Does The VA Pay Retroactively To The Disability Date?

Applying for VA disability benefits involves a lot of paperwork, time, and moving targets. Many veterans become frustrated with the difficulty, the length of time it takes, and the dead ends they encounter. But there are a few bright spots.

Does The VA Pay Retroactively To The Disability Date?

The VA has streamlined a few processes that are intended to help alleviate the backlog of claims. The “Fully Developed Claim” is one, and it increases the veteran’s involvement in his or her application. The VA also created “Disability Back Pay,” allowing a retroactive lump-sum payment for the time you spent waiting for your benefit claim to be active. Before you start your application, though, there are a few things you need to understand about receiving benefits and back pay.

Determining The “Effective Date” To Receive Pay Retroactively

The VA will pay benefits and back pay retroactively, according to your “effective date.” The date is established by the later of these two dates:

• The date your entitlement began, or
• The date the VA receives your application

The first criteria of the effective date is when a veteran is treated for a condition, and when the VA should have started paying you.

If your application is within the first year after your service separation, the eligibility date is your date of separation. Disability Back Pay will then be paid retroactively to that date. If you are planning to file a claim, you should do so as soon as possible after you leave the military (if not before, since it takes a lot of time.) Don’t wait until the last minute! When your claim is approved, your back pay will be paid to the date of separation.

If your application is more than a year after service separation, even by one day, the effective date will be the date it’s received by the VA. Your retroactive back pay will only amount to the time since your application was submitted. This usually occurs when a veteran develops a medical condition long after separation. By submitting your application a year after your separation date, you will lose an entire year of benefits.

If the VA makes an error, they will adjust your effective date to where it should have been.

If The VA Denies Your Claim

Once you receive your denial letter, you will have one year to file a Notice of Disagreement with the VA. If you can supply additional evidence (i.e., newly discovered military medical reports) to support your claim, and your benefits are granted, your effective date should be the date of your original application, before the claims denial. An experienced attorney can help you formulate your appeal and help you submit it.

Get Started Now To Receive Pay Retroactively

You can informally notify the VA in writing that you plan to file a claim, giving you an earlier filing date than you would have had. You can use their Statement of Support, or write a letter stating your name, SSN and service dates. The VA will respond by sending you an application form, which must be filled out and returned within one year of your intent letter. If you don’t, you’ll lose the extra time you gained by notifying the VA of your impending claim.

Another Form Of Back Pay

While it doesn’t happen very often, you may occasionally receive additional back pay. If Congress changes the amount that a particular disability should be paid, you could receive an additional back pay disbursement, retroactive to your effective date. These funds would be the difference between what your disability paid you and the new amount of disability payments. Like the original back pay, you would receive it in a single lump-sum payment. You won’t need to apply for it—the VA will automatically process the back payment and send it to you.

You Don’t Have To Do This Alone

Herren Law has experience helping thousands of veterans navigate the VA’s difficult claims system, and we’re ready to help you do the same. Call us at (713) 682-8194, and we’ll discuss how we’ll work with you on your case. The consultation is free, and our contingency fee arrangement means you won’t owe us anything until you begin collecting benefits.

Can A Veteran Rated 100% P&T Work Part Time?

If you’ve been successful in getting VA disability benefits, you may discover that it isn’t enough. A part-time job may become necessary to supplement your income. But can you work? Will working, even part time, affect your monthly VA benefits?

It might. But there are a few things to think about before you start filling out job applications and going on interviews.

working part time as a disabled veteran can affect your benefits

What Is P&T?

This stands for “Permanent & Total,” meaning that you are permanently and totally disabled as a result of injuries or medical conditions you acquired during military service. In other words, you are unemployed or unable to maintain substantially gainful employment (full time, paying wages greater than poverty level) as a result of a service-connected medical condition(s) incurred on active duty.

Schedular or TDIU?

There are two types of ratings assigned to veterans—“Schedular” and Unemployability, or TDIU. These ratings indicate your ability to work at the level you held prior to the injury. The VA considers only service-connected disabilities as the reason a veteran can’t be employed.

