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Don’t Take “NO” for an Answer: 5 Tips to Remember When Your VA Claim Gets Denied

I have a somewhat rational fear of being rejected. Honestly, I avoid a lot of things because I am afraid that someone will say no. It wasn’t until I was talking to someone else who had a similar fear that I realized how silly this fear really is. Plus, when you work for a law firm with a slogan like “we won’t take no for an answer,” you learn to let the fear go by the wayside quickly. A few years back my car was hit from behind by a nice young lady from North Dakota. The car was totaled, and I was afraid of getting a loan for a new vehicle. Eventually someone talked some courage into me and I decided to talk to the bank. I ended up getting the loan, getting a decent car, and have been happy ever since. That fear of rejection almost kept me from getting a decent automobile. I share this story because I know a lot of Veterans I speak to have that same fear when it comes to VA disability. Too often I have talked with Veterans who applied for benefits, got denied, and then let their claim slip away because they were worried about getting denied again. Since I encounter this so often, I decided to put some of my best advice into a convenient list for anyone who has been denied. Here are the top 5 tips to remember when your VA claim is denied.

  1. Everybody gets denied the first time. I’ll admit that statement is quite hyperbolic, but the vast majority of Veterans do get denied their first time. While different agencies will report a variety of statistics about the denial rate, it seems to hover around 80%. This is a horrible statistic, but it means you aren’t alone. Actually most of our new clients are Veterans who have been denied. More often than not we get those Veterans approved.
  2. Continue to seek treatment. Long time readers of this blog will note that I mention this in almost every blog list I make. The reason I do this is that it is one of the most important aspects of getting approved. In fact, I would say that next to serving in the military, it’s the most important aspect of a claim.
  3. Don’t wait until the last minute to appeal. It’s hard for me to preach about this subject because I am great at putting things off. In fact, if there was a book written about procrastinating I would likely wait until it was in the discount bin to purchase it. The VA gives you a year to file an appeal on the first denial. This does not mean you should wait until week 51 to start to take action. Generally, when filing appeals, the sooner you file it, the better.
  4. Seek help. As I work for a law firm I could easily say that everyone should just come to Jan Dils Attorneys at Law and all of your troubles will go away. However, I didn’t start this blog back in 2011 to make sales pitches. While I do believe that our firm is often the best option for Veterans seeking service connection, I simply want Veterans to get service connected. It’s a tough process that few can do alone successfully. Getting help with your claim from an established law firm, service organization, or other resource can relieve a lot of the stress and uncertainty so many Veterans have.
  5. Don’t ignore paperwork from the VA. There are multiple reasons why this may be important. If you filed claims at multiple times then the VA is likely going to send you decisions at different times. It could also be a VCAA, or an exam notice that needs to be addressed quickly. Even though the VA will often send you paperwork that simply states they are working on your claim, it’s always smart to review it first. If you have received an exam notice, ignoring it will result in getting denied.

Getting denied can be frustrating. However it doesn’t mean that your claim is over. If you are denied, and you believe that your claim is valid, I suggest filing your appeal. If you don’t feel doing this on your own will result in a favorable decision, then give me a call for a free case consultation. In fact, we charge no upfront fees for our services. You can reach me toll free 1-877-526-3457. If you are reading this late at night because you can’t sleep, fill out this form, and someone from our firm will call you as soon as possible.

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What New and Material evidence means for a Closed VA Disability Claim

Long time readers of this blog will tell you that I preach to Veterans about getting medical treatment in order to service connect for VA Disability Compensation. I repeat myself as much as Comedyphotos 4 054 Central repeats “The Daily Show.” I do it because it is important. While medical evidence is important to any claim for VA disability, it means even more for a claim that has closed. We’re going to examine this in a little more detail later on, but let’s first look at how a claim closes.

I get calls all of the time from Veterans who will say something like; “I’m going to get my benefits back to 1978!” While that is not impossible, it’s important to realize that it is extremely rare. In fact it’s more rare than a good Eddie Murphy film. But why is it so rare? The answer is simple; it’s rare because claims can close. At each level of the VA disability process you have decisions that have to be appealed. Sometimes you have a year to file an appeal, but other times you only have 30 days to take action. Sometimes that action is filing an appeal, sometimes it’s requesting a hearing, but the important thing to remember is that there are deadlines. Failure to respond to these deadlines will result in the closure of your case. The longest period of time you have to take action is one year, and that is after the initial decision. That is why I tend to be more than a bit skeptical when someone tells me their claim has been going on since Carter was in office.

