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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How is my service-connected PTSD linked to panic attacks?
Veterans who suffer from panic disorder (PD) may also suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The two conditions are known to be comorbid—the presence of one or more disorders co-occurring with a primary disease.
According to Anxiety and Depression Association of America, approximately six million Americans are impacted by PD, and nearly eight million will be affected by PTSD.
If you’re a veteran who suffers from either or both of these conditions, you may be eligible for disability benefits from The United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). But it’s important to hire a skilled VA disability lawyer to help with your claim.
Understanding PTSD and Panic Disorder
Panic disorder is characterized by recurring panic attacks that happen unexpectedly and cause people to have feelings of fear and terror when there's no evidence of real danger. Individuals may feel weak and dizzy, have difficulty breathing, and feel they're losing control.
PTSD, on the other hand, is a mental health condition often triggered by memories of a traumatic or life-threatening event.
People may suffer flashbacks, nightmares, and extreme anxiety about what they experienced, and these symptoms may not present for years after the event.
Most individuals are able to cope with memories of terrible things that happened to them, but those who aren’t often find their anxiety interferes with daily routines and functioning in occupational and social environments.
Although both PD and PTSD sufferers have” heightened sensitivity to threat,” the anxiety felt by those suffering from PTSD isn't a panic attack, even though for many it can feel the same. Instead, the anxiety occurs because the dreams and flashbacks cause them to re-experience the trauma. However, sufferers of either disorder may use “avoidance” as a way to cope and survive.
Contact Cuddigan Law
For veterans who suffer from PTSD and/or PD, it’s possible to qualify for financial help. If your mental health condition is service-connected and you want to file for disability, contact Cuddigan Law. Our attorneys have been supporting veterans for years, and we’ll carefully examine your case and advise you on the best approach for receiving the maximum in disability benefits. Call us today.
As a veteran, what should I know about panic attacks?
Veterans who suffer from panic attacks often experience sudden feelings of apprehension, terror, nervousness, and/or fear. These symptoms can occur unexpectedly for no reason, or because of a known “stressor,” with an attack usually peaking within the first 10 minutes.
Often, the symptoms are so extreme that an entire day can be disrupted, and individuals may feel stressed out or “keyed up” for many hours following the attack.
Your Questions Answered About Panic Attacks
If you’re a veteran diagnosed with service-connected panic disorder, you may have many questions about what causes this condition, how to cope with it, and if you can get benefits from The United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Here are answers to frequently asked questions about panic attacks
What mental illnesses qualify for VA benefits, and are panic attacks included?
If you can provide the VA with a diagnosis in one of the following categories and give evidence that shows your mental illness is service-connected, you may be eligible for benefits. These categories include:
- Anxiety—this includes post-traumatic stress disorder and panic disorder.
- Mood disorders
- Chronic adjustment disorder
- Cognitive disorders
- Psychotic disorders including schizophrenia
- Somatoform disorders, including mental disorders that present as unexplained physical ailments
- Eating disorders such as bulimia and anorexia
What if my panic attacks were a preexisting condition?
If you were diagnosed with panic disorder before you went into the military, you could qualify for VA benefits if you can prove that your service worsened or aggravated your condition beyond what would be considered its normal progression.
If the VA agrees that your mental illness has worsened due to your military service, it will classify your condition as “service-connection based on aggravation by such service.”
What does it mean if I receive a 0 percent rating for my panic disorder?
Your panic disorder is rated by the VA based on its severity. If your mental illness impacts your daily life and interferes with your ability to manage a normal routine, the VA gives you a higher rating. For example, if you receive a rating of 100 percent, the VA believes you have complete and total impairment on the job and in a social environment.
However, if you receive a 0 percent rating, the VA still recognizes your mental illness but believes your symptoms don’t interfere with work or social functioning, and you don’t require ongoing medication. While you won’t receive financial benefits for this rating, you may be eligible for health care.
Contact Cuddigan Law
If you’re a veteran with service-connected panic attacks, contact Cuddigan Law. Our attorneys have been supporting veterans for years, and we’ll carefully examine your case and advise you on the best approach for receiving the maximum in disability benefits. Call us today.
