ESQUIRE: From the desk of Todd S. Hammond
Frequently Asked Questions
Thank you and Welcome Home
You have served our country honorably, and during the course of your military service, you developed a physical and/or emotional disability that impairs your physical and/or mental health. Therefore, the Veterans Affairs (VA) may grant you some benefits.
As you probably have already concluded, many Veterans and their families have experienced that the VA is quick to deny service-connected disability claims. They will deny these claims often and arbitrarily, causing many Veterans to give up on their whole claim. Do NOT give up!
The VA disability process is not a quick one and Veterans can be the recipient of valuable benefits if they are vigilant and persistent. It is critical that the Veteran and their family hire an attorney to help navigate the lengthy and complicated VA appeals process.
1. Is it helpful to retain an attorney for my VA service connected claim?
Yes. There are a myriad of types of VA service-connected claims including new claims, increased rating claims, total unemployability claims, and several others. An attorney can help determine which type of claims apply to your individual situation. Additionally, an attorney can help gather critical evidence to prove that your disability is service connected. Moreover, an attorney can help evaluate whether the rating assigned by the VA is the correct one so that it can be determined whether an appeal is necessary.
2. Who is a Veteran?
A veteran is a person who served in the active military, naval, or air service, and who was discharged or released therefrom under conditions other than dishonorable.
3. What does it mean to have a “service-connected” disability?
If the disability or death was incurred or aggravated during active service in the line of duty, it is considered to be service-connected. It does not have to have occurred as a result of combat but just needs to have occurred in service, meaning the same thing as “incurred in the line of duty”.
4. What are VA disability ratings?
VA disability ratings are a monthly compensation designed to offset the degree to which a disability would impair the average civilian to earn a living, with no consideration given to the Veteran’s earning capacity. The ratings are to be based upon the average impairments of earning capacity resulting from such injuries in civil occupations. Under the system, disability ratings are assigned at 10% increments. If a disability increases in severity, then the Veteran should apply for an increase in the evaluation of the service-connected condition. The rating schedule can be found in the Code of Federal Regulations at 38 C.F.R. 4.25.
5. How does the Appeal Process work?
There is a four-step process at the Regional Office nearest to where the Veteran lives. First, VA determines if the veteran is eligible to receive VA benefits including whether the veteran was discharged under conditions other than dishonorable. Second, VA decides whether the veteran qualifies for disability compensation under their rules. Third, VA determines the severity of the disability and assigns a % based on the ratings schedule, 38 C.F.R. pt. 4. Finally, VA sets the effective date for the award of service-connected disability. An attorney is useful since often these claims will require an appeal to the (BVA) Board of Veterans Appeals in Washington DC or even the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims (CAVC).
6. What if I can’t afford an attorney?
There are no upfront costs and if you don’t have any success in your claim, you owe nothing to the attorney. If successful, the attorney fee typically amounts to 20% of retroactive benefits that are past due from the date of application.
7. Can you represent Veterans located anywhere?
Yes. The VA disability program is a nationwide, federal program that allows attorneys to represent Veterans located far away from an attorney’s brick and mortar. With email, phones, and other technologies, it is easy to represent Veterans wherever they may be located.
Social Security Disability
Frequently Asked Questions
1. What is the definition of a disability?
According to the Social Security Administration, an employee is considered disabled only if he meets certain criteria. First, a disabled person must have a severe impairment that has lasted or will last for at least twelve months. Second, an employee must be unable to perform his work or the work he has done in the past, for which he earned at least $900.00 per month, in order to be considered disabled. Lastly, a disabled person must also be unable to perform other types of work related to his field of expertise or ability. If a person’s impairment does not prevent him from doing related work, he will not be considered disabled.
How do I apply for Social Security Disability benefits?
Because the application process is different for each person and their individual case, it is recommended that you first consult a law firm that specializes in social security disability claims.
The application for social security disability can be completed online at http://www.ssa.gov/pgm/disability.html
Alternatively, you can complete the application at your local social security office.
3. What do I do if Social Security denies my claim for Social Security Disability benefits?
Thankfully, the Social Security Administration has a series of steps that can be taken to appeal the initial denial of benefits. Because the appeal procedure can be very complex and any errors can significantly delay the approval of your claim, you should first call an attorney to discuss the Social Security Disability appeals process to receive guidance and support during your appeal.
4. What are the different types of Social Security benefits available to me?
In order to qualify for SSD benefits, the injured worker must have been gainfully employed for at least 5 of the previous 10 years. It is also important to keep accurate and up-to-date medical records in order to prove that your injury is preventing you from working either your current job or another related job.
Because SSI is a needs-based program, there are no work requirements that must be met in order to receive benefits. Instead, SSI benefits are awarded to disabled individuals based on the sum of their total household assets, including income and other resources.
C. Disabled Widow's or Widower's Benefits
These benefits are paid to individuals who are at least 50 years old and have become disabled within a certain time period following the death of their spouse. The late husband or wife must have also been working long enough to be eligible for Social Security benefits as defined by the Social Security Administration.
D. Disabled Adult Child Benefits
These benefits are awarded to children over the age of 18 with a disability impairment that started before the age of 22. In order to receive these benefits, the child’s parent must be deceased or currently receiving Social Security Disability or Retirement benefits.
5. How much can I collect from Social Security?
The amount you can collect from Social Security Disability (SSD) depends on the total amount you have paid into the Social Security system. Benefits collected from Supplemental Security Income (SSI) will vary depending on the amount of total household assets and income. The more assets and income your household has, the less money you will be eligible to receive. An attorney who is knowledgeable in SSI can offer you more detailed benefit information after learning more about your individual case.