Posts Tagged ‘Veterans Benefits’

Female Veterans Will Face Unique Health Issues; Part II ~ The Implications

Written by Maurice Abarr on . Posted in Veterans Disability

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The U.S. military is now integrating female soldiers into combat units. These women are destined to confront issues that their male comrades-in-arms simply don’t face. In addition to sexual harassment and assault—criminal acts—female soldiers must contend with anatomic realities that can have real consequences to their post-service health and well-being. Moreover, military recruiters have no incentive to mention them.

As noted by retired military experts on the subject, Julie Pulley and Hugh P. Scott in their Op/Ed piece, “Women recruits risk more” in the “Los Angeles Times” (25th July 2017):

“Military recruiters are aggressively targeting high school female athletes. Ads featuring women glamorize close-combat skills.” … “In this push for more female recruits, it’s not at all clear that young women—or the civilian population in general—understand the unique, disproportionate health risks women face in combat roles. The dangers, which have been known for decades, will undoubtedly be exacerbated as women serve in the most physically demanding units. Although the Pentagon has published studies detailing these gender differences, no such information is readily found on the Army or Marine recruiting websites. And the neighborhood recruiter isn’t likely to fill you in, either. But avoiding hard truths isn’t a legitimate way to attract new volunteers to the military.” …

“These differences will put women at a distinct disadvantage in newly opened infantry jobs, where they will be expected to carry 100-pound packs routinely, or in armor jobs, where they will have to load 35-pound rounds again and again. Women in these roles will have to constantly work at a higher percentage of their maximal capacity to achieve the same performance as men. No training system can close the gap.

Extreme physical activity, irregular meals, inadequate intake of calcium and vitamin D, sleep deprivation and stress are common in close-combat units. These factors can trigger “conservation mode” in women, which results in a decrease in female hormones, cessation of menstruation, and osteoporosis with a heightened risk of stress fractures.

We also know that if stress and exertion don’t suppress menstruation, many women in combat roles will choose to do so with hormonal contraceptive use. The side effects may include depression, weight gain and breakthrough bleeding. Depo-Provera, the contraceptive of choice for many military women, now carries a warning for loss of bone mineral density.

Pelvic floor injuries are another gender-specific danger for female troops. Studies have found heavy load bearing and paratrooper training can contribute significantly to urinary incontinence and pelvic organ prolapse among women.” …

“[W]omen are approximately 67% more likely than men to receive a physical disability discharge from the army for a musculoskeletal disorder.”

The Bottom Line: If you’re female, your post-service health and well-being will be impacted. If you are still in the military, it is imperative that you “make a record” of symptoms as they develop. This means making trips to “sick call”—something that the military culture can discourage. But, you must protect your future. When you eventually separate from the service, be absolutely certain to: 1) report ALL symptoms and complaints you have at that time; and, 2) request a copy of all your Service Treatment Records from any and all locations at which you have ever been examined and/or treated. If your service-related disability case is denied, you will need the services of a law firm that specializes in this aspect of the law. Contact us for a free case evaluation.

(Also see Part I ~ The Facts)

Anxiety, Expectations, & You

Written by Maurice Abarr on . Posted in Veterans Disability, Workers Compensation

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The prospect of seeking legal advice engenders anxiety in most of us—even other lawyers. The need to do so is problem enough. How to proceed adds yet another layer. Then, there’s: “How will I find the right attorney for my case? Will he/she be within my means? Must I pay up front?”

Valid concerns, all.

If you’re in need of a law firm that specializes in Veterans Disability Benefit cases and Workers Compensation law, you’re already hurting. You’re probably frustrated, too. You worry about where to turn. You worry about skill and competency. You worry about cost. It’s all quite human.

While we don’t presume to slay dragons, we are specialists in these areas of the law. Our first responsibility is to evaluate your case as carefully and compassionately as possible. We’ll give you our honest assessment—not a batch of over-promises. If we proceed together, we’ll work tirelessly with you to achieve a fair and equitable outcome.

In the end, perhaps the dragon that gets slain is the one called Anxiety.

*****

NOTICE:  Making a false or fraudulent Workers Compensation claim is a felony subject to up to 5 years in prison or a fine of up to $50,000 or double the value of the fraud, whichever is greater, or by both imprisonment and fine.

Supreme Court Denies Veterans Disability Offset Compensation To Ex-Spouses

Written by Maurice Abarr on . Posted in Veterans Disability

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On 15th May 2017, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously in Howell v. Howell that a state court cannot force veterans to offset the loss of a divorced spouse’s portion of a veteran’s retirement benefits when that veteran waives retirement pay in favor of disability pay. The issues have been hotly debated for years. The ruling overturned an Arizona Supreme Court decision and is now settled law. The case details are probably more relevant to those who specialize in divorce or dissolution law. So, you need not immerse yourself in the minutiae—rest assured we understand the decision and its implications for our Veterans Disability clients. If you are contending with similar circumstances with an ex-spouse, contact a domestic-law specialist. If that attorney happens to be unfamiliar with this Supreme Court decision, tell them to call us.

