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Articles Posted in veterans disability

As long as the veteran (1) served in a qualifying area of Southwest Asia during the qualifying dates; (2) has a qualifying chronic disability; and (3) this qualifying disability has manifest during a presumptive period, then the veteran qualifies for presumptive service connection for this disability.

The qualifying areas for this presumption are Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, any neutral zone between Iraq and Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Oman, Afghanistan, the Gulf of Aden, the Gulf of Oman, the Persian Gulf, the Arabian Sea, the Red Sea, and the airspace above these locations.[1] The qualifying dates are August 2, 1990, to the present. It is important to note that this list of qualifying areas does not include some countries where veterans were also exposed to toxins, such as Turkey. This does not mean that veterans who only served in Turkey are ineligible for disability compensation benefits, it simply means that they are not entitled to “Presumptive Service Connection” and therefore they have the additional hurdle of showing an actual in-service event that caused their disability.

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One of two events may take place whenever the VA pays a veteran more than it should, either an Overpayment or an Administrative Error/Error in Judgement. An overpayment is when the veteran or veteran’s dependent receives more money than allowed because of an action or lack of action of the veteran or dependent. This can include under-reporting income, not reporting a change in family status, or defaulting on a VA-guaranteed loan. This can also include failing to report Social Security back-pay while receiving VA Pension. In contrast, an Administrative Error/Error in Judgement occurs when the VA erroneously overpays a veteran or dependent through no fault of the beneficiary. This can include when the VA fails to provide clear notice of a specific reporting requirement, and there is no evidence that the veteran or dependent has reason to believe that he or she is not entitled to the extra compensation.

What Are Your Options?

When presented with a potential Overpayment, the alleged debtor may dispute the validity or amount of the debt, request a waiver of collection of the debt, offer a settlement amount to satisfy the debt, or any combination of the three simultaneously. There is no deadline to dispute the validity or amount of the debt, however if the alleged debtor submits a dispute within thirty (30) days of receiving the Notice of Overpayment (NOO) the VA will stay collection by offsetting other VA benefits. Unlike a dispute, there is a one-hundred and eighty (180) day deadline from the NOO to request a waiver of recovery of a debt.

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Sometimes it is easy to determine if someone is a veteran, but other times it can be pretty difficult. This brief article will shed some light on the Department of Veterans Affairs’ (“VA”) definition of “veteran” regarding benefit entitlement.

The pertinent statutes and regulations define “veteran” as “a person who served in the active military, naval, or air service, and who was discharged or released therefrom under conditions other than dishonorable” (38 U.S.C. § 101(2) and 38 C.F.R. § 3.1(d)). The three major elements of this definition are: (1) Service, (2) Active Duty, and (3) Discharge or Release.

It is important to note that the pertinent statutes and regulations do not require service in the armed forces. Rather, it states service in the military, naval, or air services. Including the word “or” in the definition means that the service does not need to be military. Including the broad word “services” greatly expands the scope of “veteran.” In addition to service in the traditional military, the VA includes service in the following as qualifying service:

This post will try to briefly explain the two most common and helpful forms of supporting evidence, Lay Evidence and Expert Evidence.

When submitting a claim to the Department of Veterans Affairs, it is always highly encouraged that you also submit additional evidence which can support your claim. The problem is that the VA is not always clear as to what evidence would be the most helpful and how that evidence should be arranged. The law states that the VA must “consider all information and lay and medical evidence of record in a case before the Secretary with respect to benefits” (38 U.S.C. §5107(B)) and that each disabling condition for which a veteran seeks service connection “must be considered on the basis of…all pertinent medical and lay evidence” (38 C.F.R. §3.303(a)). This means that the VA cannot deny a claim without first considering both the lay and medical evidence, if submitted. Though the VA uses the term “Medical Evidence,” it would be more appropriate to use the term “Expert Evidence” since often the evidence needed does not come from a doctor but rather from a counselor, social worker, or someone else with particular and pertinent expertise. Not only must the VA consider this evidence, but it also must specify in its decision which evidence it finds to be persuasive or unpersuasive and why. Continue Reading

Exaggeration, especially when it comes to military or combat experiences, is nothing new. Probably the only time that people exaggerate more is when talking about fishing or past dating. Lately it seems that everyone is lying about their past experiences, from Fox News’s Bill O’Reilly to NBC’s Brian Williams to the Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs. The more a veteran sees a person of trust, such as a news anchorman or an executive official, lie about their record the more that veteran may be tempted to do the same themselves, especially when there appears to be no consequences for such behavior.

First and foremost, it is important to remember that there are few things as important as duty, honor, and integrity, regardless of any outside consequence. When a veteran sacrifices his or her duty, honor, and integrity for pecuniary or social gain, that veteran violates a pillar of military service. In addition, dishonesty about military service can indeed be an actual crime.

