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Can I receive VA disability for Burn Pit exposure?

Where did the military use burn pits?

Since 1991, American forces have served in the Southwest Theater of Operations.  To dispose of nearly all forms of waste, the military dug large burn pits.  Every forward operating base (FOB) in the region used burn pits. See map below. 

 

This region stretches from Somalia up to Uzbekistan, and all the countries in between. 

The burned waste products include, but are not limited to:

  • Plastics,
  • Metal cans
  • Rubber
  • Chemicals,
  • Petroleum products,
  • Munitions
  • Wood waste, and
  • Medical and human waste.

Jet fuel (JP-8) is used as the accelerant.  However, the burn pits do not properly burn the volume of waste generated.  As a result, smoke blows over bases and into living areas.

The most infamous burn pit is at Joint Base Balad, Iraq.   In 2008, the military found several deadly toxins in the air at Balad.  They detected some of the same toxins found in Agent Orange and the groundwater at Camp LeJeune. 

Unfortunately, this is not an isolated incident.  Over a quarter of a million veterans have reported an illness they link to the burn pits.

I’ve never filed a VA claim before.  How  do I start a Burn Pit claim?

If you never filed a VA claim before, then you’ll need to file an Original claim.  Per VA rules, you can only file an original claim using a VA Form 21-526EZ.  The form asks for your Social Security number, dates of active duty service, branch of service, and other biographical information.  Most importantly, you must briefly explain why your disability is related to your burn pit exposure. 

In addition, you should also submit evidence to meet the 3 basic elements of any VA claim:

  1. In-service event, disease or injury,
  2. Current diagnosis of a disability, and
  3. Medical nexus between the first 2 elements.

According to VA, toxins in burn pit smoke may affect the following body systems:

  • Skin,
  • Eyes,
  • Respiratory,
  • Cardiovascular,
  • Gastrointestinal, and
  • Internal organs.

However, this general information is not enough to prove a link to burn pits.

In most cases, this will be a medical question for your doctor.  But remember: most civilian doctors are unfamiliar with burn pit exposure.  You, the veteran, will need to provide context.  This context will help your doctor figure out a link between your condition and the burn pit.

The following factors are critical:

  • Proximity, amount of time, and frequency of exposure
  • Military specialty
  • Pre-existing respiratory conditions
  • Wind direction and other weather factors
  • Types of waste burned.

If you were only exposed to burned human waste, then it is easy to research those toxins.  There is a lot of science on this topic.  However, a pit that also burned munitions, Styrofoam and chemicals requires more analysis.  Likewise, a soldier who personally visited the burn pits has more exposure than one who did not.

New presumptive conditions

As of August 5, 2021, veterans don’t need to prove a link to burn pit exposure for these 3 conditions:

  • Asthma,
  • Rhinitis, and
  • Sinusitis.

For veterans with a qualifying period of service, VA no longer requires specific proof of exposure to burn pits.  If you served in the Gulf War, Iraq, Syria, or Afghanistan, then you qualify.   All you need to prove is a current diagnosis.

VA denied my burn pit claim.  What now?

Hire an accredited VA representative.

There are so many rules and exceptions that apply to burn pit claims.  Without a representative, you may not know if VA was wrong to deny your claim.  Too many VA decision-makers deny claims if there is any doubt at all.  However, this is not the correct standard.

Further, when VA denies a claim, it MUST explain why.  VA must explain to the veteran which elements he successfully proved.  With that knowledge, a veteran should focus on getting evidence for the unproven element(s).   For example, if VA says you were never exposed to burn pits, then you need to develop evidence to the contrary. 

An experienced representative can make all the difference in your case. 

Are you entitled to VA compensation for burn pit exposure?  The experts at Disability Help Group are standing by.  Contact us for a FREE CONSULTATION.

How Can I Receive VA Compensation for Burn Pit Exposure?

What is a Burn Pit?

A burn pit is an area devoted to open-air burning of trash and you can receive VA Compensation for burn pit exposure. During U.S. operations in countries such as Kuwait, Iraq and Afghanistan, the military commonly used burn pits for waste disposal. It was a very efficient way to get rid of large amounts of waste. The largest pit was about 20 acres long .

These burn pits disposed of various materials, such as:

  • Human waste
  • Body parts
  • Medical waste
  • Unexploded ordinance
  • Chemicals
  • Plastics and Styrofoam
  • Paints
  • Rubber.

Smoke from these pits contained toxins that may lead to serious health conditions.  This is especially true for those who had prolonged exposure.  This includes service members who personally dumped waste into a burn pit.  In addition, those with pre-existing respiratory conditions were especially sensitive to the smoke.

Basic Eligibility

VA compensation is a monthly payment to veterans for disabilities related to service.  However, VA will not start the process for you.  You must first file a claim.

To win VA compensation, a veteran must satisfy the 3 basic elements of a VA claim:

  1. In-service event, disease or injury,
  2. Current diagnosis of a disability, and
  3. Medical nexus between the first 2 elements.

The first step is to prove you were exposed to burn pits during your active duty service.  If you served in the Southwest Asia Theater of Operations, then your DD Form 214 should confirm this.  Absent official service records, obtain statements from buddies who witnessed your exposure to burn pits.

Second, the veteran must have a current disability.  The time between exposure and diagnosis will vary based on several factors.  For example, the toxins from burned human waste may affect the body differently than those from burned Styrofoam.   

Even so, a short-term adverse reaction to the smoke is not enough.  Shortly after burn pit exposure, many veterans develop medical conditions.  However, many do not develop disabilities until years after discharge. 

