What is VOC Rehab, In Houston?

For anyone in Houston who has a type of disability and wants to work, vocational rehabilitation, or VOC Rehab, maybe an answer.

The VOC Rehab program is administered through the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) in conjunction with the Rehabilitation Council of Texas. The TWC’s program assists those with disabilities to train for, find, and maintain gainful employment. The program also works with employers and businesses to recruit, keep, and accommodate employees with disabilities.

What is "VOC Rehab” In Houston?

Eligibility

If you have a disability that makes it difficult for you to find and/or keep employment and need services in order to get to the point of employment, TWC’s VOC Rehab program may be able to help you get to that point.

Disabilities such as:

  • Learning, developmental and intellectual
  • Physical disabilities such as:
    • Paralysis
    • Impaired movement
    • Back injuries
    • Spinal and brain injuries
  • Drug or alcohol addiction
  • Hearing impairment
  • Behavioral/mental health conditions
  • Visual impairments including blindness

You can apply for these services at your Texas Workforce Solutions Vocational Rehabilitation Services office, call TWC Vocational Rehabilitation Inquiries at 800-628-5115, or by email at customers@twc.state.tx.us. Include your name, address (including city, state, and zip code) and your phone number in your email.

There are services for both adults and for youth and students and are based on need and eligibility. Youth services include vocational counseling and opportunities for post-secondary education, as well as on-the-job training and internships.

For Veterans: Vocational Rehab & Employment

If you’re a veteran, there are additional services available that can help you if you have a service-connected disability.

The VA has its own VR&E program to offer veterans the assistance they need to find employment and achieve independent living.

If you:

  • Received a discharge that was not dishonorable
  • Have at least a 10% disability rating from the VA, and
  • You apply for VR&E services

Your period of eligibility will end 12 years from the date you separated from active-duty military status, or the date you received notice of your first VA disability rating for a service-connected condition. If your vocational rehabilitation counselor (VRC) finds that you have a serious employment handicap, the period could be extended.

Active-duty military members who are “short-timers” (leaving the military soon) may also be eligible for VR&E if they have a 20% or higher pre-discharge disability rating (a “memorandum rating”), participating in the Integrated Disability Evaluation System (IDES) process, or are awaiting discharge due to a service-connected injury or illness that occurred in the line of duty.

VR&E services can include, as needed:

  • Skillset and abilities evaluation for employment
  • Vocational counseling
  • Job readiness training, including resume preparation and job training
  • On the job training (OJT), including apprenticeships and unpaid work opportunities
  • Post-secondary training at a college, business school, vo-tech or trade school
  • Supportive rehabilitation services as needed (i.e., counseling, medical referrals, case management, etc.)
  • Assistance finding and keeping a job, which may include special employer incentives and job accommodations

You can find out more about these benefits here and submit your application here.

We’re Ready To Help

The Herren Law Firm has helped over 4,000 Houstonians get the veteran’s benefits they deserve, and we’ll be happy to help you get yours. Call us at (713) 682-8194 or (800) 529-7707 or use our online contact form for a free consultation. You can ask questions, and we can discuss your legal options. We offer a contingency fee arrangement, and you won’t owe us anything unless we win your case.

 

2020 VA Disability Rates

The VA has increased the disability rates for veterans in 2020, but not by a considerable amount. The 1.6% increase is smaller than the one given in 2019 of 2.8%. The rate is a cost-of-living adjustment (COLA), and designed to keep up with inflation. The new disability rates went into effect on December 1, 2019.

2020 VA Disability Rates

The VA is required to keep up with and match the COLA adjustments that are made to Social Security benefits.

From 10% to 20%

Veterans at these ratings will receive:

  • At 10% disability, $142.29
  • At 20% disability, $281.27

Veterans with these ratings don’t receive additional compensation for children, parents, or a spouse who receives aid and assistance.

Veterans In Other Rating Brackets

The rest of the VA’s new disability payment schedule is available on their website.

