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Forbes calls proposed VA rule ‘attack’ on veterans, families
Posted March 17, 2015

A new proposed rule from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is being called an “attack” on veterans and their families by Forbes. Alesha Ebeling writes on Forbes’ website that this rule attempts to prevent people from giving away their assets and applying for veterans benefits, but she notes that veterans believe this may cause harm by making a difficult process even harder and more arduous.

The VA pension rule provides money to veterans and their surviving spouses for daily assistance in necessary activities. Currently, the rule is that if veterans get down to $80,000 in assets, including houses and cars, and have medical expenses that are more than than their income, they may qualify.

The proposed changes would establish a 36 month look-back period, make a new limit of $119,220 and have a 10 year penalty period when it comes to gifts, thereby making it much more difficult for veterans and their families to obtain.

Bernard Krooks, a New York attorney and Forbes contributor, said these rules are “an attack on our nation’s veterans and their families; it’s a huge change from the status quo.” However, the proposed change is coming after attempts to pass a look-back rule in Congress failed, so if this change is made administratively, it can be challenged in court.

The benefit that VA officials want to make more difficult to obtain provides elderly veterans and their spouses with funds for assisted living. This is a very important benefit for our veterans and should not be limited, as veterans have earned these critical benefits through service to our country.

Essentially, the VA appears to want to treat U.S. veterans as welfare recipients by applying Medicaid and Medicare standards to VA benefits. If such rule is imposed upon these benefits, litigation should be commenced to overturn such arbitrary and capricious administrative action.

VA whistleblowers say many troops claims end up ignored
Posted March 03, 2015

For years, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has been inundated by a large backlog of troops coming home looking for veterans benefits. With a high number of veterans waiting, the local CBS affiliate in San Francisco reported some shocking news this month: Thousands of claims filed between 1996 and 2009 were put into a file cabinet and ignored until 2012.

An example of how this has impacted veterans comes from Dorrie Stafford, whose husband Wayne was an Army veteran who filed a veterans disability claim in 2004. Wayne died in an accident seven years ago, but he received a letter dated July 29, 2014, thanking him for filing for disability benefits. This left his wife wondering how VA could be so callous, not only in ignoring the claim, but in sending a late reply to a veteran who was already dead.

Rustyann Brown, one of the team assigned to process these claims two years ago, said their VA office was getting letters from elderly veterans and widows begging for help. This showcases the very real need many veterans have to hire an attorney who will fight for their veterans benefits.

“Half of the veterans were dead that I screened. So almost every other piece of paper that I touched was a veteran who had already passed away,” Brown told CBS.

It is absolutely critical that a disabled veteran retain experienced counsel to pursue their VA disability claim. Iis well documented that veterans will have a better chance of success in obtaining benefits with the assistance of legal counsel.

The Law Offices of Harold W. Conick & Associates are available to assist veterans in pursuit of their benefits.

Medicaid, mental health heavily cut from newly elected Illinois governor’s budget
Posted February 26, 2015

Newly elected Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner announced his budget earlier this month and it contains some cuts that could severely impact those who rely on disability benefits.

Rauner’s budget includes $1.5 billion cut to Medicaid’s Health and Family Services program. This would mean the elimination of specialized mental health rehabilitation facilities, according to The Chicago Sun-Times.

Cuts in Rauner’s budget would also slice $27.5 million from the division of alcohol and substance abuse, $82 million from the division of mental health and $23 million from the Early Intervention Program. Projects which help those in need, including Project Autism and homeless youth services, will also be eliminated under this new budget.

Adding to all of this is a $19 million reduction from the public health budget. All of these services mentioned have potential to touch the lives of those who suffer from mental or physical health troubles.

Most people would agree that the state of Illinois must attempt to reduce its budget. However, attacking programs that support mental and physical health could be false economy.

If an individual remains medically untreated and ill they cannot be productive in the workforce. Additionally, chronic illness is very expensive for all taxpayers. While reductions in these programs may seem to be a  financial solution, it is not only inhumane, but not cost effective over time.

The Law Offices of Harold W. Conick & Associates, Ltd. is committed to assisting the disabled in pursuit of government benefits to which they are entitled.

US needs better coordination of mental healthcare programs
Posted February 18, 2015

Anyone who has seen a family member or friend suffer through mental health problems can likely tell you: we, as a country, need to do better in ensuring people get the proper mental healthcare treatment.

A recent report from the Government Accountability Office found that no one is making sure patients, many veterans, get the help they need. No matter who you are, it is essential to get mental health treatment at the first instance of a problem. This will be key in attaining Social Security Administration disability benefits.

The report found, as an example of the lack of coordinator, that the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration is supposed to be coordinating the 47 programs to address homelessness. However, the report said “it has shown little leadership in coordinating federal efforts on behalf of those with serious mental illness.”

Rep. Tim Murphy, R-Pa., chairman of a subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, said the report is a “much-needed wake up call,” according to USA Today.

“The federal government’s approach to addressing mental illness is a convoluted and disjointed mess,” says Murphy, who is also a child psychologist. “Shame on us if we don’t take action and work on fixing the system wide failures identified in this report so that we can focus resources on helping those in desperate need of medical services.”

A great majority of claimants who apply for Social Security disability benefits suffer from some form of mental illness. Depression is the most common ailment and can vary from circumstantial to life long chronic depression. More resources are required to treat those who suffer from mental illness as, unfortunately, this area of human suffering is currently underserved.

Our law offices are experts in securing and presenting evidence of mental illness to the SSA on behalf of our clients so the can be approved for disability benefits.

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