The Veterans Choice Program Appears to Be a Bust

The Veterans Administration has been under fire for some time now because of the deplorable state and quality of healthcare they provide veterans. In response, Congress enacted a $10 Billion program through the Veterans Choice Act, entitled the “Veterans Choice Program.” This Program was created as a temporary fix that would allow eligible veterans to receive healthcare from private healthcare providers in the communities where they lived rather than to wait for VA appointments that were often impossible to get. In fact, some veterans who needed immediate care for life threatening conditions often died before they were able to see a physician. Veterans who lived more than 40 miles from their nearest VA facility were also qualified to use this program.

However, despite its best intentions, this program is showing cracks in its administration that are not unlike the original VA healthcare benefit. After just one year in operation, the Veterans Choice Program appears to be an abysmal failure. Not only has it not corrected the problem veterans were having with long waiting periods for appointments, but it has created an all new set of problem for our beleaguered veterans. It looks like this new program has only placed a bandage on a systemic problem, and has created a whole new host of problems in its wake.

Healthcare Problems and Credit Problems for Veterans

Some veterans using the Veterans Choice Health Programs are not only still having long waits for their appointments – still having claims for treatments need and requested by their doctors denied – but now they are having their credit ruined because the Veterans Affairs Department is either delaying authorized payments to the participating private healthcare providers, or they are not paying them at all. Healthcare providers are being forced to bill the veteran directly and many veterans do not have the resources to pay the bills. Healthcare providers, who are not being paid, are submitting their bills to collection agencies, and the ball runs downhill after that. See this article in www.militarytimes.com.

Red Tape Stands in the Way of Adequate Healthcare

Bureaucratic “red tape” has come between the veteran and his right to proper healthcare. Lawmakers on Capitol Hill have been made aware of this problem, and the need to have this problem fixed as soon as possible. In one case, a veteran who needed eye surgery was denied authorization for the surgery after his initial appointment was approved. The clinic he was going to stopped treatment and demanded to be paid for the treatments he had already received before they would provide him with any further treatment. Without this surgery, there was a possibility that he would lose his sight.

Veterans are not happy with the Veterans Choice Program because they believe that this program creates more problems than it solves. One thing for sure, using the same administrators who created the original veteran healthcare debacle is probably at the root of this problem.

Contact Your Attorney for Answers to Questions Regarding Your VA Benefits

If you are a disabled veteran or servicemember needing assistance in understanding what disability benefits you are entitled to, contact J. Robert Surface Attorney at Law. Contact us today to learn more about your rights under the law.

The House Makes Attempt to Right the Wrongs That Are Happening to Our Veterans

The Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) was founded on July 21, 1930, by Presidential Executive Order. It was to be an independent agency, but was later elevated to a cabinet post on March 15, 1989. The sole purpose of the VA was to serve America’s veterans and their families, and to advocate on their behalf to make sure that veterans received the care and support they deserved. However, somewhere along the way, the VA seems to have lost its purpose. Through mismanagement, negligence or outright fraud, veterans and their families took second place to greedy, self-serving administrators whose neglect of our veterans became America’s shame.

VA’s Administration of Veterans Benefits Come Under Fire

Congress has now been made aware of the plight of veterans and their families under the current administration of the VA, and has been attempting to “clean house.” During Congress’ current session, it has passed several bills aimed at addressing the problems and possible solutions in order to provide much needed help for veterans. The bipartisan bills have passed the House without any objections and will now go to the Senate and the President for final approval. Read more at www.militarytimes.com.

Regarding this legislation, the House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy has stated that these bills are needed to assist our veterans in gaining access to the benefits promised them. Our veterans have been so neglected by the mismanagement of the VA for too long. It is time that our government provides a permanent fix to this situation.

McCarthy went on to say that, “It has been several years since the corruption and dysfunction at the VA was exposed.” McCarthy and other Representatives feel that veterans should not have to continue to wait for their benefits. So far, since the problems with the VA have been brought to light, very little, if anything has been done to correct this situation. McCarthy feels that it is an appalling situation that Congress must continue to pass bills to fix the countless problems involving the VA that are continually ignored. “We hear that change is on the way, but the bureaucracy remains unchanged and it is our veterans that continue to suffer and wait for the care and benefits they are entitled to.”

