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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.

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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.

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Better Call Jan: 10 Things Veterans Need to Know About Hiring a VA Disability Attorney

When most people think of lawyers images of Matlock, Elle Woods, or even that fella from TMZ come to mind. When you are in search of an attorney to handle your VA disability claim, who are you elle woodsgoing to hire? Where do you start? Are all attorneys the same? Should I just go with a VSO? Most Veterans are faced with these questions when they first consider pursuing a disability claim. Unfortunately, there aren’t many guides out there for selecting an attorney and there are surprisingly few good options. So, what is a Veteran to do? I’ve compiled this list of 10 tips all Veterans need to know when searching for a VA disability attorney.

Before we get into the tips, you are probably wondering; do you even need an attorney? Well, as an employee of a law firm you may think that I am biased, and truth be told, I am. But I am also a man of reason, and love logic. Consider this thought though. If you’re a Vet there is a good chance you’ve been dealing with the Government for years. As you are already aware, the only thing that government organizations hate more than efficiency is simplicity. VA cases are extremely complicated. Even filling out the initial application can make a strong man weak. If you call the VA for help, you are probably going to be put on hold long enough to watch a Christopher Nolan film. So, an attorney can be a great guide through the complicated process. It’s also safe to assume that anyone who has a vested interest in your case will work harder to get you the benefits you deserve. So, and Attorney is much better than fighting alone. Here are the things you need to know before you search for the person to represent you.

