Filing A Veterans Disability Claim In Houston, TX

If you’re one of the thousands of veterans who were injured in the line of duty and are now disabled, chances are you’ve at least once attempted to apply for disability benefits. If you’re reading this blog post, it’s also possible your claim has been denied. But whatever your current status, there is a process to filing your Veterans disability claim.

Filing a Veterans disability claim in Houston, Texas.

The VA’s website is the place to start, and offers basic guidelines and tells you what evidence you need to support your claim. This includes:

  • VA medical records that are either related to your injury/illness, or demonstrate that your rated disability is worsening
  • Hospital reports and other private medical records that are either related to your injury/illness, or demonstrate that your rated disability is worsening
  • Supporting statements from friends, family, fellow service members and others that can provide additional information on how your injury/illness occurred, or how it has worsened. This is also called “lay evidence.”

You can apply online at the VA’s website, by visiting your local VA office, by calling by calling 800-827-1000, or by printing the application here and mailing it to your local VA office.

If you need help, please see our recent blog post on getting assistance with filing your application.

Medical Records And Evidence

The VA provides a list on its website of all the evidence you’ll need to gather for your claim application in addition to VA Form 21-526 and your DD-214.

There are two options for submitting your claim:

  • A Fully Developed Claim, in which you’ll take full responsibility for gathering, organizing and enclosing all of your relevant medical records, supporting documentation, and certify that the VA does not need to recover any more of your records to support your claim. Once you certify that all the relevant records are enclosed, you will be required to attend any medical exams the VA needs and requests for them to reach a decision on your claim.
  • A Standard Disability Claim, in which the VA takes responsibility for recovering any documentation needed for your claim. You’ll need to specify in your application where the records can be obtained or found, especially if they are not with a federal agency. You may be asked to obtain some of these records, such as medical records from a private doctor or hospital, and you will also be required to attend any medical exams the VA needs and requests to reach a decision on your claim.

Lay Evidence

This is evidence that doesn’t require specialized knowledge to deliver, including:

  • Your personal testimony regarding the symptoms of your current disability
  • Your spouse, children or other relative’s testimony about a diagnosis you received many years ago at a military hospital
  • A “buddy statement” that corroborates something that happened to you while you were in the service
  • Performance evaluations done before and after an incident that caused your illness, injury or disability

This supporting evidence is usually submitted as a written statement, and is included with your claim.

Bureau of Veterans Affairs

Once everything is submitted, the BVA will review your file, and determine whether or not you qualify for disability benefits, and if so, assign a percentage.

However, you are ineligible for benefits if:

  • Your disability was caused by misconduct
  • You were dishonorably discharged
  • You were avoiding duty when the injury occurred, i.e., AWOL or deserting
  • You were injured while in prison or detained in relation to a court martial or a civil court felony

If you are denied and would like to appeal, contact an attorney who specializes in disability law. You have a short time frame for appeal, so get started immediately.

Helping Houston’s Disabled Veterans

Have you had trouble applying and qualifying for VA disability benefits? Been denied and need to appeal? It’s time to reach out for help. William Herren is a veterans disability attorney who can make the claims and appeals process easier. Call The Herren Law Firm today 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.

In Houston TX, Can I Get Veterans Disability Benefits For Sleep Apnea?

Good sleep equals good health. An individual needs as many hours as they need to get a good night’s rest. But for many, a good night’s sleep isn’t something that happens like it should.

Sleep problems affect as much as 70% of the population at one time or another. Among veterans, the rate is about 20%, with the rate increasing to 87% of veterans between the ages of 55 and 89. These numbers are irrespective of socio-economic class or other demographic.

In Houston TX, can I get Veteran Disability Benefits for Sleep Apnea?"

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine reports that sleep disorders have seen a dramatic rise in the veteran population. The article from the journal Sleep reports that sleep apnea was the most commonly diagnosed condition at 47% of the 9.7 million veterans studied. (Insomnia was second, at 26%.) Veterans with pre-existing PTSD are associated with a higher risk of sleep apnea and other disorders. The Department of Veterans Affairs reports that claims for sleep apnea have increased fourfold in the last several years, with more veterans requesting tests and applying for benefits.

