National Disability Employment Awareness Month

National Disability Employment Awareness Month is observed annually in October. This month is an equity effort celebrating the contributions of employees with disabilities. As an important recognition of the differently abled members of our community, the Hartup team is proud to recognize this month and the achievements made for disabled employees around the country. 

What is National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM)? 

Celebrated every October, this month is here to celebrate our differences and remind all of us of the strengths that lie in them. 

When it first began in 1945, this month was, unfortunately, given a different name. Initially called National Employ The Physically Handicapped Week, this month reflected the time and societal outlook on those with disabilities. 

In 1988, the name was officially changed to NDEAM, and the goal morphed into a stronger one: to educate society and the general public on the issues that employees with disabilities may face in the workplace. 

Additionally, this month is also an opportune time for employers to explore ways to be more inclusive in their hiring practices. If you would like our law team to aid you in this exploration, please schedule a consultation with us here. 

The relevance of NDEAM

Although we have made much progress in the last 50 years, and especially in the last decade, it’s still extremely important to continue to recognize the contributions and achievements of the differently abled. 

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, only 19.1 percent of disabled persons were employed in 2021. And though that number was up nearly 2 percent from the previous year, employment for those with disabilities is still far lower than the general population, especially when education level is taken into account. 

The more we work together to build a more equitable and inclusive world, the better we as a society will be. 

Hiring disabled persons in Tennessee

If you are an employer in the state of Tennessee, we strongly encourage you to consider hiring disabled persons. In addition to becoming an equal opportunity employer, the Tennessee Jobs Tax Credit for Hiring Persons with Disabilities is available to all employers in Tennessee. This is a one-time tax credit available when you hire an employee (full or part-time) who is currently receiving state services in relation to their disability. 

As of April, 2022, Tennessee has made great strides in providing disabled persons with better opportunities and working environments. Employers are now legally required to pay all employees, regardless of disability status, a living wage. Prior to April, there were no laws banning employers from paying employees a subminimum wage. 

Discrimination against disabled persons

Unfortunately, laws and recognitions don’t always stop negative behavior. It is still very possible for employers to discriminate against disabled persons, but it’s important to know your rights and understand the path to legal repercussions, should that become necessary. 

If you feel that you have been discriminated against as a disabled person, or know a fellow employee who has been, you may take legal action against your employer. 

Begin with HR

Your first stop should always be your company’s HR office, especially if you work for a larger company where your boss is not also the owner. Register an official complaint with the HR office, giving them a detailed explanation of the discrimination. 

Escalate to the EEOC or an attorney

If you have registered a complaint with your HR office, and satisfactory action has not been taken, it may be time to speak with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. However, the EEOC is a government institution, and may move slowly or become extremely busy with many complaints. If that is the case, or you worry it will be, it may be a good time to consult an attorney. 

Here at the law offices of Michael Hartup, we are well-versed in complaints of this nature. Consulting with a lawyer is always a good idea, ensuring your complaint is heard properly. 
If you believe that you, a friend, or a coworker have faced discrimination on the basis of disability in the state of Tennessee, we would gladly speak with you. You may schedule a time to speak with us here.

Key Changes to Social Security Disability in 2022

Every year, the Social Security Administration (SSA) makes adjustments to its various benefits programs. Recipients of retirement or disability benefits generally see changes to their payments. The SSA may also adjust eligibility requirements, tax rates, and other aspects of its programs. It’s important for Social Security Disability (SSD) beneficiaries to stay up-to-date on the SSA’s annual changes to this program.

If you think you may be eligible for SSD benefits, The Law Offices of Michael Hartup can help you with your claim. We can walk you through the application or appeals process and even file paperwork on your behalf. Contact our office in Jackson, Tennessee, to schedule a consultation. 

An Overview of SSD

Disabled Americans with qualifying conditions may be eligible for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits. To receive disability payments, you must have a qualifying physical or mental disability and have worked (and contributed to Social Security) long enough to build up work credits. 

The minimum number of work credits required to qualify for SSD payments depends on your age. If you are younger than 24 when you become disabled, you may qualify with as few as 6 credits if you earned them within 3 years prior to your disability. If you’re older than 30, however, you need at least 20 work credits, and you must have earned them in the 10 years prior to your disability.

