Disability Law Group Sep Case Spotlight

Case Spotlight – September 2023

This veteran sought help from Disability Law Group after receiving a denial in January 2020 for the service connection of both knees. His military journey began in December 1963 when he was drafted into the Army. Before the tragic assassination of President Kennedy, he had been rejected by the draft board due to a right-knee condition. However, following the assassination, the Army reconsidered and enlisted him as a truck driver, a role that required frequent climbing in and out of the truck cab and bed during loading and unloading.

While he experienced some knee pain before being drafted, it significantly worsened during his service. The pain increased, causing instability, and he resorted to wearing an ace bandage. His limp became the subject of jokes among fellow service members, and the knee pain and limping persisted. Eventually, he started experiencing pain in his left knee, leading to surgeries on both knees.

In 2019, he filed a claim for service connection of bilateral knee conditions, which the VA denied with minimal investigation. Over the next year, finding legal assistance became a challenge due to office closures during the COVID-19 pandemic. It wasn’t until February 2022 that he reached out to Disability Law Group.

Our attorney, Jason Pearson, deeply knowledgeable about the latest VA regulations, began working on the veteran’s case. It was during this process that Jason initiated a Higher-Level Review of the 2020 denial, seeking understanding for the delayed filing due to pandemic-related disruptions. The VA responded by granting the request and arranging an informal conference. In this conference, Jason advocated that the evidence strongly supported a service connection due to the aggravation of a preexisting injury. The VA Decision Review Officer concurred, recognizing a Duty to Assist Error and subsequently ordering a new VA examination.

The veteran attended the VA examination, where the examiner submitted a medical opinion suggesting that the knee conditions were less likely than not caused or aggravated by military service. Consequently, the VA issued another Rating Decision, denying the veteran’s claims.

Upon reviewing the evidence in the case, attorney Jason Pearson identified the missing evidence, devised a plan to obtain it, and filed a Supplemental Claim with the new information. The VA then ordered a new medical examination, during which the examiner agreed that the right knee was aggravated by service, and the left-knee condition was caused as a secondary effect of the right knee. As a result, the VA granted a 30% rating for the right knee, 20% for the left knee, and 10% for each of the two painful surgical scars on the knees.

However, the VA assigned an effective date for these claims of February 25, 2022 – the date of the Higher-Level Review filing. We filed another Higher-Level Review, requesting an earlier effective date back to the initial claim filing date of December 12, 2019. In a subsequent conference with the VA, Jason argued that the earlier effective date should be granted due to the continuous pursuit of the claim since its initial filing.

In August 2023, the VA issued a decision agreeing with Jason’s arguments and granting the earlier effective date, retroactively to December 2019. This date holds significant importance, particularly because one of the veteran’s knee replacements occurred a few months after he filed the initial claim. Consequently, the earlier effective date also provided back pay related to the temporary 100% disability rating that comes with a knee replacement, resulting in additional compensation for this veteran.

If your VA disability claims have been denied, don’t lose hope! This veteran is grateful for persevering. If you have questions about VA disability appeals, please contact us today.

Social Security Disability form

Case Spotlight – August 2023

In May 2021, Disability Law Group received a call from an individual, age 55, seeking disability benefits due to atrial fibrillation. He had a long work history as a siding installer/ contractor, but due to the severity of his conditions, he could no longer perform this work. He was denied by Social Security at the Initial Application Level and Reconsideration Level, and so, we immediately filed a Request for Hearing on his behalf to have his case heard in front of an Administrate Law Judge. Attorney Farrah Abona took over his case and began obtaining all relevant and necessary information needed for the Administrative Law Judge to make an informed and speedy decision. We obtained the relevant medical records which showed his frequent atrial fibrillation episodes, along with the shortness of breath and fatigue he was experiencing on a regular basis.

Our team also kept close contact with the client and determined a Medical Source Statement from a cardiologist would help support his disability case. The client’s cardiologist completed the Medical Source Statement and indicated that his patient suffers from chest pain, shortness of breath, dizziness, imbalance, and anginal pain at rest and with exertion. With the client being over 50 years old and having performed past work that included standing, walking and lifting, we made the argument that he could not perform the demands of his past work and would be physically incapable of performing other full-time work at the light-level or above.

