Following the May resignation of Erik Shinseki, former head of the Department of Veterans Affairs, some wondered how such a broken health care system that left thousands of veterans in the dust could even be repaired.
Answers may take time to find, but the flaws in the VA are more apparent than ever.
“We see delays at every point of the appeals process right now for veterans applying for service-connected disability,” said Matt Shupe, associate attorney at Balin Law. This compensation program provides a tax-free monetary benefit paid to veterans with disabilities that are the result of a disease or injury incurred or aggravated during active military service.
Compensation may also be paid for post-service disabilities that are considered related or secondary to disabilities occurring in service and for disabilities presumed to be related to circumstances of military service, even though they may arise after service.
The primary difficulty representing veterans for Balin is the backlog of cases before the Department of Veterans Affairs. With already longstanding delays faced by veterans claiming service-connected disabilities, the culmination of two major and recent conflicts is only adding to the wait time every veteran and their representative must face.
“There’s an enormous backlog,” Shupe said. “It’s very overwhelming to them as it is to all our clients.”
When a veteran approaches Balin Law for assistance, they have already waited for a determination on their claim and have been denied. This is because attorneys are prohibited from receiving a fee for representing veterans in service-disconnected disability compensation cases until the veteran has been denied at least once. As a result, veterans must often navigate an extremely complex field of law without the assistance of a licensed attorney for months or years.
Balin Law uses every tool at its disposal and exhausts every resource to ensure the veteran is in the best position possible when the time comes to have their case adjudicated.
“The key is to over-prepare for everything,” Shupe said of Balin’s winning strategy. “Spend more time than it takes. You need to know the case better than the client, the judge and, any expert combined. If you can convey that that is your level of knowledge, it builds confidence in yourself and in the client, too.”