Who Are The Top VA Disability Attorneys And Why You Need Them

You'll learn how important it is for veterans to find the best VA disability attorneys when they need help filing for disability. You served your country; now it’s time for the government to care for you. But if you're like many vets, getting the benefits you earned can be difficult and even discouraging. Sometimes, nobody at the VA wants to help you get the compensation you deserve.

In such cases, it's time to get a qualified, experienced VA disability attorney involved. A knowledgeable attorney can ensure your application is thorough and your paperwork is submitted correctly so it won’t get rejected for minor clerical errors. The best va disability attorneys will advocate for you when your original claim is denied because you’ve had to jump through hoops.

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Table of Contents:

When Should You Contact A VA Disability Lawyer?

The VA outlines the eligibility requirements for disability compensation, which include being discharged under conditions other than dishonorable and having a service-related disability. They have a “duty to assist,” meaning they must help you locate any military service records and medical records (including social security and even private records) you’ll need.
But I know many vets say the VA’s assistance isn’t enough to get your disability application approved. Although the VA states you can complete this online, you can print out the paperwork and submit it in person at your local regional office. They have thousands of VA representatives and agents worldwide, although many vets express the need to speak with someone at a law firm instead. In this case, you'll want to seek a consultation from a lawyer.

Who Is the Best Disability Attorney in the United States?

Every lawyer is different, with unique strengths and weaknesses. You'll want to know all the facts before deciding on the right VA lawyer to represent you. One helpful resource is online user reviews like those published by Facebook. There, you’ll see precisely what past clients had to say about working with a particular lawyer or law firm.  This is similar to reading what’s said online in various online forums dedicated to helping military vets and active duty soldiers.

Although many veteran support services can help file an original claim, they may not offer to help you with appeals if your disability benefits claim is denied. This is because your appeal needs to be reviewed. This may include submitting more evidence that shows a nexus between what happened to you while you served and your current disability.

Factors To Consider Before You Interview Potential Lawyers

First, be aware of any bad actors soliciting services, particularly on questionable websites. For a deeper look at common problems with unaccredited businesses, consider what CBS News recently had to say on the subject. Here are some questions I always recommend to vets:

  • Is the person legitimate? Make sure the individual is a real attorney. You can check for licensure in your state and find out whether their law firm exists.
  • Do they have experience with VA appeals? It can be a good idea to seek out the lawyers practicing VA disability law the longest.
  • Are they VA-accredited?  I've mentioned VA-accredited agents and representatives before, but remember, VA lawyers are accredited, too. VA disability lawyers should also be listed on the Office of General Counsel's free search tool.
  • Do their fees comply with the rules? Remember that it’s illegal to collect a fee for an original claim or collect anything on future disability checks. I would be cautious if the VA attorney tries to charge you five times the monthly increase for helping you.

What Services Do The Best VA Disability Attorneys Offer?

Most VA disability attorneys focus on veterans' disability benefits. These lawyers work hard for those who've already applied for VA disability and were turned down or assigned an unacceptably low rating.

There are some claims, for example, an appeal for dependent benefits or an original application, in which you would be better off trying on your own before getting a lawyer involved. Veterans service organizations may be better equipped than attorneys to handle an initial claim. A local office or the regional benefit office may be able to point you to the proper organization. This may help you decide to seek representation only as a last resort or if things become overly complex.

VA disability lawyers usually start work when your initial disability claim is denied, but I always stress that your situation is unique. This may vary by law firm, but you can expect them to do many of these things:

Review Your Application And Rating Decision

There may be errors with your application that a qualified lawyer can uncover, including information that wasn't correctly included, making it look like you qualify for a lower disability rating.  Most VA lawyers start by reading your application and rating your decision.

This may sound obvious to some people, but some individuals seeking help from lawyers haven’t applied yet.  There may even be private medical records the VA wasn't made aware of at first that would significantly improve your situation. VA claims lawyers have years of experience examining VA Rating Decisions, so they know what they're looking at.

