Valuable information for Texas Veterans on TexVet.org

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

Valuable information for Texas Veterans on TexVet.org

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

TexVet

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

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

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

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

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

Available Information

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

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

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

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

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

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

Criteria For Listing On Texvet.org

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

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

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

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

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

More Assistance For Your VA Disability Claim

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

The Herren Law Firm has helped over 4,000 Houstonians get the benefits they deserve. Call us at (713) 682-8194 or (800) 529-7707 for a free consultation. We’ll talk with you about your case and let you know how we can help. Our contingency fee arrangement means you won’t owe us anything unless we win your case.

What Is The VA Service-Connected Disability Rating System?

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

What Is The VA Service-Connected Disability Rating System?

How It Works

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

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

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

What If I’m Rated At 0%?

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

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

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

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

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

Call The Herren Law Firm today at 713-682-8194 (or use our online contact form) to schedule your free consultation. There’s no obligation, and we’ll take your case on a contingency fee basis, with no up-front charges.

How Does Divorce Affect Social Security Survivors Benefits?

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

Social Security Survivors Benefits

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

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

Criteria For Survivors Benefits

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

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

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

What If You’re Divorced?

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

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

As a divorced spouse:

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

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

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

Remarriage

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

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

Maximum Family Benefit

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

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

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

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

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

What Are The Most Common VA Disabilities?

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

What Are The Most Common VA Disabilities?

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

The Top Ten

The most common disabilities seen by the VA are:

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

Other Common Veterans Disabilities

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

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

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

Your Houston VA Disability Attorney

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

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

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

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

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

 

Hearing Loss Can Affect Anyone

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

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

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

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

Three Steps

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

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

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

Meniere’s Disease

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

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

Hearing Loss Ratings

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

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

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

Herren Law Can Help With Your VA Disability Benefits Claim

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

Call The Herren Law Firm today at 713-682-8194 (or use our online contact form) to schedule your free consultation. There’s no obligation, and we’ll take your case on a contingency fee basis, with no up-front charges.

In Houston, TX, Does My Wife Get My Veterans Disability Income If I Die?

As a disabled veteran, one of the things that may you may be concerned about is the fate and welfare of your spouse and family after your passing. It’s a difficult subject, but one you may need to give thought to in respect to your will and other estate planning matters.

If your Veterans disability income is an important part of your monthly budget, it is possible that your spouse can receive it after your death, but it isn’t automatic.

Woman with a pen completing a life insurance policy and Veterans Disability Income paperwork.

Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC)

A spouse, child or parent of a veteran who died in the line of duty, a survivor of a Vietnam veteran who died from a service-related illness or injury may be eligible for DIC. This is a monthly payment to surviving spouses, children, and occasionally parents, and it is tax-free.

However, there are eligibility requirements to apply for and begin receiving DIC. A surviving spouse must fill out an application to request these monthly benefits, as well as notify the VA that the veteran is deceased.

Criteria For DIC

The VA uses the following criteria to define a surviving spouse, if he or she:

  • Were married to the veteran in excess of one year
  • Were married for any time period and the spouse died
    • On active duty
    • During training while on active duty or inactive duty
  • Were married to the veteran within 15 years of his discharge, and the veteran’s death was caused by or exacerbated by a service-connected injury or illness
  • If the marriage date was prior to January 1, 1957
  • Had a child with the veteran, and was:
    • Living with the veteran until his/her death, or
    • Separated from the veteran and was not the survivor’s fault

A spouse may be eligible if the veteran died:

  • On active duty
  • From a service-connected injury or illness
  • While doing training on active duty or inactive duty
  • Was receiving disability compensation from the VA:
    • For at least 10 years before passing
    • From his or her discharge date, for at least five years before passing away
    • For at least 1 year if he or she were a prisoner of war

Remarriage

If a spouse remarries and before reaching age 57 or before December 16, 2003, the VA won’t consider them a “surviving spouse.”  But they would be considered “surviving” if the remarriage happened after the age of 57 and after that date.