Attorney Farrah Abona carefully drafted a brief detailing the atrial fibrillation episodes, the failed conservative and surgical treatments, the frequency of his symptoms, and his excellent work history as a siding installer/ contractor which he had to forgo due to the severity of his condition. The Administrative Law Judge agreed with our position and issued a Fully Favorable Decision granting the client social security disability benefits going back to 2021, which also allowed our client entitlement to Medicare Insurance.

Our attorneys and staff specialize in disability benefits and we will fight to help you win every benefit you deserve. We provide free consultations to better understand your case and provide you knowledge as to your rights and the benefits you may be entitled to. Whether you have a severe cardiac condition or other conditions, or combination of impairments, we can help you understand your options and win the benefits you deserve. Contact us today for a consultation.

military hate on an american flag

Case Spotlight – July 2023

Attorney Bridget Drop helped a client obtain a 100% permanent and total rating for Meniere’s syndrome. The client came to Disability Law Group after the VA denied his claim for an increase in his Meniere’s syndrome that was rated at 30%. The client experienced frequent vertigo episodes and cerebellar gait due to his Meniere’s that interfered with his work and daily activities.

According to the VA Ratings Schedule, the evaluation of Meniere’s syndrome ranges from 30%, 60% and 100%. A 30% rating for Meniere’s requires hearing impairment with vertigo less than once a month, with or without tinnitus. A 60% evaluation requires hearing impairment with attacks of vertigo and cerebellar gait occurring from one to four times a month, with or without tinnitus, and a 100% rating for Meniere’s requires hearing impairment with attacks of vertigo and cerebellar gait occurring more than once weekly, with or without tinnitus.

After thoroughly reviewing his VA file, Attorney Drop found that the C&P exam for Meniere’s syndrome documented that the client met the criteria for the 100% rating based on his severe symptoms, but the rating decision continued the 30% rating. After filing a Higher Level Review appeal, Attorney Drop explained the mistakes in the previous rating decision and explained the supportive evidence of the medical records and statements from the veteran to the decision review officer at the informal conference. After the informal conference, the VA found a duty to assist error. This means the VA did not make a reasonable effort in their obligation to help the veterans develop their claims.

While the VA worked to further develop the claim, Attorney Drop gathered additional supportive evidence to submit, including a calendar from the client documenting episodes of vertigo that occurred multiple times per week and lay statements from the client’s friends and family that described the symptoms they witnessed the veteran suffer from due to his service connected Meniere’s syndrome. The VA agreed with the supportive medical records and lay statements and granted the client’s claim for increase and gave an evaluation of 100% for his service connected Meniere’s syndrome.

Whether you have a physical or mental health condition, or a combination of health problems, you do not have to go at the process alone. At Disability Law Group, disability is all we do, and we will fight alongside our clients to help them win every penny that they deserve. Our Disability Attorneys are not only experts in the field of disability law, but we are certified to handle veterans disability claims. We are a team made-up of veterans, and we care about every client and every case. Contact us today for your free consultation.

Social Security Disability case With a Woman

Case Spotlight – June 2023

In May 2021, attorney Randall Mansour spoke to a woman who needed assistance with her Social Security Disability case. The claimant had a steady work history until 2012 and then had numerous health problems forced her to quit working. After hearing her story, it was apparent that this client desperately needed our help but it would be a difficult case to prove disability, as we would have to prove she became disabled before December 2017. Thankfully the claimant was in ongoing/consistent treatment since 2012, however, she had problems obtaining those records to prove that. The claimant was suffering from a combination of physical and mental health conditions that worsened over the last 10 years. Furthermore, the client resided in Maryland and contacted our office after noticing our hundreds of 5-star Google reviews.

When she called Disability Law Group, she was met with compassion and felt assured that we could assist her with this final hurdle. The case was a complicated one as her previous attorneys gave up on her. Despite not handling the first hearing for the client, we were able to file an appeal and have the case remanded by the Appeals Council for another hearing. The case became even more complicated as we requested a medical expert review the case, in hopes that the doctor would make a favorable finding.

In this particular case, the treatment notes were massive and encompassed more than 10,000 pages of medical evidence! After a lengthy hearing with the medical expert present we were able to obtain a favorable decision for the client. The judge agreed with the medical records on file, our arguments, the testimony from the client and the medical expert’s testimony. The judge ruled the client was disabled before December 2017. The client obtained a very hefty settlement with over 5 years of back pay benefits that she was entitled to. The claimant was thrilled to know that we won her case and more importantly would receive the monthly benefits and Medicare she desperately needed.

