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Veterans Disability Compensation and Incarceration

What happens to a Veteran’s Disability Compensation when they are incarcerated? Before we begin, let’s make sure that we are clear on a few things. The most important thing to consider is that there is a difference between serving time in jail, and serving time in prison. The biggest difference between the two is the length. Prison is usually a long-term stay to whereas jail is normally a short-term stay. I wouldn’t likely go to jail for a few days for murdering someone, and I likely wouldn’t go to prison for a public intoxication citation. For the most part, in order for the VA to reduce your benefits, you have to be convicted of a felony and incarcerated for more than 60 days.

Here is what to expect if you are incarcerated and receiving VA Disability Compensation: VA disability compensation payments are reduced if a Veteran is Prison Wire convicted of a felony and imprisoned for more than 60 days. Veterans rated 20 percent or more are limited to the 10 percent disability rate. For a Veteran whose disability rating is 10 percent, the payment is reduced by one-half. Once a Veteran is released from prison, compensation payments may be reinstated based on the severity of the service-connected disability(ies) at that time. Payments are not reduced for recipients participating in work release programs, residing in halfway houses (also known as “residential re-entry centers”), or under community control. The amount of any increased compensation awarded to an incarcerated Veteran that results from other than a statutory rate increase may be subject to reduction due to incarceration.

What if you’re receiving pension instead of VA Disability Compensation. The VA States that: Veterans in receipt of VA pension will have payments terminated effective the 61st day after imprisonment in a Federal, State, or local penal institution for conviction of a felony or misdemeanor. Payments may be resumed upon release from prison if the Veteran meets VA eligibility requirements. Failure to notify VA of a Veteran’s incarceration could result in the loss of all financial benefits until the overpayment is recovered.

There are some special considerations for family members too. The VA states: All or part of the compensation not paid to an incarcerated Veteran may be apportioned to the Veteran’s spouse, child or children, and dependent parents on the basis of individual need. In determining individual need, consideration shall be given to such factors as the claimant’s income and living expenses, the amount of compensation available to be apportioned, the needs and living expenses of other claimants as well as any special needs, if any, of all claimants.

If you’re facing incarceration, it can be tough to prepare yourself and your family for what to expect in advance. Knowing how your finances will be impacted can help alleviate some of those issues.

Pursuing a claim can be very frustrating. If you’d like to learn what an attorney can do for you, give Jan Dils, Attorneys at Law a call today for a Free consultation. The toll-free number is 1-877-526-3457. If you can’t talk now, fill out this form so that a representative can contact you at a better time.

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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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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.

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How a Conversation with a Veteran 5 Years Ago Helped Me Realize I Was in the Right Career Field

Today I am going to share the story of the moment I knew working with Veterans Disability was the right career path for me.

On Veterans Day this blog turns Five, and in March of 2017, I’ll celebrate my 6th anniversary with Jan Dils Attorneys at Law. However, before I wrote this blog Jason Watkins 061before social media was a part of my job title, and well before I knew anything about VA Disability, I was just a 27-year-old guy who was a little lost. I was finishing graduate school and working part time at a small retail outlet selling satellite dishes. In January of 2011, it was announced that the retail part of the company would be shutting down. In fact, my birthday would be the last day that I would be employed. Two months later I was working for a well-known law firm in Parkersburg, WV called Jan Dils Attorneys at Law. My new job required me to talk to Veterans and give them updates on their case. I was also supposed to screen potential new clients for representation. Learning a new job is tough, but add on top of that the entire VA disability process and I were overwhelmed, to say the least. For a while, I did not think that this was for me. I questioned a lot about my abilities at the time, and several times I thought about quitting. I liked my coworkers a lot, and the company was definitely a great place, but I thought I couldn’t do the job. However, one day, after talking to a young Veteran about becoming a client, I knew I was in the right place.

Please keep in mind that we are a law firm and I can’t give out personal or detailed information about our clients, so this may seem vague at times, but I am simply protecting the Identity of our client.

A few months after I started, I received a call from a young man asking about benefits. He was only a few months younger than me. At the time, most of the Vets I encountered were much older. Traditionally they were Vietnam Veterans who had great cases. It’s not that I didn’t care for these individuals; it was just difficult for me to relate. I cannot imagine what it must have been like to serve in Vietnam, and it’s difficult to get this generation of Veterans to really speak openly about their experiences. The young man I spoke to served in Afghanistan. I wish I knew why, but for some reason, he really opened up to me about his experience. He was a young father of many and was married to a supportive wife, but couldn’t seem to adjust to civilian life. He had been through several jobs since returning home and he could not find anything stable. Worst of all, he kept getting denied for VA disability compensation. The specific claim he was denied for that really made no sense was PTSD. This fella had a severe case of PTSD and was diagnosed and treated by a civilian doctor and by a VA doctor. Not only did the VA deny his claim for PTSD, they tried to say that he was malingering. For anyone who may not know, malingering is a fancy way of saying that the person is pretending to have symptoms. In this case, they said that the Veteran was pretending to have PTSD symptoms.

