| Read Time: 5 minutes | Veterans Disability

VA Disability Rating for Multiple Myeloma from Agent Orange & Burn Pits

Serving in one of our nation’s military branches is one of the most patriotic things that you can do. Unfortunately, military service can leave deep physical and psychological scars that can affect you for the rest of your life. Recognizing this, the federal government created disability benefits for veterans. The US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) administers these benefits.  Over time, the government recognized that certain disabilities and conditions were more likely to develop in soldiers who served in a specific place and time. Thus, the VA developed two different ways of assessing and rating disability benefits. We will go over both of them by looking at the disability rating process for Multiple Myeloma associated with two different conflicts and their related toxins: Toxins that came from exposure to burn pits in the wars in the Middle East; and Toxins that came from exposure to the herbicide Agent Orange during the conflict in Vietnam. If you have or think you have Multiple Myeloma and fall into either of the two aforementioned categories of veterans, you may have a strong claim for VA disability benefits. The time and place you served, however, will affect the application process. We Know That Applying for Disability Benefits Isn’t Always Easy We understand that applying for VA disability benefits isn’t always the most straightforward process. Thus, the VA disability benefits team at Gerling Law Injury Attorneys is here to help. If you are in the process of applying for VA disability benefits related to Multiple Myeloma, you might have a few questions about the process. You may have questions like, What is the disability percentage for Agent Orange Multiple Myeloma? If so, you are in the right place. We’ll go over the basics of the VA’s disability rating, how it applies to Multiple Myeloma, and what you need to do in order to get the most out of your claim. Multiple Myeloma’s Military Service Connection Since we are talking about Multiple Myeloma arising from exposure in two entirely different times and places, their military service connection is also different. We will briefly cover both and discuss how the VA designates each disability. To understand the designations, however, we need to explain presumptive conditions and how they affect VA disability claims. What Are Presumptive Conditions? As previously noted, the VA makes it easier for veterans who served in a specific place and time to file a disability claim for a number of specific conditions. We call these presumptive conditions. Often, these are conditions that arise after a large group of servicemembers suffer exposure to a certain toxin. If there is an exceptionally strong connection between the two, the VA creates a list of presumptive conditions. If you have a diagnosis for a presumptive condition associated with a specific time and place of military service, you do not need to prove a connection between your condition and your service. Instead, it is presumed that if you have that condition and served in that place and time, the condition is connected to your service.  Conversely, if you have the same condition but served in a place and time where the condition is not presumed, applying for VA disability benefits includes an extra step. You need to prove that you have the condition, and you also have to prove the connection between your service and your condition. This involves the often time-consuming act of providing evidence to support your claim. Multiple Myeloma Caused by Agent Orange: A Presumptive Condition Agent Orange was an herbicide used primarily in the conflict in Vietnam. It was also used to a lesser extent in the Korean demilitarized zone. Agent Orange’s purpose was to eradicate plant life on the ground so that enemy combatants could not use the foliage as cover. Airplanes often sprayed it over large areas of foliage. This means that anything on the ground was exposed to it—including our service members.  Over the years, research has repeatedly shown that Agent Orange is highly toxic. As a result of its toxicity, researchers have connected it with various ailments and disabilities. Among them are Multiple Myeloma, other specific types of cancer, and Parkinson’s Disease. Recognizing the strong connection between Agent Orange exposure and Multiple Myeloma, the VA added it to Agent Orange’s list of presumptive conditions. Multiple Myeloma and Burn Pits: Not A Presumptive Condition During the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other deployments in the Middle East over the last 30 years, the US military has utilized burn pits. Burn pits are exactly what they sound like: large, open pits used to dispose of waste by burning it. The military typically places these pits within or just outside military installations. As a result, just about every civilian and military service member in the area breathes in the smoke and other particulates.  You can develop several respiratory issues from inhaling particulate matter from a simple wood fire. However, the military burns things that aren’t traditionally incinerated in a simple fire, which amplifies health risks. While there are certain conditions associated with burn pits that the government considers presumptive conditions, Multiple Myeloma is not one of them. Thus, if you served in the Middle East and developed Multiple Myeloma, you will need to prove the connection between Multiple Myeloma, the burn pits, and your service. How Does the VA Disability Rating System Work? Each time someone applies for VA disability benefits, the VA makes its assessment and assigns a rating. The rating comes in a percentage. A 100% disability rating nets you the maximum available monthly benefits, while a 10% rating nets you much less. The federal government periodically increases the maximum monthly benefit to reflect changes in the cost of living and inflation. The VA uses a somewhat complex formula to calculate your specific disability rating. You can find a full outline of the process on their website. However, it gets complicated quickly, so we will just touch on the basics. Essentially, the VA awards points based on various factors, including your age,...