Often when someone suggests that they have a claim that is old I’ll ask a follow up question. I’ll often ask when they last received a decision. The answer to this is something like 10-15 years ago. When asked if they filed an appeal the answer is either “no,” or “yes, but I have not heard anything yet.” I agree, the VA is slow, but it does not take them a decade to make a decision. There are a number of reasons a Veteran may not be aware the VA made a decision, but I’ve personally never seen them neglect a case for 10 years.

Read More: 8 Steps to Speed Up Your VA Disability Claim

So, most likely your case has closed. If this is accurate, your case will have to be reopened. If your cased is reopened it is like starting over again from the beginning.It is important to keep in mind that if a claim is closed, you will also lose your back pay date. If you want to reopen your claim, you have to have new and material evidence. So, what is new and material evidence? According to the Cornell University Law School, new and material evidence is defined as the following: New evidence means existing evidence not previously submitted to agency decision makers. Material evidence means existing evidence that, by itself or when considered with previous evidence of record, relates to an unestablished fact necessary to substantiate the claim. New and material evidence can be neither cumulative nor redundant of the evidence of record at the time of the last prior final denial of the claim sought to be reopened, and must raise a reasonable possibility of substantiating the claim.

That sounds pretty complicated, but it’s actually quite simple. New and material evidence is essentially something that has not been submitted prior.  New medical evidence is the most common type of new evidence that is submitted. If you haven’t received medical treatment since your claim was closed, or have evidence that was not submitted prior, then you’re not likely going to get a favorable decision.

If you would like to know more about reopening a claim, or if you’d like to learn about becoming a client, give me a call for a free consultation. You can reach me on our toll free number: 1-877-526-3457. If you’d rather be contacted at another time, fill out this form now.

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How to get the Veterans Benefits you deserve (part one)

I’m not afraid to admit that I had a bias towards lawyers before I started working for a law firm. I thought all attorneys were like Saul Goodman from “Breaking Bad.” I had this vision of a bunch of high strung individuals shouting legal jargon at the top of their lungs while citing Black’s Law Dictionary. In reality it’s nothing like that. I am more high strung them most of our attorneys and I haven’t had to read anything from Black’s Law Dictionary in the past four years. In all reality this office is pretty laid back. Granted there are days I wish I worked for Annalise Keating so that there would be a little more excitement, but I don’t think I have enough energy to keep up with all of that dialogue. We find that a lot of my misconceptions about attorneys are also true about Veterans when they consider hiring legal representation. So, what is it like to hire an attorney for a VA Disability claim?

Read More: 7 Misconceptions about hiring an attorney.

Most of our clients, regardless if they are hiring us for help with Veterans Disability, or SSI, have not worked with an attorney before. In fact, some of our VA clients are in their late teens or early twenties. It can be quite intimidating especially if you think that an attorney is some caricature from a television show. While there are some attorneys like that out there, we don’t employ them here. When you first call our office you will greeted by a friendly receptionist. If this is your first time calling they will ask if you need to talk to someone about Social Security or VA Disability. If you are interested in help with VA Disability you will then get transferred to one of our leads specialists.

If you are truly lucky you will get to talk to me at this point as I do some of our lead calls. Honestly this is one of easiest conversations you will have. You pretty much know all of the answers by heart. We will ask some basic information. This includes your name, dates of service, discharge type, and some other basic questions. If you meet the basic requirements we will then likely schedule you for what is known as an “intake appointment.”

Intake appointments are kind of like making it to Hollywood in American Idol. (I do apologize for all of the TV references.) In other words, you’re not a client of ours yet. This appointment is more in depth. The conversation will last at least 45 minutes and will cover a lot of information about your case. We often discuss your 

specific claims, type of treatment history, medication, and even ask for you to give explanations of how it occurred from your time in service. Intake appointments can be a little intimidating at first, but we are professionals, and we understand that some of the information discussed can be difficult.

After the intake is complete our specialists are able to determine if we can assist you or not. If so you will be asked to fill out a new client package. Clients who complete intake appointments in person will fill this paperwork out during the appointment. Individuals completing an intake by phone will receive a packet in the mail. The packet will arrive in a bright yellow envelope and include paperwork, a copy of “How to get the Veterans benefits you deserve, a card with your case managers name on it, and a return envelope in which to send back the papers.

Once the paperwork is filled out and sent back to our office, you are then a client of ours. It’s really that simple. Your case manager will call to introduce themselves, and you move on to the next phase of the process. We will explain more about that in a future post.

If you would like to start this process, give us a call today via our toll free number: 1-877-526-3457. If you can’t talk now, fill out this form now so that one of our specialists can call you at a better time.    