  1. 089This isn’t like most other types of law. VA disability is a lot like Lady Gaga, complicated. The closest thing it resembles is Social Security Disability, and those two are as different as the Marines and the Air Force. In VA Disability, you are not suing anyone, you are not going to bring in surprise witnesses, and you’re not going to be seen in front of a jury. The reason why there aren’t hit shows on TV about VA Disability law firms is that it’s actually quite boring…and of course complicated. There is a lot filing, gathering evidence and waiting. While it can be quite frustrating for Veterans, keep in mind that you’re not in trouble for anything and it will seem completely different once you’ve started the process.
  2. An Attorney, a VSO, and even Captain America can’t speed up your claim. Some people may make promises that they can speed your claim up, but they are wrong. There are only two ways to speed up a VA disability claim. One would be if you’re terminally ill, and the other would be if you’re facing an economic hardship. If I’m honest, the latter does not happen very often. Further, no matter what you may hear from certain organizations, it’s still a very long wait.
  3. Most Veterans haven’t hired an attorney before. A lot of the Veterans we talk to now are quite young. In fact, recently I talked to a fella who was born in 1995. That’s the same year that Toy Story came out. So they’re not likely to have a lot of experience dealing with the legal process. Granted, you don’t have to be a millennial to be unfamiliar with lawyers. The biggest thing we see from this fact is a lot of Veterans, regardless of age, have communication apprehension when dealing with a law firm. It’s kind of like when you have to the doctor. We are aware of this and we work hard to make our firm very approachable. We let you get to know us online, we have friendly case managers to answer your questions, we give books out that explain the process, and our firm even has a really cool employee who writes amazing blogs on practically every VA subject.
  4. What’s it going to cost? Attorney fees can be scary, especially if you consider how much a criminal defense attorney charges, or how much it can cost to get a divorce. Once again though, VA Disability attorneys are different. Most of them work on a contingency fee, meaning that you don’t pay any cost up front, and only pay a percentage of your back pay if you are approved. It is important to question an attorney about any additional fees besides the back pay. A lot of Veterans come to us from other law firms. We have seen a wide variety of additional fees from other law firms. This includes travel expenses, postage, and even the cost of the food they ate when they went to a hearing. Our firm does not charge those types of fees, but others do. The only thing we charge in addition to your attorney fees are costs associated with charges for medical records or Independent medical exams. Essentially it’s a reimbursement. Regardless of who you go with, make sure you are aware of all of their fees.
  5. A lot of the information about your case comes from one big file. From the time you join the military, and until many years after you pass away, there are paper files about you from the military and the VA. This includes entrance exams, admin records, VA health records, disability filings, and much, much more about you in this file. It’s commonly referred to as a Claim File. A claim file, or c-file as it is commonly known, is one of the most important aspects of your case. This will tell us a majority of the information we need to know about your claim. We can see if you were physically injured in service, if you had any behavioral issues, and even if you served in combat.
  6. You may have to go to a hearing or two. But don’t worry, they are very informal. If your claim is denied you may have to go to a hearing down the road. There are actually three separate types of hearings in a VA disability claim. These include a Decision Review Officer Hearing, a Board of Veterans appeals hearing, and finally, the rarest of them all, the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims. These are also often called DRO, BVA, and CAVC.
    1. A DRO hearing is the most informal of all of the hearings, and it comes first. Essentially in this hearing your attorney will represent you in front of a Decision Review Officer. That is it. There is no jury, no judge, and no objections. They are very relaxed.
    2. The second hearing is the BVA Hearing. It is more formal and traditionally follows a denial by a DRO. The BVA is a traveling board who call Washington D.C. home. However these hearings can be done in person in Washington, but most elect not to travel. In some circumstances, a BVA hearing is completed via video. The end result of a BVA hearing will come in one of the following ways: An approval, which is good, a denial which is bad, or a remand, which is somewhere, in the middle. Remands go back to the Regional Office for further evaluation.
    3. If you are denied at the BVA, your last hope is CAVC. (Sometimes we call it COVA for reasons that are not imperative to this blog.) The hearing you have at the CAVC is the most formal and few Vets actually go that far. Fun Fact, VAVC is not a part of the Department of Veterans Affairs. According to the CAVC website, The Court’s review of Board decisions is based on the record before the agency and arguments of the parties, which are presented in a written brief, with oral argument generally held only in cases presenting new legal issues. In other words, something has to be really wrong with your claim to get that far. It’s rare for our firm to take a case to CAVC because we are very thorough with our reviews.
  7. You’re going to get frustrated, and probably more than once. The biggest thing most Veterans aren’t aware of prior to pursuing a VA disability claim is how mentally taxing they can be. Marge hairFrustration is inevitable with a VA disability claim. The frustration comes in many different forms too. Sometimes it will be a result of the VA denying you on a claim in which it’s obvious you should be connected, and other times it’s simply frustration at the timeline. You will be evaluated by the VA for your claims multiple times too. Many Veterans have told me horror stories about evaluations with VA doctors that last fewer than three minutes. That’s barely the length of a good Guns and Roses song.
  8. You have to get treatment. I hate going to the doctor. I hate taking medication. I hate sitting in waiting rooms for 20 minutes just to talk to a doctor for 5 minutes. But, in order to stay healthy, a visit to the doctor every few months is imperative. The same can be said for VA disability compensation too. Except it’s even more important with the VA. The VA uses medical records to determine the severity of your case. Often the VA will rate you lower than you should be for a condition. Our firm can use your medical records to argue against the VA.
  9. You can’t take no for an answer. Yes, you will get mad at some point when dealing with the VA, but you can’t give up. We’ve established that it’s a long wait, and that it’s frustrated, but too many Veterans give up because the system failed them. Our firm won’t let you give up either. I’ve seen approvals for Veterans who had to wait more than ten years for an approval and they were mighty happy when they were approved. I’ve also seen our Lead VA Attorney Heather Vanhoose mount a huge argument against the VA when they tried to say one of clients was malingering with his PTSD claim. It took a while, but that client is now receiving benefits at 100%. You will want to give up, but that isn’t in the vocabulary of most Marines, Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, or Coast Guardsmen.
  10. Maggie and Jake are both actors, but one is better than the other. Comment below if you know who I am talking about. In other words, lots of law firms handle VA disability claims, but they areinternet not equal. Some are better than others. Do your research. The best way to determine if a law firm is good at what they do is via their online presence. Do they have a lot of real google reviews? Are there any client testimonials? Do they offer information to the public free of charge? Are they involved in their community? These are just some ways to determine if the attorney you’re pursuing is any good at what they do. Never hesitate to ask around too.

By now you should have some understanding of what it’s like to hire an attorney for a VA disability claim. However, if you need more information, just give us a call. We’ll be happy to answer your questions. If we can’t help you we’ll even tell you where to go to get the help you need. Fill out this form for a free consultation, or give me a call today. 1-877-526-3457.

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Get to know the face of our blog

One of our goals in 2016 was to do a “makeover” to our online presence for our VA disability outlets. This includes this blog, and our main website, fight4vets.com. One of the crucial aspects of this Jason Watkins 018redesign involved having more of a military presence. This meant we needed imagery of a person in uniform. Most places will simply go to a stock photography website, purchase some generic pics of a person in uniform, and blend into the background like so many other websites. We didn’t create one of the best VA disability blogs just to look like everyone else. In fact, it is extremely rare that we use any stock photography in any post. It’s not authentic, and it takes away from the story we are trying to tell. In the past our firm’s IT Specialist stepped up to help us out. Alex is a former Marine who loves to get his picture taken. He’s always done a great job for us, but Alex recently started an intensive workout routine that made him much healthier, but unfortunately for us, meant he couldn’t fit in his uniform now. We have another Veteran on staff, John Hicks, who served in the Army recently. However, he recently moved from his home state of Mississippi, and left his uniforms with his mother for safe keeping. So, my favorite Marine and Soldier were both unavailable…I had to turn to the Air Force.