The Bottom Line: If you have waived your veterans retirement pay (or a portion of it) in order to receive service-related disability benefits, courts can’t order you to indemnify a former spouse for the lost amount in her/his portion of your now reduced veteran’s retirement pay.

Multiple Impairments Figure Into Disability Rates & Payments

Written by Maurice Abarr on . Posted in Veterans Disability

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Your service-related disability may not be just one condition. Consequently, the Veterans Administration makes provision for a range of conditions—multiple conditions, in this instance—in its disability percentages and its compensation tables. Each valid condition will be assigned a percentage. These can be ‘totaled’ to arrive at a final number. Actually, getting to the final percentage where multiple impairments are involved is more than simple addition. It’s actually a formalized combination. For example, if you have 70% for PTSD, plus 20% for your knee, and an additional 20% for your back, the final rating will be 80%. But, at 80%, you would need another 30% in a different body part to get to 90%, plus another 60% in some other body part to get to 100%. As you can see, it’s rather complicated.

The Bottom Line: Each veteran’s case is unique. Navigating these waters is what my staff and I do. We have the skills and resources to see your case through, while protecting your rights. You need not worry about complexities such as these. That’s our job. Contact us for a free case evaluation. We’re here to help you.

Locating The VA’s Benefits Rate Tables

Written by Maurice Abarr on . Posted in Veterans Disability

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If you’re reading this, it probably because you have a need to do so. Fortunately, information about the dollar value of benefits available to veterans with disabilities and/or their survivors is relatively easy to access. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ website has it all—and more. Here’s the path:

Enter www.va.gov in your web browser
Click on “Disability Compensation”
Click on “Benefit Rates”

You will see the VA’s range of current Benefit Rate categories. Simply click on those of interest and the applicable tables will appear. You will see that the rate tables are organized according the percentage of disability—which was explained in my previous blog, entitled “Disability Levels ~ How The Veterans Administration Evaluates Cases.” You can view this blog by scrolling down.

Of course, you can simply use this LINK and be immediately transported to this part of the VA website.
Either way, you’ll want to bookmark the page in your web browser for easy access in the future.

The Bottom Line: This is the valuation the VA places on a broad range of veterans disabilities and circumstances. Pursuing them can be daunting. And, you certainly deserve a fair shake from the system if you are denied or wrongly classified. We understand the process and how to protect your rights. Contact us for a free case evaluation.

Disability Levels ~ How The Veterans Administration Evaluates Cases

Written by Maurice Abarr on . Posted in Veterans Disability

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The VA has awarded you a service connection for PTSD. Now, it will review the most current clinical evidence available to it so as to assess how the severity of your symptoms impairs you—including your ability to work and your degree of social function. A schedule is used with definitions and percentages that have been set by VA regulations. They have established Diagnostic Codes (DC) for a range of psychiatric (and medical) disorders. Provision is made for the degree of severity of related symptoms. From this, a corresponding disability percentage is assigned. Typically, the VA evaluates the level of psychiatric disability under common criteria, irrespective of your specific diagnosis. This includes PTSD. You can share this information with your psychiatrist and request a report or opinion letter describing your disability or impairment that you can submit to the VA.

It’s worth noting that even though the severity of your symptoms do not satisfy the diagnostic criteria for a 100% rating level, you may qualify under a different VA regulation that permits them to compensate you at the 100% level—insofar as the medical evidence demonstrates that you are unable to obtain or maintain gainful employment and that this is a consequence of your service-connected PTSD. This is called, a TDIU or IU. It stands for “total rating on the basis of individual un-employability due to service-connected disability.”

In ascending order, these are the definitions and percentages (rating levels) the VA uses for mental disorders:

0%: A mental condition has been formally diagnosed, but symptoms are not severe enough either to interfere with occupational and social functioning or to require continuous medication.

10%: Occupational and social impairment due to mild or transient symptoms which decrease work efficiency and ability to perform occupational tasks only during periods of significant stress, or; symptoms controlled by continuous medication.

30%: Occupational and social impairment with occasional decrease in work efficiency and intermittent periods of inability to perform occupational tasks (although generally functioning satisfactorily, with routine behavior, self-care, and conversation normal), due to such symptoms as: depressed mood, anxiety, suspiciousness, panic attacks (weekly or less often), chronic sleep impairment, mild memory loss (such as forgetting names, directions, recent events).

