We Have The Answers To Your Most Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) Regarding Veterans' Disability Benefits
Most Texans who are seeking disability benefits come to us with a number of similar questions about the application process, the appeals process, and whether or not they are eligiblefor support. Our Social Security Disability Attorneys have compiled the questions that we hear most into the list below – and provided our readers with clear, straightforward answers.
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I’m filing a Notice of Disagreement (NOD) letter to start the appeal process on an unfavorable veterans’ disability claim determination. My understanding is that once the VA receives my NOD, I’ll probably be sent a Statement of the Case (SOC) in return. What is a SOC and how long will it take to get one?
It’s true that many veterans will receive a Statement of the Case (SOC) at least once in the claims process, but it isn’t inevitable and it doesn’t mean that you won’t ever get the veterans’ disability benefits that you deserve.
Typically, when the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) receives a valid Notice of Disagreement (NOD) from a veteran, the prior determination is reviewed for any obvious legal or factual errors. If errors are found, they are investigated so that a new determination can be made.
If no errors are found or the claim is still denied, the VA will complete a Statement of the Case (SOC) and send it to you and your legal representative. This can take several months.
What’s Included in the Statement of the Case
Essentially, the SOC is a detailed summary of the activity on your claim to that point. It will include:
- A comprehensive list of all evidence—such as service records, medical records, testimony, and employment history—taken under consideration while determining your claim
- An explanation of the laws and regulations used in making the determination
- The VA’s determination
- An explanation of the VA’s determination process
What to Do After Receiving a Statement of the Case
After receiving an SOC, you’ll have either 60 days or the remainder of the one-year period you are given to file an NOD—whichever provides more time—to file a substantive appeal. If you miss this deadline, you’ll need to reopen the claim.
Thus, if you receive an SOC, you need to take action. We may be able to help you. Please contact our experienced veterans’ disability attorneys today via this website or by phone to learn more.
I was on active duty during the Gulf War. Over the last few years my doctors have been trying to diagnose and treat my severe and ongoing symptoms that don’t have a known cause. Can I get veterans’ disability benefits for Gulf War Syndrome or for something else?
Yes. The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) stopped using the name Gulf War Syndrome to refer to these clusters of chronic symptoms with no known causes because the signs of this class of illness can vary significantly from person to person. The condition is now referred to as a chronic multi-symptom illness or an undiagnosed illness.
Do You Have One of These Conditions?
You may qualify for veterans’ disability benefits if you have:
- Chronic fatigue syndrome. Significant and persistent tiredness that is not explained by other causes or relieved by rest can impact your ability to work and to go about your daily activities.
- Fibromyalgia. Muscle pain and other symptoms can interfere with your life and result in a disability.
- A functional gastrointestinal disorder. Abnormal functioning of a gastrointestinal organ can be painful and result in a disability. Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is an example of this type of disorder.
- An undiagnosed illness. Depending on the symptoms and their severity, it is possible to have an undiagnosed illness that seriously impacts your life.
Symptoms of these illnesses can include:
- Unexpected weight loss
- Muscle and joint pain
- Memory problems
- Digestive issues
- Respiratory disorders
- Cardiovascular diseases
- Skin conditions
- Neurological and physiological problems
- Sleep disturbances and insomnia
You do no need to demonstrate a connection between your service and your illness if:
- You served the Southwest Asia theater of military operations
- Your condition began during active duty or before the end of 2021
- You are at least 10% disabled
- Your condition cannot be explained by another cause
Having an unexplained illness can be scary. Continuing with your medical care is important, and learning how to be compensated for your service-connected illness is important, too. To find out more about your options, talk to one of the knowledgeable Texas veterans’ disability lawyers at Morgan & Weisbrod today. Contact us toll-free or through this website for more information.
I’ve been trying to get my service-connected disability claim approved for quite some time, and today I just received another denial. Should I go forward with this claim, or start with a new one?
It’s impossible to give an opinion without knowing all of the details of your veterans’ disability claim. In order to fully answer your question, based on the unique facts of your claim, we would suggest scheduling a case review with our firm so that we can get a more complete picture of your situation and then discuss the options that are available to you.
