Keep the Social Security Administration Updated and Informed

When a person begins receiving Social Security disability benefits, claimants may believe that they don’t need to do anything else. However, the Social Security Administration imposes duties on claimants to keep the Social Security Administration informed and updated on any changes which can affect a claimant’s eligibility for benefits. These changes include:

  1. Changes in work activity such as changes in hours, rate of pay, and jobs;
  1. Changes in your living arrangements such as other adults and children living in the household;
  1. Improvements in your medical or mental condition; and
  1. If you move out of the country.

Make sure that you keep a copy of any written correspondence notifying the Social Security Administration of these changes in case your notification is loss of misplaced.

Should you have any questions about Social Security disability benefits, contact an experienced Social Security disability attorney. Kent S. DeJean

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2018 Veterans Benefits

Monthly Pension Rates

 Single Veteran

Basic Improved Pension:                                          $1,097

Housebound:                                                             $1,340

Aid & Attendance:                                                     $1,830

Standard 5% VA UME Deduction:                           $54.92

Married Veteran

Basic Improved Pension:                                          $1,436

Housebound:                                                             $1,680

Aid & Attendance:                                                     $2,169

Standard 5% VA UME Deduction:                           $71.92

Surviving Spouse

Basic Improved Pension:                                          $735

Housebound:                                                             $899

Aid & Attendance:                                                     $1,176

Standard 5% VA UME Deduction:                           $36.83

Veteran Married to Veteran

Basic Improved Pension:                                          $1,436

One Housebound:                                                     $1,680

Two Housebound:                                                    $1,923

One Aid & Attendance                                               $2,169

One Housebound and One Aid& Attendance          $2,412

Both Aid & Attendance:                                            $2,903

 

In 2015, Various Tax Benefits Increase Due to Inflation Adjustments

For tax year 2015, the Internal Revenue Service announced today annual inflation adjustments for more than 40 tax provisions, including the tax rate schedules, and other tax changes. Revenue Procedure 2014-61 provides details about these annual adjustments.

The tax items for tax year 2015 of greatest interest to most taxpayers include the following dollar amounts –
The tax rate of 39.6 percent affects singles whose income exceeds $413,200 ($464,850 for married taxpayers filing a joint return), up from $406,750 and $457,600, respectively. The other marginal rates – 10, 15, 25, 28, 33 and 35 percent – and the related income tax thresholds are described in the revenue procedure.
The standard deduction rises to $6,300 for singles and married persons filing separate returns and $12,600 for married couples filing jointly, up from $6,200 and $12,400, respectively, for tax year 2014. The standard deduction for heads of household rises to $9,250, up from $9,100.
The limitation for itemized deductions to be claimed on tax year 2015 returns of individuals begins with incomes of $258,250 or more ($309,900 for married couples filing jointly).
The personal exemption for tax year 2015 rises to $4,000, up from the 2014 exemption of $3,950. However, the exemption is subject to a phase-out that begins with adjusted gross incomes of $258,250 ($309,900 for married couples filing jointly). It phases out completely at $380,750 ($432,400 for married couples filing jointly.)
The Alternative Minimum Tax exemption amount for tax year 2015 is $53,600 ($83,400, for married couples filing jointly). The 2014 exemption amount was $52,800 ($82,100 for married couples filing jointly).
The 2015 maximum Earned Income Credit amount is $6,242 for taxpayers filing jointly who have 3 or more qualifying children, up from a total of $6,143 for tax year 2014. The revenue procedure has a table providing maximum credit amounts for other categories, income thresholds and phaseouts.
Estates of decedents who die during 2015 have a basic exclusion amount of $5,430,000, up from a total of $5,340,000 for estates of decedents who died in 2014.
For 2015, the exclusion from tax on a gift to a spouse who is not a U.S. citizen is $147,000, up from $145,000 for 2014.
For 2015, the foreign earned income exclusion breaks the six-figure mark, rising to $100,800, up from $99,200 for 2014.
The annual exclusion for gifts remains at $14,000 for 2015.
The annual dollar limit on employee contributions to employer-sponsored healthcare flexible spending arrangements (FSA) rises to $2,550, up $50 dollars from the amount for 2014.
Under the small business health care tax credit, the maximum credit is phased out based on the employer’s number of full-time equivalent employees in excess of 10 and the employer’s average annual wages in excess of $25,800 for tax year 2015, up from $25,400 for 2014.
Details on these inflation adjustments and others not listed in this release can be found in Revenue Procedure 2014-61, which will be published in Internal Revenue Bulletin 2014-47 on Nov. 17, 2013. The pension limitations for 2015 were announced on Oct. 23, 2014.

