Incarcerated Veterans with Service-Connected Disability

30 Mar 2017

Veterans with service-connected disabilities, treated or untreated, are frequently in conflict with the justice system. What services are available to veterans who are under threat of incarceration, and what happens to VA benefits when a veteran is incarcerated?

The VA has a program called Veterans Justice Outreach Program. It is part of the homeless prevention initiatives, but veterans do not have to be homeless to receive services. The goal of the program is to provide mental health and substance abuse services to veterans who are involved with the justice system, to avoid unnecessary criminalization of mental illness.

There is also a program called HCRV, Health Care Re-entry for Veterans. This program is designed to reduce homelessness among veterans leaving prison. This program involves giving veterans information while incarcerated about how to plan for their re-entry.

VA pays disability and pensions. They are treated differently when incarcerated. Disability payments for those at the 20% or higher level are reduced to the 10% level. Those at 10% have their payment reduced by 50%. These reductions occur if a veteran is convicted of a felony and imprisoned for more than 60 days. Pensions are terminated on day 61 of imprisonment for a felony or misdemeanor.

For both programs, veterans have to reapply for benefits upon release and meet eligibility requirements again. There is a program that allows disability payments to be apportioned to a spouse, dependent parent, or child during incarceration. It's not automatic; the eligible family member needs to apply.

The compensation is not stopped for work-release programs, community control, or halfway houses. 

For more information on psychiatric disability & veterans, please contact us.


Long Term Effects of Agent Orange Exposure

24 Mar 2017

Agent Orange was a two-dioxin compound that was used for widespread defoliation in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia during the 1960s. The Agent Orange compound, TCDD, for dioxin tetrachlordibenzo-para-dioxin, is classified as a level 1 carcinogen, meaning any exposure can cause human cancers. The chemical was banned in the US in 1970, but its effects continue to cause suffering in the US and in Southeast Asia, where the chemical compound impregnates the soil and water. 

The level 1 classification by the International Agency for Research on Cancer has detailed cancer risks for many years. But scientists are now looking specifically at long-term cancers in veterans and other people exposed to Agent Orange fifty years ago. Since the exposure window, new human harm has been documented as the group of veterans exposed has gotten older.

Soft tissue sarcoma, Hodgkin's lymphoma, and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma have long been associated with Agent Orange exposure. Recently, long-tern studies have established a strong link with prostate cancer and bladder cancer. Other significant health effects include neurodevelopmental diseases in children and neurodegenerative disease in older veterans and people exposed.

While veterans exposed during the Vietnam War are one group exposed, other service members had to handle the shipping, handling, loading, and storage of the dioxin while working on military bases or on transport ships and planes. Current VA requirements detail combat service in Southeast Asia for exposure.

There is also the population of people who were born with birth defects in Vietnam; no significant long-term studies have been done to address the heavy exposure risk of those who live in areas where the defoliant was used repeatedly. Some studies have determined that the long-term total body exposure of the chemical is greater in people from Southeast Asia than anyone else. There is anecdotal information regarding congenital heart defects and other birth defects, as well as neurodevelopmental disease in infants. Small studies have determined specific exposure risk, such as paternal exposure and the risk of spina-bifida in children.

The World Health Organization, in their latest fact-sheet on dioxin, related the continuous exposure to humans through the food chain. Since the chemical doesn't degrade naturally, it tends to accumulate in the fatty tissues of animals. Most countries monitor their food supply for dioxin, and it has been found throughout the world and throughout the animal food supply. Unfortunately, the chemical compound is still being produced, used, and accidentally released into the environment by industries around the world.

For more information, please contact us.


Understanding Veterans Disability Claim Types

23 Mar 2017

After serving your country selflessly and completing your military service, you have been left with a life-altering injury or condition. You may have decided to move forward with an application for veterans disability compensation for your service-related injury, but there are several different options and you don’t know where to start.

The three claim types for veterans disability benefits are explained below to help guide you in the right direction.

Understanding Veterans Disability Claim TypesDo I Qualify for Veterans Disability Benefits?

