What Is VA Disability Back Pay And How Do I Qualify In Houston, TX?

In the course of applying for VA disability benefits, the issue of “back pay” may be part of the discussion. Maybe you know someone who received it, or you may discuss it with a VSO or disability attorney. Receiving back pay—and how much you receive—will depend on the date of your application, and when you begin receiving benefits.

What Is VA Disability Back Pay And How Do I Qualify In Houston, TX?

The Effective Date

The VA defines this as the later of two dates:

  • The date of your claim filing
  • The date that your disability reveals or escalates

Most claims use the date you filed your claim. The second date is usually when a veteran files for an increase in ratings. In that case, the effective date is then the date when the disability escalates, not the original date of the claim filing.

There are occasions when an effective date may be earlier, but not much. They are:

  • Recently discharged veterans, depending on the date of discharge and the date the disability either manifests or escalates
  • Claims for an increased rating
  • Agent Orange Exposure claims, since there are special rules that apply because Agent Orange exposure is a presumptive service-connected condition.

Once these dates are established, the VA begins the claims process.

When Disability Back Pay Is Awarded

Because the VA is notorious for taking years to award benefits in some cases, the agency awards a lump sum of “back pay,” and you’ll receive monthly benefit thereafter.

Back pay is the collective amount of the payments you would have received if you were awarded benefits immediately.

For instance: you applied for VA disability benefits on January 1, 2015, but didn’t begin receiving monthly benefit payments until January 1, 2019. This means that although you begin receiving payments on January 1, 2019, you’re also entitled to benefits during the period where you waited for the VA to begin disbursement. Therefore, back pay would be the four-year sum of your monthly benefits from January 1, 2015 through December 1, 2018 until your regular monthly benefit payments begin on January 1, 2019.

It’s also possible that you could receive back pay when you’ve appealed a decision and the VA subsequently rules in your favor. Back pay may also be awarded if your condition worsens and the VA increases your monthly benefit payments. You’ll also receive a lump sum of the increased amount after the new ruling, based on the date your condition escalates.

A Claim Must Be In Writing

It may sound a little odd to mention, but some veterans may believe they’ve filed a claim because they’ve discussed it with a VSO or an adjudicator. All claims must be submitted in writing, and you don’t have a claim until you do.  The VA does not do a good job of notifying veterans that they may have a claim. The effective date of your award is always on, and not earlier, than the date of your written claim.

Don’t Re-Apply After Denial—Get Help With Your Appeal ASAP

What some veterans do after they are denied benefits is to re-apply all over again. Don’t do that—you could lose thousands of dollars you’re actually entitled to. The VA works on the effective date, or the date that they receive your application. If you start over with a new application, the effective date, and could reduce or eliminate any back pay you could have received.

If your application is denied, it’s important to step up your game and get help with your appeal immediately. Whether you applied before your discharge date, within a year of discharge, or when you first began to need benefits, starting over with a new application wipes out your original application and starts the process over.

Using the previous example—if you applied on January 1, 2015 and your claim is denied, through the eventual appeal, you might receive a four-year sum of back pay.

But if you re-apply on January 2016 and are eventually approved, you would lose an entire year of back pay.

Getting help from a disability law attorney will help you navigate the appeals process and increase your chances of getting the benefits you need and deserve.

We Help Houston Veterans

Getting VA disability benefits is a long, arduous process that takes patience as well as understanding the law. William Herren is a disability attorney who has helped more than 4,000 Houstonians get the benefits they deserve, including veterans. Call The Herren Law Firm today at 713-682-8194 (or use our online contact form) 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. You don’t owe a fee until we win your case.

Can I Receive Both SSDI And VA Benefits?

The short answer: yes, it is possible to have both. Neither SSDI nor VA disability is need-based, so you may be able to receive both. But there are a few things you need to know before you begin your application, and before you begin receiving benefits.

Can I Receive Both SSDI And VA Benefits?

Social Security Disability Insurance

This is a program that provides monthly disability payments to workers under 65 who have sufficient work credits and qualifying disabilities that prevent you from working.

Additionally, you can’t receive retirement and/or SSI benefits at the same time as SSDI. Once you reach retirement age and begin collecting Social Security, your SSDI will be discontinued.

However, SSDI is not affected by VA or DoD disability benefits.

VA Benefits

There is a difference between VA benefits and VA disability benefits.

