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.

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

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

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

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

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

Overview of Military Sexual Trauma and PTSD

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

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

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

Military Sexual Trauma and the VA

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

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

Evidence to Support a Military Sexual Trauma Claim

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

This evidence can include:

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

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

For a Free Consultation, Call Herren Law in Houston Today

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

What Are Social Security Disability Back Payments?

If there is one thing considered a constant when filing a Social Security disability claim, it’s that these claims take a very long time. Social Security disability (SSD) claimants know this, and the Social Security Administration knows this as well. As such, in almost every case where the claimant is awarded his/her SSD benefits or SSI benefits based on disability, then the past due disability benefits (known as disability “backpay”) is also awarded. The amount of backpay usually goes back to when the initial application was filed, though in some cases it can be earlier.

What Are Social Security Disability Back Payments | Herren Law Houston

If you applied for SSD benefits, it’s essential to have an experienced Houston SSD benefits attorney on your side. At Herren Law, we boast years of experience and helping hundreds of Houston residents with their disability benefits, and we can help you too, including with issues such as backpay. For a free consultation with Houston attorney William Herren, call our law firm today at (713) 682-8194.

In the meantime, you can learn more about Social Security disability back payments below.

Factors That Determine Backpay

Back payments are paid to successful SSD or SSI applicants for the months between the application date and the day you’re awarded benefits. This is generally due to the fact that there are many people applying for benefits, and the SSA is notorious for taking forever with the SSD application process. Furthermore, for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) payments, there is always a five-month waiting period, and for some applications, there might be retroactive benefits available. In general, the main factors that determine an applicant’s backpay include the application date, the date of disability, and the five-month waiting period.

Application Date

The first factor that determines the amount of your backpay is the application date for your Social Security disability or SSI benefits. When applying for SSD benefits, the SSA will give successful applicants backpay that satisfies monthly payments back to their date of application. Furthermore, some applicants may be considered for retroactive benefits during the year prior to the application date. Retroactive benefits might not be available to SSI applicants; SSI applicants can receive back pay that dates back to the first month after filing an application.

Additionally, some applicants can have a “protective filing date.” This date generally occurs before the applicant filed for benefits, and the applicant can receive back pay going back to this date.

Date of Disability

Next to the application date, the second most important factor when determining backpay is the date of disability. Essentially, this refers to when the disability occurred, and when filling out your claim application, you’ll have to include this date, known as the alleged onset date (AOD).

When approved for disability benefits, your DDS disability examiner or administrative law judge will give you an established onset date (EOD). Unlike AOD, which you determine, the EOD is dependent solely on the claimant’s medical records and work history. Some evidence considered for your EOD include doctor’s reports, lab results, and disability application.

It’s important to note that, for SSI, the Social Security Administration won’t give an EOD that occurs before the application date. This is due to the fact that SSI applicants cannot receive benefits before the month of application. Also, if the SSA states that your EOD is after the application date, then the SSI applicant will receive benefits starting on the EOD, not the application date. Remember, this is only for SSI applicants.

For SSD and SSDI applicants, you may be able to receive retroactive back payments if there is an established EOD before the application date.

Five-Month Waiting Period

The last major factor in SSD back payments is the five-month waiting period. This waiting period only applies to SSDI applicants, and not SSI applicants. This means that successful SSD applicants with an EOD may have five months of benefits removed from the beginning of their disability. In other words, the applicant is entitled to benefits 5 months after the EOD.

Contact Herren Law for a Free Consultation

There are numerous factors involved in every Social Security Disability case, whether that involves the date of disability, the evidence of disability and an inability to work, and so forth. In any case, you should expect a long and complex process, which is why it’s critical to get an experienced Houston SSD attorney at your side. For a free consultation with Herren Law, call our Houston law firm today at (713) 682-8194. We work on a contingency basis, meaning that you won’t pay a penny unless we win your case.

4 Ways to Improve Your VA Disability Claim in Houston TX

When you or a loved one joined the military, you, like thousands of other veterans, dedicated everything to your service, giving the Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, etc your 110%. Nevertheless, the VA is notorious for inefficiencies when getting disabled veterans their much-needed benefits. Despite your dedication, that may have left you disabled, the VA all-too-often rates the severity of a disability lower than it should be, or the VA takes way too long.

