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Veterans Disability Lawyers Serving the Jacksonville Area

Jackson & MacNichol: A Team of Veterans Benefits Lawyers Ready to Fight for You

The law firm of Jackson & MacNichol has over 25 years of experience achieving positive case outcomes for American veterans nation wide. We have helped our clients secure millions of dollars in benefits from the Veterans Administration (VA) by aggressively pursuing their claims–sometimes even taking their cases all the way to the federal court of appeals. The bottom line is that you served your country, so your country should help you in times of need. We’re here to make sure that happens in every part of the nation, including Florida.

We can consult with you on a variety of veterans benefits that may be available to you, but our primary focus is on helping our clients get veterans disability compensation. A successful disability claim could result in you receiving tax-free payments from $133 to over $3,000 per month–and potentially more if you have dependents. Specifically, we can assist you with:

  • Getting a disability rating increase–The VA may have accepted your claim, but given you a lower than proper disability rating. We can help you gather the medical evidence you need to demonstrate to the VA that your conditions deserve a higher disability rating. We can also explore the possibility of obtaining a 100% disability rating based on individual unemployability (TDIU), if you are no longer working — and, in some cases, even if you are still working.
  • Getting you more back pay–If you’re already receiving disability benefit payments from the VA, our experienced veterans benefits attorneys can review your case to see if you may be able to claim an earlier effective date for your benefits. In many cases, the VA will give an effective date later than what you deserve. We can help to make sure you get all of the back pay you are entitled to.
  • Appealing the denial of your disability compensation claim–The VA could deny your disability claim because they are not convinced of the connection between your medical conditions and your military service. For your condition to be compensable, the VA must have evidence that your military service either caused your medical problem or made your condition worse. In some limited cases, having served in a particular place and time may trigger a presumption that the medical conditions are service related. Our veterans benefits lawyers can review your medical and service history and help you show that your conditions are service related.

What Our Clients Have to Say

At Jackson & MacNichol, we think the best outcome for any case is a satisfied client. See what past clients have said about working with our firm:

If your application for veterans disability compensation has been denied, you only have one year to file an appeal.

While a year may seem like a long time, if you consider the time and effort that goes into building a successful disability compensation appeals case, it’s barely enough time for your lawyer to:

  • Track down records that the VA failed to find or consider in evaluating your claim
  • Schedule and obtain second opinions from one or more medical professionals about your conditions
  • Review your case file and search for errors and omissions
  • Find and obtain statements from people who served with you and who can testify to a service incident that caused your conditions
  • Perform legal research into court opinions and previous administrative rulings on cases similar to yours
  • Combine all of the above into a convincing legal argument

If you wait several months before filing your appeal, you may be severely limiting that quality and quantity of evidence your lawyer can submit in support of your disability claim appeal. With the new regulations for appealing disability claims, your legal team has the option of bypassing the initial review of your case by the Regional Office and submitting your case directly to the Board of Veterans Appeals for a review and hearing. Depending on the circumstances of your case, this could be your best option. But this option requires significant preparation.

The time you give yourself and your legal team to prepare your appeal has a significant impact on your chances of success. So the earlier you call a lawyer after the denial of your benefits, the better. We at Jackson & MacNichol are ready to help you take on the VA today. If you are unable to access the veterans benefits that you and your family need, do not give up the fight before speaking with a Jacksonville veterans disability lawyer. Call us toll-free at (800) 524-3339 to discuss your case from 8:30AM to 5PM, Monday through Friday.

Know What Benefits You Might Qualify For

There are different types of disability benefits offered by the VA to veterans and it can be confusing to understand which benefits you might qualify. An experienced veterans benefits attorney can advise you on whether you are getting all of the benefits you deserve. Here is a video with more information on eligibility for different types of VA benefits:

If You Have Any Serious Medical Condition, It Could Be Service Related

Many veterans never sign up for veterans disability compensation because they don’t realize that their condition was caused or made worse by their military service. Indeed, the connection between your military service and your medical problems may not always be obvious.

