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.

How To Increase Veterans Disability Compensation

Getting your veteran’s disability started is difficult enough. What if the VA didn’t rate you properly for your disability? Can you get a “raise” if you service-related condition causes your health to deteriorate? Here, we’ll discuss the how you can increase your Veterans disability compensation and guide you through the process.

How To Increase Veterans Disability Compensation

What Is Veteran’s Disability Compensation?

If you have a medical condition that developed or was aggravated during military service that causes you to become disabled, the VA will evaluate your medical records to determine the severity of your injuries, disability and economic impact. Disability ratings are given in 10% increments, up to 100%. “Disability” is your inability to work, and how much based on the VA’s own Schedule of Ratings.

Why Ask For A Review?

If your original condition was not rated correctly the first time, or your service-related condition has worsened (such as bone degeneration) it may be time for a review. If you are experiencing increasing pain, or need additional treatment for your condition, a re-rating may give you additional compensation and possibly increased medical care.

Determine Your Current Disability Rating

First, find all the correspondence from the VA regarding your disability case. Locate every letter, file, form, and anything you’ve received about your case, no matter how far back it goes. Make sure you know what your current disability rating is before you proceed.

You can also check your current rating at the VA’s online eBenefits site. Don’t guess at what your rating might be. Find out for sure first.

Using the VA’s own Schedule For Rating Disabilities, compare your current rating to the current standards. Consult with your doctor (VA or private) to determine if  and how your condition has progressed, and your chances of a successful update.

You may find that you are getting the maximum available for your current disability rating. Note that getting a rating increase will only occur for an increase in disability, not an need for increased compensation.

Medical Records

Increasing your rate will require you to backup your request with medical records to substantiate your claim. You’ll need to supply the name and address of the VA facility that has your medical records (including military.) Don’t rely on the VA to find your civilian medical records, so make sure you assemble them to support your case. You’ll need to file this form to authorize your physician to speak with the VA.

Consider obtaining an independent medical opinion/exam before you file your claim. Find a physician who specializes in disability medicine, and can offer independent evidence to support your claim.

Filing

Once you’ve assembled your necessary documentation, it’s time to file. You can go online and use the VA’s form 21-526 EZ, or get help in person from a VA regional office, state or county veterans affairs office, or from an accredited veterans assistance organization.

Caveat (Warning)

Requesting a rating increase will cause the VA to reopen and re-review your entire case. They may uncover an error in the original finding, or find evidence of improvement and re-rate you at a lower rating and/or amount, decreasing your compensation. Make sure you have more than enough evidence to support your request of a higher re-rating to avoid the surprise of a reduction.

What Happens If The VA Denies Or Reduces Your Claim?

You have the right to appeal the VA’s decision. If your claim is denied, it may be time to call Herren Law for help.

We Can Represent You

Herren Law has helped over 4,000 Houstonians get the disability and veteran’s benefits they deserve, and we’ll be happy to help you. 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. You don’t.

Getting Veterans Disability Compensation for Depression

Depression is something that we now know can affect anyone at any time, including veterans. It’s more than just feeling “blue” or down for a few days. If depression continues long term, it can be debilitating, and most people can’t just “snap out of it.” Veterans can be particularly susceptible, especially if they’ve served in a combat zone or another high-stress service connected work environment. If you’re a veteran who’s suffering from or has been diagnosed with service-related depression that impacts your life, you can apply for disability compensation through the Veterans Administration.

Getting Veterans Disability Compensation for Depression

Is It Service Connected?

The VA has two classifications for depression: dysthymic disorder and major depressive disorder, collectively called “mood disorders.”

The first thing the VA will do is determine how and if your depression is directly service connected. You’ll need to produce medical records and other documentation that point to the depression stemming from military service, or from a service-connected injury. Any documentation that proves the depression was service-related will be helpful. If there is nothing in the service medical record, the VA may request statements from individuals who served with the veteran that can corroborate the claim.

If depression existed before enlistment and was worsened by an event or activity during military service, the VA calls it an “aggravated service connection.” The veteran must prove that his or her depression existed before enlistment, and will need to back it up with a statement from his or her physician or mental health professional. Again, if there is no medical notation in the veteran’s service record, statements from fellow service members may be requested.

A veteran must also not have a dishonorable discharge or have any medical condition caused by the veterans’ own intentional misconduct.

