Veterans Disability Benefits
On June 9, 2008 our son and brother, Private First Class Norman M. Murburg, III died from poisonous envenomation by the bite of a Cottonmouth snake during his Special Forces training exercises at the John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Training Center Camp McCall, Ft. Bragg, North Carolina. “Ehren” as we and his close friends called him was an 18-Xray (18X10, Company D, STU, Support Battalion SWC, Ft Bragg, NC) and died in such a way that his nickname Ehren, (honorable) would have indicated. His one grandfather Lt. M. Goldblatt was a US Army test pilot and his other, Lt. Cmdr. N. M. Murburg, a Navy UDT/frogman. Ehren had an MAT score of 139/140 and was proud to have been an infantryman, someone “who could do anything” in his own words, Airborne and part of US Army Special forces and the Green Beret program. He had left the University of Florida, a Bright Futures Scholar, to join the Army become a member of the Special Forces, and fight terrorism in Afghanistan where he would have been at “the head of the spear”, a place where he could the most good “for my country, for my children and my children’s children”. Ehren was an automatic weapons specialist and after his Green Beret Training, would have soon been on his way to medical training to become a Medic and to rejoin his unit. Ehren turned down the opportunity to go to West Point. His goal was to serve his country and to someday return to the University of Florida to complete his Pre-medical studies and then go onto medical school. His loss was a loss to us all, his family, his unit and his country. He died with his weapon in his hand. We were and are so proud of him. There will never be another like him. Why do our best die ever so young.
Having lost such a young man, such a son, both Carol and Mike renewed their obligation and commitment to help and to serve our Veterans in any way that they could. Where families have suffered the losses, there must be some way to help. As a consequence, the Law Offices of Mike Murburg, P.A. will review, as they are able, the poignant issues concerning the service connected claims of all of our disability clients and the claims of all those disabled Veterans who may seek such advice. Hopefully, posthumously, this will help make Ehren as proud of us as we are of him. We recognize his ultimate sacrifice and that of out servicemen and women. We pledge to fight as hard for our disabled Veteran clients as hard as they have fought for us. We can only stand in your shadow, not in your shoes. You have no equals.
Service Connected Veteran’s Disability Benefits
Veterans ‘ service connection disability is not dependent on the amount of money or income you receive or on any assets you have. First of all you must have a current medical condition in order have a claim for these benefits..
You must have a condition that began during your military service, or was aggravated by your military service. You may also claim disability benefits if you suffer from a disability that began many years after you were discharged but was caused by something that happened to you in the service or by something you were exposed to in the service.
What you must show is 1) you currently have a physical and/or mental disability. (2) something happened in the service or shortly after your discharge that you think may be the cause of your current disability. (3) There is a link between what happened in the service and your disability, i.e., the disability is connected to your service. You may also file a claim if your disability or aggravation of your disability is due to medical care received in a VA facility or involvement in a VA vocation rehabilitation program.
Do not wait to file your claim for veteran's disability benefits. You can lose benefits if you wait and make proof of your claim more difficult. A dated, handwritten note is enough to start your claim and get the earliest possible beginning date for benefits.
A denial of benefits must be appealed within time deadlines. Make sure you file your appeal within the deadlines or get a representative to do so. If you do not file a timely appeal, you may have to start over with the claims process.
There are other kinds of veteran's benefits, other than service connection benefits. This office only handles service connected claims. For information about all veterans disability claims, please see http://www.vba.va.gov/bln/21/index.htm.
What are my rights to appeal a VA decision?
After a decision has been reached on your VA claim, If the VA was not able to grant some or all of the VA benefits you asked for and you do not agree with the VA decision, you may:
* Appeal to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals (the Board) by telling the VA you disagree with the VA’s decision
* Give the VA evidence the VA does not already have that may lead the VA to change its decision.
What is an Appeal to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals?
An appeal is your formal request that the Board review the evidence in your VA file and review the law that applies to your appeal. The Board Can either agree with your decision or change it. The Board can also send your file back to us for more processing before the Board makes its decision.
How can I appeal the decision and How can I start my appeal?