What Is Sleep Apnea?

Sleep apnea is a condition in which your breathing is repeatedly obstructed while you’re asleep, forcing you to start breathing again. (The Mayo Clinic has more information.) Because you don’t always wake up, you might not be aware. But snoring and drowsy fatigue upon rising are signs that you might be experiencing sleep apnea.

Sleep apnea has three different causes, but all lead to the same outcome. Lack of sleep can lead to other conditions, such as heart disease, high blood pressure, weight gain, headaches, memory problems, stroke, diabetes, and depression. Drowsiness can lead to things like car crashes and other accidents if left untreated.

Although anyone of any age can find themselves with sleep apnea, it’s most common in men over 40, particularly if they are overweight. Diagnosis requires a sleep study to confirm apnea.

After a diagnosis, the usual treatment involves a CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machine. This device forces air into nasal passages that’s strong enough to bypass any obstruction and promote more normal breathing. Because it’s a treatment and not a cure, a CPAP must be worn nightly, or the patient experiences a return of apnea symptoms.

Getting Benefits For Sleep Apnea

Because sleep apnea may develop after your discharge, there may be no reason to have a sleep study done. Veterans in line-of-fire combat situations are not likely to request a sleep study while deployed, and sleep problems are usually tied to the occupation.

Like any condition, the VA is looking for one thing: a service connection.

The first step is to actually get a diagnosis, although that doesn’t guarantee a rating and benefits. Either your sleep apnea was caused by or aggravated by your time in the service.

The next step is to gather the medical evidence you need to establish a connection between your time in the service and your sleep apnea diagnosis.

If you have other conditions that are already service-connected, such as PTSD, your sleep apnea could be what’s called a “secondary service connected” issue. Sleep apnea could also be the cause of another condition.

The South Texas Veterans Health Care System in San Antonio  at the Audie L. Murphy VA Medical Center has a full diagnostic testing lab for veterans. The website also includes printable PDFs with information on better sleep.

But if you are experiencing severe sleeping problems, it’s important to get started on a sleep study and getting treatment (including a CPAP, if possible), even if it’s not service connected, so that you can start sleeping better. There are organizations that can help you get a CPAP if you’re unable to afford one on your own. Your doctor can work with you to determine if it is, in fact, service connected, and write a prescription for the CPAP.

If your claim for sleep apnea has been denied, it’s time to enlist the help of an attorney who understands the VA disability claim system.

Helping Houston’s Veterans With Sleep Apnea Claims

William Herren has worked with veterans in the Houston area for more than 20 years to help them get their VA disability benefits.  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 with our contingency fee arrangement, we don’t charge a fee until we win your case.

Overview of Long Term Disability Policy Age Limits

The average length of a disability that keeps people from working is about three years, and depends on the type of disability they have and their age. As recoveries go, a person in their mid-twenties usually recovers from a disabling illness or injury faster than a person in their mid-fifties or sixties. But depending on the type of policy you have, long-term disability (LTD) may last six months, a year, or longer. Will it last long enough?

houston disability lawyer

What Type Of Policy Do You Have?

There are two types of policy coverages.

  • Your policy may cover you for “any occupation,” meaning that you’re covered as long as you can’t work any job doing anything, whether or not it’s related to your current job and/or vocation, for the same or less money.
  • Your policy covers you for “own occupation,” meaning that you’re covered as long as you can’t perform your current occupation. Whether you can perform another occupation for which you’re qualified isn’t a determining factor.

Some policies combine the two, with “own occupation” for the first two years, and “any occupation” after that. Other policies offer a cost of living increase as an optional benefit that may cost more.

How Long Do LTD Benefits Last?

Most group LTD policies last until age 65, or until your actual retirement age. The presumption is that once you’re retired, you no longer need the income from your employment.

Most people assume they will retire at 65, but SSA has changed retirement ages for different individuals. Currently, individuals born in 1955 or later can retire at age 66 and 2 months. If you were born after 1960, your retirement age is 67.

Look for LTD benefits to end, with some exceptions, at your time and age of retirement.

