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My Experience Trying To Find An Attorney


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I thought I would take a moment and share with all of you my experiences in attempting to secure legal representation for my wife in her VA claim. We had found a website with a number of "VA specialty" attorneys and were very fortunate (so we thought) that one was in our state and only about an hours' drive from the house. I initially sent this person an email and received a welcome reply from an assistant who gave the boiler plate response about successes and fees. Before sending any files or anything to this firm I asked if they had any references regarding their prior performance specific to VA issues. Let me tell you what, I received a response, not by the assistant this time, but rather by the attorney that could have easily ranked up with some of the Unabomber's diatribes as far as communicating rage and disillusionment. I quickly responded that I was glad to find out that their firm was too busy to waste their time with references and consequently I assumed would be too busy for new clients.

My second (and last attempt) was with an out of state attorney whose specialty was in Gulf War issues. His said he could easily win this from his home state (not sure what quantified a win to him) but just in case he did have to travel then we would be on the hook for all of his travel costs to include a meal allowances, room and board, rental car etc. After calling back to say that we thought that would be reasonable he then became quite excited stating that he was going to knock this one out of the ballpark and went on to discuss that our case would almost certainly be heading to Washington DC as he liked to "fight them from the top." At some point I realized that he was going to cost us much more in "per diem" than what he stood to get from his standard 20% cut. I haven't taken my own family on a vacation in several years because of finances and certainly didn't feel like financing this guys travels all over the place.

We went ahead and appealed her 10% rating from the initial claim without any additional documentation or representation. In her appeal she stated her trust in the VA that a second review of the claim file would most certainly reveal the presence of sufficient documentation to increase her rating based upon the original C & P examination narratives and previous medical records. Maybe we could have gotten a higher rating with one of those attorneys however we went from 10% to 50% within two years of the initial claim for benefits on the single issue, without any additional documentation and it seemed like a victory for us. Looking back I am not sure that we should have done that, in fact I am quite sure we should not have, but luckily it worked out.

I don't know why I am writing this other than to tell folks not to give up hope and be cautious when looking for "paid" representation.

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  • HadIt.com Elder

Yes, thank you for your post, and welcome to the Hadit board.

You stated:

"Maybe we could have gotten a higher rating with one of those attorneys however we went from 10% to 50%........................"

Maybe you could have.

If you'd like to tell us about it, maybe you still can........? :wink:

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mpara,

I'm thankful you used wisdom & discretion about choosing an attorney; they hate that.

I did the same with SSDI and was turned off by several lawyers, so I used online resources to handle it myself.

Won before the ALJ and kept that 20% for my hard work.

Good on ya!

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  • 1 year later...

I know I need to start working on getting an IMO for my claim. I was looking up info on attorneys - wondering if it would just be easier to get an attorney to handle it.

I was on a site for Jan Dils last night. They had a live chat offering to assist me so I bit and talked to the live chat person.

My claim is for DIC for my husband's lung cancer. It was diagnosed almost 2 years post-service when a 3.1 cm tumor was discovered. My husband's base doctor (who says the military attorneys won't let him write an opinion) informed us that my husband's cancer started well before his retirement. We have not been able to locate ANY medical evidence that the type of cancer my husband had would have reached the size it did within two years. The VA ignored our assertions that the cancer started while he was in the service for a long time. Now that they have finally semi-addressed it - the only thing the VA doctor addressed was whether the symptoms my husband had in the service were related to his cancer. They still keep ignoring the question of when the cancer started. (I think because they know it started before he retired.)

There are quite a few BVA appeals where veterans were granted SC for cancer diagnosed post-service, when the medical opinions stated it was more likely than not the cancer had its inception during the veteran's service.

A representative from the law firm called me today for the first screening. The call lasted a couple of minutes. The representative told me I was not eligible for DIC because my husband had to actually be diagnosed with the cancer while in the service, or have served in Vietnam in order to be granted Service Connection.

So I guess they will not be representing me. It will be their loss, I suppose.

I was a bit concerned that they actually told me I don't qualify for DIC. I am not concerned for my sake, as I know better. But I am concerned for the sake of the veterans and widows who might call them and believe it when they are told there are no benefits for post-service diagnoses of disease.

