Service-Connected Disability Benefits for Veterans with PTSD

What is PTSD?

According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, commonly known as PTSD, is a mental health condition that occurs after an individual experiences or witnesses a traumatic event.  People living with PTSD may include victims of natural disasters, car accidents, sexual assault, and wartime or combat. 

What are the Symptoms of PTSD?

Symptoms of PTSD can range significantly depending on the person affected and their age group. Sufferers of PTSD may display one or multiple symptoms common of PTSD, depending on the severity of their disorder. Common symptoms of PTSD in adults include: 

  • Reliving the event
  • Nightmares or difficulty sleeping
  • Flashbacks or unwanted memories of the event
  • Avoiding situations that remind you of the memory
  • Self-alienation or avoidance behaviors
  • Uncontrollable negative feelings and thoughts 
  • General hyperarousal

Many individuals begin to experience PTSD symptoms within a few months of the inducing trauma, though for some, symptoms may take much longer to develop. Due to the variation of physical symptoms of PTSD, including headaches, dizziness, and chest pain – which can mimic other medical conditions – diagnosing PTSD can be difficult.  

Assistance for Veterans Suffering PTSD

Veterans suffering from PTSD, whose trauma occurred during their time in service, may be eligible for disability benefits through the Department of Veteran’s Affairs. 

Your PTSD must be related to a traumatic event that happened during your service, and your symptoms are shown to interfere with your ability to function. To establish service-connected PTSD, the general rating formula for mental disorder includes an assessment of the following categories: occupational and social impairment; impairment in thought processes or communication; delusions or hallucinations; persistent dangerous behavior to one’s self or others; inability to perform activities of daily living; memory; disorientation; etc. 

Disability Benefits can include:

  • Health Care
  • Compensation (payments) 
  • Treatment for PTSD

To receive VA benefits for PTSD, you will first need to complete several forms and provide a statement in support of your claim.  It is beneficial to seek the help of a Michigan disability lawyer to help determine your eligibility to file a claim and assist in navigating the claims process. 

Additionally, there are other forms of government benefits that may be available for people who experience severe health conditions, such as PTSD. The VA offers treatment options for those struggling with PTSD to better assist them in managing their symptoms and helping to overcome their health problems. 

Understanding VA Ratings

The VA rates PTSD under 38 CFR § 4.130, Diagnostic code 9411, and assigns a disability rating ranging from 0 to 100 percent, depending on the severity of the relevant symptoms and limitations caused by the person’s PTSD. Ratings range from 0, 10, 30, 50, 70, and 100 percent, and may be higher if the symptoms are severe and significantly impact or preclude the veteran’s ability to function and work. The rating given is based on many different factors to help determine the severity of PTSD symptoms, including social and occupational impairment, as well as the frequency and duration of the relevant PTSD symptoms.

  • 0% PTSD Rating: You have a diagnosis; your symptoms do not interfere with social functioning and everyday life; and you have no required medications prescribed.
  • 10% PTSD Rating: You have mild symptoms; periods of high stress may lead to impairment in social and work settings; and your symptoms may be controlled by medication.
  • 30% PTSD Rating: Your symptoms include: depression, anxiety, mild memory loss, or panic attacks; you have occasional decrease in work efficacy; and occasional work and social impairment.
  • 50% PTSD Rating: Your symptoms may include: panic attacks more than once a week, poor short-term and long-term memory, impaired judgment, or difficulty understanding complex tasks; and you suffer from regular impairments of work and social functioning.
  • 70% PTSD Rating: Your symptoms may include: suicidal ideating, obsessive rituals, illogical speech, continuous panic and depression; and you suffer from impairment in most areas such as school, family relations, work, mood, or judgment.
  • 100% PTSD Rating: The highest rating considering you to be totally disabled; you have total impairment in workplace and social settings; your symptoms may include: impairment in thought and communication, persistent delusions, danger to self and others, disorientation of time and class, extreme memory loss (such as of one’s own name or names of family members, and occupation), and inconsistent ability to perform activities of daily living.

Contact Disability Law Group for More Information about VA Disability Claims

If you are fighting for VA disability benefits, the attorneys at Disability Law Group are here to help you. Contact our Michigan disability attorneys for a free case review. Whether you would like a free consultation to speak with one of our attorneys who can help determine the best strategy for you, or if you have been denied and need assistance with an appeal, our team can help. We fight for the rights of our veterans to receive the disability benefits they deserve, and disability is all that we do. Our attorneys have decades of experience specializing strictly in disability law, and our client testimonials reflect our demonstrated success and compassion. Call us today for your free consultation.