Jason Watkins 056Luckily, many of our employees are passionate about the military, and several team members married people who are serving in the military. The first person who came to mind was one of our social security staff members, Tricia Watkins. I remembered from one of our Veterans Day tributes that she had mentioned her husband was in the Air Force, and still serving. I approached her and had her ask her husband to participate. He said yes, and now he’s all over our website, blog and miscellaneous promotions. I am not quite sure he knew what he was getting himself into when he agreed to be my “model,” but I am glad he did.

I wanted to take an opportunity to give you some information about the person most of you will see when you read one of our blog posts. First of all, his name is Jason Watkins, and he is a member of the Air Force Reserves. Jason and Tricia recently transferred from Parkersburg, WV to Charlotte, NC. I asked Tricia to tell me a little about Jason for our blog. She first stated that he was originally from Marietta, Ohio. Honestly, if I would have known that beforehand, I would have found someone else. I am of course kidding, but the West Virginia/Ohio rivalry is well established, and I couldn’t resist a jab at a “Buckeye.” Tricia also told me that Jason is 29 years old and has an associate’s degree in business administration.  He hopes to return to school to get his bachelor’s degree once things settle down. Together Jason and Tricia have two sons, Kaleb who is 4 and Ian who is 2. Tricia stated that they are actually approaching their 6 year wedding anniversary in October.

I asked what Jason likes to do on his spare time, and what I found almost made me hire another person to the face of our VA business. She said that he is a Cleveland Browns fan. That was incrediblyJason Watkins 092 disappointing. As a Texans fan, I could not believe I had photographed a Browns fan for my blog. Jason is lucky that he is photogenic and everything had already been published. (Always do your research.) Once again, I am kidding. I care more about the uniform he wears then the one he is a fan of. Jason also enjoys fishing and spending time with his family.

When it comes to his military service, Jason joined the Air Force to not only serve our country but to get the training and experience he needs for his military job as a fire fighter. Jason would love to be a civilian fire fighter too.

Using a real Veteran or active duty service member brings some authenticity to our blog. This log is successful because we tell stories, real stories, about VA disability. It just makes the most sense to me to have a real Veteran, in this case, an Airman, be the face of the blog.

Since our photo shoot last October, Jason’s image has been use in a bunch of posters and Facebook ads to promote our Veterans Week, he is on the homepage of our blog and fight4vets.com, and he’s even the current header on our Twitter page. I doubt if Jason thought about being a model when he joined the Air Force, but now he has an interesting story to tell his friends.

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Smoke and Mirrors; How the VA is Spinning the Backlog

As I get older I’ve noticed that I’m becoming more aware of the way people and organizations try to spin things. Perhaps I’m just becoming more jaded as I approach the third year of my “flirty thirties.” For instance, when I am at a hockey game and they show some fella propose to his girlfriend on the jumbo Tron, I immediately boo them. I mean, that’s not romantic, that’s just a ploy to get attention. This is especially true because I am a Columbus Blue Jackets fan. They’ve only made the playoffs twice. Do you really want to tell your kids that their father asked you to marry him at the arena of the worst hockey team ever in the NHL?

There is a lot of smoke and mirrors out there in the world today. This is especially true when it comes to the VA Disability Backlog. 2016 will mark my fifth year working with VA disability. Claims have been backlogged since I started in 2011. So, the news reports state that backlog is dwindling, but what does that really mean?

Lohan smokingTo better understand this, let’s first examine what a backlogged claim really is in the mind of the VA. They consider a claim backlogged if it is waiting for more than 125 days for a decision.  That is the equivalent to four months or so. Here in the real world I know that it really still takes about 8-12 months to get a decision, appeal, or really any other type of decision, back from the VA. Here is where the smoke and mirrors come into play. And trust me, the VA has more smoke and mirrors than Lindsay Lohan’s apartment after her father has upset her again.

