The Blog

Homeless Veterans Assistance

 

There are approximately four hundred homeless veterans within the City of Philadelphia.  Many of these veterans have served our country overseas and have returned with a number of physically and mentally disabling conditions.  In that, the veterans are unable to continue to maintain gainful employment leaving them no choice but to take to the streets.  Unfortunately, these individuals are unaware of the amount of resources they have access to.  Below are two links that offer help to our homeless veterans.

This information is provided directly from the Veterans Affairs and offers health care, housing assistance, employment assistance, foreclosure assistance and advises on how to apply for same.

http://www.benefits.va.gov/persona/veteran-homeless.asp

This link is for the VMC (Veterans Multi-Service Center), which is the only non-profit agency in Philadelphia and the surrounding areas that offers services to all veterans, including the homeless.  The VMC also offers job opportunities, assistance with GI Bills, information on presumptive disabilities and supportive services for veterans and their families.

http://www.vmcenter.org/?gclid=CLy3idSP1NICFQ-BswodJEoBJA

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Pursuing PTSD Claims

As a VA attorney, I speak to many potential clients who wish to pursue claims for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).  For VA purposes, PTSD occurs when a veteran experiences a traumatic event while in the military.    According to the VA, the symptoms of PTSD include “reliving the event, avoiding places or things that remind you of the event, a shift to more negative thoughts and feelings, feeling numb, and feeling keyed up (also called hyperarousal)”.  Often times these symptoms can arise many years after the traumatic event.

A lot of people believe that only veterans who experienced a traumatic event during combat can get VA benefits for PTSD.  This is false.    Banks Law has been successful in litigating PTSD claims involving events such as a physical altercation while in the military, sexual harassment by superiors, and near death experiences while in training.

It is important to remember that if you believe you are experiencing symptoms of PTSD and you feel it is related to the military, you must get treatment for it so that there is enough medical evidence to support your case.

If you feel you may have a VA claim for PTSD, please call Banks Law.  Our attorneys would be happy to discuss your case with you.

The article below is a great example of how a paratrooper was awarded PTSD from a non-combat event.  After 43 years, he was finally awarded PTSD as a result of a botched parachute jump:

https://www.armytimes.com/articles/after-43-years-the-army-is-finally-recognizing-this-paratroopers-ptsd

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The Secret to the VA

There is one mantra I like to say to each Veteran when I begin representing them:  “The biggest weapon you must have with the VA is patience” – and I mean it.  Some Veterans come to me after applying multiple times and they just cannot get what they deserve.  Some have been fighting with the VA for decades.  Most however applied once many years ago and just gave up.  And I understand why – an initial claim can take 6 months or more to be decided.  An appeal could take several years after that.

The reality is the VA takes a while to decide a claim and the Veteran should be prepared to stick with it for the long haul.  It is an agency that is inundated with claims.  I often find the employees of the VA genuinely do care for the Veterans, but the procedures for deciding claims are not always the most efficient.  I tell my clients right off the bat how long it could take to get a decision from the VA so that they do not have unrealistic expectations.  If my client knows what to expect, it minimizes frustration and impatience.

Fortunately, Congress and the Executive branch are beginning to take notice of the inefficient claims process and claims backlog.  It seems the VA is on politicians’ radar and I think some good changes and improvements will be made to the system.  I do believe there are brighter days ahead for the VA and the Veterans who file claims.

 

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The Health Benefits of Regular Exercise

What is a simple way to feel better, have more energy and perhaps live a longer life? Exercise. The many health benefits of regular exercise are hard to ignore. Read on to discover the ways regular physical activity can improve your health and life.

Exercise can help you control your weight. When you engage in physical activity your body burns calories. The higher the intensity of the activity, the more calories you burn. In addition, exercise helps you build muscle mass. Even at rest, muscle mass burns many calories and helps to increase your metabolism. So, the great thing is, the more muscle mass you build from exercise, the more calories you can burn, even at rest, which helps you control your weight. Good stuff.

In addition, exercise can help keep the symptoms of many health conditions under control including, diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure. In addition, it has been shown that regular exercise can combat the symptoms of stress and depression. Exercise increases blood flow, which helps your body metabolize sugars and stimulates certain brain chemicals which can help you feel better physically and mentally. In addition, exercise helps you fall asleep faster and it promotes deeper sleep which can make anybody feel better.

