Archive for the ‘Veterans' Disability’ Category
Monday, December 2nd, 2013
In 2012 the Madigan Army Medical Center fell under heavy scrutiny after it was revealed that its forensic psychiatry team was under-diagnosing veterans with PTSD. Nearly 400 patients were called back to the center to undergo reevaluation and 158 were given PTSD diagnoses.
Even with a newly issued diagnosis, many former Madigan patients were still finding difficulty filing for disability benefits. Up until recently the Army Review Board for Correction of Medical Records continued to use the former reports that were contested in the investigation.
Finally, in November 2013 Assistant Secretary of the Army Karl Schneider issued a memo that ordered the review board to ignore the previous diagnoses or dismissals from the forensic psychiatry department.
Many former Madigan patients are now making progress in claiming their rightful disability benefits through the VA thanks to the corrected medical records.
When a disabled veteran files a claim for disability benefits to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), the application should be supplemented with all pertinent medical records. In some cases, the VA will contact other military departments such as the Department of Defense to obtain records directly from the veteran’s military branch.
If medical records are missing or erroneous it can often lead to denial of a valid disability claim. If you are a veteran whose disability claim has been denied due to invalid, missing, or erroneous medical records, a veterans disability attorney from The Law Offices of LaVan & Neidenberg, PA can help.
To learn if you are entitled to certain programs and benefits contact us today – 1-888-234-5758.
Monday, November 25th, 2013
Veteran’s Administration (VA) is making progress toward its goal of eliminating all backlogged disability claims by 2015. According to the VA, since its peak of 611,000 claims in March 2013, the agency has reduced the backlog by 34 percent (down to 400,835) claims.
Other positive strides include completing 93 percent of the claims over a year old and improving the accuracy of disability ratings assigned to veterans. The VA also indicates that between 65 and 70 percent of the claims submitted have been approved for benefits, which it noted in a November 7 press release is “on par with historical averages.”
This progress is thanks in part to mandatory overtime (although, it was stopped for a period in October during the government shutdown) and is expected to continue through November 23. VA physicians have also been placed in regional offices to assist with claim decisions by reviewing medical records and other documentation.
Efforts to eliminate the backlog will continue in the coming months. Claims that have been pending the longest will be a particular area of focus.
The VA will also be working on prioritizing claims for certain groups such as:
- Medal of Honor recipients;
- prior Prisoners of War;
- homeless veterans;
- vets under extreme financial hardship; and
- terminally ill.
Also, those filing Fully Developed claims (FDC) will continue to receive faster decisions. This option is available when all necessary documentation is submitted at the time of application. Veterans looking to speed up the claims process can not only choose the FDC method, but may receive a quicker decision by filing electronically.
Since many denied claims stem from missing information or inadequate evidence, it might also be a good idea to secure help from an attorney at the start. Whether you are filing an initial application, an appeal or otherwise need assistance with your claim, contact the Law Offices of LaVan & Neidenberg, P.A. today.
Monday, October 14th, 2013
Last week the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary Eric Shinseki warned the House Veterans Affairs Committee that if the government shutdown continued through the month his department would lose critical functions, according to media reports.
Currently, VA benefits such as disability benefits will continue throughout October. However, if the staff furloughs and cut-off funds are not restored by the end of the month, November’s payments could be in jeopardy. The Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) has already furloughed 7,800 employees and the five million disabled veterans it serves may not see a benefit check next month.
Veterans who are not yet receiving disability benefits and are waiting on a decision on a VA disability application or appeal have a different issue to consider. With the majority of the VBA staff furloughed, work on processing pending claims has dropped significantly. Progress on an estimated 250,000 claims has halted which is already reversing progress on the claims backlog. Last month was one of the first times the backlog increased since new policies for claims processing were implemented.
In September, the number of pending veterans disability claims grew by about 2,000, a significant setback considering the previous month had seen a decrease of 193,000. The previous months’ positive influence on the backlog had been thanks to the mandatory overtime and extra staff – resources now suspended because of the shutdown.
Even though the processing of claims has been delayed and suspended in some cases, if you have not yet filed for veterans’ disability benefits you are still encouraged to do so with the help of a professional veterans disability firm.
The Law Offices of LaVan & Neidenberg, P.A. is ready to help all veterans and their families learn about how to apply for the benefits to which they are entitled. Contact us – 1-888-234-5758.
Wednesday, October 9th, 2013
As the government shutdown continues to impact various departments and government services, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has continued to operate in accordance with its contingency plans.
How the Shutdown is Affecting Claims Processing
For existing claims, most disability claims will continue to be processed as usual. However, there may be delays in obtaining critical information for incomplete claims. Veterans who file their claim post-shutdown will not see the claim processed until after the shutdown. But filing your claim now secures your effective date and places your information in the VA’s hands so your claim is ready to be processed as soon as the shutdown ends.
