Can I Get Back Pay For My Veteran’s Disability?

You may have already applied for your VA disability payments. You may already be receiving your benefit payments. But are you getting what you’re entitled to? You might be eligible for back pay.

Can I Get Back Pay For My Veteran’s Disability?

Disability benefits are paid from the date of application. But because it takes a long time to receive benefits, the VA begins benefit payments from the date of application. Since it takes so long before monthly benefits start, accumulated benefit amounts from the waiting period are usually paid in one lump sum. The VA even calls it “back pay.” You may receive a substantial amount of money at one time as a result of your waiting period.

Establishing The Service Connection

Injuries and illnesses that are deemed “service connected” are eligible for VA disability benefits. This includes a pre-existing condition that was exacerbated by your military service.

To be eligible, you must have served in the US military, active or inactive duty for training, received a discharge that was not dishonorable and incurred a disease or injury while in or was aggravated by your military service.

You’ll not only need medical evidence of the service connection (records, etc.), you’ll need evidence to show the relationship between your military service and your illness or injury.

The VA also presumes that certain veterans have a “presumptive disability” by nature of their service record, even if there is no direct evidence of a service connection.

Application Date

It’s important to note that when you apply directly relates to when your benefits start, and when you’ll receive back pay.

Ideally, you should submit your application within one year of your discharge from the military so that your application date is the same as your date of separation.

If you apply one year or more after your date of separation (even one day), the application date is the first day of the month after the VA receives your claim. Most veterans are not aware of this and have the potential to lose a year’s worth of benefit payments.

If your “effective date” is incorrect, the VA may owe you back pay. Many veterans and their families have been given incorrect application and effective dates, and don’t realize they could be owed money.

Re-opening Your Claim

If your original claim was denied, but you have new evidence to support your claim, this could lead to “back pay” when the claim is finally processed. If a medical condition is not noted in your service record, but a later medical exam offers evidence that it was, your claim may be re-opened and re-evaluated. Back pay would result from the original application date to current day.

Pre-Discharge Claims

If you’re now on active duty or in the National Guard and have a discharge date, the VA suggests applying within the period 180 to 90 days before you leave. Formally known as “Benefits Delivery At Discharge,” your claim can be processed much faster, and all medical records can be expedited. Should you be found to be medically unfit for duty, you’ll be given a proposed VA disability rating and a separation date. Use these to file your pre-discharge claim, and avoid losing any time or benefit money.

Are You Owed VA Back Pay?

If you believe the VA has underpaid you, unfairly denied your claim or you need help filing an appeal, The Herren Law Firm is ready to help. We’ve helped over 4,000 Houstonians get the veteran’s benefits they deserve, Call us at (713) 682-8194 or (800) 529-7707 for a free consultation for help with a VA claim. Our contingency fee arrangement means you won’t owe us anything unless we win your case.

FINALLY Get The Long-Term Disability You Deserve In 2018

If you’ve been out of work after a disabling accident, illness or injury, chances are you have a lot going on at once. Between doctor visits and other necessary outings, you’re taking care of yourself and trying to heal while dealing with insurance company requirements. But what about long-term disability?

FINALLY Get The Long-Term Disability You Deserve In 2018

Are you trying to get long-term disability, or headed in that direction? Here are a few things you need to know.

Disability Defined

The definition of your disability is whatever your policy says it is. But the policy definition, rules and exclusions define what they consider to be “disabled.” Your policy definition may look something like this:

Disability exists when, due to illness or accidental injury, you are not able to perform, for wage or profit, the material and substantial duties of your regular occupation.

This definition, known as “own occupation,” means that your illness or injury prevents you from performing your current job and/or occupation. However, an “any job” definition means that you may not be able to perform your current job/occupation, but you are well enough to perform another one, even if it pays less than your current salary. This assessment is also based on your training, education, and experience.

Some policies change from “own occupation” to “any occupation” after 24 months, and benefits may be terminated at that time, particularly if there has been significant medical improvement.

Are You Still Using Paid Time Off?