Schedular

Known as the Schedule of Ratings, or the VA Impairment Rating Tables, these are used to rate a veteran’s ability to return to work. You may be rated at 100% if you received a 60% or more rating from the Schedule, whether for a single disability, or for two or more that add up to at least 70%, creating a 100% disruption in your ability to generate an income. Even though you may not be completely physically disabled, you are allowed to work and earn any amount of income without any impact to your VA benefits.

Schedular disability is not the same as the determination of disability that is used for SSDI (Social Security) benefits.

Total Disability/Individual Unemployability (TDIU)

This version of VA disability means that your rating inadequately compensates you in your ability to generate an income for the disability as it’s awarded.

You may be able to earn a “marginal” income, which is at or below the US poverty threshold (in 2017, it’s currently $12,331 for one individual under 65, and $11,367 over 65.) Should you exceed that “marginal” level, your VA benefits may be reviewed for reduction.

You can, however, earn more than a “marginal” income if you are in a “sheltered position.” This may mean one of three situations:

  • If you’re working in a family business in a “protected environment,” where an employer makes a special effort to employ a disabled individual
  • In a position where specific accommodations are made for you or anyone in the position
    • If the position was created or modified just for you, and the company would not hire a replacement if you left
  • If a similar company wouldn’t hire someone like you for the same job and the same work, such as a position created/modified just to hire you, i.e, offering flexible work scheduling for medical treatments

This rating is usually assigned to veterans with conditions that may be temporary and resolve with treatment.

Should the VA question your employment or reduce/eliminate your benefits, it may become necessary to request documentation from your employer to defend your position. Our attorneys are experienced in VA claims, and can help you through the process.

If The VA Denies Or Reduces Your Benefits

Call us immediately—you must appeal quickly or lose the opportunity. Our attorneys can work with you to file your appeal in the VA’s system to get you the benefits you deserve.

We’re Here To Help

This is just a brief overview of VA disability and working, and should not be considered a complete guide.

The Herren Law Firm has helped over 4,000 Houstonians get the disability and veteran’s benefits they deserve, and we’ll be happy to help you. Call us at (713) 682-8194 or (800) 529-7707 for a free consultation. We’ll talk with you about your case and let you know how we can help. Our contingency fee arrangement means you won’t owe us anything unless we win your case.

How Long Do I Have To File For Long Term Disability?

Finding yourself disabled, even temporarily, can be a confusing haze of administrative work you may not be familiar with while you’re trying to heal. There are different types of disability classes, but long-term disability generally means that you are unable to go back to work in a short period of time. This type of policy provides income when you are unable to work, usually 60% of your previous income. The Herren Law Firm has been helping Houstonians through the disability process for 17 years, and we can help you too.

How Long Do I Have To File For Long Term Disability?

What Does “Long-Term” Disability Mean?

A “disability” is a legal term that just means a medical condition that prevents you from working. Long-term disability means that you are unable to work an extended period. The average case lasts about 3 years. When you file for long-term disability and get it, you’re covered for things like car accidents, having a baby and serious illnesses and injuries, but it doesn’t always mean that you are permanently disabled.

You can only file your claim after a waiting or “elimination period,” when you have exhausted all paid time off (vacation, sick and any other PTO) and short-term disability has ended. Payments start after your claim is approved. Payments aren’t immediate, so it’s best to file as soon as possible so that there is overlap with the end of short-term disability.

Review Your Policy Before You Need It

When you receive your policy (whether through your employer, or on you own), review it carefully and take note of specific previsions. How does the policy define “disability?” What’s the waiting period (or “exclusion period”) on your policy? Will they pay if you’re unable to work the job you’re in, or if you’re unable to work any job, part time or full time? (There’s a difference.) How long will the policy pay you while you’re disabled—a year? Two or three years? Until you retire?

Review your exclusions. Most policies will not cover a disability for things like pre-existing conditions, acts of war, drug abuse, suicide attempts and any injuries sustained during the commission of a crime. There may be other exclusions in the policy—read carefully so you understand them before you prepare your claim.

Pay Attention To Deadlines

Find the deadline in your policy for submitting your claim. The policy will tell you when you’re required to file, and how long you have. Once the deadline is passed, most insurers will not allow you to file a claim.