Third, VA requires proof that the condition you suffer from today was caused or aggravated during service.  This usually takes the form of a medical nexus letter.  Only a medical professional should write a disability nexus letter.  In limited circumstances, non-doctors such as physician’s assistants and nurse practitioners can write them.  However, VA will find a disability nexus letter more persuasive if written by a doctor in the relevant specialty. 

Does Every Burn Pit Claim Need a Medical Nexus Letter?

Not every burn pit claim needs a nexus letter because in some cases, the link to service is undeniable.  For example, if your service records note a disability you still suffer from today, then VA would probably grant a claim for that disability without a nexus letter.  As of August 2021, VA will concede that burn pit exposure causes certain health conditions.  These are known as burn pit presumptive conditions.

New presumptive conditions, you can receive VA Compensation for burn pit exposure.

On August 5, 2021, VA issued a new rule to remove the medical nexus requirement for 3 conditions:

  • Asthma,
  • Rhinitis, and
  • Sinusitis.

This rule removes the medical nexus requirement for certain veterans.  But that’s not all.  It also makes it easier to prove burn pit exposure.  For veterans with a qualifying period of service, VA no longer requires specific proof of burn pit exposure to burn pits.  If you served in the Gulf War, Iraq, Syria, or Afghanistan, then you qualify.   In those cases, all you need to prove is a current diagnosis.

Why does VA keep denying my burn pit claim?

VA has been slow to recognize the science linking serious conditions to burn pit exposure.  Because the decision-makers don’t see a link, they tend to deny the claims.

The Secretary of Veterans Affairs recently talked about this . He conceded that many vets have come home with ailments that their doctors believe are a result of burn pit exposure. VA has recognized burn pits cause asthma, rhinitis and sinusitis. However, VA has yet to accept the scientific link to many more serious conditions.

Secretary McDonough cited a critical example.  A female veteran was trying to stay healthy in Fallujah, Iraq.  She went running daily around a burn pit.  When she informed her doctor, he said she should get tested early for breast cancer.  It turned out she had stage 4 breast cancer at the age of 38.  The science indicated she was way too young to have such an advanced stage cancer.

When VA denies a claim, the veteran can file an appeal.  However, appeals can take years to win.  With such an advanced cancer, this veteran may not survive before VA decides the appeal.  This is grossly unfair to veterans who served our country with honor.

Are you entitled to VA compensation for burn pit exposure?  The experts at Disability Help Group are standing by.  Contact us for a FREE CONSULTATION.

Disability Help Group, Call Now for a Free Case Review, 800-700-0652.

You can receive VA Compensation for burn pit exposure.

Make sure you start your claim the right way and apply for all the benefits you deserve. Contact us now for a free consultation.

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Additional Information

How to Qualify for VA Compensation While Receiving SSI

How to Qualify for VA Compensation While Receiving SSI. Veterans can receive both VA compensation and SSI.  Both VA compensation and SSI require that you have disabling conditions.  However, the requirements to qualify differ. 

How to Qualify for VA Compensation While Receiving SSI: VA compensation

VA disability compensation offers monthly payments to Veterans who got sick or injured while serving.  You must show that your disabling condition was “incurred or aggravated by your military service.”  The VA does not require total disability.  The VA awards benefits based in proportion to your percentage of disability.  Compensation rates range from 10%-100%, in 10% increments. 

VA pension

The VA also offers benefits for veterans who have non-service disabilities.  VA pension benefits require that you were not dishonorably discharged and you meet certain financial limits.  You must also meet certain service requirements.  Additionally, you show one of the following:

  • You are at least 65 years old
  • Have a permanent and total disability
  • Are a patient in a nursing home for long-term care because of a disability or
  • Are receiving Social Security disability insurance or SSI. The OT and ICS cyber security is what is needed to protect data.

How to Qualify for VA Compensation While Receiving SSI: SSI benefits

Unlike VA compensation, SSI does not offer partial disability.  You must prove that your medical conditions keep you from working in any job.  You must also show that you can’t work for at least 12 months.  SSI also has specific financial requirements.  Specifically, these requirements include:

  • You must have less than $2,000 in assets (or $3,000 for a couple)
  • Have a very limited income
  • Are a US citizen (there are very few exceptions to this)

VA compensation and SSI benefits

Since SSI is a needs-based program, other income affects the amount you receive from SSI.  Therefore, VA compensation will reduce your SSI payments.  Social Security considers VA compensation as “unearned income.”  Social Security deducts unearned income on a dollar for dollar basis with a $20 exclusion.  The SSI federal payment amount for 2021 is $794 per month. 

How to apply for VA compensation

You can apply for veterans benefits online.  You may also apply by using VA Form 21-526, Veterans Application for Compensation and/or Pension.  Once you apply, the VA uses military doctors and other health personnel to evaluate your disability claim.  The VA may ask you to attend a C&P exam to help rate your claim.  The VA assigns a disability rate to each of your conditions.  These rates determine your Total Combined VA disability rating.  The VA then uses this rate to figure out the amount of your benefits. We Can Help You Qualify for VA Compensation While Receiving SSI.

How to apply for SSI

You must contact your local Social Security office to file. Unlike the VA, Social Security doesn’t rate your conditions separately.  Social Security looks at how the combination of your conditions impacts your functioning.  First, they consider if any of your conditions meet certain conditions under their listing of impairments, known as the “Blue Book”.  Most conditions will not meet these strict requirements.  Next, Social Security considers your residual functional capacity or RFC.  Your RFC includes both physical and mental limitations.  If Social Security determines that your conditions keep you from working, they will approve your disability claim.  Like the VA, Social Security may ask you to attend a medical exam to help evaluate your claim. 

