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. 

Stages of a VA Disability Claim

Applying for VA disability benefits should be simple for all veterans. However, the VA disability claim process can be difficult or overwhelming for some individuals. Understanding the states of a VA disability claim can be helpful. Also, seeking advice and guidance from experienced Michigan VA disability attorneys can be beneficial for many veterans. Veterans disability laws and procedures are not only complex, but they are ever-changing which can impact what appeal avenues look like and the time it takes to process an appeal, or make a decision. 

How Long Does It Take to Process a VA Disability Claim?

According to the Veterans Administration, the average number of days to complete a VA disability claim is 79.9 days. However, your disability claim may take less time or more time to complete. 

Factors that impact the time it takes to complete your VA disability claim include:

  • The type of VA disability claim filed;
  • The number of disabilities or injuries involved in your disability claim;
  • The complexity of your injuries or disabilities; and,
  • The time it takes to gather the necessary evidence to process and decide a claim.

There is nothing for you to do after you file your VA disability claim except wait. However, if you receive a letter or request from the VA regarding evidence or information, responding to the request immediately can help expedite processing your claim and lead to a more favorable decision. Failing to respond to requests for information and documents could result in a delay in the processing time for your claim, as well as a more negative or unfavorable decision. You will also want to be sure that you have submitted all evidence, including statements to support your claim(s), medical records and/or any private medical opinions to help prove your case. 

What Happens After You File a VA Disability Claim?

VA disability claims may be filed online, by mail, or in person. Filing your claim online can reduce the time it takes to schedule an appointment with the VA or mail your application to the VA. Once the VA receives your disability claim, the claim proceeds through the standard process to evaluate the claim.

An initial review of your claim is made by a VSR (Veterans service representative). The VSR may contact you if the application is not complete or accurate. If your application is in order, the VSR begins gathering additional evidence from a variety of sources, including your health care providers and governmental agencies. You may be contacted to provide additional information or evidence of your disability or injuries.

After gathering all relevant information and evidence, the VSR reviews the evidence and decides whether your claim is granted or denied. The VSR prepares a claim decision package that contains details of the disability decision. 

What Can I Do If My VA Disability Claim is Denied or I Don’t Agree with the Decision?

If your VA disability claim is denied or you don’t agree with the decision, you have a right to appeal the decision, but you must do so within your appeal timeframe or before the deadline. For claims decided on or after February 19, 2019, veterans have three choices for review options:

  • File a Supplemental Claim with new and relevant evidence;
  • Request a Higher-Level Review by a senior reviewer; or,
  • Request a Board Appeal with a Veterans Law Judge.

Depending on what evidence was submitted and considered in rendering the decision you received, you may decide to file a Supplemental Claim appeal with additional evidence to strengthen your claim (such as a nexus letter from your doctor, correlating your claimed condition(s) to your time in service using the standard “at least as likely as not” language required). Alternatively, it may be advisable to file a Higher-Level Review appeal, such as the case for an error applying the law or reviewing your evidence prior to the decision being issued. Because there are deadlines for filing appeals and requests to review, it is important to take quick action once you receive the VA disability claim decision. Also, because each review choice is slightly different, you should consult an experienced disability attorney to discuss which option is best given the facts and circumstances of your claim. 

Contact Our Michigan Disability Attorneys for Help

Our Michigan disability attorneys assist veterans throughout the United States in obtaining the VA at various levels of the disability claims process. We also help veterans who need to appeal decisions and fight for the benefits they deserve after an injury or disability. Contact us today for your free consultation. Our attorneys are certified to handle veterans disability cases. Disability is all we do! Our team is not only skilled and knowledgeable, but passionate. We will fight to ensure you receive every benefit you deserve just as you fought to protect our freedoms today.