If you or someone you know are suffering from any physical impairments or mental health, contact us today for your free consultation. Our attorneys and staff specialize strictly in disability benefits, and we will fight to help you win every benefit you deserve. We will work with you, and alongside your doctors, to ensure all evidence needed is received. You can rely on our team at Disability Law Group from start to finish to provide you with the expert advice and compassionate representation and the benefits you deserve.

Filling out a claim for for social security disability

Case Spotlight – May 2023

Disability Law Group recently helped a young claimant restore her disability benefits after being denied for 5 years! The claimant, a disabled mother, was previously receiving disability benefits until being cut-off in 2017. Even for individuals already receiving benefits, the Social Security Administration (“SSA”) will sometimes complete periodic disability reviews – called continuing disability benefits review – to ensure continuing disability. In cases where the SSA ceases benefits, they must make a finding that the individual’s medical condition has significantly improved since the last decision was made in their case.

In this case, the claimant underwent several appeals following the cessation decision before she finally reached out to Disability Law Group. Our lawyers fought hard to show that the claimant’s condition had not improved and that she should therefore continue to qualify for disability benefits. We were successful! This win not only resulted in over 5 years of benefits being awarded, but restored her insurance and reduced her worry. As a single mom who had suffered extreme financial hardship in the years she was cut-off of disability benefits, this win was truly life-changing.

While there is no way to control whether the SSA will review your case for continuing disability, there are ways to successfully survive a review. Here are some tips:

  • MEDICAL TREATMENT: Be sure to continue seeking treatment and to continue to inform your doctors of your symptoms, medication side effects, and the impact of your symptoms on your activities of daily living.
  • COMMUNICATE WITH SSA: Check your mail for communication from SSA and be sure to read correspondence and respond in a timely fashion as benefits may sometimes be ceased for lack of response.
  • SEEK THE ASSISTANCE OF AN ATTORNEY: If the SSA has decided to cease payment of benefits, Disability Law Group may be able to help! Please reach out to us at (248) 838-3000.

If you or a loved one need help with securing disability payments, contact the experts at Disability Law Group. We have the knowledge, tools, and experience needed to make sure that you receive the benefits that you deserve.

va benefits application

Case Spotlight – April 2023

Disability Law Group recently received a decision approving service-connected disability benefits for a veteran client from Wyoming, Michigan. He served in the Marine Corps for nearly a decade until June of 2020. He was medically discharged, in part, due to his mental health conditions he developed while serving numerous tours overseas, fighting to protect our country. Upon returning home, he filed for service-connected disability benefits through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). His claimed conditions he was seeking compensation for ranged from physical conditions – including leg and ankle fractures he sustained in service – to his PTSD that he also developed from his experiences in service.

Unfortunately, battling for these VA benefits on his own proved to be stressful, overwhelming, and discouraging as he faced denial after denial for the benefits he deserved. His father, a previous client, referred him to Disability Law Group. He told him how helpful and caring the attorneys and staff were at Disability Law Group, and how they had helped him receive both his VA service-connected disability benefits, with a 100% Permanent and Total rating, and his Social Security Disability benefits. After his free consultation with Attorney Erika Riggs, he hired Disability Law Group and immediately felt relief from the burden of fighting alone for his benefits.

Mrs. Riggs and our team immediately got to work on their client’s case, discovering that the VA failed to issue a decision on the PTSD claim the veteran filed for. Instead, the VA approved a claim for ADHD at a 0% rating in an attempt to either bypass issuing a decision on the claimed mental health condition or to group the symptoms and conditions together. Either way, Attorney Riggs was not going to allow this to happen to her client, and she immediately got to work in setting-up appointments for nexus letters and DBQs for her client to help prove his case. Rather than waiting years for a decision from the Board on this clear issue, Erika presented this evidence to a decision review officer during a Higher Level Review conference she requested on behalf of her client.

Ultimately, the VA agreed with Erika’s argument that the VA not only failed their duty to develop the file, but also failed to adjudicate a claim raised by the veteran. The VA issued a decision granting service-connection for the veteran’s PTSD back to the time of his discharge. While these claims can be scary and frustrating, especially when dealing with the government on your own, know that you are not alone.

Whether you have a physical or mental health condition, or a combination of health problems, you do not have to go at the process alone. At Disability Law Group, disability is all we do, and we will fight alongside our clients to help them win every penny that they deserve. Our Disability Attorneys are not only experts in the field of disability law, but we are certified to handle veterans disability claims. We are a team made-up of veterans, and we care about every client and every case. You can contact us today for your free consultation.

