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.

Can I Receive Both SSDI And VA Benefits?

The short answer: yes, it is possible to have both. Neither SSDI nor VA disability is need-based, so you may be able to receive both. But there are a few things you need to know before you begin your application, and before you begin receiving benefits.

Can I Receive Both SSDI And VA Benefits?

Social Security Disability Insurance

This is a program that provides monthly disability payments to workers under 65 who have sufficient work credits and qualifying disabilities that prevent you from working.

Additionally, you can’t receive retirement and/or SSI benefits at the same time as SSDI. Once you reach retirement age and begin collecting Social Security, your SSDI will be discontinued.

However, SSDI is not affected by VA or DoD disability benefits.

VA Benefits

There is a difference between VA benefits and VA disability benefits.

VA disability benefits are based on the VA’s schedule of ratings that determine your amount of disability. You do not have to be totally disabled, you can also be partially disabled. Even a 0% rating acknowledges the presence of a service-connected condition that could later manifest and cause you to be at least partially disabled.

If you receive a VA pension, which is income and needs based, it can affect the amount you receive from SSDI, and vice-versa.

The Difference

One thing to remember is that Social Security and the VA are two separate governmental entities. Qualifying for VA disability benefits is not an automatic qualification for SSDI—you must apply for it separately.

Receiving VA disability benefits has no effect on an application for SSDI, and the SSA does not give weight to VA approvals for consideration of its own decisions. But since the SSA shares the medical database with both the VA and the DoD, they will have access to military and veteran medical records. These records may be used to expedite claims processing for vets with a 100% disability rating or “Wounded Warriors,” those who were injured on active duty after October 1, 2001.

However, if you are on SSDI, the VA is required to consider records that are used for approval of SSDA, and those medical records can provide valuable information for your VA claim.

You can apply for SSDI whenever your disability prevents you from working. You must be totally disabled in order to receive SSDI benefits.

However, for VA disability, you should apply as soon as you begin dealing with a service-connected disability condition. The VA awards benefits based on either partial or total disability.

The VA’s “Fast Track” Application Program

The unfortunate part of applying for any kind of governmental benefits is the time it takes before you begin receiving them. The VA has taken notice, and introduced the Fully Developed Claims (FDC) program, commonly called the “Fast Track.” The VA developed this program to help cut down on the backlog of applications that take years to complete.

The difference is that submitting an FDC will require you to do more of the preparation and “legwork” than you would if you were submitting a standard application. But submitting an FDC also qualifies you for retroactive benefits if you were disabled for a year before you submitted the application, and if it’s your first application.

The new application forms are all available at the VA’s website. You’ll need the VA Form 21-526EZ, Fully Developed Claim (Compensation) for disability compensation claims, which is a simpler, shorter application.

Legal Representation And Help For Disability Claims

If you’re applying for either SSDI or VA disability benefits, the process can be confusing. An incorrectly prepared claim for either or both can result in a denial. The time to get help is at the outset, to ensure that the application process is done correctly.

The Herren Law Firm has helped over 4,000 Houstonians get the benefits they deserve. Call us at (713) 682-8194 or (800) 529-7707 for a free consultation (or use our online contact form.) 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.

Can You Get Disability For Glaucoma In Houston?

At your last eye exam, your doctor may have noticed something you didn’t—your vision is slowly being affected. You haven’t realized that your vision has been receding just a little, because it’s a slow change. But your doctor knows, and now you’re concerned about going blind.

Can You Get Disability For Glaucoma In Houston?

Regular eye exams are important in the early detection and treatment of glaucoma. When caught early enough, the symptoms are treatable, and you may be just fine.

But if you’ve lost a significant amount of sight, and you’re finding yourself unable to see as well as you used to, is disability in your future?

Glaucoma Basics

Although most people believe glaucoma is a disease in and of itself, it’s actually a series of eye problems that could, without treatment, eventually lead to blindness. That’s why regular eye exams are important for the health of your eyes. While there is no cure, available treatments and surgeries can preserve your vision so that you can continue to see. About 5% of patients do go blind despite treatments.

Glaucoma can affect people of all ages, but is more common in middle-aged and elderly patients and is also hereditary. It’s a very slow-progressing condition, affecting the peripheral (side) vision first before it breaches into the central vision.

The most common type is primary open-angle glaucoma, where the eye’s canals are is clogged and fluid can’t properly drain from the eyes. This increases the inner eye pressure, affecting vision over time. POAG responds well to medication, particularly if it is caught early and treated.