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Veterans Day Offers for 2014

As I left for work today the last thing I noticed was the framed poster I have on my wall of the film “Jarhead.” As I looked at it I smiled because I realized how close we are to Veterans Day. Honestly, I get more excited about Veterans Day then I do for Thanksgiving. Why would someone who hasn’t served in the military get so excited for Veterans Day? Well, its long story, but you will learn more about that at a later time. Our form will kick off Veterans Day Weekend on November 7th with a free cookout for Veterans. A lot of people wonder why we don’t do this on Veterans Day, and it’s actually quite simple. There is so much going on for Veterans on the 11th that we want our Vets to be able to enjoy everything that is offered. Plus, why not take more than one day to celebrate Veterans? Obviously we want as many Veterans as possible to stop by our cookout, but we want to let you know about what else is going on this Veterans Day.

The following restaurants are offering free or discounted meals for Veterans.

Applebee’s Free Meal

On Tuesday, November 11th, from open to close, veterans and active duty military can choose from a free signature Thank You Meal menu that includes some of Applebee’s favorite items, including a 7 oz. House Sirloin, The American Standard All-In Burger, Three-Cheese Chicken Penne, Fiesta Lime Chicken, Double Crunch Shrimp, Chicken Tenders Platter or Oriental Chicken Salad. Must present valid Veteran’s form of identification or be in uniform.

Bob Evans

Veterans and active military personnel will receive free all–you-can-eat hotcakes at its restaurants. All these honored servicemen and women need do is show a valid military ID.

Golden Corral Free Meal

Monday, November 17th from 5 PM to 9 PM get a free Veterans Day buffet and beverage to any veteran who has served in the United States military or is a current active duty service member. All Golden Corral locations will be participating. No identification is required to get your free Veterans Day meal.

Outback Steakhouse Free Bloomin’ Onion® and a beverage

All active, retired military and veterans get a Free Bloomin’ Onion® and a beverage on Veterans Day. Must have valid identification. Plus, all military personnel get 15% off from November 12 thru December 31, 2014.

Ryan’s

 On Veterans Day (Nov. 11), active duty, reservists and retired military may enjoy a free dine-in lunch at participating Ryan’s locations, from open until 3:30 pm. Show your military ID or proof of service to enjoy the free meal.

Shoney’s Offers Free All-American Burger

 Shoney’s says ‘Thank You’ to America’s heroes by offering Shoney’s All-American Burger to all Veterans and Active Duty Military Members on Tuesday, November 11th, 2014.

Olive Garden Veterans Day Free Meal

Olive Garden is having a Veterans Day free meal for all active-duty military and military veterans who provide proof of service on Tuesday, November 11, 2014.

Veterans can choose a free entree from a special menu of Olive Garden's seven most popular items. All of these entrees come with freshly baked garlic bread sticks and a choice of unlimited soup or salad.

Texas Roadhouse Veterans Day Free Meal

Texas Roadhouse will be giving away Veterans Day free meals for lunch on Tuesday, November 11, 2014 to active, former, or retired military.

Free entrees include your choice of steak, country fried chicken, country fried sirloin, pulled pork, pork chop, cheeseburger, BBQ chicken sandwich, pulled pork sandwich, grilled chicken salad, or chicken critter salad plus your choice of sides. You'll also get a free Coca-Cola product, tea, or coffee.

You'll need to bring in a military ID, Veterans Affairs card, or Discharge papers for proof of service.

Tim Hortons Veterans Day Free Donut

All U.S. locations of Tim Hortons are giving away a free donut to all active and inactive U.S. military veterans on Tuesday, November 11, 2014. Veterans will need to be in uniform or show military ID.

Here are some other offers for Veterans Day that do not pertain to food.

Home Depot

10% Veterans Day Discount – Home Depot is expanding their military discount out to include all veterans for Veterans Day. Veterans can save 10% off any purchase.

JC Penny

JC Penney will give anyone with a military ID or proof of service 20% off their purchases November 3-15, in-store only.

Great Clips

On Tuesday, November 11, customers who come in for a service can get a free haircut card to give to their favorite veteran. Veterans can also receive a free haircut or get the free haircut card. Haircuts are redeemable until Dec. 31.

Full Circle Yoga (Vienna, WV)

Our friends at Full Circle Yoga are offering free yoga classes on November 11th to all Veterans who present an ID. 

9:00 AM Hot Yoga Series
6:30 PM Hot Yoga Flow
7:15 PM Hatha Yoga Basic

It’s really great to see so many companies offering our nation’s Veterans something for Veterans Day. Have we missed anything? Feel free to comment below to let us know. 