Benefits Beyond 65

Purchasing a long-term disability policy with a benefit period longer than five years is more expensive, but comes with an additional benefit. You can choose a “lifetime” benefit period that will pay you as long as your disabled, even after retirement age, as long as you were disabled before the age of 60. This will be especially helpful if your disability is expected to last for many years, or is considered permanent.

These kinds of policies tend to be much more expensive, and could be harder to find. If you’re unable to get one, at least purchase a policy that will pay you until your legal retirement age. With an employer’s policy, your status will automatically change to “retired” once you reach that retirement age bracket.

Most LTD policies pay 60% to 70% of your regular salary and none will pay 100%. Different policies have different exclusions and restrictions.

Some policies have “level premiums,” which stay the same for the life of the policy. This is useful

Additional information, and a checklist for buying a policy, is available at the Consumer Federation of America’s website.

Houston Disability Lawyer Can Help With Your LTD Claims

Our Houston disability lawyer William Herren is experienced in handling all types of disability applications and claims including LTD claims, and our law office has helped more than 4,000 Houstonians, too. Call The Herren Law Firm today at 713-682-8194 (or use our online contact form) to schedule your free consultation with one of our disability attorneys. There’s no obligation. There are no up-front charges, because we’ll take your case on a contingency fee basis. You only owe us a fee when we win your case.

 

Long Term Disability Exclusions To Watch For In Houston, TX Insurance Policies

Applying for long term disability to protect you when you’re not working is a long, difficult process. After the doctor visits, test results and treatment plans, you’ll wait for a decision, sometimes for a while. You may also receive a denial letter, based on your condition.

Long Term Disability Exclusions Houston Texas

Exclusions,” as they are called, are one of the many intricacies of long term disability policies—the things the policy and/or carrier doesn’t cover. The first step is to review your policy and find the Long Term Disability exclusions so you’ll have a better understanding. Here we’ll discuss the different types of exclusions.

What A Policy Won’t Cover

The most common LTD exclusions include:

  • Car accidents when you are driving under the influence
  • Self-inflicted injuries, whether sane or insane
  • Normal pregnancy
  • Suicide attempts

Some policies may also exclude:

  • Injuries caused by aircraft (exception: passengers on regularly scheduled flights)
  • Injuries on the job (these are covered by worker’s compensation)
  • Criminal actions you commit (or attempt to)
  • Civil disobedience actions, including riots, rebellions and insurrection
  • Other intentional acts that cause disability.

Some insurance policies also have a 2-year limitation on disabilities partly caused by substance abuse.

Pre-Existing Conditions

These are conditions that are currently diagnosed and you are currently being treated for when acquiring your policy. A pre-existing condition will require you to wait a designated period of time before you can be covered for it.

If you have a pre-existing condition, there are two periods: a “lookback period,” which can be anywhere from 90 days to as long as a year, and a “waiting period” before you can be covered.

Your insurance company will look back through your medical records for that period to see if you’ve been tested, treated, or otherwise knew that you had the condition.

Once that’s established, you’ll have a period where you must be covered before that condition can be covered. With some conditions, it could be as long as one to two years.

Getting LTD With A Pre-Existing Condition

You can, of course, get long-term disability with the pre-existing condition—you just won’t be covered for it. Anything in your medical  records is findable and fair game. Even if you don’t tell them, there’s a good chance they will find out eventually, and will use that as a Long Term Disability exclusion to deny you payments.

Different companies handle them in their own way, and some simply won’t cover you. Coverage will also depend on the severity of the condition, and you will likely pay higher premiums. But insurers also distinguish between recoverable conditions and non-recoverable conditions like cancer.

Mental/Nervous Disorders

One sticking point for a number of policyholders is the limit or exclusion of mental and nervous disorders, such as anxiety, depression, stress, and dementia. While some policies don’t exclude them, many do. Other policies have limits on these disorders, typically for 24 months or less.

However, if your disorder that is the result of a different physical condition or injury, (such as a back injury) there may be no limit or exclusion.

Alcohol/Substance Abuse

While this is classified in the current Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), coverage may only extend for 24 months. Many policies don’t cover alcohol or substance abuse at all, so review your policy for this potential Long Term Disability exclusion.

