Is A Mental Health Disorder Eligible For Disability?

Most people think that disability is strictly for individuals who are physically disabled. But a mental health disorder can be equally disabling, especially if not properly treated. If you have a mental health disorder that prevents you from working or inhibits your everyday functioning, you may also be eligible for disability payments.

Is A Mental Health Disorder Eligible For Disability?

Adults who are living with a mental health disorder may not have the funds to take care of themselves or to be able to seek treatment. Millions of people with disabilities are unable to get proper treatment because they do not have the means to obtain care. But it’s vital to get a diagnosis before pursuing a claim for disability.

The Blue Book

Social Security has an organized listed list of impairments, commonly called the “Blue Book.” Mental disorders are contained in Section 12 and are arranged into 11 categories. These are the impairments that are serious enough to prevent a person from working. It also lists the medical requirements that determine if a person can receive benefits for a disability.

Conditions in the Blue Book already meet the Social Security Administration’s definition of disability. However, children who are applying for SSI will not be based on an occupation, but whether a condition will cause “marked and severe functional limitations”

Just being diagnosed with an illicit condition does not automatically qualify you for disability benefits. The Blue Book details the symptoms, test results, and other data that show that your condition is serious enough to be actually disabling according to SSA guidelines. It also lists the records you need to prove to the SSA that you are disabled.

Social Security Requirements for a Mental Health Disorder

Social Security’s requirements for mental disorders are much the same as physical disorders. It must be a condition that will keep you disabled and unable to work for at least 12 months.

To show that you are disabled, you will also need medical evidence that documents your disability and shows how it prevents you from working and disrupts your everyday life. This will include things such as psychiatrist’s notes, lists of medications, treatment records, any associated diagnostics, and documented impacts of your symptoms on your “activities of daily living,” or ADL.

You must have these documents available and in order before attempting to file your claim application. While SSDI can be done online, SSI requires an in-person interview and cannot be completed online.

There are two disability programs available:

• For Social Security Disability Insurance, or SSDI, you will need to have previously worked and paid into the Social Security system for five of the last ten years. Monthly benefits are based on your lifetime earnings, known as your “average indexed monthly earnings,” or AIME. You will qualify for Medicaid after 24 months.

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is designed for those who have not paid into Social Security in the last ten years or have never worked. Both adults and children can qualify for SSI. If you qualify for SSI, you also qualify for Medicaid benefits.

If you are unable to work but don’t meet the bluebook’s criteria to qualify on a medical basis, you can still be approved with a medical-vocational allowance. It will take your age, work history, educational background, transferable skills, and medical condition into consideration. Your physician can fill out a residual functional capacity form, or RFC, to add to your disability claim.

The RFC will indicate if you have difficulty focusing, cannot work with others, have difficulties with communications, are unable to complete a task, etc. It lists these indicators and symptoms so that the examiner can understand whether or not you can work, and what type of work you are able to do. Including an RFC from your psychiatrist or psychologist can be key to approval for your claim.

Get Help With A Mental Health Disability Application From Herren Law

Having a mental health disorder can prevent you from working and impact your daily life. We also understand how important it is for you to receive your benefits in a timely fashion. Herren Law has helped over 4000 Houstonians receive the disability benefits they need.

When you call us, we’ll immediately begin going through your records, working with you one-on-one, and representing you during your hearings. The first step in getting an experienced SSD attorney on your side is to contact our Houston law office at (713) 682-8194. We offer free, no-obligation consultations, and there is no fee unless we win your case.

Can Rheumatoid Arthritis Be A Qualifying Disability?

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a condition with a range of symptoms and parts. Most people think of RA with swollen, disjointed fingers. This is only one outward symptom of a wide range. As an autoimmune disease, rheumatoid arthritis causes the body to attack the lining tissue in the joints. The painful swelling eventually leads to deformity in the joints and erosion of the bones.

Can Rheumatoid Arthritis Be A Qualifying Disability?

While there are multiple treatments available, they may not work for every patient. RA currently has no cure. The long-term progression of RA could mean eventual disability.


A person with RA may experience:

  • Joint stiffness is generally more difficult in the mornings and following inactivity
  • Tender joints that are swollen and warm
  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite

The smaller joints, such as fingers and toes, are generally the first to show signs of RA. However, the disease can attack any joints in the body. RA becomes progressively worse over time, spreading throughout the rest of the joints and the body.

