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Frequently Asked Questions About Veterans Benefits

Marcari, Russotto, Spencer & Balaban, P.C. believes veterans and their families should be as informed as possible about the appeals process and their cases. We encourage clients to read the following questions and answers. Do not hesitate to contact us for additional information.

Let us stand up for you

If you encounter an uphill battle with the VA to obtain benefits that are rightfully yours, contact Marcari, Russotto, Spencer & Balaban, P.C. Someone is always available to talk to you, even if you cannot come to our offices.

There are no upfront charges. You pay no fees unless we win your claim for benefits.

Because there is no requirement that your attorney live in your region or even in your state, you can leverage our knowledge and experience regardless of where you live or where your VA benefits claim is filed.

How much does it cost to hire you?

Nothing. It does not cost you anything to hire us as your attorneys. We get paid only if we win your case. The VA realizes that the claims and appeals processes may last years. If your appeal is granted, then you receive compensation that is retroactive to the beginning of your original claim. This retroactive payment is provided in a lump sum. When you are represented by Marcari, Russotto, Spencer & Balaban, P.C. the VA deducts 20 percent of this lump sum for the payment of legal fees. (Note: Lawyers wishing to charge more than 20 percent must collect their entire fee directly from the veteran they have represented. Our firm steadfastly refuses to charge more than 20 percent.) If the case is not successful, we do not recover a fee.

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Can Marcari, Russotto, Spencer & Balaban, P.C. help me if I do not live near their offices or even in the same state?

Yes. All communication with the VA is written; personal appearances are not required. Because we are certified by the VA to handle appeals, we can do so anywhere in the country. Additionally, our clients do not need to visit our office. If additional doctors’ visits are necessary, clients can be seen close to their homes.

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How long does it take to appeal a benefits denial?

While it takes six months or more for a veteran to receive a decision on his or her benefits claim from the VA, an appeal can take about two years. The VA lacks funding and staff to promptly process benefit applications. The number of applications from recently returning veterans must be dealt with while the VA continues to provide services to previous generations of veterans.

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If I die, can my spouse continue to receive my VA disability payments? No, but a surviving spouse may be eligible for a death pension, depending on income or Dependency Indemnity Compensation (DIC) benefits.

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What death benefits are available to survivors?

A veteran’s spouse may qualify for Dependency Indemnity Compensation (DIC) benefits if one or more of the following is true:

  • The cause of the veteran’s death was due to service
  • The veteran’s death resulted from a non-service-related injury or disease and the veteran was receiving, or was entitled to receive, VA Compensation for service-connected disability that was rated as totally disabling for at least ten years immediately before death
  • The veteran was receiving total disability benefits for at least five years following his or her release from active duty and immediately preceding death
  • The veteran was a former prisoner of war who died after September 30, 1999 and was receiving benefits for at least one year prior to death

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What is the difference between total disability based upon individual unemployability (TDIU) and an extra-schedular disability rating?

A veteran must meet two requirements under a TDIU claim to be eligible for a 100 percent disability rating:

  • One service-connected disability with a 60 percent or more disability rating, or two or more service-connected disabilities with a combined rating of 70 percent or more
  • Medical evidence of unemployability

An extra-schedular rating applies to veterans who are unemployable due to their service-connected disability or disabilities, but whose disability does not meet the percentage requirements.

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Can I receive VA and Social Security benefits?

Yes. Social Security benefits are available in some cases to a disabled veteran who receives VA benefits. However, a veteran receiving a VA pension usually is not eligible for Social Security benefits.

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Can I work while receiving VA disability benefits?

Generally, yes, you can work while receiving VA disability benefits. However, you cannot work full time or earn more than a minimal amount if you receive individual unemployability benefits or have a 100 percent schedular rating.

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How can I increase my disability rating?

If the condition for which you are receiving VA disability benefits has worsened, you can file an increased rating claim. It is fairly simple and involves filling out an online claim form or mailing a letter to your regional office documenting the change in condition.

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