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7 Things No One Will Ever Tell You About Working With Veterans

When I walked through the front door of our law firm nearly four years ago I was not quite prepared for what I was getting myself in to. I had never worked for a law firm, barely knew any attorneys and was working to finish my Master’s Degree in Corporate Communication. I was nervous to say the least. I was expecting everything to be like Law and Order. Or, for our younger audiences, I expected it to be like the set of “How to Get Away with Murder.” The world of Veterans Disability Law is nowhere near as glamorous as what you will see in the law offices on these shows. For me it’s much better. I have made a bunch of friends, had some life changing experiences, and realized most attorneys are just regular people.  The one area in which I was not prepared for the most though, was working with Veterans. Here are 7 things no one will ever tell you about working with Veterans. (In VA Disability)

  1. Veterans know a lot about what is going on. Honestly, most of the Vets I talk to know quite a bit about what is going on with their cases, as well as the VA Disability process as a whole. A Veteran usually knows where his case is in the process, how long things take, and what to expect. This is in sharp contrast to the area in which I worked previously, pool/hot tub sales. Let’s just say that when someone walked in off the streets wanting a hot tub, I had to start somewhere after how water works. It wasn’t in area in which a lot of people had knowledge. This was way back in 2005 before the internet was used for research as much as it is today. It’s actually quite refreshing having someone who knows the process asks you for help.
  2. You will get attached. Maybe this isn’t the case with everyone, but it’s definitely the case with me and the people I work with every day. I know I have talked about this in the past, but I genuinely enjoy getting to know Veterans. In the past couple of years I have met NASCAR driver Austin Dillon, been to a Miley Cyrus concert, met countless NHL players, and even had a photo taken with Norman Reedus of The Walking Dead. Getting to know Veterans tops all of that. Also, I have very eclectic tastes. I have actually made friends with some of our clients after their cases are over. Our case managers get to experience this on an entirely different level. I can recall Jess talking with clients about football when fall started, or Tiffany talking to another Veteran about his horses. Our case managers get to form real bonds with their Veterans.
  3. You will get frustrated. My frustration, and the frustration my coworkers feel, is not with the Veterans themselves, it’s with the process of VA Disability. Because we get to know our clients so well, we also get frustrated with the VA when a claim comes back denied. Especially when there is a ton of evidence to support the claim. We are passionate about what we do.
  4. It can be emotional. Trust me, there is a huge difference in having to pretend to care when someone would tell me that there hot tub quit working and trying not to get too emotional when a Veteran has told you about some of the things he or she has encountered in their lives. While I don’t leave work in tears every day, it is a lot to process. This was especially true when I started working here at 27 years old and hearing individuals as young as 18 tell me about losing friends or getting sexually assaulted in the service. It’s not all bad emotions though. We are thrilled when a client gets a favorable decision. One instance in particular recall standing next to Heather, our lead VA Attorney, calling a client in which I had bonded with prior in his case. She was calling to tell him he was approved for a claim that we had been working for a very long time. I wanted to be there when she told him the good news.
  5. You will learn a lot. VA Disability is no walk in the park. I’ve been doing this for a while and I am still learning. Also, things are never  black and white, so it can be quite confusing. Before seeing the trailer, I thought the movie “50 Shades of Gray” was about the 38 CFR. You also learn a lot about the military and how nuanced the institution as whole is for the individuals who serve. A lot of experiences are the same, but the little differences make for much different views.
  6. It’s very rewarding. Regardless if it simply a Veteran telling me “thank you” for helping him out with a question, or letting a Veteran know that they are approved for 100% and can find a place to live now, it’s a feeling not too many other things can match. Just last week a young Veteran came in to become a new client of ours. A recent transition in the firm has me working with Veterans in person more, which is really cool. He was nervous at start. However, while talking, he became more relaxed. This was someone who you could not help but like. When I left he thanked me because he felt more at ease. He said that because of our interaction he was not worried anymore. I’ve seen transition within individuals who I met at the beginning of the process and are much better now that their case is over and they are getting the benefits they deserve. Witnessing that change is powerful.  
  7. It will make you proud. I work in social media part of the time. That includes writing this blog, and of course being on Facebook, Twitter, and so on. You see a lot when you spend a large part of your day in social media. This person I know goes on and on about how much she loves her job because it pays so much and she gets to go on exotic trips to destinations like Orlando, Florida. (Sarcasm is intended there.) While there are certain perks to what I do, that is not why I like it. I get to tell people that I work with Veterans. The people who defend our country, and are often forgotten let me into their lives, get personal, and they allow me to be part of the representation for their VA Disability claim. I can honestly say I am proud of the work I do.

Read More: Read More: (Almost) Everything You Need To Know About VA Disability

I may not always work in VA Disability, but when that time comes I still want to work with Veterans in some capacity. I never believed this is the type of work I’d be doing. I didn’t realize before that simple interaction with people I respect so much would be this positive.

