The Veterans Affairs (VA) claim system isn't an easy process to work through for many veterans. Missing medical evidence, difficult claims filing rules and dealing with different physical and mental conditions can make the process--and life in general--hard to deal with. Fortunately, there are VA services that you could use to not only ease some of your pain and hardships, but to make your claim look a bit better. As you work through the claim system, consider a few ways to make the ordeal less painful for you and what to do when you need more than VA assistance.
Stay In Good Health As You Wait
There are some conditions that can't be solved by general checkups and emergency room visits alone, but there are ways to get some relief as you wait for an answer from the VA.
Although there are a few specific exceptions and categories, veterans who have served for at least 24 months (or their full term of duty) are eligible for at least VA healthcare benefits. The most basic of these benefits is the ability to visit VA healthcare facilities for services such as preventative care, mental health care, and limited dental care. Your specific qualifications can be found by using this benefits calculator, but the standard honorable discharge veteran can enjoy the same set of general health benefits.
The downside is that VA health facilities are not always as fast as civilian health facilities. There are always exceptions, but reports of long wait times in some clinics have become a cultural icon of the VA system for many veterans. Free flu shots, cold medicine and basic pain killers are nice, but waiting an entire day and losing that day's wages to get them may not be viable for some veterans.
If it means the difference between your health getting worse or spending much needed money on medication that you could get for free (or a lower price), you may want to speak with your employer or find an off day to visit the VA. If your local clinic is closed during your only off time, VA hospitals and local veteran groups can help you arrange transportation to a 24 hour VA facility in your area.
Get Legal Assistance On Your Side Early
Waiting for the VA to help can get expensive, and certain medical conditions may stop you from taking matters into your own hands. Instead of waiting for the situation to get bad enough to require legal assistance, consult an attorney now.
There's always the chance that you may receive all or part of your benefits without legal assistance, but having an attorney as a backup plan can protect you if you're denied or if the claim is delayed. If your condition continues to get worse, struggling to find an attorney while in a desperate situation may lead to quite a few bad choices.
With an attorney's help, you can seek out civilian medical professionals to examine your condition more closely. You won't have to hide your legal consultation from the VA or give up your medical benefits; due to long wait times and understandable frustrations, the VA encourages getting a second opinion.
If the cost bothers you, there are laws in place to protect veterans from predatory legal assistance. A legal representative may only charge up to 33.5% of the veteran's disability backpay upon winning a VA claim case as per 38 CFR 14.636. Contact a personal injury attorney for a detailed claim analysis, assistance with getting to VA appointments, and an appeal that may grant better compensation. For more information, contact a professional like those at the Law Office of Leslie S. Shaw.