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.

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.

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.

Veterans Disability Attorney Houston

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

Veterans Disability Attorney Houston

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

Famous Texas Veterans

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

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

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

Houston Veterans Organizations

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

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

We Help Houston Veterans

Getting the benefits you earned doesn’t have to be an obstacle course, and the VA’s application and appeals system can be particularly complicated. William Herren is a veterans disability attorney who has helped more than 4,000 Houstonians get their benefits, and we’re ready to help you. Call The Herren Law Firm today at 713-682-8194 (or use our online contact form) to schedule your free consultation. There’s no obligation, and we’ll take your case on a contingency fee basis, with no up-front charges.

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

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

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

Time Limits

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

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

Notice Of Disagreement

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

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

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

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

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

Don’t Re-Use the Same Evidence

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

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

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

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

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

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

Two Types Of Appeals

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

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

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

Information From the VA

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

Let Us Represent You

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

Is Your Veterans Disability Rating Inaccurate? Here’s How To Get Your Benefits

The Veterans Administration uses a rating system to determine how “disabled” someone from injuries received during military service. This is the Veterans disability rating that can be inaccurate at times if not properly performed. Your rating determines your monthly disability payments, so it’s important that you’re accurately rated for your condition.

Is Your Veterans Disability Rating Inaccurate? Here's How To Get Your Benefits

Injuries and/or illnesses must be acquired (or aggravated) during your military service to qualify. Many service-related injuries and illnesses may increase over time, increasing your current disability.

How The VA Determines Disability

The VA uses the Schedule of Ratings Disabilities for baseline criteria to determine the percentage that a veteran is disabled. Originally created in 1945, the Schedule is being updated, taking into account the advances in medicine and treatments that are available now.

Before you begin, find out for sure what your current disability rating is now. You may have a letter from them, but you can also research it at the VA’s eBenefit website.

Re-examinations may be required to verify the continuance of your disability. Your ratings may be changed based on these new medical exams.

Type Of Requests

If it has been less than a year since you’ve been awarded benefits, you should file an appeal of your original decision.

If your benefits were awarded more than a year ago, the process for increasing or correcting your disability rating is simpler. Use the VA’s online form 21-526 EZ to start the process. You also can apply in person from a VA regional office, state or county veterans affairs office. Help is also available from accredited veterans assistance organizations. Fill out Form 21-526b, Veteran’s Supplemental Claim For Compensation, if you’re not going online.

Medical Evidence

Before you begin, acquire a copy of your VA claim file. You need to see what’s in it before you proceed. If your claim has been denied, you may find the reason for it, as well as what’s missing in order to re-evaluate your claim.

Make sure that your all of your medical evidence backs up your claim; the VA won’t just take your word for it. Much of it may be in your claim file.

If you’ve been treated by the VA, you’ll need to include the name of the facility where you’ve been treated for your disability. (This includes both VA and military medical facilities.) If your treatment is from private doctors, hospitals and clinics, you will need Form 21-4142 along with your medical records.

Consider Potential Outcomes

Understand that if you request the VA re-evaluate you for a re-rating, they will re-examine your entire case. They may find errors in the original evaluation, and your rating could also be downgraded, leading to a reduction in your disability payments.

That’s not to say that you shouldn’t consider requesting a re-evaluation. You must file based on an increase in your disability not a need for increased benefit payments. Be aware of the possibility of a reduction, and do whatever you can to win an increase. If your claim is denied, you can file an appeal.

The VA does make mistakes. But just because you’ve been told “no” doesn’t mean it’s all over. You have rights, and The Herren Law Firm stands ready to help.

Overwhelmed?

Dealing with the VA can be an exhaustive process. You don’t have to do this alone. The Herren Law Firm have helped over 4.000 Houstonians get the veteran’s benefits they deserve.  Contact us today at (713) 682-8194 or (800) 529-7707 for a free consultation for help with a VA claim. Our contingency fee arrangement means you won’t owe us anything unless we win your case.

What is ERISA and How Might it Affect My Long Term Disability Claim?

ERISA is short for Employee Retirement Income Security Act, established in 1974. It’s is a federal law under the US Department of Labor that “sets the minimum standards for most voluntarily established pension and health plans in private industry to provide protection for individuals in the plans.”  Unfortunately, it doesn’t always work that way.

What is ERISA and How Might it Affect My Long Term Disability Claim?

