Can I Get Veterans Benefits If I Have PTSD?

The answer is, yes you can. The United States Department of Veterans Administration (VA) has a number of programs designed for vets with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. These programs include Specialized Outpatient PTSD Programs and also Specialized Intensive PTSD Programs that are residential treatment facilities. Some areas offer walk-in clinics as well. The outpatient programs provide one-on-one and/or group counseling which is provided to vets who live at home; there are non-resident day-hospitals that provide intensive treatment for up to eight hours a day. In this situation vets attend the day-hospital daily or several days a week depending on their needs.

The VA also provides residential treatment facilities for vets who need more intensive counseling services or if they need assistance with housing, recreational activities or employment assistance. In most of these locations the VA provides specialized treatment for those vets who have substance abuse problems and those who experienced sexual assault while in the military.

There are some specialized programs for female vets, and vets who identify as gay, lesbian or transgender.

In addition to the services offered through the VA, there are other organizations that provide needed help to veterans, including those with PTSD. The Wounded Warrior Project for example, provides family support, and includes combat stress recovery for any vet who was deployed after 9/11/2001. Warriors & Quiet Waters helps vets with their traumatic injuries and PTSD to heal recreationally through fly-fishing, skiing and horseback riding in the mountains of Montana.

 

What Exactly Are Veterans Disability Benefits?

Veteran Disability PTSD Lawyer

If you are in need of a Veteran Disability Lawyer for PTSD, talk to Attorney at Law Robert Surface today!

Veterans Disability Benefits are those benefits paid to veterans of military service for injuries or diseases that occurred while on active duty, or aggravated by their military service. These benefits are tax-free in both the federal and state arenas. These benefits include low cost or free mental health treatment, other health care benefits, vocational rehabilitation, employment assistance and independent living support.

The monthly benefit ranges from $133 to over $3,300 per month; this amount varies based on the level of disability, number of dependents and additional amounts may be paid if the vet has a severe disability, loss of limb(s), they have a spouse, children, dependent parents or a spouse is seriously disabled. PTSD is just one of the treatment options available through the VA.

 

What Is the Process for Obtaining My Veterans Disability Benefits?

The first thing you should consider is hiring an attorney with experience in this area to help you navigate the process of getting your benefits. J. Robert Surface, Attorney at Law in Greenville, can take care of the details for you. The attorneys at J. Robert are well versed in what it takes to get your application through the system, even if you have been denied in the past. When they submit your application, they will need to have all available documentation first. This requires all the medical evidence related to your condition, both military and civilian; all doctor and hospital reports; copies of DD214(separation documents); dependency records, these include marriage certificates and birth certificates for your children. Keep any documents related to your condition, if they’re not needed that’s okay; better to have too much supporting documentation than not enough.

The fastest way to apply for any veterans’ disability benefits is through VONAPP (the veterans’ online application service). As stated above, you will need all supporting documentation to achieve what the VA calls a fully developed claim. If it is incomplete, your application may be rejected. Therefore, hiring an attorney is in your best interest for getting your claim handled in a timely manner.

 

Once Approved, Can My Benefits Be Altered or Discontinued?

While benefits paid to vets vary with the degree of disability and the number of eligible dependents, vets with certain disabilities may be eligible for additional special monthly compensation, also tax-free from federal and state agencies.

Some vets have what is known as Protected Benefit Rates; though this may require periodic medical re-examinations to qualify their condition, it is difficult for the VA to reduce or terminate the disability rating, including PTSD, thereby reducing the benefit. If your benefit has been in effect for five years or more, the VA cannot reduce your rating unless your condition has improved on more than a temporary basis. Medical exams and reports must support that the improvement is more than temporary. If your rating is in effect for more than twenty years the VA can’t reduce it unless it is proven that the rating was fraudulently based, which is very unlikely.

 

Can I Get Help with Travel Expenses?

If the facility you need is not in your area, and you need treatment for your service-related condition, you may receive travel reimbursement if your disability is rated at 30% or more, if you are receiving a VA pension, if you are traveling for scheduled compensation or pension exams and if your income does not exceed the max VA pension rate.

The mileage reimbursement is calculated at 41.5 cents per mile; the deductible mileage amount is $3 one way and $6 per round trip. The mileage deductible is subject to a monthly cap of $18 and when the cap is reached the rest of the month is free of deductible charges. There are three ways the deductible mileage reimbursement can be waived: 1) you are receiving a VA pension, 2) you are traveling for a scheduled compensation and pension exam and/or 3) you meet certain income levels.

 

What Else Should I Know About PTSD Benefits?

You should consult with your attorney from J. Robert Surface, Attorney at Law to make sure all of your questions are answered. There are a few instances where your benefits can be reduced or cancelled, and while this is not likely, it’s best to have all available information. Remember, the best thing you can do to help your attorney help you, is to have as much documentation as you can going into the process. The attorneys at J. Robert Surface will know just what to do to get you all the benefits and compensation you are entitled to. Let them help you today!

Can You Get Veteran’s Disability Benefits for PTSD in Greenville, South Carolina?

One of the most common disabilities associated with serving in the armed forces is post traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD. It may come alone into your diagnosis, due to things you have witnessed or experienced; or it may come along with a traumatic physical injury. In any event, it is possible to get veteran’s disability benefits for post traumatic stress disorder in Greenville, South Carolina.

The First Step is to Identify and Diagnose Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

Post traumatic stress disorder is not always immediately identified or diagnosed. Many veterans will live with

Greenville South Carolina Veteran Disability Lawyer

If your a Veteran who is in need of a Disability Lawyer, contact Robert Surface of Greenville, SC

the symptoms of PTSD in South Carolina for months or years before they realize that they have it. This does not mean that the disorder isn’t disrupting their lives and causing tremendous challenges; they simply don’t recognize the symptoms for what they are or are uncomfortable seeking treatment.

