Steps to Establishing a Service-Connected Condition

Getting disability benefits from the military can be challenging, so it helps to know the process. The Veterans Administration (VA) can pay monthly benefits to eligible veterans who have a disability from a service-related condition. The condition must be an injury or illness that happened while serving in the military or an existing illness or injury that became worse because of military service. 

The VA can pay benefits for physical conditions or for mental health conditions like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) that occurred before, during, or after a person’s time in the military. A VA disability attorney can advocate for you and help you navigate through the military regulations.

Here are the steps to establishing a service-related condition:

Military Service Requirement

Your condition must have developed before, during, or after your military service. The first step is to provide evidence that you fall into at least one of these categories:

  • You served on active duty with the military, or
  • You were on active duty for training, or
  • You served on inactive duty training.

Even if you meet the military service requirement, you could lose eligibility for VA disability compensation if you did not receive an honorable discharge. Individuals with dishonorable, bad conduct, or “other than honorable” discharges might not get their disability benefits applications approved. In this situation, you might consider pursuing a discharge upgrade to restore your eligibility for disability benefits.

Disability Rating 

The VA requires a disability rating to calculate the amount of your benefits. The military assigns you a disability rating based on the severity of your disability. The VA uses information from your VA claim exam, evidence that you submit, and data the VA obtains from other sources to determine your disability rating.

Unlike Social Security disability programs, like SSDI and SSI, the VA does not require you to be 100 percent disabled to get VA disability benefits. If you do not qualify for SSDI or SSI and you have a service-related condition, you might qualify for VA disability benefits.

Connecting Your Physical or Mental Health Condition to Your Military Service

After you establish that you served in the military and you have a disability rating, you have to show the VA that your condition was related to serving in the military. In these situations, the VA can make a presumption of disability:

  • You developed a long-lasting (chronic) illness within one year after getting your discharge from the military, or
  • You had contact with certain toxic chemicals (like Agent Orange) or other hazardous materials (like asbestos) during your military service and developed an illness from that substance, or
  • You were a prisoner of war (POW) and developed an illness as a result.

You would file an in-service disability claim for a service-connected illness or injury that happened during your military service. If you had a pre-existing illness or an injury when you joined the military, and that condition got worse because of your military service, you could submit a pre-service disability claim. Conditions that appear after your military service concludes can be post-service disability claims. 

Types of Military Service Connections

How you prove the nexus between your military service and your disability will depend on which of these five categories match your fact pattern:

  • Direct service connection. If you got an injury or illness during your military service, the VA will evaluate your service medical records and service records that show when and how you got sick or hurt, and any other relevant records that show that the condition is chronic or continuing.
  • Service connection through aggravation. This type of connection applies to situations in which military service worsened the pre-existing condition. Your medical examination when entering service should note your pre-existing injuries or illnesses. You will have to show that your military service made your condition worsen faster than it would have otherwise.
  • Presumptive service connection. There is no requirement that you prove that military service caused your condition in certain situations like Agent Orange exposure or prisoner of war scenarios. 
  • Secondary service connection. A direct service connection can, over time, cause other problems. Your doctor will need to say that the direct service illness or injury caused the secondary condition.
  • Injury caused by VA healthcare connection. If the carelessness of a VA healthcare worker or facility caused an injury, illness, or death, the veteran or surviving spouse or another qualifying dependent has to prove that the negligence caused the adverse outcome. 

A VA disability attorney can handle your VA disability claim and help you pursue the benefits you deserve. Get in touch with our office today.

Understanding the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2019

As of January 1, 2020, navy veterans who served in the offshore waters of Vietnam between January 9, 1961, and May 7, 1975, can be eligible for benefits if they developed certain herbicide exposure-related illnesses afterward. Before the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2019 (Blue Water Act), the Veterans Administration (VA) only granted benefits requests to veterans who became ill after exposure to Agent Orange herbicides on the land or “brown water.” 

“Brown water” refers to rivers and other inland bodies of water. The Blue Water Act extends disability benefits coverage to veterans who served in “blue water,” which the Act defines as offshore waters within 12 nautical miles of the Republic of Vietnam and some other areas. A Blue Water Navy veterans attorney can walk you through the eligibility requirements and help you go after the benefits you deserve.

An Overview of the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2019

The United States military used strong herbicides to quickly kill plants in areas with thick vegetation where there were military operations. Agent Orange was the primary tactical weedkiller the armed forces used to clear these overgrown areas. After discovering that Agent Orange could cause severe illnesses and death to servicemembers exposed to these chemicals, the Veterans Administration (VA) began paying disability benefits to qualified veterans.