How do I get disability for PTSD secondary hypertension related to my time in the service?
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition that can occur after someone witnesses or experiences a life-threatening, traumatic, or terrifying event.
Veterans who suffer from service-connected PTSD may also suffer from secondary medical conditions, including hypertension, also known as high blood pressure. Untreated, high blood pressure can lead to vision loss, kidney and heart disease, and stroke.
According to research cited by the American Heart Association, soldiers in the U.S. military who were severely injured during the Afghanistan or Iraq wars or diagnosed with PTSD are at a greater risk of suffering from high blood pressure.
Additionally, researchers have found that soldiers who suffered from PTSD were up to 85 percent more likely to develop high blood pressure than those who didn't have PTSD. The more severely injured the soldier, the more likely she was to have hypertension.
The United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) recognizes hypertension as a ratable illness, and you may be eligible for disability benefits if you suffer from this as a secondary condition. If you can prove your hypertension is related to your service-connected PTSD, contact an experienced VA disability lawyer to help file your claim for compensation.
VA Disability for Secondary Hypertension
To receive a disability rating for PTSD secondary hypertension, your doctor needs to document your diagnosis of high blood pressure. Additionally, to file your claim, your doctor needs to fill out the Hypertension Disability Benefits Questionnaire. It’s important to note that you can’t fill out this form yourself—the VA won’t accept the form submitted by a veteran. It must come from a licensed physician.
When filling out the form, your doctor needs to include two important pieces of information:
- A detailed medical history about your condition, your symptoms, and any other relevant information that affect the decision by the VA.
- A professional opinion about how your hypertension impacts your ability to perform on the job.
The claims examiner reviews this information and assigns a disability rating for your high blood pressure.
Contact Cuddigan Law
If you’re a veteran suffering from hypertension due to PTSD and would like to submit an application for hypertension as a secondary condition, call Cuddigan Law.
Our attorneys will examine your case, develop the best strategy, and work with you to submit a claim that increases your chances of receiving disability benefits. Contact our office today.
How does the VA rate PTSD?
Many people experience a traumatic, terrifying event in life, and they may face difficulty handling memories of that event. But with time and treatment, they're often able to adjust and overcome the incident.
However, others may experience symptoms that last for months or years. If a person continues to have flashbacks, nightmares, and severe anxiety about the event; and these issues interfere with day-to-day life, she may be suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). This mental condition can prevent a person from living a normal life.
For veterans, PTSD and depression are the most common mental health problems.
How the VA Rates PTSD
If you’re a veteran diagnosed with service-connected PTSD, the VA will give your condition one of the following percentage ratings:
- 100: To receive a 100 percent disability rating, you must present complete occupational and social impairment. This might be due to any number of symptoms, including ongoing hallucinations, extreme inappropriate behavior, danger of self-harm, inability to perform daily maintenance and personal hygiene tasks, disorientation, and memory loss.
- 70: To receive a 70 percent rating, you must present impairment with deficiencies in ability to work, go to school, and think clearly. Detailed symptoms may include suicidal thoughts, illogical speech, difficulty managing stressful situations, and inability to maintain family or friend relationships.
- 50: To receive a 50 percent rating, impairment must present reduced productivity and reliability. Symptoms may include panic attacks that occur more than once a week; problems with long- and short-term memory; flawed judgment; and mood disturbances.
- 30: To receive a 30 percent rating, you must demonstrate a decrease in work efficiency and periods when you can’t perform certain work tasks. Overall, however, functioning is satisfactory. Symptoms may be depression, anxiety, and panic attacks.
- 10: Veterans who receive a 10 percent rating present mild symptoms that decrease their ability to perform work tasks when they’re under extreme stress or need to take medication to control their symptoms.
- 0: The VA will give a veteran a 0 percent rating who is formally diagnosed with PTSD, but doesn't have symptoms that interfere with social or occupational functioning.
Contact Cuddigan Law
If you’re a veteran with service-connected PTSD and want to file for disability; want to understand how to increase your rating; or believe that the rating your received is inaccurate, contact Cuddigan Law.