The symptoms that you should watch for include flashbacks of a particular event, frequent nightmares, a sense that you are always reliving that event, and an inclination to avoid talking about it and also avoid any situations that would trigger the symptoms (like the flashbacks). You may also feel depressed, anxious, or always on the lookout for any risks in your environment. If you are suffering from any symptoms like this and wondering if you might have PTSD, seek help and resources from your doctor, a mental healthcare professional, and from your local VA.

Your PTSD Must Be Directly Related to Military Service to Get Veteran’s Disability Benefits

While it is established that your PTSD must be directly related to military service in order to be eligible for veteran’s disability benefits, the law was changed in 2010 to make it less challenging to prove the connection. You no longer have to provide evidence that a given event actually occurred. Rather, you have to provide a statement about the traumatic event and it must be consistent with the general circumstances of the military service that you provided. Further, there cannot be any evidence that the incident you are describing did not actually occur at all. Beyond this, you will have to provide evidence of a diagnosis of PTSD and expert testimony that the given stressor could cause the condition.

The Importance of Your Written Statement Concerning the PTSD Stressor

Not all veterans will be required to provide a written statement about the PTSD stressor. Those who have received certain recognitions, such as a Purple Heart, Combat Action Ribbon, Combat Infantryman Badge, etc. are exceptions to the rule when it comes to providing a written statement. If you do not fall into any of these categories, then your written statement is essential to seeking benefits.

You will need to make sure that you have the appropriate support when you are preparing to write this statement, as it may trigger symptoms of PTSD, such as flashbacks and anxiety. It is helpful to sit down to write your statement when you are not alone, or when you know who to call if it gets difficult. If there are parts of the experience that you don’t remember, you should be honest about this. It is not unusual for certain parts of traumatic and stressful memories to be missing or confused.

You will also want to have access to your military records, your communication records, and any personnel records and medical records, so that you can provide accurate information. If you wrote letters to friends and family during your service, then these can come in handy as well. If you have a journal of your memories, events, and feelings, then you can use this.

The best way to write your stressor statement is on a computer, though you are allowed to do so with pen and paper. You’ll need to include as much information about the traumatic event as you can. If there were multiple events, describe them in order. Discuss the details of when, what, where, how, and why an incident occurred. You want to provide as much information as possible. Avoid minimizing the event and your response to the event, but also avoid exaggerating.

After describing the event to the best of your ability, move on to how you have changed since the event occurred. This can include descriptions of your family relationships, before and after, any problems that you’ve encountered with school, employment, and interacting with others, and any sleep disturbance. Explain the challenges associated with readjusting into your civilian life and any symptoms of anxiety or depression that you’ve been dealing with since returning. You can discuss specific examples of panic attacks, flashbacks, or reactions to external stimuli that are not the norm. For example, if you were immediately transported back to the traumatic event by a scene from the television or a noise that you heard outside, then you could describe this event.

In some cases, people who are struggling with PTSD will end up using drugs or alcohol to self medicate. This is an area of discussion that many would rather avoid, but it is acceptable to do so in your stressor statement. Much of what you include in this statement will be difficult to write about, difficult to be open about, and any alcohol and drug use should be included, however difficult it may be.

Statements from Others Can Also Help You in Seeking Veterans Benefits for PTSD

For some people, the realization that they are suffering from PTSD will come from the intervention of friends and family who have noticed the change. In other cases, you may find out about it on your own, but there is still a good chance that your friends and family have noticed. Any co-workers or medical professionals who have seen changes in you can also be witnesses. It is helpful to get statements from anyone who has seen the effects of PTSD on your life when seeking veteran’s disability benefits.

To learn more about seeking veterans’ disability benefits, contact J. Robert Surface for a free consultation. Our veteran’s disability attorneys will help you every step of the way.

What You Need to Know About Seeking Veterans Disability Benefits

There are various veteran disability benefits that you have a right to receive as a disabled veteran. For example, there are healthcare benefits and benefits to cover nursing home care, daily living assistance, or nurse visits for yourself or a disabled spouse. Yet, many people don’t realize that they even have a qualifying disability, especially if they have attempted to seek benefits, but were denied. Some of the most frequently diagnosed disabilities in veterans include psychiatric illness and personality disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), traumatic brain injuries, back injuries and chronic back pain, Gulf War Syndrome, heart disease, and pulmonary disorders. It is entirely possible, however, to be denied, when you are actually entitled to receive the benefits that you seek. This is where it is incumbent upon you to speak to a South Carolina veterans’ rights and disability attorney to explore your options.

How to Proceed with a Veteran Disability Claim

Before you initiate your claim, you’ll want to fully understand the process of doing so. It begins with filling out an application at the VA office in your area and waiting for them to issue a ratings decision. You can appeal their decision with a Notice of Disagreement, filed at the same VA office within a year of receiving the decision.

At that point, a Statement of the Case will be provided to you, and you will have a chance to offer more evidence for the VA office to complete a Supplemental Statement of the Case. If this still does not come out in your favor, then you will need to appeal Supplemental Statement of the Case with the Board of Veterans Appeals by requesting a hearing within 60 days of receiving the Supplemental Statement of the Case.  It is at this point where if you are denied, it will be called the final denial. If you receive a final denial of your claim, then you have a right to pursue a lawsuit with the US court of Appeals for Veteran’s Claims within 120 days of the denial.

Do You Need an Attorney to Help with Your VA Claim?

