Frequently Asked Questions About Injury and Disability
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Why should I hire a VA disability attorney instead of using a VSO?
Many injured Veterans rely on Veterans Service Organizations (VSOs) for help when pursuing Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) claims. VSOs are typically non-profits run by volunteers that are established to support Veterans. Some of the most popular VSOs include American Veterans, Disabled American Veterans, The American Legion, and Veterans of Foreign Wars. Representation by VSOs offers some advantages, but there are drawbacks, as well.
Veterans Service Organizations
Representation by a VSO offers some important advantages, including:
- Free help. VSOs typically assist Veterans with the filing of their disability claims free of charge. Veterans are not required to be a member of the organization to take advantage of their services.
- Relatable. Most VSOs were created by Veterans, for Veterans. This means that disabled Veterans can have a representative who understands what life in the military entails.
Veterans Disability Attorneys
While Veterans sometimes choose a VSO since the services are free, many Veterans have benefited considerably from hiring an attorney to guide them through their disability claim process. An experienced Veterans disability attorney can:
- Gather evidence. An attorney can locate various necessary pieces of documentation, such as medical bills and records, to support a disability claim.
- Request an independent medical exam. The VA often requires very precise information from a physician, and a doctor’s report may be rejected if this information is unsuitable or insufficient. An attorney can request an independent medical exam to ensure that the VA receives the information necessary to process the claim.
- Navigate VA claims and appeals. The VA claims and appeals processes are complicated, and the laws governing them are often difficult to understand. Attorneys know how to interpret the regulations that are applicable to a disability case.
Hiring a VA Disability Attorney
While there are no mandatory certifications or credentials for VSOs, Veterans disability attorneys must undergo years of education and training before they are permitted to represent Veterans. Hiring an attorney can significantly increase your likelihood of collecting benefits, by ensuring that you receive personalized attention when submitting or appealing your claim. To learn more about what a disability lawyer can do for you, call us today or complete the contact form on this page.
Can I receive Social Security disability benefits if I’m self-employed?
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were approximately 9.6 million self-employed workers during 2016, including entrepreneurs, business owners, and freelancers. Self-employment has numerous advantages, such as having more freedom in the workplace and the ability to work from home. However, self-employed individuals sometimes wonder if they can still qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) should they suffer from an injury or illness that prevents them from working. The good news is, self-employed workers can still receive these benefits, under certain circumstances.
Self-Employment and Social Security Insurance
Self-employed individuals may qualify for SSDI if:
- They have paid Social Security taxes. While employees pay into the Social Security system automatically when taxes are deducted from their paychecks, self-employed workers must pay these taxes on their own.
- They have accurately reported their income. Self-employed individuals must accurately report their earnings when filing federal income taxes.
- They have worked long enough to qualify for benefits. All workers are required to pay Social Security taxes for a number of years before they can collect benefits in the event of a long-term disability. While the amount of work necessary to qualify for disability benefits varies with a person’s age, they are typically required to have worked for at least five out of the last ten years.
- They have a qualifying disability. Just like everyone else pursuing SSDI benefits, self-employed individuals must prove that they have a disability that is expected to last for over a year. Furthermore, this disability must prevent them from continuing to work.
- They can no longer engage in substantial gainful activity. Substantial gainful activity (SGA) means that a person is engaged in significant physical or mental labor. For 2019, SGA is defined as earning $1,220 or more per month from employment.
An Attorney Can Help You Get the Compensation You Deserve
If you’ve been self-employed, and qualify for SSDI benefits due to an injury or illness, an experienced disability benefits attorney can help you receive the compensation you deserve. To learn more, contact the Injury & Disability Law Center by clicking the Live Chat button on this page.
What should I do when an insurance adjuster requests a recorded statement?
After you’ve sustained injuries in a vehicle accident, you may be contacted by an adjuster from your own insurance company, as well as the adjuster from the other driver’s insurance company. Your response to requests from these adjusters can have a huge impact on your vehicle accident claim.
Responding to the Insurance Company
Regardless of whether you are contacted by your own insurance company or the other driver’s insurer, the insurance adjuster’s job isn’t to help you. The adjuster works for the insurance company, with the goal of saving the insurer as much money as possible. The insurance adjuster will likely ask you for a recorded statement. The appropriate response to this request depends on whether you are being contacted by an adjuster from:
Your Own Insurance Company
If the adjuster from your own insurance company asks for a recorded statement, you must either comply or risk denial of your claim. This is because you, as the insured, are contractually obligated to cooperate with your insurance company. While you are required to comply with your insurer’s request for a recorded statement, you should only do so under the guidance of an experienced personal injury attorney.
