Is It Worth Hiring A Houston Attorney For Long-Term Disability?

Filing for long-term disability is a long and challenging process. It’s more than filling out a few forms and checking items on a list. Medical evidence, information from your employer and other documents are part of what will win or deny your case. Insurance companies have strict deadlines, and one small mistake can see your entire claim denied.

Is It Worth Hiring A Houston Attorney For Long Term Disability?

They Don’t Want To Pay You

Insurance companies would rather you didn’t realize that even though you’ve paid into their policy, they’re not interested in helping you. Paying claims is not a good business model, so insurers make sure that there are multiple ways to deny your claim. Short deadlines, excessive or duplicate paperwork, delaying claims or payments or giving lower payments than indicated in the policy are all ways insurers stall. Legitimate claims for disability are increasingly denied for the slightest reason. Knowing that most people don’t have the means to fight back, these “bad faith” practices continue with little pushback.

ERISA

The Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 was enacted to protect employees, but ends up protecting insurance companies. Instead of protecting you, ERISA gives insurance companies greater freedom to deny your claim. Although the Department of Labor says that it “protects retirement savings from mismanagement and abuse,” insurers are free from many state-level restrictions on bad-faith insurance practices. Insurers are then are free to decide who is approved for LTD benefits, and who isn’t.

The deck is actually stacked against you as an applicant, and it’s up to you to be able to make sure your claim is completely correct. This is where an attorney can help make sure your application is not only correct, but more than sufficient to prove your claim and make it harder to deny.

If you decide to handle your ERISA appeal without an attorney, you’ll more than likely be denied, and you could lose any additional opportunities to appeal or file a suit. You may only have one chance at an appeal.

Hiring An LTD Attorney

Of course, you want to find an attorney in Houston who has experience with both LTD claims and with ERISA appeals. He or she will understand the process and know exactly how to follow the rules.

If you hire an attorney at the beginning of your application process, he or she knows that ample evidence in your administrative claim will help meet and exceed the insurer’s requirements. If you just fill out the paperwork on your own, and depend on the insurer to find all the evidence it needs, there’s a strong chance your claim will be denied because of insufficient information, or even a mistake.

Once a decision has been made, no new evidence is allowed. An experienced LTD attorney will know exactly what to add to the claim to increase your chances of approval. Should your claim be denied, having an attorney will increase your chance of winning an appeal, and you’ll have a good stack of evidence available to better prove your claim.

Your Houston LTD Disability Attorney

ERISA claims are a complex area of the law, and there aren’t many attorneys in Houston—or Texas—that handle it. The Herren Law Firm can help you with your application as well as any appeals to help you get the long-term disability benefits you need to take care of yourself. Contact us today at 713-682-8194 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 Long Term Disability for PTSD in Houston, TX?

Long-term disability can be a difficult journey, from an illness that keeps you from working to the extensive medical appointments and paperwork involved before you start receiving benefit payments. But if that disability is PTSD, it can be even more difficult.

Can You Get Long Term Disability for PTSD in Houston, TX?

What is PTSD?

PTSD, or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, is a condition seen in individuals who have witnessed or lived through a traumatic event. It’s a type of anxiety disorder that’s triggered by a traumatic event.

While PTSD is commonly associated with combat veterans who have spent time in war zones, PTSD can also occur in civilians. Natural disasters (like last year’s Hurricane Harvey), becoming a crime victim, receiving a diagnosis for a serious medical condition, car crashes, domestic violence, and other unexpected traumas can give someone this disorder.

Post-traumatic stress is commonly grouped into three types:

  • Intrusive memories—i.e., “flashbacks,” re-living the event or having recurrent nightmares
  • Avoidance/numbing—or avoiding thinking about it, as well as hopelessness, memory and concentration problems, difficulty with close relationships and no longer enjoying previous activities
  • Hyperarousal (or increased anxiety or emotional arousal), increased irritability or anger, shame or guilt, insomnia, self-destructive behavior (alcoholism, drug use, etc.) and being easily startled.

PTSD can cause problems in your job, your relationships, your marriage, as well as everyday activities. It also put you at risk for additional mental conditions, such as depression, eating disorders, suicidal thoughts, and other anxieties. The side effects of PTSD have also been shown to be linked to physical illnesses such as cardiovascular disease, autoimmune diseases, and chronic pain.

Treatments for PTSD can include various forms of psychotherapy, and psychiatric medications, short-term or long-term.

Policy Limits On Mental Illness

Because it isn’t something that can be detected with an X-ray or a blood test, insurance companies have additional restrictions on claims for mental conditions. The first step is to review your LTD policy, find out what they do cover, and see if there is a specific exclusion for PTSD or other mental illnesses.

