How Federal Debts May Affect Your SSD Paycheck

Now that you’ve gone through the Social Security disability process and started receiving your monthly benefits, you are free to use the money however you’d like. In most cases, the payments are deposited into your bank account, put onto a prepaid card, or sent to your home by check.

How Federal Debts Affect Your SSD Paycheck | Houston SSD Attorney

Under federal law, creditors cannot garnish or freeze this money from your bank account or prepaid card, but there are some important exceptions that you need to be aware of. For instance, your SSD paycheck might not be protected from federal debts, such as unpaid taxes and some federal student loans. If your SSD paychecks have been frozen, garnished, reduced, or simply touched by an outside creditor, including the federal government, you should consult an experienced SSD attorney right here in Houston.

By calling Herren Law, we’ll look over your situation and determine if you have any legal options. For a free, no-obligation consultation with our Houston-based firm, call us today at (800) 529-7707.

Protections for Social Security Disability Benefits

As mentioned above, creditors cannot garnish your Social Security disability benefits. This is true even after a creditor sues you for the debt and wins the court order for your bank or credit union to turn over money from your account or prepaid card. In fact, the U.S. Department of Treasury requires banks to automatically protect some of your federal benefits from being frozen or garnished.

In general, the benefits that your bank automatically protects include:

  • Social Security
  • Supplemental Security Income
  • Veterans
  • Federal Railroad retirement, unemployment, and sickness
  • Civil Service Retirement System
  • Federal Employee Retirement System

By having your Social Security benefits automatically deposited into your bank account, the bank is required to protect at least two months of benefits. For instance, if you receive $1,000 in monthly benefits, then the bank protects up to $2,000 or, if you have less than that, the bank will protect the money remaining in your account.

If your account has more than two months of benefits in your account, your bank may be able to freeze or garnish the wages under a court order. However, if that extra garnished money is exempt as Social Security disability benefits, you can object to the garnishment in courts to have your funds released.

Protections on Prepaid Cards

If you use a prepaid card to receive federal benefits, whether SSD benefits, SSI benefits, and VA disability benefits, the benefits you receive are also protected similar to how banks protect your benefits.

Exceptions to Automatic Protections

There are some exceptions to the automatic protections for federal benefits deposited in your bank account or prepaid card. According to Section 207 of the Social Security Act (42 U.S.C. 407), your Social Security benefits are protected from any creditors except for the federal government when the following apply:

  • You owe unpaid federal taxes. In this example, and according to the Federal Payment Levy Program (FPLP), the IRS can take 15 percent of your monthly Social Security disability insurance payments to pay for unpaid federal taxes.
    • Keep in mind that the IRS cannot simply take 15 percent of your benefits. First, the IRS will send you a final notice which states that you have 30 days to pay your tax or work out a payment agreement. Once these 30 days pass, the IRS can usually begin withholding this money until the debts are paid.
  • You have unpaid child support or alimony. Up to 60 percent of your SSD benefits can be withheld for unpaid child support or alimony.
    • If you have another child or spouse that you support, federal agencies can only withhold 50 percent of your SSD benefits.
    • If your payments are more than 12 weeks late, federal agencies can reduce your SSD benefits by 5 percent until the support or alimony is paid, unless you can prove that this would cause undue hardship.
  • You have non-tax debts owed to the federal government. The most common non-tax debts owed to the government are federally guaranteed student loans, but this can also include food stamp overpayments and federal mortgage loans.

What to Do If Your Bank Account is Garnished or Frozen

Before creditors freeze or garnish any money in your bank account, you’ll first receive a notice of garnishment explaining the court procedures for claiming any exceptions from garnishment. Due to the automatic protections with having your SSD benefits directly deposited into your bank account, or onto a prepaid card, you’ll have at least two months of SSD benefits protected. However, if you receive your SSD benefits as a check and deposit the money into the account, or if you transfer the money from one account to another, then your bank might not see that the deposited money is from a federal source and won’t be able to protect it.

If you have a legitimate objection to the garnishment, you can file an MC-49 (Objections to Garnishment) form with your local court. On this form, you can explain your objections to the garnishment of your assets on legal grounds.

