Archive for the ‘Veterans' Disability’ Category

Standardized Claim and Appeal Forms Now Required for Disability Benefits

Thursday, April 2nd, 2015

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is now requiring that all disability applicants use standardized forms when applying for benefits or filing an appeal. The change is part of the VA’s initiative to make the disability benefits application process simpler and faster. Two types of claims now require the standard forms.

The veterans’ application for disability compensation requires VA Form 21-526EZ, Application for Disability Compensation and Related Compensation Benefits. If a wartime veteran is seeking needs-based pension, he or she must file VA Form 21-527EZ, Application for Pension. Finally, survivors who are filing a claim for dependency and indemnity compensation (DIC), survivor’s pension, or accrued benefits must file VA Form 21-534EZ, Application for DIC, Death Pension, and/or Accrued Benefits.

There are standardized forms for the appeals process as well. Veterans who are in disagreement with a decision regarding their VA compensation must file VA Form 21-0958, Notice of Disagreement. It is important to note that veterans and survivors are not required to use this standardized form to appeal pension or survivors benefits.

The VA is also now accepting a special form that notifies the department of a veteran’s intent to file a claim. This can be done online through the eBenefits system, through the physical VA Form 21-0966, Intent to File a Claim for Compensation and/or Pension, or Survivors Pension and/or DIC, or over the phone with the VA call center. Filing the intent form allows a veteran to gather all of the necessary evidence to support their claim to expedite the processing of their claim and eliminate the need to pause the review process to obtain more information.

You can find these standardized forms on the VA’s website, at your local VA office, or by working with a veterans’ disability advocate. If you would like help with a veterans’ disability benefits appeal, contact LaVan & Neidenberg® for assistance and support for your claim. Call today – 1-888-234-5758.

Early Signs of Post-Traumatic Stress after Blast-related Concussion Good Predictor of Later Disability

Wednesday, March 18th, 2015

A recent study published in the medical journal Brain found a connection between early symptoms of post-traumatic stress and later-life disability in military personnel who suffered blast-related mild traumatic brain injuries (mTBI) during service.

In the most recent military conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Department of Defense estimated that one-fifth of servicemembers experienced some type of head injury. More than 80 percent of those injuries were mTBI. However, the study suggests that mTBI, commonly known as a concussion, may have long-term effects and that early symptoms may be a strong predictor of later disability.

The study observed 38 servicemembers diagnosed with mTBI from a blast and 34 servicemembers with no brain injury as the control group. Early assessments of both groups examined their symptoms of post-traumatic stress, including repetitive nightmares or recalling disturbing memories, emotional numbness, and mood swings. A follow-up interview was conducted with each patient six to 12 months later.

Later evaluations found 63 percent of the mTBI group was moderately disabled, meaning they could no longer work as they did before and had difficulty continuing relationships with family and friends or could not continue regular social and leisure activities. Only 20 percent of the control group had a moderate disability. “When we were able to connect the dots, we saw that injuries that might have been considered trivial seemed to have a big impact on how these patients did later on,” according to study author Christine L. MacDonald, PhD, of Washington University at the time of the study.

Traditionally, medical professionals and researchers are concerned with headaches and vision disruption, and cognitive effects of a concussion. More recently, researchers and other experts are studying the mental health effects of a concussion on servicemembers in order to reduce the risk of disabling conditions.

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) recognizes the millions of veterans who return from service with service-related injuries or develop health conditions due to their military service. These veterans may be eligible for veterans’ disability benefits through the VA. For help when you are appealing a claim, contact LaVan & Neidenberg®: 1-888-234-5758.

Department of Defense Appoints New Director of Suicide Prevention Office

Wednesday, February 11th, 2015

Reports from the Department of Defense (DoD) reveal that in 2013 there were 479 suicides reported from all branches of the U.S. armed forces. That year, the number of servicemember suicides was greater than the number of combat casualties during all but one year of Operation Enduring Freedom.

With military suicide still a growing issue for both active duty and veteran servicemembers, the DoD took action to improve the programs meant to combat suicide. Recently, Keita Franklin was named the new director of the Defense Suicide Prevention Office (DSPO), the DoD’s primary source of suicide prevention and education.

