Archive for the ‘Veterans' Disability’ Category

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.

Mental Health Disorders Increasing in Military Service Members

Monday, June 30th, 2014

Treatment of mental health disorders in military men and women has gone up. In 2012, approximately 3.5 percent of our servicemembers received care for depression, PTSD, anxiety and other conditions.

Experts attribute the increase to the following factors:

  • more servicemembers seeking treatment;
  • an actual increase in mental health disorders since 9/11; and
  • effects from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Greater recognition of mental health disorders among our military men and women is a step in the right direction. But although there’s less stigma attached to mental health problems, there are still many others out there who aren’t receiving necessary care.

Also, in the past many of our military men and women received just one course of treatment. But that has changed since 2012, with many undergoing more intensive treatment. In fact, between 2000 and 2012, those numbers went up nearly six times.

The concerns for ensuring our servicemembers get proper help isn’t just because treatment is important to improve quality of life. It’s also based on the number of suicides, with many cases of suicide having nothing to do with combat. Even those never deployed are at risk. Suicide rates in the military have increased. In 2005, it was about 10 to 11 service members per 100,000 active duty troops. But in 2009, that increased to 18 per 100,000.

It’s so important that our military men and women get the help they need for mental health issues. Further, vets with a mental illness may qualify to receive disability compensation. This depends on if it’s service-connected and falls under one of Social Security Administration’s listing of impairments. Learn more about eligibility to recover benefits or get help appealing a denied claim; contact the Law Offices of LaVan & Neidenberg, P.A. at 888-234-5758.

Military Personnel Files Destroyed Decades Ago Still Causing Challenges for Vets Seeking Disability

Wednesday, June 25th, 2014

Current troubles facing Veterans Administration (VA) has cast a shadow over a much older problem. More than 40 years ago, a fire at the National Personnel Records Center destroyed between 16 and 18 million military personnel files. The effects are still felt today, reports Fox News, with many vets struggling to get the benefits they deserve.

Because electronic record keeping didn’t exist, the VA has been unable to reconstruct some of those files. As a result, some vets who sustained injuries in previous wars have had trouble collecting disability benefits.

The National Archives reports that the fire destroyed 75 percent of Air Force personnel discharged between September 25, 1947 and January 1, 1964, and 80 percent of Army personnel discharged between November 1, 1912 and January 1, 1960, according to the Fox News article.

Record keeping has apparently been an issue that’s plagued the VA for decades. They didn’t create indexes for the files, microfilm copies or duplicates.

However, archivists have been able to recover some of those records. In fact, their efforts to restore them continues today. As a result, some vets have finally received approval for benefits. This includes those who served during WWII and Vietnam.

In light of the VA’s current problems involving secret waiting lists and poor scheduling, it’s clear the VA still has a major problem with record keeping and serving vets. Fraud and improper claims handling are a couple of the biggest issues faced today, but so is waiting. Today’s vets may not have had to wait as long as those whose files were destroyed in a fire four decades ago to get benefits, but it’s still an ongoing issue as the VA works to address the claims backlog.

Qualifying for disability benefits is just the first step. Next is to file the paperwork and submit the appropriate type of evidence. Because of the backlog of claims, it’s important to do this correctly the first time. For help filing an initial claim, or to appeal a denied claim, contact the Law Offices of LaVan & Neidenberg, P.A. at 888-234-5758 or via our online contact form.

Lost and Misplaced Records a Problem at St. Petersburg Veterans Regional Office

Thursday, May 22nd, 2014

An investigation of the Veterans Benefits Administration Office in St. Petersburg reveals a chaotic and disorganized system. This may account for some of the more than 21,000 disability claims pending at this particular office.

Conducted by the Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General in March, the investigation found an assortment of problems with paperwork and files. Some of the issues included misfiled and lost records, along with files stacked in piles.

The mailroom was just one of the areas experiencing difficulties. This included delays in sorting and preparing evidence mail that helps claim processors make decisions on a claim. According to employees, it’s about a three-week delay.

Failure to stamp certain records was another problem. This included copies of Official Military Personnel and Service Treatment Records files. Without identifying this documentation, it’s difficult to process a claim.

The file room was another source of disarray. Some claims had to be rebuilt because of lost documents. The office was keeping a log of these files but some of the records were mistakenly overwritten by an employee.

Officials from Veterans Benefits Administration acknowledge the St. Petersburg office has resolved two of three recommendations. They are still working on the other. It’s also reported that since March 2013, the number of backlogged claims (those older than 125 days) has dropped by 41 percent. Yet, the numbers still show a significant problem exists. Of the 36,622 rating claims pending at the St. Petersburg office, 21,222 have been pending longer than 125 days.

Eliminating paper files will address many of the issues found in this (and other) regional offices. But that effort is still in the works, with about 87 percent of the VA’s files now available electronically.

Veterans can help reduce delays by submitting paperwork on time and making sure it’s completed properly and including the appropriate documentation, such as evidence of military service or disability. For help with filing an initial claim or appealing a denied claim, contact the Law Offices of LaVan & Neidenberg, P.A. today at 888-234-5758.

Veterans Sue Government for Failing to Act on Petition to Reduce Burden of Proof for PTSD Caused by Sexual Assault

Wednesday, May 7th, 2014

Veterans’ disability compensation may be available for those who have suffered military sexual trauma. One of the factors that determines eligibility is proving that sexual assault caused post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

But now veterans are suing the U.S. government for failing to act on a petition filed months ago. The petition seeks a reduction in the burden of proof for PTSD stemming from sexual assault.

In general, veterans must show their disabling mental and/or physical injuries are service-related. Certain conditions don’t require this proof, though, such as injuries related to exposure to Agent Orange.

For a victim of sexual assault to receive disability payments, it requires a generous amount of evidence. But veterans would like to see nothing more than testimony from a healthcare provider that a veteran suffers from PTSD.

Currently, evidence must include proof of both the sexual trauma and that it caused changes in behavior. This is oftentimes difficult to establish, not to mention that claims for military sexual trauma deal with an especially sensitive issue.

It’s a bigger problem than many people think. According to a VA national screening program, one in four women experience sexual assault while serving. But they aren’t the only victims; one in every 100 men experience the sexual assault while in the service.

It’s not uncommon to receive a denial for this type of disability claim. As if the trauma itself wasn’t enough to deal with, a victim may have to do provide ample proof that it happened. It’s important to consult with an attorney who can help file an appeal. Don’t hesitate to contact The Law Offices of LaVan & Neidenberg, P.A. for assistance: 888-234-5758.