Call Herren Law for a Free Consultation

Under certain and specific circumstances, the federal government can reduce your Social Security disability benefits. However, if creditors have garnished your SSD benefits, then you need to consult an experienced Houston SSD attorney. At Herren Law, we’ve helped many people throughout Houston with their SSD benefits, from providing legal counsel for the application process to protecting your wages from garnishment. For a free consultation with attorney Bill Herren, call us today at (713) 682-8194.

What is “Gainful Employment” for Long Term Disability?

When trying to better understand long-term disability, or when applying for disability benefits for your long-term disability, one term that you may come across is “gainful employment.” In short, this term refers to an LTD applicant’s ability to work, and if an individual is unable to engage in a substantial gainful activity (SGA), then he/she may be eligible to receive long-term disability benefits for his/her disability.

What Is "Gainful Employment" for Long Term Disability? - Herren Law

More specifically, if you are unable to hold any job where you would make 60-80% of your pre-disability earnings, then your long-term disability provider should pay benefits. Whether you are applying for LTD benefits, or the gainful employment aspect of your application is giving you troubles, then call Houston LTD attorney William Herren today. With decades of experience helping individuals like you, we fully understand the legal processes, what insurance companies are looking for, and how you can optimize your application.

We work on a contingency basis, and so you won’t pay a thing unless we win your case. For a free consultation with Houston attorney Bill Herren, call Herren Law today at (800) 529-7707.

What is a Gainful Occupation?

LTD policies often define “disability” in one of two ways, including:

  • Own Occupation: Your disability prevents you from the duties of your own occupation.
  • Any Occupation: Your disability prevents you from working in any gainful occupation for which you are reasonably suited, considering your education, training, and experience.

If you are able to work in any gainful employment, there is a higher possibility that your insurance company will deny your benefits. Furthermore, many LTD policies shift from “own occupation” to “any occupation” after a period of time (usually, it’s 24 months). This allows disabled individuals to find work outside of their own occupation.

Most LTD policies define “gainful employment,” however, as a job that is able to provide you with at least 60% of your pre-disability wages. Keep in mind that this 60% number is not universal, and so it’s important to refer to your specific LTD policy.

How Do You Know If You’re Reasonably Suited to Work?

In addition to understanding “gainful employment,” you also need to understand whether or not an LTD policy considers you as “reasonably suited” to work in your own occupation or any occupation. As you can imagine, the word “reasonably” is broad and open to interpretation, but in most cases, “reasonable suited” refers to an individual’s location, skills, education, and limitations.

An occupation would be considered “unreasonable” if some of the following factors apply:

  • There are few or no occupations available that are within a reasonable commute from your home.
  • The occupations available are beyond your skills or education level.
  • The occupation will interfere with your regular medical appointments, if applicable.
  • Your doctor has not provided a release that allows you to perform the tasks required of the occupation.

When submitting your application for LTD disability benefits, it’s very important to include as much evidence and information as you can. This information should include an opinion from your doctor that fully explains your working limitations, allowing the LTD provider to better assess your limitations as well as what types of jobs, if any, you’d be reasonably suitable to do.

Who Determines Whether You Work at Another Job?

Although you’ll be submitting your LTD benefits application to your insurance provider, your insurance provider will often work with vocational experts (VEs) to determine your employment possibilities and the compensation offered at various types of jobs available to you.

When making these assessments, the VE should be an expert in his/her field and rely on a number of sources, such as the Bureau of Labor Statistics, among others.

With the help of an LTD benefits attorney, your attorney should cross-examine the VE associated with your case, while making sure that the VE has all of the information he/she needs to know. A good attorney will also try to elicit a favorable response from the VE.

Call Houston LTD Attorney Bill Herren

Many insurance companies employ a long, complex rubric when determining whether an applicant has a disability that prevents him/her from working in his/her own occupation or any occupation. Showing your ability, or inability, for gainful employment will be an essential component for winning your LTD benefits case.

As such, you’ll need an experienced and capable attorney at the helm of your case, making sure that all of the necessary information is included in your application. For a free, no-obligation consultation with Houston attorney William Herren, call our law office today at (800) 529-7707.

What Do I Do If the VA Lowers My Veterans Benefits?