What Is a Blue Water Navy Veteran?

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) defines Blue Water Navy veterans as veterans “who served on open sea ships off the shore of Vietnam during the Vietnam War.” The vessel had to operate within 12 nautical miles seaward from a point known as the demarcation line of the waters of Vietnam and Cambodia. If you are a Blue Water Navy veteran, you may be eligible for compensation due to exposures to herbicides. A Michigan veterans disability attorney can help you apply for Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act benefits, and win the disability benefits you deserve. 

The Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2019

This legislation increases the protections and benefits for veterans exposed to Agent Orange and other herbicides, and to their children who have medical conditions linked to those herbicides. As of January 1, 2020, there is a presumption that Blue Water Navy Veterans and veterans who served in the Korean Demilitarized Zone between January 6, 1962, and May 7, 1975, got exposed to these chemicals. 

The Veterans Administration acknowledges that the herbicides could cause any of these 14 medical conditions:

  • Chronic B-cell leukemia
  • Hodgkin’s disease
  • Multiple myeloma
  • Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
  • Prostate cancer
  • Respiratory cancers, including cancers of the lungs, trachea, bronchus, and larynx.
  • Some soft tissue sarcomas, including cancers of connective tissues, muscle, fat, lymph nodes, and blood vessels.
  • AL amyloidosis
  • Chloracne
  • Diabetes mellitus type 2
  • Ischemic heart disease
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Peripheral neuropathy, early onset
  • Porphyria cutanea tarda

There is evidence that parental exposure to Agent Orange could cause spina bifida in the veteran’s offspring. If you are a Blue Water Navy Veteran and your child has spina bifida, the VA will provide benefits to your child. However, note that if you have another condition(s) not listed on the list of conditions above that the VA automatically presumes is linked to such herbicide exposure, you still may qualify for veterans disability benefits. If you suspect that your medical condition might be the result of exposure to Agent Orange or other herbicides and you are a Blue Water Navy Veteran, you can still submit a claim for VA disability benefits, and you do not have to go at the process alone. 

While you may not have the benefit of presumption if your condition is not included in the above list, this only means that the VA will not automatically presume that the military service-related chemical exposure caused the illness. In that case, you will have to provide medical evidence with your claim to support the nexus. This is where a skilled and experienced Veterans Disability Attorney can help you win the veterans benefits you deserve. 

What Veterans Need to Include in Their Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2019 Compensation Applications

The VA requires that a Blue Water Navy benefits request use the proper VA form, which could be VA Form 21-526EZ, 21P-534EZ, or 20-0995, depending on your situation.

Your application should contain this information:

  • A statement that you are seeking benefits because you have one of the impairments or illnesses on the list of “conditions related to presumed herbicide exposure,” or another condition that you believe is linked to such exposure;
  • The name of the vessel on which you served and the dates on which you were within 12 nautical miles of Vietnam (if you know these details), and all evidence you have that you served in the offshore waters of the Republic of Vietnam between January 6, 1962, and May 7, 1975; and
  • Proof of your diagnosis and that you currently have the illness. If you do not have the necessary medical records available, you can identify the facility where you are receiving treatment, and the VA can obtain the records.

The Blue Water Navy Veterans Act of 2019 contains technical requirements for eligibility. The criteria and evidence needed to prove service connection can be complicated and daunting, as such the majority of claims are unfortunately denied at first. You do not have to go at the process alone and risk a denial and longer wait times. Hiring a Michigan VA disability attorney who is knowledgeable in veterans disability benefits could help you not only win the VA benefits you deserve, but the most compensation possible. Our consultations are free and we strictly specialize in disability benefits. Contact us today.

Health Conditions that May Be Associated with exposure to Agent Orange

Service members understand that exposure to hazardous conditions and risks are a part of their job.  They understand that as part of their service they may be required to serve overseas and or in areas that can pose a significant threat to their wellbeing and health. Therefore, both men and women serving may be exposed to hazards at military bases they are deployed at and call home, even for a short period. As a result of these exposures – which may involve certain hazardous chemicals and materials – many veterans have developed serious health problems. These health conditions that veterans suffer from may take years, or even decades to develop as the symptoms are not always immediate. Regardless, veterans deserve compensation from the Department of Veterans Affairs for the medical problems they suffer and injuries sustained while serving.

