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.

4 Ways to Improve Your VA Disability Claim in Houston TX

When you or a loved one joined the military, you, like thousands of other veterans, dedicated everything to your service, giving the Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, etc your 110%. Nevertheless, the VA is notorious for inefficiencies when getting disabled veterans their much-needed benefits. Despite your dedication, that may have left you disabled, the VA all-too-often rates the severity of a disability lower than it should be, or the VA takes way too long.

4 Ways to Improve Your VA Disability Claim in Houston TX | Herren Law

At Herren Law in Houston TX, we strongly believe that disabled veterans deserve their rightful and full benefits in a timely manner. With the help of Houston VA disability benefits attorney William Herren, we’ll help you through the VA benefits process every step of the way, from gathering and filing the claim to vigorously representing your case. We work on a contingency basis, meaning that you don’t pay a thing unless we win your case. If you are looking to claim your VA disability benefits, don’t hesitate and call Herren Law today at (713) 682-8194. Free consultations are available.

Reasons to Improve Your VA Disability Claim

Once the VA has determined that you have a service-connected disability, the organization will rate the severity of your disability on a scale between 0 and 100, whereas 100 is the most severe (offering the highest amount of benefits) and 0 is the least severe (offering the lowest amount of benefits, but still making health care and other benefits available to veterans).

This rating is designed to give veterans a fair amount that reflects the severity of their disability and their inability to work. However, like many disabilities, a veteran’s disability might not be static and could worsen over time. Additionally, the VA is not perfect, and they can sometimes rate a veteran’s disability as too low.

Keep in mind that the VA disability benefits process is time-consuming and complex, for both the VA and the veteran, and if your documentation isn’t complete or as clear as possible, then the VA might not connect the dots.

However, if you approach your VA disability claim (with the help of an experienced VA disability attorney) with the same discipline and grit as your military career, then you stand a chance of beating the VA and getting the full and fair benefits that you’re entitled to.

4 Ways to Improve Your VA Disability Claim

1. Make your VA disability claim as complete as possible

It’s no surprise that getting your VA disability documentation together is a full-time job. To start, you’ll need to get your VA claim file and your service medical records.

If you don’t have these records, you can request them from your local VA regional office or by mailing a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request.

Next, do your due diligence and research any disability or condition in your records and connect that disability with the 38 CFR Part 4: Schedule of Ratings. Write up a summary of your conditions as well as any dates of treatment (during and after service), and bring this documentation with a one- to five-page summary. This documentation should be in addition to doctor’s opinions and, ideally, a nexus letter.

2. Get your VA C-File

Although there is already a ton of documentation to gather (seeing a trend?), your VA C-File is perhaps the most important document that you’ll need. Don’t wait until your hearing and go to your local VA regional office to try and get a copy.

3. Understand the law, and get a Houston VA disability attorney

The average denial rate in 2011 in front of the Board of Veterans’ Appeals (BVA) was around 24.2 percent, and that same year, according to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals Annual Chairman’s Report (Fiscal Year 2011), veterans who were represented by an attorney had a denial rate of about 17.7 percent. By knowing the law, and using your right to have a VA disability at your side, some benefits will include:

  • An experienced legal professional who’ll zealously advocate on your behalf, answer claim-related questions, and help you understand and obtain the evidence you need.
  • An attorney can analyze your entire claim, find weak and strong points, and help assess the most efficient path to getting you your benefits.
  • An attorney can help assist with your sworn testimonies at hearings

4. Use optimal evidence proving disability and service-connection

There are many paths to take when proving to the VA your disability and service connection. Always remember what you’re building in your claim: Eligibility, Service Connect, Impairment Rating, and Effective Date. With any of these four factors, if you have bad or wrong evidence, you may thoroughly sabotage your claim. When gathering your evidence, remember these 5 tenants of good VA disability evidence:

  1. Material
  2. Probative
  3. Relevant
  4. Competent
  5. Credible

Contact Houston’s Top VA Disability Attorney

Unlike the battlefields you faced in your service, filing for your VA disability benefits claim is a battlefield that you can choose and control. The most important parts of this process are gathering the correct evidence and documentation and making sure that the evidence and documentation are complete and clear. For these reasons, it can be extremely helpful to have an experienced, knowledgeable VA disability attorney at your side. For a free, no-obligation consultation with Houston VA disability benefits attorney William Herren, call our law firm today at (713) 682-8194.