The original Agent Orange benefits program provided disability benefits to people to military members who served “in the Republic of Vietnam.” Now, the Blue Water Act presumes Agent Orange exposure for members of the military who served on land, on inland waterways, or on blue water in or within a certain distance of Vietnam and Cambodia or on specific military installations in Thailand. Some veterans who served in the Korean DMZ can also get Agent Orange VA disability benefits.

Conditions Covered by the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2019

Under the Blue Water Act, people who fall under the protection of the Act and have any of these conditions do not have to prove that they had exposure to Agent Orange:

  • Amyloid light-chain (AL) amyloidosis 
  • Chloracne, or other acneiform diseases consistent with chloracne 
  • All Chronic B-cell leukemias (including, but not limited to, hairy-cell leukemia and chronic lymphocytic leukemia) 
  • Diabetes mellitus, Type 2 
  • Lymphoma, Hodgkin’s, formerly known as Hodgkin’s disease 
  • Multiple myeloma 
  • Lymphoma, Non-Hodgkin’s 
  • Peripheral neuropathy, early-onset 
  • Porphyria cutanea tarda 
  • Prostate Cancer 
  • Respiratory cancers (cancer of the lung, bronchus, larynx, or trachea) 
  • Soft-tissue sarcoma (other than osteosarcoma, chondrosarcoma, Kaposi’s sarcoma, or mesothelioma) 
  • Ischemic heart disease 
  • Parkinson’s disease 

Covered veterans do not have to prove that the military-related herbicide exposure caused their illness because the Veterans Administration will presume that Agent Orange was the culprit. 

If the VA denied your previous benefits request, you have a disease on the presumptive list, and you fall under the coverage of the Blue Water Act, you can resubmit your claim. If a veteran dies during the claims process, a living dependent spouse or child can ask to get substituted as the claimant. The VA can award dependency indemnity compensation (DIC) benefits under the Act.

You can consult with a Blue Water Navy attorney to find out if you are eligible for these and other VA disability benefits. Get in touch with our office today.

Sleep Apnea and Your VA Disability Rating

American military veterans are vulnerable to many life-altering disorders. Veterans suffering from sleep apnea may be eligible to receive service-connected VA disability benefits. In fact, more recent research has helped establish the many ways in which veterans can prove their sleep apnea may be linked to their time in the military. Whether on a direct basis or secondary to another service-connected condition (such as an in-service injury or PTSD, for example), there are many ways that you can prove a service connection for sleep apnea. 

Qualified VA disability attorneys work with deserving veterans, and doctors ( such as pulmonologists and respiratory specialists),  to secure disability benefits for sleep apnea. To help you understand more about sleep apnea and your VA disability rating, let’s explore a bit further. 

What Is Sleep Apnea?

Sleep apnea is a relatively common but serious condition characterized by interruptions in your breathing pattern while sleeping. There are three primary types of sleep apnea, the most common being obstructive, then central, and finally complex:

  • Obstructive Sleep Apnea is the result of your throat muscles intermittently relaxing and blocking your airway while you sleep. 
  • Central Sleep Apnea occurs when your brain fails to send the proper signals to the muscles that control your breathing.
  • Complex Sleep Apnea is a combination of both obstructive sleep apnea and central sleep apnea. 

All three sleep apnea types can impair your daily functions. Sleep apnea also leads to other severe and life-threatening health conditions, including high blood pressure, metabolic disorders, liver disease, and type-2 diabetes.  

Veterans should be particularly alert to sleep apnea symptoms, as the disorder affects them at a disproportionately higher rate than members of the general civilian population. Unfortunately, many veterans are not aware that they could have a viable claim for service-connection for Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) or the other types that can commonly occur in veterans. Thankfully, medical research and scientific data continue to widely support service connection which can help veterans prove their case and seek the highest VA disability rating under the law.

Sleep Apnea Symptoms

While many sleep apnea symptoms may be mild, the ongoing recurrence or worsening of these symptoms warrant further investigation of their cause and effects through a sleep study. In fact, veterans seeking to file a claim for sleep apnea disability benefits will be required to submit a sleep study medical diagnosis of their condition. 

Sleep apnea symptoms include:

  • Snoring
  • Dry mouth
  • Morning headaches
  • Interrupted breathing during sleep
  • Insomnia
  • Excessive daytime tiredness
  • Anger and Irritability

If you’re a veteran experiencing any of these symptoms, reach out to your doctor for help and inquire about sleep studies to determine if you have sleep apnea. 

Filing a Sleep Apnea Claim for VA Benefits

Military veterans suffering from sleep apnea may be eligible for VA benefits. A veteran’s disability benefits attorney can guide you through the necessary steps to file a claim successfully. 