When a Veterans’ Disability Case Can be Reopened
A veterans’ disability claim can only be reopened if:
- Your claim was denied and the decision is final. In other words, the time to appeal the denial has expired.
- There is new and material evidence for you to present to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). New evidence is evidence that you have not yet presented to the VA in connection with your claim and material evidence is evidence that is directly relevant to your claim.
All of these conditions must be met for a veterans’ disability claim to be reopened.
Some Claims Can’t Be Reopened
Regardless of the specific facts of your claim, there are some types of claims that definitely aren’t eligible for reopening. For example, you may not reopen:
- Claims that aren’t for service-connected disability benefits, survivor benefits, or burial benefits
- Claims for pensions or an adjustment to your disability rating. In these situations you must file a new claim.
- Claims that haven’t gone far enough in the VA system. Reopening a claim is a last resort for veterans who’ve exhausted every level of appeal or missed the appeal-filing deadline.
Additionally, if you lack new and material evidence, your claim will not be reopened.
Make the Move That Is Right for You
Your goal is to get the veterans’ disability benefits you deserve. Persuading the VA to reopen a disability claim can be difficult without an attorney who is knowledgeable and experienced with the system. Please call us directly or contact us through this website if you have any questions about your own claim.
I am a Navy veteran. Could I suffer an asbestos-related illness and could veterans’ benefits help me if I become sick?
Many Navy veterans are concerned about asbestos exposure, and with good reason. Symptoms from exposure-related illnesses can take 20 to 50 years to manifest. Unfortunately, by this point, illnesses have usually progressed to advanced stages. Thus, it is important for Navy veterans to know if they may have been exposed to asbestos, to know what health conditions could develop because of that exposure, and to understand the veterans’ disability benefits they may receive if they become sick.
How Asbestos Was Used in Navy Ships
Until restrictions were placed on its use in the 1970s, asbestos offered a heat- and fire-resistant building material that was both inexpensive and durable. Though it was most often used in areas that needed a degree of heat resistance, U.S. Naval vessels of the era used the material in hundreds of applications: from boiler rooms and ammunition storage rooms to bunkers and the mess hall.
The most hazardous areas of U.S. Naval vessels for asbestos exposure were below deck. Navy veterans with the most exposure risk will have spent a lot of time in the lower areas of the ship, such as the:
- Engine room
- Boiler room
- Pump room
However, asbestos-sealed wiring and pipes were often exposed for ease of access throughout the ship—meaning it was possible for a veteran to sleep in a bunker beneath materials that were regularly shedding asbestos fibers.
The Dangers of Asbestos Exposure
People who are exposed to asbestos may breathe in the tiny asbestos fibers and suffering lung-related illnesses, such as:
- Lung cancer
All of these conditions are serious and require a prompt medical diagnosis and quick treatment.
Veterans’ Benefits May Help If You Become Sick
If you are a veteran who was not dishonorably discharged, were exposed to asbestos while in military service, and have developed an asbestos-related illness, you may be eligible to receive veterans’ disability benefits. Our experienced disability lawyers will work hard to get you the full benefits you deserve. Please contact us via this website or by phone today to learn more.
One of my buddies had a C&P exam, and he didn’t like the VA doctor. He said the questions made him feel uncomfortable, like the doctor didn’t believe him. How should I respond if I feel the same way at my C&P exam?
It’s not at all unusual for a veteran to feel the way your friend did about the interview segment of a C&P—or Compensation and Pension—Exam.
The first thing you should remember is that the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) physician handling the exam is trying to obtain the best possible understanding of your situation. Because of this, the questions he or she asks will generally be with the purpose of determining or confirming the following:
- The details of your health condition
- How your health condition impacts your day-to-day life
- If and how the health condition is related to your time in the service
Many of the questions in the C&P interview might make you feel uncomfortable, vulnerable, or like the doctor doesn’t trust you. However, no matter how the questions make you feel, keep in mind the following:
- It’s important to the success of your claim that you are honest and responsive. Don’t overstate the impact of your condition, but don’t underestimate it, either. Take as much time as you need to give detailed and thoughtful answers.
- Always treat the physician with respect, no matter how you feel about him personally. Shutting down will hurt your claim tremendously.