Disability claims that require an appeal are still stalled as the Board of Veterans Appeals will not be meeting for the duration of the shutdown. Likewise, Board field hearings on appeals will not be held.
November Disability Payments in Question
So far, October’s disability benefits have been paid, but the availability of funds for November’s payments is still questionable. If the shutdown is still in effect near the end of October, the VA will assess the situation and appropriate funds where available.
Contact an Attorney for Claims Help
The VBA’s Regional Offices public contact services, VA website, and many of the VA’s social media services are either suspended or updated intermittently. At this time, if you are in need of immediate answers on your pending claim or have emergency questions about your benefits, it is best to contact a veterans’ disability attorney.
The Law Offices of LaVan & Neidenberg, P.A. is a private business unaffected by the government shutdown – our team is here for you Monday through Friday, 8AM to 5PM! Contact our disability firm today – 1-888-234-5758.
Friday, October 4th, 2013
Due to the October 2013 government shutdown, many Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) services are now limited or suspended until further notice. As there is no determined date to when the funding for certain operations will once again become available, the VA has implemented its full contingency plan for government shutdowns.
Among the internal departments of the VA, the Board of Veterans Appeals will no longer conduct hearings for veterans disability decisions until the shutdown has ended. This means veterans who have been waiting on decisions or hearings for months will continue to wait until normal operations resume.
Unfortunately, this is a government-level decision and it impacts the veterans disability claims process. All veterans advocate services, veterans disability attorneys, and individual veterans will have to wait out the shutdown before they can continue to pursue an appeal hearing.
For first-time claimants who are not seeking an appeal, claims processing is still set to continue until late October. However, if the shutdown lasts longer, claims processing will have to be suspended when funding has been exhausted. In the event the shutdown lasts beyond the funded period, no new claims will be processed and existing claims will be stalled.
The Law Offices of LaVan & Neidenberg, P.A. continues to monitor the situation and keep our clients informed of the latest impact of the shutdown on their claims. We continue to do our best to push our existing claims through while the regular processing is conducted and hope that the shutdown does not impact our clients any further. Contact us today if you have questions regarding your existing claim or wish to file a new claim – 1-888-234-5758.
Wednesday, October 2nd, 2013
Agent Orange, the herbicide made famous during the Vietnam War for its use as a jungle defoliant in the late 1960s and 1970s, is now infamous for causing disabling health effects. Many military personnel who served during the Vietnam era, as well as their biological children, are still feeling the effects of this toxic chemical and therefore may be eligible for veterans’ disability benefits.
Vietnam veterans who served in the Vietnam area between January 9, 1962 and May 7, 1975 – even if they were not ground troops and only visited shore for brief periods or served on the inland waterways – are presumed to have been exposed to Agent Orange. Likewise, soldiers serving in the Korean demilitarized zone between April 1, 1968 and August 31, 1971 are presumed to have been exposed to the herbicide.
Veterans who were exposed may have an increased risk of suffering certain diseases known as “presumptive diseases.” This includes ailments such as many types of cancers, diabetes mellitus type 2, Parkinson’s disease, ischemic heart disease, and peripheral neuropathy. The diagnosis of one of the presumptive diseases and proof of service during the applicable time periods and locations typically result in an automatic disability rating for a Vietnam veteran.
In addition to the direct effects of Agent Orange, the biological children of Vietnam veterans exposed to the chemical may suffer certain birth defects. Children of male or female veterans are prone to spina bifida and may qualify for disability benefits from the VA. Children of female Vietnam veterans are prone to a more extensive list of birth defects not related to Agent Orange, but rather to the mother’s service in Vietnam.
Vietnam veterans, children of Vietnam veterans, and close family members of Vietnam veterans should be aware of the ailments associated with service in the Vietnam War and options for compensation. To learn more, The Law Offices of LaVan & Neidenberg, P.A. have dedicated veterans’ disability claim representatives to answer all your questions about starting or appealing a claim for benefits. Call today – 1-888-234-5758.
Sunday, September 29th, 2013
The Department of Veterans Affairs estimates that 11 to 20 percent of veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars suffer post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). And there is a growing concern for veterans with PTSD who are not receiving proper treatment or are not receiving any treatment at all. Some common forms of treatment include counseling and medication, though new treatments are also arising.
Virtual Reality PTSD Treatment Uses ‘Exposure Therapy’
Bravemind, a virtual reality system which replays scenarios that the vet may have been lived out, was developed by the University of Southern California Institute for Creative Technologies. It’s based upon “prolonged exposure therapy,” which is a type of talk therapy that helps the patient recall traumatic events and work through the feelings and emotions that it stirs up.
Researchers are looking into the potential benefits of using virtual therapy as a component; small studies have shown it’s been helpful. Since some may repress memories from traumatic experiences, some believe that virtual reality can help uncover them. Although some vets believe that trying to forget about what happened is the best way to deal with those traumatic events, talking can help process the emotions.
