Have Questions About the Disability Claims Process for Social Security or Veterans? Check Out Our FAQs
Dealing with the disability application or appeals process always comes with plenty of questions. Whether your questions are about Social Security or VA Disability, here are some of the questions we hear the most at our Omaha law firm.
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If I’m a veteran, can I get disability benefits for cirrhosis?
Cirrhosis is classified as a liver disease. It's sometimes referred to as a silent condition because patients don’t always exhibit symptoms. After this critical organ experiences long-term damage, scar tissue replaces the healthy tissue in the liver and makes it impossible for it to filter toxins, fight infections, and perform other necessary duties, such as clotting blood.
If you’re a veteran who’s been diagnosed with cirrhosis, you may be eligible for disability from the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). However, it may be difficult to obtain benefits for this condition. An experienced veterans disability attorney can help ensure you meet the criteria for submitting a successful claim.
Qualifying for Benefits for Cirrhosis
Cirrhosis is not always caused by alcohol. There are a variety of ways to qualify but the basic rule is that benefits will not be paid for secondary disabilities such cirrhosis that result from primary alcohol or other drug abuse disability. However benefits may be paid under the following conditons:
- An alcohol or drug abuse disability develops as a secondarily to service connected condition; or
- A secondarily service connected drug or alcohol disabilty that is aggravated.
One easy example to undersatnd is a veteran who abuses alcohol secondarily to a service-connected post-traumatic stress disorder who develops cirrhosis of the liver due to alcohol abuse may be entitled to service connection for cirrhosis.
While doctors can diagnosis cirrhosis by evaluating blood tests, considering your military history, and discussing your exposure to TCE, the only way to prove you have cirrhosis is through a liver biopsy. By removing liver tissue and analyzing it, a doctor can confirm this condition.
We Can Help
The attorneys at Cuddigan Law can assist you when applying to the VA with a disability claim for cirrhosis. We’ll look at your specific case and discuss your situation, offering our years of experience to help increase your chances of getting an approved claim. Contact Cuddigan Law today.
What medical evidence do I need to qualify for TDIU?
If you’re a veteran who’s returned from duty with a service-connected disability, you may find that it interferes with your ability to perform your daily routine. This may be serious enough that you can no longer work.
Being unable to carry out the job requirements of the position you once held or being unable to work in any capacity at any job may qualify you for a 100 percent disability rating known as Total Disability Individual Unemployability (TDIU).
To be eligible for TDIU benefits, you must prove that you’re unable to “sustain gainful employment” because of your service-connected illness, condition, or disability. Because TDIU gives you the highest possible disability rating, it’s not always easy to get an approved claim, and you need specific types of evidence to help receive it.
Medical Evidence for TDIU
There are a number of ways to better ensure an approved claim for TDIU, including providing your own statements about your disability and statements from friends and family. However, using medical evidence is critical to your success.
Here's a brief look at some of the medical evidence that can help improve your chances of getting TDIU benefits:
- Be sure that you’re in treatment with a medical professional who can substantiate the personal statements you’ve made about your service-connected disability.
- Provide documentation from your doctor appointments that supports your inability to hold a job.
- Ask your doctor for an opinion letter to include with your application. This letter should cite the reasons why you’re unable to work, with details to support this claim. If possible, have your doctor include why you’re unable to work at past jobs due to your condition, as well. That’s why a VA disability attorney can help with your appeal, as well as gather the necessary evidence and reports from a vocational expert.
Contact Cuddigan Law
We understand that applying for disability can be a confusing process, and TDIU benefits can be especially hard to receive. The attorneys at Cuddigan Law will examine your specific case, develop the best strategy, and work with you to submit your claim with all the necessary paperwork, evidence, and medical reports. Contact Cuddigan Law to get help with your VAappeal to increase your chances of getting an approved claim.
How do I improve my VA disability rating?
If you’re a veteran who has suffered a service-connected illness or condition, it’s likely you’re receiving disability benefits from the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). The amount of compensation you receive was determined by a ratings schedule for physical and mental impairments in increments from 0 percent to 100 percent.
