Menu

Archive for Corra’s Posts

My Sleep Apnea Journey (Part 2) 8 Things I Wish I Knew About a CPAP Machine

Earlier this year I wrote a blog profiling my sleep study and sleep apnea diagnosis. Unfortunately, it took nearly two months for me to receive my follow up appointment and then an additional two weeks to receive my CPAP machine. I want to write a quick follow up as to what it’s like to live with a CPAP machine. I’ve had mine for nearly two weeks. I can honestly say that I feel like a different person with this device. It’s magical. However, there are a few things that you need to know about the device and what to expect. So, since so many Veterans have this condition, I thought this list would help. I’m sharing this because I want Veterans to understand that it’s not too bad. I hesitated to get treatment because I was worried about how I’d live with a CPAP. It’s already made my life better. So here are 8 things I wish I knew about using a CPAP machine.

  1. They are not as a big as you’d believe. Though I used a CPAP machine while at my sleep study, I didn’t get a good look at it. I do remember that it was bulky. The only other exposure I had to a machine was by way of the show Orange is the New Black. On the show, one of the characters has a CPAP machine and it is very big and bulky. I was afraid that I’d also have to use something that resembled an Iron Lung. In all reality, what I received was quite small. Please note that CPAP machines are as diverse as cars or boats. What I received may be much different than what you received. My employer offers us good insurance and I was able to get a nice modem machine. I’ve been told that some Vets who receive machines from the VA aren’t like what I have. But they aren’t gigantic either. My CPAP looks like an iPod docking station.
  2. It’s simple to use. One of the things that impressed me about the CPAP machine was the ease of use. You essentially have to try to mess it up. There are many buttons to use. It has a rotary dial, a home button, and an on/off switch. Most of the functions are controlled through the rotary dial by way of the onscreen options. With the rotary dial, I’m able to access my sleep reports (read more about that below) and I can change some options too. The CPAP even can detect if my mask is fitting properly. I’m a big fan of the built-in Wi-Fi capability.
  3. It’s not too noisy either. All I hear at night is a gentle humming. Honestly, the sound my air conditioning is more intrusive than my CPAP machine. However, I prefer noises at night anyway, so the noise is fine. I am not an expert, but I think this sound would help Veterans with tinnitus.
  4. Bane would be jealous of the mask I use. It’s not cumbersome in any way. There are three options with the CPAP I use. The first option is a full-face mask. There are also two versions that only fit over the user’s nose. What I use is referred to as “pillow.” I think they call it this because it’s the softest mask you can use. I was told to use a nose only mask because I’m a nose breather, not a mouth breather. The sales rep informed me that this is the most popular mask. There is a strap on the back of my head to keep it on. The top of my head is where the hose from the CPAP attached to the mask. Overall the mask is very comfortable.
  5. The future is now. Like I mentioned above, I get reports each day to let me know how I slept. It pretty much just lets me know how long I slept and how well the mask fit. I thought this was cool but then I found out that there is an online program that I can access on my iPad. It gives me info on my sleep disturbances too. In my sleep study, I had 70 instances in an hour. In my most recent sleep, I only had .04. The program gives a score based on several factors. Last night my score was 95 out of 100. I lost points because I took my mask off at one point.
  6. Not waking up in Vegas. One thing I wasn’t prepared for was how quickly my sleep habits would change. Before I had my CPAP machine, I was a very light sleeper. Dust falling on my night stand would wake me up. Now that I have the CPAP, I am sleeping heavier. For the first week, I was sleeping through my alarm. To alleviate this problem have continued to use my current phone’s alarm, my old cell phone’s alarm and the alarm on my iPad. They are all placed around my bedroom so that I have a surround sound alarm. You may not have the same issue, but it really caught me off guard. So, if you are a light sleeper, you may want to plan an alarm strategy.
  7. Water, water, everywhere. The type of CPAP machine I use has a humidifier. That’s no big deal. I’ve been using a humidifier for years. However, on a CPAP machine, you must use distilled water. It’s not a big deal for most people, but it was something I didn’t know about before. I bought a gallon of distilled water at my local supermarket for $1. It’s been two weeks and I haven’t quite used half of the jug yet.
  8. Traveling concerns alleviated. I travel a lot for work and for fun. One of the things that I was concerned about with the CPAP machine was traveling with the device. I wondered how I would pack it and not damage anything, especially the hose. My device came with a carrying case. It looks like a big lunch bag. This case is specially made for the machine. Inside it has compartments for every piece of the CPAP. It will be easy to take it with me.

I am so glad that I got my CPAP machine. I feel so much different now. I went from nodding off at work and stopping on road trips to nap to having energy I haven’t had in years. While I didn’t serve in the military, and my sleep apnea is not a result of time in service, but I know a lot of the concerns I had are like what a lot of Veterans have concerns with when they talk to us.

If you’re a Veteran with sleep apnea and would like to know more about what our firm can do for you, give us a call today for a free consultation. Our toll-free number is 1-877-526-3457. If you can’t call now, fill out this form.