Exposure to Agent Orange is an ongoing problem for veterans, which is why Senators are pushing to add bladder cancer to the VA’S list of conditions linked to the herbicide exposure in Vietnam and elsewhere. Our attorneys continue to advocate for reform and better treatment for our veterans. Even if bladder cancer, or other conditions, are not considered directly related to Agent Orange on the list of presumptive conditions, we have been successful in helping our veteran clients with winning their claim for service-connected disability benefits based on their exposures while serving causing bladder cancer and other conditions.

What is Agent Orange?

According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Agent Orange is a tactical herbicide used by the U.S. military to control Vietnam’s vegetation. It is a blend of tactical herbicides the U.S. military sprayed from 1962 to 1971 in the Vietnam War that is commonly used in removing trees and dense tropical foliage. The chemical was developed by the U.S. Department of Defense to be used explicitly in combat operations. Unfortunately, many veterans have varying levels of Agent Orange in their system from exposure during deployment which can create long-term disabilities and health problems.

Exposure to Agent Orange at Military Bases

The Department of Defense sprayed various herbicides across 4.5 million acres of Vietnam to destroy both forest covers and food crops used by North Vietnamese and Viet Cong troops. Aircrafts were deployed to spray roads, rivers, canals, and farmland with the dangerous mixture of Agent Orange causing crops and water sources to hit. Dioxin is a chemical compound that lasts for many years in soil, lakes, and rivers.

Service members were exposed to Agent Orange because of the contaminated forest and soil. Human exposure to the chemical has also been found through meats, poultry, fish, dairy products, and eggs. Many veterans were exposed to Agent Orange throughout their time in service during the Vietnam War.

An on-going push from Senators urges the National Defense Authorization Act to add bladder cancer, hypothyroidism, and Parkinsonism to the VA’s list of conditions linked to the herbicide. It has been determined that thousands of military personnel have suffered serious health problems from exposure to Agent Orange, even causing long term health issues in veterans and family members.

Health Issues and Illnesses Related to Agent Orange

Veterans and service members exposed to Agent Orange can experience a wide-variety of different health problems associated with the herbicide. The EPA and World Health Organization are continuing to learn how exposure to Agent Orange can impact one’s health. The likelihood that Orange Agent exposure may cause health problems is greater than not. Thirty four thousand and counting frustrated and desperate veterans suffer from numerous health conditions, even including bladder cancer, other types of cancers, and other debilitating health problems like diabetes and heart conditions to name a few.

Some studies suggest that exposure to Agent Orange could be a factor in developing certain health conditions including:

  • AL Amyloidosis
  • Chronic B-cell Leukemia
  • Chloracne
  • Diabetes Mellitus Type 2
  • Hodgkin’s Disease
  • Ischemic Heart Disease
  • Multiple Myeloma
  • Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma
  • Parkinson’s Disease
  • Peripheral Neuropathy, Early- Onset
  • Porphyria Cutanea Tarda
  • Prostate Cancer
  • Respiratory Cancers
  • Soft Tissue Sarcomas

The Department of Defense and Veterans Affairs continue to claim that the medical and scientific evidence to support that exposure to Agent Orange could result in health concerns like those above is indefinite. Thousands of veterans and service members have bladder cancer, hypothyroidism, and Parkinsonism because of their military service, yet the VA continues to deny the care and benefits they earned.

Regrettably, far too many veterans and service members continue to endure health issuess caused by Agent Orange while the VA claims that they continue to wait for study results and push back on the scientific data and research correlating bladder cancer and other conditions to Agent Orange exposure. The House and Senate continue their fight for veterans suffering and even dying from Agent Orange related conditions until the bill adds bladder cancer, hypothyroidism, and Parkinsonism to the list of presumptive conditions.

Contact Disability Law Group for More Information About VA Disability Claims

If you are fighting for VA disability benefits, the attorneys at Disability Law Group are here to help you. Contact our Michigan disability attorneys for a free case review. We fight for the rights of our veterans to receive the disability benefits they deserve, and disability is all that we do. Our attorneys have decades of experience specializing strictly in disability law, and our client testimonials reflect our demonstrated success and compassion. Call us today for your free consultation.

How Do I Qualify for VA Benefits?

Veterans in Michigan have a wide range of benefits available, but many admit they are not aware of what benefits are available to them or how to qualify. An experienced veterans disability attorney can help you know what the programs are and how you qualify for VA benefits. Veterans Administration (VA) programs can help with many different aspects of life and the entitlement stems from your service in the military. A Michigan VA benefits attorney can explain the programs for which you might be eligible and help you go after benefits or appeal a denial. 

