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.

Why Should I Pay To Have My Doctor Fill Out An RFC Form For My Social Security Application?

While it’s true that providing the Social Security Administration with a Residual Functional Capacity (RFC) form completed by your treating physician is not required as part of your application for Social Security disability benefits, the form plays a crucial role in the decision process, and will be completed either way. If you haven’t provided a form from your doctor, then one will be filled out at Disability Determination Services (DDS) by a medical consultant who will work off your records.

Won’t My Medical Records Tell DDS Everything They Need to Know?

Although your medical records will contain comprehensive documentation of your disabilities, they will not contain a full picture of the impact your disabilities have on your ability to consistently perform the functions necessary to maintain employment. That kind of insight can only come from a medical professional who has an ongoing relationship with you. This is why significant weight is given to an RFC form completed by your physician.

So while it’s tempting to “let your medical records speak for themselves,” especially if your doctor charges a fee to complete the RFC form, it’s in your best interest to have your doctor fill out the form. Typically, the fee charged by your doctor is small and the benefit to having your doctor complete the form is significant.

There Are Many Decisions to Make When Applying for Social Security Disability

Each decision—such as whether to have your doctor complete the RFC form—can have important consequences in your eligibility determination. Accordingly, it is important to make sure that you are making the right decisions for your claim. You can begin getting the advice you need about the Social Security disability application process or appeals process now by contacting our board-certified disability attorneys via this website or by phone. Additionally, we invite you to download a free copy of our book, Social Security Disability: What You Need to Knowfor more important information.

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.

What Are Some Of The Long-Term Complications Resulting From Severe Burn Injuries That May Make Me Eligible For Veterans’ Disability Benefits?

Though only a medical professional can diagnose and treat complications arising from severe burn injuries, there are some issues that tend to commonly affect veterans with service-connected injuries of this nature. If you’ve been burned, it is important to know what conditions may affect you and whether you may be eligible for veterans’ disability benefits.

Burn Complications Can be Serious and Disabling

Some of the issues that tend to come up following econd, third, and fourth degree burns include:

  • Loss of sweat glands. Burns that penetrate into the dermal layer can destroy sweat glands. This cannot be corrected through skin grafting. Affected areas of the body will not be able to sweat and regulating your own body temperature may be impossible.
  • Scarring. Scars can be painful and disfiguring.
  • Infection. Infections can require significant medical treatment and compromise your health.
  • Contractures. If you have this condition, the skin surrounding the burn pulls too tightly together and prevents the affected joints from moving freely.
  • Psychological complications. This may include post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), sleep disorders, or depression. These can result either from the incident that caused the injury or lengthy periods of continual, extreme pain during the recovery process. Veterans who experience psychological complications must also seek treatment from mental health professionals.

If you suffer from any of these burn complications because of an injury sustained during your service to our country, it is important to know how to apply for veterans’ disability benefits.

Talking to a Veterans’ Disability Lawyer Is the First Step

Even if you qualify for veterans’ disability benefits, your receipt of benefits will not be automatic. You need to apply to the Department of Veterans Affairs and provide information about your service, your discharge, and your disability. You can save time and get the benefits you deserve by talking to an experienced veterans’ disability lawyer about your rights and about how to complete your application. For more information, please contact us any time via this website or by phone. We would be happy to talk to you about getting the fair benefits you deserve.

What Is The Difference Between An Appeal To A Decision Review Officer (DRO) And An Appeal To The Board Of Veteran Appeals (BVA)?

If you are appealing a denial of veterans’ disability benefits, the effective date of your disability, or the evaluation of your disability, then your next step is to file an appeal. This begins when you file a Notice of Disagreement letter (NOD). In that letter you will need to tell the Department of Veterans Affairs whether you would like your appeal to be reviewed by a Decision Review Officer (DRO) or the local Board of Veteran Appeals (BVA).

Appeal to a Decision Review Officer

A review with a DRO takes place at the Texas VA office that issued the decision on your claim. It is typically a one-on-one review in a less formal setting. It usually takes less time to schedule a DRO appeal, and the decision can come through much faster. Also, if the DRO decision is unfavorable, you are able to make a follow-up appeal with the BVA.

Appeal to the Board of Veterans Appeals

Filing for an appeal with the local BVA means a formal hearing. It will take a significantly longer period of time for you to recieve a date, and it could take several months or even years to resolve your case.

Due to the nature of BVA hearings and the ability to further appeal a DRO decision, many Texas veterans prefer to initiate their appeal with a decision review officer.

However, you should be aware that every case is different. An unfavorable VA disability benefits decision will have a major impact on your future, and you’ll want to know more about all of your options so that you can make the decision that is in your best interest.