Share Button

My Sleep Apnea Journey (Part 1)

From time to time I like to share my personal experiences in this blog. It’s rare for me to relate to my clients often, mainly because I’ve never served in the military. However, on occasion, there are some experiences in which we have common ground. Before I’ve written about the negative side effects of taking anti-depressants and experiencing what a lot of Veterans have described to me. In all honesty, I know my conversations with Vets helped me to realize the issues I was having with the medication I was prescribed. Just like that instance, I felt similarly when I started to have problems with my sleep. I wrote about sleep apnea before. This blog turns six in November. Our firm has a lot of VA clients with Sleep Apnea, so I knew early on it was a topic I needed to cover. When I wrote about this topic in the past I wasn’t having the issues that I have now. I simply couldn’t sleep. It was more like I had insomnia. Fast forward a few years, and things have changed. So, I want to use my experience to hopefully shed some light on this issue that thousands of Veterans are currently suffering from. Join me on this journey.

First Signs

I’ve had a pretty rough couple of years involving a sick parent, and a substantial weight gain. I am single and sleep alone. However, about two years ago I had to share a hotel room with my sister while my mother was in a hospital out of town. She stated that I snored quite a bit, and it lasted nearly all night. For the most part, I ignored it. Honestly, there were more important things going on, and I wasn’t too concerned about my own health. Eventually, mom was released from the hospital. I went back to work like normal and didn’t think about the snoring problem much. That was until last summer when my friend Shawn and I took a trip to Philadelphia to participate in their Comic-Con. Once again, I was sharing a hotel with someone. I fell asleep first. Shawn stated that he noticed my snoring and thought I quit breathing a few times. Once again I brushed it off.

Symptoms Getting Worse

As summer became fall, and fall became winter, there were a few more personal setbacks in my life. I noticed that I would often wake up with a dry mouth, which never occurred before in my life. I also started to notice headaches occurring often in the morning. Further, I was getting tired easily and electing not to associate with people outside of work. I really just wanted to go home and be by myself. Once again, I ignored all of the signs and just went on about my work.
Nine months ago is when I noticed that things were getting severe. I started getting very tired at work, almost to the point of falling asleep at my desk. I had no energy at all d uring the day. I would also pass out in a recliner when I got home. I didn’t want to do much. As I travel for work and pleasure often, I knew it would only be a matter of time before my driving would be impacted. For some reason, I often fell asleep sitting up in my bed. On more than one occasion I woke up because I fell out of bed. Once I actually hit my head on a dresser. I had to stop ignoring this problem and talk to a medical professional.

It’s Obvious

I made an appointment to see my doctor. She agreed that it sounded as if I had Sleep Apnea, but I had to see a specialist first. It took more than a month for me to see the specialist. I must admit that this was a little annoying because the problem kept getting worse. The specialist asked me a lot of questions about my symptoms and my sleep habits. She also believed that I had sleep apnea, but she then had to determine how severe it was. I was then told that I’d be scheduled for a sleep study at a later time.

Watching me sleep

It was nearly another month before I was able to actually have a sleep study. So, at that point, it had been nearly three months since I talked to my medical

Preparing for the sleep study with sensors.

professional about this issue. So, the wait has been a big issue. The problem had gotten worse. I was hoping to have some answers by then. Regardless though, I wanted to share my experience with the sleep study.
I will admit that I was extremely nervous before going to the sleep study. I was to arrive at a local medical facility at 8:00 pm. I recall being really on edge on the drive to the office that evening. Upon arriving at the medical complex, I was asked to sit in a waiting room with several other people waiting for their sleep studies. There were 5 other people there that evening other than myself. I was easily the youngest person there, and everyone else was talking as if they had been friends for years. I’m an extroverted introvert. This means I can be the life of the party when I want to be, and a shut-in when I don’t. This evening I preferred the latter. I didn’t feel like sharing my life story with this group. I am lucky because I have an expressive face. This evening my face told the world not to talk to me. Luckily everyone left me alone. I scrolled through my Twitter feed and Snapchat Stories so that no one would bother me. I am not normally like this, but once again, I was nervous.
Around 8:15 the team of doctors and nurses met us for the study. They brought all of us back together. As I was nervous, I was not thinking straight. Thoughts crossed my mind that a normal person wouldn’t think of. The most prevalent intrusive thought was: “Are we all sleeping in the same room?” The answer to that was no. Everyone would have their own rooms. I then thought

The bed I slept in for the sleep study.

I’d be in a hospital bed. That too was not true. We were given very comfortable Full-Size beds. I normally sleep alone in a King size bed, so this was a big change for me, but it was not bad. As I was placed in my room I was told that I had some paperwork to fill out, and then I’d be hooked up. By this time my nerves began to settle, and I gave myself a pep talk. (The actual pep talk included many swears, so this has been edited for a family audience.) I said: “Darn it, Jon, you will get through this sleep study just fine. You invented Snapchat (inside joke) and this will not break you. Now get off your butt and take some selfies.” It was at this point that I decided to document my experience for this blog. So, as you can tell, I took a lot of photos. The room was quite nice. It had its own en suite bathroom and was very clean. There was a TV and the bed was comfortable. It was just like being at a hotel. Well, a hotel that had a camera on the wall to watch you sleep.
It was approaching 9:00 when my nurse returned. She stated that it was time to hook me up. This part was a little more intense

All of these wires were plugged into sensors or me.