ERISA governs long-term disability policies and only applies to most private employers that offer benefits. It was created to ensure that plan administrators didn’t misuse pension and other employee funds. Public (governmental) or church employees (including church-owned hospitals) and private policies are excluded. ERISA only establishes minimum standards for employers who do offer benefits for their employees. It doesn’t require them to offer benefits.

ERISA And Long Term Disability Policies

A lot depends on what your company and the policy calls “disability.” Research your policy and find out exactly how yours defines it since it could determine if you can get LTD and for how long.

Some policies say “any occupation,” which means you’re unable to work at any job. “Own occupation” indicates that you can’t work in your current occupation, but you could work in a different one. (For instance, an injured construction worker who becomes a project manager.)  Some policies go from “any occupation” to “own occupation” after 24 months, meaning you could work another job, even if you can’t work in the one you had before.

Claim denials are common for even the most legitimate disability cases.

ERISA means that if your LTD plan is employer-funded if you should need to file suit, you will:

  • Have a hearing with judge, but no jury
  • Not be awarded attorney’s fees
  • Not be able to recover any damages
  • Likely to be ruled against in a court proceeding

Plan administrators are given considerable leeway in the administration of a plan.

How ERISA Can Keep You From LTD

It was intended to “protect” your rights, but ERISA ends up protecting the rights of the insurance companies. ERISA preempts most state law “bad faith” lawsuits, denying you the right to sue your insurance company should your claim be denied. Unlike a personal injury suit, where you can sue for damages, attorney’s fees and other compensation, ERISA prevents you from doing that. The most you can receive from a lawsuit would be the monies you were originally due when the insurance companies denied your claim to begin with. In the administrative hearing, the judges can only determine if the insurance company committed an “abuse of discretion.”

ERISA has complex rules and regulations that must be followed exactly, and deadlines that must be met without exception. Miss one deadline, or make one mistake in your claim, and the claim will be quickly denied without any opportunity to appeal or reopen your case.

Your employer may have additional requirements, with deadlines, for you to follow before you can access LTD. Ask for any and all related documentation so you can review it yourself. Deadlines and other requirements should be detailed in these documents, so read them carefully and take note of all deadlines you need to be aware of.

Your Doctor

When submitting your LTD claim, you’ll need to prove your disability. Before you file, you’ll need to have copies of all medical records, test results, X-Rays, your doctor’s communications with the insurer, and any other medical evidence related to your case. If you find errors in any of your records, write your doctor a letter and request that they be corrected.

If your doctor declines to help you in your disability case, find another one. A doctor who does support you in your claim can’t guarantee a successful outcome. But a doctor who doesn’t support you can easily sink your claim.

Submit All Evidence In Your Original Claim

Should your case proceed to federal court, you will NOT have the opportunity to submit additional evidence. The judge is limited to whatever is in your claim file. Neither you nor your doctor will be allowed to testify. Make sure that all relevant evidence—medical reports, testing, expert opinions, evaluations, etc.—is included in your claim. Include more favorable evidence than you think you need while the claim is open to ensure it’s complete.

Deadlines Count

Insurers have specific deadlines for filing claims as well as appeals. ERISA appeals are complex and detailed.

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

Can I Get Back Pay For My Veteran’s Disability?

You may have already applied for your VA disability payments. You may already be receiving your benefit payments. But are you getting what you’re entitled to? You might be eligible for back pay.

Can I Get Back Pay For My Veteran’s Disability?

Disability benefits are paid from the date of application. But because it takes a long time to receive benefits, the VA begins benefit payments from the date of application. Since it takes so long before monthly benefits start, accumulated benefit amounts from the waiting period are usually paid in one lump sum. The VA even calls it “back pay.” You may receive a substantial amount of money at one time as a result of your waiting period.

Establishing The Service Connection

Injuries and illnesses that are deemed “service connected” are eligible for VA disability benefits. This includes a pre-existing condition that was exacerbated by your military service.

To be eligible, you must have served in the US military, active or inactive duty for training, received a discharge that was not dishonorable and incurred a disease or injury while in or was aggravated by your military service.

You’ll not only need medical evidence of the service connection (records, etc.), you’ll need evidence to show the relationship between your military service and your illness or injury.

The VA also presumes that certain veterans have a “presumptive disability” by nature of their service record, even if there is no direct evidence of a service connection.

