Archive for the ‘Veterans' Benefits’ Category
Wednesday, May 22nd, 2013
Veterans Service Organizations (VSOs) are the latest asset to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) as it continues to focus on elimination of the veterans’ disability claim backlog. The VA recently announced that it has developed a partnership with the Disabled American Veterans and The American Legion – two prominent national VSOs that have been providing services to disabled veterans for many years.
The main focus of this partnership is to promote the submission of Fully Developed Claims (FDCs) when disabled veterans apply for veterans disability benefits. A FDC is a claim that:
- is submitted with all available supporting evidence;
- includes any private medical records;
- has notice of federal treatment records; and
- is certified that there is no further evidence to submit.
Claims identified as “fully developed” are not added to the regular queue for processing; they are expedited for a quicker decision. The more FDCs that are submitted, the fewer veterans’ disability claims there will be added to the already backlogged queue of cases awaiting decisions.
Veterans Service Organizations often have local representatives helping veterans in the community determine if they are eligible to file a claim for disability benefits. By working closely with these organizations and improving the pre-development of new disability claims, the VA hopes that more fully developed claims will be submitted and it will be able to further decrease the backlog.
VSOs may provide assistance to veterans filing first-time claims for disability benefits, but their claims representatives often do not have the resources necessary to appeal a denied claim or unfavorable disability rating. A veterans disability attorney is the legal advocate for disabled veterans facing these situations.
The Law Offices of LaVan & Neidenberg, P.A. has a dedicated team of veterans’ disability attorneys to help develop and support your claim through the initial application all the way to appeals. Contact us today – 1-888-234-5758.
Monday, May 20th, 2013
With a veterans’ disability claim backlog in the 800,000s, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has been searching for more ways to expedite the processing of these claims. Recently, VA Secretary Eric K. Shinseki announced that mandatory overtime will be implemented at the 56 regional claims offices across the nation.
The additional hours worked in the mandatory overtime period will be dedicated to continuing the emphasis placed on high-priority claims. These are claims made by:
- homeless veterans;
- veterans with financial hardships;
- former Prisoners of War;
- veterans suffering from terminal illnesses; and
- Medal of Honor recipients.
Veterans who file fully developed claims will also be prioritized, as decisions on their disability claims can usually be reached much faster than those that require additional evidence and documentation.
The additional hours made available to work on claims thanks to the mandatory overtime joins with several recent efforts to further decrease the veterans’ disability claims backlog. Last month, the implementation of provisional decisions began to allow eligible veterans to collect compensation benefits before their claim has an official decision. This process was implemented to help those who have been waiting for more than one year for a decision on their disability benefits claim.
Veterans who file a complete disability claim may be able to take advantage of the expedited decision process under the Fully Developed Claims designation. The Law Offices of LaVan & Neidenberg, P.A. have a dedicated team of veterans’ disability professionals to help develop and support your claim through the initial application all the way to appeals. Contact our veteran’s disability rights firm today – 1-888-234-5758.
Wednesday, May 15th, 2013
With an aging population of disabled veterans and many younger veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan with service-connected ailments, the number of disability claims continues to grow almost as fast as they can be processed. Currently, the veterans’ claim backlog is approximately 850,000.
A new issue has been arising in the fight against the increasing disability claim backlog – some disabled veterans pass away before their disability benefits claims are resolved. Some veterans wait years for a decision on their claim, and sometimes they succumb to their disabling conditions or age before they are able to see a single cent of their benefits.
Vietnam veterans are currently the largest demographic of disabled veterans awaiting decisions on their benefit applications. About 38 percent of those stuck in the queue served in Vietnam, while the next largest group which makes up about 22 percent is of Afghanistan and Iraq veterans.
As new filings for disability benefits continue to pile up, there are thousands of veterans awaiting decisions on appeals. Veterans who file an appeal must do so at the first level of arbitration with the Board of Veterans’ Appeals. Waiting times at this level average 1,040 days – just under 3 years – before a decision on the appeal is rendered.
Many veterans who must undergo the appeals process for their veterans’ disability benefits had already waited through the initial review process, and are now faced with several more months of waiting for a decision on their appeal. The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review investigated 160,000 appeals from 2009 to early 2013, finding that during that time nearly 3,000 veterans died before a decision was rendered on their appeal case.
The Law Offices of LaVan & Neidenberg, P.A. can help disabled veterans with first-time filings for disability benefits, as well as veterans appealing a disability rating or benefit decision. Handling the appeals process is not something disabled veterans or their families have to go through alone: contact us today – 1-888-234-5758.
Tuesday, May 7th, 2013
The success of many veterans jobs initiatives have led to the recent announcement from first lady Michelle Obama that goals for veteran employment have been met threefold.
Since several veterans benefits programs related to veteran employment and training had been launched in August 2011, Mrs. Obama reported that there had been more than 290,000 veterans and military spouses who have been hired or trained thanks to these programs – three times more than originally projected.
Veterans jobs initiatives have focused on encouraging businesses to emphasize the hiring of veterans and offered incentives to do so in both local and national capacities. Other veterans benefits programs exist to help provide new training for veterans to put their military skills to use in the civilian job market.