Many LTD policies put a two-year limit on claims for mental illnesses, so it’s important to know what you need and what you can get before you start your application.

Review your policy to find out exactly what requirements you need to meet to file your claim. If your PTSD is the result of another medical condition, such as injuries after an accident or a disease diagnosis, you may be able to qualify.  In order to do that, you’ll need to collect enough evidence to prove that your physical condition that caused PTSD could render you disabled on its own. This is where an attorney can guide you through the process and increase your chances of proving your claim and having it accepted.

Your Houston LTD Disability Attorney

PTSD is a particularly difficult illness, but applying for LTD can make things even worse. We can help you through the long process of getting long-term disability benefits.

Over 4,000 Houstonians have received the LTD benefits they need, and we can help you too. The Herren Law Firm can help you with your application, appeals and help you through the process so you can begin healing. Contact us today at 713-682-8194 to schedule your free consultation. There’s no obligation and no up-front fees.  We only collect if we win your case.

 

Houston Attorney for CIGNA Disability Claims

Most people don’t expect to become disabled. But in the US, one in five individuals is considered disabled, enough not to work. Some need time to recover from an illness or injury. Some may never return to work, and will be on disability for the rest of their lives. But in many cases, part of their journey to disability involves long-term disability insurance. And for many, that insurance company is CIGNA.

Houston Attorney for CIGNA Disability Claims

Who Is CIGNA?

It’s one of the largest healthcare insurance companies in the world, for both companies and individuals. Whether you’re buying on your own or through your company, CIGNA offers health and dental insurance, Medicare, and supplemental coverage to augment your regular insurance policies. These include accident insurance, two types of cancer insurance, heart attack/stroke insurance and “whole life insurance” for final expenses.  Companies can also choose from supplemental group plans, wellness programs, cost control options and benefit technology solutions.

If your company offers short- and long-term disability insurance, there’s a good chance it’s also through CIGNA.

CIGNA is also one of the world’s largest group disability insurance companies. Calling itself a “global health services company,” CIGNA was ranked #97 on the Fortune 500 list in 2014. The company has more than 37,000 employees worldwide, has over $35 billion in revenue and $10.8 billion in shareholder’s equity.

While CIGNA offers a wide range of related services worldwide, they are also in business to make money. Denying claims is part of their business.

What CIGNA Is Really Like

Company literature touts their slogan, “Together, all the way.”  But policy holders who have CIGNA will tell you that once you file a disability claim, it’s not always like that. For a vulnerable person who needs help, CIGNA turns their back on many of their policyholders.

The company has a reputation for denying claims immediately, with little or no investigation, and only minimal documentation is used to deny claims. They also have a reputation for ignoring policyholders, not responding to phone calls and emails, and issuing multiple requests for the same information.

The company is governed by ERISA guidelines, but uses them to its advantage. CIGNA’s deadline for deciding your claim is 45 days, but the company routinely asks for 30-day extensions to delay that decision. They also continually ask for additional bits of information to further delay decisions—every request stops the time, and then starts it over. When you receive these requests, answer them immediately. The initial claim decision generally takes about 105 days with the extensions.

If your claim is denied, you’ll have 180 days to appeal. Don’t wait—begin your appeal immediately (and if you have a disability attorney, he or she will know what to do.) Your appeal will take time to prepare—don’t wait. CIGNA will take 45 days to respond to your appeal, but may also request a 45-day extension, making it 90 days.

Another tactic CIGNA uses is to continually ask for information and stalling their decision. You may also be told by one of the many “case workers” you speak to that if you’ll just write a simple letter, your claim will be approved and your checks will begin right away. This is another stalling technique, and can be used to deny your claim. Talk to your attorney if you’re being ignored or treated badly.

Don’t Ignore Appeals

Appeals are essential to getting your claim approved if you’re denied the first time. Pay attention to the deadlines given—if you miss it, you’ll lose your ability to appeal, and possibly your entire claim to long-term disability.

CIGNA allows two appeals before either approving your claim. If you’re still denied, you may opt for a lawsuit. If you don’t have an attorney at this point, you’ll need one now.

Are You Fighting With CIGNA?

Fighting with your insurance company can be worse than having a disability. It doesn’t have to be that way. A thorough and complete application is the best way to start, and we can help.