Ensure That Your Claim File Is Complete

When you submit your claim, make sure that everything is included. Don’t assume that the insurance company has everything they need to process and approve your claim. Request a copy of your claim file for your own review. If anything is missing (X-rays, test results, etc.), request copies from the appropriate parties, forward them and ask the insurer to include them in your file. Complete medical records are a must, including a letter from your doctor explaining why you are disabled. If there are any errors, request that your doctor correct them.

Although he or she may charge you, asking your doctor for an additional detailed report about your current disabilities, limitations and medical history would be an advantage.

Long Term Disability Is Not Health Insurance

Disability payments replace your income when you are unable to work. Medical expenses are not covered under long-term disability. Health insurance, which is separate, only covers your related medical expenses.

Keep Copies Of Everything

It’s always important to know who you spoke to, when, what was mailed, to whom, and when. If you do find yourself fighting the denial of your claim, you’ll need copies of everything to file and appeal, and to take to your attorney. Keeping detailed records will help you fight denial and make it easier for an attorney to work on your case.

With over 4,000 successful disability claims under our belt, we’re ready to help you too. We work on a contingency fee basis—you only pay us a fee if we can win your case. Call us today at (713) 682-8194 or (800) 529-7707 to schedule your free consultation.

Do My Long Term Disability Payments Affect My Social Security Payments?

The short answer: Yes.

It’s called an “offset.” Payments from a long-term disability policy can (and very likely will) be reduced by the amount you receive from Social Security. This is true whether you receive SSI or SSDI. The Herren Law Firm understands the process and can help you manage your claim and get you the benefits you deserve.

Do My Long Term Disability Payments Affect My Social Security Payments?

What’s The Difference Between Disability Payments And Social Security Payments?

Long-term disability is private insurance that you either purchase yourself or receive as a benefit through your employer. Disability payments provide income while you are disabled and are unable to work for a long time. Long-term disability provides a portion of your income (usually 50% to 65%, depending on the policy) while you are disabled. This insurance starts when short-term disability ends, usually after three to six months.

SSDI (Social Security Disability Insurance) and SSI (Supplemental Security Income) are government-funded programs that provide income when you are unable to work due to a disability. You pay into the system with the Social Security deductions from your paycheck.

What Is “Disabled?”

Generally, it means that you are unable to work at your regular job; “long term” is more than 30 or 120 days. You must be able to prove that you are medically and physically unable to work for an extended period of time. Your policy may specify that you must be unable to work the job you were in, or if you are unable to work any job, full or part time. Review your individual policy to find out about disability payments and more.

Disability criteria differs for insurance companies and Social Security, which is much more stringent. The Herren Law Firm can help you apply for Social Security benefits, and increase your chances of approval.

The Offset

When you file your Social Security claim, your benefit payments will take a very long time. However, the date your first file is your date of disability. Individuals frequently receive a lump sum for the period before their regular benefits begin, called a “backpay.” The insurance company may require you to refund some of the payments they previously paid to you using the backpay, to offset the monies already paid.

How It Works

Some long-term disability policies will require you to apply for Social Security when your insurance payments begin. Once it’s approved, your disability plan will pay you the difference between your Social Security payment and your policy payment. That is, if your policy payment is $2,000 a month, and Social Security is $1,500, your policy payment will change to $500 instead of the entire $2,000. The “offset” is the $1,500 per month that Social Security pays you, and your total income remains the same.

Backpay Is Taxable

Even if you are required to make a large, lump-sum payment to refund your insurance company, the IRS will also collect taxes on the lump sum. Many individuals are shocked to receive a tax bill for that amount, and may be unable to pay it. If you expect to receive a lump sum from Social Security, consider saving a small monthly amount from your disability payments to protect yourself against an unpleasant surprise later.

Long-Term Disability or Social Security? Or Both?

It depends on the insurance policy you have, and how long you may be disabled. Individually purchased disability insurance may allow both without offsets, whereas group or employer policies may have more restrictions. Some policies may require you to apply for Social Security once the insurance payments start.

Reading and understanding your individual policy is essential before starting and submitting a claim, so that you understand what you can expect, and if there is an offset once you receive your benefits.

The Herren Law Firm Is Ready To Help

Applying for Social Security for disability is a long process, and most claims are denied at the outset, requiring appeals. This is where you may need an attorney to handle your claim so you can start receiving benefits. If your insurance company is denying your claim, an attorney can step in and get the process moving again.