Application Date

It’s important to note that when you apply directly relates to when your benefits start, and when you’ll receive back pay.

Ideally, you should submit your application within one year of your discharge from the military so that your application date is the same as your date of separation.

If you apply one year or more after your date of separation (even one day), the application date is the first day of the month after the VA receives your claim. Most veterans are not aware of this and have the potential to lose a year’s worth of benefit payments.

If your “effective date” is incorrect, the VA may owe you back pay. Many veterans and their families have been given incorrect application and effective dates, and don’t realize they could be owed money.

Re-opening Your Claim

If your original claim was denied, but you have new evidence to support your claim, this could lead to “back pay” when the claim is finally processed. If a medical condition is not noted in your service record, but a later medical exam offers evidence that it was, your claim may be re-opened and re-evaluated. Back pay would result from the original application date to current day.

Pre-Discharge Claims

If you’re now on active duty or in the National Guard and have a discharge date, the VA suggests applying within the period 180 to 90 days before you leave. Formally known as “Benefits Delivery At Discharge,” your claim can be processed much faster, and all medical records can be expedited. Should you be found to be medically unfit for duty, you’ll be given a proposed VA disability rating and a separation date. Use these to file your pre-discharge claim, and avoid losing any time or benefit money.

Are You Owed VA Back Pay?

If you believe the VA has underpaid you, unfairly denied your claim or you need help filing an appeal, The Herren Law Firm is ready to help. We’ve helped over 4,000 Houstonians get the veteran’s benefits they deserve, Call us at (713) 682-8194 or (800) 529-7707 for a free consultation for help with a VA claim. Our contingency fee arrangement means you won’t owe us anything unless we win your case.

A First Look At 2018 Veterans Disability Rates

If you’re receiving VA disability payments, you’re getting a raise. Check out the new veterans disability rates below.

Veterans who rely on disability benefit payments saw only a small increase of .03 percent in 2017, and there were no increases in 2016. But in 2018, veterans will see full 2% increase (called cost-of-living adjustment, or COLA) in their monthly disbursements.

A First Look At 2018 Veterans Disability Rates

House Bill 1329, titled the Veterans’ Compensation Cost-of-Living Adjustment Act of 2017 authorized this increase. The president signed it into law on November 2nd, 2017.

This is the largest increase in VA disability benefit payments since 2012.  The new, increased rate became effective on December 1, 2017, and will appear in payments issued beginning on December 31, 2017.

If you are a retiring veteran this year, you’ll also see a temporary COLA increase from the increase in active duty military pay given in January.

COLA Calculations

Cost of living adjustments are computed by examining the Consumer Price Index (CPI-W) from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. Using the CPI-W from the third quarter of both the current year and the previous year (July, August and September), the COLA is based on the increase percentage from the 2016 third quarter to the third quarter in 2017.

This year’s weather disasters in the southern US may have contributed to the assigned increase as well, due to higher gas and other consumer prices  as well as other inflation-related items.

How Much?

If you’re at 10% disability and have no dependents, you’ll receive an additional $136.24 per month, or $1,634.88 for the year.

If you’re at 20% disability without dependents you’ll see an increase of $269.30 per month, or $3,231.60 for the year.

These ratings have no other adjustments for spouses, parents or children. However, things get a bit more complicated with higher ratings.

If your rating is between 30% and 60%, and you’re alone, you’ll receive $417.15 for 30% to $1083.52 for 60%. The rates increase with a spouse, a parent, spouse and parent (one or two), and an additional stipend for a spouse who needs “aid and assistance” (listed as a/a) as well as veterans with children.

For veterans rated 70% to 100% disabled with no dependents, the increased amounts start at $1365.48 for 70% disabled to $2937.96 for 100% disabled. With a spouse, dependent parents and/or children, there are also upward adjustments for each.

Your ratings consist of a single number for any and all conditions that rate you as “disabled.” You can review the complete breakdown of increase amounts here.

As A Reminder

VA disability payments are not listed as “gross income” on tax returns, since it is non-taxable.

Need Help?

If you’re applying to the VA for disability benefits, but can’t seem to get anywhere, call The Herren Law Firm. We’ve helped over 4,000 Houstonians navigate the VA’s complicated application and appeals process to get the benefits they deserve. Call us today at 713-682-8194 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.