This is not legal advice. You should always seek the advice of an attorney who is qualified in Veterans' law before you make any decisions about your own benefits. Visit Stateside Legal (below) for assistance with legal issues.
NOTE: Letters in my Q&A columns are reprinted just as they come to me. Spelling and grammar are left as is and only small corrections are made to improve readability, ensure anonymity or delete expletives that may offend some readers. This is not legal advice. You should always seek the advice of an attorney who is qualified in Veterans' law before you make any decisions about your own benefits.
When do you call a lawyer?
To hire or "retain" an attorney to guide you through a VA disability benefits appeal, you must first have a denial of an application that you submitted.
The lawyer usually can't help you before that happens. About 70% of original claims are denied. It's very likely you'll have something denied so you can start thinking about an attorney now.
Hiring a lawyer isn't difficult. The first thing you need to know is that you probably won't find a lawyer who is local to you. VA lawyers work at the federal level so as long as they are certified by VA to represent veterans, you can choose a lawyer who lives anywhere else away from you.
You may never meet your lawyer face to face. He or she will do all the work for you by mail, electronic mail and filings and on the phone. There isn't much hand holding to be done in VA cases, the evidence and the law will take care of itself with your lawyer guiding things.
To find the lawyer who is right for you will require that you pick up the phone or send some emails. The attorneys who are featured on this web site are known to be reliable and committed to winning for veterans.
I urge you to talk to at least 2 or 3 prior to signing up with any attorney.
Look for an attorney who is prompt in getting back to you to discuss your case. If you are shuffled from one "paralegal" to the next and you aren't able to speak with the lawyer, move on to someone else.
The lawyer should seem interested in your case and spend enough time with
you that you believe that he or she understands all the issues.
If you are rushed or if the conversation is interrupted by other calls or people
barging into their office, you'll want to move on to the next person on your list.
Next up...the expense of hiring a lawyer. I hear it a lot, "Jim. I don't have any money. I can't afford a lawyer!" You're about to be pleasantly surprised when I tell you that even if you're dead broke, you can afford a great lawyer.
Total and Permanent
I am rated 100 percent Total and Permanent due solely to my service connected disabilities, and am 57 years old. My question is: in the literature it says that the VA will not schedule a re-examination if a vet is over 55 years old, except for unusual circumstances... what do they mean by "unusual circumstances?"
The usual "unusual" circumstance is to discover that fraudulent info was provided to the application for the benefit by the beneficiary. A vet can hold a rating for decades but if any fraud is confirmed, VA can ask for all the money back and seek to prosecute.
Otherwise, if VA made a clear and unmistakable error in assigning the benefit rating and that CUE is discovered on a quality review or whatever, VA may
interrupt the benefit but not ask for the money back. VA ratings aren't ever absolutes, the word permanent doesn't mean permanent as used by VA, it only means that your benefits are subject to certain rules.
I'm 100% P & T, have been since before I was your age. I'm now 68. Two years ago I got a notice of a scheduled C & P exam for a condition I'm already maxed on and have held the rating for over 30 years. I considered it to be part of the job to follow through so I joyfully went to theexam. VA doesn't intimidate me like it does many, I'm on to all their tricks. The examiner was a sweetheart, a really nice physician who had no clue why I was there other than that he had orders to examine my left shoulder. So he did, we chatted a while and I took my wife out to lunch. It was a pleasant day.
A year or so later I got a letter that more or less told me, "Never mind, we goofed", and denied me whatever they had in mind when they started the whole thing.
There were maybe 15 or 16 pages of rules and regs that weren't remotely connected thrown in just because...typical VA.
The VA is so badly broken most people can't grasp it. The incompetence day to day is stunning. Keep an eye on them, you'll be fine. It appears you're doing that right now...great.