Long-term disability has a waiting or “elimination” period, generally three to six months, before you’re eligible. You’re required to exhaust all of your sick, vacation, personal and any other paid absence time before you can become eligible for LTO.

Short-Term Disability

The elimination period LTD also takes into account the short-term disability payments you may be receiving. This type of insurance typically lasts less than six months and is intended for a short-term illness that isn’t work-related.

Long-term disability starts when your short-term disability ends.

Short-term disability differs from worker’s compensation, which is for employees who have work-related injuries and/or are injured on the job.

The Length Of Long-Term Disability

LTD starts three to six months after your disability begins, and after you’ve exhausted all time off and short-term disability.

Some policies will pay you until the age of 65 when most people generally retire and will file for Social Security (retirement) and Medicare. If not, there is a limit to the number of years the policy will pay you. Most will pay between 50% and 80% of your former salary.

Social Security Disability Insurance

Most LTD policies will require you to apply for SSDI. If and when your SSDI application is approved, and you start receiving benefits, your LTD payments will be offset by that amount. For instance, if your monthly LTD payment is $2500, and you’re awarded $1800 in SSDI, your insurance company will reduce your LTD payments by that amount, to $700 per month. You’ll still receive $2500 a month, but not from one source.

Working While Collecting LTD

It is possible (although not necessarily recommended) to work while you’re collecting long-term disability. Your benefits could be cut or terminated, particularly if you make too much. Before you start sending out resumes for a new job, even for part-time work, it’s best to read your policy and make sure you understand it first. Speak to your claims administrator to answer any questions.

Some policies may discontinue your benefits even if you’re still technically disabled, especially if you make more than 80% of your previous income. If yours is an “own occupation” policy, you may be able to work in a different occupation and still collect LTD. Again, this is based on how the policy is written, so you’ll need to read it before you start.

Some policies have “return to work” incentives, limiting your benefits and income to 100% of your previous earnings. If your earnings and LTD payments exceed 100% of your previous income, your benefits will be reduced to your pre-disability earnings and will reduce further over time.

Denied Your LTD?

If your insurance company (or your employers) has unfairly denied your claim, stopped your benefits or you need help filing an appeal, The Herren Law Firm is ready to help. We’ve helped over 4.000 Houstonians with their long-term disability cases and can answer any questions.  Call us at (713) 682-8194 or (800) 529-7707 for a free consultation. Our contingency fee arrangement means you won’t owe us anything unless we win your case.

Getting A Divorce? Here’s How It May Affect Your Disability

It’s bad enough that you’re getting a divorce. But can it negatively impact your disability status?

Divorces do tend to increase with the onset of a disability, and factors like the inability of one (or both) to take care of themselves, moving, dividing a household and alimony/support payments can make it even more difficult. If one spouse is a caretaker, that role could change, leaving the disabled person needing professional assistance. And because the disabled person may not be able to work, he or she may be entitled to additional spousal support to make up for the loss of marital income.

Getting A Divorce? Here's How It May Affect Your Disability

It’s a complicated subject, and the answer isn’t cut-and-dried. In this article, we’ll discuss the different facets of divorce and the impact it may have on your disability.

What Kind Of Disability?

There are two types of disability payments:

·         SSI, or Supplemental Security Income—based entirely on financial need, for individuals who have a limited work history and resources. If you are married, your spouse’s income is used to calculate your income needs. There are limits on how much in liquid assets you can own, and you can’t own any “family assets.”

In a divorce, SSI is not considered “income” for the purpose of calculating alimony. If your spouse is no longer supporting you, you may find that your SSI payments increase due to additional financial needs. Alimony is considered “unearned income,” and will be used to determine eligibility and benefit amount.

·         SSDI, or Social Security Disability Insurance—this disability payment is based on your own working record, calculated on “recent working years.” SSDI is granted for medical conditions that prevent you from working and last more than a year. If you are judged “disabled,” you can receive benefits regardless of income. You can receive SSDI for as long as you are disabled.

SSDI would not be directly affected by divorce, and alimony would not be considered for eligibility. If you are required to pay child support or alimony to a prior spouse, this income can be garnished to satisfy the requirement. However, SSDI will be taken into consideration in court when awarding alimony in a divorce proceeding.

