Filing A Veterans Disability Claim In Houston, TX

If you’re one of the thousands of veterans who were injured in the line of duty and are now disabled, chances are you’ve at least once attempted to apply for disability benefits. If you’re reading this blog post, it’s also possible your claim has been denied. But whatever your current status, there is a process to filing your Veterans disability claim.

Filing a Veterans disability claim in Houston, Texas.

The VA’s website is the place to start, and offers basic guidelines and tells you what evidence you need to support your claim. This includes:

  • VA medical records that are either related to your injury/illness, or demonstrate that your rated disability is worsening
  • Hospital reports and other private medical records that are either related to your injury/illness, or demonstrate that your rated disability is worsening
  • Supporting statements from friends, family, fellow service members and others that can provide additional information on how your injury/illness occurred, or how it has worsened. This is also called “lay evidence.”

You can apply online at the VA’s website, by visiting your local VA office, by calling by calling 800-827-1000, or by printing the application here and mailing it to your local VA office.

If you need help, please see our recent blog post on getting assistance with filing your application.

Medical Records And Evidence

The VA provides a list on its website of all the evidence you’ll need to gather for your claim application in addition to VA Form 21-526 and your DD-214.

There are two options for submitting your claim:

  • A Fully Developed Claim, in which you’ll take full responsibility for gathering, organizing and enclosing all of your relevant medical records, supporting documentation, and certify that the VA does not need to recover any more of your records to support your claim. Once you certify that all the relevant records are enclosed, you will be required to attend any medical exams the VA needs and requests for them to reach a decision on your claim.
  • A Standard Disability Claim, in which the VA takes responsibility for recovering any documentation needed for your claim. You’ll need to specify in your application where the records can be obtained or found, especially if they are not with a federal agency. You may be asked to obtain some of these records, such as medical records from a private doctor or hospital, and you will also be required to attend any medical exams the VA needs and requests to reach a decision on your claim.

Lay Evidence

This is evidence that doesn’t require specialized knowledge to deliver, including:

  • Your personal testimony regarding the symptoms of your current disability
  • Your spouse, children or other relative’s testimony about a diagnosis you received many years ago at a military hospital
  • A “buddy statement” that corroborates something that happened to you while you were in the service
  • Performance evaluations done before and after an incident that caused your illness, injury or disability

This supporting evidence is usually submitted as a written statement, and is included with your claim.

Bureau of Veterans Affairs

Once everything is submitted, the BVA will review your file, and determine whether or not you qualify for disability benefits, and if so, assign a percentage.

However, you are ineligible for benefits if:

  • Your disability was caused by misconduct
  • You were dishonorably discharged
  • You were avoiding duty when the injury occurred, i.e., AWOL or deserting
  • You were injured while in prison or detained in relation to a court martial or a civil court felony

If you are denied and would like to appeal, contact an attorney who specializes in disability law. You have a short time frame for appeal, so get started immediately.

Helping Houston’s Disabled Veterans

Have you had trouble applying and qualifying for VA disability benefits? Been denied and need to appeal? It’s time to reach out for help. William Herren is a veterans disability attorney who can make the claims and appeals process easier. Call The Herren Law Firm today at 713-682-8194 (or use our online contact form) to schedule your free consultation. Our contingency fee basis means you won’t owe a fee until we win your case, and there’s no obligation.

In Houston TX, Can I Get Veterans Disability Benefits For Sleep Apnea?

Good sleep equals good health. An individual needs as many hours as they need to get a good night’s rest. But for many, a good night’s sleep isn’t something that happens like it should.

Sleep problems affect as much as 70% of the population at one time or another. Among veterans, the rate is about 20%, with the rate increasing to 87% of veterans between the ages of 55 and 89. These numbers are irrespective of socio-economic class or other demographic.

In Houston TX, can I get Veteran Disability Benefits for Sleep Apnea?"

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine reports that sleep disorders have seen a dramatic rise in the veteran population. The article from the journal Sleep reports that sleep apnea was the most commonly diagnosed condition at 47% of the 9.7 million veterans studied. (Insomnia was second, at 26%.) Veterans with pre-existing PTSD are associated with a higher risk of sleep apnea and other disorders. The Department of Veterans Affairs reports that claims for sleep apnea have increased fourfold in the last several years, with more veterans requesting tests and applying for benefits.

What Is Sleep Apnea?

Sleep apnea is a condition in which your breathing is repeatedly obstructed while you’re asleep, forcing you to start breathing again. (The Mayo Clinic has more information.) Because you don’t always wake up, you might not be aware. But snoring and drowsy fatigue upon rising are signs that you might be experiencing sleep apnea.

Sleep apnea has three different causes, but all lead to the same outcome. Lack of sleep can lead to other conditions, such as heart disease, high blood pressure, weight gain, headaches, memory problems, stroke, diabetes, and depression. Drowsiness can lead to things like car crashes and other accidents if left untreated.

Although anyone of any age can find themselves with sleep apnea, it’s most common in men over 40, particularly if they are overweight. Diagnosis requires a sleep study to confirm apnea.

After a diagnosis, the usual treatment involves a CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machine. This device forces air into nasal passages that’s strong enough to bypass any obstruction and promote more normal breathing. Because it’s a treatment and not a cure, a CPAP must be worn nightly, or the patient experiences a return of apnea symptoms.