Survivor’s Pension

For low-income, unremarried surviving spouses, the Survivor’s Pension may also be available if your spouse is a deceased wartime veteran.

The veteran must have:

  • Served for at least 90 days of active duty and at least one day during a period of wartime if he or she joined on or before September 1, 1980.
  • Served for at least 24 months or for the full period of enlistment with at least one day during a period of wartime if he or she joined after September 1, 1980.
  • Been discharged from the service under other than honorable conditions

Your family’s income must be less than the annual pension limit set by Congress, and the VA will use your “countable income” against the set limit. Some unreimbursed medical expenses may be deducted from the “countable income” and lower the income for the year.

Other Survivor’s Benefits

In addition to DIC and the Survivor’s Pension, spouses and children may also be eligible for:

  • Survivor’s & Dependent’s Educational Assistance Program, available for spouses and children of disabled and deceased veterans who are interested in educational and vocational training, including college-level and university-level courses. There are time limits involved, particularly for children.
  • Home Loans for service members, veterans, and spouses to buy a home, as well as repairs, refurbishing, remodeling and modifications to accommodate specific needs (such as a wheelchair ramp.)
  • Fiduciary services for veterans and beneficiaries who are unable to handle their own financial affairs.
  • Will planning and benefit training, with a free online will service. Financial services professionals are available 24/7.

An Advocate For Disabled Veterans And Spouses

If you’re a disabled veteran, or the spouse of one, don’t let the application and appeals process for Veterans disability income confuse you—get help from someone who can guide you through it.  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.

Long Term Disability Death Benefits In Houston, TX

It’s difficult enough when you or a family member has to apply for long-term disability, especially if there is a terminal or progressive, degenerative illness, such as ALS, or an injury that will never heal. What’s even more difficult to think about is when the time comes that you or your loved one passes away.

But when the day comes, will you receive any death benefits from the LTD policy? This will depend on the terms of the policy, which should be reviewed completely before attempting to apply for LTD disability benefits.

Long Term Disability Death Benefits In Houston, TX

What Is A Death Benefit?

This is a lump sum paid to an insured’s family when the individual dies, and is most commonly associated with life insurance. In fact, life insurance is just that—insurance on someone’s life, which pays out to whomever the insured assigns as a beneficiary.

But with long-term disability, there may or may not be a “death benefit.” Some policies do offer a “survivor benefit” that pays a lump sum of LTD death benefits to survivors for a specific time period, usually one to three months. But as a rule, if the individual has passed away, there is no more need for the insurer to make payments, so they will stop.

If your LTD policy comes through your employer, it may or may not include a death benefit—check your policy. You may have been offered a rider for an additional charge to have that would provide your family or other selected beneficiaries a death benefit.

You may have selected this option for your own LTD policy as well. Again, read and check your policy to be sure, or contact your agent to clarify. You may have the option of adding this type of LTD death benefits, even if you’ve had your policy for some time.

An Alternative LTD: Accelerated Death Benefit

If your LTD insurance is not sufficient, or you are terminally ill and need help immediately, one possibility would be to request an accelerated death benefit on your life insurance policy. There are restrictions on requesting this benefit, and it will reduce the death benefit (total sum of money) paid to your survivors after you die.

You may also use this coverage if you are confined to a nursing home, or are deemed terminally ill. Some policies automatically pay this in circumstances of an imminent death. To qualify, you will have to be certified by a doctor or other medical professional that you are terminally ill, and that death is expected in 12 to 24 months. Some providers set the threshold at six months.

Critical illnesses that can also trigger this benefit include:

  • Stroke
  • Cancer
  • Heart attack
  • Kidney failure
  • Organ transplants
  • ALS

Chronic illnesses are not the same as critical illnesses. To determine if your policy allows an accelerated death benefit for your illness, as always, review your policy and speak with your insurance agent to be sure.