We understand the process of applying for disability and dealing with appeals—we do it every day. The Herren Law Firm in Houston, TX can assist with your application, appeals and all documentation. Contact us today at 713-682-8194 to schedule your free consultation. We’ve helped over 4,000 Houstonians get their disability benefits, and we only collect a fee if we win your case. Don’t fight alone—call us today.

Can You Get Long Term Disability for Anxiety in Houston, TX?

Nearly everybody goes through difficult times. Some may find themselves with depression and/or anxiety until things get better. But is your anxiety bad enough to warrant long-term disability? It can be, if it prevents you from working, and inhibits nearly every part of your life.

Can You Get Long Term Disability for Anxiety in Houston, TX?

Anxiety, like most mental illnesses, is difficult to positively diagnose, and therefore harder to claim. Unlike an injury, such as a broken leg, or a condition like cancer, anxiety doesn’t have symptoms that are readily obvious or detectable with a blood or other medical test. But living with a physical disability can also trigger concurrent mental disabilities, including anxiety.

What Is Anxiety?

Anxiety is usually defined as a chronic fear or worry about something that could happen, but hasn’t happened yet, and may never happen. There are many factors that can trigger this fear or worry, such as work-related issues, relationship problems, or other problematic situations (i.e., a car accident, chronic pain, etc.) A shortage of oxygen in some areas can contribute to anxiety, as well as brain chemistry. Certain medications can also cause anxiety, as well as withdrawal from some substances.

Mild cases may remedy themselves, but severe cases can be debilitating and prevent you from working and living your life. There are multiple variations of anxiety:

A mental health professional (i.e., psychiatrist) can identify the cause of the anxiety. A physical exam, including medical testing, can identify any physical symptoms that may be causing the anxiety.

A positive diagnosis includes consistent worry for more than six months, difficulty in controlling that worry, and that the symptoms severely impact everyday life, interfering with work and/or school, etc.

Check Your Policy First

The first thing you’ll need to review is your LTD policy. What does it consider a “disability?” Does it cover mental illnesses? More importantly, does it exclude mental illnesses?

Check to see how your policy defines “disability.” Many LTD policies put a two-year limit on mental illness benefits. Anxiety may develop for any number of reasons, but it’s important to note if it develops in someone who is living with a physical disability that prevents them from working. Your LTD policy will tell you if mental illnesses are limited, or outright excluded.

You’ll need to meet all the other requirements of your LTD policy to be able to file the claim. If your anxiety was caused by an underlying physical condition, you may be able to collect benefits beyond the two-year standard for mental illnesses. But in order to do that, you’ll need to curate enough medical evidence that demonstrates your physical illness qualifies you as disabled on its own. This is where an attorney can help you.

The Human Factor

Always remember that disability insurance claims processors aren’t medical professionals. They’re not trained to offer medical advice or opinions, only to examine claims to see if they’re properly supported and submitted. They’re looking for anything that positively proves your disability, be it mental or physical.

Don’t rely on the insurance company to get everything. The more documentation you can submit that supports your claim, the better your chances of approval. Providing copies of physician’s notes, additional medical records, prescription records, therapy notes, and anything else that might be relevant can be submitted to support your claim.

Also be careful of any questionnaires or other documentation the insurance companies send to you. Some of the questions may be carefully written to intentionally disqualify your claim when you believe you’re answering truthfully to better support your claim. Having a disability lawyer review documentation before it’s sent to the insurer will help prevent automatic disqualifications for these kinds of questions, and make sure your claim is thorough and complete.

Surveillance

It’s not uncommon for insurance companies of all kinds to conduct surveillance on someone filing a claim, whether it’s LTD, for a car accident or a personal injury claim. (This is also common in divorce cases.) You may be followed, or your social media may be examined for evidence that you’re not as disabled as you claim, so be cautious about your activities and postings. Be aware that any evidence that is gathered can be used to deny your claim, even if it’s misrepresenting.

Your Houston LTD Disability Attorney

Nobody wants to suffer from chronic anxiety, but applying for long-term disability can be difficult. It’s important not to give up. We’re ready to help you through the long process of getting long-term disability benefits.

Over 4,000 Houstonians have received the LTD benefits they need, and we can help you too. The Herren Law Firm can help you with your application, appeals and help you through the process so you can concentrate on getting better. Contact us today at 713-682-8194 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 Long Term Disability for Fibromyalgia in Houston, TX?

After months of wondering, you’ve finally received a diagnosis for your chronic pain: fibromyalgia. Maybe you have increasing symptoms, or you’re taking off a little more work than you’d like because you’re in pain and tired all the time. Or you need to take some time off to take care of yourself.  Is it time to retire and take long-term disability? Or have you reached the point where you can’t get through the day at work anymore?

