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.)

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.

Do I Qualify for VA Disability Backpay?

When applying for VA disability benefits in Houston, there is one thing you can certainly expect: waiting, and possibly waiting for quite some time for the Houston VA offices to make their decision. The VA is aware of this, and to make up for the time between the VA’s decision and your date of eligibility, the VA has instituted VA disability back pay.

Do I Qualify for VA Disability Backpay? | Houston VA Attorney Herren Law

If you have a service-connected disability and you’re applying to the Veterans Affairs for disability benefits, then it’s important to understand backpay and how it affects your claim. More importantly, you need to get a Houston attorney specializing in VA disability benefits. At Herren Law, we work on a contingency basis, meaning that you won’t owe a penny until you get your benefits. And after years of helping Veterans just like you, attorney William Herren understands what you’re going through and will work with you as well as the VA to get you the benefits you deserve.

Call our Houston law office today at (800) 529-7707 for a free consultation. In the meantime, you can learn more about VA disability benefits below.

Eligibility for VA Disability Backpay

If you are awarded disability benefits from the VA due to your service-connected injury, then you are eligible for retroactive benefits. If awarded benefits, however, the problem that many Veterans face is the amount of back pay they are entitled to. By understanding the relevant federal laws and the Houston VA disability process, you can make sure that the VA is providing a fair and full amount. To do this, the first aspect of VA disability benefits that you need to know is the “effective date.”

The Effective Date of Your VA Disability Benefits Claim

The “effective date” of your claim is the moment the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has received your application for disability benefits. When you finally receive disability benefits, which can sometimes be months, or even years, after the VA receives your application, you will receive disability benefits dating back to that effective date (starting the first of the month after the effective date). For instance, if the VA receives your application on March 3rd, 2015, and you’re awarded benefits in February 2017, then your benefits will be considered from May 1st, 2015 and onward.

This is true for most new claims as well as claims to increase the rating of a pre-existing, service-connected disability. However, there is some conflict regarding what actually constitutes a claim, including what specific documentation you need to include in your claim. Generally, the VA states that a valid claim is VA Form 21-526, citing 38 USC §5101(a). However, there are many types of communications which may qualify as “a claim,” outside of the VA Form 21-526. Also, if the VA receives an informal claim, it must send out VA Form 21-526. The veteran needs to return the Form 21-526 within a year, and if so, the date the VA received the informal claim will be the effective date.

There are also exceptions to these rules, and so, regardless of your situation, it can help to speak with your attorney.

Effective Dates for Direct Service Connections

When you were injured in the military or a pre-existing injury was made worse, then you have a direct service connection. If this is your case, your effective date can be:

  • The date the VA receives your claim, or
  • The date you first got your illness or injury

If the VA receives your claim within one year of the day that you left your military service, then the effective date can be as early as the separation date. For instance, you finished your service on August 4th, 2014, and you had a disability. You apply for benefits within a year on June 10th, 2016. The VA awards 40% disability and, because the VA received the claim within a year of service, the VA sets an effective date at September 1st, 2014.

Effective Dates for Presumptive Service Connections

When you are awarded disability benefits for a presumptive service connection, and the VA receives your claim within one year of your separation from the military, then your effective date may be the date that your first got your illness or injury. Otherwise, if you file a claim after one year of your separation from the military, then your effective date is typically the date the VA receives your claim.

Call Herren Law Today for a Free Consultation

It is important to note that there are many nuances to this law, whereas the effective date can also depend on liberalizing law changes, reopened claims, and with claims based on a Veteran’s death in service. As such, to navigate these complex issues and speak to an expert who will fight for fair and maximum disability back pay, then call Houston VA disability attorney Herren Law at (800) 529-7707 for a free consultation. Evening appointments are available.

How Much Will a Houston Social Security Disability Lawyer Charge?

Getting Social Security disability benefits is more than just filing paperwork; you’ll need to file a claim proving to the Social Security Administration (SSA) that you should be getting benefits. While an attorney is not mandatory, whether to help you file the claim or represent an appeal at a hearing, getting an experienced and professional Social Security disability attorney in Houston can provide many benefits.

How Much Will a Houston Social Security Disability Lawyer Charge? | Herren Law

From making sure that you understand the SSA’s processes to having a leading attorney who’ll diligently fight for your benefits, Houston Social Security disability attorney William Herren will carefully listen to your case and, if we take you on as a client, we’ll work with you, one-on-one, until you’re able to receive your SSD benefits. In fact, all work is done on a contingency basis, and we don’t get paid unless we win your case. For a free, no-obligation consultation regarding your SSD claim, call Herren Law in Houston today at (713) 682-8194.

In the meantime, continue reading to learn more about how much a Social Security disability lawyer might charge.

What is a Contingency Fee Agreement

Social Security attorneys, including us at Herren Law in Houston, work “on contingency.” This means that we’ll only collect a fee if we win your disability claim. No matter if you are applying for SSDI benefits or SSI disability benefits, the fee for legal representation is regulated by the Social Security Administration and by Congress.

In essence, once you hire a Social Security disability attorney, you will sign a fee agreement that allows the Social Security Administration (SSA) to pay your attorney if your claim is approved. Therefore, if you and your SSD lawyer win your case, the SSA will pay your attorney (with money taken from your benefits) based on the specifics detailed in the fee agreement.