SSD Changes for 2022

The SSA’s 2022 changes to the SSD program were primarily based on the rise in the Consumer Price Index, as calculated from the third quarter of 2020 through the third quarter of 2021. The Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) for 2022 was 5.9 percent.

Benefits Increase

Based on the 2022 COLA, the estimated average monthly SSD payment for a disabled worker increased from $1,282 to $1,358. This represents a monthly increase of $76 from the average SSD payment in 2021. The 2022 increase was more significant ($133/month) for a disabled worker who has a spouse and at least one child. The estimated average SSD payment for a married disabled worker with at least one child in 2022 is $2,383 (up from $2,250 in 2021).

Higher Substantial Gainful Activity Limit 

You are allowed to work while receiving SSD benefits, but the SSA limits the amount you can earn and still qualify for disability payments. For 2022, the “substantial gainful activity (SGA)” limit is $1,350 per month. This is a slight increase ($40) from the SGA limit in 2021. 

The SGA rules are slightly different for SSD beneficiaries who are blind. The SGA threshold for blind beneficiaries is $2,260, which represents a $70 increase over the 2021 limit. 

If you are receiving SSD benefits and think you may be able to return to work, you can participate in a Trial Work Period to determine whether you can go back to working full-time. In 2022, TWP workers can earn up to $970 per month and still remain eligible for SSD benefits. This is a slight increase over the 2021 limit of $940.

Contact Michael Hartup for Help With Your SSD Claim

Due to the increase in the Consumer Price Index between 2020 and 2021, the SSA made some changes to disability benefits for 2022. The monthly payments for SSD beneficiaries increased, as did the limit on substantial gainful activity. 
Filing for SSD benefits can be complicated, and many legitimate claims are denied due to simple errors. If you want assistance with your SSD claim or appeal, contact Michael Hartup, an experienced disability attorney. Your consultation is free, and representation fees only apply if you end up qualifying for benefits. To schedule an appointment at our Jackson office, call 731-424-5559 or contact us online.

How Child Support Affects SSD Benefits

Are you unable to work due to a medical condition or injury, but currently pay child support? If so, you likely have questions regarding Social Security Disability or SSD.

Will I be required to continue paying child support? How can I afford it when my wages have been cut so drastically? Is it possible for my wages or disability benefits to be garnished?

These questions are incredibly important, which is why the Law Offices of Michael Hartup are sharing information you need to know about SSD and child support in the blog below. For more help with a disability claim in Tennessee, contact us online or call our office at 731-424-5559.

If I claim disability, will I still be required to pay child support?

Claiming Social Security Disability benefits does not mean you will no longer have to pay child support. You will still be required to pay the mandated amount. 

However, there are steps you can take if you find that you are no longer able to afford your current payment amount.

What should I do if I can no longer afford to pay child support?

You may be able to decrease the amount of child support you’re paying while claiming disability. Depending on your current situation, you can speak with your co-parent to set up a different plan, or you can go through the court system to get the payment order modified.

Discuss payment adjustments with your co-parent

If you are legally able to adjust payments with your co-parent, ask for a meeting to formally explain why you are financially unable to continue with the agreed-upon amount of monthly child support. This is an easier option than going to court.

It’s important to give the co-parent background on your injury or illness and explain how this results in a decrease in your monthly wages. This will help them understand why it’s not feasible to continue with the previously agreed-upon amount.

Keep in mind that your co-parent may ask for proof, to which they are entitled. In this case, you will want to have your Award for Disability letter, along with a letter from your physician that outlines your limitations and reasoning for being unable to work.

If the co-parent agrees to new terms, you will both need to formally put the new terms in writing and sign and date the document. The two of you can then go to the court and have a judge approve the new amount. Having the approval of a judge isn’t required, but it can help enforce your new agreement in the future.

Organize a modification hearing before a judge

If no agreement can be made with the co-parent, you will need to go to court. Though child support can be enforced at the federal level, it is governed by state law. You must go through the appropriate court system, which is usually the state in which your child lives.

You’ll need to organize a modification hearing. During this hearing, you will need the Award for Disability letter and a letter from your physician to prove your limitations or why you cannot work. 