Getting Disability From A Former Spouse

If you were married to your former spouse for over 10 years, you may be able to receive disability from his or her record if it would pay better than your own. You can receive these benefits if you are

·         Over the age of 62

·         Unmarried

·         Your former spouse is entitled to retirement or disability benefits through Social Security

·         You would receive less based on your own work record than you would from your former spouse.

You would be able to receive one half of your former spouse’s full disability (or retirement) if you begin receiving benefits at retirement age, but not any delayed retirement credits. If you remarry, you would not be able to receive anything from your former spouse, unless your current marriage ends (by death, divorce or annulment.) The Social Security Administration has additional information on its website. You can find more information about receiving income from a former spouse here.

If Divorce Is In Your Future

You should find out all you can about the financial impact it could have on your disability benefits and your disability status before you file for divorce. The Herren Law Firm can help you protect your disability benefits in the event of divorce. Call us today at 713-682-8194 to schedule your free consultation. There’s no obligation, and we’ll be ready to discuss your case to help you decide your next move. (Please note that we a law firm that handles disability cases, and does not practice divorce law.)

A First Look At 2018 Veterans Disability Rates

If you’re receiving VA disability payments, you’re getting a raise. Check out the new veterans disability rates below.

Veterans who rely on disability benefit payments saw only a small increase of .03 percent in 2017, and there were no increases in 2016. But in 2018, veterans will see full 2% increase (called cost-of-living adjustment, or COLA) in their monthly disbursements.

A First Look At 2018 Veterans Disability Rates

House Bill 1329, titled the Veterans’ Compensation Cost-of-Living Adjustment Act of 2017 authorized this increase. The president signed it into law on November 2nd, 2017.

This is the largest increase in VA disability benefit payments since 2012.  The new, increased rate became effective on December 1, 2017, and will appear in payments issued beginning on December 31, 2017.

If you are a retiring veteran this year, you’ll also see a temporary COLA increase from the increase in active duty military pay given in January.

COLA Calculations

Cost of living adjustments are computed by examining the Consumer Price Index (CPI-W) from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. Using the CPI-W from the third quarter of both the current year and the previous year (July, August and September), the COLA is based on the increase percentage from the 2016 third quarter to the third quarter in 2017.

This year’s weather disasters in the southern US may have contributed to the assigned increase as well, due to higher gas and other consumer prices  as well as other inflation-related items.

How Much?

If you’re at 10% disability and have no dependents, you’ll receive an additional $136.24 per month, or $1,634.88 for the year.

If you’re at 20% disability without dependents you’ll see an increase of $269.30 per month, or $3,231.60 for the year.

These ratings have no other adjustments for spouses, parents or children. However, things get a bit more complicated with higher ratings.

If your rating is between 30% and 60%, and you’re alone, you’ll receive $417.15 for 30% to $1083.52 for 60%. The rates increase with a spouse, a parent, spouse and parent (one or two), and an additional stipend for a spouse who needs “aid and assistance” (listed as a/a) as well as veterans with children.

For veterans rated 70% to 100% disabled with no dependents, the increased amounts start at $1365.48 for 70% disabled to $2937.96 for 100% disabled. With a spouse, dependent parents and/or children, there are also upward adjustments for each.

Your ratings consist of a single number for any and all conditions that rate you as “disabled.” You can review the complete breakdown of increase amounts here.

As A Reminder

VA disability payments are not listed as “gross income” on tax returns, since it is non-taxable.

Need Help?

If you’re applying to the VA for disability benefits, but can’t seem to get anywhere, call The Herren Law Firm. We’ve helped over 4,000 Houstonians navigate the VA’s complicated application and appeals process to get the benefits they deserve. Call us today at 713-682-8194 to schedule your free consultation. There’s no obligation, and we’ll take your case on a contingency fee basis, with no up-front charges.

Can I Receive Long Term Disability While on FMLA Leave?

If you find yourself needing to take time from your job for an illness, injury, pregnancy or other reason, there are a lot of things you’ll need to address. Replacing your income via disability insurance is one important factor to consider, particularly if your leave is unexpected. Here are some things to know when going on FMLA leave.

