Why Should I Pay For An Attorney When I Can Work With A VSO For Free?

I hear a lot of veterans question why attorneys should charge money to do something a VSO will do for free, and I get it. No one wants to give money to someone if someone else can get the job done for free. This is why many veterans choose to get help from a Veterans Service Organization (VSO) rather than hire an attorney to handle their VA Disability Compensation claim. But as Warren Buffett said, “Price is what you pay. Value is what you get.” Sometimes the cheapest route is not the most valuable. Continue reading “Why Should I Pay For An Attorney When I Can Work With A VSO For Free?”

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Do I Need a Lawyer for my VA Disability Compensation Claim?

Let’s talk about the elephant in the room, first: Yes, I am a lawyer. Yes, this post is about whether you need a lawyer. Yes, this could be seen as a self-serving post. But there is something else you should know: I don’t want your case if you don’t want a lawyer, and even if you do, I personally may not even be the right lawyer for you. I do, however, want to help you figure out if you should spend your time and resources to hire a lawyer, because not every person should, or can. Whether you hire a lawyer to help with your VA Disability Compensation claim is a decision you should give a lot of thought to. Here are the two main questions to get you started.  Continue reading “Do I Need a Lawyer for my VA Disability Compensation Claim?”

Why Was my Claim for VA Disability Compensation Benefits Denied?

In every denial letter, the VA must explain why they have denied the claim. Though each claim is different, here are 6 common reasons why a VA Disability Compensation claim may be denied. Continue reading “Why Was my Claim for VA Disability Compensation Benefits Denied?”

How to Return to Work and Keep Your Disability Benefits

If you are receiving VA Disability Compensation, Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), Supplemental Security Income (SSI), or all three, you may be able to work and still keep your benefits. Each program has its own requirements, however, so you may be able to receive one type of benefit but not the others. It all depends on what type of benefit you receive, and how your benefit rate was calculated.

If you receive VA Disability Compensation benefits and…

Your rating is based on the VA Ratings Table

If you are receiving a rating that was calculated based on the Ratings Table, even if it is 100% (called a schedular rating), you can still work and receive your VA benefits.

Your rating is based on TDIU (total disability rating based on individual unemployability)

In order to get approved for TDIU, you must prove to the VA that you are unable to perform substantial gainful employment as a result of your condition(s). Substantial gainful employment for VA purposes is “other than marginal work,” meaning you could work in a sheltered or protected environment such as a family business so long as your earned annual income is less than the federal poverty guideline. In 2018, the federal poverty guideline for a single person household is $12,140/year. If you then go back to work, the VA can decrease your rating to what it was before you were approved for TDIU. See my prior post on TDIU for more information.

If you receive Social Security benefits (SSI and SSDI)…

Each program has its own rules regarding whether and how much recipients can work. If you are receiving Social Security disability benefits, SSI and/or SSDI, you can work within certain limitations.

SSI

If you are receiving SSI, you can work so long as your earned income does not exceed substantial gainful activity[1] ($1,180/month), and your monthly income is under the SSI income requirements for eligibility ($750/month for an individual in 2018).[2] If your income is above the monthly limit of $750, your benefit will terminate. Additionally, if you start to earn more income than you were earning when you were first approved, even if that income is below the $750/month limit, SSA will decrease your monthly SSI benefit to account for your increased income.

SSDI

SSDI recipients on the other hand do not have a monthly income limitation other than substantial gainful activity. So long as you earn below SGA, $1,180/month, you can still receive the SSDI benefit.

Trial Work Period for SSDI Recipients

Additionally, when you want to return to work, you can do so during a Trial Work Period (TWP) without immediately losing your benefit. Read this post for more information on TWP.

If you receive both VA Disability Compensation and Social Security benefits…

For individuals who receive both VA and SSI/SSDI, they must consider both program’s limitations if they want to keep both types of benefits. Each program is run independently of each other, so you will have to report separately to each agency. It is possible to keep all of your benefits while working, but depending on the type and amount of work you are engaged in, one or both of your benefits might terminate.

Bottom Line: If you are thinking about returning to work and you receive VA or Social Security disability benefits, you should carefully consider how your work will affect your benefits, especially if you are unsure if you will be able to maintain employment for an extended period of time.


[1] Though the VA and SSA both use the phrase “substantial gainful activity,” it is defined differently by each agency. See above.

[2] Because of how SSA calculates beneficiary’s income for eligibility purposes, it could be possible for someone to earn more than $750/month and still qualify for SSI.

Individual Unemployability – What is it, and which veterans are eligible?

I’m a disabled veteran and cannot work, but the VA won’t give me a 100% rating. What can I do? Individual Unemployability, short for Total Disability based on Individual Unemployability (TDIU), is a part of VA’s disability compensation program that allows the VA to pay certain Veterans disability compensation at the 100% rate, even though the VA has not rated their service-connected disabilities at the total level. Only certain disabled veterans are eligible for TDIU, however. Simply being unable to work is not enough. Continue reading “Individual Unemployability – What is it, and which veterans are eligible?”

How To Get Your VA Disability Rating Increased

I am already receiving VA Disability Compensation benefits, but my disability has worsened. Can I apply for an increased rating?

Yes! If your medical condition has deteriorated since you received your disability rating, or if you think the VA made the wrong decision regarding your disability rating, you should ask the VA to take a second look. Continue reading “How To Get Your VA Disability Rating Increased”

Waiting for VA Disability Compensation Benefits: How Long Will it Take to Get a Decision?

Best case scenario: a few months. Unfortunately, the best case scenario rarely plays out. Thus, many veterans are waiting years to get a decision from the VA, and often times, they feel left in the dark about what is happening with their case. Continue reading “Waiting for VA Disability Compensation Benefits: How Long Will it Take to Get a Decision?”