Law firms are certainly at liberty to accept or reject clients. But they certainly should not be telling people that they are not entitled to benefits based on information obtained in a two minute phone call.

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I agree with you that a lawyer should not reject a claim without all of the facts but these vets lawyers are so overwhelmed these days that I think it happens more than we know.

Free -spirit- in 2007 you stated here:

His claim is two-prong -

1. That his lung cancer was incurred in service --based on the fact that it is a slow growing cancer that was discovered at 3.1 cm two years post-discharge (after a 28 year military career).

2. That his lung cancer was more likely than not related to his asbestos exposure as an air Force electrician for 13 years (prior to safety programs being in place.)

and

“his claim for lung cancer was still pending when he died.”

Was an autopsy done and does the VA have a copy of the autopsy?

If not, do you know the exact medical term for the type of cancer he had?

Does it fit into this link describing asbestos lung cancer types?

Asbestos Lung Cancer Explained

Most asbestos lung cancer starts in the lining of the bronchi, the tubes into which the trachea or windpipe divides. However, asbestos lung cancer can also begin in other areas such as the trachea, bronchioles (small branches of the bronchi), or alveoli (lung air sacs). Although lung cancer usually develops slowly, once it occurs, cancer cells can break away and spread to other parts of the body.

The two most common types of lung cancer are small cell lung cancer (SCLC), in which the cancer cells are small and round, and non–small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), in which the cancer cells are larger. Sometimes a cancer has features of both types, and is called mixed small cell/large cell cancer.

I personally feel that any lawyer would be more receptive to you if you had a strong IMO.

And with a strong IMO you really dont need a lawyer.

In my opinion this is the only thing that VA would consider for this type of claim.

If the asbestos exposure can be proven via his 201 file and MOS, and then any potential other causes of the cancer (smoking, post service employment-which doesnt seem to be the case here) can be overcome with an IMO doctor's medical rationale, then this might be the best investment you could make.

But that might depend on this---

aside from his non Vietnam service, and a lack of symptoms in his SMRS (per the VA-an IMO doctor might disagree after a complete review of his SMRs)

did the VA give any other reason for denial of the DIC?

"The VA ignored our assertions " and will continue to do that, saying you don't have the medical expertise to opine on this claim.

They would change their tune with a strong IMO.

The problem with IM0s is that they are costly. And they can end up sometimes not in favor in favor of the claim.

One thing about older SMRs. They can be hard to read and often take being magnified on a PC. Any abbreviations or medical acronyms in them have to be carefully figured out.

I had a vet whose SMRs were full of venereal disease symptoms and treatment I helped him prove he had inservice manifestations of diabetes via penile discharge and other stuff documented and probably never had VD.

His physician gave him an IMO, based on some of the info I had found and he finally succeeded in his claim after more then a decade.

It took a lot of work and considerable time and I have simplified here just one of 3-4 symptoms he had of diabetes in his SMRs. but you might want to read those SMRs again and again. Obviously VA never saw in this vets SMRs what I found and even had my daughter ( Intell cryptologist-USAF decifer one SMR with his permission)

A strong IMO doctor will do all of that for you.

You need to determine however (IMOs are costly)

if the inservice nexus to asbestos can be proven=(which perhaps the VA has already conceded by virtue of his MOS ). and then if the type of lung cancer could be possibly associated to it

by researching any medical terms in his records, (and of course an autopsy could reveal potential asbestos etiology in the autopsy narrative if one was performed)

and then you will now if you can expect an IMO to support your DIC claim as to 'as likely as not'.

Even with exposure to asbestos, not all lung cancers can be attributed to that type of exposure so an IMO doctor will be carefully reviewing not only his SMRs but all available medical records, MRI narratives, treatment records, and, if possible, the results of an autopsy if one was done.

I find I take every chance I get to remind all veterans to make sure your family requests an autopsy at our death unless you have a continuous 10 year 100% P & T SC rating as that would ensure DIC without an autopsy regardless of cause of death.

It can be critical for many DIC claims.

Edited by Berta
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