Can I Receive Long Term Disability While on FMLA Leave?

Long Term and Short Term Disability are two separate insurance policies that many people get through their employer. They’re used separately as well as in conjunction when you’re injured and can’t work.

To better answer this question, let’s examine the parts of it first.

FMLA

The Family Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA) is a law that allows workers 12 weeks of unpaid leave for a variety of medial or family reasons. Your job is protected because your employer is required to hold your job for those 12 weeks. (Many states, localities and municipalities have also adopted their own supplemental “family leave” styled policies.) When you’re able to go back to work, you’ll return to that job or one that is “substantially similar,” assuming you are still able to do your job after your leave is over. You’ll have job reinstatement rights and continued health coverage during the 12-week period (but not after.)

FMLA leave is generally unpaid, although there are some employers who pay during the leave time. However, your health coverage and other benefits are still in place as if you’d never left (although you may be required to pay your portion if your employer covers most of it.)

The FMLA applies to companies with 50 or more employees who work within 75 miles of the company’s location. You must have worked for 12 months in the preview year, totaling at least 1,250 hours, part or full time.

Notification should be given to your company at least 30 days in advance, if possible. (This is for cases like pregnancy, scheduled surgery, etc.) FMLA leave can also be used intermittently, for medical treatments that can’t be done off-hours, physical therapy, etc. Your personnel department can advise you about the best way to schedule this leave and when to notify your supervisor that you’ll be using it.

Short Term Disability

Short Term Disability (STDI) is an income replacement insurance offered as a benefit by many companies, and isn’t available for purchase as an individual policy. STDI partially replaces your income (usually about 60% to 65%) for your immediate financial needs until you are able to return to work.

STDI lasts anywhere from 30 to 180 days, and doesn’t start until after you’ve used up all of your paid time off (sick time, vacation, etc.) Decisions are quick, and payments usually start within about 14 days. A lot of what and how long you’ll receive benefits depends on how your employer structures the benefit policy.

On-the-job injuries are covered under Worker’s Compensation.

Long Term Disability

Long Term Disability (LTD) is an income replacement insurance that begins when your short-term disability ends. LTD is both an employee benefit at many companies as well as a policy you can purchase yourself.

This type of coverage pays you a reduced amount of your salary (generally two-thirds) for the length of your disability. Most disabilities last anywhere from six months to three years, but some may be lifelong disabilities. Your policy will cover you according to how it’s structured. Depending on your disability, LTD could replace your income until you reach retirement age.

Generally, LTD policies require that you exhaust your STDI coverage before you can receive LTD payments, and there isn’t any “overlap.” The LTD elimination period is anywhere from one month to one year.

So To Answer The Question

It Depends.

FMLA leave only lasts 12 weeks (about 3 months) so most of it will depend on how long your STDI coverage lasts. If your STDI coverage is less than 120 days, you’ll have to apply for LTD after the STDI coverage ends, and you have no other “coverage” available (savings, lines of credit, etc.)

Should your STDI coverage last less than the 12 weeks, and you need to cover the rest of your leave with LTD, it is possible to use LTD during an FMLA period.

If You Need Help

Call The Herren Law Firm at 713-682-8194. We’ll be happy to help you with claims, appeals, and other insurance claim related issues that you’re having trouble with. We’ll give you a free consultation and offer a contingency fee arrangement to make payment easier.

How Can I Help My Elderly Family Member With SSDI?

Elderly individuals don’t always have the capacity, understanding or frame of reference to take care of their needed affairs in the face of everything online. Many seniors have gone online, taking care of their accounts and joining Facebook to keep up with faraway family members. But there are still many elderly people who just won’t go near technology.

How Can I Help My Elderly Family Member With SSDI?

When it comes to applying for SSDI (Social Security Disability Insurance), they may not know where to go or who to call or what to do. Fortunately, by becoming an advocate, there are some things you can do to help them.

What Is Disability?

