Social Security Disability Compassionate Allowances In Houston

Becoming ill with a serious illness can quickly become life-changing, especially if you are no longer able to work, or medically advised not to. Many types of illnesses that develop over time can suddenly show symptoms long before you realize something is wrong. At that point, it becomes obvious that you need to begin your application for disability.

Social Security is well-known for its long application and examination period for approval. Many applicants must go through the appeals process in order to be awarded benefits for disability. It may be months before you begin receiving benefit payments, depending on a number of factors.

Social Security Disability In Houston

However, if your illness is one of a series on a list for compassionate allowances, the waiting period may be considerably less.

The Compassionate Allowance

Social Security has a list of 200 conditions that will qualify you for benefits nearly immediately. Applicants who have one of these serious conditions can be processed faster, especially if they include medical documentation.

Indicating that you have one of these conditions is enough to move your application into the fast-tracked category. With a small amount of medical documentation, your award decision could come within days or weeks, not months or years.

Once you’ve established that you have one of these 200 conditions, you’ll be automatically qualified for disability benefits.

Review the list to see if you have an included condition. Not every serious illness is on the list, and some require a certain degree of progression before they are fast-tracked.

Conditions That Qualify

The list of included conditions contains illnesses such as:

  • ALS (Lou Gerig’s Disease)
  • Early-onset Alzheimer’s Disease
  • Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma (Adult)
  • Inoperable breast and bladder cancers
  • Esophageal cancer
  • Gallbladder cancer
  • Lewy Body Dementia
  • Kidney and liver cancers
  • Ovarian cancer (inoperable)
  • Peritoneal Mesothelioma
  • Transplants, such as kidney, lung, heart, and liver

These are just a few of the conditions on the agency’s list.

SSA has also added these new and rare conditions to the list for 2020:

  • Secondary Adenocarcinoma of the Brain
  • Desmoplastic Small Round Cell Tumors
  • Nicolaides-Baraister Syndrome
  • Rubinstein-Tybai Syndrome
  • GM1 Gangliosidosis – Infantile and Juvenile Forms

HIV/AIDS is not included on this list and is covered by a separate process called a Presumptive Disability.

Some conditions qualify as a “presumptive” disability and allow claimants to begin collecting disability benefit payments even before Social Security makes a determination.

While benefits may start within a shorter period of time, claimants still must wait 24 months after the date of onset to begin receiving Medicare.

The Key: Medical Evidence

As with any kind of disability application, you must show SSA that you at least have been diagnosed with a serious illness before being approved.

It’s not enough for you to tell Social Security that you have one of these illnesses. You’re required to prove it with solid medical evidence. Attaching test results and/or a written diagnosis to your application can also accelerate the process.

Because having a condition under Compassionate Allowances is a near-automatic qualification, examiners contact doctors and other providers directly, usually by phone. This cuts down the waiting time for the required information.

Once Social Security has sufficient medical information to prove that you have a qualifying disorder, benefits should start between a few weeks and two or three months, on average.

Let Herren Law Help You With Your Disability Claim

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 use 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.

Disability Cost Of Living Increases?

Receiving a disability benefit is intended to replace the income that you would otherwise receive from working. Much like a salary or an hourly wage, most people experience an increase as the cost of living rises.

Some benefits do receive cost-of-living increases due to inflation. Without it, there would be no protection from the effects of inflation, leaving recipients with a substantial decrease in purchasing power. This includes these programs from Social Security:

  • Old-Age
  • Survivors
  • Disability Insurance

They are collectively known as OASDI. Disability benefits also see an occasional small cost-of-living adjustment (also called COLA).

Disability Cost Of Living Increases?

Calculating The COLA

COLA increases are determined in two steps to establish if a COLA is warranted for the year.

First, The Department of Labor’s Bureau of Vital Statistics does a yearly assessment of the Consumer Price Index Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers, known as CPI-W. This number represents the change in what people pay for goods and services over time.

The Social Security Administration reviews the third-quarter CPI-W rate (July, August, and September) from the year when recipients were last given a COLA increase. Social Security then compares that number to the current year’s third-quarter CPI-W. if there is an increase of at least .01% in the CPI-W, recipients begin receiving a COLA increase in the following January. If the number is less than .05%, or the CPI-W decreased, no COLA is given.

COLA is an automatic raise, so recipients don’t have to apply for or request anything.