Getting Benefits For Sleep Apnea

Because sleep apnea may develop after your discharge, there may be no reason to have a sleep study done. Veterans in line-of-fire combat situations are not likely to request a sleep study while deployed, and sleep problems are usually tied to the occupation.

Like any condition, the VA is looking for one thing: a service connection.

The first step is to actually get a diagnosis, although that doesn’t guarantee a rating and benefits. Either your sleep apnea was caused by or aggravated by your time in the service.

The next step is to gather the medical evidence you need to establish a connection between your time in the service and your sleep apnea diagnosis.

If you have other conditions that are already service-connected, such as PTSD, your sleep apnea could be what’s called a “secondary service connected” issue. Sleep apnea could also be the cause of another condition.

The South Texas Veterans Health Care System in San Antonio  at the Audie L. Murphy VA Medical Center has a full diagnostic testing lab for veterans. The website also includes printable PDFs with information on better sleep.

But if you are experiencing severe sleeping problems, it’s important to get started on a sleep study and getting treatment (including a CPAP, if possible), even if it’s not service connected, so that you can start sleeping better. There are organizations that can help you get a CPAP if you’re unable to afford one on your own. Your doctor can work with you to determine if it is, in fact, service connected, and write a prescription for the CPAP.

If your claim for sleep apnea has been denied, it’s time to enlist the help of an attorney who understands the VA disability claim system.

Helping Houston’s Veterans With Sleep Apnea Claims

William Herren has worked with veterans in the Houston area for more than 20 years to help them get their VA disability 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 with our contingency fee arrangement, we don’t charge a fee until we win your case.

Where Can I Get Assistance Filing A Veterans Disability Claim In Houston, TX?

Filing a Veterans disability claim is often a difficult process that can be extremely frustrating and irritating. If you’ve had about enough of the VA and their endless forms and phone calls, you may realize that it’s time to ask for help. But where?

Veterans don’t have to feel helpless against the VA. Help is available, all you have to do is reach out for it. Here’s a list of some of the places you can contact for help filing a Houston Veterans disability claim.

Filing A Houston Veterans Disability Claim

TexVet.Org

This online referral service is run by Texas A&M, and is a state program for veterans, their families, and the groups that serve them, offering verified information and referral resources.

County Veterans Officers

There are two of these officers in the Houston area. The Veterans County Service Officer Association of Texas’ website here, with additional information. The VCSOAT is a 501c19 non-profit organization.

The Texas Veterans Commission

This Austin-based state agency was created in 1927 to be an advocate for veterans throughout the Lone Star State, to assist them in getting the benefits they’ve earned. Their focus is on nine programs:

  • Claims Representation and Counseling
  • Veterans Employment Services
  • Veterans Education
  • Communications and Veterans Outreach
  • Veteran Entrepreneur Program
  • Health Care Advocacy
  • Veterans Mental Health Program
  • Women Veterans Program
  • The Fund for Veterans’ Assistance

TVC has counselors available statewide to help with claims, appeals, and resources available, with a women’s veteran program available.

AMVETS

This nationwide organization offers veterans free help with claims, even if you’re not a paying member. There are two Houston-area posts, one northeast of the city in Rye, TX, with two points of contact, and additional posts throughout the state. AMVETS offers free assistance for filing Veterans disability claims, veteran healthcare advocates, career assistance and other related services through their National Service Department with a series of National Service Officers.

The Disabled American Veterans (DAV)/DAV Of Texas

If you live in Houston, there are a number of available services to help you file a Veterans disability claim. But what if you live in the outer environs, and can’t get to the VA Medical Center or someplace else?

Headquartered in Lufkin with additional locations in Houston, San Antonio and Waco, the DAV has help available from DAV National Service Officers throughout the Lone Star State. The DAV also has Mobile Service Offices (MSO) that travel to the smaller towns and rural areas for veterans that don’t live in town. These services are provided free of charge to disabled veterans and their families to help them access to benefits and services. Information seminars, outreach programs, employment assistance and other resources (including for homeless veterans) are available upon request, free of charge.

The Wounded Warrior Project

Founded in 2003, WWP was created to serve injured veterans who became injured after September 11, 2001. With an office located in Clear Lake, WWP is both a non-profit and a VA-accredited agency that can help you with both the VA and the DoD to get benefits and services you need. Team members work with veterans to make sure their claims are filed correctly, and through the process. You can also call their Resource Center at 888.WWP.ALUM (997.2586), 904.405.1213, or email at resourcecenter@woundedwarriorproject.org. WWP also offers health and wellness programs, family support, employment assistance and other programs to wounded veterans.

A Veterans Disability Attorney

With all the free help that’s available to veterans, you may not think hiring an attorney is necessary. But if your Veterans disability claim is denied, finding a veterans disability attorney who understands the process can make sure your application and any appeals are handled correctly, and according to the VA’s rules and regulations.

Organizations that work with veterans may be over-worked and understaffed. They may not be able to help with appeals. An attorney who specializes in VA cases is able to take the time to work with you and make sure everything is done properly. You can also speak with your attorney (or a member of staff) when you call to ask about your case.

The best reason to hire an attorney: both the VA and the United States Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims (CAVC) treat an application differently when the veteran is represented by an attorney, increasing your chances for approval or winning on appeal.

Helping Houston’s Veterans

William Herren is a Veterans’ disability attorney who has worked with veterans in the Houston area for more than 20 years to help them get the benefits they deserve. 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. We don’t charge you a fee until 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.