Strictly speaking, the Social Security Administration considers a “disability” as a condition that prevents someone from doing “substantial gainful activity” for a period of 12 months or expected to keep them from such activity for the coming 12 months. For someone who’s working, that means they cannot earn more than $1170 per month (current 2017 guidelines.)

A disability decision will also depend heavily on medical records and an individual’s medical history. The records must contain evidence of a “functional limitations,” or the inability to work. An individual’s age may be a supporting factor in an SSDI case since the Social Security Administration’s system weighs toward individuals over 50. A disabled individual can be working part-time when they apply, so long as they don’t earn more than the current guidelines.

Gather Important Records

Before you start an application, you’ll need to find your family member’s important records. You’ll need this information to complete the application. You can go online to complete the application at SSA, by phone at 1-800-772-1213, make an appointment and visit the nearest SSA office in person.

You’ll need:

·         Their Birth Certificate

·         Social Security Number/Card

·         Marriage/divorce/dependent records

·         Employment records going back 15 years, the last date worked and accompanying W-2 forms

·         Any public assistance they are currently receiving (food stamps, etc.)

·         Medical records, particularly those documenting the disabling condition

·         Any current prescriptions taken by the family member

·         Names and contact information for doctors and/or hospitals prescribing the medications

Medical Evidence

To substantiate the disability claim, the individual must have current medical records that support the claim and explain exactly how the condition (physical or mental) prevents him or her from working (called “functional limitations.”)  If medical records meet all the requirements to a Social Security Impairment Listing, showing exactly why the individual is unable to work, they’ll be approved immediately for benefits. If not, Social Security will then determine what kind of work the individual is suited for.

Disability claims are based primarily on evidence in someone’s medical records. So if your family member hasn’t had a medical evaluation, make sure they get one as soon as possible to establish a “disability.”

How Age Affects The SSDI Application

If your family member is over 50, Social Security considers them to be “close to retirement.” Education and work history is also a consideration, including things like transferable work skills. Residual functional capacity, or what type of work an individual is suited for in their present condition, is also taken into consideration.

Social Security uses a “medical vocational grid” to establish an individual’s ability to work based on prior work and age. Individuals over 65 who are still working but are forced to retire because of a disability generally won’t be required to find other suitable work.

The Hearing

Applicants will be required to attend an in-person or phone interview for their SSDI application. These are primarily to discuss the facts of the case, and a determination won’t be made at that time. You’ll need to have all of your family member’s records available so he or she can answer questions without wasting time.

The hearing is simply a meeting with an administrative law judge whose job is to determine if your family member meets the criteria for “disability.” Answering questions clearly and succinctly are key in getting a determination. An SSDI attorney cases can help with “rehearsing” beforehand or offer a list of questions that may be asked in the hearing.

Patience Is Required

SSDI’s application process takes a long time, and acceptance is not guaranteed. An appeal is almost a necessity before an individual is approved for disability.

Denied for SSDI?

Herren Law has helped over 4,000 Houstonians get the disability 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 To Increase Veterans Disability Compensation

Getting your veteran’s disability started is difficult enough. What if the VA didn’t rate you properly for your disability? Can you get a “raise” if you service-related condition causes your health to deteriorate? Here, we’ll discuss the how you can increase your Veterans disability compensation and guide you through the process.

How To Increase Veterans Disability Compensation

What Is Veteran’s Disability Compensation?

If you have a medical condition that developed or was aggravated during military service that causes you to become disabled, the VA will evaluate your medical records to determine the severity of your injuries, disability and economic impact. Disability ratings are given in 10% increments, up to 100%. “Disability” is your inability to work, and how much based on the VA’s own Schedule of Ratings.

Why Ask For A Review?

If your original condition was not rated correctly the first time, or your service-related condition has worsened (such as bone degeneration) it may be time for a review. If you are experiencing increasing pain, or need additional treatment for your condition, a re-rating may give you additional compensation and possibly increased medical care.

Determine Your Current Disability Rating

First, find all the correspondence from the VA regarding your disability case. Locate every letter, file, form, and anything you’ve received about your case, no matter how far back it goes. Make sure you know what your current disability rating is before you proceed.

You can also check your current rating at the VA’s online eBenefits site. Don’t guess at what your rating might be. Find out for sure first.