Disabled veterans and your age

Social Security has special disability rules the older you are.  They look at a chart known as the Medical-Vocational guidelines to evaluate your claim called the “grid rules.”  The grid rules make it easier for older people to win their case.  Social Security considers your age, education and work background.  The older you are, the easier it can be to win your case. 

Can a veteran work and receive both VA and SSI?

If you are working, you may not qualify for SSI.  Social Security considers work earnings over a certain amount “substantial gainful activity” or SGA.  If you earn over the SGA limit, you will not qualify for Social Security disability.  For 2021, SGA is earnings $1,310 per month or more (before taxes).  However, if you earn more than $794 per month, you will not qualify to receive SSI payments.  Unlike Social Security, veterans can work while receiving VA disability benefits unless you receive Total Disability Based on Individual Unemployability (TDIU). We can help you Qualify for VA Compensation While Receiving SSI.

VA and SSI medical benefits

Veterans receiving VA disability automatically receive TRICARE benefits.  TRICARE covers health costs found “medically necessary” for your condition.  SSI recipients receive Medicaid benefits.  If you receive both TRICARE and Medicaid, TRICARE becomes your primary insurance. 

Getting help with your VA compensation and SSI claims

Get help with your case now. Firstly, your advocate helps you with your application and can make sure you provide all necessary information.  Secondly, your advocate walks you through the process and can answer all of your questions. Thirdly, your advocate knows what it takes to get your case approved.

Call Now for a Free Case Review, 800-700-0652

Make sure you start your SSDI and VA disability claim the right way and apply for all the benefits you deserve. Contact us now for a free consultation.

How Receiving Social Security Disability Can Help You Get VA 100%

How Receiving Social Security Disability Can Help You Get VA 100%. Receiving Social Security disability can help you get a 100% VA rating.  However, receiving Social Security disability doesn’t guarantee a 100% VA rating.  It can be used as powerful evidence for your VA claim.  Although, these decisions only help if you can show your conditions are service-connected. 

VA disability benefits

VA disability benefits require that you meet certain conditions.  You must have a current diagnosis.  That diagnosis must be service-connected.  You must also show a medical nexus or connection between your diagnosis and in-service incurrence.  The VA considers your disability service-connected if your medical condition:

  • Firstly, Was directly caused by military service
  • Secondly, Occurred while in the military
  • Thirdly, Was aggravated by military service or
  • Finally, Caused by conditions that are service-connected

VA disability rating and TDUI

Disability ratings range from 10% to 100%.  Next, it can be hard to earn a 100% disability rating when you have more than one disability.  Fortunately, the VA provides an alternate route to total disability rating based on individual unemployability (TDUI).  The VA considers your ability not only get a job but also to keep a job.  You meet the conditions for a TDUI rating if your disabilities prevent you from working and:

  • You have a single service-connected rating or have a combined disability rating of 70%

Social Security disability helps establish a current diagnosis

Firstly, SSDI looks at your medically determinable impairments (MDI).  Secondly, Social Security considers any condition that has an impact on functioning as an MDI.  Thirdly, a Social Security hearing decision includes a list of your disabilities.  Therefore, your Social Security approval helps determine your diagnoses. Receiving Social Security Disability Can Help You Get VA 100%. Call Now for a Free Case Review.

Social Security disability helps establish service-connection

Frequently, applicants for Social Security disability have to testify at a disability hearing.  During the hearing, the judge asks a lot of questions about your disabilities.  Often, applicants provide detailed explanations about their conditions.  They also explain when conditions started.  A Social Security hearing decision includes a summary of testimony.  Therefore, your Social Security hearing decision helps establish service-connection. 

Example:  Social Security hearing decision helps establish service-connection

Likewise, a veteran applied for disability benefits for PTSD.  During the hearing, he testified that he witnessed a young girl get hit by a vehicle while on patrol during his service.  He also testified that since his service, he started blacking out and became violent.  He testified that he didn’t sleep well, had significant paranoia and was very depressed.  The judge’s decision included the veteran’s testimony, helping to establish that his PTSD was connected to his service. 

Social Security disability helps establish severity

Social Security has a difficult standard to meet for eligibility.  You must show that your medical conditions prevent you from working in any job.  A judge’s decision must explain why a case meets the requirements for disability.  The decision includes specific reasons how significantly medical conditions impact a person’s functioning.  Therefore, a Social Security disability decision can help explain how severe your conditions are. 

Example:  Social Security hearing decision helps establish severity

Hence, a veteran applied for Social Security disability due to a lower back impairment, depression and anxiety.  During the hearing, the veteran testified that he injured his back during his service.  He could no longer perform his duties as a postal worker.  As a result of his chronic pain and limitations, he developed significant depression and anxiety symptoms, requiring medication and therapy.

In his hearing decision, the judge explained that his lower back condition caused significant limitations with standing, walking and sitting.  The judge also explained that his depression and anxiety symptoms caused significant problems concentrating.  The veteran provided the VA a copy of the decision, which helped him qualify for TDUI. 

Example:  Social Security hearing decision helps establish severity

For instance, a veteran applied for Social Security disability due to a traumatic brain injury.  He suffered from episodes of aggression, poor memory and difficulty getting along with others.  In his hearing decision, the judge referred to evidence in his record documenting that he needed a lot of help with his daily activities.  Specifically, he needed help with medication management and reminders to take care of his personal hygiene. 

His mother took him to all of his medical appointments and helped manage his bills.  His medical records documented that he could become very aggressive often.  The Social Security judge determined that the veteran would not be capable of maintaining any job.  The decision helped increase the veteran’s VA disability rating. 