See how the VA is responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Qualifying for VA Disability Back Pay

When you apply for VA disability benefits, the VA determines your date of disability. That date may be the date of injury or a later date, such as when you filed your ‘intent to file’ or complete application for disability benefits. In many cases, veterans approved for disability benefits are also entitled to VA disability back pay. If you are having trouble receiving your disability back pay, contact our Michigan VA benefits attorneys for help.

What is VA Disability Back Pay?

When the VA approves a veteran for disability benefits, it determines a monthly amount that the veteran will receive for disability pay. Once the VA approves a disability claim, the veteran typically begins receiving monthly disability payments within a month. However, the veteran may also be entitled to disability back pay.

Disability back pay is the amount of disability benefits you would have been entitled to receive from a specific date through the date your disability benefits began. Back pay is paid in a lump sum.

The date for determining back pay varies, depending on when you file your VA disability claim and other factors. It is important to understand how the VA calculates the date for disability back pay to ensure that you receive all the disability benefits you are entitled to receive. Further, some cases merit a re-opening of a previous denial to allow for additional back-pay benefits to be paid to the veteran. However, the arguments can be complex and typically involve a detailed analysis of the law, medical records, and facts of the case including any reason for failing to appeal the previous or initial decision. 

Calculating Dates for VA Disability Back Pay

In many cases, the VA pays disability back pay from the time the veteran filed the disability claim through the date the claim was approved. Depending on the case and whether an appeal or review is necessary, that period could equal a few months or over a year. 

However, the effective date of the claim may not be the filing date of the claim in some cases. The effective date could be the date the veteran became entitled to the benefits, such as the date the veteran was diagnosed with the condition that resulted in the impairment or disability. In that case, the effective date could be a date that is well before the claim filing date. In that case, a veteran could be entitled to substantially more money than the VA is calculating for disability back pay. However, this scenario only applies if a veteran files for disability benefits within a year of being discharged from service. 

The effective date for VA disability back pay may also be different from the claim filing date in cases involving increased rating claims. The effective date for an increased rating claim could go back a year before the date the veteran filed the disability claim if certain circumstances apply. Also, there are special rules that apply to claims related to Agent Orange exposure, and other types of claims. 

The best thing for a veteran to do if he or she is unsure of the effective date for their VA disability back pay is to talk to an experienced disability lawyer. A disability lawyer can use the facts of the case to calculate the correct effective date for VA disability back pay. If the VA is using a date that is not correct, a skilled disability attorney can assist the veteran in filing an appeal or request for review to gain all the back pay that the veteran is entitled to receive.

Contact Our Michigan Disability Attorneys for Help

Navigating the VA disability claims system can be confusing and frustrating. If you have questions about your VA disability claim, disability payments, or disability back pay, contact our Michigan disability attorneys for a free case review. Disability Law Group is dedicated to helping the disabled receive the benefits they deserve at every step of the way. Our attorneys have decades of combined experience specializing strictly in disability benefits, and we are here to help you.

See how the VA is responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Types of VA Disability Claims

As a disabled veteran, you may be entitled to VA disability benefits. However, there are an array of benefits and resources that you may be eligible for. Determining the type of claim you should file can be confusing. In order to clarify things for you, we’ve compiled an overview of some of the common types of VA disability claims below. For additional information, please contact our Michigan veterans benefits attorneys

Original Claim

As a veteran who has a service-related injury or condition, you will want to file a claim for service-connection; your first disability claim filed is termed an ‘original claim.’ You can file an original claim up to 180 days before you leave service. If you have between 180 and 190 days left on active duty, you may be able to file a pre-discharge claim, which may help you obtain your benefits sooner. However, if you have less than 90 days left on active duty, you can’t file a pre-discharge claim. You may, however, still file a claim before you’re discharged, and it will be processed after separation. In addition, you can file a claim for an issue that emerges after discharge. This is called a post-service or new claim. There’s no time limit for filing such a claim.

