We Provide Answers to Your VA Disability Benefits Questions Here
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Should I undergo family therapy as part of my PTSD treatment?
There are many kinds of therapeutic environments for veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), including one-on-one therapy sessions, group therapy, and family sessions to help the veteran understand and communicate with his or her family members. Family therapy is beneficial in cases where the relationships between husbands, wives, sons, daughters, and even friends have been negatively impacted by PTSD symptoms.
- Dynamics. Although it feels intensely personal, PTSD will often affect everyone in your family. Your spouse and children may be afraid of you, become angry or withdrawn, or even start avoiding you. Family therapy can help everyone in the family understand what others are going through and change the dynamic to help improve relationships.
- Communication. In family therapy, each person will be given a chance to address his or her feelings. A therapist will offer help to keep the conversation going productively in the highly-emotional environment. The more everyone involved listens to others and responds honestly, the more likely it is that the consequences and symptoms of your PTSD will be understood.
- Concerns. Families are often worried about a family member with PTSD suffering from additional problems, such as depression, anxiety, insomnia, or dependence on drugs or alcohol. A family session can help everyone voice their concerns in a way that doesn’t make the patient feel accused or victimized.
Can I Stay in Private Therapy and Still Go to Family Sessions?
Yes, and it is a good idea to do so. Your one-on-one therapy sessions can be focused on improving your internal feelings and responses, while your family sessions will remain centered on restoring relationships at home. To learn more about getting treatment for your PTSD symptoms, visit the related links on this page or order our free booklet, The Essential Guide to VA Disability Claims.
What if I disagree with the doctor’s opinion about my VA disability C&P exam?
If you received a notice that your VA disability benefits were denied, you should immediately obtain a copy of the Compensation & Pension (C&P) medical exam results. In addition to your other medical evidence, a copy of these results will show what factors the doctor considered in your case and why your claim was denied.
Even if you disagree with a VA doctor’s conclusions in your C&P exam, you must be able to successfully prove that the doctor’s opinion is not accurate. In some cases, veterans may be able to prove that the C&P exam doesn’t provide a thorough picture of the disability because the doctor:
- Overlooked evidence. A VA medical examiner must read through all of the relevant medical facts in your case to provide a fair assessment of your disability. If she overlooked evidence that could make a difference in your claim, you can challenge the conclusion and ask for a new exam. For example, if you suffer from a breathing problem that the doctor attributes to your former smoking habit, but neglects to acknowledge known burn pit or chemical exposure during service, you could argue that the doctor overlooked evidence.
- Drew an inadequate conclusion. Even if the doctor has a thorough understanding of your case, she must reasonably articulate how she arrived at the opinion that led to the denial of your claim. A C&P conclusion should describe the details of your condition, address your concerns and statements about your injuries, and state why the evidence used in the conclusion is relevant or not. A stand-alone statement such as “the evidence suggests that the disability did not arise during service” is not sufficient enough to deny VA benefits.
- Failed to use the facts of your case. Doctors who evaluate veterans for disability claims may have done hundreds of similar exams in the past and may blend the facts of your case with another. Each veteran’s disability is different, and even if there are similar injuries, a medical professional cannot use the facts of another case to bear on yours. For instance, if you and another veteran both lost a leg below the knee, but he is able to work and you are not, his ability is irrelevant to the outcome of your case.
Our Attorneys Can Help You Get a New Medical Exam
If you believe that your doctor made an error in the assessment of your case, we can help. The attorneys at Cuddigan Law can help determine if you have grounds to request a new examination, and we do not collect fees from you unless we win your case. Call us today at 402-933-5405 to ask us a question about your disability case.
Why has there been a recent rise in VA disability cases?
In the years since soldiers have been returning home from the Iraq wars, more and more disability claims have been filed—many of which are still waiting for official decisions. Although the influx of new injured veterans are a contributing factor in the backlog of cases, there are many reasons for the continued rise in VA disability claims, including:
- First-time claims. Advances in modern medicine have allowed many soldiers to survive injuries sustained during wartime. While soldiers are more likely to live through a battlefield injury, they may have lost an arm or a leg in the process, returning home with an injury that prevents them from working and taking care of themselves.