I encourage you to call me today for a free phone consultation. I’d love to discuss your options and see if Jan Dils Attorneys at Law can help you get the benefits you deserve. Reach me toll free at 1-877-526-3457. If you’d rather we contact you at a different time, fill out this form now so that we may contact you later.   

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Vietnam Traveling Memorial Wall Offers Eye Opening Experience

A few years ago, the Vietnam Traveling Memorial Wall arrived in our town. At the time I was not able attend. I recall being really upset about missing this event. Luckily the wall returned this past weekend, and I made sure to attend. I was not quite sure what to expect. In the end, it turned out my experience was far more personal than I expected. 

When I was six or seven years old I went to Washington D.C. with my parents for vacation. I was told that I saw the original wall during that trip. Let’s face it; most individuals can’t recall events that occurred when they were six years old, unless they are still a child. I am 30 and struggle to remember to take my medication twice a day. I really want to return to DC, but that trip is still a long time off. However, thanks to the Traveling Memorial Wall, I can see a replica of a DC landmark in my own hometown.

Through my work I get to do a lot of neat things with Veterans. Obviously this blog is a part of that, and getting the opportunity to volunteer as a part of the wall festivities was an opportunity I could not pass up. I was actually able to be a part of the festivities twice, once during the opening ceremonies, and again on Sunday morning.

The opening ceremonies were simply amazing. The turnout was great, the Air Force Honor Guard put on an amazing display, and the ceremony was very touching. We handed out water to individuals attending the event. It was a hot day, but there were hundreds in attendance. I tend to be quite observant. In the audience I saw several Veterans wearing hats that read “Vietnam.” It was great to see so many Vietnam Veterans gathered for the ceremony.

On Sunday I joined a group of coworkers at the event. Our goal was to help assist individuals finding names on the wall. At the time it was raining. Not many people stopped by the display. One man however was there with his family members. As he walked up he stated that he “had 37 friends on that wall.” It was simply shocking to me. I was stunned by his words…so much so that I had no idea what to say. Luckily one of my coworkers was there with me and starting talking to the Veteran. There are thousands of names on the wall. I didn’t know any of them. My uncle served in Vietnam, but he is alive and well. For someone like me it’s easy to look as the wall and be desensitized to it. Thousands of people gave their lives in that conflict, the Vets who survived came home to an unwelcoming country. For this man, I can’t even imagine what it was like to lose nearly 40 people and then come home to an ungrateful public.

Traffic at the wall was slow all morning. I wasn't very helpful. As I got ready to leave, I took a look at another memorial in our park. It is set up in front of the area in which the Traveling Vietnam wall was standing. It’s dedicated to members of our local community who were killed in the more recent conflicts. I've never really looked at it before. I'm not sure why I haven’t look at it before. I guess it's just not in a part of the park I frequent. When I read the names of the fallen, I came across one I recognized. A former classmate of mine, Pfc. Ernest Harold Sutphin, we called him Ernie, was killed while serving in Kuwait in 2004. I wouldn't really say he and I were friends in the traditional sense, but we would talk on occasion. He was a year or two ahead of me in school. We didn't hang out outside of the walls of Parkersburg High School, but I remember our interactions. He was very funny and had a distinct voice that I can actually recall to this day. After graduating, I remember running into my friend Allison in college one day. She had informed me of his death. I didn't know that he was even serving at the time. I couldn't quite put it in perspective at the time. Really, it was not until I befriended and cared about active duty soldiers and Veterans in my own life that I could really understand the gravity of what happens when you lose someone in service. Honestly, I forgot that someone I had talked to, someone I had interacted with, someone I liked, was killed while serving. It was not until seeing his name on a memorial that could understand the true importance of the Vietnam Traveling Memorial Wall. It’s not about acknowledging someone’s death; it’s about celebrating their life.

Overall, I am so glad I got to experience so much this past weekend. I work with Veterans every day, but rarely do I get the opportunity to remember those who gave it all for our freedom. To say it was humbling experience wouldn't be accurate. It was surprisingly refreshing. 

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New Veterans Health Care Bill May Actually Benefit Veterans

There’s a good chance that you've heard about a new Veteran’s health care bill being signed into law. I’ll admit that it can be kind of confusing to read. If you turn to a 24 hour news channel for information regarding what this means for you, then you are likely just going to hear a lot political non-sense about how this favors one party over the other or some other commentary that doesn't really help to explain what is going on. Well, we really don’t pay too much attention to politics with this blog, so here is what we found out about what changes are going to occur, and how this will really benefit Veterans. 