Many veterans make the mistake of thinking that once they receive their VA disability benefits, the fight is ultimately over. Unfortunately, the fight isn’t quite over, as the VA can reduce or terminate benefits under certain circumstances later on. If this has happened to you, then it’s natural to feel frustrated, cheated, and a whole plethora of other unpleasant feelings.

What Do I Do If The VA Lowers My Veterans Benefits? - Herren Law

For this reason, Houston VA disability benefits attorney William Herren fights for veterans rights, employing vigorous litigation strategies to help eligible veterans keep their disability benefits. If you have lost your benefits, or you have a reexamination with the VA regarding your benefits, the best way to protect your benefits is to contact our VA benefits law firm in Houston. Call (713) 682-8194 for a free consultation today.

Can the VA Lower or Terminate My Disability Benefits?

The short answer is, “Yes, the VA can reduce or terminate your disability benefits.” If fact, they are legally entitled to do so under Title 38 § 3.327, which states:

“Reexaminations, including periods of hospital observation, will be requested whenever VA determines there is a need to verify either the continued existence or the current severity of a disability.”

Often, there are several common reasons why the VA reduces or terminates a veteran’s benefits. Some of these reasons include:

  • The veteran has unprotected benefit rates (more on this below)
  • The veteran is in prison. If you are in a federal, state, or local prison, your disability compensation can be reduced or terminated after your 61st day in prison.
  • If there is an actual improvement in the veteran’s disability

These are just a few of the reasons why the VA may reduce or terminate your VA disability benefits. In any case, and for whatever reason, make sure to discuss the reduction or termination of your benefits with an experienced attorney.

Protected Benefits

Protected VA disability benefits are very difficult to reduce or terminate. You may have protected benefits if any of the following apply:

  • Veterans with a “static” disability (one that won’t improve) such as the loss of a limb.
  • Veterans who are found to be totally and permanently disabled (those rated at 100% disabled).
  • Veterans who have been receiving benefits for more than five years at the same level.
  • Veterans age 55 or older.
  • Veterans who have been receiving benefits for more than 30 years.

If the VA sent a notice of reexamination, and you fit into one of the categories above, then you should contact your local VA regional office, as there may have been a mistake.

Unprotected Benefits

Unprotected benefits can be reduced or terminated under certain circumstances. Your benefits may be unprotected if the two circumstances apply:

  1. You have a disability rating that is above the minimum for your disability, but below 100%, and
  2. You have been receiving benefits for less than five years.

If you have unprotected benefits, and the VA contacts you about reducing or terminating your benefits, you should still contact an attorney. This is because the VA has certain legal requirements it must adhere to, such as notifying you in advance of a reexamination, notifying you of how you can keep your benefits, or following the requirements for a medical examination.

Should You Get a VA Disability Benefits Attorney?

The title of this post is, “What Do I Do If the VA Lowers My Veterans Benefits?” The most important thing that you can do to keep your benefits is to follow the VA’s instructions as closely as possible. If you receive a notice for a reexamination, then make sure you attend the reexamination within the stated time limits (usually 60 days after receiving a reexamination notice).

For unprotected benefits, a VA disability benefits attorney will guide you through the process, make sure that the VA hasn’t made any mistakes, and fully investigate the legality of the VA’s every motion. For protected benefits, a VA disability benefits attorney is essential, as these benefits are very difficult to reduce or terminate.

Call Herren Law in Houston TX for VA Disability Benefits Help

When it comes to VA disability benefits and US and Texas law, the most important attributes in your attorney are experienceexperience, and experience. At Herren Law, Houston VA disability benefits attorney William Herren has helped numerous veterans just like you; we boast many successful cases getting a veteran his/her rightfully owed benefits. As such, if the VA is trying to reduce or terminate your benefits, don’t hesitate and call Herren Law today at (713) 682-8194.

Houston VA Disability Benefits Attorney – Who decides whether an injury is “service-related” and how?