- Backlogged cases. The number of disability cases waiting for a ruling at the VA is currently in the hundreds of thousands. Even if veterans are able to weather the lengthy and frustrating application process, they may have to wait over a year to receive an initial decision, or to be denied rightful benefits and forced to appeal.
- Reopened cases. As years pass, the VA acknowledges past health issues that could be linked to past military service. While this gives many veterans a new basis to reopen a denied claim, the re-evaluation process adds thousands more applications into an already overburdened system.
Can Your VA Disability Claim Be Expedited?
Many soldiers are unable to live without their VA benefits, and cannot afford to wait years for a decision. In some cases, these veterans will qualify for presumptive disability, allowing them to collect payments much earlier than other applicants. Find out if we could help you appeal your denial in our FREE book, The Essential Guide to VA Disability Claims, or call Cuddigan Law today at 402-933-5405 to speak with a VA disability attorney.
Can I get VA disability if Agent Orange caused birth defects in my children?
Yes. Biological children of veterans can be eligible for many VA benefits, including compensation, monthly benefits based on the degree of disability, medical benefits, and even educational stipends and job training services. However, veterans will have to prove that their service in Vietnam or Korea qualifies for presumptive Agent Orange exposure in order to collect VA disability benefits for a child.
Birth Defect Benefits for Children of Vietnam and of Korean DMZ Veterans
The VA acknowledges a link between Agent Orange and the risk of developing certain health conditions. In order to qualify for presumptive disability for birth defects, Vietnam-era veterans and their children must have the following qualifying evidence:
- Spina bifida. Exposure to Agent Orange and other herbicides has been linked to spina bifida, a condition where the spine of a developing child fails to close during pregnancy. Children of mothers or fathers who served in Vietnam between January 9, 1962 and May 7, 1975 qualify for presumptive disability for spina bifida, as do children of veterans who served in or near the Korean demilitarized zone between September 1, 1967 and August 31, 1971.
- Birth defects. Numerous birth defects in children of female veterans have been linked to Agent Orange exposure, including cleft palate, congenital heart defects, and hypospadias. In order for a biological child of female veterans to qualify for disability, the mother must have served in Vietnam between February 28, 1961 and May 7, 1975. In addition, the child must have been conceived after the veteran entered Vietnam, and the defect must have caused permanent disability.
- Accepted dates of service. Only certain veterans are eligible for compensation for Agent Orange exposure, due to the dates and locations where these chemicals were used. A veteran parent’s service records must show that he or she served in Vietnam or Korea during specific service dates and duty assignments. In addition, the veteran must be able to prove a biological relationship with the child, as well as show a birth certificate to determine the date of conception.
The VA disability attorneys at Cuddigan Law can explain your options at no cost to you. Fill out the short contact form on this page to get started, or click here to read through a free copy of our book, The Essential Guide to VA Disability Claims.
What kinds of VA disability lawyer fees are considered “unreasonable?”
In order to avoid attorneys collecting more in fees than a veteran can afford to pay, there is a rule that fees in VA disability cases must be “reasonable.” In most cases, fees will be considered reasonable if they are based on an hourly rate, or a certain percentage of the benefits that are recovered.
Most VA attorneys work on a contingency-fee basis, meaning they are paid with a percentage of the veteran’s back benefits only after a case is won. Fees are considered reasonable at 20 percent of past-due benefits, while fees over 33.3 percent of the benefits are considered unreasonable. As attorneys can charge anywhere from 20 percent to 33.3 percent depending on the case, it is important to know why your attorney is charging you the rate he has quoted you. We only charge 20 percent of past due benefits as fees for services in successful cases.
These factors can be used to determine whether the fees in your case are reasonable or not:
- The extent and type of services the attorney performs on a claimant’s behalf.
- The complexity of the case.
- The level competence and skill required in the needed services.
- The number of hours spent on the case (excluding any work done before the first Notice of Disagreement).
- The level of review the claim needed before approval and if the attorney was present for each appeal.
- Rates charged by other attorneys for performing similar services.
- Whether the payment of fees is contingent upon the outcome of the case.