Represent You With The VA

One thing some individuals aren't prepared for is appeals that last for years, as was noted recently by CBS News. A lawyer can speak to the VA, working hard to ensure a better, more timely outcome on your application or appeal. It is straightforward for those with no law background to become overwhelmed or feel pressured when submitting additional evidence supporting your compensation claim. Many attorneys practice before the BVA in appeals processes, serving as a point person when the claim is denied or a lowball rating is assigned.

Provide Advice

Anyone representing you must communicate because an attorney’s primary role should always be to serve you, the client. Attorneys should ensure they speak in plain English instead of complex legalese. The lawyers I’ve dealt with are thorough in providing relevant legal and strategic advice.

They understand how a VA rating may have long-term ramifications on someone's finances, leading to difficulty managing things in the future. For example, individuals should also consider applying for a TDIU claim, but if their rating is too low, they'll need a skilled attorney to assist.

What Disabilities Are Most Commonly Granted?

Many vets wonder what types of illnesses or injuries the VA will consider as a service-related disability. This may sound pretty basic, but it’s a question I've had from hundreds of veterans during my career working with active-duty soldiers and vets.

The Schedule for Rating Disabilities

One section of the Code of Federal Regulations, or CFR, Title 38, is devoted to Pensions. A subsection, Part 4, addresses ratings for veterans’ disability. For this reason, this portion of the CFR is commonly called The Schedule for Rating Disabilities.

Many VA lawyers will become experts in these specific regulations. Here, you’ll see, among other things, rating criteria. You may hear VA disability claims lawyers discuss how the regulations establish that your payments are made based on the “average impairment of earning capacity resulting from such diseases and injuries and their residual conditions in civil occupations.” The monthly payment amount will depend on your approval and how severely those injuries or illnesses are rated. The criteria can be viewed at the beginning of The Schedule.

Commonly Approved Service-Related Disabilities

Keep in mind that some service-related illnesses won’t show symptoms until years after military separation. For this reason, you should take special notice if a law firm specializes in helping you prove those cases when you think your options have run out. According to my research and the thousands of cases I've seen over the years, some of the most frequently awarded service-connected disabilities include:

  • **Tinnitus**. You'll also find it mentioned at the beginning of this article from Forbes, along with important statistics about disability, because tinnitus often leads to an inability to hold down a job. I've been told tinnitus is one of the hardest conditions to treat effectively. For some people, noise and distractions become intolerable. It often interferes with sleep and the ability to focus on work. The condition can vary in severity for individuals. It can range in how frequently it occurs, how severe the sound is, and how intrusive it is. CBS News even interviewed veterans experiencing tinnitus, which they believe is directly tied to their military service.  You may need evidence for a successful claim to help prove that connection.
  • **PTSD**. One of how the University of Iowa’s law clinic helps military veterans is by supporting their appeals on PTSD claims. Often, when you're overseas, it’s the experiences and things you see, day in and day out, that will trigger PTSD for many vets. While serving in the U.S. military can give individuals access to world-class mental health care services and providers, these types of programs may not offer ongoing help once the person separates. For this reason, lawyers need to establish, if you don’t get approval for benefits on PTSD at first, a nexus connecting your current medical symptoms to service.
  • **Back injuries** are some of the most commonly requested service-related disability claims for military vets. It may sound surprising to some civilians because they typically associate combat service with conditions like PTSD. Still, the strenuous demands and constant wear and tear on someone's spine in training, day after day, will, as I’ve learned over the years, catch up with vets. For this reason, lawyers will need access to private medical records from before military service to compare against recent medical opinions. Some people experience injuries due to training in freezing weather or hot temperatures. According to this CBS News article, some bad actors, such as medical consultants, exploit this by saying they can get a higher rating for veterans. You’ll need to ensure a medical professional provides proper and accurate documentation of those conditions.  This way, a good VA disability lawyer can compare these evaluations to ensure an appropriate disability rating is assigned, one that you're not constantly forced to appeal.
  • **Prostate cancer** has historically been approved by the VA on disability benefit applications, according to The University of Iowa Law Clinic, particularly for vets who served in the Vietnam War era. A key point you’ll often hear lawyers make about proving prostate cancer, especially for special ops, is establishing location.
  • **Respiratory conditions**, particularly those tied to service-connected impairment, can vary depending on when a vet served and where. It’s similar to applying for benefits due to prostate cancer for those who were stationed in Vietnam. In both cases, you'll want a VA disability attorney who’s up-to-speed on the complexities and new updates coming out from the VA regarding toxic exposures.
  • **Sleep apnea**, which, as several vets told me during a discussion last week, becomes difficult because the military provided them with no advice for seeking long-term treatment, will lead some vets to search for a VA lawyer because they’re often denied an appropriately high disability rating.