Establishing Proof of Depression

In order to process an application and approve (or deny) a veteran’s benefits based on depression, the VA will require various forms of proof. This proof may include:

·         Current diagnosis of depression (from a VA doctor for aggravated service conditions)

·         Evidence of an incident during active duty that triggered or aggravated the depression

·         Medical evidence establishing the link between the current depression diagnosis or aggravation and the episode that occurred while on active duty.

·         A service-connected physical disability that has a direct connection to the diagnosis of depression (called “secondary service connection.”)

An attorney with experience filing VA claims for disability can help identify all the documentary proof needed for a successful benefits application.

Schedule of Ratings

The VA uses a schedule to rate disabilities, including various mental disorders. They rate psychiatric conditions at  0%, 10%, 30%, 50%, 70%, or 100% depending on the symptoms and the limitations of the individual’s condition. These ratings are assigned once the disability of the depressive episode has been established. To diagnose and rate these conditions, the VA uses the criteria from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), the standard for counselors and psychiatrists and published by the American Psychiatric Association. The higher the rating, the higher the disability, but a 0% score also opens up eligibility for health care later.

The Global Assessment of Functioning (GAF) Scale is also used to determine disability ratings for a veteran’s mental conditions. Scores are awarded after the VA’s Compensation & Pension Exam. Ranging from 1-100, the GAF includes one’s ability to function at work, home, and in social situations, with the highest score being the highest functioning. The lower your score, the higher rating from the VA.

We’re Here To Help

You can apply online for VA benefits, or by visiting your local VA office.

If you’ve been denied benefits, or don’t know where to start, call us today at (713) 682-8194 or (800) 529-7707 to schedule your free consultation. Our attorneys are experienced in helping veterans successfully navigate through the application and appeals process, and we can help you too. Our contingency fee arrangement means you won’t have to pay any fees until you start receiving benefits.

Can A Veteran Rated 100% P&T Work Part Time?

If you’ve been successful in getting VA disability benefits, you may discover that it isn’t enough. A part-time job may become necessary to supplement your income. But can you work? Will working, even part time, affect your monthly VA benefits?

It might. But there are a few things to think about before you start filling out job applications and going on interviews.

working part time as a disabled veteran can affect your benefits

What Is P&T?

This stands for “Permanent & Total,” meaning that you are permanently and totally disabled as a result of injuries or medical conditions you acquired during military service. In other words, you are unemployed or unable to maintain substantially gainful employment (full time, paying wages greater than poverty level) as a result of a service-connected medical condition(s) incurred on active duty.

Schedular or TDIU?

There are two types of ratings assigned to veterans—“Schedular” and Unemployability, or TDIU. These ratings indicate your ability to work at the level you held prior to the injury. The VA considers only service-connected disabilities as the reason a veteran can’t be employed.

Schedular

Known as the Schedule of Ratings, or the VA Impairment Rating Tables, these are used to rate a veteran’s ability to return to work. You may be rated at 100% if you received a 60% or more rating from the Schedule, whether for a single disability, or for two or more that add up to at least 70%, creating a 100% disruption in your ability to generate an income. Even though you may not be completely physically disabled, you are allowed to work and earn any amount of income without any impact to your VA benefits.

Schedular disability is not the same as the determination of disability that is used for SSDI (Social Security) benefits.

Total Disability/Individual Unemployability (TDIU)

This version of VA disability means that your rating inadequately compensates you in your ability to generate an income for the disability as it’s awarded.

You may be able to earn a “marginal” income, which is at or below the US poverty threshold (in 2017, it’s currently $12,331 for one individual under 65, and $11,367 over 65.) Should you exceed that “marginal” level, your VA benefits may be reviewed for reduction.

You can, however, earn more than a “marginal” income if you are in a “sheltered position.” This may mean one of three situations:

  • If you’re working in a family business in a “protected environment,” where an employer makes a special effort to employ a disabled individual
  • In a position where specific accommodations are made for you or anyone in the position
    • If the position was created or modified just for you, and the company would not hire a replacement if you left
  • If a similar company wouldn’t hire someone like you for the same job and the same work, such as a position created/modified just to hire you, i.e, offering flexible work scheduling for medical treatments

This rating is usually assigned to veterans with conditions that may be temporary and resolve with treatment.

Should the VA question your employment or reduce/eliminate your benefits, it may become necessary to request documentation from your employer to defend your position. Our attorneys are experienced in VA claims, and can help you through the process.