4 Ways to Improve Your VA Disability Claim in Houston TX | Herren Law

At Herren Law in Houston TX, we strongly believe that disabled veterans deserve their rightful and full benefits in a timely manner. With the help of Houston VA disability benefits attorney William Herren, we’ll help you through the VA benefits process every step of the way, from gathering and filing the claim to vigorously representing your case. We work on a contingency basis, meaning that you don’t pay a thing unless we win your case. If you are looking to claim your VA disability benefits, don’t hesitate and call Herren Law today at (713) 682-8194. Free consultations are available.

Reasons to Improve Your VA Disability Claim

Once the VA has determined that you have a service-connected disability, the organization will rate the severity of your disability on a scale between 0 and 100, whereas 100 is the most severe (offering the highest amount of benefits) and 0 is the least severe (offering the lowest amount of benefits, but still making health care and other benefits available to veterans).

This rating is designed to give veterans a fair amount that reflects the severity of their disability and their inability to work. However, like many disabilities, a veteran’s disability might not be static and could worsen over time. Additionally, the VA is not perfect, and they can sometimes rate a veteran’s disability as too low.

Keep in mind that the VA disability benefits process is time-consuming and complex, for both the VA and the veteran, and if your documentation isn’t complete or as clear as possible, then the VA might not connect the dots.

However, if you approach your VA disability claim (with the help of an experienced VA disability attorney) with the same discipline and grit as your military career, then you stand a chance of beating the VA and getting the full and fair benefits that you’re entitled to.

4 Ways to Improve Your VA Disability Claim

1. Make your VA disability claim as complete as possible

It’s no surprise that getting your VA disability documentation together is a full-time job. To start, you’ll need to get your VA claim file and your service medical records.

Next, do your due diligence and research any disability or condition in your records and connect that disability with the 38 CFR Part 4: Schedule of Ratings. Write up a summary of your conditions as well as any dates of treatment (during and after service), and bring this documentation with a one- to five-page summary. This documentation should be in addition to doctor’s opinions and, ideally, a nexus letter.

2. Get your VA C-File

Although there is already a ton of documentation to gather (seeing a trend?), your VA C-File is perhaps the most important document that you’ll need. Don’t wait until your hearing and go to your local VA regional office to try and get a copy.

3. Understand the law, and get a Houston VA disability attorney

The average denial rate in 2011 in front of the Board of Veterans’ Appeals (BVA) was around 24.2 percent, and that same year, according to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals Annual Chairman’s Report (Fiscal Year 2011), veterans who were represented by an attorney had a denial rate of about 17.7 percent. By knowing the law, and using your right to have a VA disability at your side, some benefits will include:

  • An experienced legal professional who’ll zealously advocate on your behalf, answer claim-related questions, and help you understand and obtain the evidence you need.
  • An attorney can analyze your entire claim, find weak and strong points, and help assess the most efficient path to getting you your benefits.
  • An attorney can help assist with your sworn testimonies at hearings

4. Use optimal evidence proving disability and service-connection

There are many paths to take when proving to the VA your disability and service connection. Always remember what you’re building in your claim: Eligibility, Service Connect, Impairment Rating, and Effective Date. With any of these four factors, if you have bad or wrong evidence, you may thoroughly sabotage your claim. When gathering your evidence, remember these 5 tenants of good VA disability evidence:

  1. Material
  2. Probative
  3. Relevant
  4. Competent
  5. Credible

Contact Houston’s Top VA Disability Attorney

Unlike the battlefields you faced in your service, filing for your VA disability benefits claim is a battlefield that you can choose and control. The most important parts of this process are gathering the correct evidence and documentation and making sure that the evidence and documentation are complete and clear. For these reasons, it can be extremely helpful to have an experienced, knowledgeable VA disability attorney at your side. For a free, no-obligation consultation with Houston VA disability benefits attorney William Herren, call our law firm today at (713) 682-8194.

Getting VA Disability Benefits for Mental Conditions in Houston TX

Disabilities that are connected to a veteran’s service are not always physical and visible. Actually, it’s not really news that active military service can have dramatic and incapacitating effects on the human mind. Although “shell shock” isn’t quite the medical term that accurately describes the complexity of an affected veteran’s mental condition, thousands of veterans throughout Texas suffer from PTSD, depression, anxiety, alcohol or drug addictions, and more.

Getting VA Disability Benefits for Mental Conditions in Houston TX

Many veterans are reluctant to seek VA disability benefits for mental disorders; however, these disorders can be just as debilitating as physical disorders. By calling Houston VA disability benefits attorney William Herren, you discuss the possibility for disability benefits for a condition connected to your service in the U.S. armed forces, whether Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, U.S. Coast Guard, and others.

To speak with Houston attorney William Herren, we invite you to call our Houston law firm today at (713) 682-8194. Consultations are always free, and if we decide to take your case, you won’t pay anything unless we win.