The malingering part bothered me a lot. First of all, this client served 4 tours in Afghanistan. He was in combat, and he witnessed gunfire, explosions, and the death of friends. He was obviously lost now, and he was having issues with anger, sleeping disorders, anxiety and many more of the core symptoms of PTSD. In fact, I’ll even go as far to say that his PTSD was so obvious, Ray Charles could see it. But they said he was faking.

When lead VA attorney Heather Vanhoose found out about the malingering statement, she couldn’t believe it. Heather loves all Veterans, but this case truly upset her because the VA was so blatantly wrong.

This was a tough case, but our firm was able to get the Veteran 70% on his PTSD claim, and he is connected on several other issues. He was awarded back pay to his original file date. It just goes to show that persistence pays off. We believed in this young man’s case when few others would. We got him the benefits he deserved.

Interacting with this client helped me realize that I had found my home. When he would talk, he would often get upset about how the VA would treat him. He had a distinct voice. He had a southern accent though I am not positive he ever lived in the south. I could tell there was a lot of pain in his voice. I took pride in the fact that I was able to make him laugh a few times. For a few seconds, I was able to help him forget his worries.

It’s nearly six years later and I still check up on this person from time to time. It’s interesting to see how much has changed in this period of time. He seems to be under less stress now, and I like to think that we had some small part in that.

This was the first client I truly felt a connection to, and there have been a lot more to follow. For five years I screened new clients for the firm and did intake appointments. It was great to get to know so many men and women who have done so much for this country. My current position with the firm has me working on social media and community outreach. I don’t get to know our clients as well now, but I still love what I do. Plus I still get to interact with Veterans; I just do it in the community now instead.

We’re not like other law firms. We really are passionate about what we do. I’m not alone here either. I know we’re different because our lead attorney shouts with joy when she receives a decision for a Veteran she’s worked with for years. I doubt other law firms have employees like case manager Meg, who holds back tears when she shares stories with new employees about the clients she’s helped. Most law firms don’t have non-attorney reps like Kris, who could easily be successful in any field, but he chooses VA disability.

I am so glad I was able to interact with this client. Without him, I may have gone off and done something boring, like accounting.

If you want to experience our firm for yourself, call us today for a FREE consultation. Our toll-free number is 1-877-526-3457. If you’d rather contact us after hours, fill out this form now, so that someone may contact you at a better time.

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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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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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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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(Almost) Everything Veterans Need To Know About eBenefits

There aren’t a lot of guarantees in this world. However I think we can all agree that we will all eventually pass away, we will never see Vin Diesel win an Oscar, and if you’re a Veteran, you know that ebens 2if you call the VA, you are in for a long wait. It’s a reality too many Veterans are aware of in our modern time. Now, my goal is not to shame the VA, that’s not my job…but wait times can get ridiculous. A friend of mine recently called the VA’s 1-800 number and was put on hold for more than four hours prior to hanging up. And while it may seem like I am just making this up to make my blog seem more entertaining, he actually sent me screen shots of his phone during the wait. So, what other options do Veterans have when it comes to obtaining information about their disability benefits, healthcare, and other VA programs? The internet may have the answers.

We find that a lot of the Veterans we interact with are often not aware of the VA website “eBenefits.” Before we get too far along I want to inform my readers that my information is not a result of first-hand experience with the website. As I am not a Veteran myself, I can’t actually access most features of the site. My experience comes from what I can obtain as a civilian as well as my interactions with Veterans over the past several years.

So, what is eBenefits? Essentially the eBenefits website is a web portal in which Veterans can access information about their disability benefits, healthcare records, and even enroll in programs for education and housing. I am a cynic, especially when it comes to the VA, and even I was impressed by everything you can do on this site. I was also surprised to learn that it has been around since 2007. I mean the same organization that sends my firm claim files in paper form, and as we learned this week, has a finical management software dating back to the 70’s, actually started a web portal just a couple of years after Facebook was created. (I told you I was cynical.) However, I actually do applaud the VA for this program. Many facilities did not make online access a priority until several years later. As someone who works in social media, I will also say that the VA does really great job with their social media presence. However, if your waiting months to see a doctor for your PTSD, a nicely worded Tweet isn’t going to do you much good. Maybe the social media team can share some of their efficiency with disability administrators.