VA disability benefits are based on the VA’s schedule of ratings that determine your amount of disability. You do not have to be totally disabled, you can also be partially disabled. Even a 0% rating acknowledges the presence of a service-connected condition that could later manifest and cause you to be at least partially disabled.

If you receive a VA pension, which is income and needs based, it can affect the amount you receive from SSDI, and vice-versa.

The Difference

One thing to remember is that Social Security and the VA are two separate governmental entities. Qualifying for VA disability benefits is not an automatic qualification for SSDI—you must apply for it separately.

Receiving VA disability benefits has no effect on an application for SSDI, and the SSA does not give weight to VA approvals for consideration of its own decisions. But since the SSA shares the medical database with both the VA and the DoD, they will have access to military and veteran medical records. These records may be used to expedite claims processing for vets with a 100% disability rating or “Wounded Warriors,” those who were injured on active duty after October 1, 2001.

However, if you are on SSDI, the VA is required to consider records that are used for approval of SSDA, and those medical records can provide valuable information for your VA claim.

You can apply for SSDI whenever your disability prevents you from working. You must be totally disabled in order to receive SSDI benefits.

However, for VA disability, you should apply as soon as you begin dealing with a service-connected disability condition. The VA awards benefits based on either partial or total disability.

The VA’s “Fast Track” Application Program

The unfortunate part of applying for any kind of governmental benefits is the time it takes before you begin receiving them. The VA has taken notice, and introduced the Fully Developed Claims (FDC) program, commonly called the “Fast Track.” The VA developed this program to help cut down on the backlog of applications that take years to complete.

The difference is that submitting an FDC will require you to do more of the preparation and “legwork” than you would if you were submitting a standard application. But submitting an FDC also qualifies you for retroactive benefits if you were disabled for a year before you submitted the application, and if it’s your first application.

The new application forms are all available at the VA’s website. You’ll need the VA Form 21-526EZ, Fully Developed Claim (Compensation) for disability compensation claims, which is a simpler, shorter application.

Legal Representation And Help For Disability Claims

If you’re applying for either SSDI or VA disability benefits, the process can be confusing. An incorrectly prepared claim for either or both can result in a denial. The time to get help is at the outset, to ensure that the application process is done correctly.

The Herren Law Firm has helped over 4,000 Houstonians get the benefits they deserve. Call us at (713) 682-8194 or (800) 529-7707 for a free consultation (or use our online contact form.) 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.

The Role Of A “Vocational Expert” At Disability Hearings In Houston

One of the biggest sticking points in a disability claim is whether or not you can go back to work. Depending on your previous occupation, your disability claim may hinge on whether or not you can continue to work at your “old job.”

The Role Of A Vocational Expert At Disability Hearings In Houston

The Social Security Administration employs the use of an expert witness to help them determine your ability to return to work. Known as a “vocational expert,” these individuals assess both your abilities and the current labor market skills and needs, and testify in front of an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) at your hearing.

What The Vocational Expert Does

This is the person who looks at your limitations, the current job market, current skills, and your past work history and decides whether or not you can return to some kind of work, or if you are too disabled to work. This testimony is important, and can be the difference between having your claim approved or denied.

A VE is not an attorney, and their opinion is considered to be impartial. He or she will have degrees and training related to the profession, as well as related work experience. The VE will review 15 years of your work experience to determine if you have any transferable skills to a different occupation.

Job Title Vs. Your Actual Job

Just because you had a specific job title doesn’t mean you did the same thing as others with the same title. The VE must also understand the actual responsibilities you had and the tasks you were required to perform. It’s important that the VE know what you did in your last job, rather than a generally accepted job description or the description in the Dictionary of Occupational Titles (DOT)  or the Occupational Outlook Handbook from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

It is also important that you (or your disability law attorney) ask the VE to explain the job title and the associated duties used to describe your previous work.

During a hearing, your attorney will ask you questions about your last job, what you did, as well as things like physical requirements that were a part of the job. This clarifies the job title vs. actual job quandary so that your side is accurately represented. The VE should use the job title along with the skills and duties that were included in your previous work.

Residual Functional Capacity (RFC)

One option that a VE may use is a residual functional capacity assessment to find out what you can and can’t do in relation to your previous employment. This report describes the maximum exertion you can do in a normal work setting on a daily and continual basis.