Transfer Post-9/11 GI Bill Is Cut

The most controversial bill to pass the House was a measure that would cut in half, the “Transfer Post-9/11 GI Bill.” The Post-9/11 GI Bill allows servicemembers to transfer some or all unused benefits to their spouse or dependent children. This cut is not favored by the veterans’ advocacy groups, but the House believes it will stop abuse by the schools who take advantage of the program by offering courses to veterans or veteran dependents that will not provide any useful skills or training to them.

Other Bills Approved by the House

The following additional Legislation has been approved by the House:

  • The Construction Reform Act. This act requires the VA to hire an assistant inspector general for construction projects.
  • The American Heroes COLA Act. This act would permanently tie veterans’ annual cost-of-living adjustments to Social Security and make their annual adjustments automatic.
  • The Career-Ready Student Veterans Act. This act would require educational programs eligible for GI Bill payouts to meet state licensure and certification standards.
  • The Female Veteran Suicide Prevention Act. This act would boost focus and oversight on suicide prevention programs, targeted at women veterans.

All of these bills are on their way to the Senate. Since we are in an election year, it remains to be seen if these bills will make it through the Senate and on to the President’s desk before the President’s term ends, or will the next President have to take this up in January 2017.

Contact Your Attorney for Answer to Questions Regarding Your VA Benefits

If you are a disabled veteran or servicemember needing assistance in understanding what disability benefits you are entitled to, contact J. Robert Surface Attorney at Law. Mr. Surface is an experienced veterans’ disability attorney in Greenville who will advocate on your behalf to help you recover the veterans’ benefits you deserve.

Terminal Marine Goes On One Last Ride

The Marion, Illinois VA Medical Center echoed with the rumble of motorcycles and fire and police sirens as more than 200 bikers and supporters came out to go on one last bike ride with Marine Veteran Walter “Vernell” Holderfield. Three lanes of bikers from across Southern Illinois were led by Holderfield as he rode on the back of a Harley-Davidson trike, driven by Navy Veteran Mike Harris. “Riding used to be my therapy,” Holderfield said.

It’s been about ten years since Holderfield was on a motorcycle because he has COPD and does not have the strength to ride alone. Today, Holderfield got to ride one last time as he joked about this being an early birthday gift. He turns 64 in June, but realizes with his diagnosis he may not live that long.

“There’s a reason for me to still be alive and I think this must be it. I hope that this experience will be shared and that it will inspire other Veterans to reach out and get help if they need it,” Holderfield said.

Over 200 bikers and supporters came out to ride with Holderfield to show him that he is not alone.

Six months ago, Holderfield was battling depression and felt useless in his condition. He was on the brink of giving up, when he decided to reach out for help. He was alone in his depression, but today he lives and talks with other Veterans and what he considers his Marion VA family.

In addition to being a father and husband, Holderfield was a member of a rock band and spent countless hours on the road, riding his motorcycle.  He recalls back to 1991 when he purchased a motorcycle and a van around the same time. Within six years, the motorcycle had over 70,000 miles on it, while the van only had 10,000 miles – it’s no wonder that Holderfield longed for one last ride.

How did our nurses and Community Living Center Staff make this happen?

These acts of kindness are a daily occurrence in VA health care; however, this incident stands out because of Holderfield’s enthusiasm and willingness to share his experience with others who may need help, but might be on the fence about asking for it.

Holderfield would joke with one of his nurses, Monica Paisley, about riding on a motorcycle and how much he misses it. After a couple weeks of bantering back and forth, Paisley decided to make it happen for him. She reached out to his family and physician to make sure it was doable and the answer from both was a resounding “YES!”

Another gift that Holderfield received was a handmade leather key chain. Jessica Watkins, RN, made numerous calls to various bike shops and had no luck in finding what Holderfield wanted. Jessica then did what our nurses do best, she went above and beyond for our Veteran and she personally crafted one for Holderfield. She took a leather hair clip with fringe and modified it to make that perfect biker’s key chain.