Our attorneys have been supporting veterans for years, and we’ll carefully examine your case and advise you on the best approach for receiving the maximum in disability benefits. Call us today.
Why does OSA cause depression, and can I get VA disability for this secondary condition?
Veterans who suffer from service-connected obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) may also suffer from secondary medical conditions, including depression. OSA is a sleep disorder that causes the throat muscles of a sleeping person to relax and ultimately, block the airway—reducing the oxygen reaching her lungs. Because a veteran with OSA never gets the chance to fully rest at night, she may experience problems staying awake and face extreme exhaustion.
The United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) recognizes depression as a ratable illness, and you may be eligible for disability benefits if you suffer from this as a secondary condition. If you can prove your OSA is service-connected and believe you’re suffering depression because of it, contact an experienced VA disability lawyer to help appeal your claim for compensation.
The Link Between OSA and Depression
A variety of studies report the link between OSA and depression. People who suffer from OSA are much more likely to experience depression than those who don’t have OSA. Reports show that patients who suffer from OSA are 21–39 percent more likely to have depression.
It’s been debated whether there’s a direct link between OSA and depression, or whether there’s simply a correlation. There are a number of thoughts on this issue:
- One theory suggests that because patients with OSA suffer a lack of oxygen, it may cause problems in the brain and body that can lead to depression. Additionally, OSA may cause inflammation in the body and affect “neurotransmitter activity,” which could contribute to the symptoms of depression.
- A second theory suggests that because OSA causes fatigue, exhaustion, and daytime sleepiness, managing the requirements of a normal routine becomes increasingly more challenging. The difficulty in handling daily life can trigger depression. There are clinical studies to support this, as OSA and extreme drowsiness and fatigue are linked with depression.
Depression and Qualifying for Benefits
Your chances of receiving an approved claim for secondary depression depends on if you can prove your service-connected OSA is the cause. It’s important that your doctor write a letter of opinion about your condition with:
- A diagnosis of depression—either major depressive disorder or dysthymic disorder
- Evidence that your sleep disorder likely caused your depression
It’s also important that you provide the appropriate documentation—medical reports and test results that show the link between your depression and OSA.
Contact Cuddigan Law
If you’re a veteran suffering from depression due to OSA and would like to submit an application for depression as a secondary condition, call Cuddigan Law. Our attorneys will examine your case, develop the best strategy, and work with you to submit a claim that increases your chances of receiving disability benefits. Contact our office today.
How do I service-connect my OSA for VA benefits?
Veterans who suffer from obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) may wake in the morning feeling drained and exhausted, and then be extremely fatigued all day long. OSA occurs when an individual is sleeping and throat muscles continually relax, blocking the airway and reducing the amount of air that makes it into the lungs. This causes the breath to stop and start throughout the night.
Over 90 percent of veterans who submit claims for OSA were on active duty in the Afghanistan and Iraq Wars, as well as Gulf War I. It’s estimated that 9 out of 10 veterans who receive disability benefits for OSA from the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) are rated 50 percent disabled by this illness. And veterans who suffer from service-connected OSA may also have secondary medical conditions, including depression.
Proving Service-Connected OSA
It’s not easy to prove your OSA is service-connected. In 2013–2014, the Board of Veterans Appeals denied over 70 percent of sleep apnea appeals by veterans. This means approximately three of four veterans will be denied their sleep apnea claims and appeals.
Thus, you need to provide strong lay evidence about the symptoms you experienced while in service such as:
- Interrupted breathing at night
- Loud snoring
- Gasping for air
- Dry mouth
- Extreme daytime exhaustion
Additionally, you need your doctor’s medical opinion that explains how these symptoms are “more likely than not” linked to sleep apnea during your service. If your doctor can establish a direct connection between your symptoms and your time in the military, you may be able to prove service-connected OSA.
Contact Cuddigan Law
If you’re a veteran who wants to prove your OSA is service-connected, call Cuddigan Law. Our VA attorneys have years of experience handling veterans’ claims, and we're happy to handle yours. We'll examine your case, develop the best strategy, and work with you to submit a claim that increases your chances of receiving disability benefits. Contact our office today.