The judge will ask a series of questions pertaining to wage amounts, time spent with each parent, and so on, before making a final determination. It varies by court system, but many courts take the following information into account when deciding whether child support payments should be modified:

  • Whether a parent has become disabled
  • Whether a parent is experiencing financial hardship (due to COVID-19, for example)
  • Current job status of either parent
  • Earnings of both parents
  • Custody arrangements
  • Changes in child care expenses, cost of living, or household size

It is important to note that if you owe back-dated child support, those amounts will not be lowered when petitioning the court to lower future payments due to your disability claim.

Is SSD treated as my income when calculating child support payments?

In general, yes, SSDI is usually treated as income. How your child’s benefits are determined can vary by state, however. For example, in Tennessee, the parent who receives benefits treats their child’s SSD payments as gross income. This is important to note since child support payments are calculated based on parental income. 

Will I be subject to wage garnishment?

It is possible for your Social Security benefit check, or a portion of it, to be garnished in order to pay your owed child support. Your co-parent can obtain information about your benefits by using the State Verification and Exchange System (SVES)

The Social Security Administration states that they garnish current and continuing monthly benefits, but do not make retroactive adjustments. The SSA works with the local state agency when handling lump sum payments and distributing the amount to the beneficiary.

Most states, including Tennessee, follow the Consumer Credit Protection Act (CCPA), which provides consumer protection against lenders. This federal legislation allows for 50 to 60 percent of a disability check to be garnished, along with another five percent on top of that, if back child support is owed. The CCPA helps consumers continue paying other obligations as well.

What if I need more help understanding my SSD benefits and child support?

To understand how child support is affected by SSD benefits in your state, contact your local child support office, which can be found on the Administration for Children & Families website

How child support is determined can be confusing and overwhelming. So can the process for applying for and receiving SSDI. Working with a disability lawyer isn’t required when attempting to modify your child support payments; however, an attorney’s expertise and knowledge of the law can be valuable if you have to go to court.

The Law Offices of Michael Hartup is proud to serve clients with Social Security Disability claims via our Jackson, Tennessee, office. We are ready to discuss your situation and help you determine your child support and SSD benefits options. Please call our office at 731-424-5559 or contact us online. Like our page on Facebook to learn more about Social Security Disability.  

Helpful Local Resources for Tennessee Veterans

Many military veterans and their families live in Tennessee. These brave individuals have served their country, often at the expense of their physical and/or mental health. Unfortunately, it’s not always easy for veterans to get the help and support they deserve. 

There are many private and government resources for veterans, including disability benefits programs through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). However, it’s not always clear how to access them. 

At The Law Offices of Michael Hartup, we are passionate about helping Tennessee veterans and their families get the support and benefits they deserve. We’ve compiled a list of resources that can improve the quality of life for veterans and their family members.

If you are seeking VA disability benefits, our team can help you navigate the claims process and file an appeal necessary. To get schedule a consultation, contact us online or call our Jackson office at 731-424-5559.

Tennessee Veterans Services Offices

The state of Tennesse has its own Department of Veterans Services (TDVS). There are 14 field offices throughout the state, and Tennessee has four veterans cemeteries as well. Veterans can visit a field office to file a claim for federal benefits and get information about state and local resources. 

The TDVS doesn’t just help veterans access federal VA benefits. This department also offers Tennessee veterans many state-sponsored benefits, including property tax relief for disabled homeowners, discounted rates at state parks, and veteran burial benefits.

Veteran Societies in Tennessee

It’s often helpful for veterans to have a safe place where they can meet and communicate with other service members who share similar experiences. The Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) organization has a Tennessee department that offers support and resources to members. There is also a Tennessee branch of the American Legion, which offers similar services.

Mental Health Resources for Tennessee Veterans

It’s not uncommon for veterans to experience mental health issues following their service. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), depression, anxiety, and panic disorder are some of the mental illnesses that affect many service members. 

The VA provides a confidential Crisis Line for veterans and family members. Along with online support, there is a phone number (800-273-8255 Press 1) and a text option: 838255. Tennessee also has a 24/7 Crisis Line for mental health emergencies. To connect to this free service, call 855-274-7471 or visit the website.