To begin your appeal, write the VA a letter telling the VA you disagree with the VA’s decision. This letter is called you “Notice of Disagreement.” If the VA denied more than one claim for a benefit (for example, if you claimed compensation for three disabilities and the VA denied two of them), please tell the VA in your letter which claims you are appealing. Send your Notice of Disagreement to the address at the top of your VA letter.
What happens after the VA receives my Notice of Disagreement?
The VA will either grant your claim or send you a Statement of the Case. A Statement of the Case describes the facts, laws, regulations, and reasons that the VA used to make their decision. The VA will also send you a VA form 9. “Appeal to Board of Veterans’ Appeals.” with the Statement of the Case. You must complete this VA Form 9 and return it to the VA if you want to continue your appeal.
How long do I have to start my appeal?
You have one year to appeal the VA’s decision. Your letter saying that you disagree with the VA decision must be postmarked (or received by the VA) within one year from the date of the VA’s letter denying you the benefit. In most cases, you cannot appeal a decision after this one-year period has ended.
What happens if I do not start my appeal on time?
If you do not start your appeal on time, the VA’s decision will become final. Once the VA’s decision is final, you cannot get the VA benefit you were denied unless you either:
* show that the VA was clearly wrong to deny the benefit or
* send the VA new evidence that relates to the reason the VA denied your claim
Can I get a hearing with the Board?
Yes. If you decide to appeal, the Board will give you a hearing if you want one. The VA Form 9, the VA will send you with the Statement of the Case has complete information about the kinds of hearings the Board offers and convenient check boxes for requesting a Board hearing. The Board does not require you to have a hearing. It is your choice. We advise that you request one in most cases.
Where can I find out more about appealing to the Board?
You can find a “plain language” booklet called “How do I Appeal” on the Internet at:
www.va.gov/vbs/bva/pamphlet.htm. The booklet may also be requested by writing to Hearings and Transcription Unit (014HRG), Board of Veterans’ Appeals, 810 Vermont Avenue NW, Washington DC 20420.
You can find the formal rules for appealing to the Board in the Board’s Rules of Practice at title 38, Code of Federal regulations, Part 20. You can find the complete Code of Federal Regulations on the Internet at: www.gpoaccess.gov/crf/index.html. A printed copy of the Code of Federal Regulations may be available at your local law library.
What if I am denied my benefits; Can I get someone to help me with my appeal to the Board?
Yes. You can have a veterans’ service organization representative,, an attorney-at-law, or an “agent” help you with your appeal. But you are not required to have someone represent you. It is your choice. We believe it is best to have independent representation.
Representatives who work for accredited veterans’ service organizations know how to prepare and present claims and will represent you. You can find a listing of these organizations on the Internet at: www.va.gov/vso. There is some controversy involving these representatives, as many may be afraid to lose part of their benefits, if they are too zealous a representative on your behalf.
A private attorney or an “agent” can also represent you. If applicable, your local bar association may be able to refer you to an attorney with experience in veterans’ law. VA only recognizes attorneys who are licensed to practice in the United States or in one of its territories or possessions. An agent is a person who is not a lawyer, but who VA recognizes as being knowledgeable about veterans’ law. Contact us or the VA if you would like to know if there is another VA accredited agent in your area.
Do I have to pay someone to help me with my appeal to the Board?
It depends on who helps you. The following explains the differences:
*Veterans’ service organizations will represent you for free.
*Attorneys or agents can charge you for helping you under some circumstances.
Paying their fees for helping you with your appeal to the Board is your responsibility. If you do hire an attorney or agent to represent you, one of you must send a copy of any fee agreement to the following address within 30 days from the date of agreement is executed: Office of the General Counsel (022D), 810 Vermont Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20420. See 38 C.F.R. 14.636(g). If the fee agreement provides for the direct payment of fees out of past-due benefits, a copy of the agreement must also be filed with us at the address at the top of our letter. See 38 C.F.R. 14.636(h)(4)
Can or should I give VA additional Evidence?
Yes. You can send the VA more evidence to support a claim whether or not you appeal to the Board. If you want to appeal, though, do not forget the one-year limit!