Additionally, the VE and/or the ALJ will need to assess “function-by-function” to determine your limitations in the RFC compared to the requirements of your past occupations. If the RFC does not agree with the job conditions, you may be ruled disabled.

What A Disability Law Attorney Does For You

While the ALJ asks the vocational expert a series of questions, including hypothetical ones, a disability law attorney will cross-examine the VE and challenge their view on what you can and cannot do.

Cross examining the VE challenges him or her on his or her findings of your limitations and abilities and asking about things that the ALJ left out of the hypotheticals will increase your chances of winning your claim. Without an attorney, you’re at the mercy of people who may or may not have your best interests at heart.

Need Help With A Disability Claim? Let Herren Law Help

The Herren Law Firm has helped over 4,000 clients successfully win their claims. We can help with your application, appeals and help you through the process, and give you one less thing to worry about. Contact us today at 713-682-8194 (or use our online contact form) to schedule your free consultation. There’s no obligation, and no up-front fees.  We only collect if we win your case.

Can You Get Disability For Glaucoma In Houston?

At your last eye exam, your doctor may have noticed something you didn’t—your vision is slowly being affected. You haven’t realized that your vision has been receding just a little, because it’s a slow change. But your doctor knows, and now you’re concerned about going blind.

Can You Get Disability For Glaucoma In Houston?

Regular eye exams are important in the early detection and treatment of glaucoma. When caught early enough, the symptoms are treatable, and you may be just fine.

But if you’ve lost a significant amount of sight, and you’re finding yourself unable to see as well as you used to, is disability in your future?

Glaucoma Basics

Although most people believe glaucoma is a disease in and of itself, it’s actually a series of eye problems that could, without treatment, eventually lead to blindness. That’s why regular eye exams are important for the health of your eyes. While there is no cure, available treatments and surgeries can preserve your vision so that you can continue to see. About 5% of patients do go blind despite treatments.

Glaucoma can affect people of all ages, but is more common in middle-aged and elderly patients and is also hereditary. It’s a very slow-progressing condition, affecting the peripheral (side) vision first before it breaches into the central vision.

The most common type is primary open-angle glaucoma, where the eye’s canals are is clogged and fluid can’t properly drain from the eyes. This increases the inner eye pressure, affecting vision over time. POAG responds well to medication, particularly if it is caught early and treated.

The less common form is angle closure glaucoma, which develops quickly and needs immediate medical attention. It is also caused by clogged drainage canals, and occurs when the iris and the cornea closes. Angle closure glaucoma can also increase the pressure inside the eyes.

The SSA, Glaucoma, And Disability

The Social Security Administration recognizes that glaucoma can eventually cause problems for people who work. If it progresses far enough, it is possible that you may be unable to work.

Note that evidence of glaucoma is not enough to rate and receive disability payments. It’s only when the condition interferes with your ability to work that you’ll be considered for disability, and possibly rated for benefits.

The SSA has a specific section in its Listing Of Impairments just for Special Senses And Speech for adults, which describes “statutory blindness.” If your glaucoma progresses to statutory blindness, you may be eligible for an increased amount of benefit, which

However, the SSA also gauges the degree to which a disability prevents someone from working by establishing if they are engaging in what’s called Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA). That is, the amount of monthly income you earn and whether it’s enough to support yourself without monthly disability benefit payments. In other words, if you’re working and making enough to live on.

An individual who is not engaged in SGA and is statutorily blind will receive a larger amount of money due to the “adverse economic consequences” of blindness. However, the SSA encourages blind individuals to continue working, because the increased monthly amount due to blindness will not be affected by working.

Working With Glaucoma

If your current occupation is undoable with glaucoma, you may only need to change careers. Available technology can open up a world of opportunities for visually impaired individuals.

The Chicago Lighthouse For The Blind lists these occupations as just some of the ways people with partial blindness can continue to work, with our without SSA benefits:

  • Teachers, college professors and guidance counselors
  • Social workers and psychologists
  • Doctors, nurses and occupational and physical therapists
  • Masseuses and chiropractors
  • Rehabilitation teachers and counselors
  • Customer service representatives
  • Restaurant and store workers
  • Factory workers
  • Freelance writers, journalists and TV and radio broadcasters
  • DJs and musicians

The American Printing House For The Blind also has a website called CareerConnect, which offers resources for those with sight impairment to find suitable jobs.