We’ve helped over 4,000 Houstonians just like you get the disability benefits they need. Call us today at (713) 682-8194 or (800) 529-7707 to schedule your free consultation. Our contingency fee arrangement means you only pay us if we win your case.

Can You Be Fired While On Long-Term Disability?

Long-term disability can be confusing. The disability payments, insurance filings, doctor visits and everything that goes along with it. Eventually, you’ll be ready to go back to work.

But will your job still be there?

It Can Happen

getting fired while on long-term disability

Your employer can’t fire you just because you are on long-term disability, or because of your disability. But your employer can fire you while you’re out for reasons besides disability. There are laws to protect you in the event that you are disabled, and make sure you can go back to your job when you’re no longer disabled or recovered enough to return to work. The Herren Law Firm has helped over 4,000 Houstonians work through the maze of long-term disability. Let’s look at how the law protects you.

Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA)

The FMLA is a federal law that applies to companies with more than 50 employees (small businesses are generally exempted) and you must live within 75 miles of your company. Your company is required to give you 24 weeks of unpaid leave for things like physical or mental illness (yours or a family member), having a baby, etc. You must request FMLA leave according to your company’s policies, or you could be terminated for not notifying your employer that you need FMLA leave.

If you’ve properly requested FMLA leave, your employer must a) give you back the position you left, or b) give you a similar position, if you’re still able to do the same job you did before.

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

The ADA is another federal law that applies to businesses with 15 or more employees. The ADA defines a disability as “a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits a major life activity.” If you meet this definition, you may be able to extend long-term disability after your FMLA time runs out. Your employer must offer reasonable accommodations after you notify them of your need. This can include flexible scheduling, wheelchair access, Braille signage, or even granting additional ADA leave.

Reasonable accommodation should not cause your employer an “undue hardship,” and your employer will determine if the accommodations will be enough for you to do your job. Negotiations may be necessary, and your employer may request that you try a number of different accommodations to see which ones work. If none are available, or they are unable to accommodate you to return to work, the company can legally fire you.

Business Changes

Your company may undergo a reorganization while you are out on disability. If this happens, and your job is eliminated, you can be terminated while you’re on leave. The company may not be able to keep your job open for an extended period of time due to business needs, and may be forced to hire someone else to do your job in your absence, whether temporarily or permanently.

You can be Fired at Any Time

Most employees are considered “at-will,” meaning that unless you have an employment contract/guarantee in writing and in place, you can be fired for nearly any reason at any time, or for no reason at all, unless that reason is illegal, i.e., discrimination, a medical condition, etc. It’s important to keep records of your requests for leave and accommodations under FMLA and ADA, as well as other important employment-related paperwork you may need later to prove your case. If you feel you’ve been wrongfully terminated, contact the Herren Law Firm for a free consultation.

If you were fired for poor performance, excessive absenteeism or another reason that an employer would normally fire someone for, then your employer can fire you legally. Under these circumstances, you can be fired during the long-term disability leave or when it ends.

Your employer can also legally fire you if:

• You do not return to work after using all of your sick/vacation time
• After FMLA leave, (or fail to declare it before leaving) after your employer has provided reasonable accommodations
• Can’t do the job despite the offered accommodations

Don’t Do It Alone!

We’ve helped over 4,000 Houstonians with disability related legal issues, and we’re ready to help you with yours. For a free consultation with attorney Bill Herren, call us today at (713) 682-8194 if you need legal help while you’re on long-term disability.

Don’t wait—it might be too late.

What’s the Difference Between Long-Term Disability and Short-Term Disability?

Have you just started a new job, and heard a lot of different terms in orientation about “disability?” Are you faced with the possibility of being on disability, and don’t understand everything? At the Herren Law Firm, we understand the process of disability insurance and filings, and can help when the time comes.

know the difference between long and short term disability

What is Disability Insurance?

There are two types of disabilities, and disability insurance. It’s important to know the difference between the two. Both long-term disability (LTD) and short-term disability (STD) are separate insurance policies that serve as a replacement for your regular income in the event you are disabled. Disability insurance pays you when you are unable to work due to an illness or injury, regardless of the cause. It also covers gaps when your sick/vacation time are used up, and may keep you from having to dip into savings and retirement funds to pay your bills.