Therapy is often helpful for veterans who are struggling with mental health issues. Psychology Today maintains a list of mental health therapists and psychiatrists in Tennessee. You can get more information about the state’s licensure requirements for psychologists on the Tennessee Department of Health website.

Addiction Help for Tennessee Veterans

Addiction to drugs and alcohol is something that many veterans struggle with. According to the National Center for PTSD, there is a strong correlation between PTSD and Substance Use Disorder (SUD). Statistics show that over 20 percent of veterans with PTSD also have SUD. Approximately 10 percent of veterans from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan who access VA resources have problems with alcohol or drugs.

There are many resources for veterans who want to overcome addiction:

Addiction can have lifelong consequences for veterans and their families, but there are many paths to freedom.

Veteran Education and Retraining

Many veterans find it challenging to transition from the military into a civilian career. The TDVS provides information about many educational programs that are designed to help veterans advance their civilian careers:

VA Disability Claims

Military members who become injured or ill in the course of service may qualify for disability benefits through the VA. There are many different VA programs for disability benefits. Some programs offer special monthly compensation whereas others provide VA pension or disability compensation payments. 

The eligibility requirements for VA disability benefits can be confusing, and the claims process is complicated. Many legitimate claims are rejected because of simple errors or missing documentation. There is an appeals process for denied claims, but it’s also complicated. Many veterans choose to work with a VA disability attorney who can explain the claims process and help them understand what sort of benefits they’re eligible for.

Michael Hartup Advocates for Veterans

Military veterans deserve a great deal of gratitude for their selfless service. While Tennessee offers several resources to resident veterans and their families, it’s not always easy to find them. And many veterans find that applying for VA disability benefits can take months, and claims are often denied.At The Law Offices of Michael Hartup, we believe that veterans and their families deserve our respect and support. We have helped many Tennessee veterans successfully file VA disability claims and appeals, and we’re ready to discuss your situation. Call our Jackson office at 731-424-5559 or use the online contact form to schedule a free consultation.

Facts and Statistics About Tennessee Veterans

Tennessee is home to many military veterans and their families. These selfless individuals have sacrificed much to serve their country but often receive minimal support from the military and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Veterans often deal with unique physical and mental health challenges as well as difficulties reentering civilian society. While there are programs and resources dedicated to helping veterans, it’s often hard to find and apply for them.

Tennessee veterans and their family members don’t always get the support they deserve. At The Law Offices of Michael Hartup, we are passionate about helping those who have served our country. We advocate for veterans and help them navigate the claims process for disability compensation. To learn more about how we support veterans and schedule a free consultation, contact us online or call our Jackson office at 731-424-5559.

Statistics: Veterans in Tennessee

According to the Housing Assistance Council (HAC), there are 431,274 veterans living in Tennessee, a number that represents 8.3 percent of the state’s adult population. There are service members representing several different eras, from World War II to the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts. The counties with the highest percentage of veterans in the adult population are Stewart, Montgomery, and Cumberland.

Tennessee Veterans Face Unique Challenges

Data from the HAC shows that 7.4 percent of veterans in Tennessee live in poverty. The overall unemployment rate for veterans in the state is 4.7 percent, and younger veterans have higher unemployment rates than those from older generations.

Housing is an issue for some Tennesse veterans. Approximately 56,920 veterans live in homes that have serious problems relating to cost, crowding, and/or quality. The Department of Housing and Urban Development estimates that there are 570 homeless veterans in Tennessee.

Resources for Tennessee Veterans

The Tennessee Department of Veterans Services (TDVS) offers benefits and resources to veterans. There are several TDVS offices throughout the state where veterans can go to file benefits claims. The TDVS also provides veterans with information about employment, education, financial literacy, and mental health.

Tennessee homeowners who are veterans with certain service-connected disabilities (e.g. paralysis, blindness, traumatic brain injury, etc.) may qualify for state property tax relief. In some cases, tax relief benefits are extended to surviving spouses of disabled veterans.

VA Disability Claims

Veterans who have suffered injuries or illnesses related to their military service may qualify for disability benefits from the VA. There are several different VA disability benefits programs, including disability compensation payments, concurrent retirement and disability payments, VA pension payments, and special monthly compensation.