Your Houston LTD Disability Attorney

Long term disability can be an annoying process before you begin receiving benefits. The Herren Law Firm can help you with your application, appeals and help you through the process, and give you and your family peace of mind. Contact us today at 713-682-8194 (or use our online contact form) to schedule your free consultation. There’s no obligation, and no up-front fees, because we will only collect if we win your case.

Taxation of Disability Benefits in Houston, TX

One of the less-discussed parts of getting disability benefits is what happens when it becomes tax time. Do you pay taxes on these benefits? The answer depends on what type of benefits you receive, and how you receive them.

Long Term Disability Insurance

Taxes on LTD insurance comes down to one question: who paid for it?

If your disability benefits come from a policy you paid for with after-tax dollars, as a rule, your benefits are tax-free.

However, if your employer paid for the policy, and does not include the cost of the policy in your gross income, the benefits are taxable, as it would be if you were earning an income.

Taxation of Disability Benefits in Houston, TX

If you shared the cost of the premium with your employer, you will share the tax benefits as well. The part that you paid (with after tax dollars) for will be tax free, but the portion your employer paid for will be taxable.

Should you retire from your job on disability, lump-sum payments for accrued time (such as vacation) are not part of a disability package. It is taxable, and should be listed as income.

The IRS also offers additional information on their website.

Disability Benefits From Social Security—SSDI And SSI

SSDI can be subjected to income tax, depending on what other income you may have (such as a spouse’s income.) However, many recipients don’t have much in the way of income, and do not end up paying taxes.

Under Social Security, you would receive one of two types of income:

  • Social Security Disability Insurance, or SSDI, which is based on your working history and funded through payroll taxes
  • Supplemental Security Income, or SSI, a need-based program which is awarded to low-income individuals, or individuals who haven’t earned enough work credits to qualify for SSDI. SSI benefits are not taxed.

They are both separate and distinct programs administered by the Social Security Administration.

As an individual, if your annual income is less than $25,000, you would not pay any income tax. If your annual income is from $25,000 to $34,000, your SSDI benefits would be taxed at 50%. If your monthly income exceeds $2,834, and your annual income exceeds $25,000, your SSDI would be taxed at 85%.

Married couples have a similar taxation schema, with up to 32,000 untaxed, up to $44,000 at 50%, and over $44,000 at 85%.

  • “Back pay” of benefits—if you receive a lump sum of money for the previous months of benefits since your application date, you may be taxed at a higher rate because of it. However, with the help of a CPA or other tax professional, you can amend your previous tax returns to include the back pay money so that you are not taxed as heavily on your current year’s tax return.

Some states tax SSDI benefits, but Texas does not.

VA Disability Benefits

While military retirement pay may considered taxable income (if it’s based on age or length of service), military and/or VA disability benefit payment resulting from service-connected illness or injury is not.

Other veterans benefits paid to you or your family are also not taxable (from Military.com):

  • Education, training, and subsistence allowances
  • Disability compensation and pension payments for disabilities paid either to veterans or their families
  • Grants for homes designed for wheelchair living
  • Grants for motor vehicles for veterans who lose their sight or use of their limbs
  • Veterans’ insurance proceeds and dividends paid either to veterans or their beneficiaries, including the proceeds of a veteran’s endowment policy paid before death
  • Interest on insurance dividends left on deposit with the VA
  • Benefits under a dependent-care assistance program
  • The death gratuitypaid to a survivor of a member of the Armed Forces who died after Sep. 10, 2001
  • Payments made under the compensated work therapy program
  • Any bonus payment by a state or political subdivision because of service in a combat zone

The IRS publishes a guide specifically for military members to help with tax preparation, as well as one on taxable and nontaxable income. Additionally, the IRS can assist you with tax preparation if you need it.