You might be wondering why you, as a Veteran, should use eBenefits. That’s actually a simple answer. It offers a great alternative to calling the 1-800 number. Further, you have quicker access to your medical records. With eBenefits you can see what is going on with your VA Disability Claim, and you can even file for benefits by way of the site. Due to the fact that I am not a Vet and I have no first-hand knowledge of this tool, I decided to ask some friends of mine what their thoughts were on the eBenefits site. My buddy John stated that he found it pretty helpful. He went on to say “I use it to keep track of claims and to get proof of payment, rating, etc.” Further, another friend of mine, Jamie, is the spouse of a Veteran. She states that they always use the website as opposed to the 1-800 number. Further, she states that they actually find it very helpful. As a whole, if you aren’t being represented by an attorney, it’s a good way to stay up to date with your VA Disability timeline. A warning though: you will likely go very long periods of time without a status change

photos_4_005_w640Is it accurate? Well, sort of. Honestly, from what I have been told by Veterans, it is better than it used to be. It’s not flawless, but it works well enough for what most people need it to do. When I first started working with Vets, most people complained that it was not very accurate and rarely updated the status of a case. Now it’s not as much of an issue. It’s not completely without issue, but it’s getting there.

So, why would I be telling my readers about eBenefits? Honestly, I have a vested interest in this site because it is helpful for what we do at the firm. Too often we encounter Veterans who aren’t aware of the status of their case. Either they had a representative who didn’t keep them informed or it’s simply been too long for them to remember their most recent decision. Well, with eBenefits a Veteran can get all of the up to date information we need to determine eligibility for their claim. This includes the status of their claim, their percentages, and what disabilities they have applied for in the past. This can be a big help for our initial appointment.

So, if you have you want to get some answers a little quicker from the VA, check out the VA eBenefits site. It’s free, works pretty well, and can be pretty helpful. If you want to know what we can do to help you with your claim, fill out this form so that we can contact you for a free consultation. Or, if you’d rather talk to me, call me toll free today: 1-877-526-3457.

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Are you eligible to receive VA Healthcare?

Here lately I’ve been getting to meet more Veterans in person for intake appointments. It’s actually pretty neat because when I meet a Veteran in person I get to learn more about them and the photos 4 057interaction is always great. Recently, during one of my intakes, I was speaking with a young Veteran about healthcare. When I say young, I mean he was so young he was born after Desert Storm ended. So, it definitely showed my age. That aside, he had a wonderful case for PTSD. I asked him what kind of treatment he was pursuing at this time, and replied by saying “none.” I was a little concerned, so I asked him why he was not treating, and he states that he could no longer afford it.  I found this odd because he was a combat Vet who was discharged in 2012. I asked if he knew that he was able to get five years of free healthcare through the VA, and he stated that he had never heard of that before. When I explained to him how the process worked, he was immediately relieved. I was also relieved because now that he is treating again, we are a lot more likely to get him service connected.

Granted, I talk about treating all of the time in my blogs. It’s the number one thing any Veteran can do to help their claim. But, what can you do if you can’t afford healthcare. Technically, we are all “supposed” to have healthcare now, but even with coverage, many people don’t go to the doctor because of the cost associated with copays etc. However, I find most Veterans aren’t aware that they are eligible for benefits. The reason for this is simple; they don’t know how to see if they are eligible. This really isn’t the fault of the Veteran though. If you try to call the VA, you are likely put on hold for an eternity. Recently a friend of mine called the VA regarding an exam. He was put on hold so long he could have watched the entire film “Titanic” 1.5 times. That is not an exaggeration. Most of us don’t have enough time to sit on hold for the length of a James Cameron film.

WHAT IF i TOLD YOUWhat if I told you there was an easier way to find out if you are eligible to receive VA Medical Benefits? Would you believe me if I told you the time it took to determine eligibility was shorter than it would take you to read this blog? Well, it’s the truth. I first blogged about this subject last summer when I found out about the eligibility calculator on the VA website. Since many people still have not heard about it, I wanted to remind everyone how it works again.

If you simply click this link, enter in the information when it prompts you, you can determine your eligibility in just a few short minutes. If you are found to be eligible you can actually take it one step further, and sign up for benefits. This is one of those rare instances in which the VA has something somewhat streamlined. It’s so simple, I had Alex Kyle, our IT Specialist, do a dry run for me. Alex served in the Marines from 2003-2009 and served in combat. It only took him 4 minutes to determine eligibility. He then jokingly said that it would have taken an Airmen 3 times as long.

Kidding aside, this is a great tool. If you are even a little curious about the healthcare benefits the VA can provide to you, I suggest running your information through the calculator. You don’t even have to put your name or social security number in the system to determine eligibility.

If you would like to know more about VA Disability, or if you’d like to schedule a free consultation, give us a call today. Our toll free number is 1-877-526-3457. If you can’t talk today, fill out this form, and we’ll give you a call at a later date.

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