Symptoms of RA can vary from person to person, and in severity. Roughly 40% of diagnosed patients have symptoms unrelated to their joints, such as:

  • Blood vessels
  • Bone marrow
  • Eyes
  • Heart
  • Kidneys
  • Lungs
  • Nerve tissue
  • Salivary glands
  • Skin

Although RA usually affects people in middle age, people of any age can develop it at any time. Women are more likely to develop RA, as well as those with a family history, smokers, and those carrying excess weight.

The RA Diagnosis

Just receiving a diagnosis is not enough to be considered “disabled.” Social Security does consider RA to be a qualifying disability only if it has progressed to severe enough symptoms that prevent you from working. This is the general standard Social Security uses for most conditions. Other criteria are if the condition will last longer than 12 months.

The Social Security Blue Book (Section 14.09) describes the various stages and degrees of RA that meet their specific criteria for disability. As long as you meet the criteria for RA set out in the Blue Book, chances are you’ll qualify for benefits. That doesn’t mean it’s easy—you will still have to demonstrate your disability to Social Security. You’ll need to provide documentation that proves your day-to-day limitations. This may include:

  • Documentation from a physician with a rheumatologist indicating the severity of your symptoms and the limitations they cause you
  • Diagnostics that show the progression of your RA—X-Rays, blood tests, and other lab work
  • Notes from your physician and other providers documenting the progression of your RA
  • Documentation of your response to prescribed appropriate treatments
  • A Residual Functional Capacity form (RFC) that your doctor has completed for you

The more documentation you have, the better. Offering the SSA a detailed and lengthy medical history gives them considerable proof to thoroughly examine your claim.

Detailed records show SSA examiners the full extent of RA symptoms and progression, and how this affects your ability to perform daily job tasks. Your work history also goes a long way in demonstrating your disability.

Conditions Related To RA

There are other co-existing conditions—called comorbidities—that frequently accompany RA:

  • Hypertension
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Sjogren’s
  • Lupus
  • Other diseases involving connective tissues

It’s possible to receive disability for one of these illnesses if you don’t qualify for RA.

Because RA does restrict, and eventually prohibit, a patient’s ability to work, about 35% of patients file for disability within 10 years of their diagnosis.

The period between applying for disability and receiving payments can be months or even years. Over 70% of people who apply for disability benefits for any reason are denied on the first try and must go through a lengthy appeals process.

Applying for disability is an overwhelming task on par with building a house or planning a wedding. A large amount of documentation required can take a long time to obtain. Then your application must be filled out absolutely correctly.

If you’re dealing with RA as well as trying to apply for disability, consider working with a disability attorney who understands the process and can help you ensure that your application is completed correctly. You may be able to receive benefits sooner and avoid the entire appeals process.

Let Herren Law Help You With Your Disability Claim For Rheumatoid Arthritis

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

Do Disability Benefits Change If My Medical Condition Changes in Houston?

Applying for disability is a complex, long-term process with a considerable amount of documentation required. You’ll need to not only prove your disability but your work history and earnings that qualify you. Even after you’ve submitted everything requested, you may still find yourself denied benefits, requiring an appeal.

Once you’ve begun receiving benefits, you will still have to support your diagnosis during periodic reviews of your case. But if your condition changes, what’s next?

Do Disability Benefits Change If My Medical Condition Changes in Houston?

How It Works

SSDI is not awarded based on the degree of your disability, but your earnings history.

As a rule, you get awarded disability if you have a medical condition that is expected to prevent you from working for more than a year, or ends in death. Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) considers you fully disabled at the time you’re awarded benefits.

Therefore, if your condition worsens, you’re already at your maximum benefit amount, and the amount won’t change.

Regular Reviews

All SSDI recipients have periodic case reviews to determine if they still have a true disability. Depending on the circumstances, reviews can happen from every six months to every seven years. This will largely depend on the seriousness and type of your condition and if any improvement can be anticipated.

SSA will mail you a letter in advance of your upcoming medical review. You’ll be asked for patient and treatment records from doctors, clinics, and hospitals where you’ve received treatment since your last review, or since you were awarded benefits. If you’ve also been working, you’ll need to provide information on that such as dates, payments received, and the type of work you were doing.

The only way you might receive an increase is with a yearly cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) to take into account inflation.