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| Read Time: 8 minutes | Veterans Disability

VA Disability Rating for Parkinson’s Disease Overview

If you are a veteran who develops Parkinson’s disease, you might find yourself curious as to how Parkinson’s disease can affect VA disability benefits. Generally speaking, VA benefits are a form of tax-free, monthly compensation that the VA pays to veterans who suffer from disabilities related to their military service. To determine how much compensation an individual veteran gets, the VA gives them a disability rating. Additional disabilities, like Parkinson’s disease, can affect your disability rating. Parkinson’s disease is one of the many disabilities recognized by the VA. Regardless of whether you are already receiving VA disability benefits, as a veteran developing Parkinson’s, it helps to have some general knowledge about how Parkinson’s disease can affect those benefits.  Many veterans depend on disability benefits. For those veterans, it is absolutely crucial to understand what changes they can expect from the VA regarding Parkinson’s disease.  You may have questions like, Is Parkinson’s disease a 100% compensation disability? Or, What factors can impact my Parkinson’s disease disability rating? If you have these kinds of questions about VA disability benefits and their interaction with Parkinson’s disease, don’t hesitate to give us a call at Gerling Law Injury Attorneys. Our VA disability benefits team is always happy to answer your questions and set you in the right direction. Some General Notes on Parkinson’s Disease Parkinson’s disease is a neurodegenerative disorder. That means that it adversely affects your brain. Specifically, Parkinson’s disease impairs your brain’s ability to produce the neurotransmitter dopamine. Dopamine affects everything from movement and balance to concentration and mood. Unfortunately, there is no cure for Parkinson’s disease at this time. Thus, it makes sense that Parkinson’s disease qualifies as a disability in the eyes of the federal government. The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), the Social Security Administration (SSA), and the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) all consider Parkinson’s disease a covered disability under their respective programs. Parkinson’s Disease: Symptoms and Treatment There are quite a few different symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. Experienced alone, you might brush off some of the symptoms as minor inconveniences. When the effects start to combine, however, they can significantly impede your ability to live a normal life. As the symptoms combine, the disease moves into different stages, causing increasing impairment. Some of Parkinson’s disease’s early symptoms include minor things like: Fatigue, Depression, Slurred speech, Changes in handwriting style, and Shakiness. These are all early signs of Parkinson’s disease. The symptoms worsen over time, leaving many affected individuals unable to walk at a certain point. As you can see, these early signs are hard to spot unless they combine with one another. If you feel like you might have Parkinson’s, it is critically important to seek a medical evaluation. After all, the VA will not approve your disability benefits application without an adequate medical diagnosis. As noted, Parkinson’s disease is not a curable disorder. Still, there are ways to treat the symptoms of Parkinson’s and minimize its impact on your life. Doctors often take a holistic approach to treating Parkinson’s disease symptoms. Treatment may include physical therapy, surgery, and prescription medications. More often than not, doctors use several different treatments to mitigate the impact of specific effects. Parkinson’s Disease And Military Service Over the years medical researchers have identified certain external factors connected to Parkinson’s disease. Researchers have demonstrated that people who were exposed to the factors are at a much higher risk of developing Parkinson’s than those who were not. Many of the factors that medical researchers have connected to Parkinson’s disease are herbicidal chemicals used in agricultural settings. Researchers have identified several consumer-grade herbicides that increase the risk of Parkinson’s disease. One of the notable herbicides that falls into this category is known as Agent Orange, which was used by the United States military during the Vietnam War. Agent Orange was sprayed above forests and fields to kill vegetation so the military could identify enemy forces without the obstruction of the trees. Often, U.S. forces were exposed to the chemical along with enemy combatants. Since the Vietnam War, researchers have identified several severe health problems, including certain types of cancer, associated with Agent Orange exposure. Some of these problems, including Parkinson’s disease, are what the VA refers to as “presumptive conditions.” Applying for VA disability benefits for a presumptive condition is generally easier than applying for benefits for a non-presumptive condition. More on that below. Veterans Can Get Disability Payments Through the VA Typically, for the VA to approve your disability claim, you have to prove your disability’s specific connection with your military service. This is not the case, however, with presumptive conditions. What Is a Presumptive Condition? Presumptive conditions are medical conditions that the military acknowledges arise from a specific place and time in military service. Often they give this classification when a large group of service members is exposed to some sort of hazardous chemical during a specific conflict. For example, for veterans of the first Gulf War, asthma is a presumptive condition due to the military’s use of burn pits in Iraq. Thus, a veteran of that war who develops asthma after their service has to demonstrate only that they served during that specific conflict to get VA disability benefits for asthma. Parkinson’s Disease As a Presumptive Condition In a 2009 report, scientists working for the federal government published research that connected Parkinson’s disease to Agent Orange. As a result, in 2010, the VA added Parkinson’s disease to the presumptive condition list associated with the Vietnam War. The disease was also added to the list of presumptive conditions associated with two other places and times: Those serving in the Korean Demilitarized Zone between 1968 and 1971 and  Those who stayed at Camp Lejeune for at least 30 days between August 1953 and 1987. Thus, if you are suffering from Parkinson’s disease and fall into any of these categories, initially applying for VA disability benefits is a straightforward process. How the VA Grading System Works Each application for VA disability benefits gets a...

