stockfresh_5487160_person-hand-with-pen-filling-social-security-disability-form_sizeS-300x200Many people wait a really long time to receive disability benefits from Social Security.  However, once your application is approved, your contact with the Social Security Administration is not over.  Besides getting a monthly benefit, you still need to stay in touch with SSA about a number of things that can affect your benefits or even result in the loss of your benefits.

  1. IF YOU WORK: You are required to inform Social Security if you take a job or become self-employed regardless of the amount of money you make.  Social Security will want to know what kind of work you are doing, how many hours you are working, and if you start or stop a new job.  There are limited amounts of earnings a person can make and still be eligible for their benefits, but the type of work and the hours are both important considerations.  You can try to go back to work, and if you notify SSA, your earnings for nine months will not cause your benefits to stop.  The nine months do not have to be consecutive, but each month during a sixty month period that you earn over $810.00 per month (for 2016) will count as a month toward your trial return to work.  If you aren’t able to continue at a job, you can try other jobs, but any month where you make over $810.00 is counted as one of the nine months for the trial return to work.  After the nine-month trial return to work, you can extend your benefits for up to three years if your earnings are not substantial which means $1,130.00 per month (or $1,820 for blind beneficiaries).  If your earnings are substantial during one of the thirty-six months, you won’t be eligible benefits for that month, but your benefits don’t stop completely.  The bottom line is that the Social Security Administration does not want to discourage people who receive benefits from trying to go back to work if they find something they think they may be able to do.  However, the rules about going back to work are complicated, and it is a good idea to talk with an experienced Social Security attorney about going back to work before you start.

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The VA minimizes large legal hurdles in a disability benefit claim by allowing Veterans to reopen closed claims after the VA has issued a final denial.

stockfresh_182656_veteran-with-crutch_sizeS-199x300Though most Veterans and veteran service organizations put the primary focus of disability benefit claims upon medical evidence, in the end VA claims are legal procedures.  They are specific remedies requested from a federal administrative agency and are governed by federal statutes, federal regulations, and judicial precedence.  As with any legal proceeding, some of the toughest barriers to a remedy sought are the deadlines – often the statutes of limitations or the statutes of repose.  In allowing a Veteran to reopen a claim after the VA has issued a final denial in that very same claim, the VA has made it more possible that no valid claim should ever be uncompensated, even if the Veteran misses every single deadline.

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So, you just received an appointment for a VA Compensation and Pension (C&P) Examination.  Now what?

stockfresh_7295473_vet-concept-wooden-letterpress-type_sizeS-300x200The C&P examination is one of the most important appointments a Veteran should keep when pursuing a claim before the VA.  Although it is not the only factor in deciding a claim, this examination assists the VA in evaluating a Veteran’s condition as to the severity and whether the condition relates to military service.

Most Veterans both look forward to and dread these important examinations for several reasons.  For starters, a C&P examination (or examinations, pending the number and type of disabilities claimed) can take some time to complete.  A doctor will need to examine the Veteran for the conditions, which may include standard medical testing, providing lab specimens, answering specific personal questions, etc.  Some evaluations may require Range of Motion (ROM) testing, repetitive testing, and recording of limitations, flare-ups, and impact of function (or lack thereof) regarding employment.

Upon receiving the notice of examination, it is very important that the Veteran attends on the date and time prescribed.  As the Veteran is the only one who is notified of the examination, it is equally important to notify the Veteran’s representative or attorney of the upcoming appointment.  The representative may want to discuss certain aspects of the examination prior to attending.

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VA Disability Benefits are reserved for ill or injured veterans who served our great nation.  Because of veterans’ sacrifices, special laws and rules give veteran disability benefits certain extra protections that other compensation programs do not enjoy.veteranpic-300x200

VA disability benefits are like no other compensation program in the United States.  Although they share some similarities with other programs such as Workers’ Compensation and Social Security Disability, VA disability benefits are unique and more secure in many ways.  This security is codified in 38 U.S.C. § 5301, the VA Benefits Nonassignability and Exempt Status Law (hereinafter referred to as the “Shelter Law”).  Additional securities are guaranteed through VA specific rules and regulations. Continue Reading

stockfresh_5819015_soldier-reunited-with-her-son_sizeS-300x200Sometimes a Veteran may be entitled to a higher disability rating than is contemplated in the Schedule for Rating Disabilities when the VA’s schedule does not contemplate the level of symptoms or disability that the Veteran presents.