VA CERTIFICATION

 

Mr. Peter J. Losavio, Jr. has the necessary requirements pursuant to 38 C.F. R. § 14.629(b)(1)(iii) and (iv) and approved by the Missouri State Bar with course Title: CLE Program to Maintain VA Accreditation.   The completed course covered representation before the VA, claims procedures, basic eligibility for VA benefits, rights to appeal, disability compensation including presumptive conditions and Nehmer claims, dependency and indemnity compensation (DIC), non-service connected pension, and additional information related to both VA and its benefits and to DOD benefits for retired veterans.

 

Mr. Kent S. DeJean has the necessary requirements pursuant to 38 C.F. R. § 14.629(b)(1)(iii) and (iv) and approved by the Missouri State Bar with course Title: CLE Program to Maintain VA Accreditation.   The completed course covered representation before the VA, claims procedures, basic eligibility for VA benefits, rights to appeal, disability compensation including presumptive conditions and Nehmer claims, dependency and indemnity compensation (DIC), non-service connected pension, and additional information related to both VA and its benefits and to DOD benefits for retired veterans.

Social Security Launches New Expedited Disability Process for Veterans — Fast-tracking Disability Decisions for Vets with 100% Permanent and Total Rating

Carolyn W. Colvin, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, today announced the launch of a new disability process to expedite disability claims filed by veterans with a Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) disability compensation rating of 100% Permanent & Total (P&T). Under the new process, Social Security will treat these veterans’ applications as high priority and issue expedited decisions, similar to the way the agency currently handles disability claims from Wounded Warriors.

“We have reached another milestone for those who have sacrificed so much for our country and this process ensures they will get the benefits they need quickly,” said Acting Commissioner Colvin.  “While we can never fully repay them for their sacrifices, we can be sure we provide them with the quality of service that they deserve.  This initiative is truly a lifeline for those who need it most.”

“No one wants to put America’s veterans through a bureaucratic runaround,” said Maryland Congressman John Sarbanes, a leading proponent for increasing assistance to veterans. “As the baby boomer generation ages and more veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan need care, this common sense change will help reduce backlogs and cut through unnecessary red tape so that our most disabled veterans receive the benefits they’ve earned.”

In order to receive the expedited service, veterans must tell Social Security they have a VA disability compensation rating of 100% P&T and show proof of their disability rating with their VA Notification Letter.

The VA rating only expedites Social Security disability claims processing and does not guarantee an approval for Social Security disability benefits.  These veterans must still meet the strict eligibility requirements for a disability allowance.
For information about this service, please visit www.socialsecurity.gov/pgm/disability-pt.htm.

For more about Social Security’s handling of Wounded Warrior’s disability claims, please visitwww.socialsecurity.gov/woundedwarriors.

Obtaining Veteran’s Disability and Social Security Disability Benefits at the same time

Many eligible candidates are not aware that one can receive Veteran’s and Social Security Disability Benefits simultaneously. This is made possible by the fact that the two programs are separate entities and have their own eligibility requirements. Receiving benefits from one program does not affect one’s eligibility concerning the other, and it’s actually recommended that qualified candidates apply for both in a timely manner since there can be a significant delay in actual receipt of the benefits from the time of application.

For more information, contact Losavio & DeJean, LLC at 225-769-4200 or info@losaviolaw.com. Some other resources:

Aid and Attendance: Pension for Veterans and their Spouse or Widow

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) offers an Improved Pension program which pays benefits to wartime veterans, their spouses, or widows in a three tiered system.  The highest tier on this system is known as the Aid and Attendance benefit and is reserved for those veterans and spouses in the greatest need of assistance with activities of daily living such as dressing, bathing, eating, etc.  This benefit is generally greatly underused by Veterans and their spouses due to misconceptions about one’s eligibility for the benefit.

General eligibility.  To be eligible for any tier of the VA Improved Pension Program, a Veteran must meet the following criteria: (1) the Veteran was discharged from service under conditions other than dishonorable, AND (2) the Veteran served at least 90 days of active military service with at least one of those day during a war time period, AND (3) the Veteran is age 65 or older or is permanently and totally disabled.