Getting VA Disability Benefits for Mental Conditions in Houston TX

Disabilities that are connected to a veteran’s service are not always physical and visible. Actually, it’s not really news that active military service can have dramatic and incapacitating effects on the human mind. Although “shell shock” isn’t quite the medical term that accurately describes the complexity of an affected veteran’s mental condition, thousands of veterans throughout Texas suffer from PTSD, depression, anxiety, alcohol or drug addictions, and more.

Getting VA Disability Benefits for Mental Conditions in Houston TX

Many veterans are reluctant to seek VA disability benefits for mental disorders; however, these disorders can be just as debilitating as physical disorders. By calling Houston VA disability benefits attorney William Herren, you discuss the possibility for disability benefits for a condition connected to your service in the U.S. armed forces, whether Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, U.S. Coast Guard, and others.

To speak with Houston attorney William Herren, we invite you to call our Houston law firm today at (713) 682-8194. Consultations are always free, and if we decide to take your case, you won’t pay anything unless we win.

Basics About VA Disability Benefits for Mental Conditions

The stigma about mental health problems is still prevalent among veterans, especially due to the “tough” and “strong” atmosphere prevalent in many areas of the military. However, since the increased media attention regarding PTSD and other mental and emotional conditions, this stigma has reduced. Furthermore, the VA disability benefits for eligible veterans are worth pursuing, as the benefits include free medical attention as well as monthly payments, depending on the severity.

The most common VA disabilities include tinnitus and hearing loss, but PTSD is the most common mental condition, alongside drug and alcohol abuse. When the VA is determining whether or not you have a mental disability, the organization will organize several tests to determine the severity of your disability and how it affects your ability to work. The VA will also determine whether or not your disability is truly connected to your service in the military.

How the VA Evaluates a Veteran’s Mental Illness

Unlike physical disabilities, such as an amputated arm or a musculoskeletal disability, mental illnesses require different evaluations to determine their severity. To evaluate a mental illness, the VA uses its VA Schedule of Ratings Disabilities, which itself follows the criteria detailed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition (DSM-IV), which is published by the American Psychiatric Association. The categories of mental illness include:

Just like other disabilities, you’ll need to prove to the VA that your disability is connected to your military service. To get compensation, therefore, you must have:

  • A current diagnosis of mental illness
  • Evidence of an accident or an event that occurred during active service, creating the mental illness
  • Medical evidence that connects the illness to the accident or event

Mental Illness Prior to Service

In general, the VA doesn’t provide VA disability compensation for illnesses that result from genetic or developmental defects. In other words, if you have a mental illness that existed before your military service, you may be ineligible for compensation. Such conditions can include mental retardation and personality disorders.

However, if you have a pre-existing mental condition that was aggravated by your military service, then you still may be able to qualify. For instance, if a veteran diagnosed with a personality disorder enters the military, and during his/her service, an event causes the veteran to develop PTSD, then he/she may be able to receive benefits based on the PTSD.

How the VA Rates Mental Illness for Disability Benefits

Once the VA has determined that your mental illness is related to your military service, the VA then determines the level of disability severity and, therefore, how much compensation you may be entitled to. In addition to looking at the DSM-IV, the VA will consider the veteran’s Global Assessment of Functioning Scale (GAF). This GAF score measures the veteran’s ability to function at work (physically, socially, and emotionally). The GAF score ranges from 0 to 100, and a higher score means that you are more able to function in the workplace.

Furthermore, the VA provides ratings of 0%, 10%, 30%, 50%, 70%, or 100% for psychiatric conditions. 0% doesn’t provide any monthly compensation, but you still may be eligible for health care and other benefits. 100% provides the highest amount of benefits.

Call Herren Law Today for a Free Consultation

If you or a loved one suffered a mental condition that resulted from active service in the military, it’s important to file a claim with the VA for disability benefits. These benefits can be essential in your continued recovery while helping with finances if you’re unable to work to your maximum capacity. At Herren Law in Houston TX, disability benefits attorney William Herren has helped numerous veterans with their benefits associated with mental disorders. To get started on your case, it’s important to call attorney Herren as soon as possible. For a free consultation, call today at (713) 682-8194.