For veterans over 30%, disability payments are calculated according to:

  • Status
  • Dependents, including:
    • Spouse
    • Children
    • Parents
  • More than one child under 18 or in a qualifying school program if over 18
  • A spouse who receives benefits for Aid & Assistance for daily activities, or “housebound” benefits

How Much Will I Receive?

The VA’s website offers a complete breakdown of the updated rates.

Determine your individual payment by starting with the basic rate for your status and rating, i.e., a veteran with no spouse or children. For instance, if you’re rated at 50%, without any qualifying dependents, i.e., spouse or children, your basic monthly payment is $893.43. Scroll down to the table with dependents, and a veteran with a spouse and 1 child that amount increases to $1,043.43 monthly. For a veteran with a child, a spouse, and two parents, the amount increases to $1,181.43.

Qualifying dependents include:

  • Minors, children under 18
  • Children who are still in school and between age 18 and 23
  • A Spouse
  • Parents who are also dependents

Once you’ve found the amount for your current living situation, you’ll be able to add up the amounts that you should receive and have an idea of what you’ll receive in monthly benefits.

Remember that your VA disability benefits are always tax-free.

What If I’m Under-Rated?

It’s possible that you are. If your condition has worsened, or you believe weren’t taken seriously the first time you were given a rating, maybe it’s time to consider requesting a review of your case. With the right documentation, you may be able to have your rating raised favorably.

If you are under-rated, it means you could be missing out on thousands of dollars in benefits that you’ve earned and are entitled to receive.

If you’re interested in a re-rating, seek assistance from a disability lawyer who understands the VA’s processes who will let you know what your chances are of an increase.

Get Help From A Houston VA Disability Attorney

Whether you’re ready to start your application, need help with an appeal, or want to investigate a case review, don’t try to face the VA alone. You do have the right to legal representation whether you’re starting your application, facing a hearing, or dealing with an appeal.

Call The Herren Law Firm in Houston at 713-682-8194 (or use our online contact form) to schedule your free consultation for VA disability benefits. Our contingency fee basis means you won’t owe a fee until we win your case, and there’s no obligation.

How Do You Prove Your PTSD Is Service Related In Houston?

The VA recognizes that PTSD is an issue that many veterans face but maybe too afraid to discuss or seek treatment for. Unfortunately, the VA doesn’t make it easy for veterans.

How Do You Prove Your PTSD Is Service Related In Houston?

PTSD is one of the most common VA disability claims, but it’s the one with the least amount of treatment. Some veterans seek out treatment outside of the military to avoid discharge or other retribution, but many don’t seek any treatment. About 50% of veterans with PTSD actually seek treatment, and of those, about 50% receive adequate treatment.

PTSD And The Service Connection

One of the biggest hurdles is actually proving to the VA that the condition is a direct result of your military service. Since it’s not visible like a physical injury, it’s more difficult to quantify. So it’s up to you as a veteran to prove to the VA that your PTSD is positively service-connected.

The first step is to have a current medical diagnosis of PTSD from a competent expert who is qualified to offer a diagnosis. This must be a psychologist or other physician who has doctorate level training in diagnostic methods, psychopathology, and clinical interview methods along with a working knowledge of the DSM-V. Many veterans may seek help from licensed counselors and social workers, but the VA won’t accept a diagnosis from these providers.

Second, credible supporting evidence is required to show that the stressor (the event that triggered PTSD) actually occurred. This can take the form of service records (including service medical records), buddy statements from individuals who were present at the time of the stressor event, and records from programs where help may have been rendered, such as a veterans service group. A disability lawyer experienced in VA claims can make suggestions of additional forms of evidence to submit.

The third requirement is documented medical evidence of a nexus between the in-service stressor and current symptoms. This can be a statement from your treating physician along with supporting documentation.