First, this is not a bill for Veterans Disability; it is only for Veterans Health Care. As we have explained before, the two programs are separate from each other, and thus the 16.3 billion dollars will be spent solely on VA Health care.

So, what does mean? The first thing you will likely notice is new faces around VA Medical Facilities. A lot of the funds have been set aside for emergency spending, and this includes hiring more medical professionals. So, there will likely be new doctors and nurses in your VA medical facility in the near future.

An interesting aspect to the bill is that it will make it easier to dismiss officials who aren't performing well. After the recent debacle in Arizona, this will be a welcome change.

Now, here is the big thing I am excited about. We interact with Veterans from all across the US. Some of them live in major metropolitan areas with access to VA facilities just minutes away. However, most of the Veterans I speak with live in rural areas with VA Hospitals and treatment centers miles away from their residence. In some cases a Veteran has to take an entire day, drive over 100 miles, and wait all day just to receive treatment. That will change now with this new bill. The changes will be take effect in two waves. First, there is a change that will occur in the near future for Veterans who live more than 40 miles away from a VA Medical Facility. They will be able to seek care now at private facilities instead of traveling far away. From my experience, a lot of Veterans refrain from seeking treatment because of the time it takes to get to the nearest facility. A lot of our clients work full time, and really can’t afford to miss a day of work because they have to travel to the VA hospital. A long term effort will be the 2nd wave of providing more health care options. The bill allocates funding for 27 new VA medical facilities to be built over the next few years.

There will also be a card issued for Veterans who have to wait more than 30 days for treatment. If you have to wait more than 30 days for treatment at a VA facility, you will be able to take the card they give you to a private facility for treatment just as you would at the VA.

Another great aspect of the bill is that it aims to increase health care for Veterans with Traumatic Brain injury or Military Sexual Trauma. Both of these issues are becoming more common in the Veteran community.

In all, this bill really looks as if it will do a lot of good for Veterans seeking health care through medical facilities. And though I mentioned earlier that we don’t talk about politics in this blog, it was somewhat overwhelming how much bipartisan support there was for the bill. It’s nice to see our political leaders put party lines aside and actually work for our Veterans.

I also stated that this bill is solely for VA health care. While that is true, this will help VA Disability claims. As I've said any times before, medical evidence is what wins cases. Making medical treatment more readily available for Veterans means that they will be able to get the evidence they need to help get service connected. I see so many claims get denied because Veterans can’t get treatment.

If you’d like to read the Veterans' Access to Care through Choice, Accountability, and Transparency Act of 2014 in full, click here.

If you’d like to know more about what we can do to help you get service connected for a claim, call us for a free consultation. 1-877-526-3457. Can’t call us right away? Fill out this form and one of our reps will call you at a more convenient time. 

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Can I get service connected for a flatfoot condition?

When I was just a young lad I remember having a conversation with someone who was told he couldn't join the military because he had flat feet. Years later I would realize that there were many other reasons for him not being qualified for military. As a tween, I remember that conversation, and for some reason it stuck with me. As an individual who now works with Veterans, imagine my surprise when I would hear Veterans talk about filing claims for flat feet. I immediately would wonder how they got into the military with their flat feet. Well, it’s something that has been in the back of my mind for a while, so I decided to do a little research. It turns out I had a lot to learn.

What are flat feet? According to WebMD, which is like chocolate for hypochondriacs, Flatfoot (pes planus) is a condition in which the longitudinal arch in the foot, which runs lengthwise along the sole of the foot, has not developed normally and is lowered or flattened out. One foot or both feet may be affected.

First of all, the whole notion of not being able to join the military because of flat feet may not even be true. While I could not find an official document stating this wasn’t the case, I did stumble across a forum in which several soldiers discussed the issue. One issue that came up on multiple forums is if there was any pain because of your flat feet. If you answer no, a lot of these soldiers said they would pass you on the physical exam. However, if you had extreme flat feet, and had pain because of that, then you would likely fail the exam. So, do flat feet disqualify you from military service? My answer is inconclusive. I would suggest speaking with a recruiter in more detail about this subject if you are concerned. I would have done that, but these men and women have more important things to do than answer questions for my blog.

I also learned that flatfoot can develop later on in life. This can explain why some individuals who may not have had issues during an entrance exam may have issues later on their military career. Sometimes foot injuries can cause flatfoot too. The big question here is: “Can I get service connected for pes planus? Absolutely you can! Let’s look into how a flatfoot condition gets service connected through the VA.