The Other Driver’s Insurance Company
The other driver’s insurance company will likely contact you and request a recorded statement. However, you are under no obligation to provide a statement to someone else’s insurer—and you shouldn’t. Insurance adjusters are experts at asking leading questions, and they will attempt to make you admit that the collision was partly your fault. If you say anything that can be interpreted as an admission of guilt, the other driver’s insurance company will likely use your statement to reduce or deny your claim. Instead, you should have an experienced personal injury attorney speak with the insurer on your behalf.
Don’t Jeopardize Your Claim
If you’ve been injured in a vehicle collision, a personal injury attorney can help you avoid making mistakes that jeopardize your claim. To learn more, contact the Injury & Disability Law Center by clicking the Live Chat button on this page.
Can I afford to hire a VA disability attorney?
Hiring a lawyer to assist with a Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) claim is very affordable, thanks to the contingency fee arrangements that most disability attorneys use. Under a contingency fee agreement, a lawyer is only paid for legal services after the case has been won.
Contingency Fee Arrangements
Contingency fees are typically paid directly out of a Veteran’s lump sum payment from the VA, provided that the veteran and attorney have entered into a fee agreement that allows for this. The VA will send the percentage of past-due benefits specified in this fee agreement to the attorney, and will then send the Veteran the balance of the lump sum. Clients benefit from contingency fee arrangements in several important ways, including:
- No payment is required up front. Disabled Veterans are often already suffering under an immense financial strain due to their injuries. Contingency fee arrangements allow Veterans to secure the legal representation they need regardless of their economic circumstances.
- Clients only pay for results. Veterans will never owe legal fees unless their attorney is successful in obtaining the disability benefits they are owed. Veterans with a successful claim will also be responsible for payment of their case expenses, such as the cost of obtaining medical records and hiring expert witnesses.
- Disability attorneys have a strong performance incentive. Since lawyers are only paid if and when they secure compensation for their clients, they have a powerful incentive to provide quality representation.
Receiving VA Disability Benefits
If you’ve been injured in service to your country, you may be entitled to receive VA disability benefits. Unfortunately, pursuing these benefits is frequently a struggle, since it is a long process requiring extensive documentation. An experienced attorney can help you receive the compensation you deserve. The consultation is free, and there is never a charge for providing assistance during the application process. To learn more about what a disability lawyer can do for you, call us today or complete the contact form on this page.
What is the Social Security Administration’s definition of disabled?
An individual must be considered disabled in order to qualify for Social Security disability benefits. The Social Security Administration (SSA) has a strict set of requirements that must be met before disability benefits will be paid.
Qualifications for SSA Disability Benefits
The SSA uses a five-step sequential process to determine whether or not a claimant qualifies to receive Social Security disability benefits. These five steps are:
- Work Status. Social Security disability applicants cannot qualify for benefits if they are engaged in substantial gainful activity (SGA). For 2019, any individual earning more than $1,220 a month is considered to be engaged in SGA. Most claimants have no difficulty complying with the work status requirement since they have already stopped working due to their disability.
- Severity Assessment. To qualify for disability payments, a claimant’s impairment must be severe enough to completely interfere with basic work-related activities. It also must last, or be expected to last, at least 12 months. Disabilities that only mildly interfere with an applicant’s ability to work for less than one year are unlikely to be considered severe.
- Disabling Conditions. The SSA has established an extensive list of medical conditions that may qualify claimants as disabled, known as the listing of impairments. If the claimant’s medical ailment is found in the listing of impairments, it will typically qualify for disability benefits. Even if the medical condition isn’t specifically listed, it may still qualify for benefits if it is of equal severity to an ailment that is on the list.
- Previous Relevant Employment. The next step in the sequential evaluation process involves determining the claimant’s ability to perform past relevant work, which relies upon their residual functional capacity (RFC). Determining RFC involves assessing the claimant’s medical records to discover which tasks may still be performed. If the applicant is found to be incapable of doing the lightest possible work they have performed previously, the claim will move on to the final step.
- Performing Other Work. In the final step of the assessment process, the SSA considers the applicant’s education, work experience, and age when determining the claimant’s ability to perform other work. This step may involve consulting a vocational expert to determine the jobs that a claimant may be capable of performing.