You are not legally required to hire an attorney to assist with your VA claim. However, it is very important to give serious consideration to this matter. The process of filing a VA claim and dealing with denials and appeals can be overwhelming, especially when you are already dealing with health concerns and financial challenges. While some people make it through the process on the first try, without any trouble and no appeals, many are denied for benefits that they are rightfully owed. A veterans’ rights and disability attorney understands the system and can help you navigate through the various legal challenges and hurdles that you’ll face.

It is also beneficial to have an attorney on your side to give the case a fresh perspective. Your experienced veterans’ rights lawyer won’t be as weight down by the stresses that you’re dealing with, but will be just as committed to ensuring that you don’t fall through the cracks of the system. They won’t be facing the trauma that you’ve lived through or trying to make it through each day without the needed medical care and support that you require and aren’t receiving. Your attorney will have the benefit of an objective view of your claim and the associated evidence, and will be able to evaluate your position and your next steps with care and legal expertise.

Some of the reasons that a claim may be unsuccessful include using the wrong evidence, failing to present more convincing evidence that is available, and not adequately linking the medical condition and healthcare requirements to the service that you provided to the country. Your attorney will be able to determine how best to overcome these obstacles, which evidence needs to be presented, how to present it, and how to establish a causal or supportive link between the service and the condition that has left you disabled and in need of care.

In some cases, it will be necessary to link one condition with another that is already covered. For instance, a veteran may have an injury covered by veterans’ disability benefits, but another condition denied for coverage. Yet that second condition may be related to the first. If one condition results in decreased movement and that condition is covered, then another condition, like diabetes, could be linked to the decreased movement associated with the covered condition. In another example, image that the same covered injury, resulting in decreased movement, has contributed to mental health issues, such as depression. In this case, the two could be linked, and the depression could be covered, where it was previously denied because you couldn’t establish a causal link directly between the service and the depression.

Let J. Robert Surface Attorney at Law Take the Pressure Off Your Shoulders

Dealing with a disability is a high-pressure situation all by itself. Trying to go up against a denial for veterans’ disability benefits that you are entitled to puts a whole other weight on your shoulders. Far too many people are not in any position to fight for themselves. There are veterans who are very ill, unable to work, without family support, and even homeless. Dealing with such circumstances puts you in no condition to fight for your rights and navigate the complex process of appeals, organizing and providing evidence, and proving causal links.

Even if you are in a more capable position, it is still too much pressure for any one person to deal with while they are also dealing with the challenges of living with a disability. Far too many people fall through the cracks, never get the coverage that they require, give up within the first stages of the process, or end up spending years going through the steps over and over, never to reach a successful outcome. Don’t let this happen to you or your loved ones. Improve your chances of a positive resolution, receiving the benefits that you need, by contacting a skilled South Carolina veteran disability claim attorney at J. Robert Surface Attorney at Law for a free consultation.

How to Apply for Social Security Disability Benefits

First let’s talk about what SSDI is and how you can qualify to get it. If you have a disability, either long term or you recently have become disabled, in order to qualify for Social Security Disability Income (SSDI) your condition must: be a full disability that will result in at least a year of inability to work, or a condition that will result in your death.

If you meet that criteria, the next step is to hire an attorney to help you get your application through the system. A good SSDI attorney like J. Robert Surface, Attorney at Law, is the right choice for you. Located in Greenville, J. Robert surface has all the experience you need to help you with your SSDI claim, especially if you’ve been denied for benefits in the past. If this is the case for you, have an experienced social security lawyer will help you get the compensation you need.

Two things to keep in mind: start the claim as soon as you become disabled, as the process can take up to three to five months to complete, and your application needs to be complete and accurate in order to be considered for the benefit. Therefore, hiring a skilled SSDI attorney that is experienced in the process is crucial to your success.

 

What Will I Need to Provide to Get My SSDI Benefit?

SSDI Veteran Disability Greenville SC Lawyer

If you are in need of Veteran Disability for SSDI, talk to Greenville attorney Robert Surface today!

This program is not available for short-term disability! The requirements you will need to meet are: 1) A recent work test that is based on your age at the time your disability began and 2) A duration of work test to determine if you worked long enough under Social Security to collect the benefit.

The scale of pay is determined by your age at the time of your disability, and the answers to these 5 questions: 1) Are you currently working? 2) Is your medical condition severe in nature? 3) Does your impairment meet or medically equal an impairment? 4) Can you do the work you did before? 5) Can you perform any other type of work? Once those questions have been answered and qualified, your benefit is based on the following age protocols when you were disabled: before age 24, after age 24 but before age 31, and age 31 or later. If you are under the age of 28, the benefit requires 1.5 years of work, and to age 60 requires 9.5 years of work. This is an example of the spectrum; you can find all the age and income factors on the government website, or through your attorney.

 

What Are the Conditions That Qualify For SSDI?

Your attorney can give you a list of all the qualifying conditions, and they can be found on the government website as well. The basic list includes conditions stemming from blood, cancer, cardio vascular, digestive, kidney damage, mental, musculoskeletal, neurological, and respiratory.

This list is not exhaustive, so a consultation with J. Robert Surface attorneys to determine your condition and if you qualify is in order.

 

What Will My Attorney Need from Me to Present My Case?

Following is a list of criteria that you will need, consult your attorney for any other information that may be required.

1) your social security number

2) your birth or baptismal certificate

3) information on all your doctors, hospitals, clinics, caseworkers, dates of visits, name and dosages of all medications you are taking, medical records from anyone you have seen for your condition, including lab and test results

4) information on where you worked

5) list of what type of work you performed

6) copies of your most current W-2 or current tax return

Remember that proof of all medical diagnoses is required, there are no exceptions. Symptoms of your condition are important to note; objective evidence of your stated condition is also required. Document everything about your illness, this is very, very important. The stronger your evidence, the better your application.

 

Do I Really Need to Hire an Attorney?