The process to apply for VA disability benefits is complicated, and many initial claims are rejected due to errors or missing information. You can appeal a denied claim. An experienced VA disability attorney can help you understand what sort of benefits you may qualify for and assist you with filing your claim or appeal.

Michael Hartup Fights for Veterans and Their Families

We owe so much to the military veterans who have put their lives on the line to defend our country. Unfortunately, many veterans (and their families) are quickly forgotten about by the VA, their military branch, and even their local community. The process to file for VA disability compensation is extremely complicated, and many veterans have their initial application denied even though they meet the qualification requirements.

At The Law Offices of Michael Hartup, we are passionate about supporting Tennessee veterans and their families. Our team has helped countless veterans successfully file for disability compensation. We understand the unique hardships that military families face, and we do everything we can to provide compassionate legal support. To learn about how we can help with your VA disability claim or other legal matters, schedule a free consultation. You can call our Jackson office at 731-424-5559 or use the online contact form.

Does the SSA Investigate Disability Fraud?

The Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program provides benefits to individuals who are no longer able to work due to a disability. To be eligible for the program, you must meet certain requirements, such as paying adequate Social Security taxes and being diagnosed with a qualifying disability. If you meet these requirements, your application should be approved. 

Unfortunately, there are some individuals who fraudulently apply for SSDI benefits. Many people wonder if the Social Security Administration (SSA) investigates fraudulent claims, and the answer is a resounding “yes.” Sometimes the SSA mistakenly investigates legitimate claims, which can be extremely stressful for an applicant who has done nothing wrong. 

The SSDI claims process is often complicated and confusing. If you are having trouble with your application or appeal, contact The Law Offices of Michael Hartup for expert legal advice and representation in Tennessee. To schedule a consultation, call 731-424-5559 or contact us online.

The Office of the Inspector General’s Cooperative Disability Investigations Program

The SSA Office of the Inspector General (OIG)  is responsible for investigating possible fraud in the various SSA programs, including disability benefits. The OIG may investigate situations involving falsified medical records, misuse of SSDI benefits, impersonation of SSA personnel, and other illegal behavior.

The Cooperative Disability Investigations (CDI) program handles most fraud investigations. This program started in 1997 with a few CDI units, and the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 mandated nationwide coverage by CDI by the 2022 fiscal year. There are currently 49 DCI units, each of which usually includes an OID special agent along with other SSA personnel, state Disability Determination Services (DDS) personnel, and state or local law enforcement professionals.

What Constitutes SSDI Fraud?

There are countless ways an individual (or group of people) could try to fraudulently obtain disability benefits, but here are a few examples:

  • Failing to report gainful employment and earned income while receiving disability benefits
  • Continuing to receive and cash disability payments of a deceased SSA beneficiary
  • Falsifying medical records to make a non-qualifying condition meet SSDI requirements
  • Failing to notify the SSA if your medical condition improves and allows you to return to work
  • Filing multiple SSDI applications in different states
  • Receiving benefits as the representative payee, but keeping the payments instead of providing the funds to the true beneficiary 

Essentially, trying to obtain Social Security disability benefits that you aren’t entitled to constitutes fraud. 

How Do Disability Fraud Investigations Get Started?

Most CDI investigations take place before the SSA awards benefits, although the program may also help investigate potential fraud in the Continuing Disability Review process. Most CDI investigations start when someone reports suspected fraud. 

Anyone can make a report of suspected fraud, but most reports come from SSA employees or state DDS employees. These employees may make a report of suspected fraud if they come across inconsistencies in a claim or suspect that an applicant may be lying.

During a disability fraud investigation, the CDI unit may contact the applicant’s doctors and record the applicant’s activities and statements. CDI units may reach out to third parties when looking for evidence of fraud. For example, if the CDI agent suspects that an applicant is faking their difficulties with walking, they may talk with neighbors to determine whether the applicant always uses a walker or wheelchair while at home.

What Happens to Fraudulent Claimants?