Social Security also regularly conducts audits of accounts. Any previously uncounted earnings may require your monthly benefits to be recalculated. If any disparity is found, you’ll be notified of the recalculations and the increase in your monthly payments.

If Your Condition Improves

This will depend on what condition you are claiming disability with. Some may improve with time, such as certain types of cancers with treatment, while others may not.

Should your condition stay the same, or become worse, you will most likely continue receiving benefits. This is true even if you receive a separate, additional diagnosis for another condition.

However, if your condition significantly improves to the point where you can return to working and earning a living on your own, it’s highly likely that your cash benefits will come to an end.

You can earn some money while on disability. In 2021, that limit is $940 monthly before benefits are reduced. Additionally, you can also participate in a trial work program for up to nine months to see if you are ready to return to work. The nine months do not have to be consecutive.

The Social Security Administration has a booklet available online that explains some of the basics of SSDI.

Your Houston LTD Disability Attorney

Most attorneys aren’t familiar with the intricacies of disability filings, but we are. With over 4,000 successful cases, we focus on helping disabled people receive the benefits they need. We’ve handled multiple situations that are similar to yours. We have the experience to help you through the process for a successful outcome.  The Herren Law Firm can help you with your application, any necessary appeals and help you get the disability benefits you need so you can live your life. 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.

Disability Income Protection In Texas

Dealing with creditors can be a difficult experience, especially if you’ve recently become disabled or have had an event that caused you to fall behind on your bills. Should a bill go as far as being sent to collections, you’ll also receive calls from debt collectors, including agencies.

Disability Income Protection In Texas.

Occasionally, debt collectors make statements intended to strike fear in someone to force them to pay up. For someone on disability, this can be particularly menacing. Don’t let them intimidate you.

In most cases, if a creditor or debt collector tells you that they will “take your disability check,” it’s a scare tactic.

But there are occasions where past-due debts can be taken out of your disability income, under certain conditions.

Social Security Income

Federal law prohibits Social Security disability payments from garnishment.

In every case, a debt collector must go to court and file a lawsuit, then obtain a judgment for the money. Your bank would then be required to turn over the money, known as a “garnishment.” But if you receive certain types of income, they are not allowed to do so.

Certain benefits are exempt by federal law from garnishment, including:

  • Social Security
  • Supplemental Security Income
  • Veterans benefits (including disability)
  • Federal Railroad retirement, unemployment, and sickness benefits
  • Civil Service Retirement System benefits
  • Federal Employee Retirement System benefits

The US Treasury requires your bank to automatically freeze two months of these benefits and keep them for your own use. However, anything over that two-month threshold is accessible, meaning that a creditor can access the rest of it.

Your Bank

Debt collectors are forbidden from taking your disability payments directly out of your bank account or remove it from a prepaid debit card. Despite the rules, many still attempt to do so.

Your bank or credit union is required to protect two months of that income from garnishment for your use. This means that if your monthly disability payment is $1500, and your bank balance is $4,500, the bank is only required to protect $3,000, or two months of payments. The additional $1,500 can be made available to creditors.

Banks are required to review accounts prior to garnishment to ensure that Social Security payments have been deposited and are not garnished. Should a creditor or debt collector attempt to collect from your disability payments, you may have to go to court to get it returned. If you are sued by a creditor that collects from your bank account, make sure to notify the judge that the money is from Social Security and is exempt.

If you are one of the many recipients who receive benefits on a Direct Express or other prepaid debit card, they are still protected from garnishment just as if they were in a bank account.

You can write an “anti-garnishment letter” to your bank stating that your income is exempt, including your name, address, and account number. Mail it to your bank certified, return receipt requested, or hand-deliver to the appropriate person at our local branch.

Adding disability monies into a bank account with other funds may render it accessible to a creditor. It may be wise to have a separate bank account just for your disability income payments and avoid comingling the disability funds with any other monies.

Long Term Disability Payments

In most states, private disability payments are also protected, because they do not allow creditors to take this income. Federal law can also protect some or all private LTD payments.

The Consumer Credit Protection Act (CCPA) protects 25% of “disposable earnings”—what’s left after deductions—from collection actions or the amount by which wages exceed 30 times the minimum wage, whichever is lower. States are also required to this amount as a minimum, although some protect higher amounts.