The COLA for 2020 is 1.6% for both Social Security and SSI benefits. This translates to $12 for an individual and $18 for a couple where both are eligible.

The average increase for SSDI recipients averages about $20, but the total will ultimately depend on a person’s lifetime earnings.

 2021 COLA

The current planned COLA for 2021 is 1.3%, representing the recent lower rate of inflation. This will increase monthly checks by:

  • $20 per month for the average retired worker
  • $33 per month for the average retired married couple
  • $16 per month for the average disabled worker
  • $137 per month maximum for the person retiring at full retirement age

There are similar raises planned for individuals who receive SSI.

Emergency Social Security COLA for 2021 Act

Shortly after the COLA announcement, two lawmakers have proposed an emergency raise to 3% for recipients due to COVID-19. Co-sponsors Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-OR, and Rep. John Larson, D-CT introduced House Bill 8598. If approved, it is intended to give recipients a 3% increase in monthly benefit to help offset the extra expenses due to COVID-19.

New Jersey congressmen Chris Smith and Jeff Van Drew have introduced a similar bill (H.R. 8600, The COVID-19 Emergency Social Security Cost of Living Increase Act of 2020 ) that would not only raise the COLA for 2021 to 3%, but would guarantee that subsequent COLAs would be no less than 3%.

H.R.8600 would also change the formula for calculating the COLA from the current CPI-W to a “Senior CPI,” which takes into account the expenses that are more common to seniors.

Neither bill has any additional action since its introduction into the House.

Let Herren Law Help You With Your Disability Claim

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 use 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.

 

Mental Disorders and Social Security Disability in Houston, TX

Mental illness and disorders can mean a range of symptoms as well as one or more types of conditions. Mental disorders don’t have visible symptoms like an injury and aren’t easily diagnosed like cancer or heart conditions. Therefore, it’s much more difficult to diagnose and prove.

Mental Disorders and Social Security Disability in Houston, TX

 

Social Security does recognize mental disorders as a disability. Nearly nine million individuals receive Social Security Disability in the US, and an estimated 32% are receiving disability for mental disorders. However, the burden of proof can be more complex than it is for physical conditions.

Types Of Disorders

Social Security has a list of mental conditions for which they will award disability benefits in their “blue book.” Divided by sections, the listing includes:

  • Neurocognitive disorders (02)
  • Schizophrenia spectrum and other psychotic disorders (03)
  • Depressive, bipolar, and related disorders (04)
  • Intellectual disorder (05)
  • Anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorders (06)
  • Somatic symptom and related disorders (07)
  • Personality and impulse-control disorders (08)
  • Autism spectrum disorder (10)
  • Neurodevelopmental disorders (11)
  • Eating disorders (13)
  • Trauma- and stressor-related disorders, such as PTSD (15)

Some conditions may not exactly meet the criteria of Social Security’s definitions. However, if you can prove that your condition prohibits you from doing even a simple and unskillful job due to brain-related disorders, psychiatric or emotional problems, you may still be able to receive benefits for disability.

What It Takes To Get Benefits

Applying for Social Security Disability can feel like a major undertaking, and it can be. But it’s important to ensure that your application is complete so that your chances of approval are better.

In addition to filling out your application, you’ll need to include:

  • Your diagnosis and the reason(s) why you can’t work
  • Complete medical records
  • Names and contact information of your healthcare providers:
    • Doctors
    • Hospitals
  • List of upcoming medical appointments
  • Treatment plans you have been prescribed and following

Social Security will investigate everything they have been given, so it’s important to ensure that the information is accurate and complete.

Why Applications Are Denied

Some of the primary reasons for denial include:

  • Not enough medical evidence
  • The previous denial—if you’ve been denied before, file an appeal on that case rather than starting over.
  • An incomplete or improperly filled out application
  • Income—you can’t earn a considerable amount of money
  • Not getting and following medical treatment
  • Not cooperating with SS caseworkers while your claim is being worked

One estimate indicates that a full 70% of SSD applications are denied on the first try, but it’s important not to give up. Social Security has an extensive system of appeals with detailed guidelines that you can use to increase your chances of approval.

If the application or appeals process is more than you can handle, consider speaking with an experienced disability attorney in Houston. Having an attorney help you through the process can make it easier and increase your chance of winning your claim and receiving the disability benefits you need.

Need Help With Your SSD Application Or Appeal? Call Herren Law Today

Mental illness is particularly difficult, especially when it impacts your life. If you’re unable to work because of a mental disorder, let us help you with your application for Social Security Disability. We can tell you what you need and how to go about applying. If your claim is denied, we can also help you with an appeal.