Other Nontaxable Benefits

These types of benefits are also non-taxable:

  • Payments for blindness and other benefit payments from a public welfare fund
  • Workers’ compensation for occupational injury or illness if it’s paid under a workers’ compensation act or similar law
  • Compensatory damages for physical injury or physical sickness (punitive damages are taxable, however)
  • Disability benefits under a “no-fault” auto insurance policy for income loss or earning capacity as a result of injuries
  • Compensation for permanent disfigurement or the permanent loss or loss of use of a part or function of your body

If you have any questions about what is taxable or nontaxable, consult with your tax professional, or with a disability attorney.

Have Questions On Disability? Herren Law Can 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.

Disability Claims for Mental Disorders in Houston, TX

Applying for disability benefits for a physical condition is a time-consuming task long before you begin receiving monthly payments. But filing disability claims for mental disorders can be considerably more difficult in Texas, where more than 70% of initial claims are denied.

Girl in bed showing why disability claims for mental disorders in Houston, TX are so important. with her mother holding her hand

Although the Social Security Administration does recognize mental illness as something that can cause long-term disability, you must be diagnosed by a physician, and meet the same criteria as any other injury or illness. The SSA awards benefits for a physical and/or mental disorder that prevents you from working, but only after a long process of medical treatments, documentation, applications, and a lot of waiting.

Mental Disorders

There are a wide range of mental disorders for which you may be able to receive disability, including:

  • Autism spectrum disorders
  • Affective disorders, such as depression and bipolar disorder, and aren’t considered brain injuries
  • Anxiety related disorders, if you can show that they prevent you from working
  • Psychotic disorders
  • Substance abuse disorders
  • Mental retardation
  • Somatoform disorders, for which there is no obvious or discernable cause
  • Organic disorders that affect the nervous system, such as dementia, Alzheimer’s, delirium

The SSA’s guidelines for mental disorder are contained in its book of policies known as the “Blue Book.”

Qualifying For A Mental Disorder Disability

Proving disability claims for mental disorders requires providing more than adequate documentation in your claim application. In it, you must provide:

  • All sources of treatments, including names and contact information of doctors, hospitals, and other providers where you have sought and received treatments.
  • The types of treatments you’ve received, as far back as you have evidence for. While the SSA considers “current treatment” to be within the last 90 days, “back pay” will require information dating as far back as you can provide to show how long you have been dealing with your condition. Without current treatments, there is no way for the SSA to understand that you are currently unable to perform substantial gainful activity (work.)
  • Detailed work history, including companies, dates, job title and job duties, just as you would if you were filling out a job application.

You must have one severe impairment with considerable medical evidence (documentation) to support your claim for an approval. This impairment must affect you so severely that you are unable to return to any job you performed in the prior 15 years, and makes it impossible for you to do any other kind of “suitable work” at a level that brings in “substantial gainful activity” (SGA.)

Currently, that monthly dollar amount is $1,220, adjusted for inflation and before taxes. In other words, Social Security considers a “disability” to be the inability to work and earn at least that much for at least one year. If you’re earning more, your claim will likely be denied regardless of your condition.

Why You Need A Disability Attorney

Getting disability claims for mental disorders approved can be more difficult than a physical one. So it’s even more critical to not only have all your documentation for your claim, but to ensure that everything is done exactly right.

You may only be doing this once in your life, and will spend a considerable amount of time on it. A Houston disability attorney can not only help your chances of winning, he or she can also save you a considerable amount of time.

A disability attorney helps people every day get the benefits they need, and understands the laws, policies and procedures that govern the application and awards process. Instead of going into the claims process blindly, a Houston disability attorney will be your advocate through the claim process, and if necessary, appeals process. Claimants who are represented by an attorney have a much better chance of approval, either in the application process or in the appeals process.

Houston’s Disability Attorney

If you’ve been denied disability payments for mental illness, call us immediately. We’re ready to help.

