This is going to sound strange coming from an attorney that represents Veterans…..
Not every Veteran needs to hire an attorney or VSO to represent them. There are many of you out there who are perfectly capable of handling your own VA Claim or Appeal.
I encourage Veterans who want to take charge of their own claim to work through my 8 Steps to Improve Your Own VA Claim. I developed the 8 Step approach – and use it in my own law firm’s claims and appeals – after YEARS of studying how the VA does (and does not) handle claims and appeals.
The first – and I mean the very first – step in that approach is to admit that we – Veterans – see the problem in our VA Claims and are ready to do something about it.
The problem isn’t the VA. The problem isn’t Congress. Okay, they are the problem.
But you can’t FIX that problem. The VA has been a soup sandwich for 100 years (or longer) and will continue to be one.
The problem – the one that we CAN fix – is that we have the ability to Take Back the Power in our own VA Claims and Appeals.
Start Taking Back the Power by Simplifying your VA Benefits Claim.
There are four (4) key things that need to be proved in just about any VA Benefits Claim – what I call the Four Pillars – are these:
1) Make Sure You Have Qualifying Service and Eligibility as a Veteran.
2) Know the 5 Paths to Service Connection.
3) Take the Mystery Out of the Impairment Rating
4) Fight for the Correct Effective Date
Keep your VA Claim Simple by focusing on the following 4 Pillars.
The Key – the Real Secret – is Your VA C-File.
You will notice in the sample organization above that each of these 4 Pillars rests on evidence from your VA C-File.
If you don’t have a copy of your VA C-File, then you have found 1 of the 5 Reasons that the VA Keeps Screwing Up your VA Claim.
Get your C-File – if you don’t know what’s in it, it may be hurting your claim. What is – and what is not – in it is the reason your claim has been held up for so long.
Can you think of an issue in your VA Benefit Claim that does NOT have to do with the 4 Pillars?
Fight battles in your VA Benefits Claim in that Order.
What I really like about the “4 Pillars” approach is that you can streamline your VA Claim or Appeal for the VA Regional Office employee by focusing on the issues in just that order.
In other words, stop arguing with the VA over effective dates (Pillar #4) until you have a condition service-connected (Pillar #2) and an impairment rating assigned (Pillar #3).
Arguments about Impairment Ratings (Pillar #3) are largely going to be ignored by the VA until you can build Pillar #2: Service Connection.
Focus your written submissions on the 4 Pillars of a VA Benefits Claim.
Every document you file with the VA should have some so-called “CYA” (Cover Your A**) language in it. After that, organize your submission by giving each of the 4 Pillars a separate heading. Here’s how that might look.
(I want you to focus on the STRUCTURE and ORGANIZATION of the argument below, not the actual words. For example, if you use the phrase “Pillar 1”, the VA won’t have a clue what you are talking about — thats an ALF term meant to help give you help seeing how the 4 Pillars can build your VA Benefits claim arguments for YOU).
As you read the sample format below, think whether this kind of organization might help a VA Rater more easily understand your claim and – at least in my experience – empowers THEM to issue a quicker decision for YOU.
A. CONDITION: DIABETES.
Pillar 1: Eligibility as a Veteran
I have shown that I am an eligible Veteran. Explain the details of how you became eligible, and cite to the page in your VA C-File that has the evidence PROVING that you are eligible.
Pillar 2: Service Connection
I have shown that I am entitled to service-connection of my diabetes because I showed evidence of my high blood sugar in service, have provided a medical statement from the VA Medical Center showing that I have was diagnosed with Diabetes after my discharge, and have an expert medical opinion explaining how my Diabetes is at least as likely as not related to my military service.
Again, be sure to cite to the page in your VA C-File that has the evidence PROVING that you are eligible. It doesn’t matter whether you THINK you have proven service-connection. What does matter is that you provide EVIDENCE that you did prove each element.
Pillar 3: Impairment Rating.
I have attached a DBQ (Disability Benefits Questionnaire) from my VA Medical Center Doctor that shows the current state of my diabetes, and in comparison with 38 CFR Table 4 (Diagnostic Code 7913) I believe I am entitled to a 40% rating for my Diabetes.
Pillar 4: Effective Date.
It is my opinion that I am entitled to an effective date of [Choose the earliest date you think the law will support]. However, I will reserve my arguments about effective dates until after the VA Ratings Decision granting service-connection and a 40% Impairment Rating is issued.
So, if you want to become MORE persuasive in your VA Claim writing, be sure to check out a copy of my new 25 minute training Video – “Get to the POINT! How to Write Better in Your VA Claim”.
I explain – and show you – more about how to build and develop evidence in the VA Evidence Field Manual and in the How to File a VA Claim Training Video.
You have made some excellent points, and my guess is your track record with the VA reflects this.
I am a 90% service-connected disabled combat veteran (Vietnam-US Army Special Forces).
My aim is to successfully apply to the VA through
8940-TDIU and reach permanent 100% TDIU disability..
There are pitfalls in this process, and I think that you can help me with those hurdles.
Getting your TDIU Field Manual might be a good start. One of the major potential mine fields is the C&P exams of the VA.
Thanks for posting!
You are right the C&P is a minefield. I have a 3 part series of articles on how to prepare for a C&P exam….that might help, too!
Click here to see that post.