Specific Eligibility Requirements for A&A.  As explained above, the A&A Benefit is the highest tier on the VA Improved Pension program and includes additional proof of the following: (1) the Veteran requires the aid of another person in order to perform activities of daily living such as dressing, attending to the wants of nature, protecting him or herself for the hazards of daily environment (very relevant to dimentia or Alzheimer’s patients), OR (2) The Veteran is bedridden or the Veteran suffers a condition the requires him/her to remain in bed, OR (3) The Veteran is a patient in a nursing home due to a mental or physical incapacity, OR (4) THE Veteran is blind, or nearly blind.

Income Test.  The most misconceptions about qualifying for A&A have to do with the calculation of income. In fact, many people have contacted the VA about qualifying for A&A and been told by the VA that they do not qualify based solely on the amount of their household income.  What the VA does not tell you is that there are certain deductions that can be subtracted from the household income BEFORE your income is analyzed.  The formula is simple: the VA takes the gross income of the Claimant (and other household members) and subtracts all recurring, non-reimbursed medical expenses.  These expenses include but are not limited to cost of nursing home, home health, or assisted living care,  Medicare premiums, supplemental healthcare premiums, doctors visits including the mileage to attend those appointments, and prescriptions.

Asset Test.  In order to qualify for A&A, a Veteran’s assets (net worth) must be below a certain amount.  Confusingly, the VA does not specify what this “certain amount” is; rather, a VA adjudicator (person reviewing your application and making decisions) makes a case by case determination as to whether a Veteran has “sufficient means” to pay for their care.  While the VA decision maker is given wide discretion in making this determination, VA guidelines provide the following factors to consider: bank accounts, investments, property other than the residence, income from other sources, family expenses, and the Claimant’s age/life expectancy.  Because this test is subjective and the rules of the game are not clearly laid out, a VA accredited attorney or agent is most helpful when dealing with how to treat certain assets for the purposes of receiving qualifying for A&A.

Service Connected Disability Compensation: Eligibility and Ratings

Veterans who suffer from a service connected disability may be entitled to monthly monetary compensation.  To be entitled to compensation for a service connected disability the veteran, who must be discharged or released from service under conditions other than dishonorable, must suffer from a disease or injury while on active duty.  That disease or injury must be a result of the veteran’s service or must be exacerbated by the service.

To prove a service connected disability, a veteran must provide evidence of:  a medical diagnosis of a current disability, an in-service “event” of injury or aggravation of a disease, and a link between the currently disability and the in-service “event”.

There is a misconception that a veteran is only entitled to service connected disability compensation if they were injured “in the line of duty” or while directly working as a soldier.  However, a veteran on active duty is considered to be working for the military twenty four hours a day and seven days a week, thus any injury or disease suffered while on active duty is considered to have incurred “in the line of duty”.  The only exception to this rule is that the disease or injury, incurred or aggravated while on active duty, cannot be a result of the veteran’s own abuse of drugs or alcohol or other willful misconduct.

Entitlement to service connection disability compensation is not dependant on a veteran’s income or assets.  Also, a veteran may receive this type of compensation regardless of income from other sources such as Social Security or wages from working.  Further, service connected disability compensation is considered tax free income and thus will not effect a veteran’s income tax.

When a veteran applies for service connected disability, the VA will assign a disability rating between 0% to 100% based upon the type and severity of the disease, injury, and disability. This disability rating will determine what type of compensation a veteran may receive, how much compensation a veteran may receive, and whether they are entitled to additional compensation or services. If a veteran has multiple rated disabilities, those ratings can be combined.  For example, a veteran may have a 10% rating for diabetes, a 10% rating for a bad back, and 10% rating for bad knees to equal a 30% rating.  Note, the VA does not simply combine the rating numbers; rather, it has it own formula to summate the ratings).

A 0% rating will not allow you to collect monthly compensation, but it will provide you priority in the VA health system.  Further, if the severity of the disability increases, a veteran with a 0% rating may seek to have that number increased without going through the initial application process again, saving time.  A 30% rating, whether rated by one disability or multiple, allows a veteran to receive an additional stipend if they have dependents such as a spouse or children.  After a rating of 70% or above, a veteran is entitled to reside, generally at no charge, in a VA nursing home.

If rated at 100% or unemployable, a veteran while entitled to the highest payment, may be entitled to an extra supplemental monatry compensation called “Aid and Attendance” if he or she is need of aide for activities of daily living.