Holderfield loves that key chain so much that he has requested to be buried with it.  “I have always gotten my healthcare here at the Marion VA, I couldn’t ask for anything better” said Holderfield with pride.

Both nurses, Monica Paisley and Jessica Watkins, rode side by side with Holderfield as his VA angels. Holderfield wouldn’t have had it any other way.

How a Veterans’ Disability Attorney Can Help

If you are a disabled veteran or servicemember needing assistance in understanding what disability benefits you are entitled to, contact J. Robert Surface Attorney at Law. Mr. Surface is an experienced veterans’ disability attorney in Greenville who will help you cut through the bureaucratic red tape and work hard to ensure that you receive all of your veteran benefits.

What Are the Biggest Problems Facing Disabled Veterans Today?

If you were to say that the biggest problems facing disabled veterans today were healthcare and jobs, you would be correct. Veterans with service related disabilities and also non-service related disabilities are struggling to make ends meet in our current economic flux.

The number of disabled veterans living in our communities has increased since the 1990s, due to the multiple armed conflicts we have been engaged in in the Middle East. These skirmishes, while they have been abated somewhat, are still ongoing. Roughly 1.6 million veterans have fought in these wars, and many of our service members are still involved, in some capacity, with the fighting going on over there. Some come back home with major disabilities needing healthcare and rehabilitation, and others who are able to work need jobs. These two things are the biggest problems facing disabled veterans today.

Disabled Veterans’ Healthcare

Healthcare for returning military servicemembers and veterans had reached an all time low within the last several years. There were long wait times for veterans to get an appointment to see the doctor. Many veterans died from their ailments before they were able to get an appointment for treatment, and the overall healthcare for veterans, both inpatient and outpatient was in a deplorable state of affairs. There have been investigations into this situation but, as of yet, there has been little, if any, improvement in the standard of care for our veterans. There are still problems with getting disabled veterans the proper healthcare they are entitled to.

Most recently, a Veterans’ Affairs Department in Wisconsin came under investigation because of the death of a former Marine, Jason Simcakoski, who died August 30, 2014, in a short stay mental health unit from drug toxicity. It appeared that Simcakoski had been prescribed 13 medications at the VA facility, within a 24 hour period, some of which had a side effect that caused respiratory depression. The investigative report that followed stated that Simcakoski was being over medicated at the time of his death, and that the hospital staff was totally inept in their attempts at resuscitating Simcakoski when he was found unresponsive. The standard of care for all of the VA facilities should be at par with private sector hospitals and clinics. Sadly, they are not. See the MilitaryTimes.com

The care and treatment of disabled veterans at any VA facility needs to be carefully monitored by family members, caregivers and the communities where the disabled veterans live in order to prevent these kinds of healthcare mistreatments from occurring.

Disabled Veterans Unemployment

The economy here in America took a slide a few years back and there was rampant unemployment for everyone, including veterans and non-veterans alike. However, with all the talk about unemployment rates being “off the carts,” the rate of disabled veteran unemployment is usually never discussed. More needs to be done to get those disabled veterans who want to work back to work.

How a Veterans’ Disability Attorney Can Help

If you are a disabled veteran or servicemember needing assistance in understanding what disability benefits you are entitled to, contact J. Robert Surface Attorney at Law. Mr. Surface is an experienced veterans’ disability attorney in Greenville who will help you to understand your rights to veterans’ benefits and how to improve your future.

Disabled Veterans in the Aftermath of War

To quote the phrase, “war is hell,” is putting it mildly. However, since the beginning of time, wars have appeared to be a normal state of the human experience. Just in this century alone, we have had two devastating world wars, including the war that was to end all wars, and many minor skirmishes; minor in comparison to the world wars.

America was pulled into a few forgotten wars, such as the Korean War and the Vietnam War. Most recently, we have had wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Our military men and women are the ones who are put in harm’s way with each war. They are sent out to fight these wars, and many of those who come back do so with major disabilities.

Chemical/Biological Warfare and Our Veterans

January 16 marked the 25th anniversary of Operation Desert Storm. This war was fought to liberate one of our allies, Kuwait that had been invaded by Iraq. Prior to 1991, our country was experiencing a relatively peaceful period of time. Operation Desert Storm seems to have been the starting point of what now appears to have been a series of never ending wars in the Middle East.