Supplemental Claim for an Increased Rating

As a disabled veteran, you may also file a claim for increased disability compensation if your service-connected disability has gotten worse since your initial claim. In order to qualify, you must meet the following criteria:

  • Your disability claim was denied,
  • You never filed an appeal, and
  • You have new evidence that is directly related to your claim.

First, you will want to review the rating criteria to see what rating category your condition meets. Generally speaking, you will need to prove that your condition has worsened to merit the increased rating you believe you deserve, such as by showing evidence of additional symptoms, or a decline in your condition overall. A Disability Benefits Questionnaire (DBQ) may be completed by your doctor to help support the fact that you meet the increased rating you are seeking. Regardless, it is advisable that you submit any supportive new evidence you would like considered along with this claim for an increased rating at the same time. An experienced attorney can help you better understand how to qualify for an increase. 

Other Claims

If you are already receiving service-connected disability benefits, you may also file a new claim to request additional financial support, special monthly compensation payments, or a change to employment status (called an application for Total Disability Individual Unemployability), which is assigned if you can’t work due to your disability. In the case of the latter, disabled veterans may also be eligible for Social Security Disability benefits as well as Unemployability benefits through the VA. Finally, if you have special needs related to your disability, you can file a special claim to request compensation for your needs. For example, some service-connected disabilities may require you to obtain a specially equipped vehicle or additional supports that can help. 

Secondary Service-Connected Claim

If you have a new condition that’s linked to a service-connected disability that you already have, you can file a secondary service-connected claim. This is used for cases in which an existing disability already considered service-connected leads to a new medical problem, such as when arthritis in the left knee develops from overuse caused by an existing service-connected right knee injury, or if you develop a condition related to your upper or cervical spine from your service-connected lower or thoracolumbar spine. Moreover, veterans have commonly developed sleep apnea secondary to their service-connected neck condition or from their PTSD and resulting problems sleeping, among others. A skilled attorney certified to handle veterans disability claims can assist you by reviewing all of your records to help strategize any and all benefits you may be eligible for.  

Contact a Michigan Veterans Benefits Attorney 

As you can see, there are several types of VA disability claims and benefits available. While it can be difficult to determine which kind of claim to file for, know that you do not have to go at the process alone. With the assistance of a veterans benefits attorney, you’ll be able to understand which claim(s) you may be eligible for, and any required supporting documentation that you may be able to submit. At Disability Law Group, disability is all we do. Our attorneys will carefully review your evidence and design a roadmap for you so that you are in the best position to receive the benefits you deserve. Please contact us as soon as possible for a free consultation. 

Non-Combat PTSD Stressors and VA Disability Benefits

A stressor, as defined by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), is an event that results in post-traumatic stress and may eventually develop into post-traumatic stress disorder (“PTSD”). PTSD is a common result of stressors experienced by veterans during combat. However, PTSD can also result from stressors experienced during peacetime. These types of stressors are known as non-combat PTSD stressors. In order to receive VA disability benefits for non-combat PTSD, veterans must submit specific information to the VA for consideration in their claim to help support the criteria. Below is an overview of non-combat PTSD stressors and VA disability benefits. If you suffer from PTSD and need assistance obtaining VA disability benefits, please contact our Michigan veterans benefits attorneys.

Evidence Required to Verify a Non-Combat PTSD Stressor 

When considering a veteran’s PTSD non-combat claim, the VA must verify the stressor. However, it isn’t enough to simply confirm that the event occurred. The VA must also confirm that the veteran was present and witnessed the event in some manner. This is accomplished via the submission of evidence which may come in a plethora of formats and from various sources. 