Houston’s LTD Claims Attorney

Over 4,000 Houstonians have come to us for help with Long Term Disability exclusions, applications, claims, and appeals. With this experience The Herren Law Firm can help you with your LTD legal issues as well. Contact us today at 713-682-8194 (or use our online contact form) to schedule your free consultation with our Houston Long Term Disability attorney. There’s no obligation, no up-front fees, and we only collect if we win your case.

 

Can I Claim Disability Benefits For Hearing Loss In Houston, TX?

Most people think that losing your hearing part of “getting older.” But it can happen to anyone at any age for different reasons. Age-related hearing loss comes from the gradual loss of hair cells in the inner-ear.

While some individuals are born deaf, hearing loss happens with certain medical conditions, such as Meniere’s disease, an inner-ear disorder. Musician Huey Lewis suddenly found himself unable to hear onstage in 2018, and was diagnosed with possible Meniere’s disease. As a result of his inability to hear during concerts, Huey Lewis and The News canceled their tour schedule.

Can I Claim Disability Benefits For Hearing Loss In Houston, TX?

 

Causes Of Hearing Loss

Meniere’s Disease is just one of a number of possible causes for hearing loss. Other causes include:

  • On-the-job exposure to loud noises, or other exposures to sudden loud noises (power tools, etc.)
  • Tinnitus, ringing in the ears after loud noises (especially loud concerts)
  • Loud music with earphones or earbuds
  • Injuries, such as severe head trauma
  • Childhood illnesses such as measles, mumps, meningitis and chickenpox
  • Abrupt pressure changes from activities like flying or diving
  • Certain medications, such as antibiotics and cancer drugs
  • Chronic disease, such as heart disease, hypertension, stroke, diabetes, and some autoimmune diseases
  • Growths and/or tumor in the ear system
  • Ear wax buildup

If hearing loss prevents you from full-time work, or you are disabled and can no longer work, it may be time to apply for disability.

Qualifying For Disability With Hearing Loss

Like any other type of disability, you will have to meet the qualifications for disability with hearing loss. In this case, you’ll have to verify your hearing loss to medically qualify for benefits.

Although it’s covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), you’ll still have to prove that your condition is serious enough that reasonable accommodations by your employer are not enough to enable you to continue working in any job that you might be qualified for. You’ll need to document the essential functions of your job, previous jobs, and how hearing loss prevents you from performing your job even with reasonable accommodations available.

SSA will also require you to have hearing testing using the “Blue Book” disability listing, conducted by an otolaryngologist or an audiologist certified by The American Board of Audiology or The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. The testing must be done without any hearing appliances, such as hearing aids.

Inform your doctor that you will be applying for disability benefits for hearing loss, and request that he or she review the Blue Book requirements beforehand so your tests are conducted according to SSA’s rules.

First the doctor must conduct a physical exam of your ears, including the internal and external ear, middle ear and the tympanic membranes.

Secondary testing includes:

  • Pure tone and bone conduction audiometry—an average hearing threshold of 60 to 90 decibels or greater in the better ear, dependent upon the testing method, or
  • Word recognition test—a score of 40% or lower in the better ear

If you have hearing loss with a cochlear implant, you will automatically qualify medically for disability benefits for hearing loss at least one year after surgery. If your word recognition score is still 60% or below on a “hearing in noise” test more than one year after the surgery, your benefits will be extended until your hearing improves, if it does.

Translations: Communicating With SSA

If you need an interpreter to properly communicate with SSA, ask for one. SSA will provide a free sign language interpreter for anyone who needs help communicating with them. An interpreter will ensure that the applicant will have an accurate and complete translation of all related communications between them and SSA. Sign language interpreters are bound by confidentiality rules, and cannot repeat what they translated. This offers the same privacy as a person who can hear. A hearing-impaired person won’t have to rely on family members, or be embarrassed trying to communicate with a case worker because they can’t hear or understand the questions.

Let Herren Law Help With Disability Benefits for Hearing Loss

You may be able to collect disability after severe hearing loss, but you won’t know unless you apply. 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 Increase Your Odds Of Being Awarded Social Security Disability Benefits On Your First Try

Many people are denied when they first apply for Houston Social Security disability benefits. In fact, over 65% are denied on their first application, meaning less than 40% of applicants are approved. So what’s the difference?