You are allowed to bring a friend or family member with you to the exam if that makes you more comfortable. However, your friend or family member cannot answer questions on your behalf. The physician wants to hear from you.
Keep in mind that the VA encourages you to report any negative experiences with your C&P physician examiner as soon as possible. You can do that by contacting the physician’s supervisor, a VA patient advocate, or by calling the number on your appointment letter.
If you need more help in preparing for a C&P exam or any other aspect of the veterans’ disability claims process, please contact our experienced veterans disability benefits attorney for a no-cost consultation today.
The VA established a service-connection for my disability several years ago, but I only found out recently. Could I potentially be awarded veterans’ disability compensation back pay dating back to when the adjustment was made?
Unfortunately, it is very unlikely.
The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has a legal obligation to notify veterans of policy changes that could potentially affect their eligibility for VA disability benefits compensation, such as establishing a service-connection for certain long-term injuries and disabilities.
However, even when a veteran is able to unambiguously prove that the VA failed to contact him with this crucial information, the department will not issue an effective date earlier than the one they will receive when actually submitting their application for veterans’ disability compensation.
Several veterans have tried to argue the case that they would have applied for disability benefits at a much earlier point in time if they’d known that they might have been eligible for benefits. So far, no one has won a case of this nature and veterans only receive back pay with respect to their first accepted application for VA disability benefits.
There Is One Significant Exception to This General Rule
An important exception exists for Vietnam veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange. Agent Orange is an herbicide that was used to clear trees and brush during the Vietnam War. At the time that it was used, service members were told that it was harmless. However, since 1991 the United States Congress has recognized that Agent Orange has caused significant health problems for veterans.
If you are a Vietnam veteran who was exposed to Agent Orange while serving in Vietnam, it is possible that you may be able to obtain an earlier effective date. Typically, the veteran is awarded back pay to the date the health condition was officially linked by the VA to Agent Orange exposure.
If you are a veteran struggling to get the VA disability benefits you and your family need for support, then you should discuss your case with an experienced disability veterans’ benefits attorney. Contact us today for more information about your rights and the potential benefits you may receive.
I was honorably discharged from the Army in November due to injuries I sustained after an IED explosion. I keep having arguments with my wife, who thinks I have PTSD. I feel like I don’t have anyone I can talk to who understands. How can I connect with other veterans, now that I’m back home?
You are not alone. A lot of veterans cope with some degree of isolation in the months after being discharged, especially when mental health issues like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or depression surface. Because conditions of this nature have been intensely stigmatized in the past, many veterans will be reluctant to seek help until they’ve met someone who is also dealing with a similar condition.
You Can Get Through This With Fellow Veterans
Fortunately, you seem to be aware that making a few good social connections will help with both your outlook and your recovery process. Here are a few ways you can connect with other veterans in Texas, and around the country:
- Search for veterans’ communities on social networking sites. Google+, Facebook, and LinkedIn all have resources to help veterans connect. All it will cost you is the time it takes to make an account.
- The Department of Veterans Affairs maintains a webpage called Make the Connection. On this website, you can search for stories on veterans who’ve been in situations similar to your own. You’ll also find support and resources page where you can search for Texas Vet Centers and events and information on how to deal with specific life events an experiences.
- Check in with your regional VA office. They may have specific groups of veterans that meet regularly and welcome new members.
- Talk to your doctor or spiritual advisor. Your doctor or spiritual advisor may be able to point you to groups in your area that could help you.
It’s important for veterans to understand that they don’t have to face post-military life alone. In addition to seeking out support from other veterans, the veterans’ disability attorneys at Morgan & Weisbrod offer private, no-cost consultations to Texas veterans trying to obtain disability benefits. Connect with us to learn more.
I’m a veteran who had a bad fall during my final tour and hurt my knee. At the time, I didn’t report it, so it isn’t on my military record. The problem has gotten worse. I need to file a VA disability claim. Do I have any chance of being successful?
It’s possible that you will be able to receive a favorable decision from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) on a disability claim for your knee injury. Unfortunately, because the injury resulted from an unreported incident, it will be more difficult to obtain benefits.
You Will Need to Prove That You Have a Service-Connected Injury
Showing proof that the injury-causing event occurred during your service career will be as important to your claim as medical records thoroughly documenting the diagnosis and extent of the actual injury.
