What is a Military and Veteran Benefits Lawyer?
Military and veteran benefits lawyers have studied the laws that apply to active service members and military veterans. They specialize in assisting and advocating for military and veteran men and women. They help file claims for benefits and make appeals when claims are denied. They also advocate for service members whose rights guaranteed by the law have been violated.
When Do I Need a Lawyer?
You can use a lawyer during any part of the process of applying for and getting benefits through the VA. Military service members and veterans are protected by certain laws barring discrimination and providing rights in employment and finances. Lawyers help remedy situations in which those rights are violated.
Should I Work with a VSO Instead?
A VSO, or Veterans Service Officer, is an accredited representative authorized to help claimants access VA benefits. VSOs are trained to help veterans. They have passed an exam and background check and take continuing education courses to stay updated on policies. They are typically affiliated with a non-profit group that advocates for and assists veterans.
You can work with a VSO to apply for benefits or a lawyer. The main reason veterans turn to VSOs over lawyers is to save money. This is a good solution if you have a straightforward claim. If there are any complications or you are facing an appeal, a lawyer may be better. While VSOs have gone through training, lawyers are highly educated and are experts in the applicable laws.
What Can a Military and Veteran Benefits Lawyer Do for Me?
Legal representation is not a requirement to get your benefits, or even to appeal, but a military and veteran benefits lawyer can do several things for you:
- Navigate the claims process
Filing a claim for benefits should be simple and straightforward, the reality is that it can be confusing and complicated. If you make a mistake, you risk missing out on benefits you’re entitled to for your service.
- Provide evidence
To qualify for disability benefits, you must prove you have a disability to a certain degree and that it resulted from your service. This isn’t always easy to do, even if it is obvious to you. A lawyer knows what evidence you need and how to get it.
- Provide medical experts
Part of proving your disability is working with the right doctors and other experts. Lawyers experienced in working with veterans have these experts at their disposal to help you.
- Give you a better chance of success
If you try to go it alone or work with a VSO, you may have a successful claim, but your chances are better if you work with an experienced lawyer who had done this many times.
A denial of a benefits claim is not the end of the road. There are appeals processes in place. A lawyer can take you through this process and ensure you have the best chance of getting benefits.
- Ensure your rights
Laws protect military members from discrimination in employment. If you come back from active duty and your job is gone, a lawyer can help you get it back or collect damages.
How to Find a Lawyer
If you’re interested in working with a lawyer to file a claim, make an appeal, or to fight discrimination, several resources can help. The VA accredits lawyers and can provide a list through the Office of General Counsel. You can also contact the National Organization of Veterans Advocates. Any local non-profit that works with or advocates for veterans could also refer you to a lawyer. Your fellow veterans would be another good source of referrals if they had good experiences with particular law firms or attorneys.
Questions to Ask a Military and Veteran Benefits Lawyer
As you look for a lawyer to help you with benefits, ask questions to get a clear idea of the best option. Most lawyers offer free consultations so that you can interview them and hire the individual or firm you feel most comfortable working with.
- Have you been accredited by the VA?
- How long have you been working with veterans?
- How much of your practice is devoted to veterans?
- Have you stayed up to date on veterans’ law training?
- Can you provide referrals from other veterans who have worked with you?
- Have you worked with someone like me or on a similar case?
- What do you think my chances are?
- What step would you take next in my case?
- Can you help with initial applications for benefits and appeals?
- What are your fees? Do you offer contingency payment plans?
A military and veteran benefits lawyer is a great ally to have as you fight for the benefits you deserve as a past or present member of the military. Don’t go it alone and risk losing those valuable benefits. An expert in the law can navigate the system for you and ensure you get benefits.