50%: Occupational and social impairment with reduced reliability and productivity due to such symptoms as: flattened affect; circumstantial, circumlocutory, or stereotyped speech; panic attacks more than once a week; difficulty in understanding complex commands; impairment of short- and long-term memory (e.g., retention of only highly learned material, forgetting to complete tasks); impaired judgment; impaired abstract thinking; disturbances of motivation and mood; difficulty in establishing and maintaining effective work and social relationships.

70%: Occupational and social impairment, with deficiencies in most areas, such as work, school, family relations, judgment, thinking, or mood, due to such symptoms as: suicidal ideation; obsessional rituals which interfere with routine activities; speech intermittently illogical, obscure, or irrelevant; near-continuous panic or depression affecting the ability to function independently, appropriately and effectively; impaired impulse control (such as unprovoked irritability with periods of violence); spatial disorientation; neglect of personal appearance and hygiene; difficulty in adapting to stressful circumstances (including work or a work-like setting); inability to establish and maintain effective relationships.

100%: Total occupational and social impairment, due to such symptoms as: gross impairment in thought process or communication; persistent delusions or hallucinations; grossly inappropriate behavior; persistent danger of hurting self or others; intermittent inability to perform activities of daily living (including maintenance of minimal personal hygiene); disorientation to time or place; memory loss for names of close relatives, own occupation, or own name.

The Bottom Line: If all of this sounds a bit daunting, please don’t worry. My staff and I understand it. We’re uniquely qualified to guide you to a fair and equitable outcome that’s based on your unique circumstances. Feel free to contact us for a free case evaluation.

A Winning Medical Report In A VA Appeal ~ What’s Needed

Written by Maurice Abarr on . Posted in Veterans Disability

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As a Veteran appealing an unfavorable disability claim decision from the VA, you have several impediments to overcome. After you have established that you have a CURRENT disability, you next have to prove that it is service-connected. In most instances, you are going to need medical evidence to accomplish this.

If you are using a private doctor (as I often recommend), the physician will need to write a report that the VA or the Veteran Law Judge at the Board of Veteran Appeals finds CREDIBLE. And, to be credible, the report must (at minimum) contain the following:

A statement that says that the doctor finds that it is “as likely as not” that the specific disability is service-connected. This “as likely as not” standard is your MINIMUM burden of proof in the claim. If your doctor says “more likely than not” or “reasonably, medically probable,” these are fine. Actually, they are stronger, though not absolutely required. Some doctors may prefer to say “at least as likely as not” (slightly stronger than the minimum threshold) which is also fine.

A statement that says the doctor has “reviewed your entire C-File.”

The report must contain the doctor’s explanation for the conclusions that have been reached in the report. In other words, the doctor must justify his/her opinions. This tells the VA the “how” and the “why” of the physician’s opinions in your case. If you also have Lay Witness or Buddy Statements which attest to a pattern of continuous symptoms since the time in service, these boost the doctor’s opinion that the condition is indeed service-connected.

The report must REBUT contrary opinions in the C-File. The doctor reporting on your behalf must review the C & P Exam reports and tell the VA and/or the Veteran Law Judge how and why they disagree with those opinions. Your doctor must show why his/her reasoning is better than that provided by the C & P examiners. Sometimes one medical opinion is deemed superior to another because of the expert’s superior qualifications, background, special training, or clinical experience. Other times, the C & P doctor may have made a diagnosis that is unsupported by the facts in your case or in currently-accepted medical literature.

The doctor’s CV (curriculum vitae/resume) should be attached to the report. Frequently, the C & P examiner will not attach his/her CV to the report disputing your condition as being a Service-Connected Current Disability. Or that, while it is service-connected, there is little or no measureable percentage of disability.

The Bottom Line: This is but one of the reasons why you need the guidance of an Accredited Attorney who specializes in Veterans Disability claim cases. There is much more to it. And, your case is. . .yours. It’s unique. My staff and I are at your disposal. Contact us for a free case evaluation.

Scheduled For Your Veterans Administration C & P Exam ~ What You Need To Know First

Written by Maurice Abarr on . Posted in Veterans Disability

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You’d probably expect me to recommend consulting with an Accredited Attorney BEFORE going to a Compensation & Pension Exam. But, there are IMPORTANT considerations for this. The best way for me to demonstrate this is by way of an actual client example:

“Jane Veteran” was discharged from the military in 2010. She saw combat and was directly engaged on multiple occasions. At the time of discharge, she “just wanted to get home.” Making a claim for a mental injury or disability was not a priority at that time. As time went by, she struggled with nightmares, insomnia, flashbacks, physical and mental fatigue. “Jane” wanted to put the trauma she experienced in service behind her. But she couldn’t. It was, as she put it, “eating [her] alive.” She had trouble keeping a job. She had trouble in her relationships. She began to socially withdraw and isolate herself.