Houston Social Security Disability Benefits

The Application Process

Contrary to popular belief, it isn’t SSA’s policy to delay and deny claims the first time around. One of the biggest reasons for an initial denial is an incomplete application form.

You’ll start with the application, and go from there. The Social Security Administration has a printable checklist on its website, along with instructions to complete it. You can download, print, and use this checklist to complete your initial application. If you meet certain conditions, you may be able to complete your application online, without visiting your Social Security office.

Your eligibility assessment is also assessed on your previous work history.

It’s important to have all of the requested information as well as medical information. If you haven’t been under the care of a physician, you may have a more difficult time proving a medical disability. You would need a very good reason, such as not having medical insurance or not being able to afford any, but you still have a very high chance of denial.

Ways To Increase Your Odds Of Approval

  1. File Your Claim Immediately. Getting approved for benefits can be a very long process, and if you wait, your disability insurance may expire. You will have to have worked five of the last ten years to be eligible, and waiting to apply may be too late.
  2. Get Help With Your Application If You Need It. Mistakes and missing information are the main reasons applications are denied. Contact a disability attorney, a family member, or someone from a Social Security field office for help.
  3. Find A Disability Attorney If You Have To Appeal. An attorney who specializes in disability work will know what to do and how to do it, and make sure you’ve done everything correctly by the deadline. More applicants win on appeal with an attorney than without.
  4. Keep Up With Doctor Visits And Medical Treatment. If your disability requires medical treatment, keep up with every appointment, test, prescription and doctor visit. Failing to seek medical treatment for your condition will lead SSA to believe that your condition is not serious enough to warrant disability. SSA believes you should be seen by a “provider” every two months. If you’ve lost your health insurance, using local “free clinics” or other available care may satisfy the requirement. You should also keep up with prescribed medications.
  5. Request An RFC Form From Your Physician. The Residual Functional Capacity (RFC) form is used by examiners to determine your functional ability with your medical condition. These forms are needed to close out a case, and are usually completed by a DDS physician or psychologist. If your treating physician completes it, the claims examiner may use it to create an internal RFC for your case.
  6. Use A Businesslike Demeanor With Everyone You Deal With. In other words, be nice, or it could make your journey a lot more difficult. Caseworkers deal with hundreds of individuals every day in the same situation, and losing your temper or being rude can lead to even more delays in your case. No matter what the situation, be polite and cordial no matter what the situation to maintain good relations and communications.
  7. Contact Your Local SSA Office or Office of Disability Determination Services to check on your case’s status. Don’t make the mistake of calling SSA’s toll-free number, where they don’t have the most current information. Contact the office where you made your application, or the Office of Disability Adjudication and Review if a hearing has been requested.

Why Are More Applicants Approved On Appeal?

It’s a little odd, but true. Administrative hearings may take a year or more to be scheduled. A individual’s disability progresses in that time, increasing his or her inability to work. When appearing in front of an administrative judge, he or she will see you face-to-face and determine disability on sight, rather than on paper. If it’s obvious from seeing you that you’re unable to work, as it is in a hearing, your chances of approval increase as well.

Of the applicants that file an appeal, 60% who hire a disability attorney are approved, compared to the 34% who don’t have legal counsel. A disability attorney who is experienced with Social Security disability claims is familiar with the application and appeals process, and can guide you through it.

Houston Social Security Disability Benefits Attorney

Getting disability is a long process, but we can make it easier. We’ve helped over 4,000 Houstonians win their claims and get the benefits they need. We have the experience to help you with your Social Security application and/or appeals process.  The Herren Law Firm can help you with your application and any necessary appeals. 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.

Hiring a Houston Attorney for Aetna Disability Claims

Hiring an attorney is more than getting legal counsel—it’s about finding an advocate for yourself in a difficult situation. Whether it’s an accident, a divorce, or a disability claim, an attorney works with you to get through the process, protect your interests and your rights.

Aetna Disability Claims attorney Houston

You may have purchased an Aetna policy through your employer; many policyholders do. But most people don’t have the resources to fight a large, multinational company with a team of attorneys on its side without some help of their own. The company may deny your Aetna disability claims outright, hoping you’ll give up and go away. If you’re having trouble with a short-term or long-term disability claim through Aetna, an attorney will make sure that your application and claim are done correctly.