Using the VA’s own Schedule For Rating Disabilities, compare your current rating to the current standards. Consult with your doctor (VA or private) to determine if  and how your condition has progressed, and your chances of a successful update.

You may find that you are getting the maximum available for your current disability rating. Note that getting a rating increase will only occur for an increase in disability, not an need for increased compensation.

Medical Records

Increasing your rate will require you to backup your request with medical records to substantiate your claim. You’ll need to supply the name and address of the VA facility that has your medical records (including military.) Don’t rely on the VA to find your civilian medical records, so make sure you assemble them to support your case. You’ll need to file this form to authorize your physician to speak with the VA.

Consider obtaining an independent medical opinion/exam before you file your claim. Find a physician who specializes in disability medicine, and can offer independent evidence to support your claim.

Filing

Once you’ve assembled your necessary documentation, it’s time to file. You can go online and use the VA’s form 21-526 EZ, or get help in person from a VA regional office, state or county veterans affairs office, or from an accredited veterans assistance organization.

Caveat (Warning)

Requesting a rating increase will cause the VA to reopen and re-review your entire case. They may uncover an error in the original finding, or find evidence of improvement and re-rate you at a lower rating and/or amount, decreasing your compensation. Make sure you have more than enough evidence to support your request of a higher re-rating to avoid the surprise of a reduction.

What Happens If The VA Denies Or Reduces Your Claim?

You have the right to appeal the VA’s decision. If your claim is denied, it may be time to call Herren Law for help.

We Can Represent You

Herren Law 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. You don’t.

Social Security Disability and Workers’ Compensation in Houston, TX

Confused about Social Security Disability and Workers’ Compensation? If you’ve become disabled, it’s important to know the difference, because the application processes and outcomes are different.

Social Security Disability and Workers’ Compensation in Houston, TX

Workers’ Compensation

This is a public insurance funded by employers and includes both medical treatment for on-the-job injuries and/or illness, and partial payment for lost wages. Injured employees can heal away from work, and be paid for their temporary disability. Should an employee discovered that he or she is permanently disabled, permanent benefits are paid. If an employee’s death occurs, benefits can be paid to the survivors.

Texas calculates an employee’s Average Weekly Wage (AWW) as the amount of wages they receive during the period 13 weeks prior to the work-related injury/illness, and uses it to determine the amount of WC benefit payments. The maximum benefit will not exceed that amount, and will vary depending on the type of injury (temporary, longer-term, or life benefits.)

In Texas, employers may offer WC coverage for employees who become injured on the job, but they can opt-out of the state’s plan and offer their own private coverage (self-insure.) If your employer does carry the state of Texas WC, and you apply for Social Security Disability, there may be some overlap. Should you receive both at the same time, you may see a decrease in one or the other.

Social Security Disability

This federally funded program pays you based on your average monthly lifetime earnings, not to exceed 80% of your previous average monthly earnings.  SSD pays you benefits if you are unable to work due to a medical condition that will last a year, or is terminal.

You can complete your SSD application online, by phone or in person by appointment at your local Social Security office. However, you may not receive benefits right away. The Social Security Administration examines your case and makes a determination based on your application. Therefore, it’s important to completely fill out your application and have all of your important information handy when you do. This information includes your name, date/place of birth, Social Security number, the same information on your spouse or former spouse(s), any minor children, earnings, and other pertinent information. (A complete listing of required information is available on the Social Security Administration’s website.)

Possible Offsets

If you are receiving Workers’ Compensation and apply for Social Security Disability, you may receive a smaller amount of SSD than if you would if you did not receive Worker’s Compensation. Social Security calculates the amount that you would receive monthly, and you’ll only receive the difference between your WC payments and the SSD amount. Your total payments cannot exceed 80% of your average monthly income when you were working.

For instance, if you made $3,500 a month while you were employed, your total disability income would be $2,800 per month. If you are receiving disability payments of $1,800 from Workers’ Compensation, then your monthly SSD payment would be $1,000. If you are no longer receiving Workers’ Compensation, then your SSD payment would be the full $3,500 per month.