Getting help with your Social Security and VA disability claims

Both Social Security and VA have complicated application processes.  The process can be even tougher when Social Security or the VA issues a decision that completely ignores the evidence.  Working with an experienced advocate helps increase your chances of getting approved.  They know how to turn a loss into a win.  An experienced advocate can analyze your case and help you receive maximum benefits.  It helps to have knowledgeable experts on your side. 

Call Now for a Free Case Review, 800-700-0652

Make sure you start your SSDI and VA disability claim the right way and apply for all the benefits you deserve. Contact us now for a free consultation.

Getting Both Social Security and VA Veterans Disability Benefits

You can get both Social Security and VA Veterans disability benefits.  In fact, disabled veterans often apply for both types of benefits.  However, there are differences between Social Security and VA disability benefits. 

What is the difference between Social Security and VA Veterans disability benefits?

Social Security has two types of disability benefits. Social Security disability insurance benefits (SSDI) require that you have worked.  Unlike SSDI, Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits don’t require that you’ve worked.  However, you must meet certain financial requirements.  The VA offers veterans disability benefits only for individuals who have served in the armed forces. 

Social Security vs. VA Veterans disability benefits

SSDI and SSI have the same definition of disability.  You must have medical conditions that keep you from working. You must be unable to work for at least 12 months.  Social Security doesn’t award partial disability.  VA disability requires that your medical conditions are connected to your service.  Unlike Social Security, VA disability does award partial disability benefits.  VA disability compensation rates range from 10-100%, in 10% increments. 

Can I work and receive Social Security or VA Veterans disability benefits?

If you are working, you may not qualify for Social Security disability.  Social Security considers work earnings over a certain amount “substantial gainful activity” or SGA.  If you earn over the SGA limit, you will not qualify for Social Security disability.  For 2020, SGA is earnings S1,260 per month or more (before taxes).  You can still qualify for Social Security disability benefits if you earn less than SGA.  However, any work may make it harder for Social Security to approve your claim.  Unlike Social Security, veterans can work while receiving VA disability benefits unless they receive Total Disability Based on Individual Unemployability (TDIU.)   

Do my VA Veterans disability benefits affect my Social Security disability?

VA veterans disability benefits don’t affect your SSDI payments.  You can receive both VA and SSDI payments at the same time.  However, VA benefits will reduce your SSI payments.  SSA considers VA benefits as “unearned income.”  Social Security will deduct unearned income on a dollar for dollar basis except for a $20 exclusion.  In other words, Social Security reduces your SSI benefits by the amount of your VA payments. 

Social Security and the VA follow different rules.  Getting approved for one doesn’t increase your chances of getting approved for the other.  However, Social Security considers evidence from the VA.  Similarly, the VA considers your Social Security records.   

Expedited Social Security disability claims for veterans

Fortunately, Social Security can fast-track certain cases for veterans by expediting the process for veterans with a 100% VA rating.  You should identify as a “Veteran rated 100% P&T: when filing your application.  You should also provide your VA rating notification letter.  Additionally, Social Security fast-tracks case for Wounded Warriors.  You should tell Social Security that your injuries happened while on active duty.  

Social Security application process

Firstly, Social Security considers their listing of impairments, known as the Blue Book.  Secondly, the Blue Book has very specific medical requirements.  Thirdly, it can be very difficult to meet one of the listings.  Finally, Social Security considers your residual functional capacity or RFC.  An RFC includes both physical and mental limitations. 

  1. Social Security looks at your medical evidence to figure out your RFC. 
  2. They ask you to attend an appointment with one of their doctors, sends you for an exam when they need more information about your conditions. 

VA veterans disability application process

Veterans go through a VA-directed medical review.  The VA uses military doctors and other health personnel to evaluate veterans for their disability.   Similarly to SSDI, the VA may ask you to attend a VA claim exam, known as a C&P exam. 

Disabled veterans and your age

Social Security has special disability rules the older you are.  They look at a chart known as the Medical-Vocational guidelines to evaluate your claim called the “grid rules.”

Example 1:  applying the grid rules over 50

For example, Jane, a 54 year old veteran, applied for disability due to degenerative disc disease and right shoulder impairment.  She previously worked as an x-ray technician.  Jane received a lot of treatment at the VA hospital.  However, she had surgery at a civilian hospital.  Her medical records included documentation that Jane had difficulty standing and walking.  She also had trouble using her right arm.  Social Security found that she could not return to work as an x-ray technician.  Since she is over the age of 50, Social Security applied the grid rules and approved Jane’s claim. 

Example 2:  applying the grid rules over 55

As another example, Scott, a 59 year old veteran, applied for disability due to arthritis in his hips.  He previously worked as a construction worker.  Scott needed a hip replacement and needed a cane for walking.  Social Security reviewed his records from the VA.  They determined that he could not return to work as a construction worker.  Since he couldn’t return to his past work, the grid rules allowed Social Security to approve his claim. 

Getting help with your Social Security and VA veterans disability claims

Hiring an experienced disability advocate can increase your chances of getting approved.  Firstly, your advocate helps you with your application and can make sure you provide all necessary information.  Secondly, your advocate walks you through the process.  Thirdly, they can answer all of your questions and help you understand all of the rules.  Last, your advocate knows what it takes to get your case approved, you need an expert on your side.

Disability Help Group, Call Now for a Free Case Review, 800-700-0652

Make sure you start your claim the right way and apply for all the benefits you deserve. Contact us now for a free consultation.

Can a Veteran Receive Both VA and Social Security Benefits?