So, these backlog numbers you hear about going down on the news are quite deceptive. Did you know that this number only pertains to new applications, not the claims that are on appeal? So, what the VA is saying is that they use to have over 600,000 claims backlogged and now that number is 73,000. It’s a miracle and the VA has done such a great job. But have they? First of all, 73,000 Veterans who have not received an initial decision yet is still pretty bad. Let’s put that in perspective. In West WVUVirginia, most of us are fans of the West Virginia University Mountaineers. This excludes people in Huntington who went to Marshall or the few individuals who think Matthew McConaughey is a good actor. The Mountaineers play football at Milan Puskar Stadium. This stadium seats 60,000 people. That is quite a lot of individuals. However, you could not seat every Veteran who has a new claim for benefits backlogged in that stadium.

The VA magic show continues because they just make a decision on these claims. They aren’t necessarily approving benefits. They can deny a Veteran service connection on the initial application and that claim then goes away from their queue. So, they can say that the backlog is being decreased, but it does not mean Veterans are getting their benefits.

Here is a staggering fact…there are currently 425,480 VA disability claims on appeal.  That’s like 6 mediocre football team stadiums.  So, if there are 425,000 claims on appeal, and 73,000 backlogged at the initial level, doesn’t that mean that nearly 500,000 claims are pending? Well, the VA won’t advertise that. It’s much more sensational to say that most of the backlogged claims are gone.

blog photos 046Here is the truth about why we aren’t fans of this spin. We represent Veterans for their disability cases. A lot of people see these news stories about the backlog being diminished, and they get upset that their claim is still pending. They assume something is wrong, or that the person representing them is purposely dragging their case out. This is simply not the truth. But, because the VA came under more fire then General Motors in the past few years, they are doing a lot to make themselves look good. Most Veterans simply aren’t aware that these reduced backlog numbers only apply to new applicants.

My message for Veterans is simple. There is a pretty good chance that your claim is still going to take a long time. If you are about to face discharge, try to take part in a program called Benefits Delivery at Discharge. It’s a program that allows individuals approaching discharge to get a decision back quickly. You can read more about that here. If you have been discharged already, apply for all of your claims at once, submit evidence early, and be sure to get regular treatment. Of course, it never hurts to hire an attorney. Despite what some people may want you to believe, we actually want to get your claim approved as quickly as possible. While an attorney can’t speed up your case, there is a lot they can do to help you get approved. I’d be happy to tell you all about it too. Just give me a call for a free consultation. You can reach me toll free here: 1-877-526-3457. Or, fill out this form so I can call you later.

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Exciting Events Coming to Parkersburg Veterans Week 2015

As many of you know from reading my blog over the years, I look forward to Veterans Day every year. I truly enjoy working with Vets and Veterans Day is the one time of year that I really get to give Jason Watkins 086a little back to the individuals I hold in such high regard. In previous years, I’ve organized a cookout with my coworkers at Jan Dils, Attorneys at Law. However, after several brisk November afternoons in which food quickly turned cold and many decided to stay away because winter was coming, we decided not to do the cookout this year. While I’d normally be sad that something I enjoyed so much has been canceled, I’m actually much more excited about what we have planned for Veterans this year. The excitement level goes to 11 this year.

What started with a quick conversation with my coworker Lauren Ward, quickly turned into a movement. We suddenly weren’t celebrating Veterans Day; we were instead Celebrating Veterans Week! Instead of just one day of events we’re participating or hosting five events next week. I am psyched. Here is what we have in store:

Monday November 9th: Veterans Resource Fair. We are cohosting a Veterans Resource Fair with our friends from The Veterans Corps at West Virginia University at Parkersburg. You may recall that this group was the recipient of funding raised by the 2014 Walk4Vets. Our relationship continues and we are excited about cohosting this event. Veterans will be able to speak with local representatives from several organizations. There will also be employers in attendance seeking to hire new individuals. Further, several stylists will be on hand to offer Free Haircuts to Veterans in attendance. This event is Free and open to the public. It starts at 5:00 p.m. at the Multi-Purpose Room at WVU-P and will last until 8:00 p.m.

JasonWatkins061 editTuesday November 10th: Veterans and Vinyasa. Honestly, this whole week started because of yoga. You’ve likely read my blog about how yoga can help Veterans with PTSD. We’ve found that more and more Veterans are starting to use yoga in their daily lives to alleviate the symptoms of PTSD. This year, we have partnered with our friends at West Virginia University at Parkersburg to offer a class, free to the public, which explains and demonstrates yoga, especially breathing exercises. This event will be taught by Pam Santer at WVU-P. Veterans may also take advantage of free yoga classes on Veterans Day at the Full Circle Yoga studio in Vienna, WV. We appreciate the joint effort between Full Circle Yoga, WVU-P, and Pam Santer to make this event possible.