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| Read Time: 3 minutes | Veterans Disability

Can the VA Take Away Your Disability Rating?

As a veteran with a disability, it is not uncommon for you and your family to depend financially on those payments. Raising a family is hard enough when you have a dependable, stable source of income. Even if your partner works a steady job, those disability benefits are often crucial. As the cost of living continues to rise, it gets harder and harder to make ends meet. Because adequate financial planning requires a dependable source of income, you might wonder at times, Can VA disability be taken away? The answer, unfortunately, is yes. The VA often continues with disability payments for the duration of a veteran’s life. However, the VA and the federal government do reserve the right to alter the duration or amount of this financial resource.  In What Circumstances Can the VA Take Away My Disability Benefits? To understand when and why the VA takes away disability benefits, we have to know what factors they look at to make such a decision. Some disability rates are locked in and considered protected benefit rates. We will discuss those below, but first, we need to look at unprotected benefit rates. Unprotected benefit rates are a specific class of disability ratings that the VA can alter. After a reexamination of your disability, the VA can lower or remove your rating entirely. To legally make that reduction, the VA’s reexamination of your disability must show the following: Your disability has shown real, marked improvement (not a temporary change); The improvement in question increases your ability to fulfill your functions in the workplace and at home; The report submitted after the reexamination must leave no questions unanswered and be as thorough as possible; and As part of the thorough review, the VA must consider the entirety of your disability’s medical history. If those four factors are met, the VA can reduce your disability compensation. Please keep in mind that in addition to a reduction based on reexamination, the VA reserves the right to temporarily suspend or reduce your benefit rates if you are subject to incarceration. Can the VA Take Away My Compensation? Whether or not the VA can or will try to take away your disability compensation depends entirely on the facts and circumstances of your specific injury. Since the VA looks at so many different factors, it is hard to generically predict whether your VA disability benefits are at risk. Unless, of course, you have received notification from the VA indicating that your disability benefits are under challenge. However, just like there are factors that increase the likelihood that the VA will take away your compensation, there are factors that indicate the opposite. Instead, these are factors that protect your benefits and the rate at which you receive them. In most instances, these factors can stop the VA from suspending your benefits entirely. 100% Disability Rating Five Years or More with the Same Disability Rating  There are two time constraints that will help protect your VA disability benefits. The first is five years, and the second is 20 years. If your disability rating is effective for five years or more—without change—it is protected. Unless your condition has continuously improved over the preceding five years, your disability rating is entirely protected. The VA must affirmatively establish that your disability continuously improved to change your rating. A temporary improvement is not enough to suspend or alter your benefits rating. 20 Years or More with the Same Disability Rating The second time constraint that will protect your VA disability rating is 20 years. If your disability rate has remained unmoved for 20 years or more, your rate is nearly untouchable. There is only one way the VA can reduce or take away your disability rating after 20 years or more. To do so, they must prove that the rating was based on fraud in some form or another. This requires a high evidentiary standard. Thus, if you are in this situation and have never committed fraud, you have little to worry about. The Best Way to Defend Your VA Disability Benefits Is with Experience on Your Side Even if it seems like the VA has a legitimate claim to reduce your disability benefits, you should always stand up for yourself and fight for your rights. If your finances depend on these benefits, there’s too much at stake to not stand up for your rights. After all, the VA’s decision can make the difference between making your mortgage payment on time this month or not.  If you are ready to fight for your rights, the VA disability benefits team at Gerling Law Injury Attorneys is on standby to help you through the process from start to finish. Our team serves clients nationwide, so wherever you are, we can help. To top things off, our VA disability benefits team focuses specifically on VA disability benefits, so we have the requisite experience to give you the legal help you deserve.  Veterans, you fought for our rights, so let us fight for yours. Give us a call today, tell us your story, and let’s see what we can do! Go with Experience. Go with Gerling. ®

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| Read Time: 3 minutes | Veterans Disability

How Long Does an Expedited VA Claim Take?