It can be difficult to establish a service-connected injury when the incident that caused your injury isn’t in your service record, but it is possible to do so. In order to prove this you can:
- Reach out to other service people who were present at the time of your injury who can support your claim. Any statements you can gather from associates who witnessed the incident will benefit your claim.
- Submit your medical records. You will, of course, need to do this anyway to prove that you were injured. However, your medical records may contain useful information about how or when you were hurt and that can help you establish that your knee injury is a service-connected injury.
- Seek the advice of an experienced veterans’ disability attorney. An unreported incident resulting in a long-term injury or disability constitutes a special circumstance that will make the VA claims process infinitely more difficult to navigate. Knowledgeable legal guidance will not only help get your case on track, but will also significantly improve the likelihood of obtaining the best possible outcome.
To learn more about the services Morgan & Weisbrod provides Texas veterans, call our offices today. Our compassionate and dedicated team is here to help you get the veterans’ disability benefits you deserve.
When should I consider hiring a disability lawyer to assist me in my veterans’ disability benefits case?
It used to be that most Texas veterans could complete their initial veterans’ disability applications without even needing to consider an attorney's representation.
While it could be argued that this is still the case for many veterans, issues like the backlog in the Department of Veterans Affairs and the difficulties of substantiating disabilities related to neurological or emotional health are changing the general rule. Now, some veterans are deciding to talk to an attorney before their initial filing for disability benefits to ensure everything is on track.
This Can Be a Smart Decision
It might be a good idea to consider hiring an experienced veterans’ disability attorney if:
- You know from the outset that it will be difficult to substantiate your claim that a disability exists or is service-connected.
- Your disabilities result from an unreported sexual assault.
- You are filing a disability claim more than five years after leaving the service for an issue that was not documented before you left.
- An agent from a veterans’ service organization recommends your case would benefit from you hiring an attorney.
- You will require a discharge upgrade to receive the necessary benefits.
Additionally, if you have already applied for benefits and been denied or you disagree with your disability ratings score, it is important to hire an attorney to help you protect your rights during the appeals process.
Don’t Worry About Calling a Disability Lawyer Too Early
You aren’t making any commitment by contacting an attorney. If we believe you can handle filing a veterans disability claim on your own, we will tell you that. Likewise, if we believe we can help you get the veterans disability benefits you deserve, we will explain how we can do that.
The disability attorneys of Morgan & Weisbrod have the knowledge and experience necessary to help you get your veterans disability benefits case on track and headed toward the best possible outcome. Please contact us any time—via this website or by phone—for more information about how to protect your rights.
What qualifies as “substantially gainful employment” with regard to Individual Unemployability, and how is it different from marginal employment?
Individual Unemployability (IU) is a type of disability compensation offered by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). IU pays out disability benefits at the total, or 100%, disability rate even though the veteran's service-connected disabilities have been rated at a lower level if the veteran is unable to engage in substantially gainful employment. The option provides a safety net for veterans who find themselves unable to work because of their service injuries but who do not receive a total disability rating.
Do You Qualify for Individual Unemployability?
In order to qualify for IU compensation, the veteran must be unable to maintain “substantially gainful employment” because of his service-connected disabilities.
Substantially gainful employment describes employment where a non-disabled individual is able to earn an income level appropriate for that occupation in the community where the veteran lives. This would be a job providing the veteran with full-time employment at a liveable wage.
This Doesn’t Include All Employment Opportunities
For VA purposes, marginal employment is not viewed as substantially gainful. Marginal employment describes employment where the veteran's earned income is not more than the poverty level established by the U.S. Census Bureau for the community where the veteran lives. Thus, you may be able to work part time or do odd jobs and still qualify for IU disability benefits.
Get the Information You Need So You Get the Benefits You Deserve
If you are a veteran and you think you may qualify for IU disability compensation from the VA—or if you have any questions about the VA disability benefits application and appeals process—consider reviewing your case with an experienced veterans' disability attorney as soon as possible. We can help you fill out VA form 21-8940, “Veteran’s Application for Increased Compensation Based on Unemployability,” and advise you about the steps you should take to protect all of your rights.