The Veteran’s Affairs offers monetary benefits to U.S. Veterans who were injured or suffered an illness during active military service. Before paying these benefits, however, the VA must determine whether or not a Veteran is disabled according to the organization’s guidelines, and whether the disability is service-connected. The service-connection is a fundamental aspect of most successful VA disability benefits claims, as the VA pays benefits when an individual completed the following:

  • Service in the Uniformed Services on active duty, OR
  • Active duty for training, OR
  • Inactivity duty for training, AND
  • Discharged under other than dishonorable conditions, AND
  • The veteran is at least 10% disabled by an injury or disease

As such, when the VA makes a determination regarding your VA disability benefits, one of the initial things they consider is the service connection. In this post, we’ll discuss the VA disability claim process and who decides the service-connection. In the meantime, if you’re attempting to recover disability benefits from the VA, and you need legal representation, call Houston VA disability benefits attorney William Herren today at (713) 682-8194.

Houston VA Disability Benefits Attorney | Service-Related Injuries

How the VA Determines Direct and Presumptive Service Connection

To establish the connection between the veteran’s service and an injury or illness, the VA may consider the chronicity of the disability shown in service. For example, the evidence for chronicity must include:

  • Identifiable symptoms of the disease or injury
  • Observations to show that the disease or injury is chronic and not an isolated incident

The VA can determine a direct and presumptive service connection based on the continuity of symptoms when a disability was noted in-service. Additionally, a service-connection can be made for an illness or injury that was diagnosed after the veteran’s service had ended. However, evidence in this case must show that the injury or illness was incurred in service.

There are many other factors that the VA considers when making a decision on a service-connection. For instance, the VA may consider the veteran’s presumption of soundness, the presumptive service connection for chronic and tropical diseases, the presumptive service connection for radiogenic diseases, and others.

How the VA Determines Whether an Injury Occurred In-Service

The VA will examine your claim to make sure that it’s for an injury or disease that has a service connection. However, to conclude whether the injury occurred in-service, the VA also looks at the evidence available from your active service. For instance, the VA will look at:

  • The circumstances of your injuries
  • Any evidence of scars, including examination reports of scars
  • Evidence for combat-related disabilities

How the VA Determines If a Known Existing Injury Was Aggravated In-Service

Veterans can also receive disability benefits if a known, existing injury was aggravated during the veteran’s active service. To determine aggravation of pre-service injuries, the VA may consider:

  • The veteran’s presumption of soundness when he/she entered the service
  • The medical records that can determine a baseline of pre-service injury
  • The circumstances that led to the aggravation
  • Whether there are flare-ups of the pre-existing injury or disease
  • The usual effects of medical or surgical treatment

Remember, for this type of VA disability benefit, the veteran usually has to prove that the injury or disease was made worse due to circumstances that occurred in active-duty.

Call VA Disability Lawyer William Herren Today

Making the connection between a veteran’s injury or disease and his/her service in the U.S. Military or National Guard is not an easy determination, which is why it’s essential to include all of the necessary information within your VA disability benefits claim. For this reason, it’s wise to have an experienced and knowledgeable attorney to provide you legal counsel, guide you through the VA disability claim process, and represent your case. For a free consultation with Houston disability benefits attorney William Herren, call our Houston TX law firm today at (713) 682-8194.

How Can I Prove That My Disability is Service-Related?


Herren Law is a team of Houston veteran’s disability attorneys focusing on helping veterans fill out and apply for their benefits claim. When our clients apply for benefits or a disability claim, however, one of the most important aspects is proving that the injury or disability is related to the client’s active service.

For legal help proving that your injury was related to your military service, contact Herren Law today. Our Houston-based veteran’s benefits attorneys ensure a full-service legal representation as well as one-on-one communication. We’ll work every angle and always put your interests first. Call today!

Presumed Service Connected Conditions

For veteran’s that have served for more than 90 days, there are certain conditions that, by law, are presumptively service connected. In other words, if you prove that you have a condition that’s presumed by the VA to be military connected, you only have to show that you have the condition (and don’t have to prove the service connection). For example, some presumed service connected conditions include:

  • ALS – Lou Gehrig’s Disease
  • Conditions related to agent orange exposure
  • Diseases resulting from radiation exposure for veterans who served at certain locations
  • PTSD in certain circumstances

Additionally, it is important to note that POWs that were confined for more than 30 days may be eligible for a presumptive service connection.