Contingency Fees Are the Safest Option for Veterans in Disability Cases
Veterans should be aware that while they will have to pay an attorney’s fees, they should not be expected to produce any money up front. A contingency fee allows a veteran to assume the least amount of risk, since he does not have to pay legal fees if his claim is not approved. At Cuddigan Law, our VA disability attorneys advance all upfront costs and can explain your options at no cost to you. Fill out the short contact form on this page to get started, or click here to read through a free copy of our book, The Essential Guide to VA Disability Claims.
When are children eligible to receive a veteran’s death pension benefits?
A veteran’s death pension, also called a survivors pension, is only paid to low-income families of a veteran who served during wartime. This is an additional benefit paid to families of veterans who have limited resources, and the amount the family receives is based on income.
In order to see if children are eligible for a veteran’s death pension, he or she must meet the following requirements:
- Requirements of survivors. Children may be eligible to receive a portion of a veteran’s survivors pension if he or she is under 18 years old; is under 23 years old and attending school; OR cannot support him or herself due to an illness or injury that occurred before age 18. Surviving spouses will remain eligible for the veteran’s survivors pension for the rest of his or her lifetime or until remarriage.
- Veteran’s service requirements. A veteran who entered service before September 7, 1980 must have served at least 90 days and at least one day during wartime for his or her survivors to be eligible for the death pension; veterans who entered service after September 7, 1980 must have served at least a full 24 months of service and been on duty for at least one day during wartime.
- Income requirements. The family’s annual income must be less than the current income and assets limit of the VA death pension program. If the family has a significant amount of income or assets, both the spouse and children are ineligible for pension benefits.
You Will Likely Need an Attorney to Get the Benefits You Deserve
Unfortunately, many families are denied these benefits because they do not have access to the records they need to prove the requirements of active service. Our VA disability attorneys can tell you whether your spouse served during wartime, and also check to see whether you may qualify for additional benefits. Call Cuddigan Law today at 402-933-5405 or get more information in our free book, The Essential Guide to VA Disability Claims.
Can I get veteran’s disability if a sexual assault during service gave me PTSD?
Yes, but it may be difficult. In order to collect VA disability for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), you must be able to prove a link between your current condition and a specific incident during service. Since many in-service physical and sexual assaults are unreported at the time of the incident, it can be hard to gather sufficient records or documentation that could help prove that the assault occurred.
In order to help assault victims get the benefits they deserve, the VA has allowed less strict evidentiary requirements for veterans who are suffering from PTSD after a sexual assault. The veteran must only provide evidence that an assault occurred during his or her military service and that the event has caused symptoms consistent with PTSD. If veterans do not have medical evidence of the incident in their service medical records, they may also provide evidence from other sources, including:
- Pregnancy tests or tests for sexually transmitted diseases taken at outside hospitals or clinics.
- Records from local law enforcement agencies or government authorities.
- Rape crisis centers or mental health counseling centers.
- Evidence of changes in mood or behavior following the incident (aggression, alcohol or drug abuse, or other citations in the person’s military service record).
- Statements from witnesses, including fellow service members, family members, roommates, or trusted advisors.
We Can Help You Get the Benefits You Deserve
We know how difficult it is for a veteran to fight for compensation—and if the veteran has suffered due a personal attack, the fight becomes even more complex. You may be frustrated, ashamed, or angry, but it is important to remember that you are not alone. The VA disability attorneys at Cuddigan Law can take over your case and get you fair compensation without frustration. Read through a free copy of our book, The Essential Guide to VA Disability Claims, or fill out the short contact form on this page to get your questions answered.
Why should I keep copies of my VA medical records? Won’t the VA send them to me?
Although all hospitals are required to keep medical records for a period of time after treatment, there are a number of reasons while keeping your own copies of your VA medical records is a good idea. Having your own copies of your treatment records on hand will allow you an advantage in:
- Benefits claims. When you leave military service, you should request a full set of your service medical records, even if you are in good health. This will allow you to pursue a claim in the future if your service is linked to a condition that becomes symptomatic later in life (such as PTSD or chemical exposure), without waiting for the VA to act on your request for records.
- Preparing for appeal. Many VA claims are denied due to lack of evidence. If your VA compensation claim is denied, you can examine your claim file and medical records side by side to see if any evidence is missing or is contradictory. There may be a document that doesn’t belong to you in your file, or your file may not contain an important document that is in your service medical record.