November Case Spotlight

Case Spotlight – March 2023

Partner Mandy Kelly wins service-connected disability claim for veteran suffering from Parkinson’s disease due to exposure at Fort Eustis

Parkinson’s disease is a neurodegenerative disorder that affects millions of people worldwide. While the exact cause of Parkinson’s disease is still unknown, research has shown that exposure to certain chemicals, such as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), can increase the risk of developing the disease.

Recently, Partner Mandy Kelly won a service-connected disability claim for a veteran suffering from Parkinson’s disease due to his exposure to PCBs at Fort Eustis. The veteran, who was stationed at the base in 1973 and 1977, was exposed to PCBs during active duty.

PCBs were commonly used in electrical equipment and insulation until their production was banned in the late 1970s. However, they remain in the environment and can persist for decades. PCBs are known to be toxic to the nervous system and have been linked to a range of health problems, including cancer, developmental problems, and neurodegenerative disorders such as Parkinson’s disease.

The veteran in this case worked in close proximity to PCBs, which were used as coolants in the engines of vehicles he repaired. Over time, he began experiencing symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, including tremors, stiffness, and difficulty with movement. He filed a service-connected disability claim with the help of Partner Mandy Kelly, arguing that his Parkinson’s disease was caused by his exposure to PCBs at Fort Eustis.

After a lengthy legal battle, Partner Mandy Kelly was able to successfully prove that the veteran’s Parkinson’s disease was caused by his exposure to PCBs at Fort Eustis. As a result, the veteran was awarded 100% service-connected disability benefits for him and his family.

This case highlights the dangers of exposure to toxic chemicals such as PCBs, and the importance of holding responsible parties accountable for the harm they cause. It also demonstrates the critical role that attorneys like Partner Mandy Kelly play in helping veterans and others who have been harmed by exposure to harmful chemicals.

If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease or another neurodegenerative disorder that may be linked to exposure to toxic chemicals, it’s important to speak with an experienced attorney who can help you navigate the legal process and fight for the compensation you deserve. Contact Disability Law Group today to learn more about how we can help.

USA patch flag on soldiers arm

Case Spotlight – February 2023

John Leverenz, a veteran, came to Disability Law Group with an August 2021 Rating Decision, wanting to appeal claims related to finger numbness which has been present since a deep cut to several fingers from concertina wire in 1980. When he first filed for this in 2004, he also filed for hearing loss due to noise exposure during service. VA granted service connection for hearing loss at 0% but denied the claim for his fingers.

In the appeal he filed in October 2004, he appealed the denial of the finger claim and requested an increase for his 0% hearing loss. In addition to asking for an increased rating for hearing, he provided a statement informing VA of continuous ringing in his ears. VA issued another decision which continued the denial for the fingers, continued hearing loss at 0%, and ignored the veteran’s claim for ringing in the ears.

The next claim filed by the veteran was not until early 2021, when he filed to reopen his claim for finger numbness and requested an increased rating for hearing loss. The VA again denied the fingers claim but a C&P examiner noted tinnitus and that was added to the veteran’s file. However, VA only granted tinnitus as of the 2021 filing.

While reviewing the veteran’s file for the finger claim – the claim for which the veteran contacted Disability Law Group in the first place – Attorney Jason Pearson noticed that the veteran’s statement that he had continuous ringing in his ears was not addressed by VA. We filed a Higher-Level Review and scheduled an informal conference with VA to address the effective date for tinnitus. Jason pointed out the 2004 statement and VA agreed that it was missed, and that the tinnitus claim had therefore been pending since 2004. In August 2022, VA issued a decision granting an earlier effective date for tinnitus, changing from 2021 to 2004.

Because our attorneys pay such close attention to detail, reviewing every document in the VA file, and they possess the knowledge and skill to know what to do with this information when they find it, this veteran was able to get seventeen years of benefits that he did not expect. By the way, we were also able to get the fingers claim granted. If you have a decision from VA you would like to have reviewed, contact us today.

Elderly woman with back pain seeks help from DLG SSD attorneys.

Case Spotlight – January 2023

Disability Law Group (DLG) recently received a decision approving benefits for a client from Harper Woods, Michigan, after she had waited more than five years with a different firm. Prior to coming to our firm, she had gone through multiple appeals, including a triple remand from the Appeals Council after the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) had denied her case multiple times.  She contacted DLG feeling defeated, overwhelmed, and worried about her future, but that quickly changed. She spoke to Attorney Erika Riggs, who helped her understand her rights and the strategy to help her win the benefits she deserves. 