As little as one half hour per day of regular physical activity is all you need to begin to realize the great health effects of exercise. And, you don’t have to sign up for a marathon to begin to notice these positive benefits. Activities as simple as taking the steps instead of the elevator, parking farther away from the door at the shopping mall or taking a walk on your lunch break are all great ways to incorporate more physical activity into your life. Of course, you should always consult your doctor before beginning any exercise program.

The positive benefits of exercise are waiting for you to discover today so grab your shoes and get out there.

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Take Control of your Claim for Veterans Benefits

 

If you were to speak to any Veteran, most of them would have the same thing to say about the way the Department of Veterans Affairs has treated them in a negative manner. This unfair treatment is not news to anyone. The VA has had periodic related scandals in the news. These scandals originate in the VA hospitals. Veterans still do not get the treatment they need, or, the treatment is delayed. Putting a person’s medical care on hold is unacceptable.

Veterans applying for Pension and Service-Connected Disability benefits are also placed on hold or just denied over and over again. Veterans need to understand that they do not have to put up with this.

The VA is not immune from the regulations that have been passed by Congress with regard to the process of obtaining benefits. Some Veterans may believe that the VA or service organizations are in control of their claim but this is not the case. Veterans should know that there is a lot more that they can do to enforce their rights. You can take control of your claim by taking it out of the hands of the VA, or the service organizations, and place it in the hands of experienced VA attorneys.

We at Banks law have five VA accredited attorneys who know the ins and outs of the VA claims process.   We can help you get the benefits you deserve. We interact with the VA daily, and know what needs to be done in order to succeed in your claim. Please call us if you have any questions regarding your current VA claim or, if you intend to apply for service-connected disability and/or pension benefits. Take control of your case by entrusting Banks Law to be your advocate.

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Traumatic Servicemember’s Group Life Insurance (TSGLI)

The Traumatic Servicemember’s Group Life Insurance (“TSGLI”) program provides payment to service members who sustain serious injuries while both on and off duty that directly result from a traumatic event they sustained during service that causes them to suffer a qualifying loss. The U.S. Veterans Administration established the TSGLI program to provide financial assistance to service members and their families during the recovery period for serious injuries.

All service members are eligible for payment under the TSGLI program if, after, December 1, 2005, you were insured under the Servicemember’s Group Life Insurance (“SGLI”) and you: (1) experienced a traumatic event that (2) resulted in a traumatic injury which (3) is listed as a qualifying loss. TSGLI coverage is also provided retroactively for service members who suffered severe losses from traumatic injuries incurred between October 7, 2001, and November 30, 2005, and if the injury occurred during Operation Enduring Freedom or Operation Iraqi Freedom regardless of whether you had SGLI coverage at the time of injury.

Qualifying losses do not include mental impairments such as PTSD. Some examples of qualifying losses include: loss of sight, loss of speech, loss of hearing, burns, coma, facial reconstruction, amputations and paralysis. A qualifying loss can also include the loss of the ability to independently perform at least two of the following activities of daily living for, at least 15 days for traumatic brain injuries and at least 30 consecutive days for any other traumatic injury. Activities of daily living include the ability to bathe, maintain continence, dress, eat, use the toilet and transfer into or out of a bed or a chair.

If you are a service member who has suffered serious physical injuries resulting from a traumatic event sustained during your military service and you have suffered from one of the above qualifying losses within two years of the injury, please contact us right away for a free case consultation.

 

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Need to Apply for Veteran’s Benefits?

If you sustained a physical injury while serving in the armed forces or are suffering from mental impairments as a result of your military service you should apply for benefits through the Veterans Administration (“VA”) as soon as possible. Any veteran who was discharged or released under conditions other than dishonorable can apply for VA benefits. There are two types of monetary compensation benefits available through the VA. The first is service connected disability compensation or veterans disability benefits. In order to qualify for these benefits you must have been diagnosed with a disease or a disability that was caused by or resulted from your military service. Your disability benefit amount will be based on the rating assigned by the VA to your disability. The VA assigns a rating to a veteran’s disability by using a rating table that ranges from 10% to 100%. The higher the disability rating, the more a veteran will receive in monthly disability payments.

The second type of monetary compensation the VA pays is a pension. A veteran can apply for a pension if they have at least 90 days of active duty, including one day during a wartime period and have a family income that falls below the yearly limit that is set by law. You must also be age 65 or older, or totally and permanently disabled. Both veteran’s disability benefits and pension benefits are exempt from federal and state taxes.

