At Bluestein Attorneys our Veteran Affairs team features officers and former enlisted personnel.
At Bluestein Attorneys, we understand what it means to serve our nation in a time of war.
We have experienced the sacrifices veterans make for our country. Fighting for the men and women who served is not just a profession - it's an honor.
For the next couple of weeks, we'll be taking time here at Bluestein Attorneys' blog to do something a little different. It's essential when dealing with sensitive legal issues to get an understanding of the attorneys you're looking to represent you — and nowhere is that more important than in Veterans Affairs Disability claims.
Our VA attorneys have agreed to answer a few questions that will help you get to know them a little bit better and to understand why they are so passionate about defending and standing up for the rights of military veterans and service members. Today, we'll meet with Tim Mercer who joined Bluestein Attorneys in 2018.
How long have you been with Bluestein Attorneys?
Since December 15, 2017, when I started as a law clerk. My capacity here has changed since I was sworn in as an attorney in November 2018.
Can you give us a brief introduction and description of your Military service?
I am originally from a small rural town named Athens, located in upstate New York and on the Hudson River. My grandfather served with the Marines during the Korean war and later became a private pilot. From a young age and since I can remember I knew that I wanted to both a Marine and a pilot. While I always thought I would combine those two things and be a pilot in the Marine Corps, I took a very different route, earning my private pilot’s license in 2005, and ended up enlisting in the Marine Corps Reserves, serving as an 0311 Rifleman from 2009 to 2015.
How is veterans law significantly different from other areas of practice?
Although there can be a heavy focus on administrative law and regulatory interpretation, there is also an intense focus on your client, which someone in energy law or environmental law would not have. Every case is very personal and the stakes for that individual are high. That intensity has to come through in your work product.
Is there any advice you would give current active-duty military service members to help them be prepared to navigate possible issues with the VA in the future?
First, do not get discouraged. I hear from people all the time that they think the VA is just waiting them out, until they quit pursuing their claim, or succumb to some illness. You have to stay on top of your claim and be persistent. Second, learn a little about how the VA rates the injury or disease that you are claiming. Using the right words and describing your disability in the right way during a medical exam can make or break your claim. Something like headaches seems simple, but how often do you get them? What do you feel during them? If you know this information you will be much more prepared to go into that exam, and ultimately will get better results and a more accurate evaluation of your disability.
Do you find that there are negative impacts for veterans who wait to file for disability as opposed to filing right away?
In short, yes. Ideally, you should file a claim near the end of your service. But, that isn’t always possible. The earlier you file your claim, the earlier your possible effective date can be. If there is a delay in the VA processing your claim, this could mean a difference of thousands of dollars. However, the prime benefit of filing a claim as early as possible is that when you get a favorable decision, you will get access to treatment for your disability sooner than if you waited to file your claim.
How does your experience in the military help you represent Veterans in their disability claim?
It makes it so much easier to relate to them. It can be difficult for someone to open up and talk about their service if they are speaking to someone who has little to no comprehension of what they did and saw while in service. It is also much easier for me to fight for them and argue their claims because I know firsthand the physical and emotional toll that it takes on you to serve.
What question should a Veteran ask when choosing a lawyer to assist with his or her VA Disability claim?
I think personal experiences and the ability to empathize with the client and their condition is a huge part of what we do. Of course, I’m biased and believe that a team of veterans helping other veterans through this process is the ideal situation to successfully appeal a disability claim, but it does help, and would most likely play into my own decision-making process if I were in the same position.
How does the Bluestein Attorneys VA team approach its representation of its clients?
We have a very personal approach to representing each one of our clients. From the staff to the Attorneys, we try to stay in touch with our clients as often as possible, even if there is nothing recent to report and we are just waiting on a decision from the VA. There can be months, even years where something is pending with the VA, and even though there is little that we can do to make the government move faster, we are sure to do everything we can to move things along and keep everyone updated as much as possible.
Thanks, Tim, for taking the time to speak with us about your service and dedication to helping military veterans and service members here in South Carolina! Next week, we'll meet with Gene Powell.
You can read about other members of the VA team, like Kenny Dojaquez and his history and service, so check back to meet more members of our VA team here at Bluestein Attorneys.
As always, if you are looking to file a claim or just need more information, Bluestein Attorneys is here to help, whether it's for SC Vet Advocates, Workers' Compensation, Personal Injury, or other legal issues. Give us a call at (803) 674-8815 or contact us online to request your FREE consultation today!