Federal VA programs can provide healthcare and disability compensation to veterans who qualify. Each program has different requirements. You must have received an honorable or other-than-dishonorable release or discharge, served the required length of service, and in some situations, did not exceed the income or assets limits.

Temporary Urgent Situations

When a veteran has a short-term financial struggle, the Michigan Veterans Affairs Agency can offer emergency help with medical bills, utility payments, repairs to the veteran’s home or vehicle, or other kinds of debts. Counties throughout Michigan provide resources for veterans through county Soldier & Sailor Relief Funds. Also, the National Guard Family Program and the Michigan Veteran Trust Fund can help a veteran in a time of need.

Getting a Job

When a veteran applies for a job working for the state of Michigan, the veteran has an advantage of applicants with no history of military service. Our state gives veterans (and some spouses) preference when deciding who to hire for state jobs. Additionally, there may be certain tax incentives for veterans based on service, disability rating and benefit type.

Michigan Property Tax and Vehicle Registration Benefits for Disabled Veterans 

Our state has a program that exempts some disabled veterans from having to pay property taxes on their property. In order to qualify, the veteran must be a resident of Michigan and have a discharge that was not dishonorable. Also, the veteran must be 100 percent disabled or have a 100 percent rating that is deemed by the VA to be ‘permanent and total.’ When a qualifying veteran dies, the surviving spouse gets the same tax break until remarriage.

A disabled veteran can register one vehicle at no cost. The requirements for eligibility include:

  • The veteran must be permanently and totally disabled.
  • The veteran must pay a five-dollar administrative fee when the first disabled veteran license plate gets issued, but after that, there is no charge.

These two benefits can add up to a considerable amount of savings for the veteran.

Long-Term Care

Our state maintains Michigan State Veterans Homes in certain locations throughout the state, such as Grand Rapids and Marquette. Dishonorably discharged or released veterans, however, may not be eligible. As long as the discharge or release was other than dishonorable, and the veteran qualifies for financial assistance for long-term care or for VA healthcare benefits, the veteran can get admitted to one of these long-term care homes.

Notably, in order to qualify for long-term housing care, the veteran does not have to be a resident of Michigan. If the care home has a vacancy, a spouse or surviving spouse of a qualifying veteran can get admitted to the long-term care facility. Also, the veteran must have served the full period of the call for active duty or 24 continuous months to be eligible unless the veteran enlisted before September 7, 1980, or began active duty before October 16, 1981.

Burial Costs

The County Board of Commissioners or Board of County Auditors can provide $300 for burial expenses of qualifying veterans. However, Michigan has asset limits for this benefit. The beneficiary must have been a resident of Michigan. Some spouses and surviving spouses are eligible for burial benefits.

Our state also helps qualifying children of disabled veterans or service members with military service-related death pay for college. Disabled veterans can get into Michigan state parks for free. Both active duty and disabled veterans can get deals on hunting and fishing licenses, as well, among other veterans.

You might be eligible for additional veterans’ benefits programs. You can talk to a Michigan VA Benefits Attorney to get started. Disability is all that we do, and we are here to help.  Contact us today

Disability Law Group: September Case Spotlight

In July of 2017, attorney Mandy Kelly was contacted by a grieving widow of a Vietnam Veteran.  Her husband had served on active duty from 1967 until 1970 with service in the Republic of Vietnam. Unfortunately, 3 years prior, her husband unexpectedly died from complications he had suffered from his leukemia. She immediately filed for Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).  One way of obtaining DIC benefits as a surviving spouse is establishing service connection for the cause of a Veteran’s Death.  In this case, the widow believed that her husband’s leukemia was caused by his exposure to Agent Orange during his time in Vietnam.  

Service connection is available for certain diseases as presumptively associated with exposure to herbicide agents. All chronic B-cell leukemias (including, but not limited to hairy-cell leukemia and chronic lymphocytic leukemia) are capable of presumptive service connection. While the Veteran died because of leukemia, specifically CML, this type of leukemia is not subject to presumptive service connection statutes. Thus, as many veterans, and their spouses, have experienced in similar situations, the VA denied her claim.  She tried to appeal on her own, but was denied yet again.  This poor widow was discouraged and ready to give up when she reached out to attorney Mandy Kelly for help. 

After her free consultation with Mandy she knew she needed an attorney to help her fight to get the benefits she deserved on behalf of her husband, and she immediately hired her to represent her and pursue another appeal. Mrs. Kelly worked with the widow to obtain the proper medical evidence, including literature and 3 medical opinions to support her claim that the Veteran’s leukemia was caused by his exposure to Agent Orange. In a December 2019 BVA hearing, Mandy Kelly represented the widow before the Board of Veterans’ Appeals, and by January 2020 the BVA issued a  Decision granting her client DIC benefits.

