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2016 Edition
ISBN: 9781522120896
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2016 Edition
ISBN: 9781522120902
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2016 Edition
ISBN: 9781522120902
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This exhaustive manual is an indispensable guide for advocates who help veterans and their families obtain benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs.

User-friendly, well-indexed, and packed with practical information, it includes sample forms and briefs, flowcharts, checklists, citations to legal authorities, and other documents designed to streamline the claims process and save you and your veteran client valuable time.

Written by practicing lawyers at the National Veterans Legal Services Program, this manual contains valuable insight and analysis from a team of experts on the front line of veterans law. Use their first-hand experience fighting for veterans' rights and their insider's view of the Department of Veterans Affairs to obtain the benefits your client earned.

The Veterans Benefits Manual contains dozens of effective, battle-tested advocacy tips for veterans and advocates along with all the latest developments in veterans law.

2016 Edition Editors:

National Veterans Legal Services Program (NVLSP)
Barton F. Stichman, Joint Executive Director and lead litigator for the National Veterans Legal Services Program
Ronald B. Abrams, Joint Executive Director of the National Veterans Legal Services Program
Amy F. Odom, Director of Litigation of the National Veterans Legal Services Program
Richard V. Spataro, Director of Training and Publications
of the National Veterans Legal Services Program

New in the 2016 Edition:

The completely revised 2016 Edition of The Veterans Benefits Manual has been thoroughly updated to include important developments in veterans law over the past year. New highlights include advocacy essentials such as:

•  A discussion and advocacy tips about the important recent Federal Circuit decision making it easier for combat veterans to qualify for service connection (see Section 3.3.3.3);

•  Discussion of VA Secretary McDonald's offer to 24,000 veterans who filed a claim for traumatic brain injury or an increase in the TBI disability rating between 2007 and 2015 to have their claims reopened (see Section 3.5.4.1);

•  New citations to the entirely revamped VA Adjudication & Procedures Manual M21-1;

•  New rules for ongoing eligibility for pension benefits, in the post-EVR world (Chapter 6);

•  An update regarding proper analyses of the disability rating for painful joints (see Section 5.2.1.5);

•  A completely new section addressing the proper disability rating for skin disabilities requiring systematic therapy such as corticosteroids and other immunosuppressive drugs (see Section 5.2.11);

•  Updated information about how to obtain a copy of a VA claims file, including advice about how to challenge the VA's failure to provide a copy within a reasonable amount of time (see Section 16.2.2);

•  Advocacy tips on submitting an Intent to File Claim on VA Form 21-0966 (see Section 17.6.1.2);

•  Updated VA mailing addresses for correspondences relating to claims and appeals (see Sections 13.3, 13.4.1, 13.4.2, 13.8, 13.8.3);

•  Updated section on upgrading Undesirable Discharges or Discharges Under Other than Honorable Conditions for veterans suffering from Posttraumatic Stress Disorder based on the 2014 Hagel memorandum and February 2016 guidance issued by the Department of Defense (see Section 21.4.9); and

•  Updated information about VA’s new regulations regarding state veterans homes, including per diem payments (see Section 10.7).

Authors / Contributors

Table of Contents

Chapter 1  INTRODUCTION AND HOW TO USE THIS MANUAL 



Part I  Disability Benefits for Veterans

Chapter 2  VETERANS' BASIC ELIGIBILITY FOR VA BENEFITS

Chapter 3  COMPENSATION FOR VETERANS WITH SERVICE-CONNECTED DISABILITIES

Chapter 4  COMPENSATION FOR INJURY OR DEATH CAUSED BY VA HEALTH CARE OR OTHER VA ACTIVITIES

Chapter 5  SETTING, INCREASING, OR REDUCING A VETERAN'S SERVICE-CONNECTED DISABILITY RATING

Chapter 6  PENSION FOR VETERANS WITH NON-SERVICE-CONNECTED DISABILITIES



Part II  VA Benefits for Non-Veterans

Chapter 7  VA BENEFITS FOR FAMILY MEMBERS



Part III  Rules Affecting the Amount of Benefits Paid

Chapter 8  EFFECTIVE DATES FOR AWARDS OF BENEFITS

Chapter 9  SPECIAL ISSUES FOR DISABILITY AND DEATH BENEFITS



Part IV VA  Health Care and Other Benefits

Chapter 10  VA HEALTH CARE

Chapter 11  OTHER VA BENEFITS



Part V  The VA Claims Adjudication Process

Chapter 12  ADJUDICATION OF ORIGINAL AND REOPENED CLAIMS BY VA REGIONAL OFFICES

Chapter 13  BOARD OF VETERANS' APPEALS

Chapter 14  COMMON ERRORS IN FINAL VA DECISIONS DENYING BENEFITS AND THE AVENUES AVAILABLE TO CORRECT THEM

Chapter 15  COURT REVIEW OF VA DECISION-MAKING



Part VI  Advocacy on Behalf of VA Claimants

Chapter 16  REVIEWING VA CLAIMS FILES

Chapter 17  EFFECTIVE ADVOCACY BEFORE THE VA

Chapter 18  OBTAINING MILITARY RECORDS AND INFORMATION TO HELP SUBSTANTIATE A CLAIM

Chapter 19  ATTORNEY'S AND AGENT'S FEES PAID BY VA CLAIMANTS OR BY THE VA



Part VII  Correction of Military Records

Chapter 20  MILITARY RECORDS CORRECTION ISSUES AND MILITARY DISABILITY BENEFITS

Chapter 21  UPGRADING LESS THAN FULLY HONORABLE DISCHARGES



Glossary Table of Cases

Forms Appendix

Index