You Served Our Country. Now It’s Our Turn to Serve You.

Get Help Filing a VA Disability Claim Appeal!

Accredited VA attorneys at The Downs Law Group provide unmatched expertise. Whether your disability claim was denied or given an unfavorable result, The Downs Law Group strives to ensure your service-related disabilities are recognized, and you receive the benefits you deserve. We handle all claims, making your fight for justice our mission.

Request a Free Consultation Regarding a VA Disability Denial Appeal

You Qualify for VA Benefits If...

You are a Qualified Service Veteran

For this requirement, the VA considers your time period of service, how long you actually served, and the nature of your discharge from service.

You are Currently Experiencing a Disability

Disabilities are evaluated on a percentage rating scale from 0-100%. Your disability must be rated at 10% or higher to receive monthly benefits.

Your Disability is Connected to Your Military Service

Providing this evidence is absolutely crucial to ensuring you receive benefits. You must be able to show your disability was caused by something that occurred while you were serving and because you were serving. Many VA claims are initially denied because claimants fail to provide enough evidence to demonstrate how their medical condition occurred or began while they were in service.

Common Service-Connected
Injuries & Disabilities

Since 1917, the VA has provided benefits to veterans, including programs for compensating disabilities and medical conditions resulting from military service.

Commonly claimed injuries and disabilities include but are not limited to:  

PFAS & AFFF Exposure Symptoms

Mental Health Conditions

Various Forms of Cancer

Traumatic Brain Injuries

Permanent Mobility Loss or Paralysis

Spinal Injuries

Joint & Knee Injuries

Nerve Damage

Disfigurement or Amputations

Hearing Loss

Vision Loss

Trouble Breathing

Scarring or Burns

Sinusitus or Rhinitis

& More

Some medical conditions, diseases, and illnesses do not physically manifest until months or even years after the initial onset, or, when your military service began you may have had a latent condition that was worsened by serving. Although more difficult to prove than direct exposure to hazardous substances or battle injuries, the VA nonethless provides benefits for later-manifested medical conditions. If your condition worsened or continues to worsen post-service, the VA considers whether you experienced an event while serving that exacerbated your pre-existing medical condition (

Potential Hazards

Chemicals and Materials Military Personnel Might Encounter During Service:

Agent Orange

Cancers known to be caused by exposure to Agent Orange include bladder cancer, Chronic B-cell leukemia, Hodgkin’s disease, Multiple myeloma, Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, Prostate Cancer, Respiratory cancers (including lung cancer) and some soft tissue sarcomas. The VA does not include osteosarcoma, chondrosarcoma, Kaposi’s sarcoma, or mesothelioma on the VA’s list of presumptive conditions. Other illnesses known to be caused by Agent Orange include AL amyloidosis, Chloracne (or other types of acneiform disease like it). Diabetes mellitus type 2, high blood pressure, Hypothyroidism, Ischemic heart disease, monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance (MGUS), Parkinsonism, Parkinson’s disease, Peripheral neuropathy, early onset, and Porphyria cutanea tarda. If you have cancer or another illness not listed here, but you believe it was caused by Agent Orange, you still can certainly file a claim.


When the particles and fibers found in asbestos-contaminated material become airborne, serious health risks can ensue to someone who is exposed. Veterans who served in any of the following occupations may have been exposed to asbestos: mining, milling, shipyard work, insulation work, demolition of old buildings, carpentry and construction, manufacturing and installation of products such as flooring and roofing. Symptoms of asbestos related diseases include shortness of breath, coughing and chest pain. Health problems associated with asbestos include Asbestosis, Pleural plaques, and cancer. Asbestos exposure is unique because these symptoms do not typically manifest themselves until between 20-50 years after the exposure.

Birth Defects (Spina Bifida)

If you served in Thailand, the Republic of Vietnam, or in or near the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), and your child has birth defects, your child may be eligible for disability benefits.