Wednesday November 11th: Veterans Day Parade. We will be participating in the annual Parkersburg Veterans Day Parade. Look for us in a classic red Cadillac. We will be handing out lots of great stuff during the parade and we will have lots of fun. We intentionally decided to leave the rest of the day open. So many organizations offer free meals and services to Veterans on Veterans Day only that we decided to just do the parade on the 11th. That being said, the parade is going to be a bunch of fun! We are also proud that our good friend Shawn Healy will be the Master of Ceremonies during the parade. We know he’ll do a great job.

Thursday November 12th: PTSD Awareness Night. This may be my personal favorite for the week. PTSD impacts so many Veterans who don’t even know it’s an issue. So, on Thursday, we are JasonWatkins PTSD Awareness Nightscreening the film “That Which I Love Destroys Me.” This documentary chronicles the struggles of several combat Veterans as they transition from military life to the civilian world. After the film we have an expert PTSD panel who will answer any questions our audience has about PTSD. Our expert panel includes VA Disability Attorney, Heather Vanhoose, and Army Veteran/cofounder of the Steel City Vets, Ben Keen.  More panelists will be announced at a later date. Due to the serious nature of this film and the subject matter, we recommend this event only for individuals 18 years of age and older. We are also pleased to announce that our friends at The Coffee Bar have agreed to host this event. It’s a great relaxing setting that will make conversation an ease.  This event is free and open to the public.

Friday November 13th: Free Spaghetti Dinner for Veterans. We will conclude Veterans Week 2015 with a Free Spaghetti Dinner for Veterans at the Knights of Columbus on Market Street in Parkersburg. This event is Free for All Veterans. Non-Veterans are welcome to attend too. Ticket prices for non-Veterans are as follows: $5 in advance, $6 at the door. Children 5-12 are $4 in advance, $5 at the door. Children under 5 eat free when accompanied by an adult. Tickets can be purchased in advance at our office on Market Street, or at the Veterans Resource Center at WVU-P. The dinner will start at 5:00 p.m. and last until 8:00 p.m.

In addition to all of these events, we will be selling T-shirts and hats with the Veterans Week Logo on them. The Shirts are $15.00 each and the hats are $20.00 each. Proceeds from the dinner and apparel will benefit the Walk4Vets Foundation. The Walk4Vets foundation was started in 2011 by Jan Dils and her husband Chuck Hughes. The mission of the foundation is to support charities that benefit Veterans in the Mid-Ohio Valley. This year, we will donate the proceeds from Veterans Week to our local chapter of the Marine Corps League, and their Toys for the Needy Program.

For more information about Veterans week, click here. You can also stay up to date on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Just follow the hashtag #PKBVetsWeek.

Special Thanks to our event partners: Full Circle Yoga, Downtown PKB, The Veterans Corps at WVU-P, The Coffee Bar, Clutch MOV, and the Knights of Columbus.

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New VA App Helps With Disability Questions

I purchased my current car a few years ago. It was preowned and it relatively good shape. However, there was one issue that kept it from passing inspection; the hazard lights. I knew I had to get this Jason Watkins 086fixed for the inspection, but I was able to wait because it was not due for nearly a year. I put it off for a long time because I was afraid of replacing it. I know a lot about cars, but I know nothing about repairing them. I did not have anyone to ask, and panic started setting near the time my inspection was due. I purchased a really expensive switch, tore off the dash of my car as if I were Thor, the God of Thunder, and quickly realized that I made a huge fuss out of something very simple. Simply, the switch that connects the wires to the lights had somehow separated. All I had to do was plug it back in. The entire task only took a few minutes. Months of panic could have been avoided if I could have asked somebody about my situation.

I know I am not alone in putting things off when I don’t know the answers. From my past 5 years of experience working with VA Disability claims, I know many Veterans do the same thing when it comes to their claims. Let’s be honest, VA Disability is one of the most complicated and frustrating processes VA Appout there. I’ve been working with it for nearly a decade and I still don’t fully understand how everything works. As many Veterans already know, if you search for answers you won’t find many. The internet is full of opinion, not fact about the process, and if you call the VA directly, you will likely put on hold for as long as 3 screenings of the film “Inception.” In other words, if you have questions, you are out of luck.

