Veterans living with disability often have a difficult time with the intricacies of VA disability law. As this body of law continues to evolve and change in subtle ways, it will continue to be a source of consternation.
Veteran affairs have been an ever-present topic in U.S. political circles, and new legislation has been brought in to change the lives of these important people. The Military Times brings particular attention to a number of reforms passed in 2019 by the President, many of which impacted the rights of disabled veterans across the country. Simultaneously, the VA has made threats to cut benefits in other areas of GI affairs. Understanding this legal territory can be confusing, but recent cases have sought to establish just how legal professionals can deal in the affairs of veterans living with disability.
Small changes to benefit expansion
The current disabled veterans’ legislation cohort has precise, calculated rates based on the nature and extent of injury. These calculated rates give veterans and their representatives the ability to make submissions in a way that is within clearly defined legislative boundaries. This is changing in subtle ways and creating a situation in which legal representatives will have more flexibility. The current administration is set to allow a small, subtle movement of the Agent Orange benefit bill to encompass a far greater range of veterans. As a policy change, as opposed to one that is necessarily enshrined in statute, this will provide food for thought for veterans and their representatives, and gives a nod towards the more permissive attitude towards expanding VA benefits.
While some areas of veteran benefit law have relaxed, others stay resolutely contracted. This includes areas where the liability of certain conditions is granted or refused, and has become an area of controversy. Most recently, one veteran has sued the VA for refusing to cover the payments ensuing from his diagnosis of Stage 4 cancer, which he – and many scientific sources – believed is linked to ‘burn pits’ in active battlefields, something which 86% of veterans have been exposed to (according to CNN). More often than not, the VA claims that data linking conditions to the pits is incomplete. An area of active development as it concerns litigation, this is an example of how the department can sometimes take a more dim view of what is and what isn’t covered.
Overlooking the small stuff
As large-scale changes impact veterans and legal professionals, it’s unfortunate that some of the smaller parts of navigating life while living with disability are overlooked. In North Carolina, WFMY reported that veterans were being charged for legal advice that is usually free under statute. Other abuses of the systems designed to support veterans have been reported elsewhere. As your clients come to grips with the changes in the legal system, ensure that you are providing fair and even support in order to protect them against those who would seek to take advantage.
Veterans living with disability often have a difficult time with the intricacies of VA disability law. As this body of law continues to evolve and change in subtle ways, it will continue to be a source of consternation. As a legal representative, this is a prime time to lead the way in a constructive manner.