The less common form is angle closure glaucoma, which develops quickly and needs immediate medical attention. It is also caused by clogged drainage canals, and occurs when the iris and the cornea closes. Angle closure glaucoma can also increase the pressure inside the eyes.

The SSA, Glaucoma, And Disability

The Social Security Administration recognizes that glaucoma can eventually cause problems for people who work. If it progresses far enough, it is possible that you may be unable to work.

Note that evidence of glaucoma is not enough to rate and receive disability payments. It’s only when the condition interferes with your ability to work that you’ll be considered for disability, and possibly rated for benefits.

The SSA has a specific section in its Listing Of Impairments just for Special Senses And Speech for adults, which describes “statutory blindness.” If your glaucoma progresses to statutory blindness, you may be eligible for an increased amount of benefit, which

However, the SSA also gauges the degree to which a disability prevents someone from working by establishing if they are engaging in what’s called Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA). That is, the amount of monthly income you earn and whether it’s enough to support yourself without monthly disability benefit payments. In other words, if you’re working and making enough to live on.

An individual who is not engaged in SGA and is statutorily blind will receive a larger amount of money due to the “adverse economic consequences” of blindness. However, the SSA encourages blind individuals to continue working, because the increased monthly amount due to blindness will not be affected by working.

Working With Glaucoma

If your current occupation is undoable with glaucoma, you may only need to change careers. Available technology can open up a world of opportunities for visually impaired individuals.

The Chicago Lighthouse For The Blind lists these occupations as just some of the ways people with partial blindness can continue to work, with our without SSA benefits:

  • Teachers, college professors and guidance counselors
  • Social workers and psychologists
  • Doctors, nurses and occupational and physical therapists
  • Masseuses and chiropractors
  • Rehabilitation teachers and counselors
  • Customer service representatives
  • Restaurant and store workers
  • Factory workers
  • Freelance writers, journalists and TV and radio broadcasters
  • DJs and musicians

The American Printing House For The Blind also has a website called CareerConnect, which offers resources for those with sight impairment to find suitable jobs.

Disability For Glaucoma

If you’ve been diagnosed with glaucoma, you may be able to receive disability benefits. Not sure where to start? The Herren Law Firm in Houston, TX can assist with your application, appeals and records gathering to prove your case, and win your claim.

We’ve helped over 4,000 Houstonians get their disability benefits, and are ready to help you. Contact us today at 713-682-8194 (or user our online contact form) to schedule your free consultation. There’s no obligation, and no up-front fees, and we only collect a fee if we win your case.

 

Taxation of Disability Benefits in Houston, TX

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

Long Term Disability Insurance

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

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

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

Taxation of Disability Benefits in Houston, TX

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

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

The IRS also offers additional information on their website.

Disability Benefits From Social Security—SSDI And SSI

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Some states tax SSDI benefits, but Texas does not.

VA Disability Benefits

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

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

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

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

Other Nontaxable Benefits

These types of benefits are also non-taxable:

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

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

Have Questions On Disability? Herren Law Can Help

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

Is Diabetes A Veterans Disability in Houston?

Diabetes is prevalent among veterans, who make up nine percent of the general population. Twenty-five percent of VA hospital patients suffer from varying degrees of diabetes, and many are unable to work because of it. Diabetes is the leading cause of blindness, amputation and end-stage renal disease for most VA patients.

Is Diabetes A Veterans Disability in Houston?

You can apply for disability on the basis of diabetes if it’s service related, and the degree of your disability will depend on the seriousness of your case. The biggest hurdle is establishing the connection between the onset of diabetes and your military service.

Symptoms of diabetes can include:

  • Blurry vision
  • Excessive thirst
  • Fatigue
  • Frequent urination
  • Hunger
  • Weight loss

If you’ve been diagnosed, you should also have your hemoglobin A1C levels checked every three to six months. This test measures blood glucose levels of the previous two to three months.

Two complications from diabetes that affect your ratings are hypoglycemic reactions and diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA.)

In the first, blood glucose levels run very low, frequently as a result of diabetes medication. DKA is a result of a buildup of acids in the blood, and can also be a result of medications. However, occasional episodes of either of these conditions don’t affect your ratings. Frequent hospital visits and diabetes care appointments that indicate severe diabetes that could have an effect on your rating.