Disability For Glaucoma

If you’ve been diagnosed with glaucoma, you may be able to receive disability benefits. Not sure where to start? The Herren Law Firm in Houston, TX can assist with your application, appeals and records gathering to prove your case, and win your claim.

We’ve helped over 4,000 Houstonians get their disability benefits, and are ready to help you. Contact us today at 713-682-8194 (or user our online contact form) to schedule your free consultation. There’s no obligation, and no up-front fees, and we only collect a fee if we win your case.

 

Organic Mental Disorders and Disability Benefits

You may be under the impression that if you have a mental disorder, you won’t be qualified for disability benefits. However, in many cases, you can. We’ve previously discussed disability for mental disorders. Most people think of mental disorders as depression, anxiety, bipolar, PTSD, OCD, and other mood disorders.

But an organic brain disorder is different, and unless you’ve been diagnosed with one, you might not understand what that means. Here, we’ll offer some understanding on the subject.

Organic Mental Disorders and Disability Benefits

What Is An Organic Mental Disorder?

This is a condition that’s differentiated from other mental health conditions due to the causes. While other mental disorders are considered to be chemical in nature, or a result of a person’s circumstances (such as the loss of a spouse or a job), organic mental disorders have a direct, physical cause. These can include:

  • Heredity
  • Traumatic brain injury
    • Concussion
    • Bleeding in the brain or into the space around the brain
    • Blood clot inside the skull that puts pressure on the brain
  • Strokes that cause dementia
  • Hypertension that causes a brain injury
  • Low oxygen or high carbon dioxide levels in the body
  • Withdrawal from alcohol and/or drugs
  • Effects from drugs and/or alcohol inebriation (however, not from the use of alcohol and/or drugs)
  • Infections, such as blood poisoning, encephalitis, meningitis
  • Other medical conditions such as cancer, kidney/liver disease, hypo or hyperthyroidism
  • Vitamin B deficiency (B1, B12, or folate)

Symptoms include:

  • Difficulty understanding spoken language, such as the inability to speak
  • Behavioral changes
  • Cognitive impairment
  • Confusion/disorientation
  • Dementia
  • Delirium
  • Amnesia
  • Personality changes
  • Hallucinations

Filing For Disability Benefits

It is possible to receive disability for organic mental disorders (also called Organic Brain Dysfunction) by submitting a complete listing of medical records, evidence, test results, and the date of the diagnosis. Additional testing that shows the rate of cognitive decline may also be required, such as an IQ test. While a low IQ doesn’t necessarily mean the patient has it, a drop in IQ from one test to the next is usually an indicator of an organic mental disorder.

Individuals with severe neurocognitive impairments may require assistance from a spouse or other family members who care for the individual. They should inform the patient’s attending physician about their problems and conditions so that everything is added to the medical records. The SSA may request information from the spouse or other family members about the patient’s condition.

The “Blue Book”

The SSA’s Disability Evaluation Schedule considers organic mental disorders to be neurocognitive disorders, and the criteria can be found under Section 12.02.

To prove your claim, you will need to satisfy the SSA requirements in A and B, or A and C:

    1. Provide medical documentation of a significant cognitive decline from a prior level of functioning in one or more of the cognitive areas:
      • Complex attention
      • Executive function
      • Learning and memory
      • Language
      • Perceptual-motor or
      • Social cognition

And:

    1. Extreme limitation of one, or marked limitation of two, of the following areas of mental functioning:
      • Understand remember or apply information
      • Interact with others
      • Concentrate persist or maintain pace
      • Adapt or manage oneself

OR

    1. Your mental disorder in this listing category is “serious and persistent;” that is, you have a medically documented history of the existence of the disorder over a period of at least 2 years, and there is evidence of both:
      • Medical treatment, mental health therapy, psychosocial support(s), or a highly structured setting(s) that is ongoing and that diminishes the symptoms and signs of your mental disorder and
      • Marginal adjustment, that is, you have minimal capacity to adapt to changes in your environment or to demands that are not already part of your daily life

If you need help filling out your application and compiling the records, get help from a Houston disability attorney with the knowledge and experience in disability law. Early assistance can save you time, money, and frustration in the long run.

Houston’s Disability Attorney For Mental Illness And Disorders

If you or a loved one have been denied disability payments for an organic mental disorder, we’re ready to help. Don’t give up on your claim—call us today.