If the CDI determines that there is fraudulent activity, there are several actions they may take against the perpetrator:

  • Notifying federal or state prosecutors (penalties for a felony conviction include up to five years in prison and up to $250,000 in fines)
  • Imposing SSA sanctions
  • Pursuing monetary penalties in civil court

The potential consequences of committing SSDI fraud are severe.

How to Avoid Being Investigated for Social Security Disability Fraud

Unfortunately, not all CDI investigations center on people who are actually committing fraud. Sometimes legitimate applicants get investigated because the SSA makes a mistake or a civilian incorrectly suspects fraud and makes a report. 

While there’s no way to guarantee that you will never be investigated for SSDI fraud, you can avoid this circumstance by making sure all your documentation is complete and factual and following the application or appeals process correctly. Working with a disability benefits lawyer may reduce your risk of making unintentional mistakes that could cause an investigation.

Contact Michael Hartup for Help With Your SSDI Claim

If you have worked and paid your Social Security taxes and now have a disability that prevents you from earning income, you may qualify for SSDI benefits. However, the claims process can be stressful and overwhelming, and many eligible applicants have their initial claims denied due to preventable errors. Sometimes, mistakes in legitimate claims get investigated as fraud, which can be a frightening situation.At The Law Offices of Michael Hartup, we help Tennessee residents who are eligible for SSDI benefits navigate the claims process. We can help you understand the requirements and make sure you have all the necessary documentation for your claim. If your previous claim has been denied, we can walk you through the appeals process. To get started, contact us online or call our office in Jackson, Tennessee, at 731-424-5559.

What Is the SSA’s Ticket to Work Program?

The Social Security Administration’s (SSA) disability benefits program is designed to support individuals who are unable to work due to a disability that lasts for at least 12 months. Many people think that receiving Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits prevents you from having a job, but that’s not true. Tennessee residents who want to work without compromising their SSDI benefits may want to consider joining the SSA’s Ticket to Work program.

The SSA’s Ticket to Work program offers a lot of advantages, but like most facets of SSDI, it can be confusing to navigate. If you have questions about your eligibility for SSA disability benefits or want assistance with your application or appeal, The Law Offices of Michael Hartup can help. Call our Jackson, Tennessee, office at (731) 424-5559 or contact us online to schedule a consultation. 

What Is the Ticket to Work Program?

The Ticket to Work program gives SSDI beneficiaries the chance to secure meaningful employment without losing their benefits. The Ticket program is completely free and voluntary. It’s open to beneficiaries who want to return to work or enter the workforce for the first time. 

The Ticket program is designed to help beneficiaries transition into the workforce. It offers guidance and support for individuals who want to move toward financial independence without losing their SSDI benefits in the process. Program participants can receive employment assistance and vocational rehabilitation services. The program works with employers to help participants find appropriate work.

You can also take advantage of the SSA’s Trial Work Period (TWP). This gives you the chance to work for up to 9 months (they don’t have to be consecutive) while still receiving your full benefits. You can use this trial period to decide whether working is the right path for you. During the TWP, you can receive your full SSDI benefits regardless of how much income you earn.

Who Is Eligible for the Ticket to Work Program?

The Ticket program is open to SSDI beneficiaries who are between 18 and 64 years old. It’s available to individuals who want to eventually replace their SSDI benefits with their own income. If you aren’t sure whether you’re ready to start your journey to work, this quiz can help you decide.

Steps to Prove Hearing Loss for a VA Disability Claim

Have you lost some or all of your hearing in the course of serving your country in the military? If so, you’re not alone. In fact, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) states that hearing problems are the most common service-connected disability. A 2015 Noise & Health study indicates that 71 percent of soldiers who served in Afghanistan or Iraq were exposed to loud noises, and 15 percent of this group reported experiencing ringing in their ears. 

If your hearing loss is connected with your military service, you may be eligible for VA disability benefits. The VA states that as of 2020, there were more than 1.3 million veterans receiving disability benefits for hearing loss. There were also over 2.3 million veterans receiving VA disability benefits for tinnitus. Additionally, many veterans who are diagnosed with mental health conditions (e.g., depression, anxiety) also have tinnitus.

At The Law Offices of Michael Hartup, we are dedicated to helping Tennessee veterans get the benefits they deserve. The VA disability benefits system is complicated, so we help people navigate it every step of the way.