Is It Service Connected?

If you served in Vietnam between January 9, 1962, and May 7, 1975, either in the country or on a ship that was in the waters, the VA presumes a service connection. That’s because many veterans who served in Vietnam during this time period were exposed to Agent Orange, a powerful chemical herbicide used to destroy thick jungle foliage. One of the well-documented side effects of Agent Orange exposure is Type 2 Diabetes (also called diabetes mellitus). Because of this causation, Vietnam veterans do not have to prove a service connection.

Outside of the time frame, you will have to establish and prove a distinct connection to your time in the service.

Demonstrating Service-Related Diabetes

Whether you have medical records from the military and/or VA stating this connection, or you’ve since had a diagnosis from a private physician, you must show a documented link.

You’ll need to gather medical evidence in order to show a service connection. These can be medical records from the military, from the VA, or from a private doctor post-discharge.

You’ll need to get a copy of your C-file from the VA and review your records for references to diabetes, pre-diabetes and related symptoms. You should review both your VA and military medical records. You will also need all private, post-military medical records. You’ll use these to show a chain of events that led to diabetes.

Should your diagnosis be within one year of discharge to a compensable degree (at least 10%), it will be presumed to be service-related.

Ratings For Diabetes

The VA rates your condition according to its severity 38 CFR 4.119, Diagnostic Code 7913. Factors such as how much the condition limits your daily activity (such as working) determine your rating. More severe cases and conditions bring higher ratings.

Your monthly compensation will ultimately depend on your combined rating, which could include other conditions. When the VA approves your disability claim, you’ll receive a rating based on the evidence you provided.

As of December 2018, the following is the VA’s schedule of disability benefits:

  • 10 percent rating for disability: $140.05 monthly
  • 20 percent rating for disability: $276.84 monthly
  • 40 percent rating for disability: $617.73 monthly
  • 60 percent rating for disability: $1,113.86 monthly
  • 100 percent rating for disability: $3,057.13 monthly

Helping Houston’s Veterans

Diabetes causes a number of problems, and in some cases, cause you to be disabled.  William Herren is a veterans’ disability attorney who has helped more than 4,000 Houstonians get their benefits. Call The Herren Law Firm today at 713-682-8194 (or use our online contact form) to schedule your free consultation. There’s no obligation, and we’ll take your case on a contingency fee basis, with no up-front charges. You won’t owe a fee until we win your case.

What If My Application For Disability Benefits In Houston, TX Is Denied? Can I Appeal The Decision?

You’ve gathered all your medical records and filled out all the forms that were required. But after carefully preparing your application and sending it in on time, you were still denied. What do you do now?

The truth is, more than half the people who apply for benefits are denied the first time they apply. You have the right to an appeal within 60 days, so use it. Don’t assume that a denial is the end of everything, or worse, re-apply without legal help from a disability lawyer.

What If My Application For Disability Benefits In Houston, TX Is Denied? Can I Appeal The Decision?

The Process Of Appeals

Many people assume that a denial is the end of their application and either give up entirely or re-apply. Both are incorrect, and you will lose valuable time and your appeal rights in both scenarios.

There are four steps to the appeals process in Texas, and they have to be done in order.

  • Request for Reconsideration—this involves turning in your same paperwork to another SSA representative for review. You can also include additional information that was omitted from your original application. About one out of six people who request reconsideration are approved at this stage.
  • The Disability Hearing—you’ll go in front of an administrative law judge who will hear your case and decide if you are qualified for disability. Expert witnesses, such as a medical expert to discuss your condition and a vocational expert that can advise on what kind of work you may be qualified to perform. However, you are allowed to bring witnesses as well as present any new evidence that has come to light since your application or last denial.
  • ·The Appeals Council—if the judge denies your request, you can bring your case to the next level. This council consists of administrative law judges that were not involved with your case previously. These judges won’t consider any new evidence, however, they will make sure that the previous judge followed proper laws and procedure in deciding your case.

These judges can either agree with the original judge’s findings or overturn the decision and award your disability benefits. They can also send the case back to the prior administrative law judge with comments about any mistakes made in the case.

  • Federal Court Review—this is where you’ll file a lawsuit if you disagree with the decisions of the previous courts.

Why You Need A Disability Attorney

Just applying for disability is complicated and confusing. Going through the process of appeals is even more complicated as well as challenging. Finding an attorney who understands the process and knows what to do will make the process much easier, and increase your chances of winning on appeal.