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 use 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.

Important Facts about the Toxic Exposure and American Military Act of 2020 (TEAM Act)

Military veterans have long had to deal with illnesses and injuries as a result of their military service. From soreness and rashes to the most serious illnesses, veterans have long had difficulty in getting help and benefits from the VA to help them.

Important facts about the Toxic Exposure and American Military Act of 2020 (TEAM Act)

Most recently, veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan have had difficulty after toxic exposure to burn pits in those countries. They were used to burn all manner of trash, including medical and human waste, Styrofoam from food service, batteries, un-serviceable clothing, computer equipment, and jet engines. The open pits burned continuously near living quarters. Many service members breathed these toxic substances daily, leading to chronic respiratory and other illnesses, including rare cancers.

For veterans dealing with these illnesses—and the rejection that comes with it—there may be some help coming from Congress.

The TEAM Act Of 2020

The TEAM Act of 2020 Toxic Exposure in the American Military Act of 2020 was introduced on 10/2/2020 by Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C.

The bill currently has five sponsors:

  • Representative Gus Bilirakis, R-FL
  • Representative David Roe, R-TN
  • Representative Brad Wenstrup, R-OH
  • Representative Mike Bost, R-IL
  • Representative Brian Mast, R-FL

Tillis, whose home state of North Carolina has a considerable number of military bases and veterans, said in a statement:

“After working alongside veterans who were stationed Camp Lejeune and fighting for service members exposed to toxicants from burn pits in Afghanistan and Iraq, it’s clear the men and women who served our country deserve better. The bipartisan TEAM Act ensures that all veterans are given a fair and uniform process to receive the health care and benefits to which they are entitled following exposure to toxicants during their service.”

Improvements

The TEAM Act would require the VA to draft and create a specialized questionnaire for primary care appointments that would help them determine if a veteran experienced service-connected toxic exposure. It would also expand training for VA employees on the issue of toxic exposures during military service.

The VA would also be required to respond to updated scientific findings related to illnesses that develop from toxic exposures in the veteran population. Additionally, the VA would also be required to establish a commission to research these effects on veterans and follow up with reports to the VA and Congress.

The VA would also be required to enter into agreements with the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine in order to conduct further research into toxic exposures.

The TEAM Act also requires an online portal for veterans to access their Longitudinal Exposure Record. This would help veterans understand the risks of exposure. Currently, they can only access this through a request through the Freedom of Information Act. Currently, an estimated 25% of veterans who are post-911 are eligible for or choose to use the VA for their healthcare. The bill is also intended to address that population.

Burn Pit Resources

Veterans who have found themselves exposed to toxic exposures from burn pits currently face an uphill battle. However, they are not without support.

BurnPits360 is a nonprofit advocacy group created in response to the VA’s inadequate response to veterans who face multiple illnesses due to burning pits in Afghanistan and Iraq. The crux of this group is an independent and voluntary registry of veterans who have died from toxic exposure.

Survivors of these veterans can record their names in the registry. Veterans who have suffered from denial of care can also register. The data collected from the registry is shared with medical institutions and independent researchers to investigate and track illnesses, recoveries, and deaths.

BurnPits360 also has a page for support and resources as well as tools for taking action.

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.

 

What Are Some “Bad Faith Insurance Claims Practices” That Might Occur In Houston?

You got long-term health insurance for a reason. Whether you bought the policy on your own, or you acquired it through your employer, the idea was to have some financial protection in place should you become unable to work. Despite paying premiums, providing documentation, and answering all their questions, you still don’t have what you need, and what you were assured you would have.

What Are Some "Bad Faith Insurance Claims Practices" That Might Occur In Houston?

If you’ve ever had the experience of an insurance company that treated you well while you were making payments, but changed significantly when you filed a claim, you’re not alone. Whether it’s auto insurance, life insurance, or long-term disability, bad faith practices are universal.

How Bad Faith Is Used

The term “bad faith” refers to any insurer’s tactics that back down on its obligation to customers when one files a claim against their policy. This can take the term of stalling, or taking a very long time to process a policyholder’s claim, or outright denying their claim. Both are intended to avoid paying legitimate claims to a policyholder who has faithfully paid premiums according to the policy’s terms.

You may not realize at first that your insurer is actively working to deny your claim. Over time, you may start to wonder what’s going on, especially when you begin looking for answers and have none.

