Archive for March, 2017

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The Importance of Communication throughout a Case

Friday, March 24th, 2017

The Importance of Communication throughout a Case

Veteran benefits cases are often lengthy processes—that’s why our team of attorneys, paralegals, and administrative professionals works together to communicate with all parties to ensure smooth, timely case progression and prevent errors due to miscommunications.

Communicating with Clients

At the Veterans Benefit Group of Goodman Allen Donnelly, we keep our clients up to date on their case by staying in contact about every ninety days. Of course, if a client has questions sooner than that—about a letter they received, a call from the VA, or their case in general—we are available as needed. If a client has a question, they can call us or write a letter, which is how we often communicate with veterans who are incarcerated.

Communicating with Medical Professionals

One of the most important ways our team helps a client understand his or her case is through a written plan on how to win the case. This plan often requires that we gather evidence such as copies of medical records or a medical opinion. To collect medical records, the client must sign a release form so that we can work on their behalf to obtain the necessary documents. We coordinate directly with doctor’s offices, sending the release form to obtain the medical records, and then work with the client on any type of payment that might be due afterward.

To get a medical opinion, we must submit medical records and a questionnaire for the doctor to complete. We work with the doctors to make sure everything is sent back in a timely manner. If the client does not have a doctor, we will help them find a doctor in their price range and geographic area.

Communicating with the VA

It can take a long time for the VA to make a decision—that’s why we have a system in place to keep the VA up to speed up and on track in a case. We make sure that the VA is taking the necessary steps in a timely manner by contacting the appeals team, either by email, letter, or phone, for status updates.

If we’re not receiving a response, we may contact the director or other higher ups for the status update. If these efforts still do not receive a response, we oftentimes write a warning letter that says, “if you do not respond to us, or if you are not going to take the necessary action, we may contact the under secretary and, if necessary, file a writ at the court.”

By keeping channels of communication open and establishing systems to keep all parties on track, cases are resolved as efficiently as possible.

Author: Kristine Arvey, Paralegal Case Manager

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9 Benefits of Having an Attorney Represent You before the VA

Friday, March 17th, 2017

Securing veterans benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) can be a long, intimidating battle. Don’t go it alone—partner with an attorney to guide you through the process and secure the benefits you deserve.

  1. Attorneys are trained in interpreting regulations and understanding case law.
    The Veteran Benefit Group of Goodman Allen Donnelly is made up of attorneys that have dedicated their entire legal career to helping veterans. We know how regulations and case laws impact your individual case.
  2. Attorneys keep abreast of any changes in the laws.
    If there is a change in law that will affect your case, we can analyze how that change affects your case and discuss any implications to your case with you.
  3. Attorneys are trained in identifying the issues that have prevented you from winning your case.
    Many times we seen veterans submit the same evidence over and over, and are frustrated because they don’t understand why the evidence is not good enough. We can help you identify what information is missing.
  4. Attorneys can help collect missing evidence.
    Evidence such as service records, medical opinions, and statements from family and friends are critical to a case. Attorneys can outline a timeline for gathering all of the necessary evidence and help remove obstacles to getting the benefits you are entitled to.
  5. Our attorneys have access to VA’s computer system.
    With access to the VA’s computer system, we can see the current status of a case. This access allows our attorneys to be more up to date with milestones such as whether you received a decision or letter.
  6. Our attorneys can represent you at all stages of an appeal.
    We can appeal to the regional, Board of Veterans Appeals, and, if necessary, appeal the case to the U.S. Court for Veterans Claims, and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. Whether your case has been recently denied by the regional, or the Board of Veterans Appeals, or even if you are already at the Court, our attorneys can step in at any point.
  7. Our law firm dedicates an attorney and case manager to each case.
    Having team members dedicated to your case ensures continuity, and allows our firm to become very familiar with your case throughout the various stages of the legal process. By staying by your side from start to finish, we can continue building on the evidence without any fear of something getting lost or making you feel as if you are starting from scratch at every new stage.
  8. Our attorneys will not stop until we have secured all available benefits to you.
    Because we are so familiar with the benefits and regulations offered by VA, we can determine whether you qualify for additional benefits which the VA has not offered you.
  9. Our attorneys work on a contingent fee basis.
    Contingent fee basis means that we don’t get paid unless we secure retroactive benefits for you. This fee structure also means that you do not have any out-of-pocket expenses for legal fees or any up-front costs.

Whether you are thinking about filing a claim, or have received a denial from the VA, give us a call for a free consultation. We look forward to hearing from you.

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The Proper Interpretation for Diseases of the Peripheral Nerves – “When the Involvement is Wholly Sensory”?

Thursday, March 9th, 2017

On March 6, 2017, the United States Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims (Court) issued a decision in Miller v. Shulkin. Mr. Miller, the veteran, had appealed VA’s denial of a disability rating greater than 10 percent for peripheral neuropathy of the left foot. The argument on appeal focused on the interpretation of the statement: “When the involvement is wholly sensory, the rating should be for the mild, or at most, the moderate degree.” See 38 C.F.R. § 4.124a (2016).

Mr. Miller believed he was entitled to a rating greater than 10 percent because when a peripheral nerve disorder is more than “wholly sensory” (that is, manifested by both sensory and non-sensory-based symptoms) it must be rated as at least moderately severe and assigned a 40 percent disability rating. The VA, on the other hand, argued that the “wholly sensory” language of the regulation establishes a maximum disability rating for wholly sensory conditions rather than a minimum disability rating for conditions that are more than just “wholly sensory.”

The Court affirmed the Board of Veterans’ Appeals decision that denied a higher rating “[b]ecause the language at issue establishes a maximum disability rating for conditions that are wholly sensory, as opposed to a minimum disability rating for conditions that are more than wholly sensory.” In interpreting the plain language of section 4.124a, the Court found that the language “provides only a maximum disability rating for wholly sensory manifestations of incomplete paralysis of a peripheral nerve.” Contrary to the veteran’s argument, the Court determined that it did “not logically follow that any claimant who also exhibits non-sensory manifestations must necessarily be rated at a higher level.”

Read the full Court decision here.

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