However, you may find the condition has deteriorated over time, and additional benefits are necessary to keep up with medical costs and treatment. If you need an increase in your disability rating, an experienced VA disability attorney can help you apply for a rating increase.
How to Increase Your Rating
If you plan to file for an increase in your disability rating, it’s important to be prepared for all possible outcomes when the VA re-evaluates your claim.
Here’s what you need to know:
- Consider the consequences. When you ask the VA to re-examine your rating, your entire claim will be reviewed. During this review, the VA may find mistakes in your original award amount or determine your circumstances warrant a decrease in your rating. Be sure you have medical proof, reports, and a doctor's opinion that back up your new claim. Additionally, don’t make your request because you need additional funds; rather, be sure it's due to your deteriorating disability.
- Make the right request. If it’s been less than a year since the VA awarded your benefits, you need to file an appeal to your initial request, not a request for reconsideration. The appeals process often requires that you appear for court proceedings and hearings. However, if you began receiving benefits over a year ago, you can request a re-evaluation to your rating by filling out Form 21-526b.
- Provide medical proof. It’s important to show that your disability has worsened since you were awarded benefits. To do this, you need medical evidence from your doctor. With your request for a rating increase, you must include Form 21-4142, which allows the VA to access your medical records.
Contact Cuddigan Law
If you need an increase in your VA rating, the attorneys at Cuddigan Law will examine your specific case and develop the best strategy for filing an appeal or requesting a re-evaluation of your current rating. Contact us today (402) 933-5405, for experienced, skill help with your request for a rating increase.
How does the VA rate depression and mental illness?
Veterans who return from duty with a service-connected illness or condition may suffer from more than just a physical injury. They may also suffer from depression as a secondary condition.
Many veterans don’t realize they can apply for disability benefits from the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) for a secondary condition, also called a secondary disability. This secondary condition occurs as a result of another service-connected medical condition.
To qualify for VA benefits for depression as a secondary condition, you must prove that it’s connected to your time in service. VA Ratings for depression vary widely based on how severe your symptoms are and the extent to which they interfere with your daily routine. If you want to apply for disability for depression, it’s best to hire an experienced VA disability attorney to help determine if you qualify for benefits.
Rating Mental Illness and Depression
People diagnosed with depression may share some similar symptoms, but everyone experiences this condition differently.
Consequently, the VA designated a formula that measures the level of mental disability using the following percentage ratings:
- 0: A zero percent rating means a veteran’s mental condition was diagnosed by a medical professional, but his symptoms don’t interfere with his social or occupational functioning. Additionally, the veteran doesn’t take medication for this condition on a consistent basis. This rating is non-compensable.
- 10: For this rating, the veteran shows impairment from mild to inconsistent with symptoms that limit or decrease his work performance during times of stress. Additionally, the symptoms can be controlled with consistent medication.
- 30: A veteran who receives this percentage rating shows social and occupational impairment because he experiences anxiety, panic attacks at least once every week, sleep problems, memory loss, and depression.
- 50: For this rating, a veteran shows occupational and social impairment with “reduced reliability and productivity,” with behavior such as impaired judgment, panic attacks more than once a week, and problems with work and social relationships.
- 70: A veteran with 70 percent secondary disability shows occupational and social impairment with problems with work, family relationships, and judgment due to ongoing panic attacks, depression that affects independent functioning, and the inability to handle relationships.
- 100: For this rating, a veteran shows total and complete social and occupational impairment due to hallucinations, ongoing danger of self-harm, and disorientation of time and place.
Contact Cuddigan Law
If you need help getting VA disability for depression, contact the attorneys at Cuddigan Law (402) 933 5405. We will examine your specific case, develop the best strategy, and work with you to submit your claim or file an appeal if it’s been denied.
What benefits are available with TDIU?
If you’re a veteran who returned from military duty with a service-connected disability, you may have applied for benefits from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Your compensation was determined by the VA’s rating schedule, and if you met the listed requirements for that illness, you received a rating of between 10–100 percent.
