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If you applied for Social Security Disability Income (SSDI) benefits and your claim was denied, you are able to appeal the decision at a Social Security disability hearing. This hearing allows you and your attorney to go before an administrative law judge and to explain why you should be granted disability benefits.

While each disability hearing is different, many take between fifteen minutes and one hour, and are oftentimes more informal than a traditional court appearance would be. Additionally, you may find that your hearing is not even scheduled to be held in a courthouse. Depending on how far you live from the hearing site, your hearing may even occur via videoconference.

The hearing will rely on your personal testimony, a vocational expert's testimony, and any witnesses you choose to bring. Once you have arrived for your hearing, you can expect the following:


The Social Security Disability Insurance Benefits Program is a complex legal endeavor governed by extensive rules and regulations. Requirements are strict and numerous. There are eligibility requirements that must be satisfied before benefits are granted. Those dealing with disabilities, be they physical or mental, often think that they can handle their claim on their own. Nothing could be further from the truth. In order to navigate the disability program, one should seek the legal assistance of an experienced attorney to develop the claim considering all the complex issues.

The sooner you contact an attorney the better. An attorney can review the specific details of a person's disability application. Every detail, even the little ones, can make a huge difference in developing the claim. There are many potential pitfalls present in the application and development process. Oversights in completing the application and submitting evidence can result in mistakes being made and numerous delays. Application mistakes often have unforseeable consequences and can create problems for the disability applicant. In turn, this can lead to delays in decisions made, and could potentially result in a denial on a claim that otherwise would have been approved.

At Coats & Todd, we understand the importance of addressing all necessary details in completing a disability application. When clients come to us as they are filing for benefits, we assist them so that their disability application is well prepared, and so that it addresses the issues the Social Security Administration is looking for in making a determination. Preparing a case properly from the beginning can make a huge difference in resolving our clients' disability claims early.


Good News for Camp LeJeune Veterans

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The Department of Veterans Affairs announced on Tuesday, September 23 that it will soon cover out of pocket health care costs for Marine dependents who contracted cancer and other illnesses from toxic water at Camp LeJeune. In 2012, Congress passed the landmark legislation,Honoring America's Veterans and Caring for Camp LeJeune Families Act . The Act provided health care for Marines and family members who lived on the base near Jacksonville, N.C., from 1957 through 1987, and who suffered from any of 15 illnesses named in the law. Illnesses included cancer related to the lungs, bladder, breasts, kidneys and esophagus, as well as leukemia and problems involving female infertility. During that period, at least two of the water treatment facilities supplying drinking water to the Camp LeJeune Marine base were contaminated with volatile organic compounds that included industrial solvents and benzene from fuels. The chemicals resulted from spills, a dump site on base, leaking underground storage tanks on base, and an off base dry cleaner. The level of perchoroethylene in the base drinking water exceeded acceptable levels. An estimated 750,000 people wer exposed.

In 2005, the Department of Health and Human Services Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry began a study which suggested evidence of an assoication between chronic exposure to perchoroethylene and the following:

- Kidney Cancer


Veterans claimant service connection for disability based on an inservice personal assault face unique challenges in proving up their claims. Personal assault can include rape, physical assault, domestic battering, robbery, mugging, and stalking. Many think these incidents only involve female veterans, but male veterans are often victims of personal assault. These incidents are often violent. They may lead to PTSD which is secondary to the personal assault.

Assault is offten a personal and extremely sensitive issue. Many incidents of personal assault are not officially reported. Therefore, victims of inservice trauma find it difficult to offer evidence to support the event. Helpful evidence can include records from a counseling facility, a health clinic, family members, roomates, medical reports of treatment immediately following the assault, a chaplin or clergy, fellow service persons, or a personal journal or diary.

Military sexual trauma (MST) includes any sexual activity where one is involved against his or her will. It can be any event where you were forced into sexual activity. Physical force is not required. You may have been coerced or pressured into physical activity. You might have been threatened with negative consequences for refusing to cooperate. You might have been threatened with negative consequences for refusing to cooperate. You might have been offered faster promotions or better treatment in exchange for sex. MST also includes sexual experiences that occurred while you were not able to consent to sexual activity such as being intoxicated. MST can also include unwanted touching or grabbing, threatening, offensive remarks about your body, your sexual activities, or threatening and unwelcome sexual advances. If these experiences occurred while you were on active duty or active duty for training, they are considered MST.


Good News for Veterans and Survivors

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On Tuesday, September 16, the House of Representatives passed legislation that will increase Veterans disability compensation with a cost of living increase matching the rate of Social Security benefits increase. The increase will begin on December 1 of this year.

Veterans benefits are not automatically increased for inflation as are other federal benefits. Congress must introduce legislation, and the bill must be passed by both houses for the increase to take effect. Both houses passed the legislation by voice vote last week. This increase will cover veterans disability compensation, clothing allowance for some disabled veterans, and compensation for some surviving spouses and children.

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