Can You Get Long Term Disability for Fibromyalgia in Houston, TX?

Fibromyalgia afflicts as many as an estimated 10 million Americans but doesn’t have a specific diagnostic (like a blood test.) Characterized by widespread chronic pain, fatigue, and sensitive sore spots, the causes and workings elude doctors and refuse to be nailed down.

People who have fibromyalgia live with varying degrees of pain, fatigue, difficulty concentrating (called “fibro-fog” by patients), depression, and other symptoms that leave them eventually unable to work. It’s known as an “invisible illness” because of the difficulty of diagnosis. Fibro is also thought of as a “women’s disease,” since women are more likely to be diagnosed with it than men.

So what makes fibromyalgia so difficult? And why do insurers turn down claims for fibromyalgia so often?

Mental or Physical?

As anyone with fibromyalgia will tell you, they frequently hurt all over, and they’re tired, but they’re not crazy.

Even with repeated trips to their physicians, there’s no way to definitively diagnose fibro, unlike diabetes or cancer. Insurers tend to think of it as a mental illness that manifests itself physically rather than a specific illness with obvious physical causes. Many label fibro as a “subjective” illness, and therefore mental. Most policies cap mental illness benefits at 24 months, leaving you without benefits after that point.

Proving Your Claim

If fibromyalgia can’t be diagnosed with actual physical proof and standard medical testing, how do you prove it?

  • Relevant medical records—fibromyalgia is an illness with symptoms that are self-reported; there is no medical testing available. Your doctor will have to make a clear diagnosis in the records, not vague like “reporting symptoms of fibromyalgia.
  • In addition to your regular physician, a rheumatologist can also give a positive diagnosis for fibro, which includes testing “tender points.” If you have 11 of the 18 points, you’ll usually receive a positive diagnosis.
  • Repeated occurrences of at least six fibromyalgia symptoms (fatigue, memory problems, depression, anxiety, muscle weakness, dizziness, abdominal pain, etc.)
  • Lab tests—while there are no specific diagnostic tests for fibro, any tests taken to rule out other conditions (i.e., hypothyroidism) should be documented with results.
  • Doctor’s opinions—any additional opinions you get should also be in writing.
  • First-hand statements from family and associates—these are strong evidence that you are having difficulties in everyday life because of fibro.
  • Keep a diary of all your symptoms, physical and mental, and use it both in doctor visits and in your claim file.

Increasing Your Chances Of Approval

While there are no guarantees, there are some things you can do to improve your chances of getting long-term disability payments for fibromyalgia.

  • A confirmed diagnosis from your rheumatologist
  • Relevant related medical records (lab tests, prescriptions, hospital visits, etc.)
  • Dates of visits and contact information for doctors, therapists, hospitals, etc.
  • Doctor’s report on the extent of your work-related limitations
  • Any treatments you are currently receiving

A lawyer should supply you with an assessment form for your doctor to complete that asks for greater detail of your limitations than an insurance company might provide.

Hiring a Houston lawyer experienced in long-term disability claims and who understands the law around long-term disability claims can help ensure that you’re following the process properly. He or she can also work with you to submit any appeals that you’re allowed to.

Don’t Let Fibromyalgia Stop You

If your insurance company has denied you benefits based on fibromyalgia, we’re ready to help you. The Herren Law Firm in Houston, TX can assist with your application, appeals and help you get the long-term disability benefits you need so you can get the help and medical care you need. Contact us today at 713-682-8194 to schedule your free consultation. There’s no obligation and no up-front fees.  We’ve helped over 4,000 Houstonians get their disability benefits, and we only collect a fee if we win your case.

Houston Long Term Disability Attorney

Houston is one of the most vibrant, exciting cities in the US, and keeps getting better every passing year. We have great food of all kinds, culture, festivals, industry, shopping and a world-class Medical Center. The Houston area has everything you could ever want in a city.

Fortunately, if you have a long-term disability, Houston is also a good place to be.

Houston Long Term Disability Attorney

Getting Long Term Disability

If you’ve developed a long term disability that prevents you from working, your life has changed considerably. You may have to make a number of adjustments to continue living a normal life. Home modifications like a wheelchair ramp, “grab bars,” or lift to get back up and down stairs may be in your future. (If you don’t have the means, there are a number of grant programs available to help.)

While it’s a lot of trouble to have to “prove” that you’re disabled and can’t work, once you’re done, you’ll have time to take care of other things you may need.