Receiving Social Security Disability Benefits
As you can see, the SSA considers many factors when determining whether or not a claimant qualifies as disabled. If you are entitled to SSA benefits, an experienced disability benefits attorney can help you receive the compensation you deserve. To learn more, contact the Injury & Disability Law Center by clicking the Live Chat button on this page.
Do I have to go to court for my car accident case?
The vast majority of vehicle accident cases are successfully settled out of court. However, a competent attorney will be prepared to go to trial if doing so is in a client’s best interest.
Settling a Vehicle Collision Case Out of Court
There are a few reasons why car accident cases typically settle out of court, including:
- Insurance companies normally want to settle. Vehicle collision defendants rarely pay judgements out of their own pockets. Instead, their insurance company is typically responsible for resolving the claim, and they generally want to do so as soon as possible.
- Both parties wish to avoid the unpredictability of a trial. The outcome of a trial is never certain. When a vehicle accident case goes to court, the plaintiff risks receiving nothing, and the defendant risks having to pay a huge judgement. While a settlement may mean that neither party gets everything they want, it also allows both the plaintiff and the defendant to control their risks.
- The plaintiff wishes to receive compensation as soon as possible. Due to the time value of money, a payment received today is more valuable than the same payment received a year from now. Additionally, vehicle accident victims often have bills piling up due to extensive medical expenses and loss of income. Settling out of court allows a plaintiff to receive payment relatively quickly, so bills can get paid and life can return to normal.
- Both parties wish to minimize the cost of litigation. Litigation is expensive, particularly when a case drags on for years. Both sides must endure the costs associated with procuring evidence, hiring expert witnesses, and taking depositions, but a settlement minimizes these expenses.
An Attorney Can Help You Prepare for the Best Outcome
While it is generally in a plaintiff’s best interest to settle a vehicle accident case out of court, the particular circumstances of your claim will determine the best course of action. We are always prepared to go to trial when necessary, in order to ensure that you receive the compensation you deserve. To learn more, contact the Injury & Disability Law Center by clicking the Live Chat button on this page.
What could cause the termination of my Social Security Disability Insurance benefits?
While Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) recipients typically continue to receive benefits for many years, some actions may cause these benefit payments to stop.
Termination of SSDI Benefits
SSDI applicants and recipients should be aware of actions that may cause these benefit payments to cease. Conditions that may result in termination of SSDI benefits include:
- Returning to work. The most common reason SSDI benefits end is because the recipient went back to work. Returning to work can cause SSDI benefits to stop if the recipient is engaged in substantial gainful activity (SGA). The primary determinant of whether or not employment qualifies as SGA is the amount of money the worker is being paid. For 2019, earnings in excess of $1,220 ($2,040 for blind individuals) per month qualify as SGA, even if the work is only part-time.
- Reaching retirement age. Individuals are not permitted to receive Social Security disability benefits and Social Security retirement benefits simultaneously. Upon reaching full retirement age, currently 66 years old, these benefits will stop. SSDI recipients instead begin receiving Social Security retirement payments when they reach full retirement age. Since full retirement benefits are typically equal to SSDI disbursements, the total benefit payment won’t change.
- Incarceration. Confinement to a penal institution upon conviction for a crime results in the cessation of SSDI benefits. These benefits are suspended after 30 days of incarceration, and are subsequently reinstated during the month following release from confinement.
- Medical improvement. The Social Security Administration (SSA) periodically reviews the case of each beneficiary, typically every three years. However, if the recipient is over the age of 50, or if the medical condition is unlikely to improve, a review may only be conducted every seven years. If a recipient’s disabling medical or psychiatric conditions improve, the SSA may determine that the recipient is no longer disabled.
Receiving SSDI Benefits
The rules governing the administration of SSDI benefits are extremely complicated. If you’re entitled to receive SSDI benefits, an experienced disability benefits attorney can help you receive the compensation you deserve. To learn more, contact the Injury & Disability Law Center by clicking the Live Chat button on this page.
What is drugged driving in New Mexico?
Everyone knows that drunk driving is dangerous, but drugged driving accidents can be just as devastating. According to a study published by the Governors Highway Safety Administration, drugged driving collisions are also more common than drunk driving accidents. In fact, 43 percent of drivers with known drug test results tested positive in 2016, while 38 percent of motorists with known alcohol test results tested positive during that same year.
