Service Dogs for Disabled Vets

10 Aug 2017

The VA recognizes three types of service dogs for disabled veterans. For blind and vision impaired vets, guide dogs are trained to lead in walking and to navigate around hazards. Service dogs are trained to do things regular dogs can't, and specifically to perform a task that the veteran cannot perform because of the disability. Emotional support dogs provide emotional support and companionship for those vets with mental health conditions. 

Guide dogs and service dogs are obtained through a provider's recommendation and from nationally recognized training programs. The VA does not cover the usual costs of dog ownership, such as food, but does pay for vet care and equipment through the Va's prosthetic program.

Emotional support dogs can be regular pets. They provide the companionship and emotional benefits of pet ownership, which can be comforting for people with and without emotional health conditions. The VA does not, at this time, recognize emotional support animals as an evidence-based therapy for PTSD and other mental health conditions. They do not offer any financial support for animals in these roles or allow extended access to areas pets are usually forbidden, such as airplanes and restaurants.

While the evidence-based medical therapies do not support dogs as emotional support animals, particularly for those with PTSD, many veterans groups, animal groups, and lawmakers disagree. State and national organizations that offer support and assistance with emotional support animals continue to grow. With a number of these organizations actively soliciting participation from veterans, it is worth noting that several international and national training programs for service animals exist, but there is not at this time a national training or register for emotional support animals. Veterans groups and individual veterans recommendations may be the safest way to navigate through these new organizations.

Emotional support animals must comply with the rules and restrictions of regular pets. They, for instance, have to live in a pet-approved apartment or housing. Owners have to be able to care for the animals normally, such as affording food and being able to walk dogs. Many multi-family housing areas have breed restrictions; guide and service dogs can qualify for an exemption for breed restrictions and pet fees, but emotional support pets do not.

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

The Tangled Threads of Service-Connected Disability, Incarceration, and Immigration Status

11 May 2017

Service-connected psychiatric disability and traumatic brain injury are commonalities among veterans with substance abuse challenges and involvement with the criminal justice system. While these facts may point to a failure of the system to support service members who are injured in the line of duty, and the generalized failure to provide adequate treatment and support for substance abuse, the system is a catastrophic failure when the veteran faces deportation because of immigration status.

Many enlistees assume that serving in the military, and receiving an honorable discharge, entitles them to citizenship. It does not. There is a procedure for applying, and a timeline, but there is no automatic entitlement. Veterans who served honorably, and who do not apply for the expedited citizenship and residency while on active duty, can be, and are, being deported regularly. They will be allowed back in the US when they die, to be buried in a veterans' cemetery.

While deportation of undocumented veterans has become common, the real challenge is for those veterans who are eligible for VA health care and are deported. VA eligibility still exists, though there are no VA treatment centers in Mexico or Central America. With no assistance for working through the system, that eligibility for services is often lost and veterans go without care.

The most common deportation practice with veterans who are undocumented are for those with a criminal justice conviction. The VA can stop pensions for veterans incarcerated in federal facilities, and families do not automatically receive the stopped pensions. Many families, afraid of becoming known to the system and being deported, never apply for benefits or assistance due to families.

Veterans and their families who are undocumented are facing challenging times. Many are afraid to access the system that has been put into place for their service connected injuries, because of the threat of deportation if they become identified by the system. Legal counsel can assist veterans and family members to access the VA system, and provide advice and assistance with issues of immigration status and threatened deportation.

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

Psychiatric Disability & The Problem Faced by Veterans

30 Sep 2016

Veterans with psychiatric disabilities face the daunting task of applying for both help for their problem and benefits to enable them to take care of themselves and their families. Because of the stigma that still surrounds mental health in this country, it's often hard for a veteran to even admit he has a problem, let alone apply for benefits because of it. Imagine being forced to prove that you're chronically depressed, or that you have a debilitating anxiety disorder so you can get the benefits you desperately need to enable you to continue to provide for your family.