How They Do It

Common bad faith practices by insurance companies include:

  • Failing to acknowledge the receipt of a claim
  • Delaying action without an explanation
  • Requesting unnecessary or excess documentation, then claiming “failure to submit” as a reason to deny the claim.
  • Misrepresent a policy’s language to avoid paying a claim
  • Delay or failure to investigate your claim
  • Fail to disclose a policy’s exclusions and limitations to a policyholder before purchase,
  • Make unreasonable demands of the policyholder to prove that their loss was covered under the terms of their policy.
  • Failing or refusing to explain why a claim was denied
  • Withholding important claim information
  • Attempting to settle a case for less than a fair amount
  • Inappropriate premium increases
  • Advising a policyholder not to hire an attorney

These are just some of the ways an insurance company might attempt to dissuade you from making a claim or encourage you to give up.

What Texas Law Says

Should you discover that your LTD insurer is engaging in bad faith tactics, you do have the law on your side.

All insurance policies and contracts in the state of Texas include the implied covenant of good faith. That is, the insurance company is required to treat you fairly and honestly, even if it isn’t included and written into the policy. If the insurer fails to abide by this covenant, they have committed “bad faith,” and can be sued once you’ve gathered adequate proof.

Both Chapters 541 and 542 of the Texas Insurance Code disallow insurance companies from “unfair or deceptive acts or practices in the business of insurance.”  If you sue your insurer and win, you could possibly collect as much as three times the amount of your actual damages.

For help with a bad faith LTD insurer, it’s important to work with an attorney who understands disability cases and how to turn them in your favor.

Has Your LTD Insurance Company Shown You “Bad Faith?” Call Herren Law

The last thing you need when you’re applying for long-term disability is an insurance company playing games. “Bad faith” can take many forms, leading to one thing—not paying you. Don’t give up. We can help you fight back.

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

What Happens At A Disability Hearing In Houston?

Your first encounter with a disability hearing may be intimidating. It can be awkward discussing your life with complete strangers who are deciding whether or not you are qualified to receive a disability.

If this is your first time dealing with Social Security in person, understand that it’s not the same as appearing in court. Although the hearing is important, it’s an informal hearing, and usually doesn’t last longer than an hour. The hearings are not open to the public as a court case is, and anyone with you (other than your attorney) is required to wait outside.

What Happens At A Disability Hearing In Houston?

This hearing is to determine the extent of your disability, and if your disability prevents you from working. The judge will ask questions to get a better idea of your condition. It’s important to answer the questions honestly and thoroughly, but don’t exaggerate or lie about anything.

What Questions Will They Ask?

Because the hearing revolves around what you can and can’t do, and why you can’t work, expect the questions to be focused on those points. You’ll likely be asked questions such as:

  • Are you working currently?
  • Why can’t you work?
  • What was your last job, and what were your responsibilities?
  • Have you tried working since you became disabled?
  • What type of formal education do you have?
  • Do you have any vocational training?
  • Where else have you worked in the last 15 years? What were those job responsibilities?
  • Do you have any problems getting along with coworkers, supervisors, customers or clients?
  • How much can you lift at one time?
  • How long can you walk, sit, or sit before you require a break?
  • How often do you need to take a break?
  • Do you have difficulties with concentration or remembering anything?
  • What effect does your disability have on your daily activities?
  • What activities do you do?
  • How does your disability affect your ability to take care of yourself?
  • What have you been diagnosed with?
  • What medical treatments have you had?
  • Are there any side effects to these treatments?

These are just some of the types of questions you may be asked. Of course, it’s important to be ready for any of these questions as well as others.

Being Prepared For The Disability Hearing

The time leading up to the hearing can be downright nerve-wracking, leading to rambling and over-answering a question—or saying something you shouldn’t. Avoid this possibility with some pre-hearing research and rehearsal.

Spend some time reviewing:

  • Your case file
  • Medical and Job Worksheet (Form SSA-3381), filled out before your application for disability
  • Your most recent medical records
  • Statements and expert medical opinions from family members, friends, coworkers and supervisors, as well as your doctor or any doctor you’ve seen regarding your condition (such as a neurologist or orthopedic surgeon.) These statements should describe your disability and how it affects you daily.

You’ll also need to provide copies of your medical records and medical opinions to the judge prior to the hearing. Keep copies for yourself as well.