The Herren Law Firm in Houston, TX can assist with your application, appeals and records gathering to prove your case, and win your claim. Contact us today at 713-682-8194 (or user our online contact form) to schedule your free consultation. There’s no obligation, and no up-front fees, and we only collect a fee if we win your case.

Valuable information for Texas Veterans on TexVet.org

If you’re a veteran in Texas, you may find yourself endlessly seeking out information online that may or may not apply to veterans in the Lone Star State. There are a considerable number of blogs written by veterans for the veteran community, with a wide range of information available. Some of it may not be applicable or accurate.

Valuable information for Texas Veterans on TexVet.org

What you may not know is that a group of people at Texas A&M in College Station are looking out for the veteran community here. They’ve have put together one website where you can find information you need specific to Texas veterans.

TexVet

Since its beginnings in 2007, TexVet has served as a catalog website for a wide range of services and trustworthy information available to veterans. Their mission statement:

TexVet is the state clearinghouse for trusted information, resources, data, technical support, and research relevant to service members, veterans, their families, and those who serve them.

The idea is to make it easy for Lone Star veterans to find what they need, as well as organizations that serve them to reach both the military and veteran communities.

While there are a number of small nonprofits and other organizations that serve the veteran community, many may not have the resources to gather as much information, or keep it current. TexVet’s intentions are for their single website to have current information that veterans need at their fingertips.

The website receives funding and support from Texas A&M University Health Science Center as well as the Texas Department of Health & Human Services. The website’s resources are updated regularly and audited yearly.

Available Information

The website’s information is categorized so that you can find what you need quickly. Choose from:

  • Mental Health Resources
  • Legal Assistance
  • VA Claims
  • Transportation
  • Events
  • Property Tax (an important issue in Texas)
  • Finding a job and starting a business
  • The Hazelwood Act (for Texas veterans education)
  • Homeless Assistance
  • Social Groups
  • Women Veterans

Additional menu selections include Transitioning Vets and a section for Fun/Free things for veterans and their families, including discounts.

If you’re looking for information about GI bill higher education, click here to go to their Higher Ed page. You can also find information on the Hazelwood Act for Texas Veterans and their families, as well as a list of colleges and universities that accept both the GI bill and the Hazelwood Act. In the Houston area alone, you can choose:

  • Alvin Community College
  • Houston Community College
  • Prairie View A&M
  • Sam Houston State University (Huntsville)
  • Texas Southern University
  • Texas Women’s University
  • University of Houston
  • Texas A&M Galveston

The website lists all the colleges and universities statewide that you can choose from to receive higher education.

Criteria For Listing On Texvet.org

There are a wide range of companies that offer help or services to veterans and their families. Unfortunately, not all of them are legitimate, nor are they helpful, such as payday loan companies, which profit from veterans but do nothing to help.

Most of the listings on the website are governmental agencies, local services and nonprofits that are vetted to ensure that they meet TexVet’s standards.

To ensure that companies and organizations are legitimate and genuinely care about the veterans who may contact them, any organization must meet TexVet’s Standards Of Trust in order to appear on the site.

While most for-profit companies aren’t listed, TexVet will occasionally list one and mark it as a “for-profit” entity.

Doing a search for “veterans assistance” will bring millions of search engine results, but may not be what you need. TexVet strives to be the first website Texas veterans visit when they need information or resources.

More Assistance For Your VA Disability Claim

We respect our military and veteran community, and we’re ready to help you when you need it.

The Herren Law Firm has helped over 4,000 Houstonians get the benefits they deserve. 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.

What Is The VA Service-Connected Disability Rating System?

During the process of applying for your VA disability benefits, you may have heard about the VA’s rating system.  The VA Schedule of Ratings Disabilities (VASRD) is a system that the VA uses to determine a veteran’s percentage of disability. The percentage determines how much a disability decreases your ability to function as well as your overall health. It’s a fair and consistent system for compensating disabled veterans for the same condition.

What Is The VA Service-Connected Disability Rating System?

How It Works

Your first step is to assemble your claim and submit it to the VA. Once the VA determines that your disability is service-connected, they assign you a rating.  These ratings are based on the impact of your earning capacity in civilian occupations. The rating is used to determine the amount of disability compensation paid to you monthly to compensate you for the loss of earning capacity due to your service.

