New PTSD Treatment Studies -- Transcendental Meditation, Sleep, and Ecstasy

02 Feb 2017

PTSD, or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, is experienced by a large percentage of military veterans. Its symptoms include flashbacks of traumatic experiences, stress, anxiety, depression, and more.

A new study, as reported by Medical News Today, shows that transcendental meditation can reduce the symptoms of PTSD. The study involved 181 male prisoners from the Oregon State Correctional Institution and Oregon State Penitentiary. These prisoners had undergone traumatic experiences and were considered a high risk for PTSD. The study compared those from the group who underwent a four-month transcendental meditation program of 20-minute sessions twice a day to those who hadn’t.

Symptoms were evaluated by using the Trauma Symptoms Checklist and the Perceived Stress Scale. The results? The meditation sessions reduced trauma and stress by 47 percent.

In another recent study, also reported by Medical News Today, it was found that sleep can help reduce flashbacks of traumatic experiences.

In related news, the FDA studies of how the MDMA drug, commonly known as Ecstasy, can help treat PTSD are nearing completion. They have been going on since 2000 and are now in Phase 3 of the studies, which is the last step before a drug can be approved for pharmaceutical uses. All research until now points to the drug being approved when the studies are completed. Ecstasy saturates the brain with serotonin, which helps calm a person down and make them feel at peace with experiences they have gone through.

For more information on PTSD, and for help with receiving benefits for disability claims, just contact us.

Treatment and Compensation for Psychiatric Disability

29 Dec 2016

Veteran disability applications can take months.  If the application is for a psychiatric disability, the process can take much longer and include multiple appeals.

Most veterans getting treatment for a psychiatric disorder are getting that treatment for conditions other than PTSD. Many are also eligible for a disability rating and compensation.

Veterans and those helping them to access services and disability compensation should know that treatment is available for a variety of psychiatric conditions including: depression, bipolar disorder, substance abuse, schizophrenia and others.  Disability compensation can be awarded for psychiatric conditions which are acquired as a result of service or during service.  There does not have to be a direct link between an actual military related event that caused a particular psychiatric symptom or disorder.  One requirement is only that the symptoms began during military service.  Some conditions, such as schizophrenia, may have occurred whether a person served in the military or not.  If a service member is diagnosed or presented with symptoms of schizophrenia (or other conditions) during military service, they may very well be eligible for a disability rating and compensation because the illness began in the service. 

Veterans who are suffering from a psychiatric condition can benefit from having their case evaluated for a connection to their service.

Treatment for a psychiatric disability can be hard to find.  Access to psychiatric care varies across the country regardless of veteran status.  Getting treatment for psychiatric symptoms is important for quality of life and overall wellbeing.  Treatment can be life-saving.  It is important to get treatment from the VA or elsewhere even while waiting on a claim.  Veterans may be eligible for treatment in VA healthcare facilities without regard to service connected status.

 A record of continuous treatment for a psychiatric condition provides for continuity of care and provides documentation needed to properly adjudicate a claim.  Don’t hesitate to get treatment for any psychiatric symptoms. 

Getting help with a claim for a disability rating for a psychiatric condition can greatly improve your success. Contact us to get expert, professional legal help processing your claim.

ALS and Gulf War Vets

21 Oct 2016

From 2003 to 2007 the VA enrolled Veterans with ALS in a National Registry. The registry collected data, including DNA, to be used for a number of studies on ALS. This registry was a result of the VA-DOD study that compared case rates of ALS in Gulf War veterans with non-deployed veterans and found a statistically significant increased risk for developing ALS. The Gulf War vets had a case rate of 6.7/million/year compared to a population case rate of 3.5/million/year.

In September 2008, the VA Secretary announced that there is a presumption that ALS is a service-connected condition for all vets with ALS who had greater than 90 days of service. The wording of "presumption" rather than "cause" is significant.

Since that time, there have been a number of studies that suggest the development of ALS in Gulf War vets was time limited to the decade after service. Other studies have suggested that all military veterans, regardless or time and place of service, have a higher risk of developing ALS. The ALS Association published a White Paper last year detailing the current state of the research into ALS and military service and concluded there was enough research to support a causal link.

Medical research, based on the way a study is designed and conducted, can suggest a relationship between two things without being able to prove a cause and effect relationship. This is due to the difficulty of accounting for all the extraneous variables that can affect the results. At this time, the majority of studies are "presuming" a relationship between ALS and military service without being about to prove a direct cause and effect. This is because we still have not found the cause. The ALS Association White Paper is supporting a causal relationship between ALS and military service because the number and quality of the studies all show the relationship, without being able to detail a cause.