The Board found that the weight of the evidence was in favor of service connection as directly due to presumed herbicide agent exposure. With two medical opinions from the Veteran’s hematologist in November 2014 and September 2017, and another opinion from a private physician in October 2017, and the advocacy by Attorney Mandy Kelly from Disability Law Group, the Veterans Law Judge decided to grant benefits and overturned the previous VA decisions. These private medical opinions concluded that the Veteran’s CML, and subsequent death, were at least as likely as not caused by in-service exposure to herbicides. Specifically, the physicians first explained that CML is an “overlap disease” between myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS) and myeloproliferative neoplasms.

Secondly, the private opinions referenced credible research from the Aplastic Anemia and MDS foundation which concluded that exposure to herbicides put patients at an increased risk for developing MDS. On this basis, the physicians explained that as exposure to herbicides increases an individual’s risk for MDS, it also increases an individual’s risk for developing CML. Ultimately, the Board was convinced that these three private opinions provided sufficient persuasive evidence of a nexus between the Veteran’s cause of death from CML and presumed herbicide agent exposure in Vietnam.

If you or someone you know are suffering with the effects of leukemia or other serious health problems that you believe were caused by something you were exposed to 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. Whether you were already denied or if you would like advice from the very start, contact us today and speak with one of our attorneys to understand your rights and get the representation that you need.

What Happens to My Compensation if I am a Veteran with Multiple Disabilities?

The U. S. Department of Veterans Affairs, also called the Veterans Administration (VA), calculates, awards, and distributes benefits to veterans with disabilities. The VA assesses the severity of your disability using a disability rating from 0 percent to 100 percent disabled. The score goes up in 10 percent increments; in other words, you could be 30 percent or 40 percent disabled, but not 35 percent disabled.

When you have more than one disability, the VA does not merely add up the two disability ratings. They use a Combined Ratings Table and additional steps to determine the total compensation the disabled veteran will receive. A Michigan veteran’s benefits attorney can advocate for you and explain what happens if you are a veteran with multiple disabilities.

VA Disability Ratings 101

The VA will use your military records or evidence that you submit with your benefits claim to arrive at the percentage that represents your level of disability. After the VA decides on your disability rating, they can add more benefits if you lost an arm or a leg or have another extremely severe disability. The VA might pay additional amounts if you are married, have children or parents who depend on you for financial support, or your spouse is severely disabled.

Every year, you have the potential to receive a cost-of-living adjustment (COLA). There is no guarantee of a COLA increase each year. If Social Security beneficiaries get a COLA adjustment, VA disability benefits recipients will receive the same percentage of increase.

How the VA Calculate Benefits for Veterans with Multiple Disabilities

As stated, the VA does not add up your separate disability ratings to reach a total amount. Let’s say that you have an existing disability with a 50 percent rating. You develop a second disability with a 20 percent rating. The VA does not add 50 to 20 and conclude that you are 70 percent disabled.

  • Your highest level of disability will get plugged into the Combined Ratings Table first, on the left-hand column. In our scenario, we would scroll down the table to 50.
  • Finding the level of the second disability, which is 20 in our fact pattern, we locate the block where the two numbers intersect. That block represents the combined value of the two disabilities. The combined value of a 50 percent and a 20 percent disability is 60. 
  • Step three is to round the combined number to the nearest 10 percent. A 60 percent combined disability would remain 60 percent. If you had a 62 percent combined number, the VA would round it down to 60 percent, but if you had a 65 percent disability, the VA would round that figure up to 70 percent.
  • For more than two disabilities, you would repeat the process without rounding until you reach the final number. A veteran with disability ratings of 60 percent, 40 percent, and 20 percent, for example, would have a combined rating (of all three) of 81, which the VA would round to 80 percent. 

Contact us today. Our Michigan VA benefits attorneys can help you navigate the VA disability benefits process and contest an unfair ruling on your behalf. We specialize strictly in disability benefits. Our attorneys and staff stay up-to-date on the regularly changing law and procedures, and we can assist you in preparing and submitting evidence, appointments and supportive documentation needed, appeals, and representation during hearings and informal conferences. Contact us today for your free consultation.

What Is a VA Reexamination, and How Does It Affect My Veterans Disability Benefits?