If The VA Denies Or Reduces Your Benefits

Call us immediately—you must appeal quickly or lose the opportunity. Our attorneys can work with you to file your appeal in the VA’s system to get you the benefits you deserve.

We’re Here To Help

This is just a brief overview of VA disability and working, and should not be considered a complete guide.

The Herren Law Firm has helped over 4,000 Houstonians get the disability and veteran’s benefits they deserve, and we’ll be happy to help you. 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.

Military Sexual Trauma, PTSD, and Your Houston VA Disability Benefits Case

Unfortunately, sexual assault does occur in the military, and according to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), sexual assault is classified as military sexual traumas (MST). Furthermore, according to Title 38 U.S. Code 1720D, MST is a “psychological trauma, which in the judgment of a VA mental health professional, resulted from a physical assault of a sexual nature, battery of a sexual nature, or sexual harassment which occurred while the Veteran was serving on active duty, active duty for training, or inactive duty training.”

Military Sexual Trauma, PTSD, and Your Houston VA Benefits Case

National data suggests that 1 in 4 women and 1 in 100 men experience sexual trauma while serving in the military, and although PTSD is commonly associated with military sexual trauma (MST), it is not the only diagnosis that can result from MST. As such, if you are a U.S. Veteran living in Houston or the Houston area, and you want to receive your rightfully owned VA disability benefits due to MST or PTSD, then it’s critical to contact a Houston VA disability benefits attorney as soon as possible.

At Herren Law in Houston, we’ve helped numerous Veterans with their VA applications, appeals, and other issues regarding disability benefits. For representation with one of the leading VA benefits attorneys in Houston, make sure to call Herren Law today at (800) 529-7707. We work on a contingency basis, and initial consultations are always free.

Overview of Military Sexual Trauma and PTSD

First of all, it’s essential to note that military sexual trauma is not a medical diagnosis. Because MST is a traumatic event, there are multiple reactions that a person can have. PTSD may be the most common diagnosis associated with MST, but other diagnoses often include depression, mood disorders, and substance abuse disorders.

Keep in mind that not every individual will have the same reaction. Some reactions to military sexual trauma can include:

  • Strong emotions, including depression, sudden and emotional responses to things, and feeling angry or irritated all of the time
  • Numb feelings, where you feel emotionally flat or have difficulties experiencing emotions such as happiness or love
  • Trouble falling asleep
  • Difficulties with attention, memory, and concentration
  • Problems with alcohol or drugs
  • Difficulties with things that may remind the Veteran of the traumatic sexual experience
  • Difficulties with relationships, such as feeling disconnected or isolated from others
  • Physical health problems

Military Sexual Trauma and the VA

Military sexual trauma is a very serious issue, and, fortunately, the VA has responded to MST claims and every VA health care facility has a designated MST Coordinator. The MST Coordinator often acts as the contact person for any MST-related issues, and the Coordinator can help you find and access various VA services and programs. Additionally, because MST is massively underreported (due to stigma and other reasons), VA health care providers often must ask a Veteran if he/she experienced military sexual trauma. For more information on MST Coordinators, and finding these individuals near, please refer to the VA’s official list of Military Sexual Trauma Coordinators.

When applying for disability compensation with the VA, you won’t receive compensation for MST itself, but for the conditions that resulted from the MST.

Evidence to Support a Military Sexual Trauma Claim

No matter the severity of your traumatizing event, the VA still requires documentation and evidence to validate your claim and provide regular VA disability benefits. Some common and effective pieces of evidence come from the Department of Defense forms used to report incidents of sexual assault or harassment, as well as investigative reports, while you were in the military. However, because sexual trauma isn’t often reported, the VA has “relaxed the evidentiary requirements and looks for ‘markers’ (i.e., signs, events, or circumstances) that provide some indication that the traumatic event happened.”

This evidence can include:

  • Records from law enforcement agencies, rape crisis centers, hospitals, mental health counseling centers, and others
  • Pregnancy tests or test results for STDs
  • Statements from family members, fellow Servicemembers and Veterans, counselors, clergy members, and others
  • Requests for transfer while the Veteran was in the military (reasonably attributed to the sexual trauma, assault, or harassment)
  • Deterioration in work performance
  • Substance abuse
  • Unexplained economic or social behavior
  • Relationship issues
  • Sexual dysfunction

Due to the evidentiary requirements, it’s absolutely critical to document as much as you can. Furthermore, it’s important to note that increases in MST awareness led the VA to offer special training for all VA regional office personnel who process MST-related claims and the mental health clinicians conducting the examinations related to these claims. This occurred in 2011, and if your past MST claim with the VA was denied before this date, you can request a re-evaluation from your local VA regional office.