If you have more evidence to support a claim, it is in your best interest to give the VA that evidence as soon as you can. The VA is supposed to consider your evidence and let you know whether it changes its decision. Please keep in mind that the VA can only consider new evidence that: (1) it has not already seen and (2) relates to your claim. You may give the VA this evidence either in writing or at a personal hearing.
What if I choose to present new evidence?
In writing To support you claim, you may send documents and written statements to the VA at the address on the top of the VA letter. Tell the VA in a letter how these documents and statements should change the VA’s decision.
At a personal hearing You may request a local hearing with the VA at any time. This hearing is separate from any Board hearing you might ask for later if you appeal. The VA does not require you to have one. It is your choice. At this hearing, you may speak, bring witnesses to speak on your behalf, and hand the VA written evidence. If you want a hearing, send the VA a letter asking for a hearing. Use the address at the top of the VA letter. The VA will then:
* arrange a time and place for the hearing
* provide a room for the hearing
* Assign someone to hear your evidence
* Make a written record of the hearing.
What happens after I give VA evidence?
The VA will review the record of the hearing and other new evidence, together with the evidence the VA already has. The VA will then decide if it can grant your claim. If the VA cannot grant your claim and you appeal, the VA will send the new evidence and the record of any local hearing to the Board.
Frequently asked Questions Concerning VA Awards
Information concerning Department of Veterans Affairs, Federal, State or local benefits may be obtained form your nearest VA office or any national service organization representative. You may call VA toll-free at 1-800-827-1000 (Hearing Impaired TDD line 1-800-829-4833) or contact VA by Internet at http://iris.va.gov.
When will my VA check be delivered?
A check covering the initial amount due under this award will be mailed within 15 days. Thereafter, checks will be delivered at the beginning of each month for the prior month.
How can I receive additional benefits for dependents?
You may be entitled to additional benefits for your unmarried children if the children are under age 18 or under 23 if attending an approved school, or if, prior to age 18, the child has become permanently incapable of self-support because of mental or physical defect. You may contact VA as shown above for information on applying for this benefit.
How can I receive aid and attendance or housebound benefits?
VA may pay a higher rate of pension to a veteran who is blind, a patient in a nursing home, otherwise needs regular aid and attendance, or who is permanently confined to his or her home because of a disability. You may contact VA as shown above for information on applying for this benefit.
How can I receive Hospitalization and Outpatient Treatment?
Veterans who are entitled to pension and /or special monthly pension (aid and attendance or housebound benefits) as determined by the Veterans Benefits Administration are eligible for medical care through the VA health care system. If you are interested in obtaining VA medical care, you may contact your nearest VA health care Facility or the VA Health Benefits Service Center at 1-877-222-8387.
How can certain expanses increase my rate of improved pension?
Family medical expenses and educational and vocational rehabilitation expenses actually paid by you may be used to increase your rate of pension. Family medical expenses are amounts paid by you for medical expenses for yourself and relatives you are under an obligation to support, including premiums paid for health insurance. VA will deduct the amount you paid for medical expenses from you countable income if the expenses qualify for exclusion under the formula provided by law. Educational or vocational rehabilitation expenses are amounts paid for courses of education, including tuition, fees, and materials and may be deducted from the income of a veteran or the earned income of a child, if the child is pursuing a course of post-secondary education or vocational rehabilitation or training. Keep track of the un-reimbursed amounts you pay. Normally these expenses are reported at the end of the year with an Eligibility Verification Report. Family maintenance (hardship) expense may also be used to increase your rate of pension. VA can exclude all or part of you dependent child’s income if it is not reasonably available to you or if it would cause hardship to consider this income in determining your rate of pension. If VA is not currently excluding your children’s income and you feel that it should be, contact the nearest VA office and complete VA Form 21-0571, Application for Exclusion of Children’s Income.
How can I receive information about Government Life Insurance?
If you are paying premiums of Government life insurance (GI insurance) and are unable to work, you may be entitled to certain benefits as provided in your policy. For complete information about GI Insurance, contact the Department of Veterans Affairs Insurance Center at 1-800-669-8477 or visit the VA website at www.insurance.va.gov .