Being awarded veterans disability benefits does not guarantee that those benefits will never change. The Veterans Administration (VA) could re-evaluate your case at a future date and determine that your disability benefits should be reduced or terminated. A Michigan VA benefits attorney can work with you to fight a termination or decrease in veterans disability benefits.

What is a Veterans Disability Benefits Reexamination? 

A reexamination is a medical re-evaluation of your service-related disability. The VA is required to send you a notice that it has scheduled a VA examination to re-evaluate your disability rating. Never ignore a notice for a reexamination. Read the notice carefully and follow the instructions on the notice to avoid an automatic termination of disability benefits.

The VA requires individuals to submit to additional medical examinations by a VA physician for a variety of reasons. Some of the reasons why you might receive a notice of reexamination include:

  • The VA needs to verify that you are still disabled;
  • The severity of your disability needs to be verified;
  • Your condition is expected to improve over time; and,
  • The VA received evidence that indicates there has been a change in your condition since your last examination.

However, veterans who have service-related disabilities that have not improved in five or more years, are over the age of 55 years, have a minimum impairment rating, or, have a disability that is not expected to improve (i.e. loss of limb) are generally not subject to reexaminations. At any rate, do not ignore a notice of reexamination, even if you are in one of these groups. Contact the VA to determine if the notice was issued in error or contact a disability attorney for help. 

What Happens After the VA Reexamination?

If the medical examiner determines that your disability has improved, the VA could reduce your disability benefits. In some cases, your disability benefits could terminate if the medical examiner concludes that you are no longer disabled. 

In any of these cases, you have appeal rights. You could appeal a decrease or termination of your VA benefits just as you could with other decisions regarding benefits, including a denial of benefits, denial of increased compensation, and/or denial of an earlier effective date for your service-connected condition(s). You can also request an increase in disability benefits if your condition worsens. A request for an increase could result in a decrease if the examination reveals that your condition has improved. You may want to discuss your options with an attorney before proceeding with a request or appeal. 

What Happens if I Don’t Show Up For a VA Reexamination?

If you fail to show up for the scheduled medical examination, the VA may decrease or terminate your disability benefits. You must notify the VA if you need to reschedule the examination. If you miss a scheduled reexamination appointment, contact the VA immediately to explain why you missed the appointment. If the VA finds that you had good cause for missing the appointment, you may be able to reschedule the examination to avoid an automatic reduction in benefits. 

Contact a Michigan VA Benefits Attorney If You Have Questions

A VA Reexamination could negatively impact your disability benefits. If you receive notice of a reexamination, contact a Michigan VA benefits attorney to discuss your rights and obligations regarding the reexamination process. An experienced veterans disability attorney can help you understand what additional evidence may help support your claim, assist you with appointments or letters in support, and represent you in obtaining the full veterans disability benefits that you deserve.

June Is PTSD Awareness Month

June is National PTSD Awareness Month, and we feel it is critical to help raise awareness of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and promote resources to help those suffering from this condition. 

Many people suffer lasting trauma from horrific events, such as observing or being a victim of violence, serving in combat or during wartime, or being exposed to traumatic or life-altering experiences.  And, chances are, you know someone in your Michigan community who is directly or indirectly impacted by PTSD. 

Michigan disability attorneys, in partnership with government and mental health agencies, champion PTSD Awareness Month as an opportunity to end the longstanding stigma surrounding this mental health condition, and connect those suffering with PTSD to community support and treatments that support healing and a better quality of life. 

About PTSD

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD, is a mental health condition occurring after a person experiences or witnesses a traumatic event.  People living with PTSD may include victims of natural disasters, sexual molestation and assault, and wartime or criminal violence. 

Who Is Susceptible to PTSD?

While everyone may be susceptible to developing PTSD, proven indicators suggest that some are more vulnerable than others to the condition. For example, the following factors have been shown to play a role in PTSD:

  • Prolonged stress
  • Lack of coping mechanisms
  • Social isolation 
  • Family history of depression
  • Prior history of physical, emotional, or sexual abuse
  • History of substance abuse

Understanding the factors that predispose a person to PTSD is essential to diagnose the condition and prescribe effective treatment. 

What are the Symptoms of PTSD?

Symptoms of PTSD are variable and manifest differently depending on the person afflicted. Sufferers may exhibit one or multiple symptoms, and young children often display different signs than teenagers and adults. 

