Archive for the ‘Veterans' Disability’ Category

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.

VA Adds 5 New Conditions Related to Service-Connected TBI

Monday, December 16th, 2013

Military veterans who suffered a traumatic brain injury (TBI) during active duty may see an increased disability rating thanks to recent updates to disability reviews. The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) recently added five new illnesses that may manifest due to a service-connected TBI as eligible ailments for disability ratings.

Beginning on January 15, 2014, the VA will evaluate a veteran’s disability rating for a TBI with regards to the following five diseases:

  • Parkinson’s disease;
  • certain types of dementia;
  • depression;
  • unprovoked seizures; and
  • certain diseases of the hypothalamus and pituitary glands.

The change comes from review of a report from the National Academy of Sciences, Institute of Medicine that found moderate and severe cases of TBI were often linked to these five disabling conditions.

How a Secondary Illness Affects VA Disability Benefits

Veterans rated as disabled due to a service-connected TBI will now be evaluated for these five diseases as another qualifying condition to calculate the disability rating. If a veteran has already been rated for TBI, he can open a claim to be re-evaluated for the secondary illnesses and qualify for the expanded benefits.

To be eligible for expanded benefits, a disabled veteran with a TBI disability rating must meet the qualifications for TBI severity and the time between the injury that caused TBI and the onset of the other illness.

If you are already collecting veteran disability benefits for a TBI and believe you may be eligible for the expanded benefits, let The Law Offices of LaVan & Neidenberg, PA help you file your re-evaluation request. And as always, our veterans disability team is here to help if your claim is denied, so contact us today 1-888-234-5758.

Military Guards at Guantanamo Erroneously Reported with Higher PTSD Rates

Thursday, December 12th, 2013

In a September interview with CBS, Army Colonel John V. Bodgan claimed that U.S. Military guards stationed at the Guantanamo Bay U.S. prison were twice as likely to suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) than combat troops. The statement has since been included in a 60 Minutes TV special and a BBC broadcast, both aired in November.

Now the military is restracting the claim, according to the Miami Herald. The statement was given without verification and was embellished by a female Army captain who was quoted on the BBC broadcast saying that guards at Guantanamo often suffer indignities such as having human excrement hurled at them by the more than 160 prisoners within the detention centers.

While not impossible, the claims of increased PTSD risk among Guantanamo guards remain unsupported, as no statistics have been produced to compare PTSD rates between Guantanamo guards and other servicemembers. This is partially due to the brief deployment times and mixed branches of military that make up the guard population, according to the Herald

PTSD is still a cause for concern among the Guantanamo guards often stationed on 14- to 16-hour shifts in unfavorable working conditions. Officials at Guantanamo cite their belief of high PTSD rates comes from their guards working long shifts in direct presence of the enemy, often suffering harassment by the inmates and under constant stress.

As the military continues to research and track PTSD cases, it is important for all military personnel to undergo regular mental health assessments while on active duty and when discharged. PTSD can occur in a soldier from any branch of the military in any occupation if exposed to traumatic situations.

The Law Offices of LaVan & Neidenberg, PA are here to help veterans who suffer from PTSD related to their military service seek a fair disability rating and the appropriate benefits. If your veterans disability claim has been denied or unfairly decided, contact our firm today 1-888-234-5758.

Army Correcting Health Records for Madigan Army Medical Center Patients

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.

VA Continues to Make Progress in Reducing Backlogged Disability Claims

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.

VA Secretary Warns of Government Shutdown Impact on Benefits

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.

Government Shutdown May Compromise Claim Processing Resources

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.