How does the VA rate chronic pain secondary depression?
If you’re a veteran with an injury that doesn’t improve, you feel consistent physical discomfort, and you find it hard to manage daily tasks, sit, walk, or stand, you're likely suffering from chronic pain. This type of pain usually occurs in one or more parts of the body and lasts for three–to–six months.
Many veterans suffer from chronic pain caused by the ongoing effects of injuries sustained while in combat or during active military duty.
It’s possible that a sustained injury may heal over time, but re-develop throughout the aging process and become a source of chronic pain.
Not only do roughly 100 million Americans suffer from this condition, but also 44 percent of service members in combat suffer chronic pain.
Chronic pain can result in other serious, secondary conditions. One of these is depression. The United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) considers depression a ratable illness, and it’s possible for veterans to file a claim for disability benefits if they suffer from depression as a secondary condition.
If you have service-connected chronic pain that you believe is the cause of your depression, contact an experienced VA disability lawyer to help file your claim.
How the VA Rates Chronic Pain Secondary Depression
The VA rates depression according to a percentage scale: 0, 10, 30, 50, 70, and 100. It’s possible for a veteran to receive a 0 percent rating if she has symptoms of depression that don't impair her ability to function, perform daily tasks, or engage in social activities. However, if the VA gives a 0 percent rating, a veteran may still be eligible for some types of benefits, including healthcare. The VA will give a 100 percent rating only if a veteran has zero ability to work at a job or function socially and cannot manage a daily routine.
For a veteran to receive benefits for secondary depression, it’s important that she:
- Has a current diagnosis of depression from a physician
- Has a service-connected disability and can prove it
- Can show medical evidence of the association between that disability and her depression
It’s essential to provide a doctor’s opinion explaining how the veteran’s physical condition has caused the depression.
Contact Cuddigan Law
Veterans suffering from depression due to chronic pain who would like to submit a benefits application for a secondary condition should call Cuddigan Law. Our attorneys will examine your case, help provide evidence that your chronic pain is service-connected, and work with you to submit your claim to increase your chances of receiving disability benefits. Contact our office today.
How does the VA rate heart condition secondary depression?
Cardiovascular disease is the number one killer of people in America, and it’s the primary reason veterans are hospitalized in the healthcare system of the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).
This disease includes conditions such as strokes, high blood pressure, heart attacks, and peripheral artery disease, and it’s a major cause of veteran disability. Not only is cardiovascular disease a serious condition, but it's often linked with other illnesses, including spinal cord injuries, diabetes, and depression.
The relationship between heart disease and depression is well documented. Approximately 22 percent of veterans diagnosed with angina, heart attack, stroke, or coronary heart disease (CAD) also suffer from depression.
The VA recognizes depression as a serious, ratable illness, and individuals who suffer from this condition may be eligible for disability benefits.
How the VA Rates Depression Secondary to Heart Conditions
In general, depression and other mental disorders are rated by the VA depending on how much the condition interferes with a veteran’s occupational and social functioning and ability. The rating given to a veteran’s claim is based on how the symptoms impact his life, not the specific symptoms.
Available percentage ratings for depression are: 0, 10, 30, 50, 70, or 100. If a veteran receives a 0 percent rating, this can still be significant, as it may entitle him to VA benefits such as healthcare. If a veteran receives a 100 percent rating for depression, it means he has no ability to function in social or work situations.
Seeking Benefits for Secondary Depression
If you’re seeking benefits for heart condition secondary depression, it’s important to include the following with your disability application:
- Specific evidence that your depression is the result of an accepted service-connected heart condition.
- Expert medical opinion about the relationship between your depression and your heart condition.
- Proof that your service-connected heart condition is on record with the VA.
- Medical records that show you were diagnosed with depression by a physician.
Contact Cuddigan Law
If you’re a veteran suffering from depression due to a heart condition and would like to submit an application for a secondary condition, contact Cuddigan Law and talk to one of our experienced VA disability lawyers. We’ll help with your claim for disability benefits and explain the type of evidence you need to prove your depression was caused by your service-connected heart problem.