The VA uses medical information you supply in your claim. This can include military and civilian medical records, as well as things like test results. Also used are findings from a VA Claim Exam (also called “compensation and pension” or “C&P” exam) and any other information the VA gathers, such as from federal agencies. The VA issues ratings in even, 10% increments from 0% to 100%. Multiple ratings are added and rounded to the nearest 10% (up or down) using the criteria set out in the VASRD.

Different conditions have different ratings, based on their severity. If you have more than one disabling condition, the VA uses their Combined Ratings Table to help determine your percentage of disability. This means that if your different conditions have percentages that add up to 100% or more, your final, rounded percentage will not be equal to 100% or more.

What If I’m Rated At 0%?

This means that although you have a condition, it doesn’t affect your ability to function. You won’t receive any disability payments, but you may still qualify for priority health care as well as other VA benefits. More than one 0% disability rating for different conditions may give you a 10% rating.

However, even with a 0% rating, you have established that your condition exists, and that it’s service connected. It is a “foot in the door” for later.  Should your condition worsen to the point of disability, you can file a claim to increase your rating.

You may also be eligible for outpatient dental care and more affordable life insurance within the first two years of your rating. There may also be state benefits available for veterans at 0%.

Confused About The VA’s Rating System? Herren Law Understands It

If you’re not sure what the rating system means to you, don’t try to decipher it yourself. William Herren is a Houston disability attorney who has been helping veterans through the VA’s system for more than 20 years. We understand how the VA works, the VASRD, and how to get your claim through their process as efficiently as possible to give you the best chance of approval.

Call The Herren Law Firm today at 713-682-8194 (or use our online contact form) 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.

How Does Divorce Affect Social Security Survivors Benefits?

One of the most important parts of financial security for retired and widowed individuals is Social Security. This is especially important for women, since women characteristically are younger than their spouses but outlive them.

Social Security Survivors Benefits

One of the lesser-discussed topics of Social Security is the survivors benefits paid to spouses, children, and occasionally parents of a deceased worker. The National Academy of Social Insurance estimates that 7.5 million individuals over the age of 60 receives SS benefits based on the work record of a deceased spouse, with about 3.7 million of them widowed spouses. As long as the deceased worker has collected enough credits to receive Social Security, survivor’s benefits are available.

In some cases, even if you were divorced from your spouse, it’s still possible to collect Social Security survivor’s benefits from your former spouse.

Criteria For Survivors Benefits

For a widowed spouse to collect survivor’s benefits, the following conditions must apply:

  • The deceased must be collecting Social Security at the time of death
  • You must be over the age of 60 (or 50 if you are disabled); you’ll receive anywhere from 71.5% to 100% of the deceased’s monthly amount depending on your age, or
    • There is no age limit if you are caring for a child under 16 or a disabled child of the deceased, or
  • You must be a child of the deceased, under 18 or 19 and 2 months if still in high school, or
    • You have a disability that began before the age of 22
    • You’re a grandchild or stepchild of the deceased
  • Parents of the deceased, aged 62 or older, who were financially dependent on the deceased. One parent will receive 82.5% of the deceased’s benefit for one parent, two will receive 75% each.

Additionally, there is a one-time death benefit of $255 available in a lump sum payment for the widowed spouse, minor children, or an adult child who is disabled. There are specific conditions that apply to this separate death benefit as well.

What If You’re Divorced?

Surprisingly, you can still apply for and collect these benefits from your former spouse, if:

  • Your former spouse was collecting SSDI or Social Security retirement at the time of death
  • Your marriage to the worker lasted 10 or more years
  • You did not remarry before the age of 60, or age 50 if you are disabled, if the disability happened within 7 years of the worker’s death
  • You are raising the child of children of your former spouse that are under the age of 16

As a divorced spouse:

  • You’ll receive 100% of your deceased ex-spouse’s retirement or SSDI benefit if you are of full retirement age.
  • You’ll receive between 71.5% and 99% of your deceased ex-spouse’s retirement or SSDI benefit if you are between 60 and full retirement age.
  • You’ll receive 71.5% of your deceased ex-spouse’s retirement or SSDI benefit if you are between 50 and 59 and disabled, and your disability happened before your former spouse died, or within 7 years of their death.

You can still apply for the one-time death benefit if the same conditions apply.