Basics About VA Disability Benefits for Mental Conditions

The stigma about mental health problems is still prevalent among veterans, especially due to the “tough” and “strong” atmosphere prevalent in many areas of the military. However, since the increased media attention regarding PTSD and other mental and emotional conditions, this stigma has reduced. Furthermore, the VA disability benefits for eligible veterans are worth pursuing, as the benefits include free medical attention as well as monthly payments, depending on the severity.

The most common VA disabilities include tinnitus and hearing loss, but PTSD is the most common mental condition, alongside drug and alcohol abuse. When the VA is determining whether or not you have a mental disability, the organization will organize several tests to determine the severity of your disability and how it affects your ability to work. The VA will also determine whether or not your disability is truly connected to your service in the military.

How the VA Evaluates a Veteran’s Mental Illness

Unlike physical disabilities, such as an amputated arm or a musculoskeletal disability, mental illnesses require different evaluations to determine their severity. To evaluate a mental illness, the VA uses its VA Schedule of Ratings Disabilities, which itself follows the criteria detailed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition (DSM-IV), which is published by the American Psychiatric Association. The categories of mental illness include:

Just like other disabilities, you’ll need to prove to the VA that your disability is connected to your military service. To get compensation, therefore, you must have:

  • A current diagnosis of mental illness
  • Evidence of an accident or an event that occurred during active service, creating the mental illness
  • Medical evidence that connects the illness to the accident or event

Mental Illness Prior to Service

In general, the VA doesn’t provide VA disability compensation for illnesses that result from genetic or developmental defects. In other words, if you have a mental illness that existed before your military service, you may be ineligible for compensation. Such conditions can include mental retardation and personality disorders.

However, if you have a pre-existing mental condition that was aggravated by your military service, then you still may be able to qualify. For instance, if a veteran diagnosed with a personality disorder enters the military, and during his/her service, an event causes the veteran to develop PTSD, then he/she may be able to receive benefits based on the PTSD.

How the VA Rates Mental Illness for Disability Benefits

Once the VA has determined that your mental illness is related to your military service, the VA then determines the level of disability severity and, therefore, how much compensation you may be entitled to. In addition to looking at the DSM-IV, the VA will consider the veteran’s Global Assessment of Functioning Scale (GAF). This GAF score measures the veteran’s ability to function at work (physically, socially, and emotionally). The GAF score ranges from 0 to 100, and a higher score means that you are more able to function in the workplace.

Furthermore, the VA provides ratings of 0%, 10%, 30%, 50%, 70%, or 100% for psychiatric conditions. 0% doesn’t provide any monthly compensation, but you still may be eligible for health care and other benefits. 100% provides the highest amount of benefits.

Call Herren Law Today for a Free Consultation

If you or a loved one suffered a mental condition that resulted from active service in the military, it’s important to file a claim with the VA for disability benefits. These benefits can be essential in your continued recovery while helping with finances if you’re unable to work to your maximum capacity. At Herren Law in Houston TX, disability benefits attorney William Herren has helped numerous veterans with their benefits associated with mental disorders. To get started on your case, it’s important to call attorney Herren as soon as possible. For a free consultation, call today at (713) 682-8194.

2017 VA Disability Chart With Compensation Rates

If you’re a veteran who was injured or suffered a serious illness while combat, then you may be able to request disability benefits through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). After filing the initial claim to the VA, and proving that your disability is service connected, among other evaluations, the next step is for the VA to assign you a rating for your disability. This rating, which reflects the severity of your disability and how much it impacts your ability to work, also sets the amount of your disability compensation.

At Herren Law, VA disability benefits attorney Bill Herren has helped numerous veterans throughout the Houston area with their benefits claims, and we have the resources, legal know-how, and vigorous litigation strategies to help you too. If you were injured while in the military, call Herren Law’s Houston office today at (713) 682-8194. Consultations are always free, and we work on a contingency basis, which means that you won’t pay a thing unless we win your case.

Below, we’ve detailed the 2017 VA disability rates, and how much you can expect to receive for your specific disability rating.

How Does the Schedule of Rating Disabilities Work?

The VA’s schedule of rating disabilities comes after the VA determines whether or not your disability was connected to your military service. The rating reflects the severity of your disability and how your disability may adversely affect your ability to work. As such, less severe disabilities receive lower ratings, while more severe disabilities receive higher ratings. The rating ranges from 0% to 100% and moves in 10% increments.