But the system doesn’t just awaken these events through visual animation on a screen. The experience is further intensified by smells and touch. For instance, the seat vibrates to mimic the engine of a Humvee. And a black box emits odors appropriate to the scene, such as smells that associated with a market.
Veterans Disability Benefits for PTSD
Meanwhile, many are struggling to deal with what can be debilitating symptoms of PTSD. Symptoms can include emotional numbness, loss of interest in activities once enjoyed, anger, insomnia and many other life-altering issues. For those disabled as a result of PTSD, disability benefits may be available. To learn about eligibility, contact the Law Offices of LaVan & Neidenberg, P.A.
Friday, September 27th, 2013
Ensuring that veterans receive adequate medical care for mental health issues – such as post-traumatic stress disorder – has been an ongoing concern. On September 4, Veterans Affairs provided contracts to two companies geared at providing greater inpatient and outpatient care for vets who are unable to acquire necessary services through VA.
Although the VA does have a variety of programs geared toward helping vets with mental health issues, it may not be adequate enough due to the increasing number of vets who require them.
Health Net and TriWest will provide services when veterans are unable to get an appointment with a local VA hospital or when a VA facility is too far for travel. This will allow quicker medical care that is cost-effective.
This initiative is expected to be available by spring of 2014. Not only will this program provide vets with appropriate medical care, but these companies will also oversee medical documentation, tracking, claims and referral management.
A study published in Psychiatric Services in 2012 found that veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars did not receive initial treatment for an average of over two years from the time they returned from deployment. It also found an average seven-and-a-half year lapse between initial mental health appointments and the start of minimally adequate treatment. In the end, it was found that 75 percent of vets never received minimally adequate medical care.
Coping with a mental health issue can be difficult enough without also having the burden of filing a disability claim. One way to receive help collecting documentation and completing paperwork is with an attorney who handles these types of cases. Contact the Law Offices of LaVan & Neidenberg, P.A. at 888-234-5758 for help with an initial claim or to appeal a denied claim.
Thursday, September 26th, 2013
It’s an issue that is often not adequately addressed: the trauma that sexual assault victims in the armed forces experience. Yet it’s a serious issue affecting at least one in five women who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to the VA. It even has a name, “Military Sexual Trauma” (MST), and is defined as “sexual assault or repeated, threatening sexual harassment that occurred while the Veteran was in the military.”
Unfortunately, many women don’t report sexual assault in the armed forces. And many don’t seek help from Veteran’s Administration (VA). The reasons vary, from fear of repercussions, feeling embarrassed or ashamed, or just not wanting to relive the nightmare.
Yet treatment can be effective in dealing with the psychological trauma that victims experience. One of the more serious and most common is post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which can be debilitating and significantly alter one’s life. Other conditions linked to MST include insomnia and anxiety.
Recovering Disability Benefits for MST-Related Conditions
Compensation may be available for those suffering from MST. There are two required elements. First, the incident of sexual trauma must have occurred while on active duty. And the veteran must have received a medical diagnosis connected to the event. It could be that the sexual trauma resulted in the medical condition or made it worse.
Completing a disability application or appeal can be time-consuming and complicated, especially when dealing with a physical or psychological disability. One way to avoid complex issues with the paperwork and some of the challenges that may arise is to seek help from an attorney who handles veterans’ disability claims. Contact the Law Offices of LaVan & Neidenberg, P.A. for help: 888-234-5758.
Wednesday, September 25th, 2013
Waiting for a decision on a veterans disability claim can take several months or longer. Although efforts to reduce the significant backlog have made some progress, there’s another problem that millions of vets are facing – a delay in the appeals process.
The initial filing of a claim is just one issue that disabled vets have to tackle. Many of the decisions made on these claims are contested – such as in the case of denials – or veterans may have a dispute with the disability rating. This means having to file an appeal and waiting yet again for a decision.
In the past several years, there has been a 50 percent increase in the number of claims being appealed, the Washington Post notes. Currently there are 256,601 vets waiting for a decision on an appeal, according to data from the VA. And the bad news is that pending appeals are expected to increase.
Some believe that with the focus on the current backlog of disability claims, the VA is paying less attention to those in the appeals process. The resources provided to deal with one backlog isn’t properly addressing another backlog.
The appeals process can take several years. The Board of Veterans’ Appeals is the last step in the process within Veterans Administration (VA). Those who decide to pursue an appeal then have to go to the next level: filing with the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans’ Claims Court, which is outside the jurisdiction of the VA, which can delay a resolution even further.
Many of the appeals could be avoided by ensuring the initial claim is completed accurately and completely. An attorney from the Law Offices of LaVan & Neidenberg, P.A. can help. Call us at 888-234-5758.