Archive for the ‘Veterans' Disability’ Category

Suicide and Mental Health Illness Rates Higher in Soldiers than Civilians

Tuesday, March 18th, 2014

Three new studies show there are significant numbers of U.S. soldiers suffering from some type of mental health disorder, and may be at greater risk of suicide. In both areas, the rates are higher amongst soldiers than in the general population.

Researchers at Harvard found that major depression is five times higher for soldiers than civilians and intermittent explosive (anger) disorder is six times higher. Rates were significantly higher when it comes to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), with soldiers nearly 15 times more likely to suffer than civilians.

One study focusing on those enlisted in the Army found that 25 percent of active duty, non-deployed soldiers tested positive for at least one psychiatric disorder. And 11 percent had signs of more than one mental illness. But many of these psychiatric conditions existed before enlisting, including panic disorder, PTSD, major depression, anxiety disorder, bipolar disorder, ADHD, alcohol/drug abuse and intermittent explosive disorder.

In a second study, there was evidence linking mental illness prior to enlistment and suicide. In nearly 60 percent of the cases involving a suicide attempt, the soldiers had pre-existing mental disorders.

A third study looked at risk factors for suicide. Those at highest risk were white males, soldiers recently demoted and those with a junior enlisted rank (private, private 2nd class, private 3rd class and army specialist).

While these studies highlighted issues surrounding soldiers enlisting with prior mental health disorders, it continues to be a problem for those who have served—particularly those who are deployed. It’s important to note that if a physical or mental disability is connected to service, servicemembers may be entitled to veterans disability benefits.

If there are concerns about your right to benefits, contact the Law Offices of LaVan & Neidenberg, P.A. for assistance. Call us today at 888-234-5758.

Study: Possible Link between Sleep Disturbances and Brain Changes in Gulf War Vets

Friday, March 14th, 2014

New research suggests a possible link between brain changes and sleep problems in Gulf War vets. Previous studies have shown connections between poor sleep and structural changes in certain regions of the frontal lobe, the study authors note. In these findings, there was reduced gray matter throughout the entire frontal lobe. This part of the brain is involved in several different functions—such as impulse control, planning, higher level thinking, reasoning and memory.

The study found the link existed even after considering other potential factors like Gulf War illness, post-traumatic stress disorder, trauma, medication to treat mental illness and depression.

Researchers analyzed 144 Gulf War vets using sleep quality assessments and MRI scans. Vets who experienced sleep problems had less gray matter. However, the study doesn’t show if one causes the other. It only suggests a potential link. More research will need to be conducted in order to learn if treatment for sleep disturbances improves functioning in the brain.

VA Disability Benefits for Disabled Vets

Gulf War vets sometimes face challenges establishing a service-connected disability. But one way they may be eligible to receive disability benefits is through what’s called presumptive service connection. There are certain requirements that must be met, which includes proof of being a Gulf War veteran, having a qualifying chronic disability (rated at least 10 percent) and that it arose while in service or afterwards.

Those who served in the Gulf War are just one example of vets who could be entitled to disability compensation. Any veteran who has been diagnosed with a disabling condition connected to military service may be eligible. It’s important to understand the specific requirements that could apply—including location while on active duty and the nature of one’s illness or injury. The Law Offices of LaVan & Neidenberg, P.A. assists veterans who are filing an initial claim or taking the next step to appeal a denied claim. Call us at 888-234-5758 or contact us online.

New Social Security Process for Veterans with 100% Permanent and Total Disability Rating

Monday, February 24th, 2014

Disabled veterans have the right to seek disability benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and from the Social Security Administration (SSA). In recent years, the VA has worked to streamline the processing of veterans’ disability claims with a significantly high disability rating and full supporting documentation. Now the SSA is following in the VA’s footsteps by enforcing expedited processing on benefit claims for veterans who have a disability rating of 100 percent.

Starting on March 17, if you have been rated at 100 percent permanent and total (P&T) disability by the VA, you will be eligible to have your SSA disability benefit application marked as high priority and processed with expedited service. To request expedited service you must provide your VA notification letter that states that you are rated as 100 percent P&T disabled. During the application for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits, you must also indicate that you are a 100 percent P&T disabled veteran.