Bad Faith Practices

Despite the advertisements, insurance companies are in business to make money. Paying claims is not conducive to being profitable, so claims adjusters are eager to deny claims. This is known as “bad faith insurance practices.” They can include:

  • Denying valid claims and refusing to explain why
  • Underpaying or delaying a claim
  • Misrepresenting facts or provisions of a policy
  • Refusing settlement for a valid claim

The “Paper Review”

If you’ve received a determination that you are able to go back to work, and your benefits have been terminated, it may be due to a “medical review” by one of Aetna’s doctors. The review is simply an “examination” based on paperwork, and no physical examination by a company doctor. The company uses a “paper review” of a client’s files, and makes a decision about their Aetna disability claim from there.

Because Aetna’s physicians conduct this “paper review,” there is a conflict of interest. This is especially obvious in Mendez v. FedEx Express and Aetna, a case where Aetna blatantly denied a client benefits even after he received SSDI benefits and Aetna began offsetting his Long Term Disability benefits as the policy dictates. At no time did any of the physicians actually meet with the plaintiff in person, and disregarded complaints of severe pain and disablement noted by his own treating physicians. Two physicians decided based on his file that he could work 25 hours a week or more, without consulting with the plaintiff’s own treating physicians. The court found in favor of Mr. Mendez.

This is just one of many cases where Aetna (and companies like them) work to deny your benefits.

How An Aetna Disability Claims Attorney Can Help

If you’ve been scrambling through Aetna’s hoops trying to make sure you meet their deadlines and answer all their questions, only to be denied, you’re already at a disadvantage. You have 180 days to appeal the denial, so the time to contact an attorney is now. If you miss the 180-day deadline, you’ll lose your rights under the claim and may have to re-file. Contact an attorney who works with Aetna disability claims immediately.

How much might this cost? An Aetna disability claims attorney generally receives about 25% of any back pay you receive, up to $6,000. You won’t owe any money until we win your case.

If you didn’t have legal help with your original disability application, don’t leave things to chance. The process can take many months, and in some cases, years. Get started now.

Herren Law Fights Aetna For Your Benefits

Let us help you with your Aetna disability claims appeal and help you get the benefits you deserve. Request a copy of your claim file from Aetna, and bring it with your denial letter to Herren Law to begin your appeal right away.

We’ve worked with Aetna customers before, and are ready to help you with your claim. 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.

Where Can I Get Assistance Filing A Veterans Disability Claim In Houston, TX?

Filing a Veterans disability claim is often a difficult process that can be extremely frustrating and irritating. If you’ve had about enough of the VA and their endless forms and phone calls, you may realize that it’s time to ask for help. But where?

Veterans don’t have to feel helpless against the VA. Help is available, all you have to do is reach out for it. Here’s a list of some of the places you can contact for help filing a Houston Veterans disability claim.

Filing A Houston Veterans Disability Claim

TexVet.Org

This online referral service is run by Texas A&M, and is a state program for veterans, their families, and the groups that serve them, offering verified information and referral resources.

County Veterans Officers

There are two of these officers in the Houston area. The Veterans County Service Officer Association of Texas’ website here, with additional information. The VCSOAT is a 501c19 non-profit organization.

The Texas Veterans Commission

This Austin-based state agency was created in 1927 to be an advocate for veterans throughout the Lone Star State, to assist them in getting the benefits they’ve earned. Their focus is on nine programs:

  • Claims Representation and Counseling
  • Veterans Employment Services
  • Veterans Education
  • Communications and Veterans Outreach
  • Veteran Entrepreneur Program
  • Health Care Advocacy
  • Veterans Mental Health Program
  • Women Veterans Program
  • The Fund for Veterans’ Assistance

TVC has counselors available statewide to help with claims, appeals, and resources available, with a women’s veteran program available.

AMVETS

This nationwide organization offers veterans free help with claims, even if you’re not a paying member. There are two Houston-area posts, one northeast of the city in Rye, TX, with two points of contact, and additional posts throughout the state. AMVETS offers free assistance for filing Veterans disability claims, veteran healthcare advocates, career assistance and other related services through their National Service Department with a series of National Service Officers.