Make notes using the above questions, as well as any your disability attorney might mention before the hearing. And of course, take these documents and notes along with you to the hearing.

Houston’s Disability Attorney

A disability hearing can be daunting, but it doesn’t have to be. Having an experienced disability lawyer can make the hearing—and the process—easier for you. If you are unfamiliar with the system and don’t get help, a judge can make decisions based on their own opinion, leaving you with no options for challenging them.

Let The Herren Law Firm in Houston, TX assist with your application, appeals, and records gathering to prove your case, and help 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, and we only collect a fee if we win your case.

 

 

What Happens When An Employee Goes On LTD?

Long-term disability is a form of insurance that offers an employee a portion of his or her income, usually 50% to 75%, during a recovery period from an illness or accident that isn’t work-related. (Worker’s Compensation covers work-related accidents.)

What Happens When An Employee Goes On LTD?

Statistics from The Council For Disability Awareness indicate that:

  • About 1 in 4 individuals currently 20 years of age will become disabled and out of work about a year before they reach retirement age
  • Most disabling incidents leading to long-term disability are not accidents, but cancer, heart disease, pregnancies, back injuries, and the like
  • About 48% of Americans have enough savings for three months of not working due to disability
  • The average duration of an LTD claim is 34.6 months, nearly three years

Two laws also govern disability leave:

Many long-term disability claimants will fall under one or both of these acts.

An Employer’s Perspective

Even when an employee is out, a company still has work that needs to be done. Temporary and/or contract help may be hired to fill in if the employee has an estimated return date. If the employee is out longer than previously determined or asks for an extension, employers may take a person off the payroll entirely.

Depending on the company, an employer may attempt to hold your job open while you are recuperating, depending on the expected length of your convalescence. Others may have a set time frame by which they will list the job as vacant, and attempt to hire someone else to fill the position. Still, other companies may hold an employee’s position for a specific time, such as a year, before they consider the employee to not return.

Can You Be Fired?

You actually can be terminated, laid off, furloughed, or outright fired while on LTD.

Receiving benefits from an LTD policy does not offer any job security, and your employment job can end for any reason. Your job can be eliminated due to downsizing, or you can be terminated for other job-performance reasons unrelated to your disability.

However, employers must tread carefully when doing so, or risk expensive litigation.

An employee cannot be fired if:

  • He or she is able to do the job with requested reasonable accommodations, but the employer has failed to provide them, whether or not the employee is on FMLA
  • He or she is on FMLA leave, whether or not they can still perform the job under the ADA.

After the 12 weeks of FMLA leave ends, an employee can be terminated. Under the ADA, an employee can request reasonable accommodations. If these accommodations don’t cause hardship, the employer is required to provide them, whether it’s a change in work hours, desk adjustments, or other changes that allow an employee to continue in their job in spite of a disability.

What About Benefits?

What happens to your insurance payments if your employment ends? It depends.

If an insurance company is paying your benefits, chances are that won’t change. But if your company is paying your long-term disability, chances are your benefits will end when your employment does.

You must continue medical treatment in order to keep your LTD benefits but may lose your health insurance in the interim. It’s a conundrum, but continued treatment for your condition is vital for a number of reasons.

This is one of the many reasons to carefully review your policy before applying for long-term disability, especially if your policy is company-provided. You’ll need to know exactly what to expect if things change substantially, such as a downsizing or your company going out of business.

Your Houston LTD Disability Attorney

If you’re facing an absence from work due to a long-term disability, but are having trouble, we’re here to help.

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

What Are The Differences Between SSI And SSDI?

The term “Social Security” can mean a large number of US government-based benefit programs that an individual can apply for when he or she needs it. But even though they are administered by the Social Security Administration, SSI and SSDI are two separate programs and offer two different types of benefits.

What Are The Differences Between SSI And SSDI?

What type you should apply for depends on your needs. Here, we’ll explain the difference, and you can decide for yourself which one is right for you.

Supplemental Security Income (SSI)

This program is a needs-based financial benefit for disabled individuals of limited means and income. Unlike Social Security received after retirement, SSI does not require “work credits.” The money comes from General Revenues, not from Social Security funds. It’s a “means-tested program,” meaning the requirements are very strict. SSI is for those who are elderly, disabled, and/or blind who need assistance paying for things like food and shelter.

Most individuals who qualify for and receive SSI will also qualify for Medicaid, the state/federal healthcare program that provides comprehensive coverage for its recipients. They may also qualify for food stamps and other assistance. The amount of SSI received will depend on the amount of consistent monthly income the individual receives. Any other income you receive can affect your SSI amount.

