Contact Us

Contact Us Today for a FREE Case Evaluation

(800) 608-8881

Blog


Vietnam veteran files class action lawsuit against VA
Posted April 16, 2015

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has long experienced a hellishly deep backlog that has caused severe delays of veterans benefits for those in need. One Vietnam veteran has decided to take matters into his own hands, filing a class action lawsuit against the VA.

Conley Monk Jr., the lead plaintiff in the case, is a Marine veteran who said he has waited for years for disability benefits stemming from post-traumatic stress disorder and exposure to toxic chemicals. He said he came under fire in 1969 and 1970 and was exposed to Agent Orange during his time in the war.

The New York Times said he was diagnosed with PTSD and diabetes (sometimes related to exposure of Agent Orange) in 2011 and was denied VA benefits. After appealing that decision in 2013, he has yet to hear anything from the VA on his disability benefits. Monk told the Times that it has been frustrating to “be stuck in limbo.”

“It’s been hard to make ends meet,” Monk told the Times. “And we Vietnam veterans are getting older. We can’t wait forever.”

Reducing the number of claims of claims in the VA backlog has been a focus of VA, but the Times reports that appeals are at an all time high at nearly 300,000. That means much like Monk, many others may be suffering as they wait for a decision on their veterans benefits from VA.

In the opinion of attorney Harold W. Conick, the VA’s backlog could be trimmed by converting the Veterans  paper records to an electronic platform. The VA is apparently in the process of doing this, but it is taking far too long.

Additionally, it would be helpful if VA personnel were more open and cooperative with counsel for veterans in attempting to resolve claims. This is not currently being done; the system is very adversarial to both the veteran and their counsel. “Stone walling” is standard operating procedure at the VA and delays the adjudication of claims. This needs to change to better serve the U.S. veterans in the benefit claims process.

‘Band-Aids’ not enough to keep SSA disability running
Posted April 13, 2015

There has been a stated level of confusion on how disability benefits through the Social Security Administration will be funded; this level of confusion has not been seen before. Some of the confusion impacts the general public’s perception of SSA disability, but perhaps more importantly, the confounding dilemma of benefit funding may also throw off those in positions of power.

Jason Fichtner, Senior Research Fellow at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, wrote on MarketWatch that this confusion has meant the steps to reform, vital to the survival of the SSA, have not been taken. Instead, he said there has just been a “financial Band-Aid” put on the SSA time and again.

Last year’s Social Security Trustee report found that the disability trust fund could potentially run out in 2016, making SSA disability benefits a likely presidential election issue.

One option Ficther pointed out is “to allow the disability trust fund to borrow from the retirement trust fund for a temporary period. This interfund borrowing would provide the short-term financial patch necessary to ensure that those receiving disability benefits would continue to receive full benefits.” However, this would simply be another Band-Aid for SSA disability. To fully fix the program, there would need to be an honest look in the mirror as a country to see how we want and need to move forward with disability benefits.

In the past, Congress  has allowed the disability and retirement programs to borrow from each other as needed. Recently, there has been Congressional action to stop this transfer of funds, thereby placing the disability program in crisis. This is purely a political move and is not only ill considered, but harmful to a program that many people, who cannot work, depend on to pay for the basic necessities of life.

Since the disability program potentially serves all Americans, it should not be used as a political football. Perhaps a solution to help continue to run the retirement and disability programs is to lift the ceiling on the Social Security income tax cap. This way, higher income individuals pay their fair share into the system and maintain its solvency.

VA accused of changing dates on disability claims
Posted March 30, 2015

After U.S. veterans return home from stints in battle overseas, many suffer from physical injuries, mental illness and other debilitating symptoms that need to be treated. Sometimes, they simply need a helping hand to get restarted in life; the Department of Veterans Affairs is supposed to be there for them to provide veterans benefits. However, a recent report from the inspector general found that at least one VA office has been changing the dates on claims to make it appear as though the department was moving through its growing backlog at a quicker rate.

In Little Rock, Arkansas, staff said they have been following orders from VA administration to change the dates of on the files in backlog. The inspector general said an average of 20 months passed between when the VA received the documents and acted on it in at least 43 of the cases.

One case, which was made to look as though it was 14 days old, was actually two decades old, meaning the veteran in question may have fallen even more ill or even died while waiting for benefits.

“Right now it’s incumbent upon VA leaders to ensure the claims of veterans affected by this scheme are correctly processed while moving swiftly to hold the responsible employees accountable,” according to House Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Jeff Miller, R-Fla. “Although I believe Secretary McDonald is trying hard to correct VA’s course, the fact that incidents like this are still occurring highlights the scope of the challenges he is facing.”

If this is happening in one state, under instruction of the VA administration, it is not hard to draw conclusions that it may be happening to veterans in Illinois, Wisconsin, Indiana and other areas near and dear to our law firm’s heart.

It is still too early to know if these reforms will make the VA medical system credible and effective. However, there can be no doubt that the mission of the VA medical system is critical to the care and welfare of U.S. veterans.

Disability issues falling by the wayside
Posted March 23, 2015

Anyone who has been paying attention to the Social Security Administration’s rate of approval over the past year can tell you that it has slowed down in a very purposeful way.

At the Law Offices of Harold W. Conick and Associates Ltd., we have certainly noticed that there are fewer cases being approved. It is harder than ever for our clients, no matter how strong a case they have or how in need of help they are, to gain disability benefits from the SSA.

Sara Blahovec wrote in a blog post on Huffington Post that this slowdown may, at least in part, be due to the disability rights movement stagnating.

“Worldwide, barriers to inclusivity for people with disabilities continue to be significant,” she wrote, adding that issues of race and gender gain the public’s attention, while disability and health do not. “While various organizations work tirelessly to promote equal rights, disability rights just don’t seem to be captivating the public in the same way.”

One reason, according to Blahovec, may be the fear of increased discrimination. People with disabilities, especially mental health illnesses, are not easily identifiable. They are told to hide their disabilities and “act normal.”

This may be harmful when it comes time to get help, as many people see a person who appears “normal” and do not think much more deeply about it.

“This incentivizes hiding disability status, and so many people are afraid of speaking up because they feel that they will fare better and experience less discrimination,” Blahovec wrote on The Huffington Post’s website.

All across the cadre of judges, the favorable decision are fewer and further between. When favorable, more often than not, the decision less than fully favorable.

In our opinion, this conduct is intentional and widespread. Additionally, it is taking far longer than ever before to have cases progress through the appeals system to be in a position for claimants to receive a decision. This is the SSA’s dirty little secret that no one is publicly talking about. They are attempting to save the system money through artificially reducing the number of claimants approved for benefits.

Congress should investigate this problem and take action to correct it before even more citizens are denied their rightful benefits.

Page 10 of 55« First...89101112...203040...Last »