Military service can cause a variety of illnesses, many of which may come as a surprise:

  • Diabetes–Many people assume that type 2 diabetes is caused by poor diet and lack of exercise, but the truth is far more complex. Exposure to chemicals in the military can also cause this condition, and the VA even includes it in the list of presumptive conditions for veterans exposed to Agent Orange during the Vietnam era. But younger veterans are also leaving the military with higher than average levels of diabetes.
  • Parkinsons–This is another condition that the VA presumes to be caused by Agent Orange exposure if you served in the Vietnam theater or a military installation that handled herbicides. Even if you did not get exposed to Agent Orange during your military service, you may be able to show that you possibly came into contact with other pollutants that could have caused the disease.
  • Chronic fatigue syndrome–This is a multi-symptom chronic condition that may be caused by or associated with Gulf War Syndrome. Muscle pain, forgetfulness, and overwhelming fatigue can make daily activities impossible. The cause is unknown, but service members who served in combat in Afghanistan, Kuwait, and Iraq tend to develop this condition at higher rates.
  • Cancer–Just about every family in America has experienced the ravages of cancer. For veterans, more and more evidence suggests a link to military service and the development of a wide range of cancers. But sometimes, the VA will deny compensation to deserving veterans suffering from cancer. An experienced veterans benefit lawyer can help you prove that your cancer was caused by the conditions of your military service.
  • Hypertension–This is one of the most common conditions among disabled veterans. If you are suffering from fatigue, blurred vision, chest pain, and irregular heartbeat, you could have hypertension. Proving a connection between your hypertension and military service is not always easy, but if the condition appeared within one year of your discharge, the VA will presume that it was caused by your military service.
  • Ischemic heart disease–Ischemic Heart Disease (IHD) is the term the VA uses for coronary heart disease. Needless to say, heart disease is an extremely serious condition that can have a devastating effect on your quality of life and ability to earn a living. Fortunately, IHD is recognized in many cases as a presumed service related condition that can qualify you for compensation.

Under some circumstances, the VA may presume that the illnesses listed above are service related, which means that you can avoid the burden of trying to prove what aspect of your military service caused the condition. In addition to these conditions, the VA can consider many others such as arthritis, cirrhosis, Lupus, anemia, Raynaud’s disease, tuberculosis, and multiple sclerosis under certain circumstances.

If you have a chronic medical condition, the VA may consider it to be presumptive if the following applies:

  • Your condition occurred soon after discharge–For most chronic conditions, the VA will find a service connection if it arose within one year of your discharge. But for some conditions there is no time period. If you develop anamorphic multiple sclerosis, or ALS, any time after your discharge, the VA considers it to be presumptive if you served for more than 90 consecutive days.
  • You were exposed to Agent Orange–If you served in Vietnam or  between Jan. 9, 1962, and May 7, 1975, the VA presumes that you were exposed to Agent Orange, which has been linked to prostate cancer, Parkinsons, Type 2 diabetes, AL amyloidosis, leukemia, ischemic heart disease, peripheral neuropathy, and Hodgkin’s disease. You may also benefit from the presumption if you served at any facility or on any aircraft that handled, stored, or distributed Agent Orange or other pesticides.
  • You are a Gulf War Veteran–if you served in South West Asia and have a condition that is at least 10% disabling such as chronic fatigue syndrome, insomnia, irritable bowel syndrome, headaches, or muscle pain, the VA may grant you service presumption.
  • You were a prisoner of war–Former POWs that suffer psychosis, frostbite injuries, anxiety, dysthymic disorder, posttraumatic osteoarthritis, heart disease, or many other conditions may benefit from the service related presumption.
  • You are an atomic veteran–If you served in locations such as Portsmouth, OH, Paducah, KY, Amchitka Island, AK, Oak Ridge, TN, or any place where nuclear weapons were released into the atmosphere, the VA may presume a service connection for your cancer or leukemia.

If you are a veteran suffering from any chronic illness or serious health condition, it may be worthwhile to consult with a doctor to determine whether it has some connection to your military service. At Jackson & MacNichol, we have a proven track record of proving the service connection for our clients’ medical conditions in order to get them the compensation they deserve. If you’re a Jacksonville veteran who has been denied disability compensation, call us today (800) 524-3339 for a free consultation with our veterans benefits lawyers.

You Can Get Disability Compensation for Your Mental Health Issues

You don’t necessarily need a physical injury to obtain veterans disability compensation. If you have a mental health condition that was caused or made worse by your military service, you may qualify for compensation. Some of the mental health conditions that the VA recognizes include:

  • Bipolar disorder–This condition is characterized by swings in your mood and energy levels. You may experience some periods of high energy and good mood followed by periods of depression and fatigue. These episodes are so strong that they affect your relationships with others and ability to work effectively.
  • Anxiety–General Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is a common condition among veterans who were in combat. Symptoms include excessive, persistent worrying that are so hard to control that you experience significant distress and and inability to perform everyday tasks. In addition to fatigue, sleep disruptions, and trouble concentrating, you may also have physical symptoms such as headaches and neck pain.
  • PTSD–Many service members return from their deployments with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Sadly, the condition was often ignored in the past. But today the dangers of PTSD are widely recognized and the VA may compensate you for it. Every case is different, but many veterans suffering from PTSD experience hallucinations, inappropriate behavior, disorientation, and memory loss that can make it all but impossible to hold down a job and deal with the stresses of everyday life.
  • Schizophrenia–This condition is more common that you might think among America’s veterans. Although schizophrenia is rarely caused by someone’s military service, the stress of deployment or a traumatic incident can trigger the onset of the condition or make existing symptoms much worse. Veterans with schizophrenia can experience a wide range of symptoms including suicidal thoughts, obsessive behavior, feelings of panic and depression, and a tendency to communicate and behave in an obscure way.
  • Depression–Many veterans suffering from depression are unable to get help–often times because their condition is undiagnosed. The symptoms can be subtle, but they can take a heavy toll on your professional and personal lives. The hardships of deployment, extended periods away from your loved ones, and the loss of your brothers in arms can all lead towards depression, with symptoms including a lack of interest in day-to-day activities, insomnia, feelings of helplessness, suicidal thoughts, and extreme fatigue.

To get compensation for your mental health disorder, you will need to prove that it was either caused or made worse by the conditions of your military service. Generally, successfully claims will provide evidence of a mental illness diagnosis, records of an incident or series of events that caused or exacerbated the condition, and statements from a mental health professional about how your current condition was related to the incident or events you went through during your service. Watch this video to learn more about the importance of service connection:

Even if you are unable to show direct service connection for your mental condition, that does not mean you are not entitled to benefits. You may still prevail if you can show that your mental condition is a secondary service related condition. This means that it was caused by a primary service related condition. For example, many veterans who experienced a Traumatic Brain Injury, or TBI, during their deployment later develop depression. If you can provide a medical opinion that your depression was caused or made worse by the effects of your TBI, you may receive compensation for both your TBI and depression.

How the VA Calculates Your Disability Rating

Whether you suffer from a physical or psychological condition, the VA will determine your disability rating by matching your symptoms to a ratings schedule that outputs a final disability rating for each condition you suffer from. Your final rating is obtained by “combining” the ratings for your various conditions according to this schedule–which doesn’t follow the simple rules of arithmetic. For example, if you have two conditions rated at 40%, your final disability rating will be 60% (64% rounded down to the closest multiple of 10), instead of 80% as most people would expect if the ratings were simply added.

The VA disability rating staff usually consider the results of an in-house Compensation & Pension Exam–also called a C&P exam–when determining the rating for your conditions. A C&P exam is often performed by a VA doctor at a VA facility, and according to VA procedures. These exams do not always accurately identify important symptoms of your disability, and your chances of getting a higher disability rating will increase if you can provide independent medical evidence.

Different physical conditions are each rated according to their specific schedules, although mental health disorders follow a “General Rating Formula for Mental Disorders.” Under this rating formula, the VA rates individual mental illnesses at 0%, 10%, 30%, 50%, 70%, or 100%. A rating of 30% would reflect occupational and social impairment with occasional decrease in your ability to perform a job. A rating of 100% applies to cases where the claimant is totally unable to function normally at work or in social situations.

Here are some examples of how the VA rates some common veteran disabilities:

  • Back Pain–The VA usually calls this condition lumbar or cervical strain, and it refers to pain in the back and neck areas. To calculate your disability rating, the rating staff at the VA will look at the range of motion measured during your C&P exam and any other medical evidence you supply. This supplemental information is important because the VA may be willing to increase your disability rating if they see evidence of incapacitating episodes, which may be much worse than your limited range of motion suggests.
  • Arthritis–The VA can compensate you for degenerative arthritis, which results from the deterioration of the cartilage in your joints, or rheumatoid arthritis, which occurs when your immune system attacks your joints. The VA looks at your range of motion, swelling, pain, muscle spasms, and X-ray results to determine the rating for your degenerative arthritis, and generally awards ratings between 10% and 20% for this condition. Rheumatoid arthritis can result in much higher ratings, reaching in some cases 100% if it causes you to be completely incapacitated or bedridden. If you suffer four or more incapacitating episodes per year, you will qualify for a 60% rating, and a 40% rating if you face definite impairment or you have three incapacitating episodes per year.
  • Hearing Loss–Your military service has pushed your hearing to its limits, and it’s likely that you experience either bilateral hearing or tinnitus. To determine whether you have hearing loss, the VA will test how well you understand speech and the quietest sound that you can detect. If you have hearing loss based on these criteria, the VA will award you a 10% disability rating. The same goes for tinnitus, another hearing condition characterized by constant tones ringing in your ears. It’s difficult to objectively test for tinnitus, so the VA will generally accept your subjective report of your symptoms.
  • Knee damage–As with other joints, the VA rates your knee condition based on your range of motion. But here, the rating schedule doesn’t take into account your pain or incapacitating episodes to the same extent it does in rating lumbar or cervical strain. Fortunately, the VA does have a separate rule that if you have painful motion in a joint, you can receive a 10% disability rating. Otherwise, the most common disability rating for lack of motion in the knee is also 10%.
  • Limited ankle motion–Again, the VA will look at the range of motion of your ankle to determine your disability rating. The VA rating schedule provides for a 10% rating if your symptoms are moderate, or a 20% rating if your condition is more severe. But the VA doesn’t provide specific guidelines as to what symptoms are needed to fulfill these categories. There’s a lot of room for error in the rating process for ankles, knees, and spine. This also means that this is an area in which a veterans disability lawyer can reliably obtain a ratings increase for you.
  • Migraines–The VA bases its disability rating for your migraines on their severity, frequency, duration, and impact on your day-to-day life. If your migraines significantly impact your ability to perform at work, or to even go to work at all, you may be entitled to a high rating and significant compensation. Often times, migraines are not caused by your military service directly, but by another service related condition you suffer from. For example, many orthopedic conditions such as back and neck pain can cause migraines. If your back pain is service related, then the migraines it causes are also compensable disabilities as a secondary condition.