2017 VA Disability Chart With Compensation Rates

If you’re a veteran who was injured or suffered a serious illness while combat, then you may be able to request disability benefits through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). After filing the initial claim to the VA, and proving that your disability is service connected, among other evaluations, the next step is for the VA to assign you a rating for your disability. This rating, which reflects the severity of your disability and how much it impacts your ability to work, also sets the amount of your disability compensation.

At Herren Law, VA disability benefits attorney Bill Herren has helped numerous veterans throughout the Houston area with their benefits claims, and we have the resources, legal know-how, and vigorous litigation strategies to help you too. If you were injured while in the military, call Herren Law’s Houston office today at (713) 682-8194. Consultations are always free, and we work on a contingency basis, which means that you won’t pay a thing unless we win your case.

Below, we’ve detailed the 2017 VA disability rates, and how much you can expect to receive for your specific disability rating.

How Does the Schedule of Rating Disabilities Work?

The VA’s schedule of rating disabilities comes after the VA determines whether or not your disability was connected to your military service. The rating reflects the severity of your disability and how your disability may adversely affect your ability to work. As such, less severe disabilities receive lower ratings, while more severe disabilities receive higher ratings. The rating ranges from 0% to 100% and moves in 10% increments.

The VA schedule of rating disabilities is also categorized by the medical issue. For instance, just some of these categories include:

  • The musculoskeletal system
  • Organs of special sense
  • The respiratory system
  • The cardiovascular system
  • The digestive system
  • The endocrine system
  • And several others…

The VA and Your Rating

To rate your disability from 0% to 100% at 10% increments, the VA looks at your disability, the body system category, and the diagnostic code that best matches your disability. It’s important to note that, even if your disability fits under more than one diagnostic code, the VA is required to choose the diagnostic code that provides the higher rating.

If your disability isn’t listed in the Schedule of Rating Disabilities, the VA is supposed to look for a disability code closest to the one you have. Like any other agency, the VA can make mistakes and not apply the rating correctly. Furthermore, sometimes the VA will give you a lower rating that doesn’t reflect the severity of your disability.

2017 VA Disability Rates

Throughout 2016, veterans receiving disability payments didn’t see an increase in their rates. In 2017, however, the VA disability rates saw a small increase of 0.3%. Eligible veterans can receive up to $3,458.06 per month as a tax-free disability benefit. However, your disability rating and other factors will determine the actual amount you will receive.

Below, we’ve listed these rates (source: U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs website):

No Dependents:

  • 10% – $133.57
  • 20% – $264.02

30% to 60% Without Children

Dependent Status 30% 40% 50% 60%
Veteran Alone $408.97 $589.12 $838.64 $1,062.27
Veteran with Spouse Only $456.97 $654.12 $919.64 $1,159.27
Veteran with Spouse & One Parent $495.97 $706.12 $984.64 $1,237.27
Veteran with Spouse and Two Parents $534.97 $758.12 $1,049.64 $1,315.27
Veteran with One Parent $447.97 $641.12 $903.64 $1,140.27
Veteran with Two Parents $486.97 $693.12 $968.64 $1,218.27
Additional for A/A spouse $45.00 $59.00 $74.00 $89.00

 

70% to 100% Without Children

Dependent Status 70% 80% 90% 100%
Veteran Alone $1,338.71 $1,556.13 $1,748.71 $2,915.55
Veteran with Spouse Only $1,451.71 $1,686.13 $1,894.71 $3,078.11
Veteran with Spouse and One Parent $1,542.71 $1,790.13 $2,011.71 $3,208.56
Veteran with Spouse and Two Parents $1,633.71 $1,894.13 $2,128.71 $3,339.01
Veteran with One Parent $1,429.71 $1,660.13 $1,865.71 $3,046.00
Veteran with Two Parents $1,520.71 $1,764.13 $1,982.71 $3,176.45
Additional for A/A spouse $105.00 $119.00 $134.00 $149.08

 