The VA schedule of rating disabilities is also categorized by the medical issue. For instance, just some of these categories include:

  • The musculoskeletal system
  • Organs of special sense
  • The respiratory system
  • The cardiovascular system
  • The digestive system
  • The endocrine system
  • And several others…

The VA and Your Rating

To rate your disability from 0% to 100% at 10% increments, the VA looks at your disability, the body system category, and the diagnostic code that best matches your disability. It’s important to note that, even if your disability fits under more than one diagnostic code, the VA is required to choose the diagnostic code that provides the higher rating.

If your disability isn’t listed in the Schedule of Rating Disabilities, the VA is supposed to look for a disability code closest to the one you have. Like any other agency, the VA can make mistakes and not apply the rating correctly. Furthermore, sometimes the VA will give you a lower rating that doesn’t reflect the severity of your disability.

2017 VA Disability Rates

Throughout 2016, veterans receiving disability payments didn’t see an increase in their rates. In 2017, however, the VA disability rates saw a small increase of 0.3%. Eligible veterans can receive up to $3,458.06 per month as a tax-free disability benefit. However, your disability rating and other factors will determine the actual amount you will receive.

Below, we’ve listed these rates (source: U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs website):

No Dependents:

  • 10% – $133.57
  • 20% – $264.02

30% to 60% Without Children

Dependent Status 30% 40% 50% 60%
Veteran Alone $408.97 $589.12 $838.64 $1,062.27
Veteran with Spouse Only $456.97 $654.12 $919.64 $1,159.27
Veteran with Spouse & One Parent $495.97 $706.12 $984.64 $1,237.27
Veteran with Spouse and Two Parents $534.97 $758.12 $1,049.64 $1,315.27
Veteran with One Parent $447.97 $641.12 $903.64 $1,140.27
Veteran with Two Parents $486.97 $693.12 $968.64 $1,218.27
Additional for A/A spouse $45.00 $59.00 $74.00 $89.00

 

70% to 100% Without Children

Dependent Status 70% 80% 90% 100%
Veteran Alone $1,338.71 $1,556.13 $1,748.71 $2,915.55
Veteran with Spouse Only $1,451.71 $1,686.13 $1,894.71 $3,078.11
Veteran with Spouse and One Parent $1,542.71 $1,790.13 $2,011.71 $3,208.56
Veteran with Spouse and Two Parents $1,633.71 $1,894.13 $2,128.71 $3,339.01
Veteran with One Parent $1,429.71 $1,660.13 $1,865.71 $3,046.00
Veteran with Two Parents $1,520.71 $1,764.13 $1,982.71 $3,176.45
Additional for A/A spouse $105.00 $119.00 $134.00 $149.08

 

30% to 60% With Children

Dependent Status 30% 40% 50% 60%
Veteran with Spouse and Child $492.97 $702.12 $978.64 $1,230.27
Veteran with Child Only $440.97 $632.12 $892.64 $1,127.27
Veteran with Spouse, One Parent and Child $531.97 $754.12 $1,043.64 $1,308.27
Veteran with Spouse, Two Parents and Child $570.97 $806.12 $1,108.64 $1,386.27
Veteran with One Parent and Child $479.97 $684.12 $957.64 $1,205.27
Veteran with Two Parents and Child $518.97 $736.12 $1,022.64 $1,283.27
Add for Each Additional Child Under Age 18 $24.00 $32.00 $40.00 $48.00
Each Additional Schoolchild Over Age 18 $78.00 $104.00 $130.00 $156.00
Additional for A/A spouse $45.00 $59.00 $74.00 $89.00

 

70% to 100% With Children

Dependent Status 70% 80% 90% 100%
Veteran with Spouse and Child $1,534.71 $1,781.13 $2,001.71 $3,197.16
Veteran with Child Only $1,414.71 $1,642.13 $1,845.71 $3,024.27
Veteran with Spouse, One Parent and Child $1,625.71 $1,885.13 $2,118.71 $3,327.61
Veteran with Spouse, Two Parents and Child $1,716.71 $1,989.13 $2,235.71 $3,458.06
Veteran with One Parent and Child $1,505.71 $1,746.13 $1,962.71 $3,154.72
Veteran with Two Parents and Child $1,596.71 $1,850.13 $2,079.71 $3,285.17
Add for Each Additional Child Under Age 18 $56.00 $64.00 $72.00 $80.76
Each Additional Schoolchild Over Age 18 $182.00 $208.00 $234.00 $260.91
Additional for A/A spouse $105.00 $119.00 $134.00 $149.08

 

It is important to note that these numbers reflect the VA’s compensation benefits, and it might not reflect the exact benefits that you’ll receive. For instance, the VA also has rates for:

  • Special Monthly Compensation (SMC)
  • Dependency Indemnity Compensation (DIC)
  • Automobile Allowance, Clothing Allowance and Medal of Honor
  • Birth Defects (Spina Bifida, Children of Women Vietnam Veterans)

Call Herren Law for Houston’s VA Disability Lawyer

There are countless factors involved with the VA disability process, and it can be very long-winded and involve medical evaluations, work evaluations, and other issues; often, the process gets very complex. For this reason, it’s critical to have an experienced and knowledgeable Houston VA disability lawyer at your side.