Can a Veteran Receive Both VA and Social Security Benefits? Veterans can qualify for both VA and Social Security benefits.  Frequently, veterans apply for both VA and Social Security benefits.  However, VA and Social Security benefits have different requirements. 

VA benefits for veterans

VA benefits or service-connected disability, have specific requirements.  You must show that your disabling condition was “incurred or aggravated by your military service.”  You will not qualify for VA benefits if you have a dishonorable discharge.  You can receive partial disability benefits from the VA.  VA disability compensation rates range from 10-100%, in 10% increments. 

Social Security benefits

Social Security has two types of benefits, disability insurance benefits (SSDI) and supplemental security income benefits (SSI).  Under SSDI, you must have worked and earned at least 20 work credits.  Generally, this means you must have worked at least 5 out of the last 10 years.  Under SSI, you do not need any work credits.  However, you must meet certain financial requirements.  You must show that your medical conditions keep you from working for at least 12 months.  Unlike VA benefits, Social Security doesn’t offer partial disability. 

Applying for both VA and Social Security benefits

If you get approved for one benefit, it doesn’t increase your chances for getting approved for the other.  Social Security and the VA follow different rules.  However, Social Security considers medical evidence from the VA.  Similarly, the VA considers your Social Security records. 

Expedited processing for veterans

Fortunately, Social Security can fast-track certain cases for veterans.  Social Security expedites processing for veterans with a 100% VA rating.  You should identify as a “Veteran rated 100% P&T” when filing your application.  You should also include your VA rating notification letter.  Additionally, Social Security fast-tracks case for Wounded Warriors.  You should tell Social Security that your injuries happened while on active duty.  

Application process for VA benefits

Both the VA and Social Security reviews medical records.  The VA uses military doctors and other health personnel to evaluate your disability claim.  The VA may ask you to attend a claim exam, known as a C&P exam.  This exam helps the VA rate your disability.  Additionally, the VA assigns a disabling rate to each of your conditions.  These rates determine your Total Combined VA disability rating.  The VA uses this rating to figure out the amount of your benefits.

Application process for Social Security benefits

Unlike the VA, Social Security doesn’t rate your conditions separately.  Social Security looks at how the combination of your conditions impacts your functioning.  First, they consider if any of your conditions meet certain conditions under their listing of impairments, known as the “Blue Book”.  Most conditions will not meet these strict requirements.  Next, Social Security considers your residual functional capacity or RFC.  Your RFC includes both physical and mental limitations.  If Social Security determines that your conditions keep you from working, they will approve your disability claim.  Like the VA, Social Security may ask you to attend a medical exam to help evaluate your claim. 

Disabled veterans and your age

Social Security has special disability rules the older you are.  They look at a chart known as the Medical-Vocational guidelines to evaluate your claim called the “grid rules.”  The grid rules make it easier for older people to win their case.  Social Security considers your age, education and work background.  The older you are, the easier it can be to win your case. 

How much can I get from VA and Social Security benefits?

As discussed, the VA calculates your payments based on your Total Combined VA disability rating.  Social Security uses a complicated formula based on the amount of earnings you paid taxes on.  Therefore, everyone’s amount is different.  VA benefits will not affect your SSDI payments.  In other words, you can receive both payments in full.  Unfortunately, any VA benefits will reduce your SSI payments. 

VA and Social Security medical benefits

Veterans receiving VA disability automatically receive TRICARE benefits, which cover health costs found “medically necessary” for your condition.  SSDI recipients qualify for Medicare benefits which start two years after Social Security finds you disabled.  Medicare covers a variety of medical costs, usually regardless of a specific condition.  SSI recipients receive Medicaid benefits.  If you receive both TRICARE and Medicare, Medicare becomes your primary insurance.  However, if you receive both TRICARE and Medicaid, TRICARE becomes your primary insurance. 

Can a veteran work and receive both VA and Social Security benefits?

If you are working, you may not qualify for Social Security disability.  Social Security considers work earnings over a certain amount “substantial gainful activity” or SGA and if you earn over the SGA limit, you will not qualify for Social Security disability.  For 2021, SGA is earnings $1,310 per month or more (before taxes).  You can still qualify for Social Security disability benefits if you earn less than SGA.  However, any work may make it harder for Social Security to approve your claim.  Unlike Social Security, veterans can work while receiving VA disability benefits unless you receive Total Disability Based on Individual Unemployability (TDIU.)   

Disability Help Group, Call Now for a Free Case Review, 800-700-0652

Make sure you start your claim the right way and apply for all the benefits you deserve. Contact us now for a free consultation.

Can a Disabled Veteran Receive SSDI?

Can a Disabled Veteran Receive SSDI? Disabled veterans can receive SSDI benefits. An award of VA disability benefits won’t prevent you from also receiving SSDI benefits. However, there are differences between qualifying for these types of benefits.

Disabled Veterans:  SSDI vs. VA disability benefits

SSDI requires that your medical conditions prevent you from working for at least 12 months.  SSDI doesn’t distinguish between partial or total disability.  Unlike SSDI, VA disability benefits don’t require total disability.  In fact, most veterans who receive VA compensation do not receive a total disability rating. 

How do disabled veterans qualify for SSDI? 

To qualify for SSDI, you must have worked a certain number of years and earned enough work credits.  You receive work credits each year that you work and pay taxes.  At most, you can earn four work credits per year.  Generally, you need a total of 20 work credits to qualify for SSDI.  However, there are some age exceptions.  If you are younger, you may qualify for SSDI with fewer credits. 