This is a problem too many veterans are facing, and as statistics sadly show, many of them end up in despair and decide to end their lives instead of being forced to prove the severity of their illness. According to Vets National, a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) found that 1 in 10 veterans face mental issues after combat. These veterans are must see a military psychiatrist for a diagnosis and a rating for their disability. If the doctor finds that their problem is causing total social and occupational impairment, they are given a 100% rating, entitling them to full disability compensation. Problems arise when the doctor assigns a rating that is too low. (Ratings below 100% range from 0% to 70%.) Because of a misdiagnosis, perhaps caused by a fear of fully exposing their struggles, the veteran will receive a lower rating and be thrust into the unfortunate position of being unable to work or function normally in society, and unable to provide for his family, which only causes more mental anguish.

If you're a veteran in this difficult situation, you can turn to the Veterans Law Group for help. We consider it our duty to help veterans win maximum benefits for their total disability claim, whether it's for physical or mental impairments. Contact us today for more information about how we can help.

Personality Disorder Claims

11 Aug 2016

Recently, the United States Army and the United States National Institute of Mental Health conducted a large-scale study on the mental health of military members. The majority of the data used for the study was the Army's Study to Assess Risks and Resilience inServicemembers (STARRS) survey of approximately 5,500 active duty soldiers. Out of that number, almost 25% suffered from a mental disorder of some kind and 11% out of that percentage suffered from more than one.

Many military members are subsequently diagnosed with a personality disorder. But personality disorders are not recognized within the VA system as disabilities. Despite this, personality disorders are commonly diagnosed. It is vital that a diagnosis of this type not be accepted without a private evaluation to determine if it truly is a pre-existing condition that is not related to military service. Many times, the personality disorder is actually the manifestation of the initial signs of a psychiatric condition resulting from service.

The process of getting benefits from the VA is often an exhausting and frustrating process. The Veterans Law Group is well-versed in the process and in the VA Schedule of Ratings Disabilities. We are a team of attorneys, advocates, and veterans that specialize in the claims process and our sole duty is to get disabled veterans the benefits they deserve.

Medical evaluation reports are an important part of a successful claim. The VA has medical professionals working for them, not for the disabled veteran. For many claims, independent medical reports are necessary and the VLG will obtain these for the client. These reports often make all the difference for our clients.

Don't settle for less than what you deserve as a veteran. Contact us today so that we can help you navigate the waters of the VA claims process.


Psychiatric Disability & VA Benefits

04 Aug 2016

recent study found that nearly 25% of all veterans suffer from a mental illness of some kind. In many of these cases, veterans have a psychiatric disability that entitles them to disability benefit payments from the VA. Psychiatric disabilities are presumed to be service-related. Even in cases where a veteran had a pre-existing mental illness, VA benefits are still possible if there was a service-related aggravation of that illness.

The VA only recognizes disabilities that are found in the VA Schedule of Ratings Disabilities. For mental disorders, this schedule is largely based on the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition (DSM-IV). Common illnesses that entitle veterans to benefits include (among others):

  • depression;
  • anxiety or panic attacks;
  • cognitive disorders such as dementia or amnesia;
  • mood disorders;
  • somatic symptom disorders; and
  • eating disorders.

Getting benefits from the VA often requires going through a complicated claim appeal process. This can involve the compilation of employment and personal information, medical evaluations, and even court appearances. Navigating the process and providing the right evidence can be a daunting task, especially for a person suffering from a cognitive or emotional disability. An experienced attorney can help a veteran prove a psychiatric disability by providing the VA with the correct medical evidence and with testimony from a credible evaluating psychiatrist.

At the Veterans Law Group, we are familiar with the VA Schedule of Ratings Disabilities and we understand what medical evidence is required to get our clients disability compensation. We also carefully seeks out psychiatrists who will provide the best reports for our clients. If you are a veteran suffering from mental illness, but have been denied disability benefits, contact us today for assistance. If you are a family member of a veteran suffering from mental illness, you can find useful resources here.

1