During many of these wars, biological and chemical weapons such as “anthrax” (a bacterial agent), and various forms of nerve gases (chemical agents) were used.

At the Hague Conventions in 1899 and 1907, the world agreed that chemicals used in warfare were outlawed, and in 1924, the nations agreed to add biological agents to the list of prohibited weapons. However, no method was put in place to verify compliance, and we know from past history that the use of chemical and biological agents in warfare continued.

During the First World War chemical warfare was used on a very large scale. The first nation to use chemicals as weapons on a massive scale was Germany. After Germany released chlorine gas as part of their attack on Belgium in 1915, an arms race began amongst all the nations fighting at that time, including the United States. The proliferation and use of chemicals in warfare became the norm, and they were not used exclusively against troops but also civilians, resulting in 40,000 civilian and 20,000 military personnel deaths in one year alone.

Left All Alone to Deal With Major Disabilities

When our military is sent to faraway lands in order to fight a war against tyranny, and to protect the liberties we sometimes take for granting, many come back home broken by the massive destruction that is war. The destructive nature of war injures both body, mind and soul, and our returning service members deserve more from us than they get. They deserve healing from us, to the extent possible, not just in word but in deed. The Veterans’ Administration was developed to oversee the needs of our military, but they often fall short, especially with what we have been seeing in the news about healthcare for our veterans being slow in coming or denied altogether; many experience long wait lines to be treated for illnesses, sometimes to the extent that the veteran dies before ever receiving any treatment.

How a Veterans’ Disability Attorney Can Help

If you are a disabled veteran or servicemember needing assistance in understanding what disability benefits you are entitled to, contact J. Robert Surface Attorney at Law. Mr. Surface is an experienced veterans’ disability attorney in Greenville who will help you cut through the bureaucratic red tape and work hard to ensure that you receive all of your veteran benefits.

Adaptive Sports Programs for Disabled Veterans

Disabled veterans face daily challenges that many of us cannot imagine. What many of us take for granted, such as our independence and our ability to come and go as we please, are continuing problems for our disabled veterans.

The Importance of Staying Active

The need to stay active is very important for veterans with disabilities and helps veterans to maintain a sense of purpose. Part of the process in reclaiming your life in society is physical activity which promotes a healthy mind set. This need has been recognized by VA clinics across the nation. Disabled veterans in all age groups are able to enjoy better health, and a better quality of life when they participate in some form of physical activity designed with their special needs in mind.

The Veterans Administration has conducted a study on the issue of adaptive sports and veterans’ health. The results showed a significant difference in the health and overall wellbeing and quality of life for the veterans who participated.  You can learn more about the adaptive sports program online.

Clinical studies aside, it is extremely important for disabled veterans to engage in some form of physical activity, and adaptive sports are a good start.

What Are Adaptive Sports?

Adaptive sports are basically organized sports for persons with disabilities. It is also sometimes known as parasports or disabled sports. These sports activities are designed to include physical as well as mental health problems. Adaptive sports modify existing sports such as skiing, basketball, swimming, etc., to fit the needs of persons with disabilities, and provide a “can do” spirit amongst those who may have lost hope.

Adaptive sports are normally divided into three categories: sports activities for (1) the deaf; (2) people with physical disabilities, including amputees; and (3) people with intellectual disabilities, including birth defects or brain injuries.

The Role of Sports

After WWII, there was a need to rehabilitate large numbers of injured service members and civilians. Sports activities became the obvious key in helping many service members adjust to their disabilities. It was Sir Ludwig Guttmann of the Stoke Mandeville Hospital in England who, in 1948, organized a sport competition for wheelchair athletes in the Stoke Mandeville Hospital. Paralympic Sports grew out of Sir Guttmann’s efforts, and today we have an International Paralympic Committee that evolved from those programs.  See the website of the International Paralympic Committee for more information.