What if this isn’t how things worked? What if you had questions about your VA disability claim and you could get answers in a matter of moments? What if it were in the palm of your hand? What if it we lived in 2015 and the technology to do this had been around for years? Well, the present is now, and this does not have to be a bunch of “what if’s.”

Recently the VA launched a new app that is designed to answer questions for VA Disability claims. Called 311Vet, it’s meant to ease frustration and get Veterans answers to the questions they have about their claims. Simply type in your question and you will have an answer in moments. (More about that later.) The VA has this set up to provide quick answers by way of a database. So, if you ask a common question, your response should be immediate. However, if you something more complicated or a question that hasn’t been answered before, your inquiry will be reviewed by an individual and the will get back to you “quickly.”

photos 4 049Please note that this app is only for VA Disability claims, and they can’t answer questions about a specific claim. For instance, you can’t ask: “How much back pay will I receive?” or “When is my next appointment.”

So, here is the question of the hour…how does it work? While I am not trying to be counterproductive, I must admit that I am not a fan of this app. Granted, I am not a Veteran, and I have some experience working with VA disability. Not to mention I have an awesome VA Disability Blog. Overall I found it to be a tad on the basic side. The first question I asked was “How long does a VA Disability claim take?” The response time was about 45 minutes and they gave me a very generic response that was way too vague to be helpful. (The real answer is that most VA Disability claims last 2-4 years on average. The second question was more successful. I asked: “What is the highest rating a Veteran can receive for PTSD?” This response only took a few minutes. While they did say that 100% was the highest one could receive for PTSD, the answer was convoluted and they pretty much quoted the CFR. (The CFR is the rating code book for VA disability code.)  If you weren’t an individual with a background in VA Disability you wouldn’t likely fully understand their response. One of the reasons my blog is so successful is that I know how to communicate with real people, not just other people who work in VA disability. No one cares if you can look something up in a book, and then copy and paste it in an app.

Don’t get me wrong, I think the fact that the VA is willing to put an app like this out there is great. Plus, it will take some time to work this app out. It’s only been around for about a month, so I need to give it more time. My best advice to Veterans reading this is to try it out on your own. It’s free and available for both Apple and Android devices. It’s free too. If you don’t have a smart phone, or if use something like a Blackberry, you can simply test your questions to 311838 and get the same response.

If you want real answers to your questions, or would like to talk with me about becoming a client, give me a call today for a free consultation. 1-877-526-3457. If you can talk now, use our chat, or fill out this form so we can contact you at a later time.

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Nexus Letters and Your VA Disability Claim

If you’re filing a VA Disability claim, there are few things that you must have in order to get service connected for a disability. One of the most important aspects of qualifying for VA disability is that you must have served in the military. I often use humor in my blogs, but I’ve seriously had people ask me if they can qualify for VA disability if they never served. The answer is no. If you did serve, you will need a proper discharge, and of course, medical treatment. Anyone who has even glanced at this blog before will tell you that medical treatment is one of the most important parts of a VA disability claim. Today though, we are going to discuss one specific aspect of medical treatment; the nexus letter.

A few things come to mind when I hear the term “nexus letter.” First of all, it sounds a lot fancier than it actually is, and two, how I have I possibly waited this long to write about nexus letters? Though I may act like photos 4 054it often, I am not perfect, so it’s possible for me to forget to write about a topic for several years. But also, I don’t deal with nexus letters frequently because I mostly interact with Veterans when they are in the beginning stages of their claims. Nexus letters usually come in later in the process.

So, the first question one might be led to ask is “What is a nexus letter?” It is simply a written statement from a medical professional that states that your current medical condition is a result of your time in service. In other words, the medical professional is arguing that, based on their medical opinion, your current injury is impacting your life because of the time you spent in service.

Before I mentioned that I don’t often encounter Veterans with nexus letters because I interact with Veterans who are new to process or new to our firm. That does not mean that you can’t submit a nexus letter early on. In fact, some would argue that submitting a nexus letter early in the process is a positive. This is especially true for Veterans who have limited medical treatment to back up his or her claim. For example, we interact with Veterans who were Airborne Rangers quite often. All Vets are tough, but these individuals are the toughest of the tough. They will often avoid medical treatment because of their training. (Granted, that is true of most Veterans I meet.) So, they aren’t likely to have a long history of medical evidence. However, if an individual has issues with their knees, back and feet, it would be easy for a doctor to write a nexus letter for them if they had a lot of jumps in service. Personally, the only time I’ve ever jumped out of a plane is when it taxied at DFW and we had been delayed for five hours. Even then it was more like a leap onto the terminal. Many Veterans have described the impact jumps have on them in service, and it is surprising anyone would do it more than once. If you had 30 jumps in service, then discharged and started working at a desk job, it would be difficult for a doctor to argue that your joint issues didn’t come from service. This is of course assuming you did not have a car wreck after service or took up kickboxing as a hobby.

