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2017-2018 Edition
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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.
 
2017-2018 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 2017-2018 Edition:
This completely revised 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:

  • Overview of the 2017 court decision requiring the VA to assist posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) claimants by obtaining the service records of other veterans who might corroborate a personal assault stressor (Section 3.6.4.4.1);
  • New sections addressing the 2017 VA regulations granting presumptive service connection, free VA health care, and reimbursement for copayments to veterans exposed to contaminated water while serving in Camp Lejeune (Sections 3.4.6.9 and 10.5.5);
  • Advocacy tips on how advocates can avoid some of the problems created by the VA’s National Work Queue (Section 12.6.2);
  • Expanded advice on when combat veterans can obtain disability benefits for chronic conditions without the need for medical nexus evidence (Section 3.3.3.3); 
  • A completely reorganized chapter on discharge upgrading and discussion of the new rules making it easier to obtain an upgrade based on PTSD and traumatic brain injury (Chapter 21);
  • A new section that provides advocates with standard language to use when writing briefs or arguments to the VA (Section 17.16.2);
  • Discussion and advocacy tips about the 2017 Federal Circuit decision expanding disability compensation for injuries caused by VA medical treatment (see Section 4.2.1.2);
  • Overview of the court decision requiring the VA to reimburse veterans for emergency medical expenses incurred at non-VA facilities for non-service-connected conditions, even when some of the expenses are covered by insurance (Section 10.18.2);
  • New advocacy tips regarding requests for waiver of a VA overpayment (Section 9.4.3);
  • An updated section describing how to obtain a veteran’s deployment medical records from an electronic database and updated mailing addresses for records repositories holding military personnel and treatment records (Sections 18.3.3 and 18.3.4);
  • Updated information regarding the appropriate disability rating for skin disabilities requiring systemic therapy such as corticosteroids and other immunosuppressive drugs (Section 5.2.11);
  • A new section covering special disability rating consideration for certain paired organs and extremities (Section 5.6);
  • A new Advocacy Tip about the effect of suicidal ideation on the appropriate disability rating for a mental disorder (Section 5.2.2);
  • How the VA has restructured the former Appeals Management Center (Section 13.10.1.1); and
  • Discussion of the 2017 Federal Circuit decision opening the door to filing class actions at the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims (Section 15.2.7).

Authors / Contributors

Table of Contents

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 Veterans' Service-Connected Disability Rating
Chapter 6  Pension For Veterans with Non-Service-Connected Disabilities

PART II  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