Veterans can file for veteran disability compensation. Veterans may qualify for disability benefits if they suffer from physical or mental conditions before, during, or after service, so long as the  conditions are related to service. Veterans who would like the opportunity to receive compensation must file a VA claim.  If you wish to file a VA claim, the process may take some time—anywhere from three to six months to receive a decision. Certain circumstances, including missing information in the claim, can slow down the process. Fortunately, in some cases, you may qualify for a VA expedited claim process.  There is, however, no exact way to determine how much faster the expedited VA claim process is. Claims are deemed “priority” or “non-priority,” meaning priority claims will be handled first. Still, because there are other priority requests, expedited claims may still take a little time.  First and foremost, before deciding whether you are a qualified candidate for an expedited VA claim, it is important to understand the criteria.  Common Circumstances That Can Get a VA Claim Expedited If you are a veteran interested in expediting your VA claim, you must first qualify. There are special circumstances that, if present, can allow a veteran to expedite the VA claim due to hardship. The Veteran Is Going Through Financial Hardship If a veteran is experiencing extreme financial hardship, they may be able to expedite their claim. The veteran applying will need to provide evidence of their financial situation, which can include: Collection letters, Past-due bills, or Eviction notices. If the evidence submitted is substantial enough to support the claim of financial hardship, your VA claim will be taken care of more quickly. The Veteran Is Terminally Ill If a veteran is suffering from a terminal illness, their claim will be expedited. Medical evidence of the terminal illness is needed to qualify. Medical proof can include medical records or a letter from a physician. The veteran can provide this documentation themselves or allow the VA to gather their private treatment records. The Veteran Is Diagnosed with ALS Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, is a disease affecting the nervous system, eventually causing the loss of muscle control. As with a terminal illness, veterans diagnosed with ALS will qualify for an expedited VA claim if proof is present. The veteran can provide this to the VA, or the VA can obtain these records for them. The Veteran Was Seriously or Very Seriously Injured or Ill During Military Operations Veterans filing VA claims are likely already suffering some injury or illness. However, veterans that have suffered an injury or illness during military operations can qualify for an expedited VA claim. The VA sets this category apart, defining it as “a disability resulting from a military operation that will likely result in discharge from military service.” To qualify, veterans must provide a copy of their military personnel records and medical evidence showing severe disability or injury. With permission from the veteran, the VA can get the required treatment records on their behalf. The Veteran Is of Advanced Age Veterans 85 years or older may qualify for an expedited VA claim. In their request, the veteran will simply need to provide their accurate date of birth. The Veteran Is a Former Prisoner of War Veterans who were prisoners of war are eligible to have their VA claims expedited. Veterans must provide a copy of their military personnel records, including their DD Form 214 (Certificate of Release of Discharge from Active Duty), and other important information, such as their service number, branch and dates of service, or any other information relevant to their detainment. The Veteran Received a Medal of Honor or Purple Heart Award Veterans decorated with a Medal of Honor or Purple Heart Award will qualify to have their VA claim expedited. The veteran will need to furnish a copy of their military personnel records, including DD Form 214 or some information exhibiting receipt of the Medal of Honor or Purple Heart. What Can I Do to Make My VA Claim Go Faster? If you are a veteran and qualify under one of the above-mentioned criteria, you may wonder how to speed up your VA disability claim. To do so, you must fill out a Priority Processing Request form.  What Can an Attorney Do for Me? An attorney cannot guarantee that your VA claim will go any faster. Nonetheless, your lawyer can help in a variety of ways, including: Thoroughly explaining the process; Answering your questions; Helping you navigate the VA claims process; and Supporting you from beginning to end.  The VA claims process can be tricky and challenging to handle on your own. With the assistance of a qualified attorney, you can have a better chance at a successful outcome to your claim. Consult with a VA Disability Attorney Today Gerling Law exists to help clients get the help they need during a trying time. We believe in putting our clients first and always having their best interests at heart. Gerling Law’s attorneys are all experienced and well-versed in the law, making them your best ally. We aim to help our clients in any way we can, getting them on the right path to recovery. Our firm offers free consultations. Contact us today, and let’s see how we can help you. Go with Experience. Go with Gerling. ®

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| Read Time: 3 minutes | Social Security Disability

What Conditions Automatically Qualify You for Disability?