How do I opt-in to RAMP if I’m waiting on a claims appeal?
In an effort to expedite the process for reviewing appealed benefit claims, the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) created the Rapid Appeals Modernization Program (RAMP). This initiative followed President Trump’s signing of the Appeals Modernization Act of 2017.
RAMP was designed to expedite the review process of an enormous backlog of appeals and provide veterans with eligible appeals the earliest possible resolution. Under the legacy process, veterans waiting for an appeals decision may not see one for up to seven years. RAMP is a voluntary option for veterans to “opt-in” to a new and potentially faster and more efficient process.
If you’re a veteran waiting for a decision on your benefits claim appeal, you may consider opting into RAMP. However, an experienced, skilled VA disability attorney can help you understand if this new initiative is right for you.
Opting-In to RAMP
If you're a veteran with a pending disability claim, you may be sent a letter by the VA offering you the opportunity to opt-in to RAMP. You're eligible to receive this letter and opt-in if you:
- Have a notice of disagreement (NOD) filed with the VA
- Have appealed to the Board of Veterans' Appeals (BVA) using a VA Form 9
- Have an appeal that’s been certified to the Board but isn’t activated for a Board decision
- Have an appeal that’s been remanded from the Board to the Regional Office
What it Means If You Opt-In
If you choose to opt-in to RAMP, you’ll have the following three different options, or lanes, to choose from to expedite your appeals claim:
- Higher-Level Review. If you think the VA made an error in its decision about your claim, you can choose this option to it fully reviewed by a new claims adjudicator. Using existing evidence only, your claim will be re-evaluated.
- Supplemental Claim. Under this option, you’re allowed to submit new evidence about your claim, such as an updated diagnosis from your doctor, new test results, or you have additional lay statements. Your claim will be reviewed by the same claims adjudicator as before, and the VA will try to process your appeal within 125 days.
- Appeals to the Board. If you used the Higher-Level Review lane and are denied by the VA, you can still appeal to the BVA after February 2019.
If You Need Help With Your VA Disability Appeal
The attorneys at Cuddigan Law have filed thousands of appeals for veterans whose claims have been denied. Our firm fights hard for those veterans injured and disabled during their military service.
If you need help with a claims application or your appeal, the Cuddigan Law legal team will walk you through the process and work to ensure your best possible chance for getting an approved claim, whether you are submitting it for the first time or are waiting on an appeal.
What are the benefits of RAMP?
When President Trump signed the Appeals Modernization Act of 2017, a new initiative was launched by the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). To expedite the resolution of claims that were in the appeals process, the Rapid Appeals Modernization Program, or RAMP, was created to provide a more expedient resolution to these appeals and address the enormous backlog of claims.
The legacy process for appeals splits jurisdiction between two agencies: The Board of Veterans’ Appeals (BVA) and the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA). Not only does this complicated process require many additional steps, it’s often confusing. The wait time for decisions is long—sometimes up to seven years.
If you want to expedite your appeals claim, it’s important to understand if the benefits of the RAMP outweigh the disadvantages.
An experienced VA disability attorney can help you understand the changes in the appeals process.
What Are the Benefits of RAMP?
There are varying opinions about whether RAMP is an initiative worth pursuing. Some people feel there are still too many unknowns about the program, while other think the process may not actually be faster. However, the VA promotes RAMP as way for veterans to:
- Enter a more efficient and effective review process for their appeals
- Receive the earliest possible resolution of their disagreements with the VA’s decision about their claims
- Have the option to use multiple review options: Supplemental Claim, Higher-Level Review, or appeal to the BVA after 2019
- Receive the same potential effective date for benefits no matter which review option they choose
- Get a fresh, expedient evaluation of a previous VA decision by a skilled claims reviewer
If You Need Help With Your VA Disability Appeal
Cuddigan Law has filed many appeals for veterans trying to get their benefits claims approved, and we work hard for veterans injured and disabled during their military service. If you need help with a claims application or your appeal, call Cuddigan Law. We’ll work to help ensure your best possible chance for getting an approved claim, whether you’ve submitted it for the first time or are waiting on an appeal.