On July 13, 2010, Veterans Affairs put in a new rule regarding Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). This change to the rule could mean that you are now eligible to file a VA PTSD claim where before your claim was denied. Ben Stewart, attorney at Stewart Law P.L.L.C. explains the changes in this week’s Pleading Ignorance.
“The new rule is a relaxation of the evidentiary standard for establishing in-service stressors for claims involving PTSD,” Stewart says.
Basically, the new rules make it easier for veterans to prove they have a disability (specifically, PTSD) that was caused by stressors related to their service. So, veterans who were previously denied PTSD claims may now be eligible to file claims.
How does the new rule make the claim easier for veterans? Prior to the rule change, veterans had to prove that they experienced a stressor that was related to hostile military activity. Now, they only have to show that their PTSD is linked to a “fear of hostile military or terrorist activity and is consistent with the places, types and circumstances of the veteran’s service,” (from a VA news release; 07/12/10).
According to the American Forces Press Service, approximately 400,000 veterans currently receive compensation benefits linked to PTSD. Of those, approximately 70,000 were veterans of operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom.
For right now, however, the claims are not being applied retroactively. This means that you won’t receive benefits from the time your first claim was filed and denied. Rather, you have to file a second claim and the benefits will be applied from the date of the second application. That said, Stewart says he anticipates an appeal will be filed to determine whether the VA should be responsible for retroactive benefits in the case of PTSD.
Stewart also alleges that the VA has used personality disorders to attempt to avoid paying claims of PTSD. They can do so because personality disorder isn’t considered service-related.
“Personality disorders have been used by the VA to show that service people were not injured Read the rest of this entry »
Just about anyone who’s a veteran has had a Veterans Affairs claim at some point in his or her life. Those who haven’t filed a claim likely will at some point in the future. And yet, despite the claims process being somewhat simple, the appeals process can be complex, and if your claim is denied, it’s good to know what rights you have.
Today, Pleading Ignorance looks at how to file a VA Claim—and what to do if it gets denied. We asked attorney Ben Stewart of Stewart Law, P.L.L.C. for some pointers.
So, to start, let’s assume you’ve filed your VA claim. Once you’ve filed that paperwork, the VA will make a decision about what benefits will be provided to you, if any. So far, so good.
But, if the VA denies all or part of your claim, you have options—three in fact:
1. Reapply for benefits
2. Request a review of the decision
3. File an appeal
While you can try to reapply for benefits or request a review of the VA’s initial decision on your claim, you may have more success if you file an appeal. If you appeal the decision you may want to have a lawyer help you. This is because a lawyer who is experienced in veteran claims will know the applicable regulation that can be used to overcome a denial. The lawyer can also represent you in a hearing before the VA appeals board.
Making things complex is that laws concerning veterans’ benefits are constantly changing. Some of those changes are retroactive and some are only applicable from the date they are put in place. With retroactive changes, you may have previously been denied benefits for a specific condition but can now reapply and receive back benefits from the date of your previously denied claim.
When the changes are only applicable from the date they are put in place, it doesn’t matter if you previously met the new requirements for benefits, you won’t receive back benefits. But, you may still be eligible to start receiving benefits from the point the regulation was changed going forward.
For example, the VA has recently relaxed the rule for establishing claims of veterans post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The move makes it easier for veterans to prove they have a disability due to service-related stressors. Veterans who did not qualify for PTSD benefits before, or who were denied benefits under previous rules, may now qualify. But, they will not receive benefits retroactive to their first claim. Rather, they will receive benefits starting from the date of the application filed after the rule change.
Furthermore, some changes in benefits related to Agent Orange use in Vietnam will be retroactive to the filing date, meaning veterans should file their claims as soon as possible.
“File now,” says Ben Stewart, attorney at Stewart Law, P.L.L.C. “Even if your claim is denied, you can start the claims period. That way, if it is accepted later, your benefits will go back to the original date when the claims were denied.”
New medical conditions added to the list of those linked to Agent Orange include heart disease, Parkinson’s disease and B-cell leukemia.
“There are new regulations all the time, that’s why veterans should consider a veteran’s benefits attorney who has been tracking changes in the law and advocating for veterans,” Stewart says.
J. Benton Stewart II, attorney at Stewart Law, P.L.L.C., is an experienced prosecutor, municipal magistrate and civil trial lawyer. Stewart Law specializes in the following areas of practice: Professional Negligence, Legal Malpractice, Securities Litigation, Class Action Litigation, Products Liability, Personal Injury and Wrongful Death.
Veterans PTSD. An announcement was issued this week, about an extension of time for veterans to join or opt in to a class action lawsuit over Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Given that tens of thousands of troops deployed to Iraq are ending their tours, the timing of this couldn’t be better.
The lawsuit that was brought on behalf of veterans who served on active duty in the U.S. Army, Navy, Marine Corps, or Air Force and were found by a Physical Evaluation Board (“PEB”) to be unfit for continued service due, at least in part, to the individual’s PTSD, were assigned a disability rating for PTSD of less than 50%, and, as a result, were released, separated, retired, or discharged from active duty on or after December 17, 2002 and before October 14, 2008 (regardless whether such release, separation, retirement, or discharge resulted in the individual’s placement on the Temporary Disability Retirement List), has been extended to November 10, 2010, according to an Order entered by federal Judge George W. Miller.
Under the Rules of the United States Court of Federal Claims, the Court has reportedly allowed the class action lawsuit to be a class action on behalf of the following individuals who choose to opt in:
All individuals who (a) served on active duty in the U.S. Army, Navy,Marine Corps, or Air Force, (b) were found by a Physical Evaluation Board to be unfit for continued service due, Read the rest of this entry »