Having an attorney to represent you is not required, but it is highly recommended. As you can see from the list above, this process can be arduous. Knowing all the documentation required, and how to present it, is crucial in the arena of SSDI. The attorneys at J. Robert Surface are well versed in the rules, guidelines and quirks of the system. Let them be your guide to getting the compensation you need and deserve. They offer a free consultation to determine if and how they can help you get through this process, there is no fee if they don’t win your case and their payment comes from the back pay that you receive, not from your ongoing monthly benefit payments.

 

Who Makes the Decision About My Benefits Application?

Once you meet all the criteria and supply all the required documents, the government forwards your information to the Disability Determinations Services office in the state of South Carolina. This state agency processes your application and they make the initial determination of your disability. Disability specialists and doctors in the state of South Carolina will ask your doctors for any additional information regarding your condition and they may require a special exam, so be prepared for this. They generally prefer to use your own doctor, but in some cases, it will be a different doctor. The good news is that Social Security will pay for the exam if required, and will also pay for some of the travel related costs should you incur any.

Some extremely important things to remember before applying for these benefits are: you cannot be currently working and qualify for these benefits, you must anticipate being out of work for at least a year, start the application as soon as you become disabled, keep all medical records, including lab reports, doctor’s notes, prescription information, anything related to your case.

Schedule a consultation with J. Robert Surface, Attorney at Law today. The power of having an attorney on your side in applying for these benefits cannot be overstated, you’ll be glad you did.

What Are The Benefits Of Filing A Mesothelioma Claim?

Military personnel are an important and revered part of our country. They protect the country from many forms of danger that keep our country safe. As these men and women age, though, different ailments and medical concerns arise due to hazardous conditions they were exposed to during their service.

Many individuals that served various branches of the U.S. Armed Forces were exposed to a harmful material known as asbestos. Asbestos has been removed from nearly all working areas since it has been linked to a cancer of the mesothelial tissue known mesothelioma. This article will discuss how veterans suffering with mesothelioma can make use of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). If you are suffering with mesothelioma, it will be necessary to file a claim with them.

Asbestos was used in almost all military transportation vehicles, as well as its housing, for many years. Automobiles, tanks, ships, aircrafts, building materials, and cement pipes used in the construction of military bases all contained some amount of this toxic substance. Regardless of branch or occupation, a veteran was highly likely to have been exposed to some amount of asbestos. However, other workers such as pipefitters, shipyard workers, miners, insulation workers, demolitionists, manufacturers, roofing and flooring installers, maintenance crews, and mechanics were put at the most risk concerning asbestos exposure. If you are suffering from mesothelioma contracted by exposure to asbestos during military service, contact an experienced mesothelioma disability claim attorney.

Benefits of filing a claim

If you served in the military and have been diagnosed with mesothelioma, you should file for compensation with the Department of Veteran Affairs. You will also want to hire an experienced veterans affairs lawyer to answer any questions you have, as well as give you any legal advice about the matter.

By filing a claim with Veteran Affairs, a veteran will almost immediately receive disability compensation, one hundred percent medical care, and pension benefits. If the veteran has a spouse and/or children that are minors, they will be entitled to survivor benefits. One reason for this is that the Department of Veteran Affairs classifies mesothelioma as being a one hundred percent disability.

A veteran will be eligible to receive both a pension or any other entitlements due to them by being approved for one hundred percent disability. Pensions and the monthly stipends paid by disability will vary depending on the size of the veteran’s family. This means that a veteran who is single will receive less than one who is married, has children, or other dependents.

Along with benefits for veterans, there are also benefits available to the caregivers of veterans. If an individual or a family member is the acting caregiver for a veteran suffering from a disability, such as mesothelioma, they could also be entitled to compensation. There are several programs available specifically for the family members of veterans with mesothelioma.  Taking advantage of these programs allow veterans to receive the best possible care for the condition from which they are suffering.

Some requirements for eligibility include the following:

  • You must have been honorably discharged under usual conditions. Those who have been discharged under dishonorable conditions do not qualify for this assistance.
  • Your job required the use of asbestos or you worked a location that exposed you to asbestos.
  • Apart from exposure, you must also be suffering from a disability or disease that is related to asbestos exposure.
  • You will also need to provide evidence of your exposure to asbestos while on active duty.
  • You will need to show any medical documentation that states your illness is directly related to asbestos exposure.

Things to help you choose the right lawyer for your case

If at this point you feel you are eligible for these benefits, you will need to retain the services of an experienced veteran disability lawyer. Before you begin your search, you might want to keep a few things in mind. You will need to make sure the attorney has experience handling veteran disability cases. An attorney that lacks the proper experience in veteran disability cases may not be able to lead you through the process properly, which could result in you not being able to receive all the benefits available. Having an experienced veteran disability lawyer at your side can make all the difference as you are filing your claim.

The Department of Veteran Affairs, will usually be very cooperative with veterans in need of assistance, but it is not a guarantee that your case will go in your favor. The only way to ensure that you will receive the amount of benefits to which you are entitled is find an experienced disability lawyer working for your best interests.

One way to find a lawyer or firm that is certified and licensed to take on these types of cases, veteran affairs claims, workers’ compensation claims, or disability claims is to visit your state’s bar association website. Any attorney listed on the website will usually offer free consultation. If you happen to have any friends or family that have dealt with a disability lawsuit, it would be helpful to ask which disability lawyer helped them. They may know an excellent disability claim lawyer that you could contact, saving you hours of research on which disability claim lawyers are the best for disability claims. If you do not have family or friend that have used a veterans disability lawyer, do not let this affect your search.

