Insurance

Guide to the Use of Lay Evidence in a Veterans Benefits Claim

eBenefits.VA.Gov – When a military Veteran files a disability or benefits claim with the Department of Veterans Affairs for compensation due to injuries that occurred in military service, they are not required to rely solely on medical evidence. In fact, since soldiers rarely go on sick call when they are injured – and since service medical records are not always preserved or accurate – Veterans are encouraged to rely on lay evidence or testimony to substantiate their claim.

In fact, when a Veteran introduces lay evidence into the record the VA Regional Office (VARO), Board of Veterans Appeals (BVA) and the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims (CAVC) must consider the lay evidence.

What is lay evidence? It is a broad category – generally, it is any evidence or testimony that does not come from an expert – medical or otherwise. eBenefits.VA.Gov

Here are some situations when a Veteran can (and should) use lay evidence or testimony:

1) If a Veteran has someone that can describe the symptoms of a particular medical condition or injury, it is permissible to support a subsequent diagnosis by a medical professional. This was essentially the holding in Jandreau v. Nicholson, 492 F.3d 1372 (Fed. Cir. 2007). So, for example, if a Veteran has been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, he or she can introduce lay evidence of the symptoms of Parkinson’s that other people observed in the past.

2) A veteran can use lay evidence or testimony to identify some medical conditions. These are usually going to be medical conditions that are simple or unmistakeable like a broken leg. Sometimes, lay evidence or testimony can prove a more complex condition – like Parkinson’s disease – because the symptoms are so readily recognizable. Compare that to cancer – a lay witness or lay testimony will rarely be able to prove-up the symptoms of pancreatic cancer – though many of us are familiar with the disease, non-medical witnesses are generally not competent to testify to its symptoms or diagnosis.

3) A veteran can always use lay evidence or testimony to try to prove-up a contemporaneous medical diagnosis. For example, a Veteran can testify that he was diagnosed with a medical condition.

4) A Veteran can – and should – use lay evidence or testimony to prove up factual matters within that witnesses personal knowledge. These are commonly known as “buddy statements”, and are competent evidence to prove that a Veteran experienced pain in service, went on sick call, was placed on limited duty, received physical therapy, etc. The uses are boundless – the key element however is that the witness must have personal, first-hand knowledge. A more in-depth discussion of this use is found in Washington v. Nicholson, 19 Vet. App. 362, 368 (2005).

A common use of Number 4, and the rest of the examples, is to prove up “continuity of symptomatology” – a legal element of direct service-connection in some types of Veterans’ claims.

If a Veteran does provide lay evidence or testimony, neither the VARO or the BVA can exclude or fail to consider this evidence simply because it refers to or discusses medical matters. (Believe it or not, the BVA does this very thing quite frequently). eBenefits.VA.Gov

Instead, the VARO and BVA must:

1) Make a determination as to whether lay evidence is what the law refers to as “competent” (i.e., sufficient to prove what it seeks to prove). If the BVA or VARO decides it is not competent, they will have to include an adequate explanation of that conclusion. This is discussed in Jandreau v. Nicholson, 492 F.3d 1372 (Fed. Cir. 2007).

2) The VARO or BVA have to weigh the evidence: in other words, they have to put the lay evidence on a scale against the other evidence that is in a Veteran’s record. The purpose of weighing the evidence is to decide whether it is probative or not. Read more about this requirement in Buchanan v. Nicholson, 451 F.3d 1331 (Fed. Cir. 2006).

3) The BVA or VARO may, in certain situations, need to determine whether or not the evidence is credible. Credible doesn’t always mean “true” or “false” – it really just means whether the evidence can be relied upon by the person making a decision on issues of law or fact. For example, someone might tell you that a car accident just happened at the intersection of Main and 1st Street. That may or may not be true – but you might be more likely to believe it is true based on certain factors: who told you, why they told you, where they told you, etc. You’d be more likely to believe something like that is true if the person telling you was covered in blood and 1 block from the intersection. You can read more about this element in Barr v. Nicholson, 21. Vet. App. 303 (2007).

If you find yourself in a position where a VA Regional Office – or the Board of Veterans’ Appeals – has ignored or disregarded lay evidence or testimony that you submitted without given you an adequate reason or basis for its decision, you may have grounds to appeal the decision to the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims.

If you are a Veteran and have questions about your VA Benefits claim contact a Veterans Benefits attorney.

Veterans Life Insurance Or Term-Whole Life Insurance Benefits

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It is always a good idea to do a bit of research towards the end of service in the armed forces. There’re lots of  benefits that veterans can benefit from the Dept of Veterans Affairs or VA as it is commonly called. The first step in getting good veterans insurance is to have a complete physical done at least four monts before taking a discharge from service.

This will prove beneficial in that the insurance companies would have no grounds to quote higher rates should the veteran decide to seek insurance out of the department’s provisions for the same. It can also pave the way to claim future disability compensation from the department after being discharged. So remember to get yourself a copy of all your medical records from the relevant dept and get them certified as well. eBenefits.Va.Gov

veterans life insurance

Before setting out to get some private policy from a private life insurance company it is better to understand what you are eligible for from the department of Veteran’s Affairs. Many veterans are entitled to health care, disability compensation, and life insurance too. Though there is a ceiling of $10,000 USD on the total insurance the government issues to a veteran. It may be noted here that veterans holding a ‘Veterans Reopened Insurance’ and those with ‘Veterans Special Life Insurance’ can also purchase additional paid-up cover.

eBenefits.Va.Gov

Veterans having contracting disability after their 65th birthday and are likely to stay in that disabled condition for at least six months are entitled to have the premium of their veterans policy waived by the Department of Veterans Affairs. Veterans who are permanently disabled should consult with the relevant authority in the V.A to have the proceeds or the dividends of their policies delivered to them on a monthly basis.

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Veterans also have the advantage of being able to borrow as much as 94 % of the total value of their veteran’s life policy. This is applicable on their permanent plan by continuing to pay the premium of the policy in force. The interest charged is an adjustable rate that is adjusted on the 1st of October every year. So this works out to a reducing balance, which means that the total interest reduces as the loan amount is paid up gradually. eBenefits.Va.Gov

There are a lot of benefits for veterans when it comes to insurance policies. For more information it is advisable to call the department of veteran’s affairs on their national toll free number and get an update on what you are entitled to and what you are not. eBenefits.Va.Gov

John Fagan is one that would direct you to the lowest possible price for your insurance needs. No matter the type of insurance that you need we have it right at the tip of your fingers. Insurance Needs & a very short form Personal and Business needs