Whether you need help submitting your VA disability claim or going through the appeals process, we are ready to assist. Call our Jackson, Tennessee, office at (731) 424-5559. 

What Are the Eligibility Requirements for VA Disability Benefits?

Deafness (complete hearing loss) isn’t the only hearing condition that veterans experience. Other common hearing problems are partial hearing loss, tinnitus (noise or ringing in the ears), and auditory processing disorder (difficulty understanding speech, especially in noisy environments). 

To be eligible for VA disability compensation for hearing loss, you must meet these requirements:

  • You served on active duty, active duty for training, or inactive duty training
  • You were honorably discharged
  • Your hearing loss is linked to an injury or illness you got while serving in the military, OR
  • You had a hearing issue before joining the military that your service made worse

You can apply for VA disability compensation if your hearing problems didn’t appear until after you were discharged but you can show they were related to your military service. If you didn’t receive an honorable discharge, you may be able to apply for a discharge upgrade to become eligible for benefits. 

What Tests Are Required for a Hearing Loss Claim?

To file a VA disability claim, you need evidence to support your claim that your hearing loss is connected with your military service. If you were diagnosed with a hearing condition while you were still in the military, you can use your VA medical records as proof. 

You can also submit private medical records. If your hearing loss was diagnosed by a non-VA medical provider, you can submit those records. You may also submit statements from family members and other people in your life (e.g., friends, clergy members) who can attest that your hearing loss started or worsened in connection with your military service.

Along with VA and/or private medical records related to your hearing issues, you will need to submit the results of two hearing loss tests as part of your disability claim:

  • Pure tone audiometry test, which evaluates the level of your hearing loss
  • Controlled speech discrimination test (a.k.a Maryland CNC test), which evaluates your ability to recognize speech

These tests must be administered by a licensed audiologist. Once you have your results, you can include them with your claim as supporting evidence.

How Do You File a Hearing Loss Claim?

You can file your disability claim for hearing loss online or print out and mail the form. You can also submit your application to a regional VA office in your area. Currently, the average time it takes for the VA to complete a disability claim is 156 days.

The VA will review your application and make a decision about your disability rating. This rating is what determines the amount of benefits you receive; the higher the percentage of your disability, the higher your benefits payments are. The VA’s disability rating schedule indicates that hearing loss can range from 0 percent to 50 percent, depending on severity. Tinnitus receives a 10 percent rating.

Hiring an attorney can make the whole VA disability claims process simpler. An experienced lawyer can help you make sure your initial claim is complete and has as much supporting documentation as possible to increase the chances of getting approved. If you do end up having to file an appeal for a denied claim, an attorney can help you with that too.

Get Expert Assistance With Your VA Disability Claim

As a veteran, you’ve honorably served your country and deserve to be taken care of, especially if you were injured in the line of duty. Hearing loss is something that many veterans experience, but the process of getting disability benefits for it can be overwhelmingly complicated.

At The Law Offices of Michael Hartup, we know how frustrating it can be to try to work through the VA claims process. We’re committed to helping Tennessee veterans get the benefits they deserve. We’ll guide you through the process from gathering evidence for the initial application to filing an appeal (if necessary).

To get started, contact our team of veterans disability attorneys. You can reach our Jackson office at 731-424-5559. Follow us on Facebook to learn more about VA disability benefits.

How to Win a VA Disability Claim

Have you been injured or fallen ill while serving in the military? Has your military service worsened an existing condition? If so, you may be entitled to receive disability compensation benefits from the Veterans Association (VA). To begin receiving benefits, however, you’ll need to file a VA disability claim.

The filing process can be time-consuming and complex, which is why The Law Offices of Michael Hartup will explain how to win a VA disability claim in this blog. If you need further assistance filing your application for benefits, contact us online or call our Jackson, Tennessee, office at (731) 424-5559. 

How the VA Makes a Decision About a Claim

It helps to understand how the VA makes a decision about every claim so that you are prepared when you file your own. Generally, the VA wants to make sure that your condition, illness, or medical issue was caused by or made worse by your time serving in the military. To do that, you’ll need to be deemed eligible for disability compensation first.