Divorced males as well as females can collect survivor’s benefits from their former spouses. However, if your own Social Security benefits are higher than the amount of your survivor’s benefit, you’ll receive that higher amount instead. Additionally, you won’t receive more than you would normally—your total monthly amount won’t exceed what you’d receive every month as an individual.

Remarriage

If you remarry before the age of 60 (or 50 with a disability) you will lose the survivor’s benefits from your former spouse. If your new spouse dies, you can resume receiving the survivor’s benefits from your previous spouse as you did before.

Remarriage after the age of 60 will have no effect on your survivor’s benefits, and you can continue to collect them.

Maximum Family Benefit

There is a total amount that family members—children, parents, etc.—will receive as survivors.

If you receive survivor’s benefits based on caring for a child, that will be taken from the maximum family benefit. The benefits you receive will be taken from the maximum amount, and decrease the amount of money that other family members may receive.

However, the money you receive as a divorced spouse will not affect that maximum.

Need Help With Social Security Or Disability? Get Help From Herren Law

The Herren Law Firm can help you with your application, appeals and help you through the process, and give you one less thing to worry about. Contact us today at 713-682-8194 (or use our online contact form) to schedule your free consultation. There’s no obligation, and no up-front fees.  We only collect if we win your case.

What Are The Most Common VA Disabilities?

Veterans can develop a wide range of illnesses after their tours of duty end and they return to civilian life. Much attention is given to the veterans who are experiencing things like PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), but not everyone has it.

What Are The Most Common VA Disabilities?

Some veterans may just find themselves with a fair amount of joint pain from jumping out of trucks while carrying a full backpack. Musculoskeletal conditions are frequently reported by veterans, due to the extremely physical nature of most jobs in the military. But while vets are currently receiving benefits for more than 21 million types of disabilities, there are some that show up the most.

The Top Ten

The most common disabilities seen by the VA are:

  1. Tinnitus—this annoying condition is the result of working around aircraft, gunfire or other munitions. It can be an underlying condition of hearing loss, neck injuries, a traumatic brain injury, as well as depression. Tinnitus ringing, buzzing, hissing or other noise in one or both ears, and can make concentration difficult.
  2. Hearing loss—another common condition in veterans, and requires a service connection in order to receive benefits. If you have both hearing loss and tinnitus, you may be able to have a separate rating for each.
  3. Limitations of knee flexions—knees may begin to “freeze up” and have limited ranges of motion as the years pass. Symptom severity will determine your VA ratings.
  4. Cervical or lumbosacral pain—neck and back pain that can be disabling and make daily life activities more difficult. Prescribed painkillers can present even more limitations for veterans who take them.
  5. Scars and scarring—even after healing, scars can still be painful. Injuries from combat and chemical burns can cause scars that leave lifelong problems as well as require multiple surgeries to treat. The VA rates based on the location and size.
  6. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSDa mental health condition that follows exposure to a traumatic event. While treatment is available, there is currently no cure.
  7. Limitation of motion in the ankles—much like knee problems, ankle problems are evaluated for stability, extension and flexion before a rating is assigned.
  8. General impairment of the knee—this includes injuries as well as knee replacement, both partial and total.
  9. Migraine headaches—the throbbing pain that is usually confined to one side of the head may require you to lay down until it passes. You may also experience dizziness, nausea, and sensitivity to sound and light. Some migraines may last for days.
  10. Sciatica (aka Paralysis of the Sciatic Nerve)—the largest nerve in the body, it runs from the lower back through the hips down to the leg. Pressure on this nerve causes pain to develop in these areas.

Other Common Veterans Disabilities

While the VA reports these as the most common disability claims they receive, there are more, like musculoskeletal. They are sometimes secondary conditions, and include:

  • Diabetes
  • Gastrointestinal disorders
  • Sleep Apnea
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD) or other respiratory conditions
  • Traumatic brain injuries
  • Other mental health disorders (depression, anxiety, etc.)
  • Peripheral neuropathy (numbness, tingling, or loss of movement in the limbs)
  • Bronchial asthma

As with any disability condition, a service connection must be proved for either cause or aggravation.

Your Houston VA Disability Attorney

Applying for VA disability benefits is a long process with a lot of obstacles, but there is no time limit on when you can apply. Whether you have one of these top disability conditions, or something else that’s service related, we can help you wade through the red tape involved in applying for the benefits you deserve after your service.