Burn Pits and Other Particular Environmental Hazards

The Military has used open-air burn pits to dispose of toxic waste for decades. Plastics, metals, paints, solvents, munitions and medical and human waste are all dumped into these massive pits and burned together, emitting large amounts of toxic smoke and chemicals. Worse still, JP-8 jet fuel containing benzene was typically used to accelerate the burning process. If you served in any of the following places during the designated time periods, you may have been exposed to toxic chemicals in the air, water, or soil: From August 2, 1990 to present affected areas include: Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and certain surrounding areas. From September 11, 2001 to present affected areas include: Afghanistan, Uzbekistant, Djibouti, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, and Yemen.

In August of 2022, Congress passed the PACT Act, which is a new law that expanded VA health care and benefits for veterans exposed to burn pits and other hazardous chemicals while serving. This included an expansion of the cancers recognized by the VA that are presumed to be service-connected. These cancers include brain cancer, gastrointestinal cancers, head or neck cancers, kidney cancer, lymphatic cancers, lymphoma, melanoma, pancreatic cancer, reproductive cancers, and respiratory cancers.

Contact with Mustard Gas or Lewisite

Sulfar mustard falls under the “vesicants” class of chemical warfare agents known to form “vesicles” or blisters on exposed skin. It is a cellular poison, mutagen, and human carcinogen that can permanently damage the eyes, the gastrointestinal system, and the respiratory system. In high doses, sulfur mustard can be lethal.

If you served in any of these areas, you may have been exposed: Bari, Italy; Finschhafen, New Guinea; Porton Down, England; Ondal, India; Naval Training Center, Bainbridge, Maryland; Bushnell, Florida; Camp Lejeune, North Carolina; Camp Sibert, Alabama; Charleston, South Carolina; Dugway Proving Ground, Utah; Edgewood Arsenal, Maryland; Great Lakes Naval Training Center, Illinois; Hart’s Island, New York; Naval Research Laboratory, Washington (D.C.); Rocky Mountain Arsenal, Colorado; Naval Research Laboratory, Virginia; USS Eagle Boat 58.

Camp Lejeune Contaminated Drinking Water

If you served at Camp Lejeune or MCAS New River between August 1953 and December 1987, you may have drank contaminated water found to be the cause of numerous presumptive health conditions, including adult leukemia, aplastic anemia, bladder cancer, kindey cancer, liver cancer, multiple myeloma, Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and Parkinson’s disease.

Exposure to Radiation

Contact with ionizing radiation is known to cause serious and even fatal health issues. There are a number of locations whereby the VA will automatically assume (or “presume”) you were exposed to radition if you can demonstrate you served there during the specified time periods.

Gulf War Illnesses  (Afghanistan & Southeast Asia)

If you served in Afghanistan or Southeast Asia from 1990 to present and have a medical condition relating to your service, you may have a claim for illnesses linked to this region. Presumptive conditions for Gulf War veterans include: chronic fatigue, Fibromyalgia, functional gastrointestinal disorders, medically unexplained chronic multi-symptom illness, and other undiagnosed illnesses such as cardiovascular issues, muscle and joint pain, and headaches.

Project 112 (Project SHAD)

If you participated in warfare testing for Project 112 or Project  Shipboard Hazard and Defense (SHAD) from 1962-1974, you may be at risk of illnesses believed to be caused by chemical testing.

Free VA Disability Claims Quick Link Sheet

Essential online resources for Veterans
filing disability claims!

Steps to Filing Your Claim:

Step 1: Prepare

When you file you may immediately submit evidence to support your claim (recommended if you have medical records already). You should submit:

  • Any VA medical and hospital records relating to your claimed condition, especially records showing your rated disability has worsened.
  • Any private medical and hospital reports and records relating to your claimed condition(s)
  • Statements from family, friends, coworkers, clergy, or law enforcement personnel with knowledge regarding how and when your disability occurred and if or when it worsened.
  • You may need to fill out additional forms depending on your status and what you are claiming. Download our Free VA Disability Claims Quick Link Sheet to access forms online you may need to complete!
Remember to Keep & Store All Relevant Documents Associated with your VA Claims!

Step 2: Apply

Complete your disability compensation benefits form.