To determine if pes planus is a disability in which Veterans can service connect, I turned to the 38 CFR. For those of you who don’t know, the 38 CFR is like a gigantic book of ratings codes and regulations pertaining to the VA. It’s like Harry Potter if Harry Potter was boring and full of legal jargon. Actually, a better title of this might be “0 Shades of Gray,” because of how little it opens things up for interpretation. Most things in this book are black and white. Bad puns aside, it is actually interesting to see what the 38 CFR says about flatfoot. I did not realize the range to which a Veteran can get service connected for this condition. It starts at a rating of 0% and goes up to 50%. It is also important to note that pes planus can be service connected bilaterally. If you are new to VA disability, bilateral simply means that it affects both sides. In this case, both feet may be flat, or one foot being flat is affecting the other. The highest rating of 50% is assigned for the most severe cases, and it must be bilateral in order to get 50%. To summarize, if your feet are as flat as Katy Perry's singing, and just as painful, you may be able to get 50%. However, if you only have a mild issue with pes planus, you may only be rated at 0% or 10%. 

How does one actually get this service connected though? That answer is actually a little simpler. Evidence in service is a must with this condition. I have spoken to several Veterans who have sought treatment in service because of their flatfoot condition. They may have asked for different boots to be issued, given insoles/inserts, or even received medical treatment while in service. These individuals are more likely to get service connection than those who don’t seek treatment while in service.  If you have been discharged for a while, further medical treatment after service will also be beneficial for service connection. Just like any other claim in the VA, medical evidence makes a world of difference.

If you have issues with a flatfoot condition, and are seeking service connection, give us a call today for a free consultation: 1-877-526-3457. If you would rather be contacted by a member of our staff, fill out this form, and you will be called by someone at a time that works best for you. 

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Receiving VA Disability and working full time is absolutely fine!

I try not to get too personal on this blog. I also try to make it stand out by injecting some humor and my experiences dealing with the VA as a person who works for a law firm. Honestly though, I write this blog because I sincerely enjoy interacting with Veterans and active duty service members. While my Facebook page and Twitter feed may be filled with posts about Miley Cyrus or JJ Watt, I actually get more excited when I meet someone who has served. For the most part, I think they are pretty great. It’s not just because of the work that I do, or that I am trying to get more people to read this blog, it’s genuine.

For instance, this past weekend I went bowling with a group of coworkers, including Bill, who some of you know from this blog. Another coworker introduced me to a gentlemen she has been dating who is currently serving in the National Guard. I talked that poor guy’s ear off. I find it fascinating that so many are willing to give up so much and get so little in return. It’s also no secret that most of my friends have served at some point in their lives. So once again, this is a genuine interest of mine.

So, you might be wondering why I am telling you all of this. I’ll explain later.

Full disclosure: It’s not easy coming up with new topics for this blog. Today is Monday. I have not talked to any Veterans yet this week. Most of my inspiration comes from real interactions with those who have served. When I am struggling to find a subject to write about, I will see what the mainstream media is talking about. Today I ran across an LA Times article that I did not like. While it did not blatantly come out against Veterans who receive disability, it definitely was not complimentary. The author happens to cover a lot of Veterans topics for this publication. He has not served, but yet, like me, covers Veterans Disability. (I am not a journalist, I am a blogger. There is a difference. Just ask a journalist.) The article as a whole seemed to really look at Veterans who work and receive VA disability benefits concurrently in a negative light. He mentioned a Veteran who makes $70,000 per year who is also receiving VA disability. He’s implying that someone who makes that much money shouldn't receive VA Disability pay. Or maybe that is just what I am interrupting. Regardless if his intent is to shame Veterans who receive disability and work full time, or just to paint a better picture for his readers, there is nothing illegal about what that Veteran is doing. You can be a billionaire and still receive VA disability compensation. There is no income limit on VA Disability. There is a limit on VA pension, but that is a different program. Also, you can't get IU and work full time. 

This is why so many Veterans aren’t pursuing the disability benefits they deserve through the VA. It’s because of reporters who have not served making judgments based off of ignorance.  Granted, you could say that I am just drinking the Kool-Aid, and that I am selling out because it is my job. That is simply not true. I am lucky enough to work with Veterans every day. I was fascinated with those who serve before my employment with this firm, and when I depart, I won’t stop being involved with Veterans. Simply put, I find no enjoyment in shaming Veterans. I don’t care if a Veteran makes a lot more than I do, and still gets VA disability. That is not for me to judge.

Honestly, I work with Veterans from all across the United States, not just California. Most of the men and women I encounter are not making a ton of money to start with. A lot are either unemployed or even underemployed and what they receive from the VA is keeping them from a life of poverty or worse. (The article does mention the number of Veterans who are currently struggling financially.) Let’s not pretend like a bunch of rich Veterans are out there scamming the VA to make even more money. Let’s also not pretend that these Veterans don’t deserve to be compensated for their service to our country. I can’t imagine what it’s like to serve. I don’t know what it’s like to be in combat, and to be willing to die for my country. I am not that brave. This is one of the many things that separate civilians from soldiers.