For veterans who apply over the phone or in person, you must tell the claims representative that you are 100 percent P&T disabled according to the VA and either present your verification letter or mail it to the address provided by the phone representative. If you are applying online you will need to enter “Veteran 100 percent P&T” in the Remarks section of the application and mail your VA verification letter along with other supporting documents.

Disabled veterans who qualify for the expedited processing will have their claim for SSDI or SSI treated as high priority, potentially speeding up the waiting time for a disability benefit decision. The expedited processing does not guarantee a veteran will be approved for SSD benefits; it only means that a decision will be issued sooner than a typical claim. To qualify for SSD benefits, veterans must still meet the requirements for disability benefits including a total inability to work, a medically-diagnosed disability that has lasted or is expected to last for at least a year or result in death, and the required work periods (for SSDI) or financial limitations (for SSI).

The Law Offices of LaVan & Neidenberg, P.A. handles both veterans’ disability and Social Security disability claims. We have dedicated departments for every type of disability claim and these departments work seamlessly to ensure our disabled clients receive all disability benefits to which they are entitled, from both the VA and the SSA. For help with your veterans’ or Social Security disability claims, contact us to speak to a claims specialist: 1-888-234-5758.

VA Urged to Create Registry for Servicemembers Injured in Roadside Bombings

Monday, February 17th, 2014

Roadside bombs are a serious problem for servicemembers stationed in Iraq and Afghanistan and now researchers are seeking to better understand the long-term effects these attacks can have on veterans.

According to military records, the U.S. has lost 3,589 soldiers to roadside bombs and another 32,556 have been wounded, reports Stars and Stripes. These numbers come from the 2.6 million troops that have served in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars over the past decade.

Brain damage is one of the most common long-term injuries caused by roadside bombs. Approximately 32,000 Iraq and Afghanistan veterans have been diagnosed with brain damage, according to VA data reported by Stars and Stripes, which can occur without any physical impact to the servicemembers’ head. In some cases, just being in the proximity of a roadside bomb detonation can be forceful enough to cause head trauma leading to brain damage.

The long-term consequences of brain damage are not completely understood, and the Institute of Medicine (IOM) is looking for better sources of research on the condition. The IOM have requested that the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) develop a database to report cases of servicemembers injured by roadside bombs and the long-term complications they experience after the attack.

The VA already keeps detailed records of Agent Orange exposure and of Gulf War veterans who experience service-connected illnesses. The development of a roadside bomb injury database could help doctors better understand the various disabling conditions that can persist after an attack.

With continuing research and treatment of veterans injured by roadside blasts, doctors are constantly finding new ailments connected to brain damage. A roadside bomb can cause a number of service-connected disabilities which may qualify a veteran for veterans’ disability benefits.

If you or a loved one were injured in a roadside bombing in Iraq or Afghanistan and are disabled because of it, contact The Law Offices of LaVan & Neidenberg, P.A. to speak to a veterans disability claims specialist: 1-888-234-5758.

Veteran’s Group Makes Recommendations to Reduce Backlogged Disability Claims

Wednesday, February 12th, 2014

The Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) group doesn’t believe the government is doing enough to reduce the backlog of disability claims. The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has been working toward a goal of eliminating backlogged claims by 2015. Some of its efforts have included working older cases first, mandatory overtime and the implementation of an automated processing system.

As of the end of last year, delayed claims were dropping. But then in January they increased to approximately 400,000. The veteran’s group wants to see more done to work toward a solution, which means getting to the root of the problem.

The IAVA compiled a 36-page report which outlines a number of recommendations, some of which include:

  • passage of more laws by Congress to ensure claims processing is done quickly;
  • improved training for claims processors, leading to greater accuracy and efficiency;
  • ensuring faster turnaround to obtain necessary documentation, such as medical records; and
  • requiring vets file for disability using an electronic claim form.

The group would also like to see the VA do a better job of tracking the success of its efforts and anticipating how future decisions may impact the system.

The group’s ideas for moving the process forward at a quicker rate are in large part already supported by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). However, some are opposed by other vet groups, according to a USA Today report. One particular issue is that some veterans may not have access to a computer or the skills necessary to be successful in completing an online application.

