News

How Do I Get VA or Social Security Disability for My Bipolar Disorder?

By Douglas I. Friedman of Friedman Law Firm, P.C.

Many suffers of bipolar disorder are relatively stable for significant periods of time, while others constantly cycle back and forth between the extremes. And, during times of stability, a person with this disease often can function well. So, how can you prove disability in these cases?

The answer is that for most people to hold down a job, they must be able to work forty hours each week, fifty weeks a year. If you have bipolar episodes just twice a year, and each episode lasts for two weeks, you would miss four weeks of work. In between episodes you may be fine, but those four weeks of sickness would usually cause you to be let go from the job.

We understand how bipolar sufferers can cycle back and forth, and at times appear to very healthy. We focus on proving how long the bad episodes last, and how often they occur. At Friedman Law Firm we are familiar with your symptoms and we know that sometimes you don’t feel well. We believe our sensitivity to these problems are key to successfully representing our clients.

If you have any questions about how bipolar disease can result in Social Security disability or Veterans Disability Compensation, please contact us 1-800-728-0434 or Lifehealth@FriedmanFirmPC.com.

We Believe a 70% Psychological Rating Should Result in VA Individual Unemployability

By Douglas I. Friedman of Friedman Law Firm, P.C.

If you have a 70% rating for a psychological condition, the VA has found that you have “occupational and social impairment, with deficiencies in most areas, such as work, school, family relations, judgement, thinking or mood.” Individual Unemployability, also known as IU, in general means that you can’t hold down a job because of your service-connected conditions. If you can prove entitlement to Individual Unemployability, you will be compensated at the 100% rate, even though your rating is less than 100%.

The reason that a 70% psychological rating should support a finding of Individual Unemployability is the limitations caused by symptoms included in the rating itself. Some examples are: inability to establish and maintain effective relationships; difficulty adapting to stressful circumstances including work or a worklike setting; neglect of personal appearance; and near continuous panic or depression affecting the ability to function independently, appropriately and effectively. The rating is too long to set out in full, but here is a link to the VA website that shows all of the psychological ratings: http://www.benefits.va.gov/warms/bookc.asp#r .

In a case like this, we usually offer medical evidence and the client’s statement to prove that the client’s symptoms keep them from working. After all, how can someone work with symptoms like these?

If you have any questions please don’t hesitate to call us at 1-800-728-0434. We have represented many veterans in IU claims.

VA Survivors’ Benefits: Dependents Indemnity Compensation

By Douglas I. Friedman of Friedman Law Firm, P.C.

When a veteran dies from a service-connected condition, the surviving spouse is entitled to survivors’ benefits known as Dependents Indemnity Compensation, or DIC. Often the VA will look at the death certificate to see whether the service-connected condition is listed there, and base a decision on that information. Death certificates usually list a primary cause of death, and contributing causes.

But, if the veteran’s service connected condition is not listed on the death certificate, don’t despair, as there are ways to get around this problem. For example, a condition may contribute to the cause of death if it weakens a major body system. So, if the veteran had diabetes, the diabetes may have weakened a major body system, such as the circulatory system. This can be enough to get the benefits awarded. In a DIC case it is important to think through how a service connected condition may lead to an award and whether a medical opinion may be needed to prove the case.

What if your spouse didn’t die from a service-connected condition? You can still get benefits if the veteran had a 100% rating, or was found unemployable, for at least ten years prior to death. In those cases, the surviving spouse is entitled to DIC regardless of the cause of death. So, if the veteran died in a car crash, and had been receiving 100% benefits for at least ten years prior to the crash, the surviving spouse may receive DIC benefits.

There are other ways to prove Dependents Indemnity Compensation, and the claimant must meet the definition of a surviving spouse, but, in most situations the rules above will determine entitlement to DIC. If you have questions about whether you qualify for Dependents Indemnity Compensation, please don’t hesitate to contact us at 1-800-728-0434.

I Hurt My Wrist Bad in the Service. Can I Get VA Disability?

By Douglas I. Friedman of Friedman Law Firm, P.C.

Yes, you can, and what’s more, you can get an award not only for pain, instability, and loss of range of motion, but also for injuries to the nerves in the wrist that cause numbness and tingling. The wrist is a very complicated joint and VA ratings are available for many different conditions. One just has to be aware of what is available, and sometimes you just have to memorize the rules, because they may not seem to make sense.

So, for example, what if you fell off a tank or from a helicopter – – or even just tripped and fell on the floor or the steps – – and you broke your fall with your hand and your wrist was badly injured in doing so. This would be a service-connected disability for which you can make a claim.

What’s more, if all the wrist injuries result from one incident, like a fall, you can take advantage of other rules that allow you to consider them together as an overall rating. This may be important in meeting the threshold percentage requirements Individual Unemployability, for example. To get IU you must have one disability at 60%, or an overall total percentage of 70%, with one rating of at least 40%. If you can consider your ratings as coming from one incident, you can add them together to reach these percentage thresholds. 

And remember, this approach is not only for wrists– it works for ankles, knees, elbows, or any one incident that causes multiple injurues.

If you have questions about wrist injuries, single incident ratings, or IU, feel free to call us at 1-800-728-0434 or email us at Lifehealth@FriedmanFirmPC.com.

I Can’t Afford to Go to the Doctor. How can I prove my disability case?

By Douglas I. Friedman of Friedman Law Firm, P.C.

It’s not as easy to prove a disability case if you don’t have medical records. Sometimes clients go to the Emergency Room for treatment, but, even that can be costly and most people only go if they are really hurting. So, ER treatment tends to be sporadic.