SSDI financial requirements for disabled veterans

As mentioned, SSDI requires that you earn a certain amount of work credits to qualify.  Therefore, there are no limits to the amount of assets, cash or other resources you own.  For example, VA disability benefits will not keep you from receiving SSDI benefits.  Additionally, they will not reduce your SSDI benefits. 

Working disabled veterans

Since Social Security defines disability as the inability to work, if you are working, you may not qualify for SSDI.  Social Security considers work earnings over a certain amount “substantial gainful activity” or SGA.  If you earn over the SGA limit, you will not qualify for SSDI.  In 2020, earnings S1, 260 per month or (before taxes) are considered SGA.  If you are working part-time and earning less than SGA, you may still qualify for SSDI.  However, any work may make it harder for Social Security to approve your claim. 

Medical requirements for disabled veterans

First, Social Security considers whether your medical conditions fall under their listing of impairments, known as the Blue Book.  Typically, the Blue Book requires that your medical conditions meet very specific requirements.  If you don’t meet the listings, Social Security considers your residual functional capacity or RFC.  An RFC includes both physical and mental limitations.  Social Security looks at your medical evidence to determine your RFC.  They can also consider the opinions of your doctors. 

Medical evidence for disabled veterans

Your medical evidence should include records only for the period of time that you became disabled and unable to work.  Your treatment should also be continuous and ongoing.  The VA and Department of Defense (DOD) share medical records electronically with Social Security.  Medical evidence can include:

  • Treatment notes and physical examinations
  • Imaging such as MRIs, x-rays, CT scans or nerve testing
  • Blood work or biopsy results
  • Pulmonary tests
  • Mental health records

Disabled veterans and your age

Social Security has special disability rules the older you are.  They look at a chart known as the Medical-Vocational guidelines to evaluate your claim called the “grid rules.”  The grid rules make it easier for older people to win their case.  Social Security considers your age, education and work background.  The older you are, the easier it can be to win your case. 

Example 1: applying the grid rules for disabled veterans

For example, Michael, a 57 year veteran, applied for disability due to back pain.  He previously worked as janitor, receives disability compensation related to a back injury.  He has trouble standing and walking, needs a cane.  His medical records include MRIs and x-rays of his back documenting his impairment.  His doctors have also documented that he has pain and limited motion of his back.  Social Security found that he could not return to work as a janitor.  Since he is over the age of 55, the grid rules allow Social Security to approve his claim. 

Does my VA approval help improve my chances receiving SSDI?

Generally, your VA approval will not help you get SSDI.  Social Security will consider any evidence that the VA used when making their decision.  Social Security may also use VA or DOD evidence to expedite SSDI claims for Wounded Warriors or veterans with a 100% disability compensation rating.  Similarly, the VA may not give Social Security’s decision much weight.  Usually, Social Security’s decision can be unclear whether the disability is based on service-connected or non-service disability.  However, the VA is required to consider your Social Security records. 

Does active duty affect eligibility for SSDI?

Active duty status or receipt of military pay doesn’t necessarily prevent you from receiving SSDI.  Since you can’t receive SSDI if you are engaging in SGA, Social Security evaluates your work activity to figure out your eligibility.  You can apply while in a rehabilitation program or attending outpatient programs regardless of whether your treatment is in a VA hospital or civilian facility.   If you are on limited duty or working in a designated therapy program, you should definitely apply for SSDI. 

Disability Help Group, Call Now for a Free Case Review, 800-700-0652

Make sure you start your claim the right way and apply for all the benefits you deserve. Contact us now for a free consultation.

VA Benefits Appeal

Posted on by Ken LaVan

VA Benefits Appeal. To win a VA disability claim, a veteran must prove all elements.  Generally, VA will approve a VA benefits claim when a veteran proves the following:

  1. In-service event, disease or injury,
  2. Current disability, and
  3. Medical nexus between the in-service event and the current disability.

After you submit your claim, VA is obligated to issue a decision.  Based on the evidence, VA may decide to approve your claim completely.  Alternatively, VA may either deny the claim outright, or grant your benefits at a low disability rating.  Regardless, veterans have the right to appeal any VA benefits decision to a higher authority.

What is the point of an appeal?

VA decision-makers are not perfect.  They often make mistakes.  For a disabled veteran who is barely making ends meet, VA’s mistakes can be costly.  This is why Congress created the appeals system.  It gives veterans a fighting chance to correct VA’s mistakes without losing years of benefits.

VA benefits appeals are great because they preserve the earliest effective dates.  Take the example of J. Stone, who filed a claim for PTSD in 2011.  VA denied his claim in 2013 because they could not confirm the traumatic in-service event.  His friends told him to just file another claim.  Instead, he consulted the experts at Disability Help Group (DHG). 

A DHG representative helped him file an appeal along with evidence of the in-service event.  In 2015, VA decided the appeal in Mr. Stone’s favor.  As a result, he received a 70% rating effective 2011, the date he filed his claim.  He received

Appeals in the Legacy System

The Legacy system refers to the VA appeals structure for decisions issued prior to February 19, 2019.  When VA first denies a claim in Legacy, the veteran may appeal with a Notice of Disagreement (NOD).  The deadline to file a legacy NOD is 1 year from the date of the decision. 

When you file a timely NOD, you are asking a senior VA officer to overrule the previous decision.  If the VA agrees with you, then it will issue a new decision awarding benefits.  If not, VA will issue a Statement of the Case (SOC) to explain why the previous decision should stand.

Fortunately, an SOC is not the end of the road.  Using a VA Form 9, you can appeal an SOC to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals (the Board).  Unlike the lower decision, you have only 60 days to appeal an SOC.  A VA Form 9 is a request for a Veterans Law Judge to take a fresh look at your case.   If the judge finds in your favor, he/she will award benefits effective the date you first filed.  If the judge finds against you, then you can appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans’ Claims.