Visit the website of any lawyers you are considering and investigate what services they offer. Most professional lawyers and law firms will have a quality website where will be able to find out about their qualifications as well as experience in different cases. If you are in the Greenville area, contact the Surface Law Firm for a free consultation to review your case and determine whether you will be able to file a successful claim. The experienced mesothelioma attorneys at Surface Law Firm will give you the advantage you need while filing your claim.

The Department of Veteran Affairs is in the business of helping veterans, but because of the risk of fraud, disability cases are highly scrutinized.  Officials at Veteran Affairs set distinct amounts for disability payouts and do not make it easy to get access to these entitlements unless you are working with or know someone who has a position within the department. So, finding a skilled professional veteran affairs lawyer in Greenville will be your best option in making sure your settlement is what you deserve.

Trump Picks Next VA Secretary

President-elect Donald Trump on Wednesday named the Department of Veterans Affairs top health official his pick to run the entire veterans bureaucracy, a surprise move that puts a non-veteran in line for the post for the first time.

Dr. David Shulkin, who has served as VA Under Secretary for Health since June 2015, is the first nominee held over from President Barack Obama’s administration. Trump made the announcement at his first press conference since the November election, and after a lengthy search which included dozens of potential candidates.

“He’s fantastic,” Trump said. “He will do a truly great job. One of the commitments I made is that we’re going to straighten out the whole situation for veterans. Our veterans have been treated horribly … I think you’ll be very impressed with David and the job he does.”

In a statement released by Trump’s transition team, Shulkin called the nomination an honor.
“President-elect Trump’s commitment to caring for our veterans is unquestionable, and he is eager to support the best practices for care and provide our Veterans Affairs’ teams with the resources they need to improve health outcomes,” he said.
“We are both eager to begin reforming the areas in our Veterans Affairs system that need critical attention, and do it in a swift, thoughtful and responsible way.”

Shulkin currently oversees about 1,700 medical facilities and almost 300,000 federal workers in the department’s health system.

Now he’ll be charged with looking after the entire $177-billion agency, not only the health care aspects but also benefits delivery and a host of other support programs.

Prior to his time at VA, Shulkin worked as president and CEO of Beth Israel Medical Center in New York City and spent many years as a top health care official at numerous Philadelphia research hospitals.

If confirmed by the Senate, the 57-year-old Shulkin will become the first non-veteran to oversee the department or any of its predecessor agencies. Over the last 94 years, each of the 26 other men to serve in the job boasted military experience.

Shulkin comes from an Army family, and was born on an Army base in Illinois. His father served as an Army psychiatrist, and during his 2015 confirmation hearing he noted his military upbringing “has sensitized me to the psychological and medical needs of those who served our country.”

The former internal medicine physician would enter the job with the more medical experience than most past nominees, and with almost two years of first-hand experience with the challenges and failures of VA’s medical care operations.

 

Trump has promised major changes within the department, including new rules on employee bonuses and a commission to “investigate all the fraud, cover-ups, and wrongdoing that has taken place in the VA” in recent years.

He has also promised a private White House hotline active 24 hours a day devoted to fielding complaints about VA, to guide reform efforts.

And he pledged as a candidate to increase the number of mental health care professionals within VA, a need that health officials have identified but been unable to fill due to nationwide shortages in specialists.

On Wednesday, Trump said that Shulkin will work closely with executives from “some of the great hospitals of the world” to look at ways to reduce wait times, improve access and better veterans care.

The president-elect has stated he wants to look at shifting more VA medical appointments to private physicians, a move that veterans advocates have strongly opposed.

Last fall, Shulkin testified before the Senate in favor of plans to extend the controversial VA Choice Card program past August 2017, but also argued that VA needs to remain “the care coordinator” for veterans’ medical needs.

He has also voiced support for expanding private-care partnerships with VA hospitals, a plan that Republicans in Congress have already endorsed.

Shulkin enjoys a good relationship with veterans groups. In a statement, Veterans of Foreign Wars National Commander Brian Duffy said his group supports Shulkin’s nomination and praised his “willingness to continue serving veterans and making the VA better.”

Bill Rausch, executive director of Got Your 6, praised the pick as a chance to build on positive reforms in the department over the last few years.

“Although Dr. Shulkin does not have military experience, we have worked with him closely in his current role and have seen first-hand his unwavering commitment to our nation’s veterans,” he said.

“Picking Shulkin shows both a focus on veterans health reform, and a desire to largely continue much of the good work done since (the 2014 wait times scandal), said Phil Carter, director of the Military, Veterans and Society Program at the Center for a New American Security.

“Under Shulkin, VA has slowly and quietly shifted more of its patient load to the private sector, and that has helped VA handle much greater demand. That trend will likely continue, and work better than outright privatization of the VA.”

House Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Phil Roe, R-Tenn., lauded Trump’s choice of a physician to lead the department, “especially one familiar with the integrating of private practitioners into the VA’s network of health care providers.”

Paul Rieckhoff, CEO at Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, praised Shulkin’ experience but noted that “his selection is unprecedented. Our membership overwhelmingly supported the selection of a veteran for this critical leadership position”

Rieckhoff said his group will be watching Shulkin’s confirmation hearing closely, to see if he supports plans to “expand privatization at VA, which veterans nationwide continue to overwhelmingly oppose.”

No confirmation hearing schedule has been announced. But by picking an official in the current VA administration, Trump may be able to avoid a leadership gap in the department after current VA Secretary Bob McDonald’s departure on Jan. 20.

Link to original article: http://www.militarytimes.com/articles/trump-va-sec-shulkin

VA and Social Security Partner to Speed Up Disability Decisions for Veterans

WASHINGTON — The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and the Social Security Administration (SSA) launched a new Health IT initiative that enables VA to share medical records electronically with social security disability processors. This secure process will save time and money resulting in better service for Veterans and dependents who apply for social security disability benefits. The SSA requests nearly 15 million medical records from health care organizations yearly to make medical decisions on about three million disability claims. For decades, SSA obtained medical records through a manual process. This new national initiative puts in place an automated process to obtain Veterans’ medical records entirely electronically.