In some cases the VA will pay veterans with a less-than-100% rating at the 100% disabled level if they can show that they are totally unable to work. This special rating is known as Total Disability for Individual Unemployability, or TDIU. You can learn more about TDIU in this video:

An experienced veterans benefits lawyer from Jackson & MacNichol can put you in touch with Jacksonville medical professionals who work with veterans and can identify the unique medical and mental health issues you face. Providing the VA with extensive documentation is essential to supplement your C&P exam, which may not give the rating staff all the information they need. We also can help you collect documentation of your decreased performance at work, which can boost your disability rating.

The VA Has a New Appeals Process for Disability Compensation Claims

It’s no secret that the VA is a troubled organization. The second largest department in the federal government, the VA has hundreds of thousands of employees and a staggering annual budget of $87 billion. Despite these resources it has a huge backlog of disability cases so Congress passed the Veterans Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act to try to help with the problems.

The VA now has a new appeals system for any disability claims that have been decided after February 19, 2019. Under the new system, you still have one year to appeal the VA decision, but you now have three options:

  • Requesting a higher level review–An different VA adjudicator will take a new look at your existing claim and reach a new decision. This is the fastest way to appeal a claim, but it doesn’t allow you to submit new evidence. So this is an option only when you and your legal advisors believe that your claim was denied because of such an obvious error, such as a misinterpretation of the law (which happens more often than we think), that no other evidence is needed.  Typically, however, because the AVhas already reviewed and denied the claim, you will not succeed on higher level review because the VA will not consider any new evidence that you have. If the VA adjudicator denies your claim after the higher level review, you still have the option of appealing of filing a supplemental claim.
  • Submitting a supplemental claim–If your veterans benefits lawyer believes your previously denied claim will have a better chance of succeeding if you submit additional evidence, you can start all over by filing a supplemental claim. In such a case, it would be important to submit new evidence, often new medical evidence that shows that your condition is more serious than when the VA doctor saw at your compensation and pension exam (C&P exam). It may also be important to include additional service records or statements from fellow service members about how the conditions of your service caused an injury or illness. For  a TDIU claim, you might need to submit further evidence about your current employment and limited professional opportunities because of your disability.
  • Filing a Notice of Disagreement (NOD) directly to the Board of Veterans Appeals (BVA)–In most cases if your claim has been denied, you will need to appeal your case directly to the BVA, The BVA option is best when your disability claim involves complex medical or legal issues, such as a rare disease that may have been caused by chemical exposure during your service. You can request the BVA to make a decision on the record only, after the submission of new evidence, or after a hearing where your lawyer can advocate for the desired outcome in person and the judge can talk directly to you about your case. If you case is complex, requesting a hearing is almost always the surest way to effectively make your argument.

In theory, the new appeals system is a big improvement that will reduce the number of bad decisions from the VA, and also decrease the length of the appeals process. But the effectiveness of the new system remains to be seen. What is certain is that the VAs own statitistics show that you stand a significantly better chance of getting a good case outcome if you go through the process with a lawyer by your side.