Some debts are allowed to be garnished from Social Security Disability income, including:

  • Child support
  • Overdue or defaulted student loans
  • Back taxes
  • Other monies owed to the federal government

Similarly, child support and back taxes can be garnished from LTD payments. However, if you receive SSI, these benefits can’t be garnished for these reasons.

Houston’s Disability Attorney

If you need help with your SSDI, it helps to have an experienced disability law firm to answer your questions.

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

What Happens At A Disability Hearing In Houston?

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

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

What Happens At A Disability Hearing In Houston?

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

What Questions Will They Ask?

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

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

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

Being Prepared For The Disability Hearing

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

Spend some time reviewing:

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

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

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

Houston’s Disability Attorney

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

Let The Herren Law Firm in Houston, TX assist with your application, appeals, and records gathering to prove your case, and help win your claim. Contact us today at 713-682-8194 (or use our online contact form) to schedule your free consultation. There’s no obligation and no up-front fees, and we only collect a fee if we win your case.



What Is VA Disability Back Pay And How Do I Qualify In Houston, TX?

In the course of applying for VA disability benefits, the issue of “back pay” may be part of the discussion. Maybe you know someone who received it, or you may discuss it with a VSO or disability attorney. Receiving back pay—and how much you receive—will depend on the date of your application, and when you begin receiving benefits.

What Is VA Disability Back Pay And How Do I Qualify In Houston, TX?

The Effective Date

The VA defines this as the later of two dates:

  • The date of your claim filing
  • The date that your disability reveals or escalates

Most claims use the date you filed your claim. The second date is usually when a veteran files for an increase in ratings. In that case, the effective date is then the date when the disability escalates, not the original date of the claim filing.

There are occasions when an effective date may be earlier, but not much. They are:

  • Recently discharged veterans, depending on the date of discharge and the date the disability either manifests or escalates
  • Claims for an increased rating
  • Agent Orange Exposure claims, since there are special rules that apply because Agent Orange exposure is a presumptive service-connected condition.

Once these dates are established, the VA begins the claims process.

When Disability Back Pay Is Awarded

Because the VA is notorious for taking years to award benefits in some cases, the agency awards a lump sum of “back pay,” and you’ll receive monthly benefit thereafter.

Back pay is the collective amount of the payments you would have received if you were awarded benefits immediately.

For instance: you applied for VA disability benefits on January 1, 2015, but didn’t begin receiving monthly benefit payments until January 1, 2019. This means that although you begin receiving payments on January 1, 2019, you’re also entitled to benefits during the period where you waited for the VA to begin disbursement. Therefore, back pay would be the four-year sum of your monthly benefits from January 1, 2015 through December 1, 2018 until your regular monthly benefit payments begin on January 1, 2019.

It’s also possible that you could receive back pay when you’ve appealed a decision and the VA subsequently rules in your favor. Back pay may also be awarded if your condition worsens and the VA increases your monthly benefit payments. You’ll also receive a lump sum of the increased amount after the new ruling, based on the date your condition escalates.

A Claim Must Be In Writing

It may sound a little odd to mention, but some veterans may believe they’ve filed a claim because they’ve discussed it with a VSO or an adjudicator. All claims must be submitted in writing, and you don’t have a claim until you do.  The VA does not do a good job of notifying veterans that they may have a claim. The effective date of your award is always on, and not earlier, than the date of your written claim.

Don’t Re-Apply After Denial—Get Help With Your Appeal ASAP

What some veterans do after they are denied benefits is to re-apply all over again. Don’t do that—you could lose thousands of dollars you’re actually entitled to. The VA works on the effective date, or the date that they receive your application. If you start over with a new application, the effective date, and could reduce or eliminate any back pay you could have received.

If your application is denied, it’s important to step up your game and get help with your appeal immediately. Whether you applied before your discharge date, within a year of discharge, or when you first began to need benefits, starting over with a new application wipes out your original application and starts the process over.

Using the previous example—if you applied on January 1, 2015 and your claim is denied, through the eventual appeal, you might receive a four-year sum of back pay.

But if you re-apply on January 2016 and are eventually approved, you would lose an entire year of back pay.

Getting help from a disability law attorney will help you navigate the appeals process and increase your chances of getting the benefits you need and deserve.