“VA’s partnership with Social Security will ultimately improve the quality of life for Veterans and their dependents by enabling Veterans to share their health information within a safe and secure health-related consumer application,” said Dr. David Shulkin, VA’s Under Secretary for Health.

The joint venture is expected to significantly speed up social security disability decisions, utilizing VA’s VLER Health Exchange under the Virtual Lifetime Electronic Record (VLER) Program. The VLER Health Exchange gives VA and participating community providers the ability to retrieve Veterans’ health information from each other for the purpose of treatment. Currently, VLER Health Exchange shares health data with over 79 community health care partners, representing 775 Hospitals, 427 Federally Qualified Health Centers, 142 Nursing Homes, 8441 Pharmacies and over 11,969 Clinics. The SSA now has access for the purpose of processing benefits for Veterans and their dependents.

“This SSA-VA partnership is another example of VA’s leadership in interoperability efforts among federal partners,” said VA Secretary, Robert McDonald. “Increasing federal partnerships to improve operation and resource coordination across agencies is among VA’s 12 Breakthrough Priorities for 2016.”

VA has partnership agreements with Health and Human Services (HHS), Department of Defense (DOD), Department of Treasury (DOT) among many others.

To learn more about VA health care visit: www.va.gov/health.
Original Article at: http://www.va.gov/opa/pressrel/pressrelease.cfm?id=2831#sthash.gC0ONHyl.dpuf

How the VA Disability Claims Process Works

If you are a veteran suffering from a medical condition that was caused or aggravated during your period of active duty in the military, you may qualify for benefits under the Department of Veterans Affairs’ VA Disability Compensation program. The program was established to ensure that veterans obtain the compensation they deserve after suffering injuries or illnesses contracted during their service to our country. However, filing a claim and obtaining benefits can be complicated for those unfamiliar with the process and how disability payments are awarded. An experienced veterans’ disability attorney can assist you with filing the proper paperwork and establishing your claim, but some general information should be helpful as background on how VA disability claims work.

VA Disability Claims Process: When seeking VA disability benefits or increasing the amount you currently receive, you begin the process by filing a claim.

Filing the Claim: You can file your claim for VA disability benefits online at eBenefits; this is also the website where you can manage your benefits and medical records. If you prefer, you can also submit your claim by mail or in person at the VA regional office. The claim application, along with your military service and health care records, and any other paperwork related to the claim are reviewed by the regional office officials to provide a rating determination.

Service Connection: When reviewing your claim for VA disability benefits, officials look to a complex set of laws, regulations, and court case decisions to determine issuance of benefits. After applying all relevant regulations to the facts of your claim, the VA will provide benefits and pay disability compensation if the evidence establishes three things:

The injury, illness, or other medical condition occurred during your military service;
You are suffering from a current disability due to the injury, illness, or other medical condition; and,
A verifiable link, usually proven through medical records, exists between the condition and your current disability.

Establishing a direct service link is relatively straightforward if you were diagnosed with a medical condition during service. However, proving a service connection may require additional proof in certain cases:

Aggravated Service Connection: When you have a condition before entering the military, and it worsens during service, you may be able to establish an aggravated service connection.

Presumptive Service Connection: For certain medical conditions, there is a presumption of service connection where you have served at least 90 days. These include injuries resulting from time spent as a prisoner of war, certain cancers, diseases contracted from service during the Gulf War.

Secondary Service Connection: If you are eligible for VA disability benefits arising from an injury or illness and that condition causes another health issue, you may claim a secondary service connection. Examples would be a leg injury that causes chronic knee pain or a cancer that spreads to another part of your body.

In addition, there are special rules for the service connection when you suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. For PTSD, you must provide a statement about the traumatic event that occurred during service and obtain a written opinion from the VA psychologist or psychiatrist that the event was the stressor that caused the condition.

Determining Your Claim: VA Schedule of Rating Disabilities: Once the service connection is established by the VA, officials will re-examine the medical evidence and assign a level under the VA Schedule for Rating Disabilities.

The rating assigned to your case is an indication of the severity of your disability and how much your condition impacts your ability to make a living. This figure is used to establish the amount of the disability payment intended to compensate you for losses incurred as a result of your military service. In general, the lower rating indicates a less serious condition and higher figures are assigned to more severe disabilities.

How the VA Schedule of Rating Disabilities Works: The ratings are based on the average impact a disability has on earning capacity in civilian occupations, and they range from 0-100 percent. The Schedule breaks different medical conditions down into categories based upon the parts of your body affected; it further divides these categories into separate medical issues, along with the diagnosis, code, and symptoms.

Assigning the Rating: To determine your disability rating, a VA official will start with the body system category and locate your diagnosis. Then, he or she will review medical evidence to identify the diagnostic code in the Schedule that matches your symptoms.

Multiple Diagnostic Codes: If your medical disability is closely related to more than one code, you will only be rated and paid for one code. However, the VA official must identify the code that will give the highest rating – and highest amount of disability payment.

Errors in Assessing the VA Schedule of Ratings Disabilities: The Schedule is complicated, and the medical records that typically accompany a claim for VA disability benefits are voluminous. These complexities can lead to errors as VA officials attempt to review your matter, determine service connection, then assign a rating to your disability. An agent may not apply the rating criteria properly, or assign a rating that you feel is too low for your condition.

If you disagree with the VA on any aspect of your claim, you have one year to file an appeal. The basis for your appeal may be based on the assigned rating, effective date of your award, or the denial of your claim. It’s wise to have an experienced veterans’ disability lawyer review your case, assist with your appeal, and represent you through the appeals process.

