She'd been fighting for DIC and Accrued Benefits since 2008. (At least 2 other lawyers looked at this case and said it couldn't be won.)
I always take a long and close look at Surviving Spouse cases - they hit really close to home. When our new website launches sometime in September, I'll tell you the story.
Once the Attig Law Firm secured a remand from the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims, she had a decision 55 days* after we filed our Remand Brief with the BVA.
This is one of our quickest decisions to date; it is not achievable in every case, and a lot of factors played into it. The Attig Law Firm's goal is to get the decision as quickly as possible, but quality and thoroughness are our priority - not speed.
What do I mean by this? If the VA is going to take 5 years until they talk with me on a case, I want that communication to be as effective as possible. Make the claim easy for the BVA Judge or the VSR by making sure that the evidence is in the record, and persuasively and cleanly produced to the VSR.
Point is this: if you want a QUICK decision from the VA, you have to redefine QUICK: take the time to build a thorough, persuasive and well-documented argument and the decision will come much quicker, in my opinion.
Here's what happened.
My client is the surviving spouse of a Vietnam Veteran who passed away in 2008. While the cause of death for most Vietnam Veterans is an Agent Orange related condition, this Veteran's story was different: he died from what the VA doctors called "Alzheimer's".
The VA and the BVA found that the "Alzheimer's" was not connected to the Veteran's military service, and so they denied DIC.
After appealing to the CAVC, the Veteran's spouse and the Attig Law Firm agreed to work together. The Attig Law Firm talked to the VA General Counsel about the case, who agreed the VA and BVA had erred. The VA Attorney joined us in our request to have the CAVC remand the case back to the BVA.
What mistake did the BVA make? It's a common one that I've written about before: the BVA decided that the Survivor was not entitled to service connection of the cause of death (DIC) before it decided whether the Veteran's illness was service connected in the first place.
On remand, the Attig Law Firm asked a nationally renowned forensic expert to study the Veteran's medical records. The expert concluded that the Veteran's "Alzheimer's" was actually dementia, caused by a "vascular event".
The expert provided a comprehensive and thorough report explaining how the Veteran's rare vascular condition, which the VA had service connected 35 years earlier, caused the dementia (which in turn caused the Veteran's death). The expert was even able to explain some mistakes that the VA C&P Doctors had made in analyzing the condition.
Long story short, the Attig Law Firm was able to help in this case by identifying the legal error that the Board made, correcting that error at the CAVC, and providing the evidence that the VA had been missing: a comprehensive and thorough explanation of how the Veteran's medical condition (and cause of death) was connected to his military service.
In short, the VA needed proof of a single element of the claim (in this case, the element of nexus).
As I explain in my EBook "5 Reasons the VA Keeps Screwing Up Your Claim & How You Have the Power to Fix It", the lack of proof of 1 or more of the 5 elements of a service-connection claim is often one of the biggest reasons that Veterans are not getting quicker and more satisfying outcomes from the VA.
Congratulations to this surviving spouse; the Attig Law Firm will continue to work with her on her Accrued Benefits claim which is currently being reviewed on remand by a DRO of a VA Regional Office.
Chris Attig, an Accredited Veterans Benefits attorney and Founder of the Attig Law Firm, PLLC is responsible for the content of the site. The principal office of Attig Law Firm, PLLC, is located in Dallas, Texas. Chris Attig is NOT Certified by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. - Please view our website disclaimer.
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