We Help Houston Veterans

Getting VA disability benefits is a long, arduous process that takes patience as well as understanding the law. William Herren is a disability attorney who has helped more than 4,000 Houstonians get the benefits they deserve, including veterans. Call The Herren Law Firm today at 713-682-8194 (or use our online contact form) to schedule your free consultation. There’s no obligation, and we’ll take your case on a contingency fee basis, with no up-front charges. You don’t owe a fee until we win your case.

What Is The VA Service-Connected Disability Rating System?

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

What Is The VA Service-Connected Disability Rating System?

How It Works

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

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

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

What If I’m Rated At 0%?

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

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

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

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

If you’re not sure what the rating system means to you, don’t try to decipher it yourself. William Herren is a Houston disability attorney who has been helping veterans through the VA’s system for more than 30 years. We understand how the VA works, the VASRD, and how to get your claim through their process as efficiently as possible to give you the best chance of approval.

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

Taxation of Disability Benefits in Houston, TX

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

Long Term Disability Insurance

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

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

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

Taxation of Disability Benefits in Houston, TX

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

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

The IRS also offers additional information on their website.

Disability Benefits From Social Security—SSDI And SSI

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Some states tax SSDI benefits, but Texas does not.

VA Disability Benefits

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

Other veterans benefits paid to you or your family are also not taxable (from

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

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

Other Nontaxable Benefits

These types of benefits are also non-taxable:

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

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

Have Questions On Disability? Herren Law Can Help

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

What Is ERISA And What’s The Connection To Houston Disability Benefits

If your employer covers your benefits package, it’s likely governed by ERISA. Most employer-sponsored plans are ERISA-regulated, except for privately-purchased policies or those provided by governmental agencies, churches or church-owned hospitals.

What Is ERISA And What's The Connection To Disability Benefits In Houston, TX

Despite the title and description, getting disability benefits isn’t always as simple as filling out forms and waiting for a check. Although ERISA was created to protect employees’ benefits and rights, its complex requirements can sink your claim right after you file it. If you file a claim and don’t follow the ERISA guidelines exactly, you claim may be denied without the right to appeal. Missing a deadline for appeal can prohibit you from filing a future claim.

ERISA Basics

Employer-sponsored benefits plans are regulated by ERISA, or Employee Retirement Income Security Act, established in 1974.This 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.”  If you apply for disability and are denied, ERISA gives you the right to sue the insurer in federal court.

ERISA requires that employers provide their employees with basic information that includes:

  • Details of what’s covered and not covered under the plan
  • Instructions on filing a claim if an employee becomes disabled
  • Details of the company’s appeal process if the company denies an employee’s claim

ERISA sets a limit on the insurer’s timeframe to accept or deny a claim once it’s filed. The insurer has 45 days to render a decision, but can add an additional 30 days, and must notify the employee in writing.

If the insurer denies the claim, it must provide the reasons in writing within 45 days. ERISA controls not only the employee’s time frame for appeal, it also controls the deadlines for insurers to approve or deny the appeal.

Providing Documentation

It’s important to have a wealth of documentation in your claim file at the outset. This includes medical records, test results, doctor’s notes, and other instruments that will prove your claim for disability. Your attorney can advise you on the ERISA requirements, what information you need, and what you’ll need to request.

Note that if your claim is denied on appeal and you decide to move forward with a lawsuit, you will not be able to add additional evidence or information as you would with a civil or criminal trial or appeal. Everything that is already in your file is all that the judge will see. That’s why it’s important to have as much documentation to support your claim as you can obtain as soon as you can.

Discretionary Clauses In Texas Are Denied

You may have heard the term “discretionary clause” when discussing your policy with your employer or with the insurer. This is language written into the policy and allows the insurer plenty of “wiggle room” to limit or deny their claims. The clauses also prevent a court decision from reversing the insurer’s claim decisions.

In 2012, the state of Texas passed a law prohibiting any insurance company from using “discretionary clauses.” That is, any policy written or renewed after January 1, 2012 in Texas cannot contain a discretionary clause.

Deadlines Count

Insurers have specific deadlines for filing claims for disability benefits as well as appeals. Don’t miss a deadline, and make sure your claim adheres to ERISA’s very complicated rules. Let an experienced Houston disability benefits attorney take care of your claim and make sure everything is taken care of.

The Herren Law Firm can help you with your ERISA application, appeals and help you get the long-term disability benefits you need. Contact us in Houston 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.


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