Presumptive Service Connection

For veterans who were in specific circumstances and later file a claim, the VA is required to presume a service relationship for PTSD. In other words, if a veteran had certain experiences that could be considered a stressor, the VA presumes that there is a service connection. This can include:

  • Exposure to combat—if the stressor is obviously from the veteran’s time in combat, it’s presumed to be service-connected
  • Prisoner of war—generally, a lay statement is enough to prove the in-service stressor, and the VA will presume a service connection.
  • Military sexual trauma (MST)—because MST is under-reported in the military, the VA has a lower threshold for proof and corroboration. Acceptable evidence includes pregnancy and/or pregnancy testing, STD testing and/or diagnosis, mental health treatment, and rape crisis center reports. Other evidence can be submitted, such as requests for transfers and behavioral reports.
  • Fear of terrorist or military activity—while a lay statement can be helpful to describe the circumstances surrounding the veteran’s fears, a diagnosis from a qualified healthcare professional will also be required to substantiate the claim that the PTSD is the result of this fear.

In these cases, a medical nexus isn’t necessary to prove a service connection to PTSD.

Houston VA Disability Attorney For PTSD

This is just a brief overview of proving PTSD to the VA. Whether you’re suffering from PTSD or something else that’s service-related, we can help you apply, appeal, and make your case to get you the benefits you deserve.

When you’re ready to start your application, 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.

What Types Of Veterans Disability Benefits Are Available In Texas?

What Types Of Veterans Disability Benefits Are Available In Texas?

Disabled veterans living in The Lone Star State are eligible for a number of benefits. Unfortunately, they may realize that these benefits are available, so they don’t know to apply for them.

Fee Exempt Drivers Licenses

If you’re a disabled Texas veteran, you can apply for a fee-exempt license or state ID card if you’ve served in any branch of the US Armed Forces. The requirements:

  1. Have an honorable discharge
  2. A 60% or greater disability rating
  3. Received disability-related compensation
  4. Must not be subject to registration requirements for sex offenders

You’ll need to verify your disability in one of two ways:

  1. With a signed letter from the Veterans Administration
  2. Other official documents that certify the first three requirements above.

If you don’t have a letter from the VA, you will need verification from the branch of the military you served with.

The fee exemption does not apply to CDLs (commercial drivers’ licenses.)

Property Exemptions

If you are disabled at 10% or higher, you are eligible for a property tax exemption based on the appraised value of your property. The exemption is available for veterans, their surviving spouse, and/or a surviving spouse and minor children of a service member who dies on active duty.

Veterans rated at 100% receive a waiver of all property taxes. Surviving spouses and children can receive a $5,000 property tax exemption.

You can apply for this exemption by contacting your local County Appraisal Office for the proper form to fill out and submit. (Harris County’s Appraisal District website is here, and the form for exemptions is here.) A letter from the VA is required to apply (contact them at 800-827-1000 to get one.) Additional information is available here.

Home Loans For Texas Veterans

The Texas Veterans Land Board offers a number of services for veterans, including loans that are considered “below market” interest rates for disabled Texas veterans who are rated 30% or higher for home, land and home improvement loans. Texas State Veteran long-term care facility homes are also available and offer conventional and alternative therapies for resident veterans.

Free State Park Admission

The State Parklands Passport provides free entry to any veteran disabled at a rating of 60% or higher, or a lower-body amputation that is service-related (such as the loss of a leg) and receiving benefits. You’ll need to show documentation of your disability and rating available from the VA, but you do not have to be a resident of the State of Texas to qualify.

Free Fishing & Hunting Licenses

Similar to the State Parklands Passport, the “Super Combo” Hunting and All-Water Fishing Package is available free to disabled veterans as well as active-duty military whose home residence is in Texas. A Federal Duck Stamp is required for waterfowl hunting but is not included, which costs $25.