Three conditions of proof must be met for a viable VA sleep apnea claim:

  1. Diagnosis of sleep apnea from sleep study administered by a qualified medical professional;
  2. The sleep apnea condition started or worsened during active service;
  3. Your current diagnosis and in-service event are connected.

If your sleep apnea did not develop during or worsen as a result of active service, you might still be eligible for benefits under a secondary claim. 

Secondary Sleep Apnea Claims require:

  1. A medical diagnosis confirmed by a sleep study in VA  or private medical records; 
  2. Evidence of a service-connected primary disability; and 
  3. Medical evidence establishing a connection between the service-related disability and the current disability.

Your attorney will organize and prepare all evidence supporting these elements for your disability claim. While the VA initially denies most claims, many cases are won on appeal when the above criteria are met.

Sleep Apnea, Your VA Disability Rating, and Benefits

The benefits you receive for a sleep apnea disability are tied to your sleep apnea VA disability rating. There are four different VA sleep apnea ratings as cited in Title 38, Code of Federal Regulation, Section 4.97.

  • 0 percent VA rating asymptomatic (no symptoms), but with documented sleep disorder breathing.
  • 30 percent VA rating with persistent daytime hypersomnolence, but in the absence of a breathing device
  • 50% VA rating if the use of breathing assistance devices are required, i.e., Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) or Bi-level Positive Airway Pressure (BiPAP) 
  • 100 percent VA rating for chronic respiratory failure with carbon dioxide retention, cor pulmonale, or requires tracheostomy

Filing for VA Sleep Apnea Benefits? Consult with a VA Disability Attorney

The Veterans’ Affairs Administration recognizes sleep apnea as a debilitating condition that warrants disability support. However, navigating the requirements of the claims and appeals process is challenging at best.

If you are a veteran suffering from sleep apnea, you need help to file a successful VA disability claim. 

Reach out to our legal team today to speak with an experienced VA disability attorney for assistance with your VA sleep apnea claim or appeal. 

Adding Dependents to Your VA Disability Benefits

The United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) allows military veterans to add dependents to their disability benefits under certain circumstances. The VA has strict eligibility criteria and procedures. A VA disability attorney can explain the rules and help you go after the compensation that you and your family deserve.

How to Add a Dependent to Your VA Disability Benefits

If you are applying for additional disability compensation because you have a qualifying child or spouse, you can submit the required form through the VA benefits website. Depending on your situation, you might have to send in additional forms and evidence with your application. 

For example, you will have to submit a Request for Approval of School Attendance form if the child is a full-time student between the ages of 18 and 23. You will have to give the VA a full copy of all of your child’s medical records if your child became permanently disabled before the age of 18. 

If you are seeking additional compensation for a dependent parent, you will have to send in a Statement of Dependency of Parent(s). The VA does not accept that form online through its website. You have to mail in that form with your application.

Eligibility Rules to Add a Dependent to Your VA Disability Compensation

If you are not eligible for VA disability benefits, you cannot apply for additional compensation for a dependent. However, if you are eligible for VA compensation on your own, you might receive a higher benefit rate (compensation payment) if the VA approves your request to add a dependent to your VA disability benefits, but you must have a combined disability rating of at least 30 percent. Typically, your best chances are working with a skilled and experienced VA Veterans Disability Attorney to help you both receive the highest rating, and also any related and additional dependents benefits.

Who is a Dependent for Purposes of VA Disability Benefits

The VA can approve the addition of a dependent to your disability benefits if the person falls into one of these categories:

  • Your spouse, which can include common-law and same-sex marriages.
  • Your parent for whom you provide direct care and whose income and net assets do not exceed the limit.
  • Your unmarried child (natural-born, adopted, or stepchild) who is either below the age of 18, or a full-time student between the ages of 18 and 23, or became permanently disabled before the age of 18.

If you have an eligible dependent, you need to consider the timing of when you add the person to your VA benefits. 

When to Add a Dependent to Your Benefits

The VA allows you to add a dependent at logical points in the process. By way of example, if you are just now filing your initial claim for VA disability compensation, you can go ahead and include your dependent in the claim. If you did not claim the dependent in your original claim for benefits, but you now have a combined disability rating of at least 30 percent, you can apply to add the dependent to your existing claim.

Also, certain life events can make you eligible to apply for additional benefits, adding a dependent when you:

  • Get married
  • Or your spouse gives birth to a child
  • Adopt a child
  • Have a child who is a full-time student and between the ages of 18 and 23
  • Have a child who became permanently disabled before the age of 18
  • Begin serving as the caregiver for your parent who meets the income and assets limitations.

We understand that these rules can be confusing. A Michigan VA disability attorney can answer your questions and help you pursue the benefits you qualify for because of your disability and your service to our country. Contact our office today.

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.