By calling Herren Law in Houston, you won’t pay a cent unless we win your case. For a free, no-obligation consultation with Houston VA disability benefits lawyer William 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.

VA Reexaminations – How To Protect Your Veterans Benefits

Once you have received your VA disability benefits, you are able to access the care and help you need without worries or stress about finances or other matters. It is for this reason why VA disability benefits are so essential to our disabled veterans. However, it’s essential to remember that your benefits might not be available forever, and the Veterans Affairs can reexamine your case. Based on the reexamination, and under certain circumstances, the VA can reduce or terminate your disability benefits.

How To Protect Your Veterans Benefits | Houston VA Attorney Herren Law

At Herren Law, we’ve come across many veterans in the Houston area who lost or experienced reduced disability benefits. In many cases, this has created havoc in their lives. If you or someone you know is facing a VA reexamination (or has lost or faced reduced benefits), then call Houston VA benefits attorney William Herren today.

In the meantime, you can find out how to protect your veterans benefits below.

Understanding the VA Reexamination Process

Reexaminations for veterans receiving disability benefits are covered under U.S. Law (Title 38, § 3.327). This law 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.”

In other words, if it is likely that your disability has improved, the VA may send a notification for reexamination. Remember, the VA is legally entitled to request reexaminations, and failure to follow the VA’s requests could result in the termination of your benefits.

Fortunately, you won’t get “surprised” with a reexamination, as the VA must send an advanced notice. After receiving this notice, you have 60 days to submit evidence proving that a reduction in benefits is not warranted. You have 30 days to request a hearing.

Scheduled Reexamination

Some injuries get better with time. Veterans receiving disability benefits for these types of injuries may have to undergo scheduled reexaminations. Generally, if you have a disability that may get better over time, the VA may schedule a reexamination within 2 to 5 years after you first started receiving benefits.

Change in Condition

The VA can also order a reexamination if there is new, material evidence showing a change in your condition. For instance, if you have a type of cancer and it goes into remission, then the VA may request a reexamination.

Fortunately, the VA may return your full benefits if your condition worsens again. When this occurs, you’ll need to write a letter to your VA regional office and provide medical evidence showing an increase in the severity of your condition.

Groups Who (Normally) Aren’t Called For Reexamination

If you are part of the following groups and you receive a notice for reexamination, there’s a chance that the VA made a mistake. In other words, eligible veterans who receive a notice should call the phone number on the letter they receive to explain why they think they shouldn’t have to go.

The types of veterans that the VA usually doesn’t call for reexamination include:

  • Veterans aged 55 and older
  • Veterans who have static disabilities, such as loss of a limb
  • Veterans who have a permanent disability resulting from a disease
  • Veterans who have the minimum rating for their disability

Protected Benefits

As part of most veterans’ disability benefits, there are Protected Benefits and Unprotected Benefits. Even if called for reexamination, it is very hard for the VA to reduce a veteran’s Protected Benefits. These benefits include:

  • Ratings in effect for 5 years or more
  • Ratings in effect for 30 years or more
  • 100% ratings

Unprotected Benefits

Your benefits can be reduced if the following circumstances are true:

  • If there is an actual improvement in disability
  • That improvement led to an increased ability to function in your life and work
  • The reexamination report is thoroughly detailed
  • The reexamination has reviewed your entire medical history

Call Veterans Disability Benefits Attorney Bill Herren

VA disability benefits law and practices can be complex, but by understanding this process, you can best protect your VA benefits. Nonetheless, whether you’ve been called for reexamination, or your reexamination led to a reduction or termination of benefits, one of the best protections available is a Houston TX VA disability attorney, like William Herren. At our law firm, we offer one thing: experience helping veterans just like you.

Moreover, we work on a contingency basis, meaning that you won’t pay a penny unless we win your case. For a free, no-obligation consultation with attorney William Herren, call our Houston law firm today at (713) 682-8194.

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.

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