The Disabled American Veterans (DAV)/DAV Of Texas

If you live in Houston, there are a number of available services to help you file a Veterans disability claim. But what if you live in the outer environs, and can’t get to the VA Medical Center or someplace else?

Headquartered in Lufkin with additional locations in Houston, San Antonio and Waco, the DAV has help available from DAV National Service Officers throughout the Lone Star State. The DAV also has Mobile Service Offices (MSO) that travel to the smaller towns and rural areas for veterans that don’t live in town. These services are provided free of charge to disabled veterans and their families to help them access to benefits and services. Information seminars, outreach programs, employment assistance and other resources (including for homeless veterans) are available upon request, free of charge.

The Wounded Warrior Project

Founded in 2003, WWP was created to serve injured veterans who became injured after September 11, 2001. With an office located in Clear Lake, WWP is both a non-profit and a VA-accredited agency that can help you with both the VA and the DoD to get benefits and services you need. Team members work with veterans to make sure their claims are filed correctly, and through the process. You can also call their Resource Center at 888.WWP.ALUM (997.2586), 904.405.1213, or email at resourcecenter@woundedwarriorproject.org. WWP also offers health and wellness programs, family support, employment assistance and other programs to wounded veterans.

A Veterans Disability Attorney

With all the free help that’s available to veterans, you may not think hiring an attorney is necessary. But if your Veterans disability claim is denied, finding a veterans disability attorney who understands the process can make sure your application and any appeals are handled correctly, and according to the VA’s rules and regulations.

Organizations that work with veterans may be over-worked and understaffed. They may not be able to help with appeals. An attorney who specializes in VA cases is able to take the time to work with you and make sure everything is done properly. You can also speak with your attorney (or a member of staff) when you call to ask about your case.

The best reason to hire an attorney: both the VA and the United States Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims (CAVC) treat an application differently when the veteran is represented by an attorney, increasing your chances for approval or winning on appeal.

Helping Houston’s Veterans

William Herren is a Veterans’ disability attorney who has worked with veterans in the Houston area for more than 20 years to help them get the benefits they deserve. 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. We don’t charge you a fee until we win your case.

Is Diabetes A Veterans Disability in Houston?

Diabetes is prevalent among veterans, who make up nine percent of the general population. Twenty-five percent of VA hospital patients suffer from varying degrees of diabetes, and many are unable to work because of it. Diabetes is the leading cause of blindness, amputation and end-stage renal disease for most VA patients.

Is Diabetes A Veterans Disability in Houston?

You can apply for disability on the basis of diabetes if it’s service related, and the degree of your disability will depend on the seriousness of your case. The biggest hurdle is establishing the connection between the onset of diabetes and your military service.

Symptoms of diabetes can include:

  • Blurry vision
  • Excessive thirst
  • Fatigue
  • Frequent urination
  • Hunger
  • Weight loss

If you’ve been diagnosed, you should also have your hemoglobin A1C levels checked every three to six months. This test measures blood glucose levels of the previous two to three months.

Two complications from diabetes that affect your ratings are hypoglycemic reactions and diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA.)

In the first, blood glucose levels run very low, frequently as a result of diabetes medication. DKA is a result of a buildup of acids in the blood, and can also be a result of medications. However, occasional episodes of either of these conditions don’t affect your ratings. Frequent hospital visits and diabetes care appointments that indicate severe diabetes that could have an effect on your rating.

Is It Service Connected?

If you served in Vietnam between January 9, 1962, and May 7, 1975, either in the country or on a ship that was in the waters, the VA presumes a service connection. That’s because many veterans who served in Vietnam during this time period were exposed to Agent Orange, a powerful chemical herbicide used to destroy thick jungle foliage. One of the well-documented side effects of Agent Orange exposure is Type 2 Diabetes (also called diabetes mellitus). Because of this causation, Vietnam veterans do not have to prove a service connection.

Outside of the time frame, you will have to establish and prove a distinct connection to your time in the service.

Demonstrating Service-Related Diabetes

Whether you have medical records from the military and/or VA stating this connection, or you’ve since had a diagnosis from a private physician, you must show a documented link.