30% to 60% With Children

Dependent Status 30% 40% 50% 60%
Veteran with Spouse and Child $492.97 $702.12 $978.64 $1,230.27
Veteran with Child Only $440.97 $632.12 $892.64 $1,127.27
Veteran with Spouse, One Parent and Child $531.97 $754.12 $1,043.64 $1,308.27
Veteran with Spouse, Two Parents and Child $570.97 $806.12 $1,108.64 $1,386.27
Veteran with One Parent and Child $479.97 $684.12 $957.64 $1,205.27
Veteran with Two Parents and Child $518.97 $736.12 $1,022.64 $1,283.27
Add for Each Additional Child Under Age 18 $24.00 $32.00 $40.00 $48.00
Each Additional Schoolchild Over Age 18 $78.00 $104.00 $130.00 $156.00
Additional for A/A spouse $45.00 $59.00 $74.00 $89.00

 

70% to 100% With Children

Dependent Status 70% 80% 90% 100%
Veteran with Spouse and Child $1,534.71 $1,781.13 $2,001.71 $3,197.16
Veteran with Child Only $1,414.71 $1,642.13 $1,845.71 $3,024.27
Veteran with Spouse, One Parent and Child $1,625.71 $1,885.13 $2,118.71 $3,327.61
Veteran with Spouse, Two Parents and Child $1,716.71 $1,989.13 $2,235.71 $3,458.06
Veteran with One Parent and Child $1,505.71 $1,746.13 $1,962.71 $3,154.72
Veteran with Two Parents and Child $1,596.71 $1,850.13 $2,079.71 $3,285.17
Add for Each Additional Child Under Age 18 $56.00 $64.00 $72.00 $80.76
Each Additional Schoolchild Over Age 18 $182.00 $208.00 $234.00 $260.91
Additional for A/A spouse $105.00 $119.00 $134.00 $149.08

 

It is important to note that these numbers reflect the VA’s compensation benefits, and it might not reflect the exact benefits that you’ll receive. For instance, the VA also has rates for:

  • Special Monthly Compensation (SMC)
  • Dependency Indemnity Compensation (DIC)
  • Automobile Allowance, Clothing Allowance and Medal of Honor
  • Birth Defects (Spina Bifida, Children of Women Vietnam Veterans)

Call Herren Law for Houston’s VA Disability Lawyer

There are countless factors involved with the VA disability process, and it can be very long-winded and involve medical evaluations, work evaluations, and other issues; often, the process gets very complex. For this reason, it’s critical to have an experienced and knowledgeable Houston VA disability lawyer at your side.

By calling Herren Law in Houston, you won’t pay a cent unless we win your case. For a free, no-obligation consultation with Houston VA disability benefits lawyer William Herren, call us today at (713) 682-8194.

What Do I Do If the VA Lowers My Veterans Benefits?

Many veterans make the mistake of thinking that once they receive their VA disability benefits, the fight is ultimately over. Unfortunately, the fight isn’t quite over, as the VA can reduce or terminate benefits under certain circumstances later on. If this has happened to you, then it’s natural to feel frustrated, cheated, and a whole plethora of other unpleasant feelings.

What Do I Do If The VA Lowers My Veterans Benefits? - Herren Law

For this reason, Houston VA disability benefits attorney William Herren fights for veterans rights, employing vigorous litigation strategies to help eligible veterans keep their disability benefits. If you have lost your benefits, or you have a reexamination with the VA regarding your benefits, the best way to protect your benefits is to contact our VA benefits law firm in Houston. Call (713) 682-8194 for a free consultation today.

Can the VA Lower or Terminate My Disability Benefits?

The short answer is, “Yes, the VA can reduce or terminate your disability benefits.” If fact, they are legally entitled to do so under Title 38 § 3.327, which states:

“Reexaminations, including periods of hospital observation, will be requested whenever VA determines there is a need to verify either the continued existence or the current severity of a disability.”

Often, there are several common reasons why the VA reduces or terminates a veteran’s benefits. Some of these reasons include:

  • The veteran has unprotected benefit rates (more on this below)
  • The veteran is in prison. If you are in a federal, state, or local prison, your disability compensation can be reduced or terminated after your 61st day in prison.
  • If there is an actual improvement in the veteran’s disability

These are just a few of the reasons why the VA may reduce or terminate your VA disability benefits. In any case, and for whatever reason, make sure to discuss the reduction or termination of your benefits with an experienced attorney.