However, some veterans suffer disabilities so severe, they're unable to work. These can include:
- Mental conditions such as depression or PTSD
- Physical conditions such as diabetes, traumatic brain injuries, back problems, and heart disease
- Conditions considered “secondary” to your service-connected medical problem
If a veteran has 100 percent and can’t sustain gainful employment, he or she may be eligible for a special type of disability known as Total Disability Individual Unemployability (TDIU) or IU.
If you think you’re eligible for TDIU benefits, you need hire an experienced VA disability attorney to help with your claim. Initially, most TDIU claims are denied by the VA and must often go through the appeals process before being approved.
The Benefits of TDIU
A VA TDIU rating can affect a veteran’s benefits in a positive way. When the VA approves a claim for TDIU, the rating for the veteran’s service-connected disability is automatically paid at 100 percent. Thus, the payment happens despite the combined rating for each of the veteran’s individual disabilities.
For example, if a veteran suffers from depression, heart disease, and back pain, and his combined rating is 60 percent, he will be paid at 100 percent if awarded a TDIU rating. This increase significantly boosts the veteran’s monthly benefit, and it can have a major impact on veterans who find it challenging to find or maintain a job because of their service-connected conditions.
If you receive TDIU benefits you may be eligible for other benefits.You may eligible for VA Special Monthly Compensations and other benefits. And if you apply in the appropriate timeframe, these benefits might be awarded retroactively to the date you could no longer work.
Call Cuddigan Law
If you’re a veteran who is unable to work due to a service-connected disability, you may qualify for TDIU. Contact the VA disability attorneys at Cuddigan Law. We’ll examine your specific case, develop the best strategy, and work with you to submit your claim or file an appeal if it’s been denied. We’ll help you understand the process and work with you on your VA application to increase your chances of getting an approved claim.
What does it take to qualify for total disability VA benefits?
When a veteran suffers a service-connected disability, it may be severe enough that he can no longer perform the type of work he or she did in the past, or even work at all. When this happens, a veteran may qualify for a 100 percent disability rating known as Total Disability Individual Unemployability (TDIU).
The primary factor when determining the eligibility of a TDIU claim is whether or not a veteran is unable to engage in “substantially gainful employment” due to a service-connected condition. This term means a person can hold a job that meets the annual poverty level amount designated by the federal government.
If you're not able to work because of an impairment suffered during military service, an experienced VA disability attorney can help determine if you qualify for this benefit.
Meeting the Requirements for TDIU
To qualify for TDIU benefits, a veteran must meet the following criteria:
- He or she has a service-connected condition or disability with a scheduler rating of 60 percent or more
- He or she has two or more service-connected conditions or disabilities, and at least one of them is rated at 40 percent or more, and the combined rating is 70 percent or more
- In both cases, the service-connected conditions must make the veteran unemployable
In order for someone to prove unemployability by the TDIU requirements, an individual must provide medical evidence which verifies he or she can’t work. Often, a doctor’s opinion letter is included with the veteran’s application that outlines and explains the veteran’s inability to work.
Additionally, employment history records are included to show a veteran is now unable to perform past jobs and that shows evidence of unemployment due to his or her condition.
You Can Still Have a Job and Get TDIU Benefits
You won’t be disqualified from getting a TDIU award if you have a paying job. However, that job must meet the following requirements:
- It pays less than the designated poverty level amount
- It's “protected” from the typical requirements another employee might be required to perform for that position
- It's a task or responsibility a friend or family member has hired you to do.
Contact Cuddigan Law
We understand that every veteran’s claim is different. The attorneys at Cuddigan Law will examine your specific case, develop the best strategy, and work with you to submit your claim or file an appeal if it’s been denied.
Contact Cuddigan Law to get help with your VA application to increase your chances of getting an approved claim.
Cirrhosis: Your Questions Answered
Cirrhosis is classified as a liver disease. Patients with liver disease rarely exhibit symptoms; thus, this illness is often referred to as a “silent” condition. After someone suffers long-term damage to this critical organ, the liver’s healthy tissue is replaced by scar tissue, and the liver can no longer perform its important functions such as fighting infections, filtering toxins, assisting in the body’s digestion of significant nutrients, and blood clotting.