ALS is only one of a group of neurological conditions that seem to affect Gulf War vets at a greater rate than the general population. The VA reports Parkinson's Disease, MS, and Brain Cancer are more common in this group of vets. The cause or causes are still unknown.

For more information about ALS and military service, or other topics... please contact us.

Veteran Unemployability After Spinal Cord Injuries

14 Oct 2016

Spinal cord injuries are obviously serious but can cause lasting effects that you might not originally think about. Veterans who suffered a service-connected spinal cord injury may like to find out more about life after a SCI.

Extended Hospital Stays

The National SCI Statistical Center highlights how impactful SCIs are as their research indicates that fewer than 1% of people with these injuries make a complete recovery by the time they are discharged. Around 30% of patients return to the hospital at least once for an average stay of 22 days after being discharged the first time. This means veterans might need disability benefits for a variety of medical reasons relating to a SCI even years after the initial injury.

Unemployability

A veteran might also need to make a TDIU claim as those with SCIs often suffer partial or total loss of function in the arms, legs or torso. More than half of those with SCIs were employed before the injury, but only 12% of people still had a job one year after receiving the injury. The employment rate for those with a SCI rises as time passes but is still fairly low as 34% are employed after 20 years. Veterans may have trouble finding a job for a long time after this injury, especially when coupled with other physical or mental conditions.

Every year after an incident, a minor SCI may cost around $42,000 while a severe SCI could cost $185,000 annually. If you are a veteran who needs assistance getting the help you deserve after a spinal cord injury, contact us today.

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.


An Overview of Special Monthly Compensation for Severely Disabled Veterans

11 Jul 2016

As an injured veteran, you are afforded a disability compensation if you're injured or become ill during your time of service in the military. But, if you lost a limb, your sight or hearing, you could be eligible to receive the Special Monthly Compensation benefit, which is paid in addition to the monthly disability payment.

This compensation can be paid to you as the veteran, your spouse, your surviving spouse or your parents. It's sometimes referred to as "aid and attendance" when paid to your spouse, as it's meant to compensate the care that she provides for you.

However, this monthly compensation is extremely complex and it's best to retain an attorney with experience in veteran and military law in order to understand the program and determine if you're eligible.

Qualifying Disabilities for Special Monthly Compensation

There are a few different disabilities that may qualify you to receive this compensation, and they include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Loss of sight
  • Loss of limb
  • Loss of hearing
  • Loss of the use of a reproductive organ
  • Inability to communicate (loss of speech)
  • Loss of a percentage of tissue from both breasts, a single breast, from radiation treatment or a mastectomy

The Department of Veterans' Affairs will pay a higher rate for those that suffer a combination of these disabilities. There are also higher payouts for a number of combinations of bilateral blindness and severe deafness.

Apply for Special Monthly Compensation

If you feel you qualify for this special monthly compensation, reach out to us today.


Veterans’ Groups File Suit against VA over New Claim Policy

04 Apr 2015

A recent policy change at the Department of Veterans Affairs will now require veterans to go through a more formal process, while beginning the process of receiving benefits. Two groups of veterans recently filed a lawsuit against the Department Of Veterans Affairs, saying that the new policies are veteran-unfriendly, and make it difficult for vets to begin receiving their benefits.

Under the new policy at the Department Of Veterans Affairs, veterans will have to fill in a formal application, or speak to an employee at the agency before they begin receiving their benefits. According to the Disabled American Veterans and Veterans Of Foreign Wars, the new policies are extremely unfriendly to veterans, and would actually be an obstacle for veterans in getting their benefits claims processed, and receiving benefits. They would also delay the date when the benefits would begin.

Further, according to the two groups, these new policy changes would make it very difficult for veterans who may not be mentally or physically able to comply with the new regulations.

Under the earlier policy, a veteran could simply initiate the process of receiving benefits by submitting a paper, in which he would describe all of his issues. That would result in an employee at the Department Of Veterans Affairs getting in touch with the vet, and providing all of the correct paperwork to begin the process of filing a claim. The earlier policy, according to veterans, was much friendlier to veterans, and made it easier for them to receive benefits. The new policy was announced on March 24. Under the new policy, the agency is not responsible for correcting any errors, if the veteran fills out the application incorrectly.