Both Social Security Disability and Workers Compensation are publicly funded programs, as are others (i.e., civil service disability benefits.) Therefore, disability payments from private sources, like pensions or insurance benefits, don’t affect your Social Security disability benefits. VA benefits, state and local benefits and SSI also do not impact Social Security benefits.

In Texas, offsets to WC aren’t allowed for SSA retirement benefits, and lump-sum payments aren’t usually authorized, except for accrued benefits that haven’t been paid yet.

Need Help? Call Us

If you’ve submitted applications and are denied benefits, don’t give up. The Herren Law Firm has helped more than 4,000 Houstonians get the help they need dealing with Social Security and Workers’ Compensation cases. Call us today at (713) 682-8194 or (800) 529-7707 to schedule your free consultation. Our contingency fee arrangement means you won’t have to pay any fees until we win your case.

Getting Veterans Disability Compensation for Depression

Depression is something that we now know can affect anyone at any time, including veterans. It’s more than just feeling “blue” or down for a few days. If depression continues long term, it can be debilitating, and most people can’t just “snap out of it.” Veterans can be particularly susceptible, especially if they’ve served in a combat zone or another high-stress service connected work environment. If you’re a veteran who’s suffering from or has been diagnosed with service-related depression that impacts your life, you can apply for disability compensation through the Veterans Administration.

Getting Veterans Disability Compensation for Depression

Is It Service Connected?

The VA has two classifications for depression: dysthymic disorder and major depressive disorder, collectively called “mood disorders.”

The first thing the VA will do is determine how and if your depression is directly service connected. You’ll need to produce medical records and other documentation that point to the depression stemming from military service, or from a service-connected injury. Any documentation that proves the depression was service-related will be helpful. If there is nothing in the service medical record, the VA may request statements from individuals who served with the veteran that can corroborate the claim.

If depression existed before enlistment and was worsened by an event or activity during military service, the VA calls it an “aggravated service connection.” The veteran must prove that his or her depression existed before enlistment, and will need to back it up with a statement from his or her physician or mental health professional. Again, if there is no medical notation in the veteran’s service record, statements from fellow service members may be requested.

A veteran must also not have a dishonorable discharge or have any medical condition caused by the veterans’ own intentional misconduct.

Establishing Proof of Depression

In order to process an application and approve (or deny) a veteran’s benefits based on depression, the VA will require various forms of proof. This proof may include:

·         Current diagnosis of depression (from a VA doctor for aggravated service conditions)

·         Evidence of an incident during active duty that triggered or aggravated the depression

·         Medical evidence establishing the link between the current depression diagnosis or aggravation and the episode that occurred while on active duty.

·         A service-connected physical disability that has a direct connection to the diagnosis of depression (called “secondary service connection.”)

An attorney with experience filing VA claims for disability can help identify all the documentary proof needed for a successful benefits application.

Schedule of Ratings

The VA uses a schedule to rate disabilities, including various mental disorders. They rate psychiatric conditions at  0%, 10%, 30%, 50%, 70%, or 100% depending on the symptoms and the limitations of the individual’s condition. These ratings are assigned once the disability of the depressive episode has been established. To diagnose and rate these conditions, the VA uses the criteria from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), the standard for counselors and psychiatrists and published by the American Psychiatric Association. The higher the rating, the higher the disability, but a 0% score also opens up eligibility for health care later.

The Global Assessment of Functioning (GAF) Scale is also used to determine disability ratings for a veteran’s mental conditions. Scores are awarded after the VA’s Compensation & Pension Exam. Ranging from 1-100, the GAF includes one’s ability to function at work, home, and in social situations, with the highest score being the highest functioning. The lower your score, the higher rating from the VA.

We’re Here To Help

You can apply online for VA benefits, or by visiting your local VA office.

If you’ve been denied benefits, or don’t know where to start, call us today at (713) 682-8194 or (800) 529-7707 to schedule your free consultation. Our attorneys are experienced in helping veterans successfully navigate through the application and appeals process, and we can help you too. Our contingency fee arrangement means you won’t have to pay any fees until you start receiving benefits.

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.