If you’re unable to work due to cirrhosis, you may be eligible for disability from the Social Security Administration (SSA). Listed in section 5.05 of the SSA’s Blue Book of Impairments, chronic liver disease can be disabling, but it may be difficult to obtain benefits for this disease. An experienced Social Security (SS) attorney can help ensure you meet the criteria and submit a successful claim.
Frequently Asked Questions About Cirrhosis
When you’re diagnosed with a serious disease like cirrhosis, you need information about how this condition will affect your life and how to move forward.
Here are some answers to frequently asked questions about it.
How is cirrhosis diagnosed?
Doctors may diagnose cirrhosis by evaluating any symptoms you may have, ordering blood tests, evaluating your medical history, and giving you a physical exam. However, the only way to definitively diagnose this condition is by having a liver biopsy. A doctor performs this biopsy by removing a liver tissue sample and analyzing it under a microscope. This test is the only one that confirms a patient has cirrhosis.
How does alcohol affect the liver?
Some people believe the type of alcohol consumed is the most critical factor in developing liver disease. However, the biggest risk factor is the amount you drink and the length of time you’ve been drinking. In fact, any amount of consumed alcohol can damage the liver. According to The National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, moderate drinking means one drink a day for women and two drinks a day for men.
Can liver damage be reversed?
The liver is the only organ in the body that can regenerate. It can replace damaged tissue with new cells. Even if the patient experiences extreme liver damage and up to 50–60 percent of the cells are killed within a three or four day period, the liver can still repair itself completely if there aren't additional complications.
But regeneration is impeded or prevented if scar tissue continues to develop. This occurs if the agent that damages the liver such as a drug, a virus, or alcohol continues to attack it. Cirrhosis is the severe scarring of the liver and is usually part of late stage liver disease. Once the patient experiences scar tissue, it’s difficult to reverse the process.
We Can Help
If you’ve been diagnosed with cirrhosis, you may qualify for SS disability benefits, but it’s important to work with an experienced SS attorney who can help determine if you meet a listing in the Blue Book. Contact the attorneys at Cuddigan Law who can assist you with the process and work with you on your application to increase your chances of getting an approved claim.
What types of treatment can I expect for my cirrhosis symptoms?
Cirrhosis is categorized as chronic liver disease. This condition develops when the liver has sustained long-term damage, is replaced by scar tissue, and no longer functions the way it’s supposed to. Because the liver is a critical organ that helps fight infections, filter toxins from the blood, digest certain nutrients, and store energy, damage to this organ can be quite serious, sometimes leading to liver cancer.
Liver disease and cirrhosis are the 7th leading cause of death in American adults between the ages of 25 and 64.
If your cirrhosis interferes with your ability to work, you may be eligible for disability from the Social Security Administration (SSA). However, because it’s not easy to obtain benefits for this condition, it’s important to hire an experienced Social Security (SS) attorney to ease you through the application process and help ensure a successful claim.
Symptoms of Liver Cirrhosis
In the early stages of cirrhosis, many people have no symptoms of the disease. Symptoms are usually caused by the liver’s failure to perform its normal functions and/or scarring that distorts the liver’s shape and size. Patients suffering from cirrhosis often experience the following symptoms:
- Fatigue and exhaustion
- Overall weakness
- Weight loss due to loss of appetite
- Loss of sex drive
These symptoms may not occur until a patient has complications of the condition. These complications include:
- Fluid retention that causes weight gain
- Edema—swelling in the legs and angles due to fluid retention
- Problems breathing due to fluid retention
- Abdominal pain caused by gallstones or the enlargement of the liver
- Abdominal bloating or swelling caused by fluid retention
- Fever, vomiting, and diarrhea
- Easy bruising and bleeding from the nose or gums caused by problems with blood clotting
Treatment for Cirrhosis
Because cirrhosis is a disease that can’t be cured, treatment focuses on managing symptoms, dealing with complications, and ensuring the condition doesn’t get worse. Treatment for these things includes:
- Making lifestyle changes. Avoid alcohol, lose weight, exercise, and ensure good hygiene to reduce infections.