Protected Benefits

Protected VA disability benefits are very difficult to reduce or terminate. You may have protected benefits if any of the following apply:

  • Veterans with a “static” disability (one that won’t improve) such as the loss of a limb.
  • Veterans who are found to be totally and permanently disabled (those rated at 100% disabled).
  • Veterans who have been receiving benefits for more than five years at the same level.
  • Veterans age 55 or older.
  • Veterans who have been receiving benefits for more than 20 years.

If the VA sent a notice of reexamination, and you fit into one of the categories above, then you should contact your local VA regional office, as there may have been a mistake.

Unprotected Benefits

Unprotected benefits can be reduced or terminated under certain circumstances. Your benefits may be unprotected if the two circumstances apply:

  1. You have a disability rating that is above the minimum for your disability, but below 100%, and
  2. You have been receiving benefits for less than five years.

If you have unprotected benefits, and the VA contacts you about reducing or terminating your benefits, you should still contact an attorney. This is because the VA has certain legal requirements it must adhere to, such as notifying you in advance of a reexamination, notifying you of how you can keep your benefits, or following the requirements for a medical examination.

Should You Get a VA Disability Benefits Attorney?

The title of this post is, “What Do I Do If the VA Lowers My Veterans Benefits?” The most important thing that you can do to keep your benefits is to follow the VA’s instructions as closely as possible. If you receive a notice for a reexamination, then make sure you attend the reexamination within the stated time limits (usually 60 days after receiving a reexamination notice).

For unprotected benefits, a VA disability benefits attorney will guide you through the process, make sure that the VA hasn’t made any mistakes, and fully investigate the legality of the VA’s every motion. For protected benefits, a VA disability benefits attorney is essential, as these benefits are very difficult to reduce or terminate.

Call Herren Law in Houston TX for VA Disability Benefits Help

When it comes to VA disability benefits and US and Texas law, the most important attributes in your attorney are experienceexperience, and experience. At Herren Law, Houston VA disability benefits attorney William Herren has helped numerous veterans just like you; we boast many successful cases getting a veteran his/her rightfully owed benefits. As such, if the VA is trying to reduce or terminate your benefits, don’t hesitate and call Herren Law today at (713) 682-8194.

VA Reexaminations – How To Protect Your Veterans Benefits

Once you have received your VA disability benefits, you are able to access the care and help you need without worries or stress about finances or other matters. It is for this reason why VA disability benefits are so essential to our disabled veterans. However, it’s essential to remember that your benefits might not be available forever, and the Veterans Affairs can reexamine your case. Based on the reexamination, and under certain circumstances, the VA can reduce or terminate your disability benefits.

How To Protect Your Veterans Benefits | Houston VA Attorney Herren Law

At Herren Law, we’ve come across many veterans in the Houston area who lost or experienced reduced disability benefits. In many cases, this has created havoc in their lives. If you or someone you know is facing a VA reexamination (or has lost or faced reduced benefits), then call Houston VA benefits attorney William Herren today.

In the meantime, you can find out how to protect your veterans benefits below.

Understanding the VA Reexamination Process

Reexaminations for veterans receiving disability benefits are covered under U.S. Law (Title 38, § 3.327). This law states:

“Reexaminations, including periods of hospital observation, will be requested whenever VA determines there is a need to verify either the continued existence or the current severity of a disability.”

In other words, if it is likely that your disability has improved, the VA may send a notification for reexamination. Remember, the VA is legally entitled to request reexaminations, and failure to follow the VA’s requests could result in the termination of your benefits.

Fortunately, you won’t get “surprised” with a reexamination, as the VA must send an advanced notice. After receiving this notice, you have 60 days to submit evidence proving that a reduction in benefits is not warranted. You have 30 days to request a hearing.

Scheduled Reexamination

Some injuries get better with time. Veterans receiving disability benefits for these types of injuries may have to undergo scheduled reexaminations. Generally, if you have a disability that may get better over time, the VA may schedule a reexamination within 2 to 5 years after you first started receiving benefits.

