prove the veteran meets Social Security’s disability criteria.
For appeals, the lawyer prepares legal briefs arguing for the reversal of unfavorable decisions. Their knowledge of disability regulations and case law identifies arguments that win appeals. Lawyers also advise veterans on permissible work activity so benefits are not jeopardized.
There are countless complex programs, benefits, and services available to veterans, but accessing them is difficult without expert legal guidance. That’s why speaking to a qualified lawyer is so important. With an advocate in their corner, veterans can receive the full support they need to transition back to civilian life and gain financial and medical stability.