than I expected. They applied sensors to my legs, stomach, chest, and a bunch on my head. The head is the 2nd worst part. In order to get the sensors to stick to my head, they used some sort of gel. It was not super easy to get out of my hair the next day when I showered. I mentioned the head/hair sensors were the 2md worst. The goo in hair my paled in comparison to electrodes that were attached to my chest. I wish I would have known ahead of time to shave my chest. The pain was extremely intense when the nurses ripped off most of the hair from my chest. Honestly, though, this was the worst part of the night. Most of the evening was pretty laid back. Yes, I had sensors all of my body, but other than my chest hair being removed, the rest of the night was pretty simple.
It was a little odd to know that there was a camera watching me the whole time. However, the staff brought me a fan to block out the noise. There was a PA system in the room. The staff went through a few procedures with me, they informed me to clap if I needed to go to the bathroom, and then I was left alone. I had trouble falling asleep, but I eventually did.
A few hours into the evening the nurse entered the room and said that I sleep apnea. I asked her how bad it was and she couldn’t say an exact number. I was made to believe that it was pretty bad. They fitted me with a mask. I was given a choice between a full-face mask and the nose mask. Since I am a nose breather, I was told to try a nose mask. It took me a few minutes to adjust to the mask. It was odd to breathe through this because when I would open my mouth it would choke me. But after a few minutes, I adjusted, and created a rhythm, and quickly fell asleep. When I woke up in the morning I felt good. I unhooked from the monitors and went home.

The Follow Up

One of the worst parts of this entire experience involved waiting. I had my sleep study in May. I wasn’t able to do my follow up with the doctor until mid-July. That eventually got bumped up to late June. Then it was two weeks to get my CPAP machine from the medical supply store. From the time I went to my doctor for the first time to the time that I received my CPAP machine, it was nearly six months. The follow up with the Sleep Specialist was short. She essentially said “Well, you have Sleep Apnea,” and then she mentioned that I would need a CPAP machine. I could have told her that. One thing of interest pertained to my results. I had 70 instances per hour during the night. That’s bad. Essentially, I quit breathing at more than once a minute.

(Read my follow up to this blog here.)

I wanted to share my experience because so many Veterans I speak to have sleep apnea or other disorders. I couldn’t find much info about what a sleep study is, or what to expect online. I believe that most Vets have the same questions I do. I wanted to shed some light on what it’s like. I think that this can make a lot more people at ease going into a sleep study.
If you’re a Veteran with sleep apnea, give us a call to discuss your claim. Our toll-free number is 1-877-526-3457. If you can’t talk now, fill out this form so that we may call you at a better time.

Share Button

Coast Guard Veterans and PTSD

Anyone who has read this blog before knows that I am a huge fan of the US Coast Guard. Just last week I returned to Cleveland, Ohio and took just as many pics of the ships at the Coast Guard base as I did at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. My friends who served in other branches of the military give me a hard time for being such a Coast Guard fan. At the end of the day, the Coast Guard is a branch of the military and Coast Guard Veterans are entitled to VA disability compensation just like someone who served in the Navy, Army, Air Force, or the Marines. However, I still hear from Coast Guard Veterans who aren’t aware that they can service connect for PTSD. Today, we will discuss how Coast Guard Veterans can service connect for PTSD in more detail.

As you may already know, the Coast Guard is not a part of the Department of Defense like the other branches. Instead, the Coast Guard is a part of the Department of Homeland Security. Further, except for rare instances, the Coast Guard isn’t deployed into combat zones. Because most Coast Guard Veterans aren’t combat Veterans, many don’t believe they are eligible to service connect for PTSD. It’s not true, though. We actually see this problem across the board. Veterans from every branch feel the same way. Regardless if you served in the Coast Guard, Marines etc., serving in combat is not required pursue a claim for PTSD. The biggest difference for Veterans who served in combat versus those who haven’t involves proving a stressor. For combat Veterans, simply being in combat will serve as the stressor. However, all non-combat Veterans must prove their stressor.

What are some stressors for Coast Guard Veterans? One of the first instances I think of pertains to any Coast Guard Vet who worked in search and rescue. Often time these individuals are exposed to a lot of death and tragedy. The Coast Guard is often dispatched in cases of missing persons or when ships and boats go missing near our shores or rivers. These search and rescue missions happen quite often, and they don’t always end well. Repeated exposure to the death of civilians can lead to PTSD.

One area that must be considered also is any type of severe physical injury. With the type of work that the Coast Guard does, injuries can occur quite often. A few Coast Guard Veterans I’ve spoken to have described near drowning events in their stressors. Any situation in which you are fearful of your life can result in a traumatic experience.

Another area in which a stressor can exist would be if a member of the Coast Guard was physically or sexually assaulted. This occurs often in all branches of the military, and the Coast Guard is no different. It’s quite common for this type of experience to lead to PTSD symptoms, especially if the Veteran fails to report the assault.

Some individuals in the Coast Guard have to enforce maritime law. They are essentially performing the same duties as police officers, only in a different capacity. These Vets are often exposed to a lot of criminals and can be involved in physical altercations, just like police officers. However, unlike typical police officers, these Veterans often encounter many foreign and domestic terrorists, drug dealers, and criminals.

 

If you are a Coast Guard Vet and are curious about your PTSD claim, call us today for a free consultation. We’d be happy to talk to you about the services we offer. Our toll-free number is 1-877-526-3457! If you can’t talk now, fill out this form so that we may call you at a better time.

Share Button

Camp Lejeune Presumptive Benefits Approved for Veterans

Over the past year, there has been a lot of discussion regarding VA Disability Service Connection and Veterans who served at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina. We’re happy to say that the final rule to make the presumptive conditions official came through yesterday.