Change in Condition

The VA can also order a reexamination if there is new, material evidence showing a change in your condition. For instance, if you have a type of cancer and it goes into remission, then the VA may request a reexamination.

Fortunately, the VA may return your full benefits if your condition worsens again. When this occurs, you’ll need to write a letter to your VA regional office and provide medical evidence showing an increase in the severity of your condition.

Groups Who (Normally) Aren’t Called For Reexamination

If you are part of the following groups and you receive a notice for reexamination, there’s a chance that the VA made a mistake. In other words, eligible veterans who receive a notice should call the phone number on the letter they receive to explain why they think they shouldn’t have to go.

The types of veterans that the VA usually doesn’t call for reexamination include:

  • Veterans aged 55 and older
  • Veterans who have static disabilities, such as loss of a limb
  • Veterans who have a permanent disability resulting from a disease
  • Veterans who have the minimum rating for their disability

Protected Benefits

As part of most veterans’ disability benefits, there are Protected Benefits and Unprotected Benefits. Even if called for reexamination, it is very hard for the VA to reduce a veteran’s Protected Benefits. These benefits include:

  • Ratings in effect for 5 years or more
  • Ratings in effect for 20 years or more
  • 100% ratings

Unprotected Benefits

Your benefits can be reduced if the following circumstances are true:

  • If there is an actual improvement in disability
  • That improvement led to an increased ability to function in your life and work
  • The reexamination report is thoroughly detailed
  • The reexamination has reviewed your entire medical history

Call Veterans Disability Benefits Attorney Bill Herren

VA disability benefits law and practices can be complex, but by understanding this process, you can best protect your VA benefits. Nonetheless, whether you’ve been called for reexamination, or your reexamination led to a reduction or termination of benefits, one of the best protections available is a Houston TX VA disability attorney, like William Herren. At our law firm, we offer one thing: experience helping veterans just like you.

Moreover, we work on a contingency basis, meaning that you won’t pay a penny unless we win your case. For a free, no-obligation consultation with attorney William Herren, call our Houston law firm today at (713) 682-8194.

Houston VA Disability Benefits Attorney – Who decides whether an injury is “service-related” and how?

The Veteran’s Affairs offers monetary benefits to U.S. Veterans who were injured or suffered an illness during active military service. Before paying these benefits, however, the VA must determine whether or not a Veteran is disabled according to the organization’s guidelines, and whether the disability is service-connected. The service-connection is a fundamental aspect of most successful VA disability benefits claims, as the VA pays benefits when an individual completed the following:

  • Service in the Uniformed Services on active duty, OR
  • Active duty for training, OR
  • Inactivity duty for training, AND
  • Discharged under other than dishonorable conditions, AND
  • The veteran is at least 10% disabled by an injury or disease

As such, when the VA makes a determination regarding your VA disability benefits, one of the initial things they consider is the service connection. In this post, we’ll discuss the VA disability claim process and who decides the service-connection. In the meantime, if you’re attempting to recover disability benefits from the VA, and you need legal representation, call Houston VA disability benefits attorney William Herren today at (713) 682-8194.

Houston VA Disability Benefits Attorney | Service-Related Injuries

How the VA Determines Direct and Presumptive Service Connection

To establish the connection between the veteran’s service and an injury or illness, the VA may consider the chronicity of the disability shown in service. For example, the evidence for chronicity must include:

  • Identifiable symptoms of the disease or injury
  • Observations to show that the disease or injury is chronic and not an isolated incident

The VA can determine a direct and presumptive service connection based on the continuity of symptoms when a disability was noted in-service. Additionally, a service-connection can be made for an illness or injury that was diagnosed after the veteran’s service had ended. However, evidence in this case must show that the injury or illness was incurred in service.

There are many other factors that the VA considers when making a decision on a service-connection. For instance, the VA may consider the veteran’s presumption of soundness, the presumptive service connection for chronic and tropical diseases, the presumptive service connection for radiogenic diseases, and others.