To get started, we encourage you to contact an experienced veterans’ disability lawyer to discuss all of your rights and the potential steps you could take next. Filing a Notice of Disagreement is just the first step in your recovery of benefits and we are here to help you at each stage of the appeals process.

What Will The Social Security Administration Want To Know About My Job History If I Apply For Social Security Disability Benefits?

Quite a lot!

The Social Security Administration’s webpage provides information about the details of work history that you will need to share when you apply for Social Security disability benefits. For example, you will need to include the titles of all of the jobs you’ve held in the last 15 years. You’ll also need to provide a description of the work you performed.

Be Prepared to Talk About the Specifics of Your Job(s)

The Social Security Administration would like to receive information about:

  • The main responsibilities of your job or jobs
  • The main tasks you performed
  • The dates you worked
  • The number of hours a day you worked per week
  • Your pay rate
  • What tools, machinery, or equipment you used
  • What knowledge, skills, and abilities your work required
  • The amount of supervision you had
  • The amount of independent judgment you used
  • Whether you had to lift and carry objects and how much they weighed
  • Whether you had to sit, stand, walk, climb, stoop, kneel, crouch, crawl, or balance while at work
  • How you used your hands, arms, and legs while at work
  • Speaking, hearing, and vision requirements to perform your job
  • Environmental conditions of your workplace

The Social Security Administration also requests information about how your disability prevented you from meeting any workplace requirements. So, for example, if your disability caused you to work fewer hours or to accept help from coworkers, the Social Security Administration would like to know that.

The Social Security Administration also needs information about timing issues. You’ll need to share details about when your medical condition started to affect your work and when you stopped working.

All of this information is required so that the Social Security Administration can determine whether you can still do your old job, whether you can do a different type of work, or whether you are totally disabled.

Learn More About Social Security Disability Eligibility Before You Apply

If you believe you qualify for Social Security disability benefits, you should learn more about what the Social Security Administration wants to know from you and about how to protect your rights. Please download a FREE copy of our book, Social Security Disability: What You Need to Know, or contact us via this website or by phone for more information so that you can submit a complete and accurate application for benefits.

Are Veterans’ Disability Payments Only Available To Veterans Who Suffered Combat Injuries?

No. You do not have to be wounded in combat in order to qualify for veterans’ disability benefits. While veterans who suffered gunshot wounds, lost limbs, became deaf because of explosions, or received other combat-related injuries certainly can and do qualify for veterans’ disability benefits, they are not the only veterans who qualify for such benefits.

Who Else Qualifies for Veterans’ Disability?

Veterans’ disability benefits cover any service-related medical condition. This includes conditions that developed as a result of the person’s military service, as well as pre-existing medical conditions that worsened as a result of the person’s military service. In addition to combat injuries, veterans’ disability benefits also cover injuries suffered in service-related car accidents, sexual assaults, and on-the-job accidents, for example.

Common injuries and conditions for which veterans may receive benefits include:

  • Traumatic brain injuries and other head injuries
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Eye injuries
  • Ear injuries and hearing loss
  • Back, neck, and spinal cord injuries
  • Joint problems
  • Diabetes
  • Sleep apnea
  • Hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • Heart disease
  • Mental disorders

If you are a veteran who is suffering from a physical or mental condition that you believe was caused by your military service or aggravated by your military service, it is important to discuss your rights with an experienced veterans’ disability attorney. You may have the right to recover veterans’ disability benefits.

Your Recovery of Benefits Is Not Automatic

Instead, you will need to prove that your disability was caused by or aggravated by your service, and you will need to prove the extent of disability. If you file the right paperwork and supporting evidence, the Department of Veterans Affairs may approve your application for veterans’ disability and you may begin getting the benefits you deserve.

Do not risk having your application for veterans’ disability denied or delayed. Contact an experienced veterans’ disability lawyer today for a free, confidential consultation about your rights and for more information about getting the fair benefits you deserve.

What Benefits Are Available For Vietnam Veterans Who Were Exposed To Agent Orange?

During the Vietnam War, the U.S. military used more than 19 million gallons of Agent Orange and other herbicides to clear trees and brush in Korea, Cambodia, Thailand, Laos, and South Vietnam. It is estimated that more than 2.4 million American were exposed to the herbicides.

Soldiers were told that these herbicides were harmless; however, veterans returning from Vietnam began to suffer from rare cancers and other diseases. Their children were often stillborn or born with birth defects.

In 1991, Congress recognized that Agent Orange caused serious health problems in Vietnam-era veterans and enacted the Agent Orange Act. This act allows the Department of Veteran’s Affairs to offer benefits to Vietnam veterans who have certain disabilities associated with exposure to Agent Orange and other tactical herbicides.