Driving Under the Influence of Drugs
Under New Mexico law, NM Stat. 66-8-102 makes it “illegal for a person who is under the influence of any drug to a degree that renders the person incapable of safely driving a vehicle to drive a vehicle in this state.” In addition, under common law, driving under the influence of drugs breaches a motorist’s duty of care to others on or near the roadway. Some of the most frequently used drugs by New Mexico motorists include:
- Marijuana. While medical use of marijuana is legal in New Mexico, recreational use of the drug is not. Marijuana impairs driver judgment, limits coordination, and slows reaction times.
- Sedatives. Opioids, medications for depression and anxiety, sleep aids, and seizure medications can cause sleepiness, dizziness, and lack of concentration when drivers are behind the wheel.
- Stimulants. Cocaine, methamphetamine, and other illicit substances, as well as certain prescription medications such as ADHD treatments, can cause reckless and aggressive driving.
You Need an Attorney
There is no roadside testing for drugged driving in New Mexico, which can make the offense of driving under the influence of drugs difficult to prove. However, even in the absence of a positive drug test, an experienced vehicle accident attorney can gather and present evidence of the at-fault driver’s reckless behavior. If you’ve been injured in a collision with a drugged driver, you need professional legal representation to help you receive the compensation you deserve. To learn more, contact the Injury & Disability Law Center by clicking the Live Chat button on this page.
What is Residual Functional Capacity?
When an individual applies for disability benefits with the Social Security Administration (SSA), the agency must determine which tasks the applicant is still capable of performing. To do so, the SSA will complete an assessment of the applicant’s Residual Functional Capacity (RFC).
The Importance of Residual Functional Capacity
When you’re applying for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), your RFC level will have a profound effect on your disability benefits. RFC forms must be completed for every disability case, and they are typically filled out by the SSA’s Disability Determination Services (DDS). However, having your doctor complete this form instead will strengthen your case. This is because:
- Your doctor knows you best. If your RFC form is filled out by a disability consultant at the DDS, it will be completed by someone who has never physically examined you. Instead, the consultant will reference your medical records to determine your functional abilities and restrictions. Obviously, an RFC form completed by your doctor is likely to provide a better picture of your overall condition than one completed by someone you’ve never met.
- You need a detailed RFC record. To maximize your probability of receiving sufficient benefits, your file must properly reflect the physical limitations your injuries have caused. How much you can lift, how long you can walk and stand, your level of flexibility, and how long you can sit are all crucial factors in determining compensation. No one has a better sense of your capabilities and limitations than your treating physician.
Receiving Help With Your Disability Insurance Claim
Since your doctor understands how your condition is impacting you better than anyone, he can be an important partner in the pursuit of your disability claim. If you hire a disability lawyer, your attorney can send the necessary RFC forms to your physician to collect the required information regarding your medical condition. Social Security attorneys are experienced in working with physicians and may be able to help with the completion and filing of the RFC form. To learn more, contact the Injury & Disability Law Center by clicking the Live Chat button on this page.
How do I file a VA disability claim?
There are a few critical requirements when filing a claim with the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Processing the initial claim for VA benefits may take as little as a few months or as long as several years, so there is no time to waste. To secure your compensation as early as possible, you should apply for benefits as soon as you determine that you are disabled.
Ways to Apply for VA Benefits
There are a few options when applying for benefits. You may apply for VA benefits by:
● Calling 800-827-1000.
● In person by visiting your local VA office.
● Online by using the eBenefits website.
● Completing and submitting Form 21-526EZ.
Specify Your Illnesses and Injuries
When you complete the application, list the specific illnesses and injuries for which you are requesting disability benefits, along with the date your symptoms appeared. You should only claim disabilities or illnesses you had in service if you are still suffering from the condition, or if you suspect that you may develop complications in the future.
Gather Documentation of Your Illnesses and Injuries
You’ll need documentation of your injuries to support your claim. Documents you should submit with your application may include:
● Medical clinic and hospital records related to your injury or illness. While your benefits application allows you to sign a medical records release, many private medical providers ignore VA requests for these records. Submitting medical records with your application eliminates this problem.
● Supporting statements from friends, family, clergy, law enforcement, or other veterans regarding your injury or illness.
● VA medical and hospital records related to your injury or illness.
Help With Your VA Disability Claim
If you need assistance with your disability claim, you can visit your local VA office. You may also get help from a disability lawyer. An experienced disability benefits attorney can review your claim, gather vital evidence, and prepare the necessary paperwork to help you receive the compensation you deserve. If you’ve been injured in service to your country, we can assist you with your VA benefits claim. Call us today or complete the contact form on this page.