Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Wired.com: Navy Thinks Neck Injections Might Cure PTSD

Wired.com published an interesting article (linked below) regarding a new trial of an injection that has been piloted by a Chicago anesthesiologist which purports to provide real relief for victims of PTSD.  For a long time, the study of the procedure, named stellate-ganglion block, was thwarted by bureaucracy, but a current double-blind placebo controlled study appears to be proving real results.  The procedure, while not without it's risks, involves an injection to the neck, and apparently serves as a "reboot" to the body systems responsible for producing nerve growth factor.  This appears to be one to watch.


Monday, December 12, 2011

Free or Reduced-Cost Medical Care Resources for Georgia and Elsewhere

In my disability law practice, the issue that most frequently presents itself regarding proving a disability is the ability to quantify the affects or severity of a condition through medical evidence. Not coincidentally, the best way to receive care for a disabling condition is also the best way to create a convincing body of evidence for use in proving a disability. Regular care from a physician, or qualified treatment source not only gives the disabled their best shot at managing or curing their conditions, but also will provide a solid and convincing record when the need to prove severity arises. Unfortunately, this is often easier said than done because medical care costs money, and of course money is required to secure medical care.  For individuals receiving care from the VA, cost is often a secondary concern, but for claimants that are not geographically close to the VA, or in need of an outside opinion, cost may be a large determinant in seeking and receiving care.

The purpose of this entry is to share several resources that individuals may use to find free or low cost medical resources in their geographic area. To the best of my knowledge, I do not have relationships with any of these physicians on this list, and make no specific endorsements of any of the caregivers, but with a few phone calls, it is my hope that individuals who need care are able to receive it from the organizations listed here. Because of the nature of free clinics, it will likely be necessary to provide evidence of financial need to their offices, and it may take several phone calls to find a clinic that not only can provide care for specific conditions, but has the capacity to see a patient in a timely manner. With that in mind, Claimants should not wait until receiving a hearing date to start seeking care. Treatment is a process, not an end goal, and should be sought during every state of the disability application process, rather than as a means to a rating.

I would also like to note that for the portion of my readers who are medical providers, I will be happy to include your practice on this free or reduced cost list if you are interested. Simply contact me through my website. Additionally, for those providers who are kind enough to treat the disabled for low or no cost, I would be happy to provide specific advice regarding your ability to receive retroactive payments through Medicaid for patients with whom you have a treating relationship. Due to the length of time involved with securing disability benefits for patients, these retroactive payments may cover a year or more of visits and treatment.

Without further ado, here are some websites where a prospective patient may locate medical providers in their area who provide free or reduced cost care. Good luck, and good health to you.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Health Resource and Service Administration – This is a website that covers the entire country, not just Georgia, and by entering an address or zip code, a prospective patient may get contact information for providers in their area.

FreeMedicalSearch.org – Another website that extends beyond Georgia, with search functionality.

Free Medical Clinics – This is the Georgia page of another list of national resources. This list is laid out city-by-city for refined searching.

Georgia Free Clinic Network – An excellent page that provides search functionality for free or reduced cost care clinics in the State of Georgia.

Atlanta Free or Low Cost Clinics – A smaller list of Atlanta, Georgia free or reduced care clinics.

Cobb County Free or Low Cost Clinics – A smaller list of Cobb County, Georgia free or reduced care clinics.

Fayette CARE Clinic – From their website, “Our Mission is to promote health and well being for Fayette County’s uninsured and working poor through compassionate medical and dental care, education, prevention, and referral, providing a gateway to other community services.”

This information is does create an attorney-client or physician-patient relationship or any kind, and is for informational purposes only. For advice regarding your specific circumstances, contact VA Disability Attorney Thomas O’Brien.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Bilateral Factors and VA Disability Calculations

Author’s Note: Click this link or visit the very bottom of this blog’s home page to use my online Disability and Bilateral Percentage Calculators. This tool is still in development, and the bi-lateral calculation functionality is brand new. I would appreciate any feedback or compatibility issues you may have.
The impact of Bilateral Conditions, or those conditions affecting both arms, both legs, or skeletal muscles must be combined before proceeding with standard disability calculations.  This is actually beneficial to Claimants since this process results in adding additional compensation percentage points to two individual (but pairable) ailments.  The law governing the calculations may be found at 38 CFR §4.26.

To calculate the Bilateral Factor, combine the individual disability ratings for each individual limb using similar math to the standard disability rating, but without rounding.  Once the combination is performed, then add 10% of the combined value to the calculated combination of the two factors.  I simply multiply the combined factor by 1.1 for simplicity.  Then round this number to the nearest "1".  Once this number is determined, then use the resulting value as a single disability percentage in the calculations described here.  An example of determining the Bilateral Factor is as follows:
100% - Capacity before disability
x 10% - Disability of the Right Thigh
=90% - Remaining Capacity
x 10% - Disability of the Left Foot
=81% - Remaining Capacity Before Bilateral Factor
100%-81% = 19% Disability Caused by Both Conditions
x 1.1 = Adds 10% to compensate for Bilateral Disability
=20.9% Before Rounding to nearest "1"
=21% - Bilateral Disability Factor to be used in calculating overall disability.

I hope this is helpful to those of you attempting to understand how the VA arrives at their final ratings.

Please contact VA Disability Attorney Thomas C. O'Brien for further information.

Monday, August 8, 2011

VA Disability Percentage Calculator

Author’s Note: Click this link or visit the very bottom of this blog’s home page to use my online Disability and Bilateral Percentage Calculators. This tool is still in development, and the bi-lateral calculation functionality is brand new. I would appreciate any feedback or compatibility issues you may have.

A very common complaint that I hear from my clients is regarding the lack of transparency in the math that is employed when creating a composite disability percentage rating. The reason for much of this confusion centers on disability percentages not being added together, but rather applied sequentially to the residual capacity that the Veteran retains. The law that governs the calculations of these numbers may be found in the Code of Federal Regulations at 38 CFR 4.25.

Intuition might tell us that if a Veteran is 50% disabled from heart conditions, and 50% disabled from a back problem that he or she would be 100% disabled, but this is not the case. When applied sequentially to the Veteran’s remaining capacity, the heart condition would leave the Veteran with 50% remaining capacity to work, and then the back problem would remove 50% of the remaining capacity. As such, the composite disability percentage would be 75%, which would then be rounded up to the nearest “10”, rendering a rating of 80%. In the example above, the math works as follows:

100% - Capacity before disability
x 50% - Heart Disability
=50% - Remaining Capacity
x 50% - Back Disability
=75% - New Remaining Capacity
=80% - Composite Disability Rating (Rounding 75% to the nearest “10”)

In the context of applying for a rating increase or TDIU (Total Disability Based on Individual Unemployability) knowing these numbers is vital to Veterans. Due to the rounding that occurs in the final step of the process, certain ratings increases or achieving new ratings may unlock additional health benefits, but will have little or no impact on the overall rating. Knowing what percentage is needed to achieve the next milestone should offer some guidance regarding the information and evidence that will need to be provided to the VA.

This blog, and the information herein is for informational purposes only, and should not be relied upon as legal advice. For more information about your particular situation, please contact VA Disability Attorney Thomas C. O’Brien.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

A New Beginning

After meeting with favorable feedback regarding my first foray into legal writing (ssilaw.blogspot.com), this is my next contribution to the world of legal blogging. The purpose of this blog is to discuss current issues regarding Veterans Benefits, with a focus on Disability Advocacy, and to serve as a resource for those individuals who may have the need to apply for benefits thereunder. My name is Thomas O'Brien and I am a Veterans Benefits and disability attorney.