Benefits Available Under the Agent Orange Act

If you served in Vietnam, Korea, or Thailand during certain years in the 1960s and 1970s, you may be eligible for:

  • Agent Orange Registry health exam. A free, comprehensive health exam to screen for health problems associated with exposure to Agent Orange. Veterans who served in Vietnam (1962-1975), the Korean Demilitarized Zone (1968-1971), and Thailand (1961-1975) are eligible for health screenings.
  • Health care benefits. A full range of health care benefits, including treatment at War Related Illness and Injury Study Centers in California, New Jersey, and Washington, D.C., are available.
  • Disability compensation. A monthly payment given in compensation for illnesses or disabilities related to military service—the amount of benefits is based on disability rating and number of dependents.
  • Other VA programs and services

Dependents of veterans exposed to Agent Orange may also be eligible for benefits. Children who are born with birth defects may be eligible for VA compensation, health care, and vocational training. Surviving spouses of military members who die as a result of exposure to Agent Orange or a disease associated with Agent Orange may also receive VA compensation.

How to Get the Benefits You Deserve

In order to receive VA benefits, you must:

  • Not have a dishonorable discharge
  • Have a diagnosis of a medical condition associated with exposure to Agent Orange
  • File a VA benefits claim

It is important to take action in order to get the benefits you deserve, but you do not have to take action alone. Instead, we encourage you to contact our veterans’ disability attorneys to schedule an initial consultation about your rights and the potential benefits that we may help you receive.

What Are “Credits” And How Do They Affect My Application For Social Security Disability Benefits?

redits are a key factor in determining your eligibility for Social Security disability. The Social Security Administration (SSA) determines your credits by looking at your work history to determine if you have worked long enough and if you have paid enough into the Social Security system to be eligible for Social Security disability benefits. If you do not have enough credits, you will not be able to receive Social Security disability benefits even if you are completely disabled.

How You Earn Credits

Your work credits accumulate through the year based on the income you earn and the taxes you pay. Any income you earn from self-employment will be included in your credits as long as you paid Social Security taxes on that income.

You can earn up to a maximum of four credits in one year. The amount of money you need to earn to get one credit can change annually. For example, in 2016 you can earn one Social Security credit for every $1,260 you earn and pay taxes on. Thus, if you earned $5,040 in 2016, you earned the maximum four credits that you could earn in one year.

The way work credits are earned is the same for everyone. However, the number of credits you need to qualify for Social Security disability is not the same for all workers.

How Many Credits Do You Need to Get Social Security Disability Benefits?

Most people need 40 work credits in order to get Social Security disability and 20 of those credits must have been earned in the last ten years. However, exceptions to the work credit requirements do exist for younger workers who have not yet had time to work long enough to acquire the minimum number of work credits.

To learn more about work credits and whether you qualify for Social Security disability, we encourage you to read our FREE book, Social Security Disability: What You Need to Know,and to contact us via this website or by phone to schedule an initial consultation with an experienced attorney.

Can I Receive Veterans’ Disability Benefits For My Tinnitus And Hearing Loss?

Yes. If your tinnitus and hearing loss were caused by or made worse by your military service, then you may qualify for veterans’ disability benefits.

You may qualify for veterans’ disability if you can prove that your service caused an ear or hearing problem such as:

  • Peripheral vestibular disorder
  • Cancer
  • Perforated eardrum
  • Loss of one or both ears
  • Hearing loss as diagnosed by an audiologist using a Maryland CNC test and a puretone audiometric test
  • Tinnitus, however, the only available rating for tinnitus is 10% unless you also have hearing loss

Of course, it is important to understand that every case is different, and the details of your hearing conditions and service in the military are the key to determining your disability rating and your payment.

How Common Is Hearing Loss Among Veterans?

According to the Department of Veterans Affairs: “Hearing problems—including tinnitus, which is a ringing, buzzing, or other type of noise that originates in the head—are by far the most prevalent service-connected disability among American Veterans.” While some soldiers and service members suffer hearing loss from working closely with loud vehicles and machinery, others have their hearing damaged during combat situations and bombings.

At the end of fiscal year 2015, 1,450,462 veterans received disability compensation for tinnitus and 1,015,305 veterans received disability compensation for hearing loss. To put those numbers into perspective, the third most common condition qualifying veterans for disability benefits was post-traumatic stress disorder with 813,227 veterans qualifying for benefits with that condition.

What to Do if You Suffer Tinnitus or Hearing Loss

If you are a veteran who suffers from tinnitus and hearing loss, then you may be able to file a VA disability benefits claim and receive compensation for your disability.

To learn more about how to properly prove your disability to the VA and collect benefits, speak with a Texas disability attorney today about your case. We can help you gather evidence for your case and secure the benefits you deserve. Call Morgan & Weisbrod today to learn more.

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