Additional Resources For Veterans

The Texas Veteran Commission is a statewide collaborative veteran advocate organization. Their online portal connects service members, veterans, and their families to needed resources. The TVC website has a range of information about services for veterans statewide, including claims assistance, education, employment, entrepreneurship, grants, mental health, healthcare advocacy, and resources specific to women veterans. TVC also has a free app available for download for both iOS and Android to make accessing services and information more accessible. Visit their Facebook page here.

TexVet is a joint project from the Texas Health & Human Services and Texas A&M University Health Science Center. This website is a clearinghouse of veteran-relevant information to veterans and their families not available anywhere else. The site is regularly updated and audited yearly. It has resources for things such as physical and mental health, higher education (for both the veteran and his or her family), and an event calendar with activities statewide. The site also has a section for active duty and transitioning service members with a list of services available.

More Benefits Available For Veterans

Because the Lone Star State will soon have the highest number of veterans in the nation, Texas offers even more benefits for service members as well as veterans. Whether for yourself or someone else, it’s worth it to do a simple online search and find them.

Many businesses offer discounts to military and veterans as well, so it’s worth a few minutes of clicking around to locate these thank-you discounts.

For instance, O’Reilly Auto Parts offers an in-store 10% discount for military and veterans on most items. Some items may have an even more significant discount, so it pays to ask.

Are you interested in upgrading your iPhone? Apple also offers discounts to military and veterans.

Other discounts like these are easy to locate with a quick search.

VA Disability Help For Houston Veterans

Herren Law has helped over 4,000 Houstonians get the disability and veteran’s benefits they deserve, and we’ll be happy to help you. Call us at (713) 682-8194 or (800) 529-7707 for a free consultation, 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.

Can I Work In Houston, TX If I Have A 100% Military Disability Rating?

Can I Work In Houston, TX If I Have A 100% Military Disability Rating?

The short answer is: maybe.

There are two ways a veteran may be rated for disability:

  1. Individual Unemployability, also called TDIU (Total Disability/Individual Unemployability), primarily for veterans with conditions that prevent them from working, but don’t qualify for a 100% rating.
  2. Schedular, from the VA’s Schedule of Ratings, from 0% to 100% in 10% increments, which rates a veteran’s ability to return to work.

Both ratings depend on the severity of the veteran’s disability condition and how the condition affects their earning capacity.

TDIU is generally for veterans who are unable to find and keep substantially gainful employment as a result of their service-connected disability condition. That is, the veteran’s annual income meets or exceeds the federal poverty level for a single individual, and a 100% rating is based on the veteran’s inability to work, and is P&T (permanent & total, and not expected to improve.)

In some circumstances, a veteran may be able to still work and receive this benefit. If a veteran is able to have “marginal employment,” where the income does not exceed the poverty level, they can still qualify for TDIU at the 100% level. This can include “protected employment,” But because the VA believes that the veteran is disabled and cannot work, a veteran is not permitted to engage in “substantial gainful employment,” which would bring the income above the poverty level. At this point, the veteran is not eligible for the 100% rating and the VA will reconsider.

Veterans who are rated as 100% Schedular through the VA’s Schedule of Ratings (also called the VA Impairment Rating Tables) are allowed to work at whatever income level they choose.

Qualifying Service-Connected Conditions For 100%

You can qualify with either a physical or a mental condition, or both, or a combination of two or more conditions, such as:

  • Arthritis
  • Asbestosis
  • Asthma
  • Back & Neck Pain
  • Bronchitis
  • Cancer
  • Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
  • COPD
  • Diabetes
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Head Injury
  • Heart Disease/Hypertension
  • Joint Disorders
  • Knee Pain & Injuries
  • Mesothelioma
  • Migraines
  • Military Sexual Trauma (MST)
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis
  • Sleep Apnea and other disorders
  • Spinal Fusion and other disorders
  • Traumatic Brain Injuries

This is just a shortlist of the conditions that may qualify for a 100% rating under the VA’s Schedule of Ratings. You can see more on the VA’s website at the link above.