You’ll need to gather medical evidence in order to show a service connection. These can be medical records from the military, from the VA, or from a private doctor post-discharge.

You’ll need to get a copy of your C-file from the VA and review your records for references to diabetes, pre-diabetes and related symptoms. You should review both your VA and military medical records. You will also need all private, post-military medical records. You’ll use these to show a chain of events that led to diabetes.

Should your diagnosis be within one year of discharge to a compensable degree (at least 10%), it will be presumed to be service-related.

Ratings For Diabetes

The VA rates your condition according to its severity 38 CFR 4.119, Diagnostic Code 7913. Factors such as how much the condition limits your daily activity (such as working) determine your rating. More severe cases and conditions bring higher ratings.

Your monthly compensation will ultimately depend on your combined rating, which could include other conditions. When the VA approves your disability claim, you’ll receive a rating based on the evidence you provided.

As of December 2018, the following is the VA’s schedule of disability benefits:

  • 10 percent rating for disability: $140.05 monthly
  • 20 percent rating for disability: $276.84 monthly
  • 40 percent rating for disability: $617.73 monthly
  • 60 percent rating for disability: $1,113.86 monthly
  • 100 percent rating for disability: $3,057.13 monthly

Helping Houston’s Veterans

Diabetes causes a number of problems, and in some cases, cause you to be disabled.  William Herren is a veterans’ disability attorney who has helped more than 4,000 Houstonians get their benefits. 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.

Is Long Term Disability Income Taxable in Houston TX?

One of the things you’ll deal with as you begin receiving long term disability income is the difference when you file your tax return. Is it considered taxable income, or not? You may have heard conflicting or confusing advice on the subject. The basic answer is, it depends. We’ll explain the difference.

Is Long Term Disability Income Taxable in Houston TX?

How Did You Pay Your Premiums?

You may have paid your premiums out of your paycheck, separately from your employer, or your employer may have paid it. Or you may have paid part of the premiums, while your employer paid the rest of it. How the premiums were paid makes a big difference.

If you have an individual policy and used after-tax dollars to pay for your LTD premiums, you’ve already paid taxes on the money, so your long term disability income payments are tax-free. However, you can’t deduct the payments as a medical expense like you would with health insurance.

Using pre-tax dollars to pay your individual LTD premiums reduces your taxable income until you begin receiving payments. Once you do, your LTD payment becomes a “taxable income,” because you saved taxes earlier. Therefore, you’ll have to pay taxes on the payments.

If you purchase a group policy through an association, the policies are similar to individual policies, but you can’t deduct the premiums. The tax ramifications are generally the same as the individual policies, and the benefits are tax-free.

Employer-Sponsored/Paid Premiums

The rules are a little different when you are under an employer-paid policy.

When your employer pays all of your premiums but doesn’t include it in your gross income, your long term disability income payments will be taxable.

If you pay part of your premiums, the tax liability will be shared. The same rules apply for pre-tax and after-tax dollars for the portion that you pay for yourself.

If your employer offers a so-called “cafeteria plan,” where you can choose disability as well as other insurance benefits, they’re normally paid on a pre-tax basis. In some cases, the employer for some benefits up to a certain limit. After that, you pay for additional benefits you choose over and above the set limit. These additional benefits can be paid pre-tax or after-tax.

Should you chose to pay with after-tax dollars, that part of your income will be considered tax-free, but you will be taxed on the employer-paid portion. If you pay with pre-tax dollars, you’ll be taxed on both your portion and the employer-paid portion.

Should You Use Pre-Tax Or After-Tax Dollars?

There are benefits to both methods. One way or the other, you still pay taxes on LTD income.

If you never need to file an LTD claim for benefits, you’ll save money on taxes by paying with pre-tax dollars. But if there’s a chance you’ll be filing a claim for disability, you may be better off using after-tax dollars. You’ve already paid taxes on the money you used, so your benefits will be tax-free.

How you pay for your LTD policy is a personal decision. The IRS offers some information on its website. Discussing your options with a tax professional can help you decide which method is right for you.

Your Houston Long Term Disability Attorney

We’ve helped over 4,000 Houstonians have received their LTD benefits. Need help? 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.