The Appeals Modernization Act changed everything

Any decisions issued on or after February 19, 2019 fall within the Appeals Modernization Act (AMA).  If VA denies your claim, or approves it with a very low rating, you can appeal it by filing one of these forms:

  • VA Form 20-0995 Supplemental Claim, 20-0996 Request for Higher Level Review, or 10182 Notice of Disagreement to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals

Each lane has its pros and cons.  Visit this link for more details [Link to the AMA article].

What’s the downside of an appeal?

First, a VA benefits appeal can take a very long time.  Take a look at the search results when you Google “VA appeals backlog.”  Prior to the AMA, VA took an average of 2.5 years to process appeals. 

Second, you may have to appeal several times to get the job done.  If your first appeal is not successful, then you should appeal to a higher tribunal (like the Board of Veterans’ Appeals).  When you believe in your claim, you should never give up.  Don’t let VA win.

Hire an expert to give yourself the best chance to win

Every VA benefits appeal is different.  The best indicator of success is having an experienced representative.  This is a very complex system.  Most veterans are not equipped to force VA to change a decision.  Some cases already have the evidence needed to win, but are lacking a good legal argument.  Other cases lack both evidence and argument.  An experienced representative can plug the holes in your case. 

At DHG, our experts review each case with a fine-toothed comb.  This is how we figure out the best path forward.  We don’t just file a VA benefits appeal and then wait around for VA to act.  Instead, we actively develop winning evidence and arguments to deliver for our clients.

Do you need help with your VA benefits appeal?  Contact the experts at DHG for a free consultation.

Disability Help Group, Call Now for a Free Case Review, 800-700-0652

Make sure you start your claim the right way and apply for all the benefits you deserve. Contact us now for a free consultation.

Get Help Now

Call, 1-800-700-0652

Because memory deficits are common VA TBI residuals, a veteran should always have an advocate. Disability Help Group specializes in TBI cases and is here to answer your questions now.

Additional Information

What is the Appeals Modernization Act?

Posted on by Ken LaVan

What is the Appeals Modernization Act?

The Appeals Modernization Act has reduced the average time to receive a VA disability decision. Older claims typically took 3-7 years to receive a decision. In order to address this issue, Congress passed the VA Appeals Modernization Act in 2017.  On February 19, 2019, VA officially implemented this new law.  As a result, VA’s new goal is to complete claims and appeals in an average of 125 days.  This reflects VA’s renewed focus to deliver timely decisions to veterans and their survivors.

The VA Disability Claims Process Applying the Appeals Modernization Act

Filing an Original VA Disability Claim

The Appeals Modernization Act applies if you have already applied for VA Disability Benefits. Therefore, if you are filing an Original Claim it will not apply at the time of filing.  If you never filed a VA claim before, then you’ll need to file an Original claim.  Per VA rules, you can only file an original claim using a VA Form 21-526EZ.  The form asks for your Social Security number, dates of active duty service, branch of service, and other biographical information.  Most importantly, you must briefly explain why your claimed disability is related to your active duty service. 

Filing a VA Disability Supplemental Claim

When VA denies a claim, it must explain why.  VA has always had this duty.  However, the Appeals Modernization Act has enhanced this duty in the veteran’s favor.  As of February 19, 2019, VA must explain to the veteran which elements he successfully proved.  With that knowledge, a veteran should focus on getting evidence for the unproven element(s).  This New and Relevant evidence could change VA’s mind.  A veteran who obtains such evidence should submit it to VA with a Supplemental Claim.

Take the example of Joe Smith

Joe served in the Coast Guard for 3 years.  In 1991, he filed an Original claim for PTSD.  In a 1993 decision, VA denied the claim because there was no current diagnosis of PTSD.  Joe was so discouraged by this decision that he did not file an appeal.  During a 2019 visit to the local VA hospital, doctors diagnosed Joe with PTSD.  Unsure of what to do, Joe contacted DHG for a free consultation.  The experts at DHG agreed to represent him in a Supplemental Claim.  DHG filed a completed VA Form 20-0995 on Joe’s behalf, along with a copy of the current diagnosis.  Four months later, VA granted his PTSD claim at a 70% rating.

Appeals Modernization Act: Filing a Higher Level Review

This path improves on the Decision Review Officer (DRO) lane from the legacy system.  The main difference is that if the claimant requests a telephonic hearing in Higher Level Review, VA must grant it.  In the DRO lane, VA could reject a request for a telephonic hearing for any reason.  Thanks to the Appeals Modernization Act, VA cannot delay your right to a hearing.

Sometimes, VA denies a claim even though it has evidence to satisfy all 3 elements.  Either VA overlooked evidence, or it misunderstood the law it applied to the case.  In either scenario, it’s not that the veteran failed to prove his case.  VA just made a mistake.  If VA’s decision is infected by that kind of mistake, then your best bet is to file a Request for Higher Level Review.  This path involves an experienced VA adjudicator checking a Rating Decision for errors.  This adjudicator may issue a revised Rating Decision that corrects these errors.  And it does not require new evidence.

Appeals Modernization Act, but with slightly different facts 

In this example, assume Joe filed an Original claim for PTSD in 1991.  He filed the claim with a copy of a 1991 PTSD diagnosis and his service treatment records, which showed an in-service diagnosis related to a combat incident.  In a 1993 decision, VA conceded all other elements were met except the diagnosis.  Joe became discouraged and gave up.  Years later, he asked a DHG rep to review his case.  The DHG rep noticed that VA overlooked the 1991 PTSD diagnosis.  DHG immediately filed a Request for Higher Level Review on VA Form 20-0996.  DHG also attached a two-page argument that explained the legal errors.  Five months later, VA issued a revised Rating Decision that granted his PTSD claim effective 1991. This is the benefit of the Appeals Modernization Act.