Of course, there are steps vets can take to reduce unnecessary delays. Whether you need help filing an initial claim or an appeal, contact the Law Offices of LaVan & Neidenberg, P.A. for assistance. Call 888-234-5758 or contact us online.

Military Retiree Pension Cuts Not Expected to Affect Disabled Vets

Wednesday, February 5th, 2014

Disabled vets are expected to be spared from some of the anticipated military pension cuts. Last month, Congress decided to reduce cost-of-living raises for military retirees by one percentage point, set to begin in 2015. This will save approximately $6.3 billion.

However, vets who are disabled will still be entitled to full benefits. The budget deal “carves out $600 million” to make sure disabled vets still receive their full benefits, Rep. Hal Rogers, Chairman of the House Committee on Appropriations, said in a statement. Of course, that still means a significant number of veterans will lose some of their pension benefits.

This could mean a substantial loss, as many of the men and women who enter the service do so starting anywhere from 18 years old through their 20s. Most retire while in their 40s, but some do remain until reaching age 62. A loss of one percentage point each year could quickly add up.

Those who make a career out of the military and retire in 20 years, could expect a loss in retiree pensions of more than 20 percent. While efforts are being made to protect disabled vets from experiencing these cuts, many say it’s not enough, according to a CNN report.

Get Help Filing for Disability Benefits

Of course, it’s important to remember that although battles wage over cuts, one type of benefit that remains available to all who qualify is disability compensation. Any veteran whose physical or psychological disability is connected to service could be entitled to monthly payments.

The amount depends on the disability rating assigned. The higher it is (which starts at 0 and increases in 10 percent increments, up to 100 percent), the more compensation available. Sometimes there are multiple conditions that must be considered. If there are questions or problems with determining eligibility, the disability rating or how to file a claim—don’t hesitate to contact an attorney at the Law Offices of LaVan & Neidenberg, P.A. at 888-234-5758.

Processing of Post-9/11 GI Bill Benefits Improves Significantly

Friday, January 31st, 2014

Delays are fairly common when it comes to a variety of veterans’ benefits. One example in which this can be a problem is for post-911 veterans seeking GI Bill benefits.

However, the good news is that progress has been made quicker, with the Department of Veteran’s Affairs (VA) reducing the process close to 50 percent in 2013 compared to 2012. This despite the fact there was a 27 percent increase in the number of educational claims filed.

This reduction in education benefits is being attributed to improvements in claims automation because of advancements in technology. Implementation of the “Long Term Solution” processing system in Sept 2012 includes more than 1,700 rules and calculations that help determine eligibility.

These benefits are available to Afghanistan and Iraq veterans and their families who wish to further their education. Housing, tuition, books and supplies and other payments are examples of expenses covered by the GI Bill.

For new enrollees, the current timeframe for processing an initial claim is less than 20 days on average. For returning students, less than eight days.

Improved GI Bill Processing May Help Disability Claims Processing

There are other advantages to the improvements of processing these educational benefits. It may also help the VA address the backlog of disability claims. The faster GI Bill benefits are processed, the more time can be spent on other claims, such as disability decisions.

VA provides lots of benefits to veterans and servicemembers. In addition to the GI bill, vocational rehab and home loan benefits may be available. But they also provide disability benefits when an injury or illness is service-connected. The amount depends on the disability rating assigned.

If you have applied for disability and are running into problems getting these benefits approved, contact the Law Offices of LaVan & Neidenberg, P.A. at 888-234-5758 to learn more about your rights and for help obtaining the disability benefits to which you are entitled.

Lots of Work Ahead for the VA in Reducing Backlogged Disability Claims and Meeting Other Goals

Wednesday, January 22nd, 2014

In the newest update from the Department of Veteran Affairs, progress continues to be made in eliminating all backlogged disability claims by 2015. In March 2013, the number of claims pending had reached its highest number at 608,000, according to a Stars and Stripes report from late December. As of the end of 2013, that number was reduced to 393,000.