How a SSD Attorney Can Help

Our client had been suffering for years from debilitating back pain, requiring her to use a cane; she was diagnosed with degenerative disc disease of the lumbar spine, as well as epicondylitis of the right elbow, diabetes, hypertension, obesity, and depression. Our team worked swiftly and diligently to obtain all medical records and updated evidence, such as Medical Source Statements from the treating doctors, to help support our client’s disability case. Erika drafted a brief outlining the best arguments to help her win. We argued that the physician’s supportive statements are “persuasive” under the new rules, considering all the factors outlined in 20 CFR 404.1520(c).

For disability claimants who are over the age of 50 with any physical limitations (such as difficulty standing, walking, lifting, carrying, bending, etc.), the burden of proving disability becomes relaxed or easier to establish disability than for those who are under the age of 50. While this client was over the age of 50, the Social Security Administration must find that the claimant cannot perform the demands of her past work and that she would be mentally and/or physically incapable of performing most other full-time work, especially at the light level or above. 

In her cross-examining of the Vocational Expert, Erika carefully crafted hypotheticals regarding her client’s use of a cane for balance and support while standing, the inability to use the right dominant hand while standing due to the need to use a cane, and requirement to sit and take rest breaks during the workday due to pain. Ultimately, the Expert testified that there are no jobs available that this person could perform due to these limitations, which were well-supported by the client’s physicians in their statements. The ALJ agreed, and the decision was in: Fully Favorable! This decision allowed for nearly 8 years of past due benefits to be awarded to our client in addition to Medicare insurance. Winning his disability case provided a long-awaited, much-deserved lifeline for our client, allowing her to afford proper housing and received continued medical treatment. 

Contact Disability Law Group today

Whether you have a physical or mental health condition, or a combination of health problems, you may be eligible for disability benefits. If you are over the age of 50, it becomes critically important to introduce evidence to your case that will help Social Security understand your limitations, whether physical or mental. No matter how old you are, you could be entitled to receive monthly payments and insurance based on your disabling conditions. Our Social Security Disability Attorneys only practice disability law, and our consultations are always free. You can call us today to better understand your rights and how to properly plan for the future. 

Homeless veteran denied disability claim is helped by the firm.

Case Spotlight – December 2022

Disability Law Group believes that one homeless veteran is one too many! Partner Mandy Kelly is happy to announce that she recently obtained a large retroactive benefit for a homeless veteran. We hope this settlement will allow him to obtain stable housing and enjoy the holiday season.

In August of 2022, Mandy Kelly presented the Veteran’s case for service connection for adjustment disorder, left shoulder arthritis, hypertension, and obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) secondary to his adjustment disorder to a Board of Veterans’ Appeals (BVA) Judge. Furthermore, Mandy was able to expedite this case because the veteran was homeless.

Generally, to establish a service connection, a claimant must show: (1) a present disability; (2) an in-service incurrence or aggravation of a disease or injury; and (3) a causal relationship between the present disability and the disease or injury incurred or aggravated during service, the so-called “nexus” requirement. 38 U.S.C. §§ 1110, 1131; 38 C.F.R. § 3.303. Establishing service connection on a secondary basis requires evidence sufficient to show (1) that a current disability exists and (2) that the current disability was either (a) proximately caused by or (b) proximately aggravated by a service-connected disability. Four months after Mandy Kelly presented her arguments at the hearing, the BVA issued a decision granting service connection for all four conditions. Mandy Kelly reviewed every page in the Veterans claims file. She found the necessary personnel records to support his conditions began in service, and his psychological disorder caused that obstructive sleep apnea. She provided strong medical literature supporting the causal relationship between OSA, depression, and PTSD. The judge was convinced and granted service connection retroactive to his filing date.

The lawyers at Disability Law Group understand how complicated this area of law can be. If you, or someone you know, suffers from adjustment disorder, PTSD, anxiety, or depression and developed obstructive sleep apnea due to your time in service, contact Disability Law Group today for your free consultation.

Our attorneys and staff specialize strictly in disability benefits, and we will fight to help you win every benefit you deserve. If you were already denied or would like advice from the start, contact us today and speak with one of our attorneys to understand your rights and get the representation you need.