Understanding the Veterans’ Appeals Process

Veterans who apply for benefits, whether they be service connected or non-service connected, should be aware of the VA appeal process as it may require time sensitive action on behalf of the Veteran.

Generally, after submitting a claim for benefits to the regional office, a claimant will receive a letter either awarding full benefits, awarding partial benefits, or denying the claim.  If at that time the claimant feels that he/she was not granted an appropriate award, the claimant must file a Written Notice Of Disagreement (NOD).  The VA does not require a specific form for the NOD; rather, the NOD need only be written by the claimant or his/her representative asserting disagreement with the decision and requesting a desire for appellate review.  This NOD must be filed within ONE YEAR from the date the VA mailed the decision letter.

In the initial Notice of Disagreement, a claimant may choose to have his claim reviewed by a Decision Review Officer (DRO) or reviewed in the traditional appellate process.  If a claimant chooses review by DRO, an officer will work with the claimant and explain the initial decision and what issues need to be resolved on appeal.  The DRO may also request additional information from the claimant.  The DRO has the authority to amend, reverse, or modify a the decision the claimant is appealing.  Under the traditional appeal process, a VA staff member will review the claimant’s file and issue a Statement of the Case (SOC), summarizing the law and evidence it used to reach a decision.  A VA Staff member also has the authority to amend, reverse or modify a decision in the SOC.

If a claimant is still not satisfied after receiving a decision from the DRO or in a SOC, the claimant may file a formal appeal to the Board of Veteran’s Appeals (BVA).  The appeal to the BVA must be filed either (1) 60 days from the date the VA mailed the SOC, or (2) the last day of the one year period from the date the VA mailed the notification of the decision being appealed. The best way to file this formal appeal with the BVA is to use VA Form 9, however, a specific form is not required.  The appeal hearing may take place at the local VA office and heard by a local DRO, at the BVA in Washington D.C., or via videoconference between the regional office and the BVA in Washington D.C.  At this point in the appeals process, new evidence may still be submitted to prove your claim.

After the BVA issues a decision, a dissatisfied claimant may then appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans’ Claims (CAVC).  An appeal to this court must be filed either by mail or fax within 120 days of the date the BVA mailed a copy of its decision.  At the CAVC level, the appeal will be heard by a three judge panel.  New evidence may not be submitted to the CAVC.

Following a decision by the CAVC, if a claimant is still unsatisfied with the decision, he/she may appeal to the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.  A formal appeal to this court must take place within 60 days of the final CAVC decision.

If a claimant is not satisfied with the decision from the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, he/she may petition the United States Supreme Court to hear the case.  This petition, know as a petition for certiorari, must be filed within 90 days of the final decision of the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.

As you can see from the above information, the VA appeal process is time-sensitive and can be confusing.  A claimant may always seek the representation of an accredited agent or accredited attorney to assist in wading through the appeal process paperwork and to represent them at a hearing.  When a claim reaches the appellate stages, it is legal for an accredited agent or attorney to receive compensation for their representation. The terms and amount of that compensation must be approved by the VA.  Generally, an accredited agent or attorney will seek only to collect compensation if the appeal is successful, charging a contingent fee based upon the award.

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Still confused? All of our attorneys are accredited with the VA.  Give us a call!

225-769-4200

or

800-769-3522

Vietnam War Vets and Agent Orange Exposure

Veterans of the Vietnam War who served anytime from February 28, 1961 through May 7, 1975 and have later been diagnosed with certain diseases or illnesses may be entitled to service connected benefits as they are presumed to have been exposed to Agent Orange and other herbicides.

The list of these diseases/illnesses is as follows: Acute and Subacute Peripheral Neropathy, AL Amyloidosis, B Cell Leukemia, Chloracne (or other similar Acneform Disease), Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia, Type 2 Diabetes, Hodgkin’s Disease, Ischemic Heart Disease, Multiple Myeloma, Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, Parkinson’s Disease, Prophyria Cutanea Tarda, Prostate Cancer, Respiratory Cancers, and Soft Tissue Sarcoma (other than Osteosarcoma, Chondrosarcoma, Kaposi’s sarcoma, or Mestholioma).

If you served in the Vietnam war in the period of time cited above and have been diagnosed with any of the above illnesses, it is presumed that you have a service-connected disability and you may be entitled to disability compensation.

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 The list above and more information about Agent Orange presumptions can be found at:

 www.publichealth.va.gov/exposures/agentorange/diseases.asp#veterans