Call Us For Help With Your Disability Appeal

If you didn’t have legal help with your disability application, don’t leave things to chance. The process can take many months, and in some cases, years. Don’t give up.  Let us help you with your appeal and increase your chances of winning.

We’re experienced in handling all types of disability claims and have helped more than 4,000 Houstonians get the disability benefits they need. 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.

Can You Get Long Term Disability for Anxiety in Houston, TX?

Nearly everybody goes through difficult times. Some may find themselves with depression and/or anxiety until things get better. But is your anxiety bad enough to warrant long-term disability? It can be, if it prevents you from working, and inhibits nearly every part of your life.

Can You Get Long Term Disability for Anxiety in Houston, TX?

Anxiety, like most mental illnesses, is difficult to positively diagnose, and therefore harder to claim. Unlike an injury, such as a broken leg, or a condition like cancer, anxiety doesn’t have symptoms that are readily obvious or detectable with a blood or other medical test. But living with a physical disability can also trigger concurrent mental disabilities, including anxiety.

What Is Anxiety?

Anxiety is usually defined as a chronic fear or worry about something that could happen, but hasn’t happened yet, and may never happen. There are many factors that can trigger this fear or worry, such as work-related issues, relationship problems, or other problematic situations (i.e., a car accident, chronic pain, etc.) A shortage of oxygen in some areas can contribute to anxiety, as well as brain chemistry. Certain medications can also cause anxiety, as well as withdrawal from some substances.

Mild cases may remedy themselves, but severe cases can be debilitating and prevent you from working and living your life. There are multiple variations of anxiety:

A mental health professional (i.e., psychiatrist) can identify the cause of the anxiety. A physical exam, including medical testing, can identify any physical symptoms that may be causing the anxiety.

A positive diagnosis includes consistent worry for more than six months, difficulty in controlling that worry, and that the symptoms severely impact everyday life, interfering with work and/or school, etc.

Check Your Policy First

The first thing you’ll need to review is your LTD policy. What does it consider a “disability?” Does it cover mental illnesses? More importantly, does it exclude mental illnesses?

Check to see how your policy defines “disability.” Many LTD policies put a two-year limit on mental illness benefits. Anxiety may develop for any number of reasons, but it’s important to note if it develops in someone who is living with a physical disability that prevents them from working. Your LTD policy will tell you if mental illnesses are limited, or outright excluded.

You’ll need to meet all the other requirements of your LTD policy to be able to file the claim. If your anxiety was caused by an underlying physical condition, you may be able to collect benefits beyond the two-year standard for mental illnesses. But in order to do that, you’ll need to curate enough medical evidence that demonstrates your physical illness qualifies you as disabled on its own. This is where an attorney can help you.

The Human Factor

Always remember that disability insurance claims processors aren’t medical professionals. They’re not trained to offer medical advice or opinions, only to examine claims to see if they’re properly supported and submitted. They’re looking for anything that positively proves your disability, be it mental or physical.

Don’t rely on the insurance company to get everything. The more documentation you can submit that supports your claim, the better your chances of approval. Providing copies of physician’s notes, additional medical records, prescription records, therapy notes, and anything else that might be relevant can be submitted to support your claim.

Also be careful of any questionnaires or other documentation the insurance companies send to you. Some of the questions may be carefully written to intentionally disqualify your claim when you believe you’re answering truthfully to better support your claim. Having a disability lawyer review documentation before it’s sent to the insurer will help prevent automatic disqualifications for these kinds of questions, and make sure your claim is thorough and complete.

Surveillance

It’s not uncommon for insurance companies of all kinds to conduct surveillance on someone filing a claim, whether it’s LTD, for a car accident or a personal injury claim. (This is also common in divorce cases.) You may be followed, or your social media may be examined for evidence that you’re not as disabled as you claim, so be cautious about your activities and postings. Be aware that any evidence that is gathered can be used to deny your claim, even if it’s misrepresenting.

Your Houston LTD Disability Attorney

Nobody wants to suffer from chronic anxiety, but applying for long-term disability can be difficult. It’s important not to give up. We’re ready to help you through the long process of getting long-term disability benefits.

Over 4,000 Houstonians have received the LTD benefits they need, and we can help you too. The Herren Law Firm can help you with your application, appeals and help you through the process so you can concentrate on getting better. 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.