Nexus letters are also important if you are denied because of the result of a C&P exam. I always try to be upfront with my readers, and I also try not to bash the VA in my blogs. The latter is becoming increasingly difficult. However, while many C&P examiners are well qualified individuals who are dedicated to their field, we often see reports that don’t support a Veteran’s claim. Let’s just say that if C&P reports were compared to mobile phones, they wouldn’t be iPhones, or Android devices, they’d likely be Blackberry phones instead. A nexus letter can go a long way to negate what a C&P examiner states in their report. Think of it as second opinion in this case.

grey's giphyI don’t personally know any doctors. In fact, most of my knowledge of them is a result of watching Grey’s Anatomy or my time with the firm. This has led me to two conclusions: doctors will disobey the Hippocratic Oath to prove their love, and they are often hesitant to write that one thing is a direct result of another. Seriously though, you might have a difficult time finding a medical professional that will state that your medical condition is a result of your time in service. This is especially true if you have not treated with them for a while. If this is the case, you might see language like: “your injury is at least as likely as not” a result of your time in service. In circumstances like this, it’s important to consult with an attorney or service officer to determine your best course of action.

While a good nexus letter can help your case, it’s no guarantee of approval. That is why I stress medical treatment as a whole for your VA disability case. Going to the gym once isn’t going to make me look like Jake Gyllenhaal, and seeing a doctor once won’t likely make a strong argument for a VA disability.

If you liked what I had to say today, feel free to give me a call to discuss your case. Our toll free number is 1-877-526-3457. If you’re not free to talk now, fill out this form to schedule an appointment at a later time.

 

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Answers to the most common questions Veterans have about VA Disability

It’s no secret that our firm helps a lot of Veterans. Since 2008 we have helped thousands of Vets get the benefits they deserve. In that time we have gained a lot of knowledge about the process and veterans-service-connect-knee-instabilitywe’ve noticed a few trends along the way. Since we’ve worked with so many Vets, we have compiled a list of the most common questions new clients ask when they call. Use this blog as a guide. Veterans new to the VA Disability process should find it very helpful.

  • How long will the process take? Practically every Vet will ask this when they call our office for the first time. Sadly, the answer really has not changed in my time with the firm. It takes anywhere from 2-4 years for most Veterans to be completely satisfied. That is absurd. If I had a child the first day you came to me for help, it would be old enough to resent me by the time your claim was completely over. Now, if someone tells you they can you get connected quicker, they are a liar and really shouldn’t be trusted. Why? The reason is that there are really only two ways to speed up a case; terminal illness and economic hardship. Honestly, the latter is pretty rare. We have seen some clients get connected because of economic hardship, but it is as rare as a good Nicholas Cage film that this is actually successful. However, if you are facing an economic hardship, we encourage you to pursue the expedited process.
  • I didn’t treat in service, can I still get connected? Honestly, it depends. Certain issues like PTSD don’t require treatment or a diagnosis in treatment. If you are treated and diagnosed on some mental disabilities after service, you can get connected. Also, some physical issues can be dx and treated after service. An example of this would be someone who was an Airborne Ranger is likely to have several jumps in service. They may not have immediate issues with their ankles, feet and back, but shortly after discharge they will most likely have some level of pain in these areas. With any physical condition though, getting treatment is important. If you get discharged, have back issues, and then don’t treat, you aren’t likely to get connected.
  • Is there a secret to getting approved? Actually, there is one thing Veterans can do to get approved: seek treatment. I’ve seen so many Veterans get denied because blog_photos_084_w1024they either didn’t get treatment or they had huge gaps in their treatment history. Let’s say you want to file for your knee. If you were discharged in the 80’s and then didn’t see a doctor about your knee until 2013, the VA will determine that it’s not a chronic issue. If your condition is not chronic, then the VA will not grant service connection.
  • Why did my friend get service connected on claim X, but I was denied on it? The simple answer is that every claim is different and everyone’s medical history is different. Unless you and your friend had the exact same experience, you’re not going to have the same results. For instance, I recently had a client who claimed several Gulf War Illness Presumptive Conditions. The issue was that he was in Turkey. The country of Turkey is not recognized as a Gulf War country. However, Iraq borders Turkey and is covered under Gulf War Illness. So, an individual serving just a few hundred miles away from my client would have valid claims, but my client does not. Sometimes slight differences like that make a world of difference. VA Disability is nuanced.
  • Can I still work? That answer can be quite simple. For the most part, Veterans receiving VA Disability can still work full time. This is true even if you are 100% service connected. The only exception would be if you were receiving Individual Unemployability. This is a special claim for Veterans who can’t work, and meet other eligibility requirements. Also, Veterans receiving Pension need to pay special attention to how much they receive. This is a separate, needs based program, which is separate from VA Disability Compensation.
  • Do I make too much money for VA Disability Compensation? No you don’t. The reason is simple: VA Disability is not income based. So, even if you are a billionaire, you can still receive VA disability compensation.