How the VA Determines Whether an Injury Occurred In-Service

The VA will examine your claim to make sure that it’s for an injury or disease that has a service connection. However, to conclude whether the injury occurred in-service, the VA also looks at the evidence available from your active service. For instance, the VA will look at:

  • The circumstances of your injuries
  • Any evidence of scars, including examination reports of scars
  • Evidence for combat-related disabilities

How the VA Determines If a Known Existing Injury Was Aggravated In-Service

Veterans can also receive disability benefits if a known, existing injury was aggravated during the veteran’s active service. To determine aggravation of pre-service injuries, the VA may consider:

  • The veteran’s presumption of soundness when he/she entered the service
  • The medical records that can determine a baseline of pre-service injury
  • The circumstances that led to the aggravation
  • Whether there are flare-ups of the pre-existing injury or disease
  • The usual effects of medical or surgical treatment

Remember, for this type of VA disability benefit, the veteran usually has to prove that the injury or disease was made worse due to circumstances that occurred in active-duty.

Call VA Disability Lawyer William Herren Today

Making the connection between a veteran’s injury or disease and his/her service in the U.S. Military or National Guard is not an easy determination, which is why it’s essential to include all of the necessary information within your VA disability benefits claim. For this reason, it’s wise to have an experienced and knowledgeable attorney to provide you legal counsel, guide you through the VA disability claim process, and represent your case. For a free consultation with Houston disability benefits attorney William Herren, call our Houston TX law firm today at (713) 682-8194.

How Can I Prove That My Disability is Service-Related?

 

Herren Law is a team of Houston veteran’s disability attorneys focusing on helping veterans fill out and apply for their benefits claim. When our clients apply for benefits or a disability claim, however, one of the most important aspects is proving that the injury or disability is related to the client’s active service.

For legal help proving that your injury was related to your military service, contact Herren Law today. Our Houston-based veteran’s benefits attorneys ensure a full-service legal representation as well as one-on-one communication. We’ll work every angle and always put your interests first. Call today!

Presumed Service Connected Conditions

For veteran’s that have served for more than 90 days, there are certain conditions that, by law, are presumptively service connected. In other words, if you prove that you have a condition that’s presumed by the VA to be military connected, you only have to show that you have the condition (and don’t have to prove the service connection). For example, some presumed service connected conditions include:

  • ALS – Lou Gehrig’s Disease
  • Conditions related to agent orange exposure
  • Diseases resulting from radiation exposure for veterans who served at certain locations
  • PTSD in certain circumstances

Additionally, it is important to note that POWs that were confined for more than 30 days may be eligible for a presumptive service connection.

Criteria for Proving a Direct Service Connection

A direct service connection occurs when an incident directly caused your injury or disability. Therefore, to prove a direct service connection, you would need to prove that the event occcurred, provide medical evidence of your injury or disability, and provide medical evidence that the incident caused the disability or injury. In other words, you’ll need to prove:

  • An incident
  • Your disability
  • And the connection between the incident and your injury

For example, a parachuter broke his/her back in a landing. A direct service connection would be the connection between his/her paralysis and the jump.

Secondary Service Connections

Secondary service connections include disabilities that were due to or the result of a service-connected disease or injury. In other words, veterans can claim a secondary service connection when a service-related disability or injury caused another injury or disability.

Aggravated Service Connections

In some cases, an individual had a pre-existing condition before entering the military. During his/her time in the military, however, he/she suffered an injury or experienced an incident that aggravated that pre-existing condition. For example, let’s say a service member had a skin condition before entering the military, but during his/her service, he/she confronted a chemical that made the condition worse than it ever would have been on its own.

Call Herren Law for Your Disability Benefits

Often, the VA is quite strict about requiring veterans to prove that their injuries or disability was caused during service. Even the slightest mishap or missing piece of evidence could cause the VA to deny to your claim. For legal help building your evidence and showing a connection between service and your injuries, make sure to call our VA benefits attorneys at Herren Law at (800) 529-7707. Free consultations are available.

Can I Be Working and Still Receive My Veterans Benefits?

 

As a Houston veteran’s benefits attorney, one question we often hear is, “Can I work and still receive my veteran’s benefits?” The short and easy answer is, “Yes.” But unfortunately, issues such as working and benefits in the eyes of the VA is rarely that simple. For example, to be able to receive benefits, you have to show the VA that your disabilities or injuries (obtained during active service) have an impact on your work and daily activities.