Criteria for Proving a Direct Service Connection

A direct service connection occurs when an incident directly caused your injury or disability. Therefore, to prove a direct service connection, you would need to prove that the event occcurred, provide medical evidence of your injury or disability, and provide medical evidence that the incident caused the disability or injury. In other words, you’ll need to prove:

  • An incident
  • Your disability
  • And the connection between the incident and your injury

For example, a parachuter broke his/her back in a landing. A direct service connection would be the connection between his/her paralysis and the jump.

Secondary Service Connections

Secondary service connections include disabilities that were due to or the result of a service-connected disease or injury. In other words, veterans can claim a secondary service connection when a service-related disability or injury caused another injury or disability.

Aggravated Service Connections

In some cases, an individual had a pre-existing condition before entering the military. During his/her time in the military, however, he/she suffered an injury or experienced an incident that aggravated that pre-existing condition. For example, let’s say a service member had a skin condition before entering the military, but during his/her service, he/she confronted a chemical that made the condition worse than it ever would have been on its own.

Call Herren Law for Your Disability Benefits

Often, the VA is quite strict about requiring veterans to prove that their injuries or disability was caused during service. Even the slightest mishap or missing piece of evidence could cause the VA to deny to your claim. For legal help building your evidence and showing a connection between service and your injuries, make sure to call our VA benefits attorneys at Herren Law at (800) 529-7707. Free consultations are available.

Can I Be Working and Still Receive My Veterans Benefits?


As a Houston veteran’s benefits attorney, one question we often hear is, “Can I work and still receive my veteran’s benefits?” The short and easy answer is, “Yes.” But unfortunately, issues such as working and benefits in the eyes of the VA is rarely that simple. For example, to be able to receive benefits, you have to show the VA that your disabilities or injuries (obtained during active service) have an impact on your work and daily activities.

To determine whether you can work and still receive your benefits, it is important to look at the types of benefits you’re receiving, your disability rating, and several other factors. In the meantime, you can learn more about veteran’s benefits and work eligibility below.

Working Limits for Veterans Receiving Benefits

If you’re receiving benefits, then it means that the VA is providing for disability and injuries sustained during active service. In our last post, we mentioned the VA Schedule of Rating Disabilities, which the VA uses to calculate your benefits based on the severity of your disability. Disabilities are rated on a scale of 10% to 100% in increments of 10%. To receive benefits, therefore, you must have a minimum disability rating of 10%.

You can still work while you’re receiving benefits. However, if you’re receiving benefits on a 100% disability rating, you cannot work as the VA has determined your injuries or disability to be so severe that you’re effectively unemployable. Furthermore, even if you don’t have a 100% disability rating, going back to work could jeopardize your benefits (in some cases, the VA has reduced the claimant’s disability rating).

Working in the Military With Disability Benefits

Disabled veterans can still work and receive their disability benefits while continuing their military service. However, a soldier cannot receive disability benefits and military pay at the same time. If this is the case, the disability payments may be temporarily suspended during your term of military service.

Call Herren Law Today for Legal Help

Disability benefits can be a complex affair, and even after going through the long and difficult VA benefits application process, your military benefits may not be completely fixed. If you have an issue with your disability rating or benefits, make sure to call a Houston veteran’s benefits attorney as soon as possible. For a free consultation with the attorneys at Herren Law, call our Houston office today at (800) 529-7707.

How Long Does It Take to Receive Veterans Benefits?

We at Herren Law are passionate about making sure veterans get what they were promised. Texas and Houston veterans sacrificed so much while they were in military service, and it’s essential to hold the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs accountable. Unfortunately, there are thousands of veterans in Texas who are disabled and unable to receive health care and other benefits from the VA.

Often, one question our veteran’s disability benefits attorneys come across is, “How long do I have to wait to receive my benefits?” We understand the importance of these benefits (and how slow the VA can be). For a free consultation regarding your benefits claim, call our Houston law firm today at (800) 529-7707. Below, we’ve included some more information about VA benefits and the claims process.

The VA Benefits Claims Process

When filing out a claim for disability compensation with the VA, there are eight general steps that you have to follow. At each of the eight steps, the process can either go quickly or it can take a long time. This variation in time depends on the complexity of the disability, the amount of evidence required to support your claims, and the type of evidence you have.