This was going to be it for my blog post today. However, I looked at the other articles this writer has posted. Most of them shed VA Disability in a negative light. However, that is not all he covers. He recently ran two stories on the Sandra Bullock stalker situation. I am a huge Sandra bullock fan, so I thought I’d check it out. I noticed that both stories he ran showed a picture of Ms. Bullock with a young active duty service member, an Airman in his Class A uniform. The photo was from a recent awards show Bullock attended. The young soldier is not the stalker, but I am curious as to why this photo was chosen to be used with the stalker story twice. I don’t really have too much time to do research on stories involving celebrities, but I checked to see if the stalker was a Vet. I could not find any evidence stating that he had ever served in the military. Granted, I don’t know if this writer gets to choose the photos for his stories or not. It could just be a coincidence. Also, it could just be that it was the most recent photo they had of her. All I can say is that if I was writing a story about someone stalking a celebrity, I wouldn't use a photo which includes an individual who is not involved. Once again, I am not a journalist, I am a blogger. 

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Making the rank; Does your rank help your VA claim?

When I was studying criminal justice in undergrad, or as it is more popularly known, wasting four years of my life, we learned about ranks within police departments. I really wish I would have paid more attention during that lesson because it likely would have helped me when doing intakes with Veterans. The reason is that I have to know what rank a Veteran was at when he or she was discharged from the military. One might think that it is a simple as asking them and then jotting down their reply, but like going to the DMV, things get complicated fast.

Most of my research came from the Department of Defense. They are quick to point out that many people make the same mistake I do. I confuse pay grade with rank. E-1, or “enlisted one,” is the most basic pay level. However, most Veterans I talk to will either give me their pay level when I ask for their rank, or they will tell me both. I am not supposed to play favorites in my line of work, but the Vets who give me pay grade and rank are my favorite. While the DOD is quick to point out that they pay grade and rank are different, I doubt you will ever see a Master Chief petty Officer listed as an E-2. Generally when your rank changes, so does your pay grade. This is why so many Veterans and civilians use them interchangeably. However, it is not always the case. Sometimes there are two ranks listed at the same pay grade. Even though one outranks the other, they make the same amount of money.

What is the issue? Did you know that all five branches of the Military have different titles at each level? (For the most part.) For instance, the very basic rank in the Army and Marines is a private. However, if you were an Airman you would be considered an Airman basic. In the Navy and Coast Guard you’d actually be considered a seaman recruit. All of these ranks I just listed are considered “E-1’s.”

The most common rank we encounter in this firm is E-4. Here is where things get a little convoluted. In the Army an E-4 can be a corporal or a Specialist. In the Navy and Coast Guard an E-4 is a Petty Office Third Class, while in the Marines an E-4 is a corporal. Lastly the Air Force considers an E-4 a Senior Airman. Technically these are all the same rank. If a Veteran tells me his was rank was specialist, I often have to ask him to clarify simply because there are so many ranks to keep track of in the military. Three out of the five branches consider an E-5 to be a sergeant but the Navy and Coast Guard consider an E-5 to be a Petty Officer 2nd Class.

Here are some interesting facts about ranks that I observed from my research:

*There are 20 different ranks that fall under the category of E-9 across the 5 branches.

*Stars indicate importance. The more stars you see, the higher the rank.

*Officers are listed either as W or O. For instance, a "W-1."

*E-4 is the most common rank in the military.

So, why am I going on and on about ranks? First of all I do find them fascinating. But they do play a small part in a VA disability claim too. For instance, when I am talking to someone who served for a long period of time with a low rank, it’s a red flag. Recently I talked to a Veteran who served for a decade that was discharged as an E-1. For the most part, an individual who served for 10 years would not be ranked that low. I immediately asked if had faced any disciplinary charges before he was discharged, and he said he had. He was actually ranked as an E-5 prior to his demotion. This does not mean that we can’t help; it simply paints a better picture of his military career. We like to be very thorough in our reviews. This could actually be beneficial for a psych claim like PTSD. It could possibly be used as evidence to help prove a change in behavior. We have found this to be the case in a number of PTSD and MST claims over the past several years. This shows us that a Veteran was on one course, then something happened to change that course. It could be a PTSD stressor or a sexual assault that changed the course.  

It is important to note that rank does not increase your chances of getting service connected; it does not speed up your case.  

If you would like to learn more about what we can do to get you service connected, give us a call today for a free consultation. 1-877-526-3457. You can also fill out this form and one of our staff members will give you a call. 

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