Any income or other “in-kind support” such as free rent, food, or other necessities that are given to you at no cost are considered “income,” and must be reported. Should your living arrangements change, such as moving in with a roommate or relative, this also must be reported, and will likely change or reduce your monthly benefit payment.

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)

For individuals with work history, SSDI can cover them after they become disabled. SSDI is based on an individual’s disability and work credits. SSDI will qualify an individual for Medicare after 24 months. If your assets and income are higher, SSDI is the better option.

There is a roughly 5-month waiting period before an individual begins receiving benefits once the application is received and when Social Security determines and approves the “date of onset.” SSDI payments may also be reduced if an individual is receiving another type of benefit, such as Worker’s Compensation.

Applicants for SSDI generally have a higher approval rating, since they have a work history and have had health insurance. They’ve received medical care for their disability, which is important in any disability claim. Examiners and judges also tend to find long-term employees to be more credible due to their work history, something SSI applicants may not have.

Note: individuals with ALS will qualify for Medicare immediately, with no waiting period.

Qualifying For Both SSDI And SSI

Under certain circumstances, an individual may qualify for both programs. The criteria are the same, limited income, and elderly, blind and/or disabled. Known as “concurrent benefits,” an individual must meet the requirements for both of these programs. However, both payments won’t be higher than a typical SSI payment. In other words, getting both will not “double-up” benefit payments.

Generally, SSDI provides a higher benefit amount than SSI, but SSI also takes into account factors such as other income, a person’s living situation, assets, and other variables.

The most common scenario is when an individual’s SSDI payments are low due to low wages throughout the working life, disability at a young age before building up a work history, or did not work very much in recent years.

It’s also possible that you could qualify for SSI during the five-month wait for SSDI. Once your SSDI payments begin, the SSI payment could be lowered accordingly. Medicaid would also be available immediately, whereas Medicare would be a two-year wait.

Your eligibility for one or both benefit programs is up to the Social Security office and depends on your current income and assets. Both programs utilize the same process to evaluate the disability.

Houston’s Social Security Attorney

Whether you’re applying for Social Security or Disability through Social Security, the laws are complex and the process difficult to maneuver. With an experienced disability law firm to help, you can get your application completed right the first time, and have a better chance of being awarded the benefits you deserve.

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 use 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.

Is It Hard To Get Vision Disability Benefits In Houston?

Is It Hard To Get Disability Benefits For Vision Related Injuries And Conditions In Houston?

The CDC reports that about 2,000 people per day experience an eye injury. While many eye injuries happen on the job, eye injuries can also occur from a car or other accidents, fireworks, as well as incidents like falls. Veterans may also find themselves with injuries from combat or other duty.

Eye injuries can be difficult to overcome. If they’re severe enough, can inhibit your ability to return to work. You may eventually need to apply for disability after a vision-related injury. The cause of vision impairment or the length of time isn’t a consideration. However, the degree of vision impairment is, as well as how well your medical records support your claim.

Disability For Vision Loss

Your vision loss must be substantial in order to meet the definition set out by The Social Security Administration (SSA). If you have a good vision in one of the eyes, SSA will not consider you “disabled.”

SSA has three conditions for blindness, and most cases of blindness meet at least one. To qualify for disability, you must meet one of them:

  • Loss of central visual acuity (2.02), indicating that you have vision loss in your central field of vision, and your “better eye” is no better than 20/200
  • Contraction of the visual field in the better eye (2.03), indicating that your field of vision is shrinking and that you have a rather narrow field of vision
  • Loss of visual efficiency, or visual impairment (2.04), indicating blurry vision or total blindness, and the vision in your better eye is not better than 20/200 while wearing corrective lenses

A full description of these criteria is available in the SSA Bluebook.

Qualifying For Disability

In order to qualify, you’ll be required to show that your vision loss and/or blindness prevents you from working at any job. The SSA looks at a report called RFC, or “residual functioning capacity” to determine your current level of functioning and how it affects your ability to return to work. It looks at your inability to do things like drive. In other words, how much work are you capable of doing in your current condition?

The SSA also reviews your age, education level, and vocational skill set, and will qualify or disqualify based on their findings. If the SSA believes you are qualified based on the RFC, it will be based on your inability to do any kind of job. You will also receive a medical-vocational allowance.