Before you become overwhelmed with paperwork, it is important to understand who can apply for veterans disability benefits. If you are a veteran of the U.S. Military and have a current injury or condition that is connected to that service, you may be eligible for disability compensation.

Filing Your Claim

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) provides several different forms and filing options for your initial disability application. These are:  

  • Intent to File
  • Standard Claim
  • Fully Developed Claim

Intent to File: This option is a relatively new process and should be used when you know that you want to file a claim for disability benefits but you need more time to gather information or to complete your application. The “Intent to File” option will preserve your date of claim, allowing you time to gather your records and documents without losing your effective date for your benefits. You will have one year from the date the “Intent to File” was submitted to complete your application for benefits.

There are four ways to submit an “Intent to File” to the VA:

  1. Contact a local veterans service organization. A veterans service officer (VSO) there can assist you with submitting an “Intent to File” electronically.

  2. Begin an online application for disability benefits (www.eBenefits.va.gov). Once you have started the claim, your intent to file is recorded after you select “Save,” even if the application is not completed. The eBenefits website can be confusing, so it is best to get assistance from a VSO when completing this application.

  3. Complete VA Form 21-0966 and mail it to the VA. If you choose this option, make sure to keep a copy of the completed form for your records, and place a follow-up phone call to confirm that the VA has received the form.

  4. Call the VA and inform the representative of your “Intent to File” over the phone: 1-800-827-1000

Other Veterans Disability Claim Options: Standard or Fully Developed Claims

If you have gathered some or all of your medical records and other documentation relevant to your conditions or injury, you can choose to move forward with the application for benefits. There are two options to choose from: A Standard Claim or a Fully Developed Claim.

Standard Claim: If you choose this option, the VA is responsible for assisting in the gathering of all of the medical evidence related to your claim for disability benefits. This is known as the VA’s Duty to Assist.  The VA may also require you to seek a medical opinion or attend a medical exam (C&P Exam) to help determine service connection and the severity of your conditions. You will be responsible for providing treatment dates and a list of doctors/facilities that you have visited for treatment.

The Standard Claim usually takes much longer because the VA has to request all relevant medical records, including those from private physicians, and wait for the physicians or treatment facilities to respond to these requests.

Fully Developed Claim: This option is also fairly new and was developed in an effort to speed up the lengthy veterans disability claims process. With this option, you are responsible for gathering all of the required records and documentation that support your claim for disability benefits. This information is then submitted WITH your application. The VA will still obtain any Federal records, including service medical records. However, if you have them on hand, you should also submit them with your application.

Once your Fully Developed Claim is submitted, you will be asked to certify that there are no additional relevant records. After the application is received, the VA can start reviewing the evidence right away instead of spending a significant amount of time requesting additional information.

How Do I Know Which Option is Best for My Situation?

A veterans service officer (VSO) can be a great resource for determining which claim type is the best for your specific situation. A good VSO has much experience filing veterans disability claims and can help determine which path is appropriate for your situation. The VSO can also help you with understanding your eligibility, gathering the appropriate information, registering online, and filing your claim.

The VA Disability Benefits Claim Process can be lengthy, overwhelming, and frustrating, but finding answers to your disability claims questions doesn’t have to be difficult. Take our free quiz today to determine what resources are available for your specific needs.

Additional Resources

VA Webpage on the Intent to File Process
VA Webpage on Filing a Claim
eBenefits



The Atomic Veterans Healthcare Parity Act

16 Mar 2017

 The US took a trusteeship role over Micronesia in 1946, a large group of islands in the Pacific, and five days later those islands became the Pacific Proving Ground. The islanders were moved off and the US spent nearly twenty years detonating nuclear bombs on the islands, then left them, covered with plutonium and other radioactive waste blowing in the wind and seeping into the Pacific ocean.

When the US was forced by threat of lawsuit by the Enewetak Islanders to clean up the nuclear waste left behind, they used military personnel to save money. Safety gear, respirators and monitoring equipment were ineffective in the humid heat of the local climate, and there was not enough of it to protect all of the servicemen brought to work on cleanup. One veteran remembers asking for a mask, and being told there were no masks, to use a tee-shirt instead.