This rule establishes presumptive service connection for former service members, to include veterans, reservists, and National Guard members, who served at least 30 days at Camp Lejeune between August 1, 1953, and December 31, 1987.

The following presumptive conditions are approved:

  • Adult leukemia
  • Aplastic anemia and other myelodysplastic syndromes
  • Bladder cancer
  • Kidney cancer
  • Liver cancer
  • Multiple myeloma
  • Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and
  • Parkinson’s disease

According to the Military Times, as many as 900,000 Veterans could be impacted by this news. Many Veterans have fought tirelessly over the years to get service connected for the water contamination at Camp Lejeune, and we are happy to say that for some, that fight may well be over soon.

To review, the VA has listed the following requirements to establish service connection:

Be an active duty, reserve or National Guard member who was discharged under conditions other than dishonorable.

Have served at Camp Lejeune for at least 30 days (cumulative), between August 1, 1953, and December 31, 1987.

Have a current disease on the list of presumptive conditions related to Camp Lejeune.

The VA lists the following Evidence Requirements:

Records that show you served at Camp Lejeune or MCAS New River for at least 30 days (cumulative), between August 1, 1953, and December 31, 1987, in an active duty, reserve, or National Guard capacity.

The medical evidence must show you have a current disease on the list of presumptive conditions related to Camp Lejeune.

If you’d like to know more about what we can do for you, call us today for a free consultation. Our number is 1-877-526-3457. If you can’t talk now, fill out this form so that we can call you at a better time. Since 2008 we’ve helped thousands of Veterans get the benefits they deserve, and we won’t take no for an answer.

Share Button

I Get a Little Help From My Friends; How Buddy Statements Impact Your VA Claim

When it comes to Veterans Disability, one of the most important aspects of any case is evidence. For the most part, this pertains to medical evidence. For instance, if you’re pursuing a claim for your shoulder, you would likely have medical records from your time in service and from the VA and private doctors after your time in service. However, there is not always medical evidence of an injury in service. This is especially true for combat injuries. If you’re in the middle of a firefight, you can’t call a “timeout” if you fall and hurt your ankle. Most Vets I’ve talked to just get back up and keep fighting. In other words, there’s not always a perfect medical record for every disability claim.

The same is also true for mental disabilities like PTSD, or neurological conditions like Traumatic Brain Injury. These injuries are not always diagnosed in service. Usually, they manifest later in life. So, the traditional means of establishing service connection is not always able to be obtained. So, what is a Veteran to do? There is actually an option for this situation.

Sometimes, when attempting to establish service connection, a Veteran may make use of a “statement in support of claim.” These are also sometimes referred to as “buddy statements.” For the most part, these statements are supplied by individuals who either served with the Veteran filing for benefits, or a friend/family member who knew the Veteran before and after he/she entered the military. In some cases, the Veteran may also make a statement in support of claim, but for the purposes of today’s blog, we will just focus on the statements made by others.

First, let’s look into buddy statements. These make a lot of sense because they almost act as an eyewitness report of something that occurred. For instance, if you were serving in a combat zone and an RPG blew up, knocking you unconscious, one of your fellow Vets was likely there with you. There may not be an official record of this in any log, but if you can have at least one other person, or even multiple people, write statements about it occurring, it will help your chances of establishing service connection.

Another way in which we’ve seen buddy statements be effective pertains to cases of Military Sexual Trauma. If a Veteran was sexually assaulted and he/she knew another Veteran who was sexually assaulted by the same person, they can write a statement explaining their experience.  This is beneficial because so many sexual assaults go unreported in the military. However, it’s not the only way in which a buddy statement can be used to aid an MST case. If a Veteran was sexually assaulted, didn’t report it, but confided in his or her fellow service member, they could then write a statement explaining what happened. This is even true several years after the assault occurred.

Just like buddy statements, a statement from a family member can be beneficial in cases of MST and PTSD. Though in most cases your family and friends didn’t serve with you, they can still speak to how your behavior or mood changed after joining the military. For instance, if you were outgoing before, loved going out and had a lot of friends before you were in the military, but after discharge, you were more withdrawn, alone and rarely left your house, this would be a way a family member could explain how you’ve changed. Even in cases not involving PTSD or MST, statements from family members can be beneficial. We see this often in cases of Sleep Apnea.

Statements are just one of the ways in which we help our clients put together strong cases to help them get the benefits they deserve. If you’d like to know more about what we can do for you, call us today for a free consultation. Our number is 1-877-526-3457. If you can’t talk now, fill out this form so that we can call you at a better time. Since 2008 we’ve helped thousands of Veterans get the benefits they deserve, and we won’t take no for an answer.

Share Button

How Veterans Service Connect for Headaches and Migraines

While doing our ‘end of the year countdown,” we realized that for the second year in a row, our most popular blog was about Veterans with headaches. That blog post was written way back in 2014 when the world was more innocent. The hit TV show Parks and Recreation were still on the air, and Justin Bieber’s new album was still months away. They were good times. That blog has held up well over time, but it won’t hurt to revisit the topic. So, let’s take another look at headaches and your VA disability claims.