Primary Evidence

The first type of evidence that a veteran may submit to demonstrate a non-combat PTSD stressor is called primary evidence. The VA considers primary evidence to be the most reliable means of verifying non-combat PTSD stressors. There are many types of primary evidence, including:  

  • Service personnel records 
  • Pay records
  • Evidence of military occupation
  • Hazard pay records
  • Military performance reports
  • Verification of combat pay/imminent danger pay/hostile fire pay
  • Unit and organizational histories
  • Staff journals
  • After action reports
  • Operational reports-lessons learned 
  • Radio logs
  • Deck logs
  • Ship histories
  • Command chronologies 
  • War diaries
  • Monthly summaries 
  • Morning reports

Secondary Evidence

The VA also accepts secondary evidence of non-combat PTSD stressors, including:  

  • Contemporaneous diaries and letters 
  • Newspaper archives
  • Buddy statements

This last piece of evidence, the buddy statement, can be particularly relevant in non-combat related PTSD claims. The VA may accept a buddy statement from another veteran who you served with, for example, to corroborate a claimed in-service stressor if it is consistent with the information provided by the veteran seeking VA disability benefits. Without a buddy statement, it can be particularly difficult to prove a non-combat PTSD stressor. 

Examples of Non-Combat PTSD Stressors 

Examples of non-combat PTSD stressors include: 

  • Severe weather events
  • Plane crashes
  • Auto accidents
  • Witnessing another person’s injury or death outside of a combat situation

Contact a Michigan Veterans Benefits Attorney 

In order to obtain VA disability benefits for both combat-related PTSD and non-combat PTSD, you must submit the correct documentation and meet the VA’s stringent criteria. Otherwise, your claim will be denied. In order to ensure that you submit everything required to support your claim, you need a team of experienced Michigan veterans benefits attorneys on your side. At Disability Law Group, disability is all we do. Please contact us as soon as possible for a free consultation.  

Are “Surviving Spouses” Eligible for VA Benefits?

If you are the surviving spouse of a disabled veteran, you may be eligible for certain cash benefits. Specifically, you may be eligible for what is known as dependency and indemnity compensation (“DIC”) benefits. DIC benefits are available to surviving spouses of service members who died from service-connected disabilities or had a 100% disability rating prior to death. Below is an overview of DIC benefits for surviving spouses. For additional information about DIC benefits for surviving military spouses, please contact our Michigan veterans benefits attorneys.

Eligibility for DIC benefits

If you are a surviving military spouse, you may be eligible for DIC benefits if your spouse:

  • Died while on active duty (or inactive duty for training),
  • From a disability that was connected to his or her service, OR
  • While eligible for or receiving disability compensation for a totally disabling condition for between one and ten years, depending on the circumstances.

In addition to the above conditions, you must also meet the following requirements:

  • You married your spouse at least one year prior to his or her death,
  • You lived with your spouse without any separations until he or she died (some exceptions may apply), 
  • Your spouse must have died from a disability that was connected to his or her service if you were married within 15 years of discharge from the period of service that caused the disability, OR
  • You had a child with your spouse, OR
  • Your spouse died while he or she was on active duty (or inactive duty for training).

DIC benefits for surviving spouses who remarry

If you are a surviving spouse who has remarried, you may be ineligible for DIC benefits. However, your eligibility depends on the date you remarried and your age on the date of your remarriage. If you remarried after age 57, you remain eligible for DIC if you also meet the requirements above. If you remarried before you turned 57, you aren’t eligible for DIC benefits unless you were married before December 16, 2003.

Contact an attorney to determine your eligibility for DIC benefits

Given all of the requirements and exceptions discussed above, it can be difficult to determine if you’re eligible for DIC benefits without legal assistance. Therefore, if you’d like to determine your eligibility for surviving spouse DIC benefits, you need Disability Law Group on your side. At Disability Law Group, our Michigan veterans benefits attorneys are here to help you obtain the benefits you deserve. We respect our veterans and their families, and we’re committed to assisting you with every step of the veterans disability benefits process. If you live in Macomb County, Oakland County, Wayne County, or elsewhere in Michigan and would like to apply for DIC benefits, we’re here to help. At Disability Law Group, disability is all we do. Please contact us as soon as possible for a free consultation.