The Joining Forces initiative is one of the main veterans benefits programs that helps encourage the creation of more veterans jobs and helps military family members find educational and employment opportunities. The program has pledges from many businesses claiming they will contribute to the hiring or training of an additional 435,000 veterans and military spouses within the next five years.
There are Resources Available for Disabled Veterans
A unique part of some veterans employment programs is the focus on disabled veterans. In many cases, a veteran who suffered injury in combat or developed a disability due to military service is no longer able to work in previous lines of employment. Through veterans benefits programs such as the GI Bill, these disabled veterans are often able to learn new skills or re-train to work with the limitations of their disabling condition.
While many disabled veterans are still able to work despite their conditions, there are thousands more whose injuries or illnesses render them unable to perform the work they previously did before or during military service. The Law Offices of LaVan & Neidenberg, P.A. is a disability law firm in South Florida dedicated to helping servicemembers obtain the veterans benefits they deserve. Contact us today to speak with a disability claims representative – 1-888-234-5758.
Wednesday, April 24th, 2013
The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced that disabled veterans waiting over one year for a decision on their veterans disability claim will have their cases expedited. A new initiative has started to help expedite the claims that have been sitting in the backlog for over a year – a situation that should never have occurred, according to VA Secretary Eric Shinseki.
“Too many Veterans wait too long for a decision, and this has never been acceptable,” said Shinseki. His department is implementing a new policy where VA veterans disability benefits claims raters will now make provisional decisions to determine if a year-old claim requires more evidence or if it is complete enough for a decision to be issued.
If any additional evidence such as a medical examination is required, the VA will expedite the order and place the disabled veteran on a priority list for a VA examination. Approved benefit compensation will be retroactive to the date the initial veterans disability claim was filed, especially in cases where an increase is warranted due to additional evidence of the severity of the disability.
Further, homeless veterans’ disability claims will be prioritized along with disabled veterans with limited resources and income. Other special categories of disabled veterans include those who received the Medal of Honor, are terminally ill, are former Prisoners of War, and those filing Fully Developed Claims.
Veterans falling into the category of Wounded Warriors – those who are separating from the military due to medical reasons – will still be handled with special priority with the Department of Defense. These veterans’ disability benefits claims are typically handled within 61 days of discharge.
It takes an average of 286 days to complete a veterans disability claim and many sit for several more months before they are processed and come to a decision. This leaves thousands of veterans awaiting decisions on their veterans disability benefits.
The Law Offices of LaVan & Neidenberg, P.A. is ready to help through its team of dedicated veterans disability attorneys. To go over eligibility for disability benefits and for help filing a claim or appealing a claim decision, contact us at 1-888-234-5758.
Thursday, April 4th, 2013
Over 600,000 nonenrolled beneficiaries of TRICARE (that is, beneficiaries who do not enroll in TRICARE Prime, a program using a civilian provider network) may have trouble finding medical professionals who will accept their health care benefits. TRICARE is a government provided health care program for Pentagon employees and their families, yet many civilian doctors are reluctant to accept this type of insurance coverage.
According to a study by the General Accountability Office (GAO), the number of civilian health service providers that accept TRICARE is on the decline. Most notably are mental health practitioners, of whom only about 39 percent accept TRICARE. Only 67 percent of primary care doctors and 77 percent of specialty physicians accepted the insurance plan according to the study.
TRICARE covers an estimated 9.7 million service members, including active-duty troops, National Guard members, and military retirees. Of this group, nearly 70 percent are veterans and their dependents. Veterans suffering from service-related disabilities, meanwhile, may seek veterans’ disability benefits.
Veterans’ Disability Benefits Can Help Disabled Vets
These benefits, obtained through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), can provide compensation to disabled veterans so they are able to afford the medical care they require.
Qualification for veterans’ disability benefits involves proof of military service, a disability rating, and a connection between a veteran’s military service and the disabling conditions they now experience. Medical care through the VA is also available for veterans, including those who often face disabilities unique to military service like Gulf War Syndrome or Agent Orange exposure.
If you have been denied disability compensation or have not yet applied for benefits from the VA, the Law Offices of LaVan & Neidenberg, P.A. have a team of disability attorneys ready to help. Contact us at 1-888-234-5758 for help with your disability claim.
Wednesday, April 3rd, 2013
One of the major issues for disabled veterans is brain injury, which accounts for an average of 22 percent of all combat injuries according to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Brain injury, commonly referred to as traumatic brain injury or TBI, can also cause an increased risk for development of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
These two common types of disabling conditions cause many of our servicemembers to be classified as disabled veterans each year, and there may be no clear method of treatment for either condition. Part of the difficulty of treating PTSD and TBI is that it involves the brain, the most complex organ of the body. However, a new research initiative is looking to give doctors a better understanding of how the brain functions.
On April 2, President Obama revealed a $100 million national research initiative focused on better understanding the workings of the human brain. Researchers from medical schools, private firms, and government institutes will be developing a map of the chemical structures and neural pathways that make up the functionality of the brain.