Whistleblowers Claim Veterans’ Informal Claims Were Thrown Out

21 Feb 2015

An investigation by CBS has found widespread mismanagement at the Department Of Veterans Affairs with the result that many veterans were denied benefits even when they were eligible for these.

Every year, the Veterans Benefit Administration processes disability claims for veterans, providing them approximately $95 billion, in disability, pension and other benefits. However, widespread mismanagement at the agency has resulted in many claims simply being denied, and veterans being robbed of their due benefits. In many cases, veterans died even as they waited for a response from the Veterans Affairs.

All of these problems were uncovered recently by an investigation which was kicked off after the scandal at the Veterans Affairs Hospital at Phoenix. At least five whistleblowers at the Oakland California Veterans Benefits office, told investigators at CBS News, that there were more than 13000 informal claims that were filed between 1996 and 2009 and stored in a file cabinet at the office. Those claims were simply ignored until 2012. Some of the letters that were sent out after those claims began to be processed, involved veterans who died during that period of time.

According to the whistleblowers, there were many informal letters from veterans, who were at the end of their lives, begging for a chance to claim benefits. Informal claims are filed by veterans who want to apply for benefits, and Veterans Affairs is required under the law to provide these vets with an application.

Supervisors at the office however simply ordered staff members to write “no action necessary” on the claims, and threw them aside. Some of these veterans and their families were not even aware of the type of benefits that they were eligible for, and the veterans in these cases died before they even got a chance to find out.

To file a claim for veterans benefits or understand what types of benefits you are eligible for, speak to a California veterans disability benefits attorney.

Increase in Veterans’ Disability Claims Stress Doctors

16 Oct 2014

According to experts, an increase in disability benefits claims by veterans over the past 5 years, has led to a tremendous strain on the ability of doctors to evaluate these claims, contributing to a tremendous backlog and slower processing of claims.

Between fiscal 2009 and 2013, the Veterans Benefits Administration estimates that the number of disability claims it received spiked by 44%. During the same year of time, there was no corresponding increase in the number of doctors, who were brought in to evaluate the claims. The number of doctors during the same period only increased by about 22%.

That means that there are fewer doctors who are being placed under increasing strain and pressure, when they are required to evaluate an ever increasing number of claims. The number of veterans’ disability claims that are being filed is growing at a pace that seems to be too high for the Veterans Benefits Administration to handle.

This has dramatically slowed down the processing of claims. According to one report released last year by the Government Accountability Office, veterans’ disability claims increased by 29% between 2009 and 2011. However, even though more number of claims were filed, the agency only managed to process 6% more number of claims. That has meant a much heavier claims backlog, and tremendous pressure on the system.

The increased number of claims has also meant that each claim that is filed gets less and less attention as the number of cases balloons. Insiders at the Veterans Department of Veterans Affairs say that it is simply not possible to whet each claim as stringently and strictly as earlier, because of the increasing influx of claims.

Justice Department Could Get Involved in VA Hospital Investigation

18 May 2014

The Department Of Veterans Affairs is currently embroiled in a nationwide scandal, in which it appears that employees at several Veterans Affairs hospitals across the country engaged in a long and deceitful program of falsification of records to cover up long delays in patient care. Now, lawmakers are calling for the Justice Department to get involved in the investigation.

According to Republican as well as Democratic lawmakers, the Department Of Justice and the FBI can dedicate the kind of legal resources as well as expertise necessary to understand just how bad the problem is. It now appears that one facility in Phoenix was maintaining two waitlists. The first secret list was designed primarily to show that the facility was in compliance with federal guidelines that specifically set a limit within which a vet should receive care. The second list showed very clearly that patients had to wait for weeks, and months for an appointment. Whistleblowers have claimed that at least 40 service members died at the Phoenix hospital as a result of delayed care.

Currently, the Department Of Veterans Affairs Inspector General is investigating at least 26 facilities to determine whether such cover-ups existed at other facilities across the country too. It is quite clear that there were such problems at other VA hospitals, but the full extent of the cover-ups will emerge once the VA investigation is concluded.

Delays at Veterans Affairs medical facilities has meant that service members, many of them suffering from serious conditions like post traumatic stress disorders, brain trauma, mental illness and all kinds of other injuries, are made to wait inordinately long periods of time for medical care. These long delays place these veterans at risk of serious injury or even death.

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