While medical records are certainly very important to your case, sometimes the government or the court will send you out for a consultative exam. We had a veteran as a client who was awarded benefits for PTSD based just on a consultative Compensation and Pension exam. That veteran was in such bad psychological condition that he could not deal with going to the hospital for treatment. So, he had no treatment records. But, we were able to get the VA to send him out for an exam, and it turned out to be favorable. So, he was awarded.

The same idea may also work with a Social Security disability case. They may also send you out for a consultative exam.

In most areas there is free or sliding scale medical treatment available, especially for psychological conditions such as PTSD, anxiety and depression, and bipolar disease. These records can be crucial to proving your case.

If you have any questions feel free to contact us.

My Case Was Denied and I Can’t Work. What Can I Do?

By Douglas I. Friedman of Friedman Law Firm, P.C.

In one word, you can Appeal. Whether it’s Social Security Disability or VA Disability Compensation, you have the right to appeal. But you must exercise that right within the time period required by law. If you don’t file a timely appeal, then you will lose your rights to the benefits that you seek.

Both Social Security and VA provide for a hearing before a judge if you are not satisfied with the decisions made in your case. The hearings are informal, but they follow specific legal rules that may not be apparent to anyone but your lawyer. We often have hearings where we can tell that the judge is going to award the case, and afterwards the client will ask: “What is going to happen? Did we win or lose?”

Unfortunately, hearings have gotten complicated. If you have any question about your hearing, feel free to contact us.

I am a veteran. May I receive both Social Security Disability and VA disability?

By Douglas I. Friedman of Friedman Law Firm, P.C.

If you are a veteran who cannot work because of a service-connected disability, you may file for both Social Security Disability and for Veterans Disability Compensation at the same time. And you can receive both benefits at once, without reduction. (Note: if you get a needs-based benefit, such as VA pension or SSI, winning an additional benefit may affect how much you can receive overall.)

The rules are different for each benefit. For Social Security we have to prove that you can’t work because of your medical conditions, and because of your age, education and work history. For example, the Social Security law assumes that the older you get, the harder it is for you to adjust to new jobs.

The VA benefit is much harder to win because it does not consider your age. The rating percentages themselves just consider your medical condition. Usually, in these cases we try to prove that you are unemployable – – known as Individual Unemployability. This means that you can’t work a regular job because of just your service-connected conditions, and also because of your education and work history. So, age is not a consideration, and the disability must be based only on service-connected conditions, not all of your medical conditions.

Having an overall strategy here can allow one case to help the other. Otherwise, sometimes getting an award in one case may not be as helpful as possible to the other case. When we represent you on both Social Security Disability and Veterans Disability, we aim for a strategy that will maximize the usefulness of one case for the other.

If you have any questions, feel free to contact us.

How Does VA Determine My Overall Percentage?

By Douglas I. Friedman of Friedman Law Firm, P.C.

VA does not add the percentages for each of your service-connected disabilities. So, if you have 30% for your back, and 10% for your sinuses, and 10% for PTSD, the total benefit is not 50%. Instead, it is 30%, plus 10% of the remaining 70% of your body, which is 7; and then 10% of the remaining 63% of your body, which is 6.3 (counted as 6 rounded down). So the overall percentage is 30 + 7 + 6, which is 43, which rounds down to 40.

This is why it is so difficult to have a combination of impairments that equal an overall of 100%. As your overall percentage goes up, you will usually need a benefit at a high percentage to reach 100%.

So, we often advise clients that, rather than try to get the overall percentage to 100%, they should try to get a benefit amount equal to 100%, even though their overall percentage is less than 100%. How can this be done? It can be done by proving Individual Unemployability, or in VA talk, “IU.”

IU means that you can’t perform a substantially gainful occupation due to your service-connected conditions. While the rating percentages themselves just consider medical considerations, IU also considers your education and work history. For example, if you have a high school education and have performed jobs on your feet your whole life, you are more likely to receive IU.

If you have any questions, feel free to contact us at 1-800-728-0434 or Lifehealth@FriedmanFirmPC.com

Older Age Makes it Easier to Prove Social Security Disability

By Douglas I. Friedman of Friedman Law Firm, P.C.

If you are over the age of 50, it is much easier to prove that you are entitled to Social Security Disability and SSI. The reason is that the law assumes that you are less able to adjust to new kinds of work as you get older. Things get even more favorable at age 55 and age 60.

For example, if you are age 50 and you have worked your whole life in jobs that required you to be on your feet most of the day, it is easier to prove your case for Social Security Disability. In this case you don’t have to be unable to do all types of work. If you can do a job that is seated all day, but you don’t have skills or education that could be used for seated work, you can be found disabled under Social Security rules.

Whether you meet the requirements for Social Security Disability is different for each person. No two cases are the same. So, we must learn about your education and work background, in addition to your medical condition, to advise you in a Social Security Disability case.

If you have any questions, feel free to contact us.

Military Sexual Trauma, Let us help.

By Jessica M. Friedman of Friedman Law Firm, P.C.

If you experienced sexual harassment, sexual assault, or rape during your time in the service, you may be able to file a VA claim for Military Sexual Trauma (MST). To prove a claim for MST, you need medical evidence diagnosing the condition and credible evidence that the event occurred. We know that many cases of MST go unreported because the event is so personal. Although there may not be direct evidence of the incident, there are other ways to prove that something happened, such as a request for transfer, change in behavior, or statements from family or friends. We have experience helping people with MST claims and we understand. If you or someone you know would like help with an MST claim, please give us a call at 1-800-728-0434 or email us at Lifehealth@FriedmanFirmPC.com