What to Look For in the Best VA Disability Attorneys

It can feel very challenging to find qualified, experienced, caring lawyers, whether you need a disability attorney to help with an appeal, someone to work with you if you've been denied benefits on a claim for a neurological disorder, or even to provide sound legal advice because finding the right person to work on your unique needs can take a bit of work. So, it is advisable to remember that not all claims go to trial.

VA Accreditation Requirements for Attorneys and Agents

The VA has an accreditation process for individuals looking to help those filing disability benefit applications and appeals, whether you want to serve as a Veterans Service Organization representative or be someone they look for when searching for a “VA disability attorney near me.”

But as I’ve learned over the past eleven years talking with veterans about the process, they say that because requirements are not as complex as passing the bar exam to become an attorney, it still ensures everyone receives an appropriate level of training.

The accreditation program gives oversight and authority to those reviewing appeals. They ensure that you are adequately prepared when a claim is denied and are tasked with working for your cause to see if a higher percentage rating is assigned.

According to this attorney, there are situations where legal representation from a qualified attorney is necessary and can make the difference in getting an appropriate retroactive award.

To help make these points a bit clearer, let's take a look at a summary:

Requirements Character Experience
Submit Form 10182, Application for Accreditation as a Claims Agent or Attorney and indicate the reason you’re applying for accreditation. Make sure your reputation is strong with no past misdeeds like being convicted of a felony or serious criminal charges that would negatively impact clients. Gain familiarity with legal concepts associated with representing veterans on VA claims, whether that’s on an appeal or helping a client submit the original application.
Provide evidence of education like college degrees or high school diploma if you didn’t continue. Show competency to handle claims by properly interviewing clients. Keep records private. Prepare them to submit proper documentation so that lawyers won’t have to appeal at later stages in the process, costing time and money. Have knowledge of applicable federal law as well as laws that may affect claims from clients seeking advice in certain areas like education or employment.
Fulfill training. Establish that you’re properly registered and authorized to practice with organizations such as your state bar. Be honorable in your service of the veterans seeking legal counsel. For example, if you determine there’s no need for their claim to be taken on, tell them and let them decide, instead of leading them to believe they should get legal representation when there are better and cheaper options out there. Understand how to represent clients effectively through every stage of their claim. For instance, if the claim decision results in a rejection because the applicant missed a C&P exam , know what needs to happen next, how to file for an appeal, what forms they should use, and more.

Who are Some Well-Regarded Attorneys Specializing in VA Claims?

Identifying the best disability attorneys in the US can vary depending on how we define "best." There are many excellent VA disability lawyers throughout the United States, all vying to be recognized as a good, if not the best. Some attorneys specialize in specific service-connected disabilities and illnesses. It's crucial to evaluate their area of focus when you're seeking someone with particular knowledge. This can include considering whether their location impacts the clientele they serve.

Many well-respected, top-rated attorneys at the best firms often receive inquiries and client recommendations for representation through word-of-mouth, news articles, military forums, and veteran support groups.

While this is by no means a complete or comprehensive listing, some attorneys are routinely considered by vets and others to be some of the best VA disability attorneys. In this case, “best” (without quotes) considers qualities such as a given VA attorney's success over their career. Additional attributes considered are the training the attorney has completed (whether they worked, for instance, as a judge advocate) or served themselves. Further criteria also consider whether the attorney or firm makes a significant, consistent effort to support military vets in their community by going beyond simply seeking clients.