Common symptoms of PTSD in children, teens, and adults: 

  • Increased anger and anxiety
  • Nightmares or difficulty sleeping
  • Flashbacks or unwanted memories of the event
  • Self-alienation or avoidance behaviors
  • Uncontrollable negative thoughts 
  • General malaise 

Additional symptoms in young children:

  • Recreating the event through actions or drawings
  • Bedwetting
  • Selective mutism

Most sufferers begin to experience PTSD symptoms within a few months of the inducing trauma, though for some, symptoms may take years to develop. And because many physical symptoms of PTSD, such as headaches, dizziness, and chest pain, mimic other medical conditions, diagnosing PTSD can be difficult.  

Healing Those Who Suffer from PTSD

The first step in healing sufferers of PTSD is confirming the diagnosis.  If you or someone you love is exhibiting symptoms that may indicate PTSD, it is vital to schedule an appointment or assessment with a trained professional, such as a psychiatrist or psychologist. During the evaluation, doctors will ask about past trauma and how current symptoms are interfering with normal life.

Victims should be reminded that a PTSD diagnosis is no cause for embarrassment or shame, but is rather an opportunity to receive desperately needed treatment for healing and recovery. 

Special Care for Veterans Suffering PTSD

If you are a Veteran with PTSD, whose trauma occurred during your service, you may be eligible for disability benefits through the Department of Veteran’s Affairs. 

Your PTSD must be linked to a trauma that happened during your service, and your symptoms must be shown to interfere with your ability to function as well as you could previously.

Disability benefits may include:

  • health care benefits
  • PTSD treatment 
  • financial compensation

To receive VA benefits for PTSD, you will need to complete several forms and a statement supporting your claim.  It is wise to seek the help of a Michigan disability lawyer to help determine your eligibility to file a claim and navigate the claims process. 

Additionally, there are other forms of government benefits that may be available for people who experience severe health conditions, such as PTSD. Social Security Disability benefits, Supplemental Security Income payments, and other federal disability programs may be available for people who have difficulty working full-time due to their condition. In fact, children may even be eligible for Supplemental Security Income or SSI if they experience severe PTSD, or other medical impairments.  

How A Michigan Disability Lawyer Can Help

Filing for any government benefits program is a complex and lengthy process.  Accuracy in completing forms and meeting filing restrictions can feel overwhelming, particularly when you aren’t feeling well from PTSD.  

You can hire an experienced Michigan disability attorney to help you navigate the constantly evolving and complex VA regulations and avoid costly mistakes that might risk your VA benefits.  Contact our office today for your free consultation. 

Appeals to the Board of Veterans

If you filed a claim for benefits with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), and you are not happy with the decision, you can file an appeal to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals. The process you will use will depend on whether you are filing a new appeal, or if you are in the middle of appealing a decision dated before February 19, 2019. A Michigan veterans appeals attorney can help you navigate either process. 

All new appeals must use the new procedure under the Veterans Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act of 2017 (AMA). Some ongoing appeals of decisions dated before February 19, 2019, have the option during the appeal of staying with the Legacy appeals process (the old method) or continuing the appeal following the new procedures under the AMA. If you have a new disagreement with a decision dated before February 19, 2019, you will need to file a Supplemental Claim. 

The New Process for Appeals to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals

If you want to appeal a VA decision dated on or after February 19, 2019, you have three options for review. If you try one of the options and are unhappy with the result, you can try one of the other options with some exceptions (for example, you are precluded from filing another HIgher-Level Review request on a decision from a Higher Lever Review request). The three decision review options are: 

  • Supplemental Claim 
  • Higher-Level Review 
  • Board Appeal 

If you have new information the VA did not have when it made its original decision, you can submit the relevant evidence with a Supplemental Claim. If you disagree with the original decision but do not have new evidence, you can ask for a more senior reviewer to perform a Higher-Level Review. If you disagree with the result from either of those two options, you can appeal to a Veterans Law Judge which is also known as a Board Appeal or appeal directly to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals. Splitting appeals into these three different pathways is supposed to create a more efficient appeals process and help catch up the seemingly endless backlog of appeals to be processed for thousands of veterans who have been waiting for a decision, or a hearing, many years after an appeal was filed.

The Legacy Process for Appeals to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals

Under the legacy appeal process, the veteran had to file a Notice of Disagreement within one year of the date on the letter that notified the veteran of the claim decision. The VA would review all the evidence in your case again as well as any new evidence you submitted with your Notice of Disagreement. 

The VA could either grant your appeal in full or send you the VA’s findings in a Statement of the Case (SOC). You would have to file a VA Form 9 within 60 days to keep your appeal going. If you submit new evidence after the SOC, the VA might then issue a Supplemental SOC. 

