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Social Security Benefits May Be In Jeopardy

Did you know President Trump and his economic advisers hope to include a temporary suspension of the Social Security and Medicare payroll taxes in the next coronavirus relief package? Many financial advisors believe cutting payroll taxes will only create unwanted additional financial pressure on Social Security and Medicare, endangering some Americans’ retirement and health care security.


The 3 Paths To A Successful Claim

Did you know a claims appeal to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) comes through one of three predetermined paths?

1.  Higher-Level Review
If a veteran and their representative believes that the evidence that they have submitted is strong enough for compensation or an increase, they can opt for a higher-level review. Through this, there is no need to submit new evidence. The case is just elevated to a much more experienced senior claims adjudicator for review.









2.  Supplemental claim
To potentially improved a rating decision, a veteran can work with his/her representative to gather new and relevant evidence from doctors, medical staff members and other relevant agencies. The new evidence must not be duplications of what has previously been submitted to VA. The new evidence must add value and support to an established claim.


Veterans and dependents must understand that adjudicators and assessors rely solely on documentary information. Any new evidence must bring added support to an established claim. Any subsequent decision will be affected for lack of supportive or additional valuable evidence.

3.  In-Court Appeals
Lastly, taking the route of the Court may be considered if a veteran is unhappy with any previous claims decision.  This will be handled by a veterans law judge, who may require more additional evidence. They may even schedule hearings for the disability case.  If the decision rendered by the judge is still not satisfactory to the veteran or dependent, the case can still be referred to the Court of Appeals.












3M Payout 

Did you know in July, 2018, the Justice Department announced that 3M agreed to pay $9.1 million to resolve allegations that it knowingly sold the earplugs to the military without disclosing defects that hampered its effectiveness?  That lawsuit was filed through the whistleblower provision of the False Claims Act. The settlement money went to the government, not individual service members or veterans. Individual lawsuits have now been filed against 3M due to the faulty earplugs which caused hearing loss and ringing in the service member’s and veteran’s ears, and is expected to go to trial in 2021.













Draft Final Report  

Did you know the Commission on Military, National and Public Service has released its final report on the need for a mandatory national service program, including military service?  The online surveys asked, “Should Congress enact a mandatory military service/national public service program?” The responses were:

  • Yes! For men only = 14.7%
  • Yes! For men & women = 67.8%
  • No! = 10.5%
  • Unsure/don’t know = 7.4%

Did You Know?

Common Law Marriage Benefits

Did you know a spouse may be able to collect survivor social security benefits from a partner they never “officially” married?  Some states recognize Common Law Marriage if the relationship was initiated in their state. Social Security’s rules specify that for a Common Law relationship to be recognized as a “marriage” for Social Security benefit purposes, it must have been established in a U.S. State which recognizes “common law” marriage. For clarity, it is only required that the relationship be established in a State which recognizes “common law” marriage. If the relationship started in a state which recognizes Common Law Marriage, and the couple subsequently moved to and resided in another state which doesn’t recognize Common Law Marriage, social security will recognize the relationship as a valid marriage and a surviving spouse will be entitled to survivor benefits based upon the deceased’s social security record. 


Did you know Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, Montana, New Hampshire, South Carolina, Texas, and Utah, and the District of Columbia recognize Common Law Marriage for the purpose of social security benefits and possibly other benefits for a surviving partner?


Scarring Is An Overlooked Disability

Did you know this common disability is often overlooked, but you may be able to get VA disability if you have scarring or you’re disfigured on your face, head, and neck?  Although, any other related conditions as a result of the scarring, such as the inability to eat normally, will be rated separately. Keep in mind, the face, head, and neck are considered one area for the purpose of rating and will not have separate ratings, even if the scarring is worse in one area.


VA Pays For Non-Service-Connected Conditions

Did you know VA can pay for emergency medical care at a community emergency departments for a veteran’s nonservice-connected condition? However, there are several requirements and factors that affect the extent to which the VA can cover those services. Specifically, emergency medical care for a veteran’s nonservice-connected condition(s) is eligible for VA payment when all of the following five elements are true:

1. Care was provided in a hospital emergency department (or similar public facility held to provide emergency treatment to the public);


2. The emergency was of such a nature that the veteran (or other prudent layperson without medical training) would reasonably believe that any delay in seeking immediate medical attention would cause their life or health to be placed in jeopardy;


3. A VA medical facility or another federal facility was not reasonably available to provide the care;


4. The veteran is enrolled and has received care within a VA facility during the 24 months before the emergency care; and


5. The veteran is financially liable to the provider of emergency treatment.












Veterans Have New Options for Suing VA

Did you know according to H.R. 4526, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) must provide in the event a person submits a claim for damage, injury, or death on Standard Form 95 (related to tort claims occurring within the scope of an employee's federal employment)?  Specifically, the VA must provide to the claimant, within 30 days after the claim is submitted, notice of (1) the importance of securing legal counsel, and (2) the employment status of any individual listed on the form.  Additionally, if the claim involves a contractor that entered into an agreement with the VA, the VA must provide the claimant notice of the statute of limitations regarding the claim in the state in which the claim arose.


PTSD Statistics

Did you know many children and most adults have at least one intense traumatic event in their lifetime?  However, not everyone who has a traumatic event develops PTSD.  PTSD occurs in 5% of men who experience a traumatic event and 10% of women who experience a traumatic event.  But, rates are much higher in certain sub-groups such as combat veterans, where rates of PTSD can be as high as 50% for combat veterans who experience a traumatic combat event.