Scenario 6: Continue Battling the VA to Make things Easier For Your Survivors.
My law firm represents a LOT of Surviving Spouses of deceased Veterans.
They are my favorite types of cases.
That’s because I have an axe to grind with the VA – when my grandfather died from an injury he sustained at the Battle of the Bulge, the VA and several VSOs told my grandmother that there was nothing they could do to help her or her 5 children.
They were wrong – the VA and those big national VSOs could have helped and changed the course of my grandmother’s life instead of lying to her.
In the course of representing a lot of surviving spouses, I see the same scenario play out time and time again. Here’s that scenario:
A Veteran dies from a medical condition. The medical condition that contributed to his death was related to the Veteran’s service in the military.
The Veteran gave up his claim for service connection of that condition because he reached 100% on another condition.
The Surviving Spouse – to get DIC benefits – almost always has to start from scratch to prove the condition that killed the Veteran was service connected.
If a Veteran dies from a service connected condition, the surviving spouse is entitled to a benefit called “Dependency and Indemnity Compensation”.
It’s a monthly benefit that is often misleadingly called “Service Connection of the Cause of Death”.
Now, if the Veteran did not prove that the condition was service connected during his or her lifetime, the spouse gets a chance to prove that it should have been service connected.
So a Veteran’s failure to pursue service connection for the condition that ultimately killed him does not prevent the survivor from recovering survivor benefits
HOWEVER…. it does make the claim or appeal REALLY hard for the surviving spouse.
Many times, the Veteran is the primary “bread-winner” in his or her family – when the Veteran dies, the spouse and children are left to fend for themselves.
Most of them do find a way to eek out a living after their husband or wife dies – whether by the grace of God, the support of family or friends.
But if the Veteran had kept up the fight with the VA while they were living, it wouldn’t have had to be so hard on the family they left behind. The Veteran’s spouse might have had the ability to grieve the loss of their beloved, without having to find replacement income to stay alive and in their home.
The spouse might have had the ability to spend more time honoring the Veteran’s service, more time grieving, more time healing….but instead they spend years fighting the VA to win a benefit that they could have had if the Veteran had continued to pursue the claim while living.
So, if you get to 100%, please consider making sure that any medical condition that could likely contribute to your death is service-connected before you stop battling the VA (or, make sure that there is at least a pending claim or appeal at the time you pass).
Those are only 6 scenarios whey a Veteran should continue fighting for service connection even after receiving a 100% rating.
There are many more.
The thing I want you to take away from this article is this: do not to pursue a rating % as your goal in your VA Claims and Appeals …. instead seek to service connect every disability that resulted from your military service.
When you have achieved that goal – all conditions that can be service connected are, all impairment ratings are properly assessed, and all effective dates are properly selected – that is when I say aVeteran should stop fighting for the VA Benefits to which they are entitled.
Can you think of any other scenarios were a Veteran might want to keep battling the VA after they reach a 100% rating? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below, or reach out to me through the Veterans Law Blog.
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