Your appeal then goes to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals. Unless you qualify for “Advanced on Docket” status, a Veterans Law Judge will only start working on your case when it’s one of the oldest appeals assigned to that judge which typically meant years and years of waiting with an appeal pending. At the Board level, you can also request a hearing with the Veterans Law Judge. The judge does not make decisions at the hearing, but rather issues a decision in writing. Ultimately, the Board will review your appeal and either grant the benefits you request in whole or in part, deny the benefits in whole or in part, or remand in whole or in part which could require further development and/or more evidence. 

It could take as long as five to seven years to receive a ruling if you ask for a Veterans Law Judge at the Board of Veterans’ Appeals to review your appeal. With the recent law changes under AMA, these wait times could be much less, particularly if all evidence is obtained in a timely fashion which may include nexus letters and/or Disability Benefits Questionnaire(s) to be completed by a doctor, buddy statements, command history records, medical research, and more. If this next level is denied, there are additional appeal rights.

What Happens After the Board of Veterans’ Appeals

Whether your appeal is still under the legacy process or the new procedures under AMA, a VA-accredited attorney that is well-versed in disability benefits may be able to help you. Our Michigan veterans appeals attorneys at Disability Law Group can help you appeal your adverse decision and pursue the benefits you deserve. Our disability law firm strictly specializes in disability benefits, and we can help you at a time when you need it most so that no deadlines are missed or evidence is overlooked, placing you in the best position to qualify. 

Contact us today for a consultation. 

Health Conditions that May Be Associated with PFAS Exposure

Service members understand that exposure to certain dangerous conditions and hazards are a part of their job. They understand that they may serve overseas or in areas that could pose a significant risk to their health and wellbeing. However, few men and women serving in the military expect exposure to hazards at the military base on which they work and call home even if only temporary. 

Exposure to drinking water contaminated with PFAS is now a problem for many veterans and service members, which is why PFAS chemical lawsuits are cropping up across the country.

What is PFAS?

According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, PFAS stands for perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances. It is a synthetic chemical that is commonly used in the manufacture of various products, including carpet, adhesives, clothing, food packaging, and non-stick cookware. The chemical is also found in the firefighting foam used by firefighters. PFAS does not break down over time. Many people have varying levels of PFAS in their system from exposure to PFAS in their normal daily activities.

Drinking Water at Military Bases Contaminated with PFAS

The Department of Defense used the firefighting foam described above to combat fuel fires beginning in the 1970s. Service members used the firefighting foam to fight actual fires, but also used the foam in training exercises on military bases. The firefighting foam is now thought to be a source of PFAS contamination of the groundwater on many military bases. 

Service members using the firefighting foam were exposed to PFAS, but all other personnel on the base were also exposed to PFAS because of the contaminated groundwater. Additionally, the groundwater of communities surrounding military bases could also contain PFAS.

An ongoing investigation by the Department of Defense has identified numerous military installations that have PFAS-contaminated water. Thousands of military personnel may have been exposed to PFAS-contaminated water, which can cause serious health concerns.

Health Issues and Illnesses Related to PFAS 

Veterans and service members exposed to PFAS could experience health problems associated with PFAS. The EPA and Centers for Disease Control are still learning about how PFAS exposure can impact a person’s health. The likelihood that PFAS exposure may cause health problems depends on numerous factors, including the duration of the exposure, the level of contamination, and the frequency of the exposure.

Some studies suggest that exposure to PFAS could be a factor in developing certain health conditions including: 

  • Liver damage
  • Increase in cholesterol
  • Changes in child development and fetal development
  • Immune system changes
  • Increase in the risk of developing certain cancers, including kidney cancer and testicular cancer
  • Issues with fertility
  • Pregnancy-induced preeclampsia/hypertension
  • Increase in the risk of thyroid disease
  • Increase in the risk of asthma

The Department of Defense and Veterans Affairs continue to claim that the medical and scientific evidence to support that exposure to PFAS could result in health concerns like those above is inconclusive. 

Veterans and service members may request blood testing to determine their level of exposure to PFAS, but the VA denies the requests for most individuals. Unfortunately, service members and veterans deal with the health concerns caused by PFAS contaminated water while the VA continues to monitor the situation.

Contact Disability Law Group for More Information About VA Disability Claims

If you are fighting for VA disability benefits, the Disability Law Group is here to help you. Contact our Michigan disability attorneys for a free case review. We fight for the rights of our veterans to receive the disability benefits they deserve. Our attorneys have decades of experience specializing strictly in disability law, and our client testimonials reflect our demonstrated success and compassion. Call us today for your free consultation.