- Attorney review. Most VA disability attorneys will want to review your claim file and medical records in order to advise you on your case. This is because the evidence in your file can make or break your VA disability claim, so it is important to have as much proof of your condition as possible. If you have your own copies of your medical records, you can shave weeks off of your wait time for an appeal. This also allows your lawyer to see the facts of your case immediately.
We Examine the Evidence and Explain Your Options to You Free of Charge
At Cuddigan Law, our attorneys help veterans get the VA disability compensation they are owed—while also examining other aid sources to maximize their benefits. Click here to read through a free copy of our book, The Essential Guide to VA Disability Claims, or fill out the short contact form on this page to ask us a question.
What are the differences between a “new” and “reopened” VA disability claim?
Many veterans will have their initial claims for benefits denied, leaving them to wonder if they should appeal the decision, or file a new disability claim. Since there are many levels of appeal, it is important to know the difference between new and reopened VA disability claims.
The VA classifies claims in the following ways:
- Original claim. An original claim is the very first claim that you file for VA benefit compensation. This can be filed by active service members, veterans, or surviving spouses of deceased military members. If this claim is denied, veterans have one year from the date of denial to appeal the decision.
- Reopened claim. If your benefit claim was denied and was not appealed before the time limit expired, your case can be reopened if there is new evidence available that could change the VA’s decision. In order to reopen your claim, you would send "new and material" evidence (such as medical testing or evaluation) to the VA and ask them to reconsider their decision.
- New claim. A new claim is any claim that relies on new evidence. An original claim may be considered a new claim, but there are also new claims that can be made by veterans who are already receiving some form of aid through the VA. New claims may be filed to re-evaluate the percentage of a person’s disability, to apply for pensions or compensation for special circumstances, or if a service member is applying for individual unemployability.
- Secondary claim. A secondary claim involves a disability that has been caused (or worsened) in relation to a condition that has been connected to military service. The two conditions must be related in order for the veteran to get compensation.
We Can Explain Your Benefits at No Cost to You
At Cuddigan Law, we provide veterans with the information they need to get maximum compensation for their disabilities. We can help you appeal your VA claim denial, and also examine whether other benefit sources such as Social Security Disability are available. Fill out the short contact form on this page to find out how we can help, or click here to read through a free copy of our book, The Essential Guide to VA Disability Claims.
My father was injured during military service and I am his caregiver. Will a VA disability attorney charge us more than we have?
That is actually two questions. The first question, how much can a VA disability attorney charge, varies with each attorney. By law, disability attorneys cannot charge more than 33 percent of a veteran’s past due disability benefits. The VA will only withhold and pay directly to attorneys twenty percent of the past due benefits. Cuddigan Law only charges and collects fees that have been approved. The amount charged is paid with the money from your benefits if (and when) your attorney wins approval. The benefit of this system is that it is less risky for veterans, as they will not have to pay an attorney until (and unless) they have won the funds to do so.
The second question--how much do we have?--is equally important. Disabled veterans who rely on a caregiver for their daily living activities are entitled to many forms of benefits, both within and beyond the VA. One of the biggest benefits the VA offers is Aid and Attendance, a pension benefit that can help pay for long-term care.
Here are a few basic facts about getting Aid and Attendance through the VA:
- Who qualifies? Veterans who have served 90 days or more in service and at least one day in wartime, and their spouses.
- What does it pay for? Assisted living facilities, nursing home costs, payments to in-home caregivers other than spouses (including sons and daughters who provide daily care).
- How much does it pay? Veterans can be paid up to $2,019 per month, while surviving spouses can collect up to $1,094 per month—or between $13,128 and $24,228 per year.
Is it Worth it to Hire a VA Attorney?
While you can apply for pension benefits without legal help, an attorney can be invaluable when it comes to maximizing your monthly payments. There are many types of benefits that veterans and their families qualify for, but are not aware of.
At Cuddigan Law, we help veterans get much-needed income from a variety of benefit sources, taking the worry out of paying monthly bills and costs of care. Call us today to find out how we can help, or click here to read through a free copy of our book, The Essential Guide to VA Disability Claims.