Despite the good news, there is still much work to be done, especially since the department has other goals to meet; for instance, reaching 98 percent accuracy in decision making and ensuring every single claim filed is processed within 125 days.

But there are concerns from some skeptics about the ability to meet those goals, a PBS report from late December reminds us. Currently the accuracy rate is in the 80 percent range. There’s also the issue of 250,000 disability claims being added to those already backlogged. And in the next four years, the department expects to see the number of pending disability claims double.

These and other factors may create a lot of uncertainty for any veteran who wishes to file an initial claim, let alone appeal one that has been denied. But there are things veterans can do that may expedite the process or at least prevent delays.

Many claims are denied because of missing information like records and documentation that support the applicant’s eligibility for disability. It could be that the applicant hasn’t filled out paperwork correctly or failed to submit it on time. Making sure everything is in order can help prevent unnecessary delays and the necessity of going through the appeals process. One way to avoid these mistakes is to work with an attorney.

There are several steps that disabled veterans seeking benefits must take and deadlines that they must meet. To ensure you complete your application correctly, contact the Law Offices of LaVan & Neidenberg, P.A. today at 888-234-5758 or fill out our contact form.

Appeals for Denied Claims May Be Extended for Vets Whose Service or Deployment Impacts Ability to Meet Deadlines

Wednesday, January 15th, 2014

One court decision made on a veteran’s disability claim could have a far-reaching impact on other vets. It pertains to a case that went all the way to the U.S. Court of Appeals. A highly decorated Lieutenant Colonel wasn’t able to file an appeal on a denied claim because he missed the 120 day deadline to do so. But that decision was overturned.

The basis of the argument was that at the time his claim was denied, he was deployed a second time to Afghanistan. Because of this, Veteran’s Administration (VA) should have given him an extension to file the appeal.

Besides the challenges faced by service men and women deployed to combat areas, another issue that arose was the difficulty of readjusting to civilian life, which the court found could affect “his ability to protect his legal rights.” This may include filling out paperwork, gathering evidence and other complicated parts of the disability process.

The results of this case could make it easier for those who have been deployed or whose deployment substantially impacts their ability to appeal a claim, to receive an extension. Of course, each case is different. So it’s important to understand that not every decision will be the same. However, it does raise awareness of the difficulties that servicemembers could face when reentering the civilian world. For some, they are dealing with emotional and/or physical challenges from time served in combat.

Understanding deadlines, filling out forms, obtaining medical records and other aspects of filing a claim or appealing a denied claim can be yet another obstacle for a vet to overcome. But they don’t have to do it alone. If you need assistance filing an initial application for disability or appealing a claim that has been denied, contact the Law Offices of LaVan & Neidenberg, P.A. today: 888-234-5758.

Inspector General to Review Handling of Military Sexual Assault Complaints

Wednesday, January 8th, 2014

Military sexual assault is an often overlooked or ignored cause of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) among veterans. Many instances of sexual assault or trauma may go unreported for years, and the damage from the event may last a lifetime.

The Department of Defense’s (DoD) Office of the Inspector General is answering allegations that the military does not properly handle cases of sexual assault by launching an investigation. The IG will review previous investigations concluded in 2013 to determine if the sexual assault cases are handled properly.

The IG will focus on the conduct of military criminal investigation organizations and determine whether their policies and procedures meet the DoD and service guidelines. There will also be a focus on whether the investigations of alleged sexual misconduct are brought to conclusion.

According to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), nearly one in five female servicemembers and one in 100 male servicemembers have experienced military sexual trauma (MST) during their military career. The effects of MST vary from person to person, and may include emotional distress, PTSD, sleep difficulty, substance abuse, and difficulty maintaining relationships.

As more veterans speak up about instances of MST and the stigma of reporting such events is lessened, the VA and DoD are stepping up programs for prevention and treatment.

Many veterans who are victims of MST and did not report the event when it occurred may face difficulty filing a claim for service-connected disabilities related to the attack. If your disability claim was denied due to a lack of evidence of sexual trauma to establish that a disabling condition developed from your military service, an attorney can help with your appeal.

Contact The Law Offices of LaVan & Neidenberg, P.A. to speak to a veterans disability claims specialist: 1-888-234-5758.