Pertaining to headaches, one of the biggest misconceptions Veterans believe is that their headaches are normal, and thus not service connected. I’m not judging because this makes sense to me. When I was in 1st grade I started having severe migraines on a regular basis. They were so bad that I would become sick, then I would become nauseous and eventually vomit. As I got older, the migraines became less frequent and I eventually “grew out of them.” I still get headaches now. Most of my headaches are brought on by stress. Headaches can be difficult because of there so many people who haven’t served who have issues with headaches too. The major difference between what I experienced, and what a Veteran experience are that my headaches are preexisting. Most Veterans who have a headache condition do not have a preexisting condition. However, a preexisting condition would not necessarily keep them from getting service connected. The important thing to remember about headaches and any condition for that matter is that it must either be caused by your time in service or made worse by your time in service.

There are many ways in which a Veteran can have issues with headaches because of service. Any type of head injury can lead to headaches later in life. For instance, if a Veteran suffered from a TBI while serving he or she may have headaches after service. Even if a Veteran doesn’t have a head injury they can still pursue a headache claim. This is especially true if you sought treatment in service.

One thing we must consider when pursuing a claim for headaches is; “What exactly is a headache?” In my previous blog, I explain the process in detail. You can read that here. However, I want to make things a little simpler today.

The following is an example of a Veteran who likely wouldn’t get service connected for their headaches: The Veteran seldom has headaches. When they do, they are not very severe, and they are easily alleviated by taking over the counter medicine like Tylenol.  On average, the type of a headache occurs once every six weeks.

The following is an example that would likely result in a Veteran receiving service connection for headaches. This Veteran has headaches at least three times per week, and they are prostrating. Prostrating sort of means debilitating. In other words, the pain from your headache is so severe that the Vet is unable to function. Generally, this means they must retreat to a bedroom with no light, no sound, and sleep until your headache is resolved, often hours later. There is a good chance the Veteran misses work often because of their condition.

Once again, if you want to read the full explanation, please see my previous blog post.

I was surprised by the number of people who turned to my old blog post for help. Obviously, this means that there are a lot of Veterans still suffering from headaches, and many still need help. If you think you may have a headache condition that should be service connected, give us a call today. Our toll-free number is 1-877-526-3457. If you can’t talk now, fill out this form, and we’ll be happy to talk to you at a better time. Our consultations are Free, and we’ve helped thousands of Veterans get the benefits they deserve.

Share Button

How Disabled Veterans Can Receive Student Loan Forgiveness

Student Loan debt impacts millions of recent graduates every year. Most of you are already aware of that as it’s in the mainstream news quite often. However, what you are likely not aware of is the number of Veterans who struggle with student loan debt also. I was surprised at first to learn that so many Veterans struggled with student loan debt. If you’re like me, you simply assumed that all veterans qualify for the Montgomery GI Bill and thus their college was paid for by the government. That’s not true.

Did you know that a Veterans who was discharged with a general under honorable condition discharge is not eligible for the GI Bill? If you’re reading that and you don’t have much knowledge of military discharges, you might think that a General Under Honorable is a bad discharge. It’s not. To be honest, a lot of Veterans are discharged with this type of discharge. It does not mean they did anything wrong. Traditionally it means that they were not able to fulfill their entire commitment. In other words, if a Veterans enlisted for four years, but only served three due to an injury, he or she may receive a general under honorable discharge. Further, a lot of Vets who are injured receive General Under Honorable discharges. On the surface, a General Under Honorable Discharge resembles an Honorable Discharge. It’s not just the character of a Veterans discharge that may have led them to student loans. In some cases, the GI Bill may not have been enough to cover all fees. This could be the case if the Veteran attended graduate school, an out of state school, or even went to college or university for an extended period. So, now it makes sense that a Veteran could have debt from higher education. Now we have to ask what they have to do to eliminate that debt.

This reminds me of a story. When I was in college I met this fella who served in the Navy. I can’t tell you his name or many details because he eventually became a client. Regardless, the first year we had classes together I didn’t like him very well. The next year we had another class together and the professor forced us to work together. We realized that we had some similar interests and, as any coming of age teen comedy will tell you, we became friends. And, just like in that same teen comedy, after college, we lost touch. As I was completing graduate school I started working here. I discovered this thing called Facebook. Naturally, I looked up my old friend. As I was working in Veterans Disability at the time, and he was a disabled Veteran, I thought it would make sense for him to become a client. Eventually, my friend became a client, we got him a well-deserved rating of 100%, and all was well.

One day, while reading through my Facebook timeline, I noticed that my friend mentioned that he had all his debt from college eradicated. If I’m honest, he was bragging about it in a way he shouldn’t have been, but it peaked my interest none the less. Due to injuries, he was not able to fulfill his contract with the military. He received a general discharge, and thus, didn’t receive the full GI Bill. Prior to this Facebook post, I was not aware of any Student Debt forgiveness for Veterans. So, I did what we all do when we something unfamiliar on the internet, I Googled it.

My search results were quite helpful. According to my research, Veterans who receive a 100% Total and Permanent Disability from the VA may also have their Federal Student Loans discharged. In this context, the word discharge means forgiven. Granted, there are a lot of details to this program and a lot about finance that I really can’t interpret. My source for this information is a government website. If you are interested in this program I suggest checking it out.

I don’t believe enough Veterans are aware that they may be able to have their student debt forgiven. Like I mentioned earlier, we assume that every person who served in the military and went to college was able to attend for free. It turns out that it’s not true, and a lot of Veterans are missing out on this program. If you know of a Veteran who may benefit from Student Loan forgiveness, please share the link above with them.

Further, many Veterans are rated too low for their disability ratings. If you believe your ratings are too low, call us today for a Free Consultation. Our toll-free number is 1-877-526-3457. You can contact us using this form as well. Thanks so much for reading.