Re-Employment

If you are considering returning to work, SSA allows a 9-month re-evaluation and trial period every 60 months (5 years.) These nine months do not have to be consecutive, but you should avoid using them all up at once if you don’t have to.

The “trial period” is to see if you are able to re-adapt and work, either in the same profession or in another one. You’re required to report your earnings, expenses, and work-related activities to the SSA.

You’ll still receive benefits if you don’t go over your monthly benefit amount (currently $2,040.) Your benefits will still be available (as long as you don’t earn more), and you won’t have to reapply. However, you’ll be required to report everything to the SSA so that your expenses can be calculated against your earnings.

Should your condition worsen and keep you from continuing working, you can apply for expedited reinstatement within 5 years.

Before beginning the re-employment process, speak with an experienced disability attorney who can guide you through the process.

Get Help For Vision Related Disability From Herren Law

Applying for disability benefits from the SSA brings increasing challenges to prove your case. With the help of an experienced disability attorney, you can make sure you have the evidence you need, your application is properly executed, and stand a better chance at getting the benefits you need.

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.

How To Handle A VA Claim Denials In Houston, TX

You’ve filled out all the paperwork, sent all the requested information, and even did another physical exam (or two or more.) But the VA still denied your claim for benefits. Now, what do you do?

How To Handle A VA Claim Denials In Houston, TX

The first thing you must do is not give up. The second thing you must do is file an appeal.

Why They Said “No”

Start by figuring out why your claim was denied. Did they need more information? There may be any number of reasons, and the letter you receive will detail the denial.

The VA commonly denies veteran benefits claims for:

  • A lack of clear medical diagnosis for the condition or disability being claimed
  • No clear “nexus” or connection between your condition and your military service
  • No evidence (or enough) of disability symptoms

While there may not be enough evidence in your service record to justify a service connection, you will need to show that you currently have a medical diagnosis. This can be either from a VA medical provider or through a private medical provider, such as a primary care physician. Add this information to your appeal.

To be eligible for VA disability benefits, you must demonstrate that the symptoms you have today were caused or aggravated by your military service. Without this “nexus,” there is no reason to believe your condition is service-related, so it’s up to you to show that it clearly is.

Frequently, veterans discover that they have no medical evidence in their military service record to back up claims of a disabling condition. It may be more difficult to show years after your discharge, but it’s not impossible. Any medical evidence you submit must be recent enough to demonstrate your claim of disability.

You must also show that you are currently experiencing symptoms that affect your everyday activities, including your ability to work. The VA awards compensation for disabilities that impact and impair everyday life, including work and social functioning. The degree of disability determines your rating, that is, how severe your symptoms are from the disability.

Provide additional support your claim for symptoms:

  • Draft a VA Lay Statement—a personal statement that describes your current condition and why you believe it is directly service-connected.
  • Request that someone draft a “Buddy Letter” to describe your symptoms and how they impact your life. This would be someone over the age of 18 who has first-hand knowledge of your injuries, such as a family member, spouse, fellow veteran, or anyone who can corroborate your claim. This is also considered “lay evidence.”
  • Obtain a Disability Benefits Questionnaire from your primary care physician or other healthcare providers
  • Add any additional evidence from the VA as well as any private healthcare provider detailing symptoms

Time Limit For Appeal

To appeal a negative decision, you’ll need to use VA Form 21-0958, called the Notice of Disagreement (NOD). You’ll have one year from the date of the letter (not the date you received it.) If you miss this deadline, you may have to file a new claim.

It’s important to note that the NOD is simply to inform the VA that you disagree, and you intend to appeal their decision. In the NOD, you’ll include:

  • A letter with the words “notice of disagreement” at the top of Form 21-4138 or in your letter
  • The date of the denial letter and the decision of your ratings
  • The statement that you disagree with the denial letter and the entire decision of ratings
  • The statement that you intend to appeal the VA’s decision

The NOD is simply to preserve your appeal rights, and the right to appeal to all of them. Avoid detailing the specific reasons for appeal, or you may limit your ability to appeal something later. Save the specifics for the DRO (Decision Review Officer) or BVA (Board Of Veterans Appeals) meetings.

Get Help With Your VA Appeals

Appealing a VA claim denial can be frustrating and time-consuming. Without an understanding of how the VA works, you may be at a disadvantage. VSOs are not attorneys and may not be able to give you the help you need.

We’ve been helping veterans win the appeals process for more than 20 years. 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.