As you can see, the process for filing a VA disability claim can be challenging. Initially, you’ll need to establish the service connection between your medical condition and your time in the military. Even after overcoming this first step, you must also provide sufficient evidence to ensure an appropriate rating on the VA Schedule of Ratings Disabilities to obtain disability payments. Plus, if your claim is denied or you believe a rating was issued in error, you’ll need to appeal the findings. Having a qualified veterans’ disability attorney to represent your interests greatly increases your chances of being awarded a disability benefit that’s appropriate in your individual case.

J. Robert Surface is a lawyer with more than 36 years’ experience in serving the disabled, including veterans seeking disability benefits. He knows the laws and regulations governing VA disability matters, and has an extensive background in the filing and appeals process. Please contact our office today to schedule a free consultation, or with any questions.

Greenville Veterans’ Disability Lawyer Explains How to Receive Both Retirement and Disability Benefits

A common question asked by military service members is how their disability benefits will affect their military retirement benefits. It is a very good question since disability compensation can in fact reduce your retirement benefits. The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) actually requires military retirees to “waive” a portion of their retirement pay as an offset to compensation received through military disability. This essentially means a service member’s retirement compensation is reduced by the amount of their disability award.

 

You may be asking yourself, “Is there a way to get full retirement and disability benefits?” Yes, there is such a program known as the Concurrent Retirement and Disability Payments (CRDP) program. It allows military retirees, who meet specific requirements, to receive full retirement and disability compensation at the same time.

 

Requirements for CRDP Eligibility

 

In order to be eligible for CRDP benefits, you must have (1) 20 or more years of military service and (2) a service-connected disability rated 50 percent or greater. Though, there are other avenues to qualify for the CRDP program. For example, if you are a veteran who retired as a proximate result of a disability (i.e. a Chapter 61 retirement), or retired with less than 20 years of service under Temporary Early Retirement Authority, or you served in the National Guard and Reserve for 20+ years,  you could be eligible to access the CRDP program.

 

Another avenue is if the VA has determined you are totally disabled on the basis of individual employability (a.k.a. TDIU). In this situation, you could be eligible to receive full VA disability compensation and full retirement benefits with no offset.

 

Service-Connected Disability Requirement

 

In addition to meeting the years of service requirement, you need to have proof of a service-connected disability. Basically, this means that your disability occurred or became worse while you were serving in the military. Five ways to establish a service-connected disability includes:

 

  • Direct Service Connection – clear and convincing evidence of an incident that occurred while you were serving that proximately caused your disability. Typically, medical records and assessments from trained physicians substantiate the connection. Some examples are fairly obvious – you lost a limb in combat or suffered a traumatic brain injury. Other examples require more extensive medical records such as debilitative post-traumatic stress disorder.

 

  • Disability Connected to Military Service via Legal Presumption – The VA  has a specific list of medical conditions and diseases that are legally presumed to be connected to military service. For example, if you were exposed to Agent Orange during your service and now have Parkinson’s disease, your disease is presumed to be connected to your service. If you now suffer from Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and served in Vietnam, the disease is presumed to be connected to your military service.  According to 38 CFR 3.309, chronic diseases eligible for service-connected disability include:

Anemia;
Arteriosclerosis;
Arthritis;
Atrophy, progressive muscular;
Brain hemorrhage;
Brain thrombosis;
Bronchiectasis; and
Calculi of the kidney, bladder, or gallbladder

  • Disability Caused by Harm from VA Medical Treatment Under 38 U.S.C. 1151, if you are seriously harmed while hospitalized at a VA medical center, your injury, or injuries, will be considered service-connected.

 

  • Pre-Existing Injury Made Worse via Military Service –  if you had a medical condition prior to joining the military and an incident while serving aggravated your condition, it could be connected service-related. A common example is if you had low back pain prior to joining the military service and while you were deployed, an incident made your back pain much worse to the point of becoming debilitating, your service could be considered to have aggravated your condition.

 

  • Secondary Service Connection – This is a more complex form of service-connected disability. Basically, you have a disability not directly connected to your service, but would not have developed but for another disability directly caused by your military service. For example, if you developed tuberculosis using medication that resulted in hearing loss as a side effect. Your hearing loss would be considered a secondary service connection.

 

Remember, in order to qualify for the CRDP program from one of the listed disabilities above, it must be determined to be 50 percent or greater of the cause of your disabled status. This is why you should speak to an experienced, competent Greenville veteran disability lawyer to determine if your disability could qualify as service-connected.

 

Watch Out – You Cannot Receive CRDP and Combat-Related Special Compensation (CRSC)

 

It is important to note that if you are eligible to receive benefits from both CRDP and CRSC, you can only receive benefits under one program.

 

Determining the Amount of Your CRDP Benefit

 

The compensation received through the CRDP program is considered to be a “restoration” of your reduced retirement benefits.  Your CRDP compensation is calculated based on the degree of your disability, and the lesser of your gross retirement pay or waived retirement pay. Basically, this means that if you are retired due to a disability and your retirement pay is based on the service-connected disability percentage, the amount of money that you received from the CRDP program cannot be more than what you would have received as gross retirement pay had this number been based on your years of service, rather than disability.

 

CRDP Benefits May Be Retroactive

 

Depending on the circumstances, you could be eligible for a retroactive CRDP payment (which is typically paid out in one lump sum), along with monthly benefit payments. Though, a retroactive payment date would be restricted to the date of your retirement and when your disability became rated at 50 percent or more. Furthermore, no one can seek a retroactive payment from prior to January 2004.