Claim Denied? Appeal

If your claim was denied, start the appeals process—immediately. Most veterans are denied on the first try, so don’t give up. Filing an appeal is more complicated, and you’ll have a short time in which to file. When you receive your denial letter, begin gathering up all of your medical records, military, VA and private, and speak with a VA disability and appeals attorney. Use your free consultation to learn more about your rights as a veteran, and discuss the next steps in your case.

Working with a Veterans Service Officer may have worked so far, but if you’ve hit an obstacle, he or she may not have the extensive experience that an experienced VA disability attorney has. A lawyer or law firm who focuses on disability claims has a better understanding of how the VA works, and doesn’t. Furthermore, a law firm that specializes in VA disability work has more resources and staff to represent a veteran favorably, rather than relying on a VA physician examination which may not favor the veteran.

We’re Here To Help

If the VA denied your 100% rating, or they’ve revised your current rating, consider discussing your case with a lawyer who understands VA disability benefits.

The Herren Law Firm has helped over 4,000 Houstonians get the veteran’s benefits they deserve, and we’ll be happy to help you get yours. Call us at (713) 682-8194 or (800) 529-7707 or use our online contact form for a free consultation. You can ask questions, and we can discuss your legal options. We offer a contingency fee arrangement, and you won’t owe us anything unless we win your case.

 

What Is VA “Special Monthly Compensation” And How Do You Qualify?

What Is VA "Special Monthly Compensation" And How Do You Qualify?

Even if you’re receiving VA disability payments, you may be eligible for additional tax-free benefits called Special Monthly Compensation, or SMC. This is in addition to regular VA disability compensation, and is made available to veterans with specific service-connected conditions such as the loss of extremities or specific organs. You may also be eligible for SMC for a combination of disabilities.

The reasoning for SMC is that some conditions or a combination of them are more disabling than just one. If you’re afflicted with multiple conditions, the VA will pay a higher rate.

SMC Conditions

Some of the disabilities that the VA will consider for special monthly compensation include:

  • Loss of a hand or foot, or loss of use
  • Loss of sight in an eye, with only light perception
  • Deafness in both ears with a lack of air/bone conduction
  • Loss of a reproductive organ, or loss of use
  • Loss of both buttocks (complete), or loss of use
  • Loss of verbal communication through complete organic aphonia (physical loss of voice, which is different from catatonia)
  • Partial or complete loss of tissue from one breast or a complete loss of both breasts attributed to radiation treatment or a mastectomy

Combinations of disabilities that are eligible for SMC can include:

  • Loss of multiple extremities, such as loss of feet, hands, arms, or legs, depending on the combination of losses
  • Bilateral blindness combined with severe hearing loss
  • Being housebound and requiring the assistance of someone else on a daily basis; the amount varies on the degree of assistance needed
  • Paraplegia that includes loss of control
  • Other service-connected conditions combined with these disabilities that can lead to higher benefit payments

Levels Of Disability

The VA divides these conditions into levels, which they decide using the above combination criteria.

  • Levels L through O covers specific conditions and disabilities
  • Level R is assigned if you need help from another person for daily activities such as eating, dressing and bathing
  • Level S applies if you are housebound as a result of service-connected conditions

The VA may consider other specific combinations of disabilities when deciding on an award for SMC. You can also see the VA’s currently available rate table for SMC as of 12/1/2019.

Applying For SMC

You may not realize that you qualify for this benefit unless someone told you about it. And you should also be issued SMC automatically if you qualify. If you believe you qualify for SMC but have not been awarded anything, contact the VA.

You can apply at the closest regional benefit office, or call the VA at 800-827-1000. You can also contact a disability law attorney who works with veterans to help them work with the VA and understands the process.

Be forewarned that the VA will still need to review all available medical evidence as they do for any claim prior to awarding SMC benefits.

Helping Houston Veterans With Special Monthly Compensation

Do you believe you may be eligible for SMC but don’t know how to find out?