When you develop a medical condition that impedes your ability to hold a job, it can significantly impact your life. There are no two ways about it. In such a situation, it is important to figure out what options you have for financial help, including disability benefits. After developing a life-altering medical condition, you may find yourself wondering, Do I qualify for disability? The answer to this question is not always cut and dried. That said, there are a number of conditions that automatically meet social security disability qualifications by definition. Other conditions can qualify you for an expedited decision on your application but are not automatic. Whatever your questions are, Gerling Law is here to help you navigate the disability application process from start to finish. What Conditions Qualify You for Disability? Some medical conditions will, with a diagnosis, automatically qualify you for disability. You can find these conditions on the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) Compassionate Allowances List (CAL). With a medical diagnosis of one of the conditions on this list, you will, by definition, qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), Supplemental Security Income (SSI), or both. SSA has published a complete list of all CAL medical conditions here. The list is too long for this piece, but some of the notable medical conditions on the CAL include: Adult non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, Adult-onset Huntington’s disease, Anaplastic adrenal cancer, Bladder cancer,  Batten disease, Canavan disease (CD), Early-onset Alzheimer’s disease, Esophageal cancer, Gallbladder cancer, Heart transplant waitlist, Inflammatory breast cancer, Lou Gherig’s disease (ALS), Pancreatic cancer, Small cell lung cancer, and Stage IV breast cancer. If you have a medical diagnosis of one of the diseases noted on the CAL, the SSA simply requires proof of that medical diagnosis for approval of your application for benefits. Suppose you are applying for disability benefits on the basis of one of the conditions in the CAL. In such a case, you do not need to do anything different in your application than you would for any other medical condition. Simply submit the application with the required materials. Once your application is received, it will be flagged automatically by the SSA system for expedited review. The Importance of Documentation Maintaining proper documentation of your medical diagnosis is critically important in the application process. Your medical diagnosis is the most indisputable documentation and record of your medical condition and disability. This is what the SSA will look at, so we cannot overstate the importance of keeping track of it.  It is also important to document your symptoms before and after you go to the doctor. If you make a journal of symptoms and bring it to medical appointments, it will help your service providers make an accurate diagnosis. An accurate diagnosis is critical. Documenting symptoms is also a great help in managing your disability. How to Submit Your Application There are three ways to submit your application for disability benefits to the SSA. The first way to apply is to do so in person. For this, simply go to the closest Social Security office. To apply in person, you do not need an appointment. The SSA’s online field office locator tool will help you find the office closest to you. If you don’t want to apply in person, you can call 800-772-1213 to schedule a phone appointment with an SSA agent. The third option to apply for SSA