If you need help with the application or appeals process, a long term disability attorney may be your next call. Forms, deadlines and evidence that are part of the process can be easy to overlook. An experienced LTD attorney can give you the help and oversight you need to ensure that your claim is properly submitted for approval.

Long Term Disability In Texas

Census figures from 2014 indicate that about 3.4 million Texans classified as “disabled.” A disabled person is has a wide range of services available, including:

  • Rehabilitation
  • Medical equipment
  • Job and career assistance
  • Medical care
  • Personal assistance attendants

The services available in Houston can help people with a long term disability live independently and stay in their own home, help find suitable jobs, get medical assistance devices and other needed equipment, help family members care for them, and assist with applying for disability if needed.

Texas Health And Human Services Commission

The state of Texas has services available for those with long term disabilities. You can get help applying for Medicaid or Medicare, Social Security or Supplemental Security Insurance, and apply for SNAP benefits if you need them.

Houston is in Region 6 of the HHS service area. You can find out more of what HHS offers at this website, and more about independent living services. You can also call 211 to request help.

The Houston Mayor’s Office For People With Disabilities

Established in 1993, three years after the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), this division of the Mayor’s Office is an advocate for Houstonians with disabilities. Register with this office and you can receive free legal assistance through the South Texas College of Law Legal Clinic (STCL). If you’re deaf or hard of hearing, you can also register for a free visual fire alarm through the City Of Houston Fire Department. Free tax help is also available, as well as parking permits. Call the MOPD office at 832-394-0814, or email at mopdmail@houstontx.gov.

Your Houston LTD Disability Attorney

The Herren Law Firm can help you with your application, appeals and help you get the long-term disability benefits you need so you can live your life. Contact us today at 713-682-8194 to schedule your free consultation. There’s no obligation and no up-front fees.  We only collect if we win your case.

Are Long Term Disability Benefits in Houston Worth a Legal Fight?

Chances are that if you’re filing for long-term disability benefits, you know you’re in for a long haul, and possibly a fight (especially if you live in Houston.) Insurance companies would rather not pay you benefits as they’re supposed to, and seem to enjoy making you jump through hoops, dragging out your claim longer than it should take. When they move the hoops again, it may be time to call for help.

Are Long Term Disability Benefits in Houston Worth a Legal Fight?

Bad Faith LTD Claims

Long-term disability is intended to replace some of your income when you are unable to work while you recuperate from an illness or injury.

When an insurance company denies your benefits, drags out the process or uses other unethical tactics to deny your claim or pay you less than they’re supposed to, it’s called “bad faith.” Rightfully so, because you acquired your policy for the day you need it, and now they’re stalling. Don’t give up when they first deny your claim. That’s the time you’ll need to find an attorney—immediately—who is experienced with ERISA law and bad faith insurance company claims. If you wait, you could miss a deadline, and you could lose your right to appeal. (More information on bad faith LTD is available here on our website.)

Companies use a variety of tactics, including:

  • Requiring excessive, duplicate paperwork
  • Denying your claim for invalid reasons
  • Delaying your claim for an excessive amount of time (possibly causing you to miss a deadline you weren’t informed about)
  • Under-paying benefits

Additionally, the Unfair Claim Settlement Practices Act in Texas (Insurance Code Sec. 542.002), states that “an insurer engaging in business in this state may not engage in an unfair claim settlement practice.”  Should you discover that your insurance company is engaging in an unfair practice, it’s time to file a complaint.

ERISA

Short for the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974, ERISA is the federal law that governs employee benefit plans. It’s a set of federal guidelines and minimum standards that explain to private employers how to administer employee benefit plans. (Governmental and church-related employers are exempt.)

Insurance companies are in business to make money, not lose it. So any way they can save money by not paying out to policyholders, they will. While ERISA was intended to help employees, it actually ends up having the opposite effect.

Standard Exclusions

There are some claims for which a denial is standard, and is spelled out in every short-term and long-term policy:

  • Injuries obtained during the commission of a crime of which you were convicted
  • Mental or nervous disorder (some allow these for up to 24 months)
  • A normal pregnancy
  • Pre-existing conditions
  • Alcohol/substance abuse
  • War/act of war
  • Injuries caused by an aircraft (except scheduled airline passengers)
  • Job-related injuries
  • Suicide attempts
  • Other acts done with the intent to cause disability

There may be others, depending on your policy. Some may be hidden in the fine print; some may even be outright illegal. The wording is deliberately complicated to make filing even more difficult.

Insurance companies have been known to request claimants to fill out forms that ask for purposefully damning information that will help a denial. An attorney who knows and understands disability claims can offer oversight to make sure you don’t accidentally sink your claim.