- Making dietary changes. Because patients with cirrhosis can become malnourished, it’s important that they eat a balanced diet filled with critical nutrients. Additionally, it’s essential to reduce salt intake to help decrease fluid build-up.
- Taking medications. Depending on the type of damage your liver has sustained, you may need certain prescription medications to help with infections and other complications. Additionally, your doctor may recommend that you take a diuretic to decrease the fluid in your system.
Cuddigan Law Can Help
If you’ve been diagnosed with cirrhosis, you may qualify for SS disability benefits. Hiring an experienced SS attorney can help determine if you meet a listing in the SSA Blue Book, or your condition could be evaluated under the agency's residual functional capacity. Contact the attorneys at Cuddigan Law who can help you understand the process and work with you on the application to increase your chances of getting an approved claim.
Pancreatitis: Answering Your Questions
Pancreatitis is inflammation of the pancreas—the flat, long gland located between the stomach and the duodenum, which is the first section of the small intestine. The body needs the pancreas to digest carbohydrates, fats, and proteins and does so by sending digestive enzymes into the small intestine. The pancreas also releases insulin and glucagon into the blood to help control blood sugar levels.
In patients experiencing pancreatitis, their digestive enzymes have been activated too soon and start to attack the pancreas.
If you suffer from chronic pancreatitis, you may be eligible for disability benefits from the Social Security Administration (SSA). Because obtaining disability benefits can be challenging, it’s helpful to hire an experienced Social Security (SS) disability attorney to help you file your claim.
Frequently Asked Questions
Frequently asked questions about pancreatitis include why it happens, if there are dietary restrictions, and if there are further
complications as a result of the disease.
If you’ve been diagnosed with pancreatitis, here's what you should know.
Why does someone develop chronic pancreatitis?
The progressive inflammatory process in the pancreas can cause chronic pancreatitis. This type of pancreatitis will cause scar tissue, calcifications or stones due to calcium deposits, and a dilated pancreatic duct.
When patients experience frequent bouts of pancreatitis, drink alcohol, and/or have high calcium levels in the blood, they can develop chronic pancreatitis. It’s also a hereditary condition and one that’s common if there are high fat levels in the blood. People with chronic pancreatitis are more likely to develop diabetes.
What type of diet should I follow if I have pancreatitis?
If you’ve experienced acute or chronic pancreatitis, your pancreas needs time to rest and get healthy again. Immediately, you should stop drinking alcohol and eat a diet low in fat. Staying hydrated is also important. Certain foods can help protect your digestive organs and provide a better diet for those suffering from pancreatitis.
- Blueberries, whole grains, cherries, and spinach
- Lean meats and clear soups—foods easier for your pancreas to process
- Fruits instead of sugary sweets, because patients with pancreatitis are at a high risk to develop diabetes
- Cherry tomatoes, hummus, and cucumbers
- Wild Alaskan salmon, sardines
Foods to limit or avoid:
- Fried foods
- Chips and fries
- Margarine, butter, and mayonnaise
- Drinks with added sugar
- Red meat and organ meat
Can pancreatitis be fatal?
Yes. Pancreatitis can create many health complications that may affect other organs. If these complications aren’t treated, they can be fatal. These complications include:
- Kidney failure
- Pancreatic cancer
- Internal infections
We Can Help
If you’ve been diagnosed with chronic pancreatitis, you may qualify for SS disability benefits. Hiring an experienced SS attorney can help determine if you meet a listing in the SSA's Blue Book of Impairments.
Contact the attorneys at Cuddigan Law who can help you understand the process and work with you on your application to increase your chances of getting an approved claim.
What type of treatment can I expect for my HD symptoms?
Patients who suffer from Huntington disease, also known as Huntington chorea and Huntington’s disease, experience a variety of symptoms that can initially be unsettling but manageable. Then eventually, they interfere with daily life and the ability to work. This inherited disease causes the progressive degeneration of the brain’s nerve cells due to a gene mutation.
When you’ve been diagnosed with HD, it’s possible you’ll qualify for disability from the Social Security Administration (SSA). Because the SSA lists HD as a neurological disorder in section 11.17 of its Blue Book, submitting a winning claim may be easier for this disease than for others. However, because filing for disability can be complicated and sometimes frustrating, it’s important to hire an experienced Social Security (SS) disability attorney to help you with your claim.