disability benefits is to use their online application tool. To apply online, visit www.ssa.gov/applyfordisability/ on the SSA website. You will also find more detailed information on the application process on this web page, so be sure to give it a visit even if you plan to apply in person. If you have any questions or troubles with the SSA disability application process, contact us at Gerling Law today. Our disability attorneys have extensive experience helping people claim their disability benefits. From wrongful denials to application and administrative details, our disability attorneys have seen it all and are here to help you. Don’t just take our word for it; be sure to check out our testimonials page to see how we have helped our clients in the past. If you need help, reach out and tell us your story in a free consultation, and we’ll do our best to make things right. Remember Go with Experience. Go with Gerling®

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| Read Time: 2 minutes | Car Accident

Go With Experience

If you are searching for legal counsel in Evansville, Indianapolis, Louisville, Owensboro, or surrounding communities, contact Gerling Law. Our lawyers have one purpose: to make your life better through assertive advocacy, legal experience, and a commitment to results. For over five decades, our firm has helped individuals get their lives back after an accident or when they can no longer work due to an injury or illness. We are dedicated to getting the compensation you deserve and have a solid reputation as a large settlement attorney law firm. “I am proud that Gerling Law is a leading personal injury law firm. We have represented thousands of people over the past 50 year and obtained recoveries totaling more than $300 million,” stated Owner Gayle Gerling Pettinga. Professional Results Just some of the recoveries made by Gerling Law include: $7.5 Million Settlement; Brain Injury to Child; Auto and Tractor-Trailer Collision $3.01 Million Judgment; Permanent Brain Injury; Motorcycle – Tractor-Trailer Collision $2.5 Million Settlement; Wrongful Death; Auto and Tractor-Trailer Collision $2.1 Million Settlement; Traumatic Brain Injury; Motorcycle and Tractor-Trailer Collision $350,000 Settlement; Burn Injuries; Propane Tank Explosion $225,000 Settlement; Shoulder Injury; Pedestrian Struck by Auto Of course, these results are provided for informational purposes only and are not to be considered as a promise or guarantee as to the outcome of your specific case. Each case contains different facts and circumstances. The facts and circumstances of other cases will likely differ from the facts of the cases listed. Contingency At Gerling Law, we work on a contingency fee basis. That means you don’t have to pay us anything upfront or directly. We get paid only at the end of your case and when your case ends successfully. If your case is not successful, and you do not receive any kind of financial recovery, we will not charge you for the services we provided on your behalf. You’ll owe absolutely nothing. A Final Word Gerling Law has successfully represented clients from every walk of life and with every sort of legal challenge. We are confident that we can assist you with your legal needs. Clients are always treated fairly and with courtesy and respect. Every case receives the highest-quality representation matched by unparalleled integrity to obtain the compensation you deserve. Call the Gerling Firm today at 888-437-5464 for a no-obligation initial consultation.

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