Here in America's heartland, we take pride in having a huge military population. O'Fallon, Illinois is home to Scott AFB, meaning we have thousands of active and retired military right here in the metro-east St. Louis region. In Marion, Illinois, there is a large VA Hospital that serves most of southern Illinois, and not far away, the Anna Veterans Home provides year-round care for disabled and elderly veteran residents in need of added care. In recent years, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has become much harder to deal with. Claims for disabilities are getting harder to file, and appeals take longer than ever.
Benefits of Fighting for your Rating
Think getting a rating with the VA is not worth the trouble? Think again. Here are just a few of the benefits that come with having a rating:
0% to 20% rating
Just having any rating amount, no matter how small, will entitle you to use the VA healthcare system for service-connected injuries and medical conditions.
30% to 40%
In Illinois, having a rating of 30 or 40 percent will entitle a homeowner to a $2,500 exemption off the equalized assessed value (EAV) of their home's property taxes. This can be a big savings over 30 years of home ownership. Plus, a 40% rating for a person with a spouse and children can be as much as $800.00 per month (note: pay schedules change annually).
50% to 60%
In addition to receiving more compensation and having added access to the VA healthcare system, an Illinois resident can receive a $5,000 exemption off of their property's EAV for property tax purposes. This is a sizeable savings over time.
70% to 100%
Illinois residents who obtain a 70% rating will be eligible for a complete and total waiver of all property taxes. Plus, veterans who receive 100% ratings are eligible for a host of other benefits, like Tricare health insurance coverage for life, CHAMPVA health coverage for dependents, free college education for children, and even a full cancellation of student loan debt.
While the government reports shorter response times, it's not hard to deny a claim. That part is fast. But getting an appeal heard and properly decided can take years. Without an attorney, your chances are slim. If you're a veteran fighting for disability, you should know the following:
VA Accredited Attorneys
For an attorney to represent you in your VA disability appeal, that attorney must be “accredited” before the VA. Because this unique and very narrow legal niche of administrative law requires special training and knowledge, there really are not many attorneys who can do it. Sadly, a lot of attorneys who do are not even veterans themselves. They may have read some books about the VA, but they cannot honestly say they've dealt with the VA on a personal level. Our attorney has been handling veterans' disability appeals for almost a decade.
Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims (CAVC)
Very few attorneys in America are members of the CAVC bar. Our attorney is licensed to practice before the highest court in the land for veterans' claims and appeals. If the VA fails to do the right thing, the last step is CAVC.
Complex Medical Evidence
If you've talked to other VA disability lawyers, ask them if they have a skilled legal nurse consultant at their immediate disposal to discuss and review challenging medical issues. We do. Our nurse consultant can often review and advise on detailed medical issues within as little as 5-7 days after getting records. Our firm handles disability appeals on a strictly contingent fee basis, meaning we get paid directly from the VA at a rate of 20% of the retroactive backpay that you receive upon successful conclusion of your appeal. However, we also offer other fee-based services.
Appeals to the CAVC are handled on a case-by-case basis and require a retainer in order to cover travel costs and medical evidence reviews by experts. Should you need an expert evaluation to counter an inappropriate or erroneous VA examiner report, we can assist with this. Our firm has relationships with many highly qualified neurologists, neurosurgeons, orthopedic specialists, clinical psychiatrists, and sleep experts who can meet with a veteran, review their symptoms, and draft NEXUS LETTERS, EXAMINATION REPORTS, and BENEFIT questionnaires.