Be aware that whenever you speak with your insurance company, you’re probably being recorded. If you mention that you are considering hiring an attorney, be prepared for scare tactics or be offered a quick settlement. Don’t accept or sign anything until your attorney has a chance to review it first.

Can You Fight Back?

Yes, you can, even with a denial. But preparation for the fight is the key to winning.

  • Start collecting all of your medical records, doctor’s reports and other related documentation. Include evidence of any additional injuries or illnesses that prevent you from working.
  • If you’ve already filed a claim and have a denial letter, include that in your file.
  • Keep a record of every call and correspondence with your insurance company, including names, phone numbers, emails, dates and times.

If you haven’t filed your LTD claim yet, it may be a good idea to hire an attorney before you file your claim. He or she can guide you through the process and make sure you’ve done all you can for a positive outcome.

Talk To Us First

If you’ve realized your insurance company has participated in bad faith practices, call us immediately. The Herren Law Firm in Houston, TX can assist with your application, appeals and documentation to prove your case and win your claim. 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’ve helped over 4,000 Houstonians get their disability benefits, and we only collect a fee if we win your case.

Veterans Disability Attorney Houston

From the Sabine River to El Paso, Texas is home to more than 30 active, reserve and National Guard affiliated military installations for all branches of the service. Ellington Field, near NASA and where the President flies into when visiting Houston, as well as the Coast Guard’s installations in Galveston are outnumbered by the recruiting stations from every branch.

Veterans Disability Attorney Houston

Some veterans are native Texans and returned after their tours were over. Others were stationed here and stayed after their discharge. Whichever group you’re in, Texas respects and appreciates veterans as well as active duty military of all stripes and branches.

Famous Texas Veterans

Houston, as well as the state of Texas, considers a number of famous veterans to be Lone Star heroes:

  • Audie Murphy—born in Kingston, Murphy lied about his age to enlist in the army. During WWII, and before the age of 21, he earned 33 medals for bravery. Discovered by James Cagney on the cover of Life Magazine, he transitioned into film and made primarily Westerns. His first film, To Hell And Back, was based on his memoirs from his time during the war.
  • Gene Roddenberry—the creator of Star Trek, was born in El Paso in 1921 but grew up in Los Angeles. Son of a police officer, Roddenberry fostered his interest in airplanes and joined the Army Air Corps in 1941. Writing was a hobby to take his mind off his combat missions and had multiple published submissions, including poetry. After the war, he flew for Pan Am, and later became a police officer. During this period, he developed the idea for Star Trek, and it debuted in 1966. The original series ran for three seasons, but multiple continuations and intense fan interest have kept the franchise operating for more than 50 years.
  • Staff Sergeant Marcario Garcia: Medal of Honor, WWII—interred at the Houston National Cemetery, SSgt. Garcia was the first Mexican immigrant from the Houston area (Sugarland) to win the nation’s highest award for valor. His family emigrated in 1924, and he enlisted in the Army in 1942, assigned to 4th Infantry Division. As an infantry squad leader in Company B, 22nd Infantry Regiment, Garcia was involved in a battle in Grosshau, Germany, where he took out two enemy machine gun emplacements. While badly injured, Garcia crawled to the emplacements, took out both guns by himself, killed six Germans with his own rifle and captured four more. President Truman presented Garcia with the Medal of Honor on August 23, 1945. After WWII, he worked as a counselor for the VA for 25 years. He was buried in the Houston National Cemetery with full military honors.

Multiple veterans’ memorials are available in the Houston area. The Harris County War Memorial lists the names of military members who died in service from WWI to Operation Iraqi Freedom/Operation Enduring Freedom.  The Heights is home to a World War II memorial in the Heights Boulevard Park.

Houston Veterans Organizations

Houston veterans also have options when they need help from a number of dedicated veterans organizations:

  1. Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW)—with more than 30 posts throughout the Houston area, the VFW offers members free assistance with VA applications and issues, transition assistance, advocacy on behalf of veterans and specific veteran-only discounts (similar to the AARP’s discounts.)
  2. The American Legion—one of the oldest veterans’ assistance organizations, it was chartered in 1919 by Congress and is now a nonprofit with over 2 million members. The Legion offers a number of services to veterans, including benefits assistance, discounts for members, career guidance, resources specific to women veterans and more. Houston has two Legion Service Officers (two more are in Waco.)
  3. The Disabled American Veterans—offering assistance specific to disabled veterans, the DAV is a private organization that receives no government funding. For over 90 years, the DAV has offered free assistance to their members for transition, benefits, job training and assistance, advocacy on Capitol Hill, rides for members who need it and rehab programs for vets with debilitating injuries such as amputations and blindness. Members join for life, and volunteer opportunities are available. Discounts are also available for members through corporate sponsors. The DAV in Texas can be reached in the Waco VA office as well as the Houston regional VA office.
  4. The Wounded Warrior Project—a newer veterans organization, the Wounded Warrior Project focuses on veterans who served after September 11th, 2001. They can help with physical and mental wellness, personal independence, counseling and VA benefit assistance, as well as getting connected to a network of people who are ready to help. Wounded Warrior’s Resource Center can be reached at 888-997-2586, or by email, resourcecenter@woundedwarriorproject.org

