I began working as a Veteran’s Disability Compensation in August of 2019. My previous practice centered mainly around personal injury and similar tort claims. When I started with Gardberg and Kemmerly, I thought that this line of work would be similar. I quicky learned that while similar, there were many facets at play when reviewing a case for VA disability compensation. Different levels of disability, various income requirements, and even politics should often be considered when reviewing these cases. I wanted to take some time on my 3-year work anniversary to discuss what I have learned in my 3 years with Gardberg and Kemmerly.
Unlike with Social Security Disability compensation, the VA provides varying levels of disability. Each diagnosis, or set of symptoms, has a specific evaluation (percentage of disability) that goes along with that condition. Furthermore, the VA does not simply add the percentages. The VA will “combine” the new evaluation, with the existing overall evaluation, to determine the appropriate new overall evaluation. The additional evaluation is seen as a disability affecting that percentage of the remaining ability percentage. For example, if the Veteran was rated at fifty percent for his sleep apnea, and obtains a new evaluation of fifty percent for his PTSD, the additional 50% is seen as a decrease of 50% in the Veteran’s remaining 50%. (i.e. 50% + (.50 x .50 ) = 75%, which would then round up to an overall evaluation of 80% disabling).
This calculation can often be difficult to understand. However, the VA maintains that this approach is the most effective way to capture the overall disability suffered by the Veteran due to service connected conditions.
Income requirements often come into play during the course of our representation. One example is where the Veteran is claiming compensation for a non-service-connected condition because that Veteran is entitled to pension under the rules. As pension is needs-based, the VA will request information regarding the Veteran’s income, expenses and assets to determine whether or not the Veteran would be eligible for non-service-connected pension.
Another important way that income is used is in determining eligibility for entitlement to total disability based on unemployability. In order to get TDIU, it is a requirement that the Veteran be unable to work as a result of their service-connected condition. Through the process, the VA will request documents from your previous employers, including income information.
In most cases, the VA will likely want to know what your level of income is at some point during your VA disability claim. It is important to provide the VA with that information so that the VA can adequately assist you in developing your claim. An overpayment problem may arise if the Veteran either fail to submit or misrepresents their income to the VA.
I am proud to be working in a legal arena and law firm that emphasizes fair treatment for our service members who were injured while protecting our rights. As a Mississippi Gulf Coast native, I frequently see Veterans in the community who served at Keesler Air Force Base. More times than I would like to recall, the Veterans relay horror stories about their experiences with the VA hospital and the VA disability system in general. I always do my best to provide those individuals with the information that they need to make the best possible claim in their case.
I also advise them that they can reach out to our firm if they would like to formally request our assistance and representation. The consultation is free, and we do not get paid unless there is a favorable recovery for you. This advice also applies to any Veteran who is reading this statement. If you believe that you have been given an incorrect decision by the VA, and you don’t have the energy or patience to continue fighting with the VA, give us a call at 251-343-1111.