 

These questions are the most common questions we receive. We are often asked more specific questions depending upon the Veteran. We are always happy to answer questions for our clients. Our consultations are free, so if you have a question, call me today for a free consultation. Our toll free number is 1-877-526-3457. If you are available right now, fill out this form for a free consultation.

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The United States Coast Guard: A Fascinating 225-Year-Old

For the most part I write this blog to educate Veterans, spouses and the public about the VA disability process. I’m approaching five years in this career and I’ve been writing this blog for nearly four

Photo Credit: US Coast Guard Twitter Account.

Photo Credit: US Coast Guard Twitter Account.

of those five years. It’s by far one of the most rewarding parts of what I do. I’m aware that my blog is quite successful and a lot of people read it every month. With that in mind, I like to open up from time to time and tell you a little about myself. After all, if you trust me to get facts about the VA, you should likely know a little about me. Today I want to spend a little time talking about my favorite branch of the military, the United States Coast Guard.

Before I get too deep into this blog, I want to say that all the branches of the military have some pretty cool aspects. Any person willing to put on any military uniform deserves our respect and admiration. I actually have friends who have served in the Army, Navy, Air Force, and the Marines. However, I don’t know anyone personally who served in the Coast Guard. As today is the 225th birthday of the Coast Guard, I’d like to explain why I am so fascinated by what some call “The Coasties.”

First of all, Coast Guardsmen are like unicorns for me in that I so rarely get to interact with them. Over the past four and a half years I’ve talked to thousands of Veterans. Most of these Veterans served in the Air Force, Army, Marines, and Navy. I’ve talked to fewer than ten Coast Guard Veterans during my time with the firm. However, that number has increased in recent months. Some might say I have engineered our SEO to appeal to Coast Guard Vets, but that can’t be proven. Honestly, a lot of Coat Guard Veterans are aware of their eligibility for VA Disability Compensation, and that needs to be addressed. Also, many civilians forget that the Coast Guard is a military branch. That is really unfortunate. Granted, the Coast Guard is not a part of the Depart of Defense like the other branches, but instead it’s a part of the Department of Homeland Security.

Photo Credit United States Coast Guard Twitter Profile

Photo Credit United States Coast Guard Twitter Profile

Many people also don’t realize that the Coast Guard participates in foreign wars and conflicts too. While their numbers are much smaller than the other branches, the Coast Guard has participated in Operation Iraqi Freedom, Operation Enduring Freedom, Dessert Storm/Shield, Vietnam, Korea, and both World Wars.

I actually learned a lot recently while talking to a Coast Guard Veteran about the role of the Coast Guard. I had no idea that in addition to patrolling our oceans, they also patrol our rivers and ports. I live along the Ohio River, and they patrol this river on a regular basis. We have a lot of industry along the river so they do their part to keep it safe.

In a superficial way, I even like the way their aircraft, boats, and cutters look. Most of them are white with a large orange stipe and a smaller blue stripe. They really stand out and look amazing.

So I am nearly at the end of my blog, and I haven’t actually told you what it is about the Coast Guard that I find fascinating. Really it isn’t one thing in particular. It’s the fact that they are often forgotten as a military branch, the fact that they are doing more than we know to protect our coastline, ports and rivers, and even that they deserve better than to have Ashton Kutcher represent them in the cinema. (Will anyone get that reference?) Honestly the interactions I have has with Coast Guard Veterans has been great. I always talk their ear off, and they are happy to answer all of my questions regarding their time in service. I hope to learn a lot more about the Coast Guard in my remaining time with the firm. And, if any Coast Guard Veterans want to learn more about VA Disability, give me a call today for a free consultation. 1-877-526-3457. Or, fill out this form and we’ll call you at a more convenient time.

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