We Help Houston Veterans

Getting the benefits you earned doesn’t have to be an obstacle course, and the VA’s application and appeals system can be particularly complicated. William Herren is a veterans disability attorney who has helped more than 4,000 Houstonians get their benefits, and we’re ready to help you. 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 To Appeal A Veteran’s Disability Denial The Right Way

Even if you’ve crossed your T’ s and dotted your I’s, a denial of your claim is still a strong possibility Many veterans have seen their claims denied on the first try. But that doesn’t mean the VA gets the last word. You have the right to appeal the VA’s decision, but you do have to follow procedure to make sure it’s done correctly. An attorney with experience in VA denial appeals can also help increase your chances of a successful outcome.

How To Appeal A Veteran’s Disability Denial The Right Way

Time Limits

There may be any number of reasons why your claim was denied, that’s why it’s important not to take the initial denial as a final decision. This list of common VA errors may give you several reasons and methods for your appeal.

You’ll have one year from the date of your VA decision letter to file your appeal. If you miss the deadline, you’ll have to start over with a new claim, but you’ll have a new date of application. The time spent working on the first one won’t count towards the second one.

Notice Of Disagreement

The first step is to file an NOD (Notice of Disagreement) with the VA within one year. It’s just a simple statement informing the VA in writing that you disagree with their rating decision. While there isn’t a specific form for it, VA Form 21-4138 is typically used, or just type a letter stating that you disagree with the VA’s decision. You can get the Statement in Support of Claim form online at the VA’s website.

When writing your NOD, don’t begin by listing all the reasons you disagree with the VA; save that for the hearing. You’ll be able to discuss why you disagree with the VA at that point, and you must be specific when you do.

At the top of the letter or Form 21-4138, write “Notice of Disagreement.” Include the date of the letter and the denial decision. State that you plan to appeal and that you disagree with all of the reasons of the denial decision. If you do decide to list some of your reasons, state that it’s not a complete list, and your disagreement is not limited to these reasons.

Sign your letter and make sure to keep a copy for your files (and with your denial letter.) Mail it certified, return-receipt requested to the VA office that sent you the denial letter (unless your file has been moved to a different office. Keep the documents from the post office in your file to show that you met the deadline.

Once that’s completed, start collecting and assembling more evidence to bolster your claim.

Don’t Re-Use the Same Evidence

The evidence you used in your original claim wasn’t enough to get an approval, so you’ll need to find and pull together additional evidence, both from military and VA doctors and from civilian doctors you’ve seen and consulted with. Information from private doctors is allowed, so make sure you’re covered. Get new and additional evidence to support your claim, including:

·         Medical experts—if you have a specific medical condition, your specialist will have strong information to bolster your claim. For instance, if you’ve had a heart attack, your cardiologist would be your best “medical expert.”

·         Vocational experts—if you’re unable to work due to your disability, a vocational expert can write a report supporting your disability claim, explaining why you’re unable to work. This is especially helpful for Total Disability Individual Unemployability (TDIU) claims, which can also be appealed if denied.

·         Psychologists—if your disability is mental in nature, or if your physical condition has caused a secondary service-connected mental condition (i.e., depression due to being in chronic pain), a psychologist or psychotherapist has specific information on how your disability affects you.

·         “Buddy Statements”—if your medical records have been lost (and it happens), a “Buddy Statement” is one given by friends, family, and/or fellow service members who can testify to your service-connected disability. For instance, a colleague who witnessed your disability when it happened is a strong statement verifying your claim. A friend or family member who is involved in your disability care can also verify your day-to-day difficulties and how the disability affects you now. A Buddy Statement can be used for physical or mental disabilities, or both. They are particularly useful when no records of your injuries were kept at the time they occurred.

·         Secondary service-connected disabilities—you may have just one form of disability, but two or three conditions that are less prominent than the first one. With medical evidence to support your claim, make sure any secondary conditions that came out of the primary condition one are listed and included with your claim.