You may be eligible for VA disability benefits if you meet these requirements:

Both of these must be true:

  • You have a current condition that affects your mind or body, and
  • You served on active duty, active duty for training, or inactive duty training

And at least one of these must be true:

  • You got sick or injured while serving in the military and can link this condition to your illness or injury, or
  • You had an illness or injury before you joined the military and serving made it worse, or
  • You have a disability related to your active-duty service that didn’t appear until after you ended your service

After the VA determines that you have a service-connected disability, they’ll assign you a disability rating — a number from 0 to 100 — that determines how much compensation you’ll receive. 

To get the proper amount of compensation you deserve, and to increase the chances that your claim is not denied, you’ll need to submit strong evidence and documents that support your disability claim.

Document Any Medical Issues You Experience

It’s extremely important to document any medical problems you experience while in uniform, and to keep personal copies of those documents whenever you can. It’s your responsibility to provide evidence of your service-connected disability when filing your disability claim, and medical records can help.

Ask for and keep copies of records such as:

  • Private medical records
  • Test results
  • Doctor’s diagnosis
  • Health evaluations
  • DD Form 214, your Report of Separation

Even if you don’t need them at the time, ask for and keep copies of these records as issues occur. You can request your records later when filing your claim, but keep in mind that such requests can take time to fulfill.

Get Supporting Documentation from Others 

You aren’t limited to your medical records from military personnel. You can also gather evidence of your service-connected disability from non-military sources, such as:

  • Civilian medical professionals
  • Family members and friends
  • Fellow service members
  • Coworkers

These people in your life can provide honest, personal observations of your symptoms and condition. 

File Your Application

When you are ready to file your application, you’ll fill out the Application for Disability Compensation and Related Compensation Benefits form, also known as Form 21-526EZ.

If you’d like to file your claim by mail, you’ll send it to this address:

Department of Veterans Affairs

Claims Intake Center

PO Box 4444

Janesville, WI 53547-4444

You may also bring your completed application to a VA regional office near you, or you can apply on the VA website. A trained representative can help you file a claim, too.

Don’t Give Up If Your Claim is Denied

If your VA disability claim is denied, it can be disappointing, but don’t be discouraged. Denied claims are common; a claim can be denied due to lack of evidence, a missed deadline, or a missed medical exam assigned by the VA.

You can appeal a denied VA disability claim within one year from the date on your decision letter. These are the three appeal options you can choose from:

  • Supplemental Claim, in which the VA reviews new evidence that you provide
  • Higher-Level Review, in which a senior reviewer looks at your case and makes a decision
  • Board Appeal, in which a Veterans Law Judge at the Board of Veterans’ Appeals reviews your case and makes a decision

Each of these three options takes time and requires more paperwork, as well as further documentation, in some cases.

Seek Help from a Qualified Attorney

You don’t legally require an attorney to win a VA disability claim or to file an appeal, but it can help you get a decision in your favor. A veterans disability attorney experienced in the process can ensure your initial claim has strong evidence of your condition. They can also help you meet your deadlines and choose how to proceed should you need to file an appeal.

The Law Offices of Michael Hartup is dedicated to helping veterans in Tennessee. We’re ready to help you file your disability claim so you can receive the compensation you deserve.

Schedule a free consultation with an attorney on our team by calling 731-424-5559, or by filling out an online form. You may also learn more about VA disability benefits by liking our Facebook page.

The Benefits of Working With a Law Firm When Filing a Disability Claim

If you are disabled, you may be eligible for disability benefits through the Social Security Administration (SSA) or the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Unfortunately, the process to file a claim and actually get the benefits you’re entitled to is complicated, and many claims are initially denied due to simple errors. Between overwhelming paperwork and a confusing claims process, many people decide it’s not worth the hassle to file for disability. 

At The Law Offices of Michael Hartup, we understand how intimidating it can be to file a disability claim. We’re committed to helping Tennessee residents get the benefits they deserve. When you work with our office, we’ll walk you through every step from the initial claim to an appeal (if necessary). Working with us can make the entire process far less stressful. To learn more, contact us online or call our Jackson, Tennessee, office at (731) 424-5559. 

Continue reading “The Benefits of Working With a Law Firm When Filing a Disability Claim”