The symptoms of HD typically come on in stages. At each stage, patients tend to lose physical and cognitive skills they once had.
Here's a brief overview of the symptoms HD patients may experience:
When people begin to experience early signs of HD, their symptoms may include some of the following:
- Fidgeting, restlessness, and minor twitching in the toes and fingers
- Occasional clumsiness
- Minor changes in handwriting
- Small difficulties in managing daily activities such as driving
Physical signs of HD may not be the only symptoms. Ambiguous and indistinct emotional and intellectual changes may occur as well, including:
- Reduced ability to handle new situations or stay organized
- Small periods of depression, irritability, or indifference
- Moments of impulsiveness
- Short-term loss of memory
It’s important to note that just because a person feels depressed or can’t remember a name or number doesn’t mean he has HD. These symptoms can happen to anyone for any reason, and it doesn’t mean that the person has the mutated HD gene.
When HD patients move into the middle stage of their condition, they might lose the ability to work and drive entirely. It may become difficult, if not impossible, to manage a daily routine and perform household chores. Additionally, they may experience:
- Challenges when swallowing and eating
- Slurred speech
- Staggered walking
- More severe motor symptoms
At this point, patients are often still able to dress and care for themselves with some assistance. With the help of physical therapists, patients are still able to control body movements, and speech pathologists can help them with their speech and swallowing issues. Patients may also see an occupational therapist to help handle thought changes.
When patients reach the later stage of HD, they typically need assistance in all areas of their life. Because they're usually bedridden and unable to speak, they often need to be in a care facility because the progressiveness of the disease makes it difficult for family members to care for them.
Symptoms can include:
- Choking, as it becomes difficult for patients to swallow
- Inability to eat, which requires that many patients have a feeding tube
- Trouble sleeping
- Auditory and visual hallucinations in 3–11 percent of HD patients
Treatment for HD
Because HD is an incurable condition, medication and treatment focus on reducing the symptoms of the disease. Here's a brief look at the types of treatment for HD:
- Movement disorders. Approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2008, tetrabenazine (xenazine) is used to reduce the jerky body movements—also known as chorea—associated with HD. However, this drug can trigger depression or make it worse. Other side effects include nausea and drowsiness. Other antipsychotic drugs, such as chlorpromazine and haloperidol, can also suppress the choreic movements and may be helpful in treating and managing chorea. However, they may increase muscle contractions and rigidity. Additionally, amantadine and clonazepam can help suppress chorea; however, if amantadine is used in high doses, it can cause skin discoloration and leg swelling.
- Psychiatric disorders. Antidepressants such as citalopram, fluoxetine, and sertraline may be helpful for HD patients experiencing depression. For individuals who experience mood disorders or psychosis or have violent outbursts, antipsychotic drugs may be used such as quetiapine and risperidone. And some patients may be given mood stabilizers.
- Speech therapy. Because HD interferes with muscle control of the throat and mouth, it’s often difficult for patients to speak, eat, and swallow. A speech therapist can help patients speak more clearly or provide communication devices to help with conversation.
- Physical therapy. Because balance and coordination can be challenging for HD patients, a physical therapist can show them exercises to improve their strength and flexibility, help them stay mobile as long as they can, and decrease the risk of falling. If a patient needs a wheelchair or other assistive device, a physical therapist can provide instruction for how to use it.
- Occupational therapy. An occupational therapist can provide caregivers with information on appropriate assistive devices and strategies for patient care such as home handrails and helpful devices for eating and drinking.
Call Cuddigan Law
If you’ve been diagnosed with HD, you may qualify for SS disability benefits. However, an experienced SS attorney can help determine if you meet the SSA Blue Book Listing for this condition, or qualify for the Compassionate Allowance Program.
Contact the attorneys at Cuddigan Law who can help you understand the process and work with you on your application to increase your chances of getting an approved claim. We also handle disability claims for those whose applications have been denied and need help with the appeals process.