The appointment also comes with a raise in prestige, with the director of the DSPO now ranking as a Senior Executive Service position. The DoD made this move to “reinforce the department’s commitment to decreasing the incidence of suicide and increasing resiliency across the armed forces,” says Undersecretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, Jessica Wright.

Before taking the new position, Director Franklin was the head of the Behavioral Health Branch at the Marine Corps Headquarters. While in that role, she was leading five behavioral health programs that included suicide prevention. Now, she hopes to bring her interest in post-traumatic stress symptoms and their connection to family functioning to her new role.

Suicide is also a concern for servicemembers after they completed their active duty. According to the 2012 Veterans Suicide Data Report from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), we lost an estimated 22 veterans every day to suicide in 2010. More than 69 percent of all veteran suicides reported between 1999 and 2010 involved veterans age 50 and older.

If you are a U.S. veteran who is suffering from a combat-related disability, you may be entitled to compensation from the VA through veterans’ disability benefits. Contact LaVan & Neidenberg® for help filing or appealing a disability claim. Call today – 1-888-234-5758.

Changes in Disabled Veterans’ Propensity to Return to the Workforce

Monday, January 12th, 2015

An article in the November 2014 issue of Stanford University’s SIEPR Policy Brief, sheds light on two rising trends in the disabled veteran community and their interconnectedness. Stanford University Economics professor Mark Duggan explains that the rapid rise in disability benefit enrollment has contributed to disincentives to job entry.

Increased VA Benefits & Willingness to Work

From the 1950s through the year 2000, roughly 10 percent of veterans received disability benefits. Now, that figure is much higher; roughly 18 percent of veterans are enrolled in the disability program. From 2001 to 2014, the number of vets receiving disability rose from2.3 million to 3.9 million.

The increase in the number of disability recipients can be attributed to several reasons, two of which are listed below.

  • The government expanded the medical eligibility criteria for Vietnam-era veterans exposed to Agent Orange.
  • Recent vets are more likely to receive disability than vets from previous eras. The government eased the requirements for veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) to qualify for benefits. (PTSD is now the third most common disability amongst veterans.)

Duggan also reported that the when veterans begin receiving disability benefits, they are more likely to drop out of the workforce. “During the 1980s and 1990s, veterans were significantly more likely to work than were nonveterans. Today, the opposite is true,” he explained.

The two primary reasons these trends coincide are what economists refer to as the “income effect” (with more income from benefits, veterans may prefer additional leisure to work, Duggan wrote), and the “substitution effect” (if the veteran takes on additional work, it can prevent him from qualifying for a higher level of disability compensation benefits).

Industry experts are calling for reform, which could mean decreased benefits and stiffer regulations down the road for veterans with disabilities.

Help with Your VA Benefits

If you are having difficulties applying for or getting qualified for disability benefits, call our disability attorneys at LaVan & Neidenberg®. Contact us to schedule a free consultation at 1-888-234-5758.

Is the VA’s backlog elimination promise unreachable?

Friday, January 9th, 2015

The Department of Veteran’s Affairs (VA) made a promise to eliminate the backlog of VA benefit claimants awaiting a decision by the end of 2015. Military Times recently reported on the VA department’s progress, and it now seems unlikely the agency will reach its goal.

The VA Backlog

The backlog refers to the list of first-time VA benefits claims that have been unresolved for four months or longer. The backlog peaked at 610,000 claims in March of 2013. This meant that hundreds of thousands of veterans were left idly waiting for a reply for their benefit claims.

The VA promised to add staff and improve its methods and cut the backlog down to zero by the end of this year. However, the backlog still sits at about 245,000 cases – a number that is potentially unsurmountable by the deadline.

Granted, the VA has made some improvements. Last year was a record-breaking year for the department in terms of claims resolutions; it completed more than 1.3 million compensation and pension claims, its highest figure ever in a single year. Even still, the enormity of the workload and the rise in the number of claims and appeals being made, is making “zero an elusive goal,” reports Military Times.

Even though VA Secretary Bob McDonald stands by the VA’s promise to tend to all the claims on the backlog by the end of the year, industry experts are doubtful. This is quite disheartening news for veterans. Jackie Maffucci, a research director for Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, explains: “[G]etting to zero is still important, because it’s a promise that was made to veterans. Our members still tell us this is one of their top concerns. Keeping that promise still matters.”