What are Some Frequently Listed Lawyers and Law Firms?

In general, most lists identify these well-known lawyers and law firms:

  • **Berry Law Firm**. Founded by Vietnam veteran John Stevens Berry Sr. and located across the US, it has offered advice and represented military veterans on VA benefit claims for more than 50 years.
  • **Hill & Ponton**. I was shown a website last month written by this firm located in Florida. Their team focuses on fighting for disabled vets throughout the US and winning appeals on cases they decided to pursue, seeking to ensure disabled vets get the highest compensation possible.
  • **Marc Whitehead & The Veterans Law Group**. According to the US Military’s list of disability attorneys, this firm’s sole aim is assisting disabled vets who need support navigating difficult and complex cases, particularly after the VA has denied their claims. They work hard for their clients to make sure they get full compensation for the service-related impairments and injuries that the VA refuses to honor.
  • **Chisholm Chisholm & Kilpatrick LTD** One of their top priorities, based on a list of VA lawyers that the US military published, is working for veterans' rights and securing favorable judgments that help improve the financial situation of vets who served. The lawyers on their team have decades of experience working with these types of cases for residents of Georgia, including assisting those who've been unfairly denied service-connected disability benefits.
  • **Sean Kendall**. It was made clear in a recent publication I reviewed about top disability attorneys that with over 20 years under his belt as a VA claims lawyer, he’s established expertise in advocating for his client's rights. I understand that the bulk of his expertise focuses specifically on cases where the initial claim was denied for unjust or improper reasons. He sees opportunity to appeal and secure a more favorable outcome that results in the person getting their disability rating appropriately assigned.
  • ** Woods & Woods, LLP **. Mike Woods is one attorney highlighted on a Top 10 VA Disability Attorneys list as someone worthy of notice by those needing legal representation. They focus on providing personalized service to individuals seeking the best VA disability attorneys because complex and challenging aspects of the regulations sometimes require attorneys who are prepared to guide clients at every step in the appeals process, ensuring no critical elements are omitted in legal filings or submitted documentation.

I know many websites will offer their personal views on what firm or VA lawyer stands out above the others, but remember your needs may be more in-depth or involve expertise not discussed in basic online overviews like the one provided here. While this gives some solid information, it is not an exhaustive list of quality attorneys in the US helping veterans receive rightful disability compensation.

How Does a Lawyer Help You Get A Higher Rating?

So, the most a lawyer can charge you is up to 33.3% of any past-due benefits. A VA disability attorney typically seeks this type of compensation only if a vet has a previously denied claim. This often results in helping the vet win their appeal by securing a higher rating or representing you if your original claim was rejected. It may feel tough to find an attorney, especially after getting several allegations denied by the regional office for what may sound like questionable reasons.

However, a law firm like Berry Law (or one you find by searching online) will usually take your calls, listen, and offer guidance. You'll want to have an attorney you are confident will "make sure your interests come first.”  The best VA disability attorneys won’t accept your case just because you contact them. They will typically look for whether their strengths and knowledge give them the expertise to be successful in your case.

Understanding How Your Rating Is Calculated

Most VA claims lawyers use a formula to establish whether their services justify a fee. However, they don’t usually provide advice if you've submitted an application or appeal.   In other words, lawyers typically offer guidance once you're in the appeals process following an unfavorable claim decision.

Remember that the goal of every VA claim is to receive the highest disability rating assigned to the ailments, diseases, and injuries a vet sustained. At the same time, they served in the military, which, according to Forbes Advisor, becomes critical to an individual's overall well-being, whether they’ve completed enough years for retirement with full benefits or separated for personal or professional reasons.

Although the amount you receive in monthly benefits may not affect someone negatively during the early years after leaving the service, it becomes essential as they age. It can determine whether or not they can get favorable rates, for example, when it's time to buy disability insurance from top ranked disability insurers due to existing illnesses or injuries for which the veteran already receives compensation.

 

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