In the late 1960s, adaptive sports for persons with physical disabilities were organized through the Disabled Sports USA, established by disabled veterans, for disabled veterans. They provided much needed help to veterans rehabilitating from injuries received in the Vietnam War. The Disabled Sports USA was originally named the National Amputee Skiers Association. See Disabled Sports USA for more information about their programs. Programs such as these gave hope to people with disabilities that life was not over because of their disability. On the contrary, they could still do many of the things they felt were closed to them.

How an Attorney Can Help

If you are a disabled veteran or servicemember needing assistance in understanding what disability benefits you are entitled to, contact J. Robert Surface Attorney at Law. Mr. Surface is an experienced veterans’ disability attorney in Greenville who will advocate on your behalf to help you recover the veterans’ benefits you deserve.

One Homeless Veteran Is One Too Many

The rising number of homeless veterans in America is a growing concern. Veterans, whether they saw combat or not, should never be subjected to the kind of poverty where they end up living on the street.

Number of Homeless Veterans on the Rise

A large number of homeless veterans are single males; however, there have been a growing number of homeless female veterans since 2006. Today, over 50 percent of all homeless veterans are disabled, suffering from mental illness, substance abuse problems, or both mental illness and substance abuse.

How many veterans are homeless in America today? The Department of Veteran Affairs in 2010 estimated there were around 76,000 homeless veterans sleeping on the streets in any given city in America. Today, it is estimated that the number is closer to 50,000.

When I see a homeless veteran, I am moved to do something about it. Vets have put their lives on the line for me and you, and they deserve every opportunity to be a part of the rich fabric of the American society they fought to serve and preserve.

Why Are Veterans Homeless?

Why are veterans so likely to become homeless? Veterans may be more likely to become homeless because many, after serving in the military, and especially those disabled veterans, lose their support networks which are comprised of family and friends who are usually there to provide a safe haven for us when we find ourselves down on our luck. Statistics show that veterans are more likely than not to live alone, and have lower marriage and higher divorce rates than non-veterans.

Many veterans suffering from PTSD become ostracized from the support networks they previously knew, due to the mental challenges they experience with the disease. Many homeless veterans lose their coping mechanisms and withdraw from interaction with their family and friends, and society as a whole. Without a social support system that they can rely upon, poverty, despair and homelessness most likely is the progressive downturn that they ultimately suffer.

Hope for Veterans

But, there is hope. There are programs available to help veterans with this ever growing problem. However, since many of the veterans have no social support system in place, many of the veterans that could benefit from these programs are not aware of the help available to them. So it appears that there are plenty of programs out there to assist homeless veterans, but the problem lies in the communication. How do we get the word out there?

Local communities and neighborhoods that have witnessed the increase in homelessness for veterans must get involved. If there is no outreach center dedicated for this purpose, then one should be created in your neighborhood as soon as possible. Make housing the homeless veterans a priority in your community.

Further, it is my belief that one of the best ways to fight homelessness is for the VA to award more claims for service-connected disabilities. If a vet is homeless, and has met the criteria for service-connection, and a rating, then an expeditious award of VA disability benefits is in order.

There is now collaboration between the VA and local community services providers to assist in expanding the much needed services to more homeless veterans. One such service provider is “Green Doors” located in Central Texas, founded by a former homeless person, who saw the need because she lived it personally. For more information about VA homeless veteran programs, go to www.va.gov/homeless.

How a Veterans’ Disability Attorney Can Help

If you are a disabled veteran or servicemember needing assistance in understanding what disability benefits you are entitled to, contact J. Robert Surface Attorney at Law. Mr. Surface is an experienced veterans’ disability attorney in Greenville who will help you cut through the bureaucratic red tape to ensure that you receive all of your veteran benefits.

Disabled Vets Needing Home Modifications; Assistance Is Just One Call Away

You have given so much to protect the rights and freedoms of those of us here in America, and in return, we say “thank you” by providing earned benefits to our veterans and servicemembers. One of those benefits is in the form of housing, either in the purchasing of a new or pre-owned home, or in the adaption and modification of a home you already own.

Many disabled veterans do not know that they are eligible for home modifications as one of their VA benefits, whether their disability is service-related or not. When talking to your attorney regarding your disabilities, ask him to provide you with information regarding any home modifications for which you may be eligible.