What You Need to Know About Your Veterans Disability Benefits

Just like in war, good information is the key to winning your battle with the VA. Unfortunately, misinformation runs rampant within the veteran community, and many of its members suffer as a result. Don’t let misconceptions or ignorance of the process limit your access to your veterans benefits. If you’re a Jacksonville veteran and you’ve been denied your disability compensation or given an unfairly low rating, it’s time to take control of the situation and do what it takes to get the benefits you deserve.

In addition to consulting with the VA Regional Office for Florida in St. Petersburg, you should also consider scheduling a meeting with a private veterans benefits attorney about your case. The more you learn about applying for disability compensation, the better you will fare in the process. Here are some things you might not know about applying for veterans disability:

  • You may benefit from a zero percent disability rating–If you get a zero percent rating, it means that the VA recognizes that you have a disability, but that it doesn’t significantly impact your ability to support yourself and your family at this time. Although you won’t get monthly tax free compensation for your condition, your disabled status will improve your access to healthcare and other VA benefits programs and will make things much simpler if your condition worsens.
  • You should apply sooner than later–There’s no good reason to wait to apply for veterans disability compensation. Even if you feel relatively good, applying for disability and getting a low rating or even a zero percent rating presents advantages. You can always apply for a ratings increase at a later time when your condition worsens. Further, if you apply for disability within one year of your discharge, and the VA accepts your claim, you will receive back pay from your date of discharge. Otherwise, the back pay only goes back to the date you apply.
  • You don’t need an honorable discharge to get disability–This is a common misconception that prevents some veterans from applying for benefits. As long as you have an honorable, general, or general under honorable conditions discharge, you may qualify for benefits. If you do have a “bad paper” discharge, it may be possible to request a discharge upgrade.
  • You may be able to receive military retirement pay and disability payments–This is true if you have a disability rating of at least 50 percent, or you were wounded in combat and have a rating of 10 percent or more. Your disability compensation will not offset your pension payments. And even if you don’t qualify for these exceptions, remember that your disability compensation is tax free, whereas your pension is not. This means that when you choose to take your disability payments instead of your pension, you are trading in taxable dollars for tax free dollars which will save you money. 
  • You can get disability even if you are employed–The fact that you are employed does not bar you from receiving disability compensation. You can even work and still receive a 100 percent disability.  If your VA rating is for total unemployability you just need to show that your earnings are below the poverty threshold, or that you engage only in marginal employment. VA adjudicators often get this issue wrong, however, so you may need a lawyer to clarify your situation if you are employed and seeking total unemployability compensation.
  • You can afford a veterans benefits lawyer–Many veterans are reluctant to work with a lawyer because they believe they can’t afford one. But most veterans disability lawyers–Jackson & MacNichol included–work on a contingency fee basis. What this means is that they only get paid if you are awarded benefits, and receive a small portion of the back pay you receive from the VA. If they fail to get you your compensation, they don’t get paid at all. No amount of your future ongoing monthly benefits will go toward this fee.

If you want to learn more about the disability compensation claim process, or if you want to appeal the decision you received on your claim, the veterans benefits lawyers of Jackson & MacNichol can give you a free consultation. Remember that the more information you have about your case, the more help we can give you. So make sure to gather all of the information and documentation you have about your disability and your claim before calling us at (800) 524-3339 to tell us about your case.

We’re a Different Kind of Disability Compensation Law Firm

Jackson & MacNichol is a national law firm based in Maine. We may be based in New England, but we’ve successfully represented clients from all around the country, including hundreds of clients in Florida. Your future and your family’s future may depend on the success of your veterans disability compensation claim, so you owe it to yourself to take your time in choosing the best lawyer to work with. Some of our Northern Florida competitors include:

We understand that choosing a veterans benefits lawyer to handle your case is difficult. Here is a video with a few tips on how you can choose the veterans benefits lawyer that is right for you:

With the many veterans disability benefits lawyers to choose from, you might ask what sets us apart from the competition. Jackson & MacNichol has extensive experience, a proven track record of success, and nation-wide reach. By always putting our clients first, we are able to get the results of larger law firms while giving our clients the attention you’d expect from a small law office. Our founder, Francis Jackson, is a national authority on veterans and disability law and a founding member of the National Organization of Veterans’ Advocates. Bear in mind that many lawyers will boast of their accreditation by the VA.  However, accreditation  does not necessarily mean extensive experience (or even any experience) with veterans disability compensation claims.

If you’re a veteran living in the Florida panhandle from Jacksonville in Duval County all the way over to Pensacola, help with your veterans disability compensation case is just one free phone call away. The veterans benefits lawyers of Jackson & MacNichol are ready to start working on your behalf today. To learn more about how to successfully appeal the denial of you veterans benefits, call us now at (800) 524-3339 for a free case consultation.

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