What the VA does not want Veterans to know about Section 1151 Service-Connected Disability Compensation Claims???

 by Terry Richards

Pursuant to Title 38, Section 1151 of the United States Code Service (U.S.C.S), there are several avenues of compensation available to Veterans who suffer a physical, psychological, or psychiatric personal injury as a result of VA Health Care Employees Malpractice or Negligence, including but not limited to being a Patient or Patient-Resident in a VA Hospital, Nursing Care or Assisted Living Home or Domiciliary, or participation in a Vocational Rehabilitation Program (pursuant to Chapter 31 of Title 38 U.S.C.S.), Participation in VA Subsidized Substance Abuse Program or Grant Per Diem Housing Program on or off VA Property, or participation in VA Compensated Work Therapy program (CWT) (Pursuant to 38 U.S.C.S., Section 1718).

First, a Veteran, or his or her survivors or estate may pursue a medical malpractice or negligence claim against the VA under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA).

Second, at the time of filing a FTCA lawsuit, or at any later time, a Veteran may apply for Disability Compensation under Section 1151. If under Section 1151, the VA determines that the Veteran’s disability was caused by VA malpractice or negligence, the VA will pay Compensation Benefits to the Veterans as if the Disability were Service-Connected.

Additionally, if under Section 1151, the VA determines that a death was caused by VA malpractice or negligence the VA will pay to the Veterans surviving spouse, children, or other family members, or estate, Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) benefits as if the death were service-connected (Pursuant to 38 U.S.C.S., section 1310).

Although, VA compensation and DIC benefits are primarily aimed at providing cash benefits for disabilities and death related to military service, Section 1151 expands the program to cover rehabilitation, or participation in the VA compensated work therapy program. 

Moreover, if VA treatment for a service-connected condition makes an already service-connected disability worse or creates a new disability secondary to the service-connected condition, the Veteran may apply for an increase in service-connected disability benefits or claim secondary service-connection without relying on Section 1151.

There is no time limit for filing a Section 1151 Claim. The Law use to be that in most cases Attorneys were not allowed to charge Veterans Legal Fees or represent Veterans in Section 1151 claims unless a disinterested party paid the Attorney fees or until it becomes necessary for a Veteran to appeal his or her case before the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims (CAVC). But now Attorneys can represent Veterans in Section 1151 Claims but cannot get paid for representing the Veteran in 1151 Claims…

Most Attorneys will represent Veterans for no fees because they hope to get the Veterans business in an Administrative Federal Tort Claim (Attorney gets 20% Award) or Federal Lawsuit (Attorney get 25% of Award) against the VA and/or a Service-Connected Compensation Claim which ultimately may have to be Appealed at the Board of Veterans Appeals or Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims where Attorneys are permitted to be paid 25% of the Veterans first retroactive check if the Veteran prevails… However, Attorneys may charge Veterans Legal Fee and represent Veterans in both Administrative Federal Tort Claims, and in Federal Court.

For further details or assistance to apply for a Section 1151 Claim, contact any Veterans Service Organization Claims Representative located at your nearest VA Medical Facility or VA Regional Office. Please note that you do not have to be a Member of a Veterans Service Organization to receive assistance or for them to represent you with your VA Claim.