These findings are expected to open new methods of research and development of treatments for ailments such as PTSD and TBI. Nearly half of the research funds will go to the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency which will work to demonstrate breakthrough applications that are based on the research.
Serious cases of TBI or PTSD, meanwhile, may qualify a veteran for veterans disability benefits through the VA.
Help for Disabled Veterans Seeking to File a Veterans Disability Claim
If you suffer from PTSD or TBI and have medical documentation of your disabling condition you may be qualified to recover disabled veterans compensation. The Law Offices of LaVan & Neidenberg, P.A. is here to help disabled veterans file their veterans’ disability claim or appeal a denied claim decision. Contact us at 1-888-234-5758 to discuss eligibility for veterans’ disability benefits.
Wednesday, March 20th, 2013
In late 2011 the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) began a 15-month trial of a pilot program designed to expedite fully developed veterans disability claims. The pilot program, known as the Acceptable Clinical Evidence (ACE) program, is the VA’s latest initiative to reduce the disability claim backlog.
The ACE program combines the resources of the Veterans Health Administration and the Veterans Benefits Administration to promote instant sharing of records. The two administrations work together to evaluate a claim for completeness in regards to medical records.
The ACE Process
During the ACE process, a Veterans Affairs medical provider uses the disabled veteran’s existing medical records to complete a disability questionnaire. If necessary, a telephone interview with the disabled veteran is conducted to fill in any missing medical information. If the medical provider can gather enough evidence through medical records and interviews, the disabled veteran may be eligible to forgo the in-person medical evaluation, saving time, travel, and stress.
Officials from the VA are confident that the ACE program will help, “expedite the determination of disability ratings in turn eliminating the wait time to schedule and conduct an exam from the claims process.” The pilot test at one regional VA office found that 38 percent of all incoming claims were eligible for evaluation through the ACE program.
Medical evidence and military records are the two most important parts of a veteran’s disability claim application. Errors or omissions in these forms of documentation can lead to delays or unfair denials of veterans’ disability benefit claims.
If a disabled veteran or family member of a wounded warrior needs assistance navigating the veterans’ disability claims process, the Law Offices of LaVan & Neidenberg, P.A. can help. Contact our veteran’s disability rights firm today – 1-888-234-5758.
Tuesday, February 12th, 2013
A new bill, the Honor America’s Guard-Reserve Act, is seeking to provide better definitions and rights to retired Reserve and National Guard soldiers. While many of these individuals are eligible for veterans’ services such as access to shop on base, military health care, and VA guaranteed home loans, they are not considered veteran status on official documentation.
The legislation will be re-introduced before the House of Representatives this month, marking the third attempt at passing the bill. Both previous attempts died in the Senate due to fears of over-extension of benefits. Supporters of the bill are working to allay those fears and clearly define how veterans status under the bill will not become a cost issue for the Congressional Budget Office.
When Veteran Status Becomes an Issue
Veterans get preferential treatment for a variety of matters, including many employment incentives. Some federal positions may give preference to retired military veterans when looking to hire new employees, but only when they can prove veteran status.
Retired Reserve or National Guard members may not have the DD214 form, the “Certificate of Release of Discharge from Active Duty,” if they had not completed 180 days of active duty status. This form is necessary to claim veterans’ preference points during employment applications for federal jobs.
Make Sure Your Claim is Filed Correctly
Of course, any servicemember who is injured or contracts an illness as a result of events connected to their service may apply for disability benefits through the VA. The veterans’ disability attorneys at the Law Offices of LaVan & Neidenberg, P.A. can help you submit your veterans’ disability application properly to reduce the risk of errors and omissions that can cause delays or denials. To get started, contact our firm – 1-888-234-5758.
Thursday, February 7th, 2013
Claim processing times for veterans’ disability benefits may soon be reduced again thanks to a new initiative being launched by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). The Acceptable Clinical Evidence (ACE) initiative will help reduce the need of in-person medical exams to support disability claims of veterans and wounded servicemembers.
Medical Evidence Is Necessary for a Veterans’ Disability Benefits Claim
When a disabled veteran files a claim for benefits from the VA they must provide evidence that they have a disabling medical condition acquired due to their military service. In the past, veterans have had to undergo medical exams in person to obtain a disability rating – a percentile value that determined the severity of their disability.
The ACE initiative will now allow veterans who have adequate medical records to bypass the medical exam requirement. Instead, a VA medical provider will fill out a Disability Benefits Questionnaire (DBQ) that uses the existing medical records to create a disability profile. If necessary, VA claims staff will contact the veteran to obtain further information via telephone, instead of requiring an in-person medical exam.
Not All Claims Will Be Eligible for the ACE Initiative
During the pilot test at one of the VA’s regional offices, about 38 percent of veterans’ disability claims were eligible for the ACE program. The VA reviews the veterans’ existing medical records and determines whether or not there is sufficient evidence to complete a DBQ. When the veterans’ medical records are not sufficient enough, they will be required to go through the medical exam with the VA.
The South Florida veterans’ disability attorneys at the Law Offices of LaVan & Neidenberg, P.A. can help you submit your veterans’ disability application properly to reduce the risk of errors and omissions that can cause delays or denials. Contact us today at 1-888-234-5758.