When you’re ready to start, or you need help with an appeal, call The Herren Law Firm at 713-682-8194 (or use our online contact form) to schedule your free consultation. Our contingency fee basis means you won’t owe a fee until we win your case, and there’s no obligation.

Can I Get VA Benefits For Hearing Loss In Houston, TX?

You may have noticed that you’re not hearing as well as you did before, or you keep asking people to repeat something. Did this happen during your time on active duty?

Doctor talking to an older female patient about Houston, TX VA disability benefits for hearing loss.

 

Hearing Loss Can Affect Anyone

Most people think of age-related hearing loss (the loss of the hair-like cells in your inner ear), or people who were born without hearing. But losing your hearing can happen to anyone anytime without an explanation. Even excessive earwax can cause hearing loss, but more common causes include:

  • Exposure to loud noises, including construction equipment, power tools, concerts, movies, and other high-decibel sounds without protection.
  • Listening to music too loud in earphones
  • Tinnitus (ringing in the ear, especially after loud concerts and movies)
  • Traumatic brain and other injuries to the head
  • Tumors and other growths in the ear area
  • Medications for conditions such as cancer and infections (antibiotics)
  • Sudden altitude and pressure changes during flying (or even driving)
  • Diseases in children such as:
    • Chickenpox
    • Smallpox
    • Meningitis
    • Measles
    • Mumps
  • Other chronic illnesses such as:
    • Heart disease and hypertension
    • Autoimmune diseases (such as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis and lupus)
    • Diabetes
    • Strokes

Veterans may have some of these causes, but their hearing losses are more commonly caused by experiences in the military, such as gunfire, transport, airplane and helicopter engines, and other artillery explosions (i.e., hand grenades.)

Like any VA disability claim, you’ll be required to establish a service connection for your hearing loss.

Three Steps

Just filling out an application will not help you get rated. In order to apply, you’ll need:

  • A current diagnosis of hearing loss from a licensed audiologist, who will administer two different diagnostic tests to be submitted to the VA:
    • Maryland CNC Test, which uses a 50-word list to determine how well you can recognize speech
    • Puretone Audiometric Test, which measures the lightest sounds you can pick up on and hear
    • Note: when you’re being tested, remove any hearing aids and let the audiologist know you’re taking this test to satisfy the VA’s requirement for establishing a service connection.
  • Establishment of a service connection, which may include examining your service records for evidence of any types of activity that could have contributed to or caused your hearing loss. Wartime service can be used to make that connection as well.
  • A corroborating medical opinion, one that can effectively link your hearing loss to your time in service

It’s not uncommon for hearing problems to develop some years after your discharge—but that doesn’t mean it isn’t service related. If you can demonstrate that you were exposed to loud noises during your time in the service, you still may be able to establish a service connection for your hearing loss.

Meniere’s Disease

This inner-ear disorder causes a number of symptoms, including hearing loss, vertigo, tinnitus, and pressure or “fullness” in the affected ear. It normally affects only one ear, and can also include fluid in the ear. While there are treatments for Meniere’s Disease, there is no cure.

The VA does rate on Meniere’s Disease, as much as 100% if you’re experiencing weekly bouts of vertigo and its related symptoms. Other inner ear disorders rate between 10% and 30%.

Hearing Loss Ratings

As with all disability ratings, the VA draws from the VA Schedule of Ratings Disabilities. Auditory (hearing) disorders are found under Section 4.87, in diagnostic codes 6200 to 6260. While tinnitus and hearing loss are common for veterans, there are other types of disorders that the VA will rate, including:

  • Cancer in the ear area. The VA gives a 100% rating for the six months following the end of treatments.
  • An inner ear problem called “peripheral vestibular disorder” rates at 10% if it causes you dizziness on occasion, and 30% if your dizziness is accompanied by staggering
  • The loss of one ear (external) is a 30% rating, whereas the loss of both ears rate at 50%, assuming that you have at least some hearing despite the loss of the ear itself.
  • The VA rates all cases of perforated eardrums at 0%.

If you have total hearing loss in both ears, you may also be eligible for a special monthly compensation.

Herren Law Can Help With Your VA Disability Benefits Claim

The VA does award disability benefits for hearing loss, but you have to apply, as you would for any type of disability. We can help make sure that your application is done correctly, and can also help with an appeal if your claim is denied.

Call The Herren Law Firm today at 713-682-8194 (or use our online contact form) 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.