We’ve helped over 4,000 Houstonians get their disability benefits. The Herren Law Firm in Houston, TX can assist with your application, appeals and records gathering to prove your case, and win your claim. Contact us today at 713-682-8194 (or user our online contact form) to schedule your free consultation. There’s no obligation, and no up-front fees, and we only collect a fee if we win your case.

 

Veterans Disability For Autoimmune Diseases In Houston, TX

Autoimmune diseases encompass a number of different conditions that share one common trait: they attack the body’s tissues as if it were a pathogen by producing specific antibodies to attack the healthy cells.

Doctors aren’t sure what triggers this biological mistake, but some people are more likely to have it than others. Science has identified 81 different autoimmune diseases. These illnesses can develop at any age, but most commonly between 40 and 50.

Discussing Veterans Disability benefits For Autoimmune Diseases In Houston, TX with a disability benefits attorney

Types Of Autoimmune Disease

Of the 81 identified, the most common of these autoimmune conditions include:

  • Rheumatoid Arthritis
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Type 1 diabetes
  • Lupus
  • Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
  • Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis
  • Grave’s Disease
  • Vasculitis
  • Myasthenia gravis
  • Psoriasis
  • Chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy
  • Guillain-Barre Syndrome
  • Human Immunodeficiency virus (HIV)

If left untreated, an autoimmune condition could lead to damage to different parts of the body, including joints, skin, nerves, and muscles.

Causes Of AD

While science doesn’t offer a direct cause, researchers suspect:

  • Genetics, since some conditions run in families (i.e., lupus and MS)
  • Increased exposure to chemicals and other environmental toxins
  • The “standard Western diet” (sometimes called SAD or Standard American Diet), consisting of highly processed foods, including a large amount of sugar and synthetic fats
  • The “hygiene hypothesis”—children use antiseptics frequently are now vaccinated for such a wide range of things that they aren’t exposed to the bacteria and other substances that they used to. Without the exposure to “everyday germs,” immune systems don’t develop properly, and tend to over-react to harmless substances.

PTSD And The Service Connection

Part of applying for VA benefits includes establishing a service connection, and proving that your condition or injury occurred during the time you were in the service. But with many conditions, that’s not as easy as it sounds, although PTSD is a common service-connected cause for VA benefits.

A study conducted at the San Francisco VA Medical Center demonstrates a strong link between PTSD and the onset of autoimmune diseases. With 666,000 Iraq and Afghanistan veterans as study subjects, those diagnosed with PTSD had a 51% higher chance of developing an autoimmune condition.

The research team cited a number of reasons for this correlation, including:

  • Immunity and/or hormonal changes that are brought on by PTSD
  • Habits that are prevalent in PTSD patients, such as smoking, drinking, a less-than-ideal diet, and insufficient sleep
  • Genetic and/or pre-existing genetic risk factors may lay the ground work for both conditions

It’s important to note that PTSD does not directly cause an autoimmune deficiency, only that there is a strong correlation. However, to prove a VA claim for compensation, one only has to establish a 50% probability of causation for the autoimmune condition. Therefore, the aforementioned VA study may be one part of your overall strategy.

Autoimmune As A Secondary Condition

If you already have a claim for PTSD, seeking a secondary service connection between the PTSD and the autoimmune condition may be your best bet for getting benefits for it.

Because no primary causes are established, it may be difficult to pinpoint where and when your autoimmune condition began. But proving that your autoimmune disease as a “side effect” of PTSD as a secondary service connection is a different matter.

You will have to prove your primary service connection first, which will require evidence including:

  • Medical records and diagnosis
  • Treatments
  • Psychological exams
  • Vocational reports
  • Other related, relevant documentation

Additionally, you’ll need to prove a connection to your primary condition in order to prove your secondary condition. This will require a letter from a medical professional demonstrating the connection between the two conditions. The VA offers some information here.

Getting help with your VA disability application is the best way to get a head start on what may be a long, difficult process. An attorney experienced in VA applications can help you get started. He or she understands the process, and will ensure that your application is done correctly.

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.