 

Take Action – Contact a Greenville Veteran Disability Lawyer Today

 

If you are a retired service member and believe you may be eligible for the CRDP program, contact a dedicated Greenville Veteran Disability Lawyer, J. Robert Surface, Attorney at Law, right away to schedule a free, confidential consultation. J. Robert Surface has extensive experience fighting for disabled people. Use his insight to your advantage and get the benefits you rightly deserve for your military service.

Understanding The VA Disability Rating System

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) provides disability compensation to veterans who have sustained injuries or illnesses while on active duty or training. Approximately 13 percent of the over 19.3 million U.S. veterans receive disability payments from the VA annually. This tax free benefit is paid to veterans who apply for disability benefits. How much a veteran can receive for their disability depends on the disability rating assigned to your injury. For the 417, 554 veterans residing in South Carolina, understanding how disability ratings work is crucial to their overall health.

 

The VA Disability Rating

 

After applying for disability benefits through the VA, a veteran’s injury or illness will be assigned a disability rating. Disability ratings are meant to reflect the severity of the disability and the impact the impairment will have on the ability of a veteran to work. The VA bases the amount of compensation a veteran receives based on the disability rating. In this way, any loss in earning capacity resulting from military service on behalf of the country is properly compensated.

 

Generally, more severe disabilities will receive a higher rating while less severe ones are rated lower. The ratings are based on a percentage scale according to the Schedule of Rating Disabilities (VARSD) and range from zero percent to 100 percent at 10 percent intervals.

 

How Disability Ratings Work

 

The Schedule of Rating Disabilities is broken down into which part of the body a disability affects. Body categories for injuries include, but are not limited to:

 

  • Musculoskeletal system;
  • Respiratory system;
  • Cardiovascular system;
  • Digestive system;
  • Genitourinary system;
  • Endocrine system; and
  • Hemic and lymphatic systems.

 

In addition to these systems, there are also categories for mental disorders, neurological conditions, gynecological issues, infections diseases, immune disorders, and more. Within each category, the schedule lists medical problems and their respective symptoms. Symptoms are ranked as mild, moderate, moderately severe, and severe, with each level of severity being assigned a ranking. Under the category of respiratory system, for example, there are four subcategories with specific medical conditions:

 

  • Diseases of the nose and throat;
  • Diseases of the trachea and bronchi;
  • Diseases of the lungs and pleura—tuberculosis; and
  • Nontuberculous diseases.

 

Stenosis of the larynx, classified as a disease of the nose and throat, has symptoms ranked at 10, 30, 60, and 100 percent for the level of severity under Diagnostic Code 6520. Thus a veteran experiencing moderately severe symptoms from this medical problem would receive a rating of 60 percent.

 

How the VA Assigns Ratings

 

In order to assign a disability rating, the VA must take any medical evidence in a veteran’s file and best match it to one of the body system categories and its respective diagnostic code. There are, of course, instances when multiple diagnostic codes might apply. However, the VA can only assign one disability rating per disability, meaning when two codes apply, they are required to choose the one the gives the veteran the highest possible rating. Even in cases where a disability is not listed, the VA will evaluate the disability and do their best to approximate a disability rating based on a similar impairment.

 

What Does Each Rating Pay

 

Veterans can receive monthly compensation for any disability rated at 10 percent or higher. The benefit is increased for any dependents, including a spouse or children, that the veteran is responsible for. Under the 2016 VA Disability Rates, for example, a single veteran with no children would receive:

 

  • 30 percent – $407.75
  • 60 percent – $1059.09
  • 90 percent – $1743.48

 

A disabled veteran with a spouse and single child, however, would be eligible for increased compensation:

 

  • 30 percent – $491.75
  • 60 percent – $1227.09
  • 90 percent – $1995.48

 

The disability rates are evaluated on an annual basis and adjusted for increased cost-of-living. It is possible for a veteran to receive zero percent on their disability rating and although this makes them ineligible for disability compensation, it does not necessarily disqualify them from all health care and benefits available from the VA.

 

Veterans With Multiple Disabilities

 

Many veterans, of course, may have multiple disabilities due to their military service. When this happens, disability ratings are combined through a special formula. If a shoulder injury is rated as 50 percent and a respiratory disease is rated as 30 percent, it may seem like the veteran should receive a 80 percent rating through addition. This, however, is not the case. According to the Combined Ratings Table, the value would be 65 percent, which would be rounded up to 70 percent, qualifying the veteran for the compensation rate assigned to 70 percent injuries.

 

Service-Related and Non-Service Related Disabilities

 

While the VA evaluates any service related disabilities and assigns them a rating on an individual basis, matters are complicated when a veteran has a disability that is not connected to their service. When symptoms of your disabilities become difficult to distinguish between, the VA give the veteran the “benefit of the doubt.” Effectively, this means any symptoms the veteran experiences are assumed to be caused by the service related disability and the veteran will likely receive a higher rating.

 

Changing a Rating

 

If your condition worsens at any point, it is possible to petition the VA for an increase in disability rating. The disabled veteran may send in any medical evidence documenting the aggravation of the disability. Typically the VA will schedule an examination to establish whether or not the symptoms merit a change in disability rating. Similarly, the VA may ask veterans to check in periodically on their disability and compensation may be subject to a reduction if the condition improves. These type of periodic check-ins are common for veterans who have been diagnosed with disabilities that usually show improvement over time.

 

Talk to a Veterans’ Disability Attorney

 

If you are a veteran in Greenville, South Carolina and have questions about receiving disability compensation, don’t hesitate to contact the dedicated veterans’ disability lawyers in Greenville at the law office of J. Robert Surface, Attorney at Law. For years, we’ve dedicated ourselves to helping veterans receive the compensation they deserve. We’ll answer any questions you have regarding veterans’ disability compensation and help you get your application under way. Call us today.