Join us on November 3, 2017 for the 5th Annual Veterans Disability Symposium.
We are are co-sponsoring the event with UAB and the University of Alabama. The theme is The Invisible Wounds of War and the faculty are experts in psychological injuries, traumatic brain injuries, and the issues involving re-integrating veterans into the workplace. The event will be held at the Lakeshore Foundation Conference Center. Register for the Symposium here. Feel free to contact us for more information at 205-879-3033.
If you have a condition that prevents you from maintaining a job (a “substantial gainful occupation” in the VA’s language), you may be entitled to a benefit called Individual Unemployability (“IU”). When a person gets IU, they are paid at the same rate as if they had a condition rated at 100%, but their rating is actually lower than 100%. There are certain conditions and ratings which, due to the severity of their symptoms, we think should automatically raise the question for the VA about whether you are entitled to IU. For example, a 50% rating for migraines is the highest rating available. At 50%, the VA has found that you have “very frequent and completely prostrating and prolonged attacks” which cause severe economic inadaptability—do you think someone with symptoms like that could hold a job? What about someone who has a mental condition “with deficiencies in most areas, such as work, school, family relations, judgment thinking, or mood” due to symptoms such as panic, depression, or obsessional rituals? That person would only have a 70% rating, but they probably can’t work, right? So, we think they should be entitled to IU, which could mean a big difference in how much they get paid. A single person (unmarried, no children) who has a 50% rating gets $838.64 per month in 2017, but a person on IU gets $2,915.55—more than $2,000 more per month! The difference between a 70% rating ($1,338.71) and IU is more than $1,500 per month. If you have a rating for a condition that prevents you from working, give us a call and we can help you get the benefits you deserve. Phone: 1-800-728-0434; Email: LifeHealth@FriedmanFirmPC.com.
The term Military Sexual Trauma (MST) encompasses many experiences, not only rape. MST includes sexual harassment, pressure for sexual activities in return for promotion, and unwanted sexual advances. It does not matter if you were on or off duty or whether you were on the base when it happened. The identity of the harasser does not matter, nor does it matter whether you were on active duty at the time of the incident. What matters is that you experienced an event which was against your will.
To receive free treatment for MST, you do not need to be service connected for a resulting medical condition or be have proof of the incident. Just contact the MST Coordinator at your local VA and/or your local Vet Center and ask for help.
If you have a condition resulting from MST (depression, anxiety, PTSD, among others) and would like help filing a VA claim, please give us a call at 205-879-3033 or email us at Lifehealth@FriedmanFirmPC.com
It takes the same amount of time to prove that a veteran is entitled to an increase of 20% to 40%, as it does to prove a vet is entitled to an increase of 20% to 100%. The reason is that the elements of proof are the same. For VA disability you must prove: 1) an event or injury in the service; 2) a current medical condition; and 3) a medical nexus between numbers 1 and 2. The medical nexus must be a medical opinion from a medical professional.
So, the elements of proof are the same for a 40% case as for a 100% case. As a result, we made the decision years ago to devote our law firm to the veterans who are the sickest and/or most injured. It has been a rewarding practice and the best way to use our law firm resources.
If you are not able to work because of your VA disability, please contact us. We can advise you on both Social Security and VA disability – – two claims that are often closely intertwined. Call us at 1-800-728-0434 or email at LifeHealth@FriedmanFirmPC.com.
We have many veterans who come to see us because they don’t understand why the VA won’t pay their compensation claims. They often spread out their paperwork and documents on our conference room table in a very organized display. Then they pull documents out in response to our questions. It’s amazing how well organized some veterans are, especially after years of collecting records to support their claims.
Unfortunately, the VA often does not clearly explain what is needed to prove a VA claim. Instead, they send reams of paperwork to the veteran, and often any explanation of what is needed is lost in the shuffle.
It’s really simple what is needed: 1) a current medical condition, 2) an event or injury in the service, and 3) a medical nexus connecting 1 to 2. But the devil is in the details.
One of things that they don’t tell you is that you just about always have to have a medical diagnosis to meet the requirement of a medical condition. We routinely tell veterans to get a diagnosis first before filing a claim.
Another thing is that the common sense way to prove an event or injury in the service often does not apply. You can get sick years later and still be covered, so some research and legwork may be required.
Finally, your doctor can provide a Disability Benefit Questionnaire to meet the medical nexus requirement – – but the DBQ does contain a most important question: Whether the event or injury in the service “is as likely as not” to have caused the current medical condition. This is just a 50-50 proposition. Your doctor does not have to state with any certainty that your current medical condition is caused by an event or injury in the service.
We will discuss other things that they don’t tell you in future posts to this blog. Please call us if you have any questions about how to prove your case. You can reach us at 1-800-728-0434 or at LifeHealth@FriedmanFirmPC.com.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.