The eight steps in the claim process include:

  1. The VA has received your claim
  2. A Veterans Service Representative is reviewing your claim
  3. A Veterans Service Representative is gathering evidence from various sources
  4. The VA is reviewing the evidence
  5. The Veterans Service Representative has recommended a decision
  6. The decision is pending approval
  7. The claim decision packet is prepared for mailing.
  8. The VA has sent a decision packet to you

Almost every stage of this process can present several setbacks that could elongate the entire process. For example, if the VA decides that you need more evidence (Step 4), then it will send the claim back to Step 3.

You can check the status of your claim by registering for eBenefits at

How to Speed Up the VA Claims Process

Many delays in the VA claims process are going to be completely out of your control. Nonetheless, you should still do everything you can to minimize setbacks. For example, when you’re applying for benefits, make sure to include all pieces of relevant evidence in its desired format. Also, you should always double-check medical records and evidence to ensure that they’re arriving where they need to. Follow up with your medical professionals as well as the VA to make sure that the process is moving along.

One way to speed up the process, however, is to utilize the VA’s Fully Developed Claims (FDC) program. This program offers faster decisions on compensation, pension, and survivor benefit claims.

Contact Herren Law for Expert Legal Representation

If you’ve been waiting for disability benefits, or you need help creating a strong application with the goal of minimizing the wait time as much as possible, contact veteran’s disability attorney William Herren at Herren Law. We serve the Greater Houston area with expert representation and legal aid with the goal of getting your benefits in a timely manner. Call today at (800) 529-7707.

How are Veteran’s Benefits Calculated?

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is a vast and important federal service that helps provide care and benefits to veterans and their families. Therefore, when injured or wounded during active service, veterans can expect the VA to provide essential care and disability benefits. Unfortunately, the VA benefits process is quite complex, and it is fairly common for Houston residents to confront various issues at every stage, from proving a service-connected disability to knowing the amount of benefits you’ll receive.

For this reason, as well as others, you should consider the help of a Houston veteran’s benefits attorney when filing out the application forms or appealing a denial, if applicable. If you need your veterans benefits, call Herren Law today at (800) 529-7707 for a free consultation. In the meantime, you can learn more about how veteran’s benefits are calculated below.

Who is Eligible for Veteran’s Benefits in Texas?

Armed services members are eligible for veteran’s disability benefits if any of the following three conditions apply:

  • You were wounded during active service
  • You were injured during active service
  • You became ill during active service

Additionally, pre-existing conditions or illnesses that were aggravated during active service are covered. Aside from being wounded, the injuries and/or illness can arise during active service or afterwards, as long as the contributing factors to the injury or illness occurred while you were in military service.

Understanding Disability Ratings

The amount of compensation you may be entitled to is generally related to the severity of the disability that you have. In fact, some of the most important details in your disability application include your medical records. Furthermore, you usually have to take a VA medical examination as well. Based on the evidence you include in your claim, the VA then rates your disability from 0% to 100% in 10% increments (e.g. 10%, 20%, 30% etc).

To understand this rating, it can be helpful to look at how your disability affects your work and daily activities. For example, imagine that you twisted your knee while in service and had surgery. You still have some pain and stiffness later on, and so the VA rates your disability at 10%. On the other hand, imagine that you lost both legs. As this would greatly affect your work and daily activities, your disability rating would be much higher.

VA Schedule of Rating Disabilities

The VA Schedule of Rating Disabilities is an important source that organizes covered disabilities into various categories based on the part of the body that’s impacted. Each level of severity in this Schedule also lists the symptoms you must suffer to be eligible for benefits.

For example, under 4.87 — Diseases of the Ear, if you experienced a loss of auricle (outer ear), there are three disability ratings and associated symptoms:

  • Complete loss of both ears — 50%
  • Complete loss of one ear — 30%
  • Deformity of one ear, with loss of one-third or more of the substance — 10%

Contact Herren Law Today to Determine Your Veteran’s Benefits

The amount of benefits you may receive for your disability depends on the rating that the VA provides. Furthermore, the VA calculates your benefits based on if you have a spouse, child(ren), or dependent parent(s), or if you have a seriously disabled spouse. To better understand your benefits, and for legal aid getting started, call our Houston veteran’s benefits law firm today by dialing (800) 529-7707.

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