William Herren is a disability attorney who has helped more than 4,000 Houstonians get the benefits they deserve, including veterans. We understand the VA system and can work on your behalf to make the applications and appeals process a lot easier. 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 won’t owe a fee until we win your case.

Can I Get SSDI Benefits For Opioid Addiction From Prescribed Medication?

Can I get SSDI benefits for Opioid Addiction from prescribed medication?

Opioid addiction have become one of US’s biggest drug concerns. This type of drug can be either synthetically produced or derived from opium. Most commonly used as pain relief, they are effective, but also have the potential to become addictive in some patients.

The term “opioids” can include anything from the illicit heroin to synthetic versions like fentanyl (a very tiny amount can be instantly fatal) as well as prescription pain relievers such as morphine, codeine, oxycodone (also known as OxyContin), hydrocodone (also known as Vicodin) and a number of others.

Opioids are great at relieving chronic pain, but patients can’t just stop taking them or they quickly experience withdrawal. The unfortunate nature of their effectiveness is also the pathway to addiction.

More than 40% of individuals on Social Security Disability are prescribed opioids for pain relief. Many are on very high doses for musculoskeletal disorders, which comprised 94% of chronic users. Depression among opioid users is about 38%. But if you find yourself unable to live without them, even when properly prescribed by a doctor, you could be addicted.

What Is An Opioid?

The term “opioid” describes a class of drugs that bind to the body’s opioid receptors. Morphine and other opioids are frequently prescribed for pain.

Opioids can also offer a feeling of euphoria, leading to the continued use and eventual mis-use of prescriptions. This is how many people become addicted in a short period of time.

Prescription opioid addiction is a particularly difficult situation, because the patient is frequently in a certain degree of pain. As with any addictive drug, the patient may find themselves increasing the amount of medication to get the same degree of relief from the drug. Eventually, they can’t stop taking the drug, because they may experience severe withdrawal symptoms as well as the return of physical pain. In some cases, patients may turn to more illegal forms of opioid like heroin if they are unable to acquire additional prescriptions.

Disability For Opioid Addiction

Social Security’s rules for disability due to addiction are very straightforward, and the short answer is usually “no.” But it’s not that simple.

Social Security doesn’t consider a drug addiction of any kind a disabling condition, even if it prevents someone from working. Only until it produces irreversible, permanent conditions does the Social Security Administration consider someone eligible for disability. All cases are reviewed in the same manner, no matter how the disability occurred.

SSA does not consider an addiction to properly prescribed prescription drugs to need a drug addiction or alcoholism determination (DAA.) However, SSA can take into consideration the disabling effects and limitations caused by a prescription that is used to treat a condition that a claimant is applying for. The side effects of a medication should be included when describing the seriousness of a patient’s condition.

In Social Security Ruling 13-2p, the SSA clarifies this point by stating that a DAA determination is “not to be applied” in cases of “addiction to, or use of, prescription medications taken as prescribed, including methadone and narcotic pain medications.” This also means that any side effects of the prescription will be taken into account when considering if a claimant’s symptoms are severe enough to be disabling.

What SSA Will Consider

The SSA previously had a listing for drug addiction, but as of 2018, that listing no longer exists. Impairments that result from a substance abuse addiction include:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety disorder
  • Personality disorder
  • Seizures
  • Brain damage (neurocognitive disorders)
  • Peripheral neuropathy
  • Gastritis
  • Pancreatitis

Of course, as with any condition, the SSA will require evidence of your condition, including diagnostic reports, your treating physicians’ contact information, details of any hospitalization, and a list of your medications and associated side effects.

While chronic misuse of opioids such as codeine may not produce permanent organ damage, improvements in brain imaging offer evidence of abnormalities as a result of codeine. This may also apply to other forms of opioid narcotics.

Permanent limitations that result from opioid drug use may be considered disabling if they are to the degree that they are serious enough to rate.