To determine whether you can work and still receive your benefits, it is important to look at the types of benefits you’re receiving, your disability rating, and several other factors. In the meantime, you can learn more about veteran’s benefits and work eligibility below.

Working Limits for Veterans Receiving Benefits

If you’re receiving benefits, then it means that the VA is providing for disability and injuries sustained during active service. In our last post, we mentioned the VA Schedule of Rating Disabilities, which the VA uses to calculate your benefits based on the severity of your disability. Disabilities are rated on a scale of 10% to 100% in increments of 10%. To receive benefits, therefore, you must have a minimum disability rating of 10%.

You can still work while you’re receiving benefits. However, if you’re receiving benefits on a 100% disability rating, you cannot work as the VA has determined your injuries or disability to be so severe that you’re effectively unemployable. Furthermore, even if you don’t have a 100% disability rating, going back to work could jeopardize your benefits (in some cases, the VA has reduced the claimant’s disability rating).

Working in the Military With Disability Benefits

Disabled veterans can still work and receive their disability benefits while continuing their military service. However, a soldier cannot receive disability benefits and military pay at the same time. If this is the case, the disability payments may be temporarily suspended during your term of military service.

Call Herren Law Today for Legal Help

Disability benefits can be a complex affair, and even after going through the long and difficult VA benefits application process, your military benefits may not be completely fixed. If you have an issue with your disability rating or benefits, make sure to call a Houston veteran’s benefits attorney as soon as possible. For a free consultation with the attorneys at Herren Law, call our Houston office today at (800) 529-7707.

How Long Does It Take to Receive Veterans Benefits?

We at Herren Law are passionate about making sure veterans get what they were promised. Texas and Houston veterans sacrificed so much while they were in military service, and it’s essential to hold the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs accountable. Unfortunately, there are thousands of veterans in Texas who are disabled and unable to receive health care and other benefits from the VA.

Often, one question our veteran’s disability benefits attorneys come across is, “How long do I have to wait to receive my benefits?” We understand the importance of these benefits (and how slow the VA can be). For a free consultation regarding your benefits claim, call our Houston law firm today at (800) 529-7707. Below, we’ve included some more information about VA benefits and the claims process.

The VA Benefits Claims Process

When filing out a claim for disability compensation with the VA, there are eight general steps that you have to follow. At each of the eight steps, the process can either go quickly or it can take a long time. This variation in time depends on the complexity of the disability, the amount of evidence required to support your claims, and the type of evidence you have.

The eight steps in the claim process include:

  1. The VA has received your claim
  2. A Veterans Service Representative is reviewing your claim
  3. A Veterans Service Representative is gathering evidence from various sources
  4. The VA is reviewing the evidence
  5. The Veterans Service Representative has recommended a decision
  6. The decision is pending approval
  7. The claim decision packet is prepared for mailing.
  8. The VA has sent a decision packet to you

Almost every stage of this process can present several setbacks that could elongate the entire process. For example, if the VA decides that you need more evidence (Step 4), then it will send the claim back to Step 3.

You can check the status of your claim by registering for eBenefits at www.ebenefits.va.gov.

How to Speed Up the VA Claims Process

Many delays in the VA claims process are going to be completely out of your control. Nonetheless, you should still do everything you can to minimize setbacks. For example, when you’re applying for benefits, make sure to include all pieces of relevant evidence in its desired format. Also, you should always double-check medical records and evidence to ensure that they’re arriving where they need to. Follow up with your medical professionals as well as the VA to make sure that the process is moving along.

One way to speed up the process, however, is to utilize the VA’s Fully Developed Claims (FDC) program. This program offers faster decisions on compensation, pension, and survivor benefit claims.

Contact Herren Law for Expert Legal Representation

If you’ve been waiting for disability benefits, or you need help creating a strong application with the goal of minimizing the wait time as much as possible, contact veteran’s disability attorney William Herren at Herren Law. We serve the Greater Houston area with expert representation and legal aid with the goal of getting your benefits in a timely manner. Call today at (800) 529-7707.