Although the VA does offer veterans assistance in filing for these benefits, you as the veteran have the option of choosing a private law firm to assist you in filing your claim. The VA claims process, even at its best, is slow, subject to error, and requires frequent follow up. You are more likely to be successful at getting paid on your claim if you have a VA accredited attorney who can professionally develop your file by providing the proper evidence, organizing your information and maintaining the frequent contacts that are necessary when dealing with the VA. Most private law firms won’t handle filing VA claims at the initial level, as VA law prevents private lawyers from collecting a fee on initial applications. However, Banks Law is here to assist veterans and will develop and submit your initial application for veteran’s benefits to the VA as a “fully developed claim” on a pro bono basis. This means that as a thank you for your service we will file your initial application for VA benefits at no cost to you.

Please contact us today to ask how we can help you with obtaining your VA benefits.

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Managing Benefits Claims with the Department of Veterans Affairs

Veterans rely on the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) for many important services such as healthcare, vocational rehabilitation, life insurance, educational assistance, disability compensation, pension and other benefits. It is troubling to hear the recent stories of the VA’s carelessness in assisting veterans in need. (Click To Read About The VA Hospital Scandal). This news comes as no surprise to veterans who have relied on the VA for medical treatment, life insurance, disability compensation, and other benefits. The VA currently has a backlog of over 340,000 claims, which means that hundreds of thousands of veterans are waiting for the benefits they need and deserve.

We hear over and over again from veterans that the VA has mismanaged their claims, by failing to process paperwork, request documents and obtain treatment records. On top of that, the VA pressures veterans to rely on Veteran Service Organizations (VSOs) to apply for disability compensation, pension and other benefits. Service organizations sometimes struggle to meet the demands of veterans’ claims for disability compensation and benefits as they have high caseloads stemming from the backlog and they have to focus their efforts on providing other services for veterans. This leaves veterans having to deal with the poor service of the VA and overwhelmed service organizations when applying for disability compensation, pension and benefits. This is why it is important that veterans seek assistance from experienced VA accredited attorneys when applying for VA benefits.

A veteran recently told me about his experience with the VA stating that “the main job of the VA is to place veterans on hold.” This veteran has gone through various service organizations and has spoken with dozens of VA representatives over the years regarding his claim for service-connected disability compensation. He was told over and over again that the VA was evaluating his claim, that it would take months for the VA to process his claim and that he should check in later. These months turned into years, yet his claim went nowhere. When he asked the service organization for his claims file, he found out that there was no file.

If you are experiencing any of these problems in your claim for VA benefits, we can help. Our experienced attorneys are familiar with the VA claims process, eligibility requirements, and types of benefits offered by the VA. We interact with the VA on a regular basis, and will help you gather the information needed to prove your claim. Please call us if you have any questions regarding your current VA claim(s), or if you intend to apply for disability compensation and/or pension. Our experienced attorneys will guide your claim for benefits step by step through the Department of Veterans Affairs.

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Know Your Rights: Applying for Veterans Disability Benefits

Veterans disability benefits are paid by the Veterans Administration (“VA”) and are available to veterans who have suffered a physical injury or mental illness while serving in active military duty, active duty for training, or inactive duty training. In order to qualify for veterans disability benefits:

  • Your discharge must have been honorable;
  • You must have suffered a physical injury or mental illness while serving in active military duty, active duty for training, or inactive duty training;
  • You must currently be receiving treatment for that physical injury or mental illness.

You can apply for veterans disability benefits, what the VA refers to as service-connected disability compensation and/or pension benefits, by completing VA Form 21-526, Veteran’s Application for Compensation and/or Pension. You should submit your application with the required documents to your state’s VA Regional Office.  To find your VA Regional Office, visit http://benefits.va.gov/benefits/offices.asp.

The VA will review the information in your file and determine your eligibility for benefits. The VA often denies claims for incomplete applications. It is important to work with an experienced veterans law attorney to ensure that your application has been completed correctly and all documents required by the VA are on file. Your attorney will ensure that your military service records, medical records and supporting documents are in your VA file.

If you intend to apply for veterans disability benefits and/or pension, or have already applied for benefits and have been denied, call us immediately. We can help. At Banks Law, our experienced VA attorneys will ensure your application is thoroughly prepared or, in the event your application is denied, we will file an appeal to help you get the benefits to which you are entitled.

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