Houston’s Opioid Addiction Attorney

Social Security Disability laws are complicated and complex. If you’ve been denied disability payments for drug addiction or other debilitating condition, call us immediately. We’re ready to help.

We’ve helped over 4,000 Houstonians get their disability benefits. 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.

 

Reasons For Long Term Disability Denial Of Claim

After paying premiums for several years, you expect that when you have to file a claim for long-term disability your insurance company will take care of you. But as many policyholders have discovered, that’s not always the case. You’ve had doctor visits, testing, treatments, therapy, and filled out a ream of paperwork that they’ve asked for, only to see your claim denied. So what’s going on here?

Reasons For Long Term Disability Denial Of Claim

Insurance companies are in business to make money and will deny your claims any way they can. These are some of the reasons your claim may have been denied.

They’re Watching You

Insurance companies regularly conduct video surveillance of individuals who file an LTD claim when they say they’re disabled and can’t work. Why? To prevent obvious insurance fraud, particularly by individuals who claim they can’t work because of an injury, but they’re publicly engaged in activities that they shouldn’t be.

Surveillance can be both long-range video and social media investigation. Even with your account set to “private,” it’s highly possible your vacation pictures and other “action shots” can be visible to people who you never intended. It’s always advisable to set your posts to “friends only,” but you should also be aware of who is following you and who you accept friend/follow requests from. Additionally, investigators may be able to access your account by demanding your passwords.

For instance, if you’ve filed a claim for a back injury that prevents you from working, and you post pictures of yourself surfing in Maui, that’s a clear indication that you’re not injured. Of course, if that picture is five years old, an investigator may not realize that, even if you date it.

Best bet: limit your social media postings, or deactivate or delete them until your case is decided.

Not Enough Medical Evidence

Any kind of insurance claim needs sufficient medical evidence to support it. Evidence is key to supporting your claim and showing that you are, indeed, disabled.

  • Consistent medical treatment for your condition(s). Your insurer expects that you are receiving consistent and regular medical care for the condition you are claiming. If you aren’t receiving regular medical care, the insurer will interpret this as your condition isn’t serious. Physical illnesses will include physician visits, as well as any required testing such as X-Rays and MRIs. If your claim includes mental illness such as depression, you should be seeing a mental health provider (such as a psychologist or psychiatrist) on a monthly basis or better.
  • A doctor’s statement detailing your medical condition and how your disability limits your ability to work. Don’t rely on the insurance company’s forms—they are designed for you to respond in a way that will ensure your claim is denied. Should your doctor deny you support for your disability, find another one who will help.
  • Absent medical records that are essential to proving your claim. If the insurance company hasn’t requested all relevant records, request a list of all the records they have already requested an a list of what they’ve received. Then insist that the insurer request all the records on the list. You may have to be persistent until they have all of your medical records.

Missed Deadlines

Insurance companies are notorious for deadlines, and even one day can end your claim. Make sure you understand their deadlines for both applications and appeals.

You Don’t Meet Their Definition Of “Disabled”

As ridiculous as this may sound, most policies have strict definitions of what “disabled” actually means.

One of the biggest sticking points is “own occupation” and “any occupation” clauses in the policy.

Own occupation” indicates that your disability prevents you from fulfilling the requirements of your current occupation. “Any occupation” means that you are unable to fulfill the requirements of any occupations. Some policies begin as “own occupation” but transition to “any occupation” after 24 months.

Additionally, pre-existing conditions and medical conditions related to current or prior substance abuse tend to be excluded. Mental conditions and those that are based primarily on self-reported symptoms, such as fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome, may be limited to 24 months of benefits after approval.

Your Houston LTD Disability Attorney

When applying for long-term disability it’s important to follow your insurer’s instructions to the letter. They’re not interested in helping you and your claim, but there’s someone who can help.  The Herren Law Firm can help you with your application, appeals and help you through the process so you can get the benefits you need. 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, because we will only collect if we win your case.

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.