Share Button

Knee Issues and Your Veterans Disability Claim

I often like to write about the unique cases we see at the law firm. Some of my favorite memories of helping Veterans pertains to very specific conditions. Sometimes we must work hard to prove that a Vietnam Veteran was exposed to Agent Orange, or we must go the extra mile to show how a Veteran who was not in combat has a stressor related to their time in service. Those cases stick out because they aren’t very common, and we usually learn a lot from those favorable decisions. Though those cases really peak our interests, it’s the more common cases that we see the most, and that impact the highest number of Veterans. One such condition involves disabilities impacting the knees. So, let’s talk about your knee conditions in more detail today.

If I oversaw the VA, and hopefully someday I will be, I would automatically grant all Veterans service connection on their knees. Unfortunately, I am not in charge of the VA, and knee conditions are sometimes difficult to prove. Some may wonder why I think most Veterans should get granted service connection on their knees. It’s quite simple. If you served, take a moment to think about all the abuse your knees went through while you were in service. All Vets must go through PT, ruck marches, and a lot of physical work every day. Further, a lot of MOS’s are very physical. It’s hard to think of many occupations in the military that aren’t physical. The most common ones we encounter are mechanics, infantrymen, Calvary Scouts, truck driver and so on. All of those are very physical. Most of the Veterans I’ve talked to with MOS’s like these have moderate to severe knee issues when they leave the military. Then you have Veterans who have MOS’s associated with jumping from a plane. Veterans who have a parachutist badge, or those who are Rangers, Airborne, and so on, are among the most likely to have knee issues. If you’ve even completed one Jump from a plane with a landing that is less than ideal, then it’s very likely that you’ll have a knee condition.

While it may seem simple for Veterans with the previously mentioned backgrounds in service to get granted for their knees, the opposite is true. Knee conditions are difficult to get service connected. It’s not a black and white issue, though, there are several reasons why a Veterans may struggle to get service connected for their knees.

One of the biggest reasons that Vets have issues getting service connected for their knees involves a lack of treatment in service. This isn’t specific to knee conditions, though, it’s a problem across the board. However, with knee issues, many Vets will simply purchase an OTC knee brace, or treat with Motrin. They don’t seek specific care for their knees in service, and thus establishing service connecting for the condition is difficult. It’s not a deal-breaker, though. For many of our clients, we argue that your MOS or length of service contributed to your knee condition. We also use buddy statements. So, if a fellow Vet witnessed your injury, he or she may be able to write a statement to help you get connected.

Another import thing to remember is to get treatment on your knees after you’re discharged. The will deny your claim if you don’t have current treatment.

 

While treatment is a big issue, it’s not the only thing that makes service connecting for knees difficult. A more complex issue arises when we look at how the VA evaluates knee conditions. Your pain is not paramount when a medical professional evaluates you for your knees. Knee conditions are based on a range of motion, not pain. In other words, you may be in a lot of pain, but if you can flex your knee so far in either direction, your’ likely to get denied. Most Veterans aren’t aware of this when they travel to their C&P exam.

 

Traditionally, a knee is rated at 0%, 10%, or 20%. On the other hand, some Vets can get rated at 30% for each knee. This is traditionally the result of a Veterans needing knee replacements. It’s rare for younger Veterans to be given knee replacements, mainly because doctors advise against it for individuals under a certain age. One of the main reasons for this involves the amount of pains associated with knee replacement surgery. Overall, the only way to get rated above 20% on a knee is to have a replacement. Granted, there are always exceptions to the rule, but this is the norm.

 

Some Veterans, who have issues with their knees, also have issues with falling or instability. It’s important to note that this condition is rated separately from a knee condition. Once again, most Veterans aren’t aware that they can file this claim separately from their knees. Let’s be clear, though, not every Veteran who has a knee condition will also have issues with instability. Also, just because you’ve been granted on a knee issue, it does not mean the VA will grant you on instability quickly. You will have to prove that separately.

 

The most important thing I want you to know if you’re a Veteran reading this blog is to get treatment on your knees if you have pain in one or both knees. If you believe your pain is a result of your time in service, call us. We’d be happy to talk to you about your condition and give you a free case evaluation. Our toll-free number is 1-877-526-3457. If you would rather have us give you a call later, fill out this form, and we’ll call you at a more convenient time.

Share Button

Which Disability is Claimed the Most by Veterans?

I’ve been working with Veterans for more than nearly six years. At this point, there aren’t a lot of things that surprise me. Don’t get me wrong, I still love what I war-1447010_1920do, and if this blog is any evidence of my passion, I don’t see that passion going away anytime soon. When something does come along that surprises me, it has to be pretty major. The last time it happened was earlier this year when the VA released a list of conditions they believed to be associated with water contamination at Camp Lejeune. It was so shocking that many of us in the office just stood around discussing how the eventual presumptive list would help so many Vets. The latest news that blew my mind was found in an NBC news article. While the article was about politics and a bunch of other things I don’t care to discuss in my blog, they asked the answered the following question: Which disability ranks highest amongst Veterans receiving disability benefits? The answer isn’t what I expected.