If you need help filing your application or have other questions about your VA benefits, call the VA at (800) 827-1000 or locate the nearest regional office to you.

Once you have located the nearest office to you, call the office and ask to speak with a VA benefits counselor. An accredited representative, the Veterans Service Officer (VSO) can assist you in filing your claim.


Once your form is submitted, you will receive a confirmation message. Print this for your records as we advise you to keep a personal copy of all documentation relating to your claim.

Please also feel free to CALL or TEXT The Downs Law Group’s VA accredited attorneys at (305) 444-8226 with any questions you may have. One of our staff members will be happy to help you!

After I File My Claim, What’s Next?

Step 3: The VA Reviews Your Claim

The VA processes claims in the order that they are received. The time it takes to process your claim varies on a case-by-case basis, depending on how many injuries and/or disabilities you claim, and how long it takes for the VA to gather the necessary evidence to make a decision. You can make this process move faster by submitting all documentation you have available when you file your claim.

Step 4: A Decision Will Be Made

Once your claim is processed, you will receive a notice in the mail with the VA’s decision. It is crucial to make sure that both the VA regional office and the VA medical center have all your contact information up to date, including your current address, phone, and email.

Once you have filed your disability benefits claim with the VA, the best next step is to think about scheduling your VA Claims Exam. You may receive a call or letter from the VA or one of their partners requesting you attend a claims examination.

What We Can Do For You

Free Case Evaluation

Our team will work directly with you to identify whether you may be eligible to receive benefits. We will discuss the strengths and weaknesses of your specific situation. If you do in fact have a case, we will help you strategize how to present your case in the best possible light.

Help You Gather Records

The key factor to maximizing your benefits is to submit as much documentation of your medical condition, how it relates to your service, and records validating your service as needed. The outcome of your claim ultimately rests on the records you provide.

Appeal A Decision

An increased rating could be life changing. If your claim was wrongly underrated or denied, you could also be eligible for disability back pay. If you are unhappy with the VA’s decision, the attorneys at Downs Law Group pledge to keep fighting until you receive the benefits you deserve.

Image of US Department of Veteran Affairs logo Accredited Attorneys

We are VA Accredited Attorneys

Frequently Asked Questions

We understand that veterans may have questions regarding the VA disability claims process. Here are some common questions and answers many ask our VA Accredited Attorneys:

What is a Claims Exam and Why Would I Need One?

A VA claims exam (also known as a compensation & pension “C&P” exam) is part of the claim review process when you file a compensation or pension claim. If you included enough medical evidence when you filed your benefits application, you may not even need a claims exam.

However, if more information is needed to decide your claim(s), it is important to schedule a claims exam as soon as possible. The exam helps the VA determine if your disability:
(1) is service connected,
(2) the level of your disability,
(3) or if your condition should receive an increased rate due to it worsening.

Not everyone needs to have a claim exam done, but it is certainly helpful to get one. If you have enough medical evidence in your file to support your claim, the VA follows the Acceptable Clinical Evidence (ACE) process, where the VA will review your records and ask you for additional information if needed, rather than asking you to have an exam.

What Does the Claims Exam Consist of?

Everyone’s examination is different. The length of the examination depends on the conditions you are claiming and the severity of those conditions, so your visit could range from half an hour to an hour or more. However, if you are claiming mental health conditions, mental health evaluations can take between 2-4 hours. During the exam, the examiner will ask you questions, observe your behavior, and conduct a limited physical examination.

What Should I Bring to my VA Claims (C&P) Exam?

You do not need to bring anything with you. However, if you have any new medical records from non-VA, private medical treaters, you should submit them before your appointment.

There are 3 ways to submit your non-VA medical records for your exam:
(1) Upload medical records online using the VA claim status tool.
(2) Submit medical records through your accredited representative or Veterans Service Officer (VSO).
(3) Mail copies of the records to your nearest VA Regional Office.

What Happens After my VA Claims Exam?

After your exam, a report will be sent to a VA claims processor and added to your claims file. This report will be used along with your claim application to decide your claim.