Filing a Notice of Disagreement to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals (BVA), using Appeals Modernization Act

What do you do if VA denied your Original Claim, Supplemental Claim, and Request for Higher Level Review?  Your next option is go over their heads to the Board of Veterans Appeals.  VA Form 10182 gives you 3 lanes:

  1. Direct,
  2. Evidence, and
  3. Hearing

The Direct lane is for cases where all evidence and legal argument is already in VA’s records.  The Evidence lane gives you 90 days to provide additional evidence.  The Hearing lane gives you the right to make your case directly to a Veterans Law Judge.  In the Hearing lane, you also have 90 days after the hearing to submit additional evidence.

Disability Help Group, Call Now for a Free Case Review, 800-700-0652

Allow us to help you win the most money you can receive in the faster manner possible. You may be entitled to significant compensation that you were not even aware of.  Contact us now for a free consultation, 800-700-0652.

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Should I Hire a VA Disability Lawyer?

Posted on by Ken LaVan

Should I Hire a VA Disability Lawyer?

You should hire a VA disability lawyer, especially from https://www.lipconlawfirm.com/truck-accidents/. With a budget over $217 billion, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is one of the largest federal agencies.  VA’s disability benefit program was intended to be veteran-friendly.  However, for most veterans, applying for VA benefits is a long and frustrating process.  A veteran who represents himself is at a huge disadvantage.  There are hundreds of rules and regulations about the veteran’s rights and VA’s duties.  The process becomes even tougher when VA sends mixed messages, requests information it already has, or issues a decision that completely ignores the evidence.

Do You Have the Expertise?

Most veterans have not studied VA disability law.  Even fewer veterans follow the Federal court cases that change the law every year.  But without that knowledge, many VA claims are doomed to fail.  A VA Disability Attorney’s knowledge and experience can make all the difference.  Specifically, an attorney, especially the professionals from https://www.denvercocriminaldefenselawyer.com/, can determine exactly how to turn a loss into a win. 

Who Needs a VA Disability Lawyer?

Beeman Heifner Benge – Personal Injury Lawyers says that in this fight, a veteran needs someone who is aiming for the same target.  That’s why many of our clients left previous arrangements. Before hiring DHG, many of our veteran clients did not have a VA disability attorney.  Some represented themselves.  They learned very quickly that VA didn’t share the same urgency and had a different result in mind.  Others were represented by a Veteran Service Organization (VSO) such as DAV or American Legion.  Because they work out of VA facilities, there is a perceived conflict of interest.  Does a VSO work for VA or the veteran? 

What is a VA Disability Lawyer’s Role?

Your VA disability claim is too important to risk.  When you hire a VA Disability Attorney, you’re hiring your own specialist to get the job done.  Most of them work for a contingency fee.  They don’t get paid unless they win past-due benefits for the veteran.  And because the contingency fee is usually a fixed 20%, the attorney has every incentive to win the largest possible award.  Plus, the attorney-client relationship ensures he/she is on your side.  Both you and the attorney would be aiming at the same target.

An experienced VA Disability Attorney knows VA’s written and unwritten rules has the knowledge to prepare a game plan to best achieve your objective.  Working together with your attorney, you have a better chance to hit your target.

When Should I Hire a VA Disability Lawyer?

Immediately!  The earlier you can prove your case the faster you can receive your VA disability benefits. In addition, the VA Disability Lawyer will be able to analyze your disability onset date and make sure you receive the maximum back benefits, according to an experience elder abuse law firm Chicago. Generally, a veteran must prove the following to win a VA disability claim:

  1. Current diagnosis,
  2. In-service event, disease or injury, and
  3. Medical nexus between the first 2 elements.

If you don’t have a medical diagnosis, then you need to see your doctor.  Only licensed medical professionals can diagnose medical conditions.  Attorneys cannot do so.  However, if VA denies your claim for any of these reasons, you should probably hire a VA Disability Lawyer:

  • Negative medical nexus (“less likely than not”),
  • No documented proof of in-service event, disease or injury, , or
  • VA ignored evidence proving all 3 elements.

Which VA Disability Lawyer Should I Hire?

VA Accreditation

Only attorneys who have been accredited by VA can represent veterans in disability cases, as a result, VA holds Disability Lawyers to a high ethical standard.  Accreditation reflects VA’s standard for responsible, qualified representation of this nation’s veterans.  A searchable database of VA accredited attorneys, claims agents and VSOs is available here.

Experience

Experience makes a world of difference. Since 1993, the National Organization of Veterans’ Advocates (NOVA) has been the leading organization for training and support of VA Accredited representatives. At Disability Help Group, our representatives are long-standing NOVA members. You know what you are looking for, the https://www.sweetesq.com/car-accidents/ has all details you need and you can choose your lawyer easily.

Speak to The Lawyer

There are many firms out there that you never get to speak with the attorney. At Disability Help Group our representative will talk to you and be your main contact during your entire case. When you hire an attorney you should ask: 

  1. When will I get to speak with my lawyer?
  2. Who will be my main point of contact?
  3. How many cases has my lawyer won?

Disability Help Group, Call Now for a Free Case Review, 800-700-0652

Has VA ever denied your case?  You may be entitled to significant compensation.  Contact us now for a free consultation.

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