The first thing that came to mind was PTSD. This seemed like a pretty logical answer. PTSD was the subject of the article and it’s something I encounter often. In fact, most of the blogs I write are about PTSD. However, PTSD was not first on the list. It also wasn’t number two military-662863_1920on the list. It was number three. Currently, there are 813,277 Veterans receiving benefits for PTSD. Trust me; there are a lot more who have PTSD claims pending. Regardless, this was a surprise to me. Not only was it surprising because it was not number one, but also because 800,000 seems like such a low number. Not only was it low in my mind, there are nearly half as many PTSD recipients as the condition what was number one on the list.

So if PTSD wasn’t number one, then something else major had to be first. My first thought turned to physical conditions. A lot of Veterans have issues with their feet. Everyone in the military is on their feet a lot and they have to wear boots that aren’t exactly comfortable. Add to that all of the marching, the harsh terrain, and for the brave souls who jump out of planes, the consistent harsh impacts, and it would make sense that the conditions involving the foot would be number one. Conditions involving the foot were not even the top 10. By this time I started wondering if I even knew what I was talking about half the time. Was this blog just full of lies?

By this time panic was starting to set in. What could be number one? Was it a back condition? Nope, they were at number 10! And actually, that was just arthritis of the spine, which is not the kind of back condition I am used to seeing. I started frantically guessing.

Shoulders?  Nope, not even close.

Diabetes? Not quite, this condition is at number nine.

Knees? Surely knees are at number 1. They have to be. It’s a major joint. No, knees are not number one. They’re not even in the top 5.

Heart? No.

Lungs? Nope!

Legs? Nope, this is embarrassing.

Time to start swinging for the fences. This is my only shot now.black and white twitter

Bilateral Fingers? Come on Jon, you know better.

Nose?

Vampiris?

MacGregor’s Syndrome?

Bieber Fever?

No matter how hard I tried, the number one condition would not come to mind. I finally gave up and just looked at the condition. It was Tinnitus. I was disappointed by this result. It actually made me a little sad that so many Veterans have this condition. To understand why you have to know more about Tinnitus.

Before I worked in VA disability compensation, I had no idea what Tinnitus was, or how it affected people. Within the first week of working for a law firm that helps Veterans, I knew exactly what Tinnitus was and why it was such an issue. For those of you who don’t know, Tinnitus is a ringing or buzzing in the ears. No, this isn’t an especially painful condition, and it’s not going to keep you from doing most things, but Tinnitus, in its smallest form is a mild buzzing or ringing. It might just be noticeable when it’s quiet. However, in severe cases, it can be so bad that it nearly drives a Veteran insane.

photos 4 054There is a good chance that, even if you’re not a Vet, you’ve experienced Tinnitus. For a lot of us, it’s not a permanent condition. If you’re near and explosion or at a loud concert, you may experience some ringing for a short time after. Those who serve in the military are exposed to loud noises every day. Some detractors might say that it’s a bit of an exaggeration because most people who serve aren’t around explosions every day. That is true, but it’s not just explosions that cause the issue. If you worked as a mechanic, you were around a lot of equipment, which produces a lot of noise. This is also true for Vets who worked as heavy equipment operators. If you were a pilot of planes or helicopters, worked on the flight crew, or really worked anywhere near an aircraft, then you were around constant noise. This is also true for individuals who worked in the kitchen, with any type of radio equipment, or even had a role in the marching band. Don’t forget every Veteran, regardless of MOS, had to learn had to shoot a weapon. This involves countless hours on a firing range. It’s no wonder so many Veterans have Tinnitus.

One of the worst aspects of Tinnitus is that can last forever. There isn’t a lot anyone can do if the condition is permanent. To an individual who hasn’t been diagnosed with this condition, it may not seem like a big deal. It’s just a ringing or buzzing in the ears, right? Well yes, it is, and most people who have Tinnitus are able to function like everyone else. However, Tinnitus is worst when there is no noise. If you have Tinnitus, and you are in a silent room, the ringing can be deafening. Often, the Veterans I talk to have trouble sleeping because the Tinnitus is so bad. I always suggest using a fan or white noise app to drown out the ringing. This can help, but it’s no sure.

Tinnitus, no matter how severe it is, is normally only rated at 10%. I’ve personally never seen it higher, and this is the assigned rating per the CFR. It’s important to note that Tinnitus is not the same as Meniere’s disease. Some of the symptoms of Tinnitus can mimic the symptoms of Meniere’s disease, but Tinnitus is not as severe. Further, Tinnitus is a symptom of Meniere’s disease, but it also includes vertigo, hearing loss, and sometimes pressure in the ear. Meniere’s disease can often be rated higher than Tinnitus.

Tinnitus may not be the most physically painful, and it’s not as severe as PTSD, but it definitely impacts a Veteran’s quality of life.  That’s why we encourage Veterans to pursue it if they have the symptoms. It’s also important to note that though Tinnitus is claimed the most; a lot of Veterans claim multiple disabilities in addition to Tinnitus.

If need a hand with your claim, give us a call for a free consultation. Our toll-free number is 1-877-526-3457. If you don’t have time to talk now, fill out this form so that we may call you at a better time.

Share Button

Does the Way a Veteran Look Impact Their PTSD Claim

I know, it’s absurd to think that the way a Veteran looks could impact his or her VA Disability claim. Before I worked for a law firm I would have laughed it off blog-photos-045and said that it could never happen. I mean it’s a claim for disability, not a beauty contest. It turns out that I was wrong. So, I want to tell you about the time I learned how a Veteran’s appearance could impact their claim. However, before we get there, we have to learn a little about how PTSD is diagnosed, and how the VA rates this condition.

