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Archive for Gulf War Illness

Migraines and Your VA Disability Claim

When I was just a young fella I recall having severe issues with migraine headaches. I was only about 6 or 7 years old but I recall that they were so severe that I would become nauseous. I was not able to do my homework at night and it really concerned my mother. I eventually went to a doctor about the issue. They performed X-rays, ran multiple tests, and could not figure out was wrong with me. I assumed I was just so smart that my brain was struggling to contain all of the knowledge I was gathering. Sadly this wasn’t the case either. My doctor said that I would eventually grow out of it. I obviously thought he was a quack. (I was awfully judgmental as a child.)  It turns out my doctor was correct. By the time I was 9 I wasn’t having migraines any longer. It’s rare for me to get a headache that severe as an adult.

Why am I bringing this subject up now? Well, it’s rare for me to relate on a lot of claims Veterans file for in VA Disability. Migraine headaches are one of the areas in which Veterans can service connect for in VA Disability yet often aren’t aware that they can claim. Migraines are very prominent in our younger veterans, and headaches in general are a presumptive condition under Gulf War Illness. Let’s examine this subject in more detail.

Migraines are quite interesting in VA disability. For one, the most you can service connect on migraines is 50%. In fact, the ratings for Migraines are as follows: 0%, 10%, 30% and 50%.

According to the 38 CFR, here are the criteria for each level of migraines:

8100   Migraine:

With very frequent completely prostrating and prolonged attacks productive of severe economic inadaptability 50

With characteristic prostrating attacks occurring on an average once a month over last several months 30

With characteristic prostrating attacks averaging one in 2 months over last several months 10

With less frequent attacks 0

One thing that stands out in the description above is the phrase “prostrating attacks.” I don’t see a medical degree hanging from my walls, so I decided I better figure out what that means. According to Merriam-Webster, prostrating means that you are: “stretched out with face on the ground in adoration or submission; also :  lying flat.” In other words, the pain of the headache is so severe that you are only able to go lie down to deal with the pain. I can relate to that. I recall many nights as a child in which I had to retreat to my bedroom to deal with the pain. Many Veterans have told me that they have to go to their bedroom in order to deal with the severe pain. They will black out all of their windows, get rid of all noise, and just lie on their bed for hours until the pain goes away. Some Veterans I have talked with in the past state that they have severe migraines multiple times per week. I personally couldn’t imagine trying to function as an adult with severe headaches like this every week.

Read More: Tips for a successful VA Disability Claim in 2014

What about headaches that aren’t considered migraines? Are they any different? According to the CFR they are not different than migraines when it comes to ratings. I spoke with Kris who reviews all of our claim files to verify this. He stated that the VA uses the same rating code for regular headaches as they do for migraines.

If you are a Veteran who is suffering from migraines, be sure to seek treatment from a medical professional for your conditions. Treatment is key in any VA disability claim. Also, when it comes to headaches as a whole, keeping a journal of your headaches can help get you service connected.

If you would like to know more about service connecting for headaches, give me a call for a free consultation. Our number is 1-877-526-3457. You can also fill out this form so that we may contact you at a later time.

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Why is the VA Denying all of those Gulf War Claims?

Last month the Department of Veterans Affairs released a study showing that 80% of Gulf War related claims get denied by the VA. For some this information may seem like a shocking number. For others however, this seems like a regular occurrence with the VA. Why are all of those claims getting denied though? While I personally can’t go in and look at every decision, I can provide some insight from my own experiences.

Let’s examine an issue like headaches for instance. This issue is on the Gulf War presumptive list. In other words, the VA assumes that if you served in the Gulf War, and have an issue with headaches, then those things are related. Thus you should receive service connection for the condition. However, let’s not forget who we are dealing with here. It’s the VA, not Bed Bath and Beyond. The VA will tell you no, and they won’t accept competitors coupons. Joking aside, the VA is not necessarily going to deny a claim for no reason. (Even though it may seem like it often.) The biggest reason a claim like headaches is denied is lack of evidence.

Having the condition alone is not always enough to get service connection. In all honesty, everyone has headaches. A few weeks ago I stayed up all night watching “Orange is the New Black,” and I had a headache for the first 7 hours of my work day. When it comes to a Veteran though, their headaches tend to be more severe and not Netflix induced. If you are filing a GWI claim related to headaches without any medical treatment, or evidence, then the VA will deny you. I want to make it clear that you don’t have to have 20 years of treatment records in this situation. Sometimes simply discussing the issue with your doctor is enough evidence.

Read more: The 10 biggest myths about VA Disability

The last time I went to the doctor, which was not too long ago, he asked me what was