In 1988, Congress passed a law granting automatic medical coverage for veterans involved in the bombing, but the veterans who did the cleanup without adequate safety gear were excluded. One veteran recalls being given new safety gear to put on, and after his picture was taken by the military, the gear was removed and stored, and he went to work in shorts and sandals, with no shirt and no other safety gear.

Today veterans who participated in the cleanup report cancers, osteoporosis, birth defects in children, and other well documented health effects of exposure to nuclear waste. After being repeatedly denied by the VA, who relied on readings and documentation of broken or failed or nonexistent safety equipment, Congressman Takai from Hawaii wrote a bill called the Atomic Veterans Healthcare Parity Act, specifically to address the inequity for veterans involved in the cleanup of Enewetak Atoll. The bill has been sitting in committee since the end of 2015. There is a Facebook group for Enewetak cleanup veterans to share information and support.

For more information related to veterans, please contact us.


Veterans Crisis Line: No Wrong Number

09 Mar 2017

What is the Veterans Crisis Line? The crisis line is available for any veteran, family member, caregiver, or interested party to help a veteran cope with a crisis, talk to someone about a difficult problem, talk about suicidal thoughts. The caller will be helped to access VA and other resources. The crisis line is staffed at a VA facility and by VA staff, some of whom are veterans themselves. They can also help coordinate follow-up with veterans who have a primary care doctor at a VA facility. It is not required that a veteran be registered with the VA or even be eligible to use the Veterans Crisis Line.

The crisis line is not available to ask questions about VA benefits or to check on claims status. Questions about VA healthcare should be referred to 877-222-VETS (8387). For benefit questions call 800-827-1000.

It is important to note that the Veteran Crisis Line phone number is the same number as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. The number 800-273-8255 is available to anyone in crisis. The veterans crisis line is then reached by pressing 1. The Veterans Crisis Line is provided as a partnership with National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. There is no wrong number between the two. Veterans are not required to call the VA side of the program. The option is available to speak to a VA crisis counselor who has expertise helping veterans. The non-VA side of the program will assist veterans and non-veterans through a crisis and help with access to community resources.

There are a few ways to contact the Veterans Crisis Line. The most well-known and mostly used means of contacting them is by phone at 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1. Direct chat is also available through their website via https://www.veteranscrisisline.net/Chat. You can also text to 838255. The crisis line is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week by all access means.

If you are a veteran or know of a veteran in crisis, don’t hesitate to contact the Veterans Crisis Line at 800-273-8255. 

Should you need legal assistance accessing your VA benefits, call our experienced law firm.

What is Gulf War Syndrome?

02 Mar 2017

Gulf War Syndrome is a chronic condition affecting those who served in the military while assigned to Southwest Asia. This service includes the Gulf War (1990-1991), Operation Iraqi Freedom (2003-2010) and Operation New Dawn (2010-2011).

Symptoms of Gulf War Syndrome can include a wide range of medical issues -- fatigue, memory problems, pain, rashes, and even tumors, to name just a few examples. Many causes are often blamed for the condition, from sarin gas to stress to exposure to smoke and pesticides. However, the exact cause of the problems still has not been reliably proven, even after numerous studies.

A recent report by the Department of Veterans Affairs stated that anywhere from twenty-five percent to thirty-three percent of Gulf War military personnel suffer from this syndrome. In fact, veterans of this war suffer a greater number of multi-symptom illnesses, overall, than veterans of other wars.

Gulf War Veterans are generally eligible for special benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs, such as health care and disability compensation, for any problems related to their service. If you're suffering from GWS, help is available! The Institute of Medicine concluded that serotonin inhibitors along with cognitive therapy are the most beneficial treatments to ease many symptoms. Even so, a fuller understanding of Gulf War Syndrome is still needed.

If you're a Gulf War Veteran, and you need legal representation to get the full benefits that you're due, please contact us as soon as possible. We represent veterans' interests in all states, and we can help you get what you're entitled to receive as a military veteran.

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