Both types of insurance are separate from health insurance, which only covers medical expenses. Disability insurance is also not the same as Worker’s Compensation, which is issued through your employer and only for work-related or workplace injuries suffered on the job.

Short Term Disability

The term means just that—usually 30 to 120 days, and starts paying within a few weeks. Short term is for things like a broken leg, maternity leave, or other limited convalescence.  If you’ll be going back to work in a few weeks or a few months, this policy pays you for the time that you’re unable to work. STD is only available through your employer. If your employer doesn’t offer it, you will have to use your sick time, vacation time and savings/line of credit to cover your expenses until you return to work. (California, Hawaii, New Jersey, New York and Rhode Island may require your employer to offer this coverage.)

Long-Term Disability

Long-term disability is used when you will be out of work for a longer period. LTD starts after you’ve exhausted sick/vacation time and your short-term disability policy ends, and takes longer to start paying. An emergency fund can bridge the gap between the end of the short-term policy and the beginning of the long-term policy, although, ideally, it should start where the STD ends.

Long-term” doesn’t always mean a permanent disability. It just indicates a medical condition that prevents you from working. The average LTD claim is for 3 years, although some do go on longer. If you don’t have three or more years of savings to cover the loss of income, long-term disability covers some of your income so you can pay your regular bills.

If you’re considering applying for disability through Social Security (SSDI), know that getting it can take a year or more, is difficult to get and approval is not guaranteed. The Herren Law Firm has helped over 4,000 people file claims and suits they needed for disabilities.

What LTD Covers

An LTD policy pays about 60% of your regular income. If you buy your own long-term disability policy and pay your premiums with after-tax dollars, the income from the policy is tax-free. That means with a $100,000 yearly salary, you’ll be paid $60,000 year, tax free.

Employer Or Self Pay?

Most people have long-term disability insurance through their employer, but you can also purchase a policy individually. It is more expensive, but an LTD also pays more, and longer, depending on the policy you chose. When considering cost and affordability, it may be time to do a financial housecleaning and see what you can eliminate from your budget in order to cover an LTD policy. What’s more important—something that doesn’t create value, or something that can save you from bankruptcy if you’re unable to work for a long time?

The length of the payments depends on your LTD policy. Since the average disability is three years, you can purchase a policy that pays as long as five years—or until you retire. Some policies will cover you until age 67, when you can start receiving Social Security. Doctors, nurses and others that use their fine motor skills benefit from this kind of policy, since it guarantees income if they are disabled by an illness.

Need help?

Having trouble with an insurer? Call the Herren Law Office today at (713) 682-8194. We’ll give you a free consultation, and work on a contingency fee basis to help you get what you paid for. We’ve been helping people for 17 years, and would be happy to help you too.

How long does it take for a veteran’s claim to be processed? (Video)

Transcript:

A veteran’s claim process is very back-logged. Some of the claims can take years to process through the appeals process. I recently settled a claim that had been pending for five years. This is an unacceptable situation and should be addressed by congress.

How long does a long term disability claim take to be processed? (Video)

Transcript:

A long term disability claim can be processed either in a short time or it could take one or two years. The reason is if the claim is allowed at the initial application stage, or perhaps at the administrative appeals stage, then the amount of time is a matter of months. However, if the claim was denied at the administrative appeals stage, then the claim has to be taken to court. We have to wait on the court’s docket at that point in time, so it could take a year or even more to process the claim all the way through court.

How much money can I expect to receive if my claim is approved? (Video)

Transcript:

The amount of the benefit depends on the salary. Typically, the benefit is a percentage of the salary, for example, 60% (I’ve seen some policies which allow for 70% of the salary). It’s always some percentage of the salary. It continues during the entire period of disability up to a certain age. Typically, the age that the benefit terminates is 65. Sometimes the benefit continues until what’s called “the Social Security retirement age,” which could be more than 65, 66, or even 67 years-of-age.

How Federal Debts May Affect Your SSD Paycheck

Now that you’ve gone through the Social Security disability process and started receiving your monthly benefits, you are free to use the money however you’d like. In most cases, the payments are deposited into your bank account, put onto a prepaid card, or sent to your home by check.