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Suppose your valid Social Security Disability claim is denied today, and you appeal that denial.  How long will it be before your hearing is held in Upstate South Carolina?  The wait could be up to 16 months! That is nearly a year and a half – on average – that you’ll have to wait before your appeal is heard, regardless of the validity of your need.

That bracing statistic is accurate as of December 2014 and can be found in the Social Security Administration’s online Public Data Files.  The Average Wait Time Until Hearing Held Report presents the average number of months from the hearing request date until a hearing is held for claims pending in local hearing offices across the country.

The 16-month wait is for the Greenville, South Carolina office, which is where your hearing would be held if you reside in Spartanburg or Anderson County, S.C. The 16-month wait is the sixth longest nationwide and is shared by 16 other offices. The longest average wait as of December was 22 months for the Fort Myers, Florida office.

Most veterans usually start pursuing disability benefits in the presence of strong economic incentives, such as recently losing a job, when retirement does not pay as much as expected, or when healthcare expenses become too burdensome. The danger in waiting to pursue VA Disability Benefits until it is needed is that you will not start receiving your benefits until it is already too late. The two questions most asked by veterans are:
1. How long will it take to start receiving my benefits?
2. How much back pay will I receive?

This article will attempt to answer this second question for the majority of case types.

In General
The amount of back pay or retroactive benefits, awarded to a veteran is dependent upon that particular veteran’s “effective date.” Generally the effective date is either the date that entitlement to the benefit arose, the date the claim was filed or the date a re-open claim was filed, whichever is later. This is true for most new claims and for claims to increase the rating of an already existing service-connected disability. Continue Reading

According to the Humane Society of the United States, pet ownership in the United
States has more than tripled since the 1970’s with about 62% of American households said to have at least one pet in 2012 and 47% of households owning at least one dog. Many of us experience first- hand the joys and benefits of pet ownership. But for those suffering from a mental or physical illness, animals and pets can provide much needed healing and therapeutic benefits.

There are two basic categories of animals that assist the disabled – service animals and therapy animals.

The American Disability Act provides a very specific definition of a “service animal” and as of March 15, 2011 only dogs are recognized as service animals under titles II and III of the ADA and are defined by the Act as a dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for a person with a disability. Service animals are not considered pets and are specifically trained to assist a disabled individual with things such as pushing a wheelchair, alerting one to the sounds of smoke alarms, timers, and telephones; or picking up and carrying
items for an individual. While many therapy animals are specifically trained to provide therapeutic benefits to the disabled, they are not service animals and do not have the same rights to public buildings as service animals. They do, however, provide many healing benefits to the disabled and their families and have been found to significantly reduce pain, anxiety, depression and fatigue for people suffering from mental and physical disabilities. Continue Reading

President Obama is set to sign into law the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act that is intended to broaden mental health and suicide prevention services for veterans.

The Act, also known as the Clay Hunt SAV Act, is named for Clay Hunt, a Marine veteran who served in Afghanistan and Iraq and later committed suicide.

What Does the Clay Hunt Act Do for Veterans?

The act is intended to address the growing trend of veteran suicides by:

1. Establishing an independent third-party evaluation of VA mental health services and suicide prevention;
2. Establishing a single centralized website providing veterans information regarding all of the VA’s mental health services;
3. Repaying education loans for individuals promising to serve the VA in the field of psychiatric medicine;
4. Establishing Veterans Integrated Service Networks (“VISN”);
5. Authorizing collaboration with nonprofit mental health organizations; and
6. Extending certain combat veterans’ eligibility for VA hospital care.

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If you have applied for Social Security Disability (SSD) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI), here are some things you need to know.

1. GET TREATMENT FOR YOUR MEDICAL CONDITIONS: Even if you are diagnosed with a serious, disabling condition, and there is no way to fix your problem, you need to see you doctor regularly to document how your condition is progressing, and if your condition is getting worse. Most diseases or conditions have progressive stages. For example, congestive heart failure (CHF) and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) have stages to describe their severity. You need to continue seeing your doctor in order to document the stage or progress of the disease. Even if you don’t have health insurance or money for treatment, if your symptoms get worse, or flare up, you can seek treatment at the hospital emergency department or the local health department.

2. FOLLOW YOUR DOCTOR’S RECOMMENDATIONS: Some disabling conditions are manageable. If the records show that you are not taking your medications or following your doctor’s instructions, it can affect your case. For example, if you have diabetes, but you don’t take your medicine, or you don’t follow diet restrictions, it can hurt you and your case. If you have COPD, and you continue to smoke, your doctor’s records may sound like you aren’t doing what the doctor says. Quitting smoking, losing weight, or making other changes can be difficult. If you are trying to make changes that your doctor recommends, be sure to tell your doctor, and tell them why you are having trouble. Your efforts, even if not completely successful yet, need to be in the records. Also, if you haven’t taken medicine, or gotten a test, because you can’t afford it, be sure to tell your doctor. There may be less expensive comparable medications, your doctor may be able to give you samples, or your doctor may be able to get you financial assistance with your medications or treatment.
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