Possible Housing Grants for Disabled Veterans

There are grants available through the Veterans’ Administration, provided specifically to help servicemembers and veterans who have suffered permanent and total service-connected disabilities. These grants are provided to help veterans with the purchase or construction of an adapted home, or to modify an existing home to accommodate their disability.

Three such grant programs currently exist:

  • The Specially Adapted Housing (SAH) grant;
  • The Special Housing Adaptation (SHA) grant; and
  • The Home Improvements and Structural Alterations (HISA).*

*The HISA grant may be available to veterans who do not have a service related disability. A veteran may receive both a HISA grant and either an SHA or SAH grant.

Specially Adapted Housing (SAH) Grant

SAH grants are available to help veterans with certain service-connected disabilities live more independently in their homes by assisting with the addition of alterations to their homes in order to make their environment convenient and comfortable for their use.

Special Housing Adaptation (SHA) Grant

The SHA grant is available to help veterans with certain service-connected disabilities adapt a home that they already own, or purchase a home to accommodate their disability.

Eligibility Requirements for SAH and SHA Grants

If you are a servicemember or veteran with a permanent and total service-connected disability, you may be entitled to a Specially Adapted Housing (SAH) grant or a Special Housing Adaptation (SHA) grant. Consult with your attorney for a review of these eligibility requirements.

Home Improvements and Structural Alterations (HISA)

The differences between the SAH and SHA grants, and the HISA grant is that the HISA grant is available to veterans who have a disability that is not service related. The HISA grant provides medically necessary improvements and structural alterations to servicemembers’ and veterans’ primary residences for the following purposes:

  • Use of essential lavatory and sanitary facilities (e.g. roll-in showers or walk-in tubs);
  • Allowing accessibility to kitchen or bathroom sinks or counters (e.g. lowering counters/sinks);
  • Improving entrance paths or driveways in the immediate area of the home to facilitate access to the home through construction of permanent ramping; and
  • Improving plumbing or electrical systems made necessary due to installation of home medical equipment.

HISA will not pay for the following:

  • Walkways to exterior buildings;
  • Widening of driveways (in excess of a 7ft x 6ft area);
  • Installation or repair of spas, hot tubs, or Jacuzzis;
  • Exterior decking (in excess of 8ft x 8ft);
  • Home security systems; or
  • Removable equipment or appliances such as portable ramps, porch lifts, and stair glides, and routine repairs.

A Lifetime HISA benefit, up to $6,800 may be provided for:

  • Servicemembers and veterans who have a service connected condition; and
  • Veterans who have a non-service connected condition rated 50% or more.

Reach Out to Our Law Firm Today

We appreciate your service, and are here to help you. If you are a disabled veteran or servicemember needing assistance in understanding what benefits you are entitled to, including home modifications, contact attorney J. Robert Surface. Mr. Surface is an experienced veterans’ disability attorney in Greenville who will help you cut through the bureaucratic red tape, to ensure that you receive all of your veteran benefits.

Understanding Social Security Disability

Are you confused about Social Security disability? Well join the club. The following is an easy guide that will help explain the Social Security Disability Programs. In a nutshell:

There Are Two Federal Social Security Programs Available for the Disabled

Relief for individuals with disabilities is available through the Social Security Administration. Currently, there are two potential programs for the disabled from which to choose. One such program is Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), the other is Supplemental Security Income (SSI). These two programs are the largest of several federal programs that provide assistance to people with disabilities.

What Are the Differences Between SSDI and SSI?

While both benefits are administered by the Social Security Administration, the resemblance ends there. SSDI is a benefit that is paid for by the individual through payroll deductions. You must have had an income from some type of employment before this benefit is available to you, whereas SSI is available to disabled individuals who have had little, or no income.

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)

SSDI will pay you, and members of your family, disability benefits, from monies that have been collected from your “employed” income. Family members, specifically, adult children may also qualify for benefits under this program, on your earnings if he or she has a disability that developed prior to turning 22 years of age.

It is believed that one in four of today’s 20 year-olds will become disabled at some point, before reaching the age of 67. When we are young, our total attention is focused on succeeding in our chosen jobs and careers, very few of us think about ensuring that we have a “safety net” to fall back on should we become disabled. This is where Social Security may come into play.