How Federal Debts Affect Your SSD Paycheck | Houston SSD Attorney

Under federal law, creditors cannot garnish or freeze this money from your bank account or prepaid card, but there are some important exceptions that you need to be aware of. For instance, your SSD paycheck might not be protected from federal debts, such as unpaid taxes and some federal student loans. If your SSD paychecks have been frozen, garnished, reduced, or simply touched by an outside creditor, including the federal government, you should consult an experienced SSD attorney right here in Houston.

By calling Herren Law, we’ll look over your situation and determine if you have any legal options. For a free, no-obligation consultation with our Houston-based firm, call us today at (800) 529-7707.

Protections for Social Security Disability Benefits

As mentioned above, creditors cannot garnish your Social Security disability benefits. This is true even after a creditor sues you for the debt and wins the court order for your bank or credit union to turn over money from your account or prepaid card. In fact, the U.S. Department of Treasury requires banks to automatically protect some of your federal benefits from being frozen or garnished.

In general, the benefits that your bank automatically protects include:

  • Social Security
  • Supplemental Security Income
  • Veterans
  • Federal Railroad retirement, unemployment, and sickness
  • Civil Service Retirement System
  • Federal Employee Retirement System

By having your Social Security benefits automatically deposited into your bank account, the bank is required to protect at least two months of benefits. For instance, if you receive $1,000 in monthly benefits, then the bank protects up to $2,000 or, if you have less than that, the bank will protect the money remaining in your account.

If your account has more than two months of benefits in your account, your bank may be able to freeze or garnish the wages under a court order. However, if that extra garnished money is exempt as Social Security disability benefits, you can object to the garnishment in courts to have your funds released.

Protections on Prepaid Cards

If you use a prepaid card to receive federal benefits, whether SSD benefits, SSI benefits, and VA disability benefits, the benefits you receive are also protected similar to how banks protect your benefits.

Exceptions to Automatic Protections

There are some exceptions to the automatic protections for federal benefits deposited in your bank account or prepaid card. According to Section 207 of the Social Security Act (42 U.S.C. 407), your Social Security benefits are protected from any creditors except for the federal government when the following apply:

  • You owe unpaid federal taxes. In this example, and according to the Federal Payment Levy Program (FPLP), the IRS can take 15 percent of your monthly Social Security disability insurance payments to pay for unpaid federal taxes.
    • Keep in mind that the IRS cannot simply take 15 percent of your benefits. First, the IRS will send you a final notice which states that you have 30 days to pay your tax or work out a payment agreement. Once these 30 days pass, the IRS can usually begin withholding this money until the debts are paid.
  • You have unpaid child support or alimony. Up to 60 percent of your SSD benefits can be withheld for unpaid child support or alimony.
    • If you have another child or spouse that you support, federal agencies can only withhold 50 percent of your SSD benefits.
    • If your payments are more than 12 weeks late, federal agencies can reduce your SSD benefits by 5 percent until the support or alimony is paid, unless you can prove that this would cause undue hardship.
  • You have non-tax debts owed to the federal government. The most common non-tax debts owed to the government are federally guaranteed student loans, but this can also include food stamp overpayments and federal mortgage loans.

What to Do If Your Bank Account is Garnished or Frozen

Before creditors freeze or garnish any money in your bank account, you’ll first receive a notice of garnishment explaining the court procedures for claiming any exceptions from garnishment. Due to the automatic protections with having your SSD benefits directly deposited into your bank account, or onto a prepaid card, you’ll have at least two months of SSD benefits protected. However, if you receive your SSD benefits as a check and deposit the money into the account, or if you transfer the money from one account to another, then your bank might not see that the deposited money is from a federal source and won’t be able to protect it.

If you have a legitimate objection to the garnishment, you can file an MC-49 (Objections to Garnishment) form with your local court. On this form, you can explain your objections to the garnishment of your assets on legal grounds.

Call Herren Law for a Free Consultation

Under certain and specific circumstances, the federal government can reduce your Social Security disability benefits. However, if creditors have garnished your SSD benefits, then you need to consult an experienced Houston SSD attorney. At Herren Law, we’ve helped many people throughout Houston with their SSD benefits, from providing legal counsel for the application process to protecting your wages from garnishment. For a free consultation with attorney Bill Herren, call us today at (713) 682-8194.