Then, “Jane” encountered a fellow veteran from her time in the service. He shared that he too was having a hard time back in civilian life but that he’d been helped by the treatment he had received from the VA–and that he was now receiving monthly benefits from the VA as compensation for his disability. He urged her to make a claim.

So, five years after her discharge, “Jane” does so for several specific disabilities and begins treatment at her local Veterans medical facility for (among other things) PTSD. She is evaluated by a doctor the VA scheduled her to see. The exam was brief. To her surprise, the VA eventually decided that her claim for PTSD should be denied because there had been no “clinical diagnosis” of her PTSD. (This is the reason frequently given by the VA for denying a claim for such a disability.) “Jane” does the right thing by taking the first step in her appeal–filing a Notice of Disagreement (NOD) with the VA’s denial of her PTSD claim. She hires an Accredited Attorney (us) to represent her in her appeal.

Soon thereafter, “Jane” receives notice from the VA that it has again scheduled her to be seen by an ‘independent’ doctor. The appointment letter is similar to the one for the first doctor—the one that the VA relied upon to deny her claim. But she knows she has to go or her appeal ends if she doesn’t show up.

We carefully review with “Jane” the areas that the VA doctor should cover in order for the evaluation to be fair and unbiased. This time the VA sees it her way and she is awarded 50% in disability following this evaluation.

We believe that “Jane’s” preparation—both mentally and informationally—helped in achieving that outcome. (Of course, it’s possible that the VA recognizes she has competent counsel and they need to get real on the merits of the claim.) We are still appealing “Jane’s” claim because the Effective Date they gave her (for when her compensation STARTED) was the date of the LAST evaluation, not the date she made her claim.

If you see your situation reflected here, contact us for a free case evaluation. My staff and I are here to serve you.

To The Veteran Who Says “But, I didn’t know!” ~ A Call To Action

Written by Maurice Abarr on . Posted in Veterans Disability

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Having interviewed dozens of Veterans who are in the claim process (or, should be) for their Service-Connected Disability, these remarks are for those who have yet to file a claim.

It’s understandable that Veterans in the process of separation/discharge from military service “just want to get home.” Unfortunately, many miss an opportunity to initiate a claim for their Service-Connected Disability(ies). The entitlement to VA Disability Compensation usually STARTS with the date you make your claim. As time passes, you may be losing money and jeopardizing your health by not starting the compensation process by initiating a claim.

It’s IMPORTANT for you to understand that it becomes more difficult to prove a claim for disability as time passes. The greater the interval between your date of separation and the date of your claim, the more evidence is likely to be needed to connect your current disability back to your military service.

It’s most disturbing when Veterans tell me that they did not even know a claim was possible! At least once a month, I interview a Veteran who simply says, “I didn’t know I could get benefits for the disability that started with my military service. I go to the VA and I get my medications [or therapy]. But, no one told me I could get money . . .every month. . . because of my disability.”

So if you (or a Veteran you know) seem to be having difficulty living life, working, or functioning in society–and these problems started with the military experience–the message is simple: FILE A CLAIM! Get the process started NOW!

My staff and I frequently counsel Veterans who are making claims for the first time on how they need to start the process. We do this free of charge. Then, if the VA doesn’t get it right (which often happens. . .some would argue “chronically”), we have the Veteran’s back and help him/her appeal. That’s what we do and we welcome hearing from you. So, now you do know.

Pentagon Wants Veterans Bonuses Back

Written by Maurice Abarr on . Posted in Veterans Disability

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If you’ve been following the news, you’ve probably heard reports that soldiers enticed by the National Guard to re-enlist must repay the cash bonus they were given.

Writing in the Los Angeles Times (23 October 2016), David S. Cloud reported the following:

“WASHINGTON – Short of troops to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan a decade ago, the California National Guard enticed thousands of soldiers with bonuses of $15,000 or more to reenlist and go to war.

Now the Pentagon is demanding the money back.

Nearly 10,000 soldiers, many who served multiple combat tours, have been ordered to repay large enlistment bonuses — and slapped with interest charges, wage garnishments and tax liens if they refuse – after audits revealed wide-spread overpayments by the California Guard at the height of the wars last decade. …”

Many of my clients are Veterans and I take Veterans’ issues very seriously. If you are affected by this or other claims (or claim denials) resulting from your service, we urge you to pay close and careful attention to all written notices you receive regarding any governmental action on this issue.

While our practice is limited solely to appealing VA decisions affecting Veterans’ disability benefits, we urge you to make your feelings about this matter known to your Senators and Congressional Representative.

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