PTSD is a big issue facing a lot of Veterans. As you may be aware there are different ratings for PTSD according to the VA. PTSD is rated from 0% to 100% through the VA. In other words, it’s not something you simply have or don’t. With this knowledge, we can assume that a Veteran who is rated at 0% has a very mild case of PTSD and a Veteran rated at 100% has a very severe condition. The ratings in-between are where there are some issues.

So, the problem lies in several areas. One of the main problems is that PTSD does not have 10% increments. Actually, the ratings for PTSD are 0, 10, 30, 50, 70, and 100. The lower ratings don’t prove to be much of an issue, but the higher ratings are. The gap from 50 to 70, and then the gap from 70 to 100 leave huge holes in the process.

Here are the rating criteria for a Veteran who is 70% for PTSD. I apologize, but this is a bit of a read.

Occupational and social impairment, with deficiencies in most areas, such as work, school, family relations, judgment, thinking, or mood, due to such symptoms as: suicidal ideation; obsessional rituals which interfere with routine activities; speech intermittently illogical, obscure, or irrelevant; near-continuous panic or depression affecting the ability to function independently, appropriately and effectively; impaired impulse control (such as unprovoked irritability with periods of violence); spatial disorientation; neglect of personal appearance and hygiene; difficulty in adapting to stressful circumstances (including work or a worklike setting); inability to establish and maintain effective relationships

Vet week Blog FeaturedOk, now that you have an idea of how the VA rates PTSD at 70%, I’d like to share with you a story about a client of mine. Now, to protect his identity I won’t be sharing his name, his branch, or much about his personal case, or even where he is from. This client had at least three tours in combat, he was in infantry and he was clearly not the same person he was when he left to join the military. His case for PTSD was strong. He had a diagnosis, he had regular treatment, and he had almost everything listed above. He had severe panic attacks on a regular basis; he couldn’t keep a job and was not able to go to school. He was extremely irritable and he would have emotional outbursts on the phone with us often. His PTSD should have been rated at the 70% rating easily. However, there was an issue with his appearance.

So, what was the issue? If this Veteran had all of the issues listed above, why was he turned down? Well, this young man was cursed with being very attractive. Now, before you start to write hate comments, please note that his appearance was noted as being one of the reasons why he was denied. I reviewed his medical records, and two different medical professionals noted his appearance as one of the reasons they thought he was malingering. In other words, because he was visually appealing, he was faking his condition. This is not just my opinion. So, he was a good-looking young man, who, even if he let himself go, would look better than me on my best day. Also, most people would agree that he was above average in attractiveness. I am not trying to say that he was movie star attractive, though. On a grid from Maggie Gyllenhaal to Jake Gyllenhaal, he was somewhere in the middle. Kidding aside, this Vet also kept up his appearance. Which, let’s face it, for most men, it’s not that hard to do. He kept his hair short, he shaved regularly, and he always wore clean clothes when he went in for his appointments, and he bathed regularly. This client also had a spouse who would make sure that he kept his appearance neat. So, in the mind of the VA, or more specifically, this medical professional, this client was not suffering the effects of PTSD at the 70% rating, partially because of the way he looked. That is absurd.

I know this may be hard to believe, but hot people get sad too. Trust me; there is nothing more heartbreaking then sad Jennifer Lawrence in the film Silver j-law-slpLinings Playbook. I once saw Amy Schumer cry, and I couldn’t leave my bed for three days. As a society, we often think that just because someone looks nice, they couldn’t be sad. Or in this case, this Veteran has a nice shirt and a pretty smile, so there’s no way he could have PTSD. In all honesty, his PTSD was among the worst of any Veteran I’ve talked to in my six years with the firm.

This problem reflects a bigger issue with the way many people view Veterans with PTSD. I believe many people think someone who suffers from PTSD has to be strung out on drugs, homeless, totally unkempt, unable to work, and overall, non-functioning.  That is simply not true. PTSD takes on many forms. I’ve met a lot of Vets who are incredibly functional. They would remind you of everyone else you encounter when they are in public, but at night, they have night terrors or drink themselves to sleep. PTSD is not a black and white issue.

mean-girl-1Luckily we were able to get this Veteran a second opinion and he did get to the 70% rating. I said that this Veteran was cursed with being attractive, but he was actually cursed with some bad medical opinions. I’m not a psychologist, but I studied some psychology in undergrad. Even I could tell this Veteran wasn’t faking his conditions and should have been rated at the 70% level for PTSD. Please note that not all examiners are as obtuse as the individuals this Veteran had to deal with at the VA. In fact, I can’t think of many other cases I’ve seen in which a Veteran was denied based on their appearance. But, the fact that it occurred even once is tough to take.

One last thing. Letting your appearance go will not help you get approved quickly either. Though the CFR notes that lack of oral hygiene and physical appearance are contributing factors for the rating code, letting your appearance slip does not guarantee that you will get approved. I’ve seen a lot of Veterans who have let their hygiene go have the same difficulty as the Veteran in this blog.  VA Disability as a whole, but especially PTSD claims, is nuanced. Claims can get complicated and each one has to be approached differently.

If you’re not happy with your rating decision, call us. We’d love to talk to you about your case and even give you a free consultation. Our toll-free number is 1-877-526-3457. If you can’t chat now, fill out this form so that we can call you at a better time.

Share Button