The VA’s Schedule for Rating Disabilities (hereinafter referred to as “Schedule”) is found in 38 C.F.R. Part 4, §§ 4.40 – 4.150.  Separated into separate sections depending upon body system and condition, the Schedule lists a host of illnesses and injuries, designating particular rating percentages for different levels of symptomatology.  Continue Reading

New research confirms that drivers affected by attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are more likely to be involved in serious car crashes. An article in JAMA Psychiatry reports that drivers with ADHD are about 50 percent more likely to be in accidents as compared to the rest of the population.stockfresh_501611_broken-glass_sizeS-300x200

The National Resource Center on ADHD notes that individuals with ADHD are prone to distraction, inattentiveness and impulsive behavior. These three issues also happen to be among the most common causes of car accidents.

To make matters even more challenging for parents of young drivers with ADHD, cell phones have become an increasingly tempting distraction. Parents need to be able to keep their young drivers safe. In the unfortunate event that a serious accident does occur, you need to have an experienced car accident attorney by your side throughout the claims process.

ADHD and Car Accidents: Understanding the Risks

According to a report from Reuters, a recent study published in JAMA Psychiatry has found a clear link between ADHD and car accidents. After reviewing the driving history of more than 40,000 young drivers, the researchers determined that people with ADHD are 50 percent more likely to be involved in a serious car accident. This is a very alarming figure.

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Military Fatigues Flag Dog TagsThe Presumption of Sound Condition is a powerful doctrine when used appropriately.  It can force the VA to accept that the Veteran entered military service in sound condition and is only rebuttable by Clear and Unmistakable Evidence – a high threshold to pass.

38 U.S.C. § 1111 states:

For the purposes of section 1110 of this title, every Veteran shall be taken to have been in sound condition when examined, accepted, and enrolled for service, except as to defects, infirmities, or disorders noted at the time of the examination, acceptance and enrollment, or where clear and unmistakable evidence demonstrates that the injury or disease existed before acceptance and enrollment and was not aggravated by such service.

It is important to understand that in order for this presumption to apply, a Veteran must have been examined, accepted, and enrolled for service.  For most Veterans, examination, acceptance, and enrollment for service formally took place at a Military Entrance Processing Station (MEPS).  If there was no examination, there is no presumption.  Recently with the operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, National Guardsmen and Reservists were called to active duty but not given a formal service entrance examination.  In this case, the pre-deployment examination should be used.  A Veteran can rely on the presumption if an examination did take place but the VA either cannot find the records[1] or can only find partial records and there is no note of the condition. Continue Reading

Young Woman Smokes E-Cig Electronic CigaretteThere has been a dramatic increase in the use of e-cigarettes in the past few years. According to data provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 12.6 percent of American adults report that they have tried e-cigarettes.

Currently, 3.7 percent of adults report that they use e-cigarettes more than once per week. This means that there are now 9 million adults vaping on a regular basis, this includes many people in Western North Carolina and Upstate South Carolina.

This should be good news, after all, e-cigarettes are supposed to be a safer alternative to smoking. However, recent events have raised very serious concerns about the safety of these devices.

stockfresh_7194510_man-sitting-in-car-with-mobile-phone-in-hand-texting-while-driving_sizeS-300x200For those wondering why their city suddenly seems to have more people out and about, a hit new game called Pokémon Go has people of all ages outside searching for Pokémon (yes, from that ’90s Japanese craze) to add to their collection.

The smartphone app superimposes cartoon characters on top of the image from the phone’s camera and, in conjunction with its GPS, creates a virtual reality game that makes it look like the Pokémon are on your street, or in parks, restaurants, businesses, etc. The app was an instant success, earning $7.5 billion in just two days, and according to Reuters, already had a higher usage rate than Twitter or Instagram less than a week after it was released.

Risks of the Game

The runaway success of the app has some undeniable benefits. Local businesses, museums, and even churches are seeing more traffic and interest because of the hordes of people looking for Pokémon to collect. Many people are going outdoors more often than before, getting more exercise, and interacting with other Pokémon Go players. But there are major risks involved in playing the game.

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The tragic death of a two-year-old boy from Nebraska in the water by Disney’s Grand Floridian Hotel as the result of an alligator attack may have some families considering their own safety when they make plans for outings in similar places.

stockfresh_1879902_roller-coster_sizeS-300x200Amusement parks, with their sprawling spaces, various features and terrains, and day-long and sometimes week-long guests, are responsible for the enormous task of keeping their premises safe, secure, and as hazard-free as possible for their guests. That is not an easy task, and at times companies fail to adequately address safety hazards.

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