Are my benefits exempt from claims of creditors?
VA pension payments are exempt from claims of creditors. With certain exceptions, the payments are not assignable and are not subject to attachment, levy, or seizure except as claim of the United States.
Do I report a change of address?
Please notify The Department of Veterans office immediately of any change of address.
What conditions affect my right to payment?
1. Your rate of pension depends upon the amount of family income and the number of dependents. Your benefits may be affected by any changes in the amount of family income and marital or dependency status of you or your dependents.
A. Change in family income and net worth: You are required to report the total amounts and sources of all income and net worth for you and your dependents from whom you have been awarded benefits. Some income is not countable. If you report such income, VA will exclude it when computing your income for VA purposes. Benefit rates and income limits change frequently; however, you can find out what the current income limitations and rates of benefits are by contacting VA.
B. Change in marital or dependency status: You or your survivors must notify the VA of any change in marital or dependency status or upon death. Examples of changes in marital or dependency status include the death of a dependent, the marriage of you or your dependent child, and discontinuance of a child's school attendance.
2. Your benefits may be reduced as shown below if you have no dependents and are furnished hospital, VA domiciliary or nursing home care at government expense. If you are receiving the aid and attendance allowance, your rate may also be reduced to the household rate as of the first day of the second calendar month following the month of admission. Benefits at the full rate may be resumed the date of discharge.
Veterans receiving Old Law Pension (pension awarded under the law in effect prior to July 1, 1960): If you have no dependents and are furnished hospital, VA domiciliary or nursing home care at government expense for six months or more, your pension may be reduced to $30.00 or half of the monthly amount payable whichever is greater, as of the first day of the seventh calendar month following the month of admission. The VA will pay you the withheld amount after an approved discharge by the institution authorities. If the discharge is for disciplinary reasons or against medical advice, the withheld amount will not be paid for six months from the date of discharge. If you are readmitted within six months of a prior period of such are and the prior discharge was not approved, the new period of care is considered a continuation of the previous period. Benefits will be reduced the first day of the seventh calendar month following the prior admission of the date of readmission, whichever is the later date.
Veterans receiving Section 306 Pension (pension awarded under laws in effect from July 1, 1960, and prior to January 1, 1979): If you have no dependents and are furnished hospital, VA domiciliary or nursing home care at government expense your rate of pension may not exceed $50.00 as of the first day of the third calendar month following the month of admission. If you are readmitted for such care within six months of a prior period of care that lasted two or more full calendar months, the rate of pension may not exceed $50.00 as if the date of readmission.
Veterans receiving Improved Pension (pension awarded under laws in effect from January 1, 1979): If you have no dependents and are furnished hospital, VA domiciliary or nursing home care at government expense your rate of pension may not exceed $90.00 as of the first day of the fourth calendar month following the month of admission. If you are readmitted for such care within six months of the prior period of care, your rate of pension may not exceed $90.00 as of the first day of the month following readmission.
3. If your award includes aid and attendance benefits based on nursing home patient status, you must immediately notify the VA when you are no longer a nursing home patient.
4. Your benefits will be discontinued effective the 61st day of incarceration in a Federal, State or local penal institution following conviction for a felony or misdemeanor. Your spouse or dependent children may be entitled to benefits at the death pension rate from the date your benefits are discontinued if a claim is received within one year after we notify you of discontinuance of benefits. Any payments made to your spouse or child will continue until we receive notice that the incarceration has ended.
5. Monthly payments of your award may be stopped if you fail to furnish evidence as requested or if you furnish VA, or cause to e furnished, any false or fraudulent evidence.
6. Information submitted including income information, is subject to verification through computer matching programs with other agencies.
7. The law provides severe penalties which include fine or imprisonment, or both, for fraudulent acceptance of any payment to which you are not entitled.
Notify the VA immediately if there is a change in any condition affecting your right to continued payments. Failure to notify the VA of these changes immediately will result in an overpayment which is subject to recovery.