For a Free Consultation, Call Herren Law in Houston Today

Military sexual trauma is a very serious incident that can have lifelong consequences for the victim. As such, if you were the victim of MST, sexual assault, or sexual harassment while you were in active service with the military, and you are continuing to suffer, make sure to not hesitate any longer and call Houston VA disability attorney William Herren today. We work on a contingency basis, meaning that you won’t pay a cent unless we win your case. Initial consultations are also free, so call Herren Law in Houston at (800) 529-7707 or (713) 682-8194 today.

Do I Qualify for VA Disability Backpay?

When applying for VA disability benefits in Houston, there is one thing you can certainly expect: waiting, and possibly waiting for quite some time for the Houston VA offices to make their decision. The VA is aware of this, and to make up for the time between the VA’s decision and your date of eligibility, the VA has instituted VA disability back pay.

Do I Qualify for VA Disability Backpay? | Houston VA Attorney Herren Law

If you have a service-connected disability and you’re applying to the Veterans Affairs for disability benefits, then it’s important to understand backpay and how it affects your claim. More importantly, you need to get a Houston attorney specializing in VA disability benefits. At Herren Law, we work on a contingency basis, meaning that you won’t owe a penny until you get your benefits. And after years of helping Veterans just like you, attorney William Herren understands what you’re going through and will work with you as well as the VA to get you the benefits you deserve.

Call our Houston law office today at (800) 529-7707 for a free consultation. In the meantime, you can learn more about VA disability benefits below.

Eligibility for VA Disability Backpay

If you are awarded disability benefits from the VA due to your service-connected injury, then you are eligible for retroactive benefits. If awarded benefits, however, the problem that many Veterans face is the amount of back pay they are entitled to. By understanding the relevant federal laws and the Houston VA disability process, you can make sure that the VA is providing a fair and full amount. To do this, the first aspect of VA disability benefits that you need to know is the “effective date.”

The Effective Date of Your VA Disability Benefits Claim

The “effective date” of your claim is the moment the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has received your application for disability benefits. When you finally receive disability benefits, which can sometimes be months, or even years, after the VA receives your application, you will receive disability benefits dating back to that effective date (starting the first of the month after the effective date). For instance, if the VA receives your application on March 3rd, 2015, and you’re awarded benefits in February 2017, then your benefits will be considered from May 1st, 2015 and onward.

This is true for most new claims as well as claims to increase the rating of a pre-existing, service-connected disability. However, there is some conflict regarding what actually constitutes a claim, including what specific documentation you need to include in your claim. Generally, the VA states that a valid claim is VA Form 21-526, citing 38 USC §5101(a). However, there are many types of communications which may qualify as “a claim,” outside of the VA Form 21-526. Also, if the VA receives an informal claim, it must send out VA Form 21-526. The veteran needs to return the Form 21-526 within a year, and if so, the date the VA received the informal claim will be the effective date.

There are also exceptions to these rules, and so, regardless of your situation, it can help to speak with your attorney.

Effective Dates for Direct Service Connections

When you were injured in the military or a pre-existing injury was made worse, then you have a direct service connection. If this is your case, your effective date can be:

  • The date the VA receives your claim, or
  • The date you first got your illness or injury

If the VA receives your claim within one year of the day that you left your military service, then the effective date can be as early as the separation date. For instance, you finished your service on August 4th, 2014, and you had a disability. You apply for benefits within a year on June 10th, 2016. The VA awards 40% disability and, because the VA received the claim within a year of service, the VA sets an effective date at September 1st, 2014.

Effective Dates for Presumptive Service Connections

When you are awarded disability benefits for a presumptive service connection, and the VA receives your claim within one year of your separation from the military, then your effective date may be the date that your first got your illness or injury. Otherwise, if you file a claim after one year of your separation from the military, then your effective date is typically the date the VA receives your claim.

Call Herren Law Today for a Free Consultation

It is important to note that there are many nuances to this law, whereas the effective date can also depend on liberalizing law changes, reopened claims, and with claims based on a Veteran’s death in service. As such, to navigate these complex issues and speak to an expert who will fight for fair and maximum disability back pay, then call Houston VA disability attorney Herren Law at (800) 529-7707 for a free consultation. Evening appointments are available.