Help with Your VA Benefits

If you are having difficulties with your disability benefits, call our team at LaVan & Neidenberg®. Contact our firm to learn about our services or to schedule a free consultation at 1-888-234-5758.

Doctors Discover New Sleep Disorder Affecting Soldiers and Veterans after Trauma

Tuesday, November 18th, 2014

Any veteran deployed in an active combat situation can tell you, getting a good night’s sleep is often impossible. A recent study performed by doctors at Madigan has found that sleep may continue to elude many veterans even after their service is complete.

A new condition called Trauma-associated sleep disorder (TSD) is causing concern among military medical officials. Symptoms can range from harmless to traumatic and may include the following.

  • Sleepwalking
  • Thrashing
  • Restlessness
  • Tossing and turning
  • Flailing
  • Screaming
  • Hitting bed partners

There have been some studies on sleep disorders in soldiers and veterans, but it was not until doctors observed connected traits in a group of soldiers treated at Madigan that the researchers discovered the new sleep condition. Doctors are looking at disruptive nocturnal behaviors, nightmares, and rapid eye movement sleep without atonia as components of TSD.

Researchers believe the conditions associated with TSD are linked to traumatic experiences, such as combat situations. Many of the soldiers studied at Madigan had REM sleep with dream enactment, often of traumatic, nightmareish dreams, which caused the harmful sleep movement. Doctors are now working on further studies to determine the full causes and hopefully better understand TSD and how to treat the potentially disabling condition.

A good night’s sleep is necessary for any individual to lead a healthy and happy life. If you are a veteran with disabling conditions (physical or mental) that make sleep and quality of life difficult, you may qualify for veterans disability benefits.

At the Law Offices of LaVan & Neidenberg, P.A. our attorneys advocate for veterans who developed disabling conditions during or due to their military service. If you believe you are eligible or you have been denied disability benefits by the VA, contact our veteran’s disability firm today 1-888-234-5758.

Department of Veterans Affairs Announced Award of Grants for Adaptive Sports

Monday, September 29th, 2014

Disabled veterans and servicemembers may soon find new ways to play thanks to more than $8 million in grants awarded to 69 national, regional and community programs across the U.S. The grants are part of a new program from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) created to improve the availability of adaptive sports in communities with large veteran populations.

Adaptive sports are sports created or modified so they are easier enjoyed and played by persons with disabilities. Some examples include wheelchair basketball and handcycling, which were adapted for veterans who have lost the use of their feet or legs. The community programs will use the grants to develop better training programs, hire recreation and physical therapists, purchase equipment, and promote classes and events to veterans and military families.

Leading an active lifestyle is an important part of healing, recovery and long-term health for disabled veterans injured during active duty. Many veterans with physical impairments benefit from sports as a positive, fun method of physical therapy and strength training. Sports therapy is a part of many recovery plans for veterans who have suffered combat-related injuries, and there are dozens of paralympic and pro-disabled sporting events across the country where veterans compete.

“Disabled Veterans who participate in adaptive sports improve their health and quality of life, make new friendships and discover that physical rehabilitation healing comes in many forms and can also be great fun,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert A. McDonald.

The VA benefits disabled veterans in many ways, such as through veterans’ disability benefits. The Law Offices of LaVan & Neidenberg, P.A. is committed to helping veterans with their disability claims and appeals so they can obtain the benefits to which they are entitled. Contact our veterans’ disability rights firm today to review eligibility for VA disability benefits  1-888-234-5758.

Department of Veterans Affairs Updates Disability Claims Application

Wednesday, September 24th, 2014

New regulations that become effective in March 2015 will standardize the disability claims form in order to make the disability benefit application process simpler and uniform for all veterans, families and survivors. The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced the uniformed disability claims form on September 24 and officials say the new forms will make it easier to clearly state the benefits the applicant is seeking.

Other improvements to the form include clarified instructions on providing the information necessary for processing initial claims and appeals. In the past, there was no standard form for veterans to seek compensation or other VA benefits. This resulted in many forms with too little or too much information and contributed to a substantial claims backlog.