What Happens if I Miss My VA Claims Exam?

Contact the VA or the contract vendor immediately at the number provided if you need to reschedule or miss your exam. Missing your exam could cause the VA’s decision on your claim to be delayed, or a rating of “as is” on your claim, meaning the VA will only consider the information you have already provided them in your file in assessing your claim. It is strongly advised that if you must reschedule, do so more than a day in advance of your appointment. This will increase your likelihood of securing a new appointment as soon as possible to avoid delaying your claim(s) evaluation.

How Do I Schedule My Exam?

You do not need worry about that, the VA will schedule your exam for you after you reach out to make your request. The staff at your local VA medical center or a VA contractor will mail you a letter providing the date and time of your exam. You will need to confirm your appointment by calling the number on the exam letter to confirm the place and time. Make sure that the VA has updated contact information. You will only handle rescheduling your exam if needed. Remember, you can request help with transportation or other accommodations when you confirm your appointment.
Update Your Contact Information with the VA here!

When Will I Know the Rating for my Claim?

Every claim is unique, but if you proactively provide sufficient medical evidence and/or attend a claims exam, the claims decision process from beginning to end usually takes between three (3) to four (4) months. However, it is important to note that processing time will be affected by the complexity of your claim(s), as well as the number of conditions you are claiming.

Each disability is assigned a rating from 0%-100%. This rating is based solely on the evidence you submit to support your claim, including the report from your Claims Examination. If you think your disability recovery is too low, you may file a claim for increase, but before you do, check to see if you are already receiving the maximum disability rating for your specific condition(s).

REMEMBER: The examiner only performs your exam, they do not make the rating decision on your claim, only the VA regional office can answer questions about your claim.

What Kind of Benefits Might I Receive if my Claim is Approved?

Disabilities determined by the VA to be related to your military service can result in monthly non-taxable compensation, enrollment in the VA healthcare system, a 10-point hiring preference for federal employment and other important benefits.

How Do I Request a Copy of my VA Claims (C&P) Exam Report?

You will need to fill out a request form because you cannot obtain the results at your exam. Download and complete the VA Form 20-10206 here. Then submit the form by mail or in-person to the nearest VA Regional Office.

Mailing Address to request your VA Claims (C&P) Exam report:
Department of Veterans Affairs
Evidence Intake Center
P.O. Box 4444
Janesville, WI 53547-4444

What Should I do if my VA Disability Claim is Denied Due to Insufficient Medical Documentation or Lack Thereof?

If your claim is denied or you disagree with a VA decision made on or after February 19, 2019, to continue your case there are three options available to you, but you may only choose one per issue at a time:

(1) Submit a Supplemental Claim
(2) Request Higher Level Review
(3) Request a Board Appeal

If you have new evidence, file a supplemental claim and a reviewer will determine if the new evidence changes the decision. To file a supplemental claim, fill out VA Form 20-0995 here. Supplemental claims may be filed at any time, but we highly suggest filing within a year of the date on your decision letter.

You can check the status of your claim on the VA website. The attorneys of The Downs Law Group are here to assist you with appeals and judicial review of denied claims, so if you have any questions, please do not hesitate to call us at (305) 444-8226.

What Happens During the Appeals Process for VA Claims?

Although an attorney is not required for you to appeal a VA benefits claim decision, having one can make a huge difference. The appeals process is complicated and can take years of waiting, but the attorneys at Downs Law Group will work tirelessly to get you the most out of your benefits—and as quickly as possible. We would be honored to represent you, and we promise to give you our best.

For most VA benefits you have 1 year from the date of your initial decision to request a Higher-Level Review or a Board Appeal. If you miss this deadline, from then on you may only file supplemental claims. After you have requested a decision review, you do not need to do anything else unless the VA sends you a letter requesting more information. If you requested a review and have not heard back yet, DO NOT SUBMIT ANOTHER REQUEST. Call the VA at (800)-827-1000.

Coming Soon!

The Downs Law Group will be launching an app to help guide veterans through the claim appeals process.