Fee Agreements and Fee Petitions

Remember, fees for Social Security disability attorneys are set by the government, and you do not pay attorney fees unless we recover compensation for you. By law, the Social Security disability fees are limited to 25% of the past-due benefits you are awarded, up to a maximum of $6,000. Whether before filing the claim or after getting benefits, your Social Security lawyer must submit the attorney fees and costs to the SSA for approval. When you choose an attorney, you may be asked to sign an SSA-1696 form, which designates the attorney as your chosen representative. You may also be asked to sign a medical release form and a fee agreement.

After the case, you don’t have to worry about paying the attorney, as in most cases, the SSA takes the entire lawyer’s fee (up to $6,000) from your first disability check before the agency sends the check to you.

How is Disability Backpay Calculated

The fees paid to the attorney come out of the applicant’s past-due benefits, also known as “backpay.” The SSA calculates the actual amount of backpay awarded after you are approved for benefits, and this backpay includes retroactive benefits owed from the date you were approved back to the month after you applied for benefits (for a maximum of 12 months back from the date of your application).

For instance, imagine the SSA calculates a backpay of $10,000. Now, remember, the maximum your attorney can receive is 25% up to $6,000. In this example, your attorney will be paid $2,500 and you will receive $7,500 of backpay.

It is important to also note that, during the course of representation, there may be some out-of-pocket costs. For example, to win your case, the attorney may need to acquire the claimant’s medical, school, work records, and occasionally medical or psychological examinations; these can be expensive. The client may have to pay these costs out-of-pocket (i.e., separate from the attorney’s fee), but it would be unusual in most instances for these costs to exceed two hundred dollars per case.

Contact SSD Attorney William Herren Today

When injured or suffering an illness that prevents you from working, the Social Security Administration’s disability benefits can be critical to keeping your bills paid and keeping your health maintained. As such, when considering disability benefits with the SSA, you can highly benefit from having an experienced and expert SSD and SSI attorney at your side. For a free, no-obligation consultation with attorney William Herren in Houston, call Herren Law today at (713) 682-8194.

Hiring a VA-Certified Veterans Disability Lawyer

When applying for disability benefits through the Department of Veteran’s Affairs (VA), it’s important to be prepared for a long and frustrating process. For this reason alone, you should highly consider having an experienced veterans disability lawyer in Houston to help you navigate the VA disability claims processes so that you can reduce the number of headaches and complications.

Although a veterans disability lawyer cannot speed up the process, the legal assistance you’d receive from an attorney can help ease the process while fighting to get you more of the benefits that you’re entitled to.

Hiring a VA-Certified Veterans Disability Lawyer in Houston TX

At Herren Law, Houston veterans disability lawyer William Herren is VA-certified, and whether you applied for disability benefits and received a denial letter and intend to file an appeal, or you need a discharge upgrade to qualify for VA benefits, we at Herren Law have the experience and legal know-how to diligently represent your claim and vigorously fight for the benefits you deserve.

For a free, no-obligation consultation with attorney Herren, call our Houston law firm today at (800) 529-7707.

How to Find the Right Veterans Disability Lawyer for Your Case

As a general piece of advice, you should only choose a VA-certified veterans disability lawyer who can provide you with top-level legal representation. At the same time, you should always consider the benefits of acquiring an attorney who will fully represent your interests. To better help in your search finding a veterans disability lawyer, there are two questions you should always ask, including:

  1. Is the veterans disability attorney VA-certified?

⁃ At Herren Law, Houston veterans disability attorney Bill Herren is VA-accredited with accreditation number 9806 and POA Code 48G. Attorney Herren is also admitted to practice before the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims (CAVC).

2. How long has the attorney been practicing veterans law?

⁃ Attorney William Herren has over 20 years of experience, and we’ve helped over 4000 people with their disability claims, including veterans disability claims.

In addition to these questions, you should make sure that your attorney will help you get the earliest effective date possible for benefits. Your attorney should also help you get the highest possible rating for your disability. Lastly, veterans disability law is quite broad, and it’s important to have an attorney experienced in a wide variety of claims. For instance, at Herren Law, we can help veterans with the following military-related injuries, including but not limited to:

This list is not all-inclusive, and keep in mind that if you don’t see your condition here, you may still qualify for benefits. Call Herren Law in Houston to see if you have a case.

When to Call Your VA-Certified Veterans Disability Lawyer

You can acquire a veterans disability lawyer at any point in the claims process, whether you’re organizing the documentation or appealing a denial. On average, about 70% of veterans disability claims are denied, and so it’s likely that you may need to appeal that denial with an experienced attorney at your side (not mandatory, but highly advised). Furthermore, although we at Herren Law are located right in Houston, we work at a federal level and can represent clients from all over the United States.

Hiring a VA-Certified Veterans Disability Lawyer in Houston TX

How Much Might a Veterans Disability Lawyer Cost

One of the first questions that we hear from potential clients is, “How much will a veterans disability lawyer cost me to represent my case.” Well, attorney William Herren works on a contingency basis, meaning that you won’t owe a thing unless we win your case. Furthermore, attorney fees for representing a veteran before VA, the Board of Veterans Appeals, and Court are determined by law (see 38 U.S.C. § 5904 and 38 C.F.R. § 14.636). Additionally, all agreements for the payment of fees for attorneys must be in writing and signed by both the claimant and the attorney.

Contact Herren Law in Houston TX

At Herren Law, our mission is to help you obtain your veterans disability benefits in a timely, stress-free manner. As such, when taking on your case, we’ll work closely with you, one-on-one, and carefully listen to your case, your service in the military, and the disability you obtained due to that service. Afterward, we will thoroughly investigate the details of the case and your claim with the VA, and represent those interests at every stage of the VA disability benefits process. For a free, no-obligation consultation with attorney Herren, call our Houston law firm today at (800) 529-7707.