VA Secretary Robert McDonald has high hopes for the uniform disability claims forms, saying, “Our Veterans and survivors will know, at the outset of the claims process, what is needed, which removes subjective interpretation from the process. We want to eliminate any barriers that make it difficult for our Veterans or survivors to receive benefits to which they are entitled.”

Veterans who are seeking disability benefits can bypass the confusion and difficulty of preparing and filing a VA disability claim by working with a disabled veterans representative. The Law Offices of LaVan & Neidenberg, P.A. is committed to helping veterans with their disability appeals and getting them the benefits to which they are entitled. This requires providing adequate documentation to support your claim to prevent an avoidable denial of benefits.

Contact our veterans’ disability rights firm today to inquire about your eligibility for veterans’ disability benefits. Call us at 1-888-234-5758 to speak with a claims representative at our firm.

Veterans Benefits Administration Processes One Millionth Claim

Wednesday, July 16th, 2014

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has reason to celebrate this month as its Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) marks its one millionth processed claim. Officials say that within the next five months they are on track to process another 1.3 million claims. If they meet that goal, the total number of claims processed by the end of fiscal year 2014 will be 200,000 greater than the number of claims processed in fiscal year 2013.

Over the past three years, the VBA has been undergoing an extreme transformation in order to expedite the claims process while simultaneously reducing the margin of error in claim decisions. The long-term goal for the VBA is to process all veterans’ disability claims within 125 days at a 98 percent accuracy level by 2015. The VBA is currently processing new claims within 128 days at a 91 percent accuracy rate.

Since the initiative to improve veterans disability claims began in 2011, the VBA has processed over one million claims each year. Officials at the VA are encouraged that they have hit the one million mark in early July, and are optimistic that they will surpass the two million mark this year. The increase in efficiency and accuracy is thanks to several actions implemented by the VBA including:

  • automated online dependency claims;
  • contracted assistance for entering data from paper-based dependency claims;
  • up-front income verification for pension applications for instant eligibility decisions;
  • automatic payment of one-time burial allowances;
  • automation of drill pay adjustments;
  • employees at the National Call Centers now processing dependency claims; and
  • hiring 200 temporary employees.

Even with the VA improving claim processing, there is still room for errors that can slow down or disrupt the benefit award process. The Law Offices of LaVan & Neidenberg, P.A. is here to help disabled veterans address unfair claim decisions and correct their files as necessary to ensure they receive the benefits to which they are entitled. To find out more about our veterans’ disability services, contact our firm today 1-888-234-5758.

Disability from Combat-related Brain Injuries Similar Whether from a Blast or Other Cause

Thursday, July 3rd, 2014

A new study finds that active military personnel with brain injuries experience similar outcomes whether the injury was the result of a blast or other type of trauma. The study included servicemembers deployed to war zones in Iraq and Afghanistan. It was published in the journal JAMA Neurology.

Of those deployed, about 20 percent sustained a head injury. Approximately 83 percent suffered a concussion. And of those who did, close to 80 percent experienced moderate to severe disability within a year.

Researchers evaluated a total of 178 military personnel injured while serving. This included 53 injured in a blast and 29 by other causes. Also, two control groups comprised of active duty personnel exposed to blasts with no brain injury and 69 treated for injuries without blast exposure or brain trauma.

They saw little difference in the overall level of disability for those who experienced a concussion after a blast (77 percent) compared to other causes (79 percent). The same was true when it comes to severity of headache, post-traumatic stress disorder, scores on mental skills tests and depression.

However, there was a difference in disability between the control groups and those with concussions. Rates of moderate to severe disability for military personnel with blast exposure and no brain injury was 41 percent. But it was 59 percent for those who suffered a concussion whether from a blast or other causes.

Researchers point out that the blast was accompanied by another type of impact, such as an object hitting the head or the head striking something (inside of a vehicle, ground, etc.). Another important discovery is that when compared to civilians who suffer concussions, the outcome is often worse for active duty servicemembers. But they point out that it may be the injuries are just more severe.

If you are a veteran who suffered a severe brain injury while serving, you may qualify for disability benefits. To learn more, contact an attorney who handles veterans’ disability cases. The Law Offices of LaVan & Neidenberg, P.A. we can help. Contact us today at 888-234-5758.