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VA Announces Retroactive Disability Benefits for Some Claimants

By Hook Law Center

The Department of Veterans Affairs recently announced the availability of retroactive disability benefits for certain claimants.

One year of retroactive benefits is available to veterans who file a Fully-Developed Claim for service-connected disability. The policy is in effect from August 6, 2013, to August 5, 2015.

Through various policies, the VA is strongly encouraging veterans to file fully-developed claims. When filing FDCs, veterans must provide all supporting evidence in their possession at the time of submission. This may include information the veteran already has, but which the VA is otherwise obligated to track down, and evidence easily obtained by the veteran, such as private medical records.

A traditional claim gives the veteran time to gather evidence while the VA begins to process the claim. An FDC allows the VA to decide the claim more quickly than a traditional claim while still tracking down needed federal records on behalf of the veteran. The VA says it processes FDCs in half the time required for a traditional claim.

After having unconscionable backlogs and waiting times for disability claims for years, the VA appears to be getting its act together. It is switching from paper to computerized records and has implemented an online portal, eBenefits, to allow electronic submission of initial claims, creating an all-electronic process for a portion of cases. And as part of its effort to eliminate its claims backlog in 2015, the VA announced mandatory overtime for all claims processors through the end of the fiscal year.

Posted on Friday, September 27th, 2013. Filed under Veterans' Benefits.

Following DOMA Ruling, Social Security Administration Begins Processing Applications for Same-Sex Couples

By Hook Law Center

The recent Supreme Court ruling striking down a portion of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) will have widespread effects on many federal programs. It may take quite some time for the ruling to be fully implemented into law. But a recent statement from the Social Security Administration (SSA) shows some progress on that front.

On June 26, 2013, the Supreme Court invalidated Section 3 of DOMA, which denied federal benefits to legally married same-sex couples. On August 9, 2013, the SSA issued a statement from Carolyn W. Colvin, acting commissioner, announcing the administration “is now processing some retirement spouse claims for same-sex couples and paying benefits where they are due.” The statement encouraged all individuals who believe they may be eligible to apply for Social Security benefits.

Most same-sex couples who are married reside either in the state in which they married or another state that recognizes their marriage. Others relocated after marrying to states that do not recognize their marriage. For now, it is only certain that the former group will be eligible for federal benefits. It remains to be seen whether those in non-recognizing states will receive equal treatment by the federal government.

President Obama weighed in following the Supreme Court ruling, saying, “It’s my personal belief – but I’m speaking now as a president as opposed to as a lawyer – that if you’ve been married in Massachusetts and you move someplace else, you’re still married, and that under federal law you should be able to obtain the benefits of any lawfully married couple.”

Posted on Wednesday, September 18th, 2013. Filed under Estate Planning, Long-Term Care, Public Benefits, Senior Law News.
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