(Part 2) Every veteran knows that the process to claim disability benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs can be complicated and frustrating.
Often, you need to enlist some help to get the compensation you deserve. We are excited to welcome Jim Brzezinski from Tabak Law back to the show to share his expertise and insights about the current VA disability claim landscape.
Questions? Comments? Continue the discussion by requesting access to our exclusive WVF Facebook Group.
Wisconsin Veterans Forward is brought to you by the Wisconsin Veterans Chamber of Commerce, a nonprofit organization that serves veterans and military families by supporting veteran owned and veteran-friendly businesses throughout the state.
On behalf of our members, we serve as an advocate for Wisconsin’s veteran business community and promote economic opportunity for military veterans, military families, and veteran-friendly businesses.
Follow us on all platforms: https://linktr.ee/Wivetschamber
Intro & Outro Themes:
Barry Dallas - I’m Gone (https://uppbeat.io/t/barry-dallas/im-gone)
Noise Cake - Light It Up (https://uppbeat.io/t/noise-cake/light-it-up)
Today on Wisconsin veterans forward. We continue our dialogue with Jim Bransky from Taback law. This is a guy who knows everything there is to know about the VA claims and disability compensation process. He used to work on the VA and he would process claims that veterans submitted. He works on veterans behalf, helping them to get it right when the VA gets it wrong. And sometimes you need a little added firepower. Often the VA gets it wrong and you need somebody in your corner to duke it out on your behalf. When you signed on the dotted line, you made a commitment to your country, to the department of defense, but they also made a commitment to you. And it's UN it's an unfortunate reality that sometimes you need somebody to hold the VA to the fire, to ensure that they are supporting you in the way that they committed to do. When you sign on that dotted line. It's an interesting dialogue . Let's dive right in. You are listening to Wisconsin veterans forward. Wisconsin's premier audio resource for veterans, military families, veteran owned and veteran friendly businesses. Wisconsin veterans forward is brought to you by the Wisconsin veterans chamber of email@example.com .Speaker 2:
It used to be, you would find file the , um, you would file your claim and they would tell you what you needed. And even if you had the new evidence in order to , uh, have it reviewed, you would have to file the notice of disagreement. And you would have to wait three to five years sometimes to get that next decision, even though it was just the simple piece of evidence that was missing. Um, so now what's happening is you get the new evidence. You filed a supplemental claim, which starts the process over for you. And a lot of 'em are being, you know, claims that could have taken three or four years can now get done in 12 months, you know, because you , you , you wait three to six months for your first decision. They tell you what's missing. You get it. You ask again, and you get another decision. So, so that actually does knock out quite a bit of claims. Um, it helps vets all around, I think because , um, you know, you're , you're not waiting, which, you know, some of the vets that come my way are so disabled, they can't work and they're struggling or homeless, you know? Um , I mean they need ,Speaker 1:
They , they need answers not three to five years from now .Speaker 2:
Yes . Yeah. ImagineSpeaker 1:
I think it's important to note that it still does take time.Speaker 2:
And even though it is a simplified and expedited process compared to what it used to be, if you've already received a denial, if you have , have already received a decision that you are not , uh, that you're , that you don't accept, that you're not happy with, it's super important to have somebody help guide you through this process. Right. And, and , and that would be some, someone like you, that would be, yeah , payback law and folks who know how to get this done. So it doesn't get lost waiting in the wings for years on end. Um, somebody who can manage the case. And the other important note is that you don't, I , I'm not like I'm using payback law right now. I'm using Jim and his team to help me , uh, settle a , a , a claim dispute. And I did , I'm not paying out of pocket up front . You're not paying the, you know, the $250 an hour lawyer fees on the front end. I didn't pay a retainer to make this happen. This is a service that is, that is , um, there is no upfront cost to the veteran. Can you explain kind of how that works? Cause I, you know, anybody who might say like, well, I don't wanna go to a lawyer for this or a lawyer for the VA. They're just taking advantage of veterans, which is baloney . Can you just explain sure . Where your , like, where, how do you keep the lights on? Where does that compensation come from ? So people understand that what you're doing is, is totally on the up and up.Speaker 2:
Yeah, absolutely. I, I , I love to . So , um, you know, and, and one thing that's very important to know is like, we don't get paid on a case even if, even if you were to sign on with us. And this happens all the time and when it happens, but like, I file a case and then I look and I say, Hey, you had this happen in the , in the service. Why haven't you ever filed for this other disability? And they say, oh, I just, I never thought about it. And I'm like, well, are you still having issues? Oh yeah. Okay. Well, let's, let's file that claim. And it's such an easy claim that they win right away filed first time, no appeal needed. We can't get paid on , on those cases because we only get paid. If there's some decision that has to be appealed. Like, you know, so a lot of vets are saying this claim is too easy. I don't want help. You know, what if we take your case and it's that easy, it's not gonna cost you anything. We have cases all the time where, you know, I know for a fact that the VA we'll screw up enough of these cases, that it , for me, it makes sense to still take a lot of 'em and just do it, knowing that a good percentage are gonna win right away. And, you know, we'll chalk it up to help an vet that deserved it and needed it. And, and we'll go our Merry way with no feet . I mean, I would say probably 10 to 15% of our cases get settled with no feet .Speaker 1:
That's a super important point here. Yeah's that his team only, and, and P you know, like Wes , you mentioned west and dun very similar situation. And so Jim and his team at Taback law, anybody who works in this space , uh, they only get compensation. If there has been an appeal on an , an , an existing decision, and that appeal is reversed, and there is back pay that is owed to the veteran. At which time the firm will take a portion of that. Is that accurate?Speaker 2:
Good , Adam. So then when we do have an appeal and , and , and even on some of those cases, when they get it right, they get something wrong, whether it be the effective date or the percentage, you know, honestly, as an attorney, I , I , I probably would make myself way too busy, but I would, as a bad , I would want every decision at least reviewed by an attorney. Mm . You know , because we do it for free. We review the case, like, right . That fine cases we will take is by reviewing a case for free. And I'll tell you if I can't win a case and get back pay, I'm not gonna take the case. And you basically just got your free review, you, and, you know, the VA did what they were supposed to do. Whereas, you know, the vast majority of time, I say, okay, well actually I see something that we can appeal. And , um, you know, it's gonna result in money for you. And if there's back pay , then we would get a fee on that. And, and our fee is , um , what , what ends up happening is the VA withholds 20% of the back pay only. Um, so like, you know, if you would get a hundred percent for a year, we would get only a payment on that year of back pay. It wouldn't be like every month where we get a chunk of your payment or anything like that. It's just that back pay amount. Now, you know, sometimes cases that have been waiting a long time , um, there's, there's a decent amount of back pay and right . You know, and , and those cases are generally tougher cases. And they generally take more , um, uh, not only work, but a lot of times we have to put a lot of money into it, such as expert opinions. And , you know, and, and, and that's another piece of the puzzle at , and we don't charge upfront for any legal fees that are needed. So like, you know, a lot of firms and even a lot of VA firms , um, not only will they charge more than 20%, like some will charge a third or, or even more. Um , but a lot of 'em will make you pay for your experts, which sometimes can be a and 1500 , $2,000 of power . And , um, you know, we are lucky enough to have a firm that has other practice areas that can help us to fund what we're doing with the VA until we get paid. Um,Speaker 1:
Which is awesome.Speaker 2:
Yeah, it is awesome. And, you know , uh , and like I was saying, some of these vets come to us and they have nothing. They are literally, yeah.Speaker 1:
They can't, they , they can't work.Speaker 2:
How do , how do you flip , how do you fund a thousand, 2020 $500 to get compensated in the way that you, that you deserve exactly .Speaker 2:
You can't work. Yep . So, so what we'll do is whatever of our expenses, you know, we'll, we'll notify the vet , Hey, like, we're gonna do this opinion. It costs X amount of dollars. We're gonna pay it. You know, we think it'll win your case. At which point you'll get a nice chunk of back pay. And then we're going to ask for it to be repaid if we win. But we are of the mindset where if we recommend something be paid , um, out, and our recommendation is such that you don't win, we're gonna eat that cost cause , right . You know, if I'm recommending you spend $2,000 and then you lose, you're gonna be like, okay, well, I would've never did this on my own. And you told me , right . So, and, and that's fair. AndSpeaker 1:
So there's really no risk for a veteran,Speaker 2:
No risk, noSpeaker 1:
Risk to give you a call and at least see, or even go through the process of seeing if there can be some sort of a reversal there's no up for , there's no risk in it for them.Speaker 2:
Exactly. And here's the, here's really kind of what I'm finding. You know, I've been doing this long enough where I've seen thousands of case files. Right. And , um, and here's what I'm finding is that a lot of vets, right. When they got out applied for all these different things that were bothering 'em , you know, there may be a list of 20 different things. And of that list, only five got approved. And some, maybe even got approved at a 0% and then they just don't do anything for 10, 15, 20 years. Um, which I get, because you know, you're young and you're like, oh yeah, the VA is paying me this, this is wonderful. I'm living, living good. I'm getting this extra money I'm working. Um, but then there's, you know, what, what a lot of people don't think about is, you know, you're gonna get older. Your body's only gonna get worse. All of these things that maybe are just slight annoyances now could turn into very serious conditions and, and what ,Speaker 1:
And you may need to Reeva and your slight back pain. Yes. Could , you know, from schlepping around a pack for years, you know, could become a serious issue at which point, you know, it started, it wouldn't have happened if you wouldn't have served. Yep . And even though it wasn't a huge, huge issue, maybe just a nagging little pain here and there, they service can acted , it rated it at 0%, cuz it wasn't, you know, affecting your life that badly. Yep . And 10 years down the road, you're bent over 90, 90 degrees. Most of the time you can hardly get around. So they're still, they're still responsible for that situation. So it may not be that they got it wrong to begin with, but they may need, it could change to adjust your, your , your rating and level of compensation. Is that what you're saying?Speaker 2:
That's true. And, and, and the , and the interesting thing , um, you know, is that the VA will sure enough, schedule you a future exam. If you've got a high rating, right. To reevaluate you, you got a hundred per , they might say, okay, well, you gotta come back in five years is see if you're still a hundred percent. Well, if 0% , they're not gonna say, Hey, you gotta come back in five years to say, if , to see if you're worse, that's, that's not how they work. Like you have to let them know. And one thing that's sort of , um, sort of interesting is there was a case I believe in 2012 , um, that came down through the courts where it , it deals with pain because what ended up happening is, is pre 2012, you got a 0% rating , um, on physical conditions, such as like musculoskeletal joint issues. If you didn't have the sufficient loss of motion, you know, because everything with the VA is, is based on when it comes to musculoskeletal is based on your range of motion.Speaker 1:
Right? My, my shoulder. Yep . For example, the range of motion, that's what I was, they brought me into , had two doctors and they said, you know, move here, push here, move here. They had a little pro tractor out to measure the , you know, how many degrees I can move my shoulder back or whatever.Speaker 2:
So if you don't meet the requirements for a 10% based on range of motion, what was supposed to happen is, is if there's painful motion, you would get at least a 10%. So like every major joint you would get at least a 10%. If, if there was painful motion, even if you didn't meet the , um, even if you didn't meet the requirement with the, they call it, I think it's, it's either pronounced goniometer or goniometer. It's okay . The protractor thing. Sure . So they would use this device and yeah, if it's, if it's not enough of a loss of motion, you might have a disability, but it's a 0%, which is 0% is, is important because it allows you to get treated and they've already admitted. There's an issue. So when it gets worse, you don't have to fight that whole causation fight. But what ended up happen is two in prior to 2012, the painful motion required , um, objective evidence of painful motion. Okay . In your exam, there was a checkbox, you know? And, and it's so funny because I'm like reading the remarks of the exam. Yeah . This guy complains a pain all the time. It flares up, he can't move, blah, blah, blah. Then is there objective evidence of painful motion on this exam? No ,Speaker 1:
No , no , because in the office he didn't scream or win some pain while moving his or her elbow.Speaker 2:
Yeah . Yeah. Which is kind of funny, cuz it's objective evidence of subjective complaint anywaysSpeaker 1:
VA for, yeah .Speaker 2:
But anyways, so, so you would , you'd read all these documents and , and they're , the vets are complaining of paying this and paying that and I can't do this. I can't do that 0% because no objective evidence. Of course. So , um, in 2012 they loosen that requirement to where, you know, they're able to give you the painful, even if it just sort of describes painful motion. Sure . There's no objective evidence. Um, so a lot of people pre 2012 that were rated zero. If you just go back in, you're almost guaranteed to get a , at least a 10% for that issue.Speaker 1:
Good stuff. We're gonna continue this next week. Yeah. I know. It's our first time splitting it up over multiple weeks, but this is a big dialogue . It's an important interview and conversation. This is a four parter folks. So part three and four are gonna drop next week, Monday at our normal time . I know it's gonna be hard to wait. We'll see you then. Thank you for listening to Wisconsin veterans forward brought to you by the Wisconsin veterans chamber of commerce. Please visit firstname.lastname@example.org . The don't forget yet to subscribe to this podcast, leave a rating and review in whatever platform you're listening through.