Two Types Of Appeals

You can chose to have our appeal heard by a decision review officer (DRO) or by the Board of Veterans Appeals (BVA.)

If you chose a DRO, you can either request a review of your file and claim, or request a personal DRO hearing. Both offer a somewhat shorter waiting period.

If the DRO denies your claim, you can still appeal to the BVA, but it will take longer. The DRO is an additional chance for a reversal of your claim decision.

Information From the VA

The Veterans Administration website also lists a number of resources, that can help you with your appeal. Use this information when assembling your evidence and starting your claim.

Let Us Represent You

Denied by the VA? Don’t rely on someone who hasn’t had VA claims and appeals experience. We have. Call The Herren Law Firm today at 713-682-8194 (or use our online form) to schedule your free consultation. We’ve helped over 4,000 Houstonians navigate the VA’s complicated application and appeals process to get the benefits they deserve. There’s up-front fee and no obligation, and you won’t owe us a fee until we win your case.

Is Depression A Long Term Disability?

Depression as a disability can be a difficult thing to pin down.

It can be “case of the blues” for two weeks, or something that prevents you from walking outside of your front door for a while. If you’re suffering from a depression that is more than just “a case of the blues,” you may be unable to do your job, or even live a regular life.

Is Depression A Long Term Disability?

Different Types Of Depression

Nearly everyone has felt depressed once or twice in their life or at least knows someone who has. Many cases are short-term and resolve without any intervention.

So-called “situational depression” happens after a sudden, unexpected life change that impacts the individual. These changes can include:

  • Loss of a loved one (partner, spouse, etc.)
  • Loss of employment (layoff, firing, loss of clientele, business closing)
  • Serious illness or injury
  • Any kind of accident

When the situation has been righted, (i.e., the unemployed individual finds a new job) or enough time passes, this depression eventually resolves in most people.

But serious, debilitating clinical depression is an entirely different matter. Some of these symptoms as possible indicators are:

  • Trouble concentrating, remembering details, and making decisions
  • Fatigue
  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, and helplessness
  • Pessimism and hopelessness
  • Insomnia, early-morning wakefulness, or sleeping too much
  • Irritability
  • Restlessness
  • Loss of interest in things once pleasurable, including sex
  • Overeating, or appetite loss
  • Aches, pains, headaches, or cramps that won’t go away
  • Digestive problems that don’t get better, even with treatment
  • Persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” feelings
  • Suicidal thoughts or attempts

When mental symptoms turn into physical symptoms, it’s time to seek out medical help. There isn’t a blood or lab test to detect depression; the diagnosis usually comes from the patient’s discussion with his or her physician. A doctor may conduct some testing to determine if it is caused by a medical condition or a medication.

Once diagnosed, suggested treatments may include psychotherapy and medications to manage the condition. In some circumstances, these treatments may be nominally effective, or even ineffective. Depression then may turn into a disability.

Is It A Long-Term Disability?

Depression that doesn’t resolve on its own, or with treatment, may be considered a “disability,” but there are a number of caveats that go with it. Getting approved for long-term disability may take some time, and be more difficult than SSDI (Social Security Disability Insurance) if depression is stopping you from working.

Many long-term disability policies don’t allow mental illness as a disability, or put a two-year limitation on them (if your claim is only for depression.)  Because they’re more difficult, you’ll need to prove your condition according to your policy’s disability definition. In other words, you’ll need proof that your disability is so serious and acute that it prevents you from working and inhibits your life in general. Review your policy to find out exactly what it says on the subject so you can gather up the proper paperwork and evidence.

You’ll also need to seek proper care for your depression, and have it documented (i.e., medical records.) If your depression is a result of another underlying medical issue (i.e., injury, chronic pain) you may be able to receive benefits without the two-year limitation. Additional medical evidence that your physical disability alone prevents you from working may be sufficient to secure long-term disability.

Denied? Appeal Your Decision

Anytime you apply for long-term disability, it can be a long process, and your claim may be denied outright. If your depression is holding you back, and making work difficult or impossible, you need time to heal. An attorney skilled in disability cases can work with you to file your long-term disability as well as handle any appeals. It may take time, but you can get help for depression.

Helping You Get Help

If your depression is keeping you from working and living your life, you need help on the way to getting better. The Herren Law Firm can help you with your application, appeals and help you get the long-term disability benefits you need so you can treat your depression and get on with your life. Contact us today at 713-682-8194 to schedule your free consultation. There’s no obligation, and no up-front fees.  We only collect if we win your case.