If you qualify for SSDI, your benefits will usually continue until you are able to work again on a regular basis, or until you reach retirement age. There are also a number of special rules, called “work incentives,” that provide continued benefits and health care coverage to help you make the transition back to work.

If you are receiving Social Security disability (SSDI) benefits when you reach full retirement age (currently age 66 for people born between 1943-1954; this age limit will gradually rise to 67 for those born in 1960 or later), your disability benefits automatically convert to retirement benefits, but the amount remains the same.

In the event you find yourself needing to apply for your SSDI benefits, or have been declined and need to file an appeal, consult with your attorney concerning your eligibility, and the application and appeals process.

Supplemental Security (SSI)

SSI pays benefits to individuals based on financial need, alone. This program pays benefits to disabled adults and children who have limited income and resources, without regards to work history. SSI benefits are also payable to people 65 and older without disabilities, who meet the financial limits.

This program is a federal income supplement program funded by general tax revenues (not Social Security taxes):

  • It is designed to help aged, blind, and disabled people, who have little or no income; and
  • It provides cash to meet basic needs for food, clothing, and shelter.

Reach Out to an Experienced Attorney

If you find yourself in a position, and may need to apply for one of these disability programs, no matter whether you are just beginning to consider applying for Social Security disability insurance or if you need assistance in filing your first appeal, it is time to contact attorney J. Robert Surface. Having the benefit of an experienced Social Security disability attorney on your side during this time of physical, emotional and financial stress is invaluable.

Veterans Still Fighting for Benefits 40 Years Later

Wounded Soldier VerteranIt has been over 40 years since the Vietnam War officially ended, but many veterans are still feeling the effects of that war today, both physically and psychologically. One of the biggest health hazards from that war was Agent Orange, an herbicide used extensively by the U.S. military during the Vietnam War as part of the ongoing campaign against the guerrilla warfare being waged. Veterans who handled or were exposed to Agent Orange during combat have been shown to have increased rates of a variety of diseases.

Veterans Exposed to Agent Orange are at a Higher Risk of:

  • Acute and chronic leukemia;
  • Hodgkin’s and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma;
  • Certain types of cancer, including:
    • Throat;
    • Prostate;
    • Lung;
    • Colon;
    • Liver;
  • Heart disease; and
  • Soft tissue sarcoma.

Agent Orange Effects Larger than Previously Thought

While it has long been know that veterans who were in direct contact with Agent Orange or saw combat in areas that had been sprayed with the herbicide are at risk, it turns out that a new group of veterans may have been exposed to Agent Orange as well, despite many of them never setting a foot in Vietnam. Over 90,000 Navy veterans, many of whom never actually set foot in Vietnam, may have been exposed, despite never actually seeing or handling Agent Orange. The herbicides used primarily by the U.S. to kill vegetation within the country and to deny cover to the enemy may very well have washed into rivers and out to the seas where Navy ships were patrolling. These patrolling ships then sucked in potentially contaminated water, where it was distilled for use aboard the ships. This distilling process would only have concentrated the toxins already in the water. This water was then used onboard for everything from showers to washing laundry, and even the preparation of food.

Decades Long Fight for Benefits Rages On

The Blue Water vets, a term given to set the sailors apart from the ‘Brown Water’ counterparts, who patrolled the murky waters of South Vietnam, have been fighting with the Veterans’ Affairs (VA) for more than 10 years. Blue Water vets were initially deemed eligible to receive benefits under the Agent Orange Act of 1991, however the VA changed their interpretation a decade later. The VA is now once again considering a change in policy on the Blue Water vets, after it was ordered by an appeals court in April, however there remains no timetable for such a decision. In an attempt to speed up this process, veterans are now pursuing legislation in Congress that would force the VA to recognize benefits for a larger portion of veterans.

Speak with a Veterans’ Disability Attorney Now
If you or someone you know is a veteran that has been exposed to Agent Orange, or is suffering another injury or disability related to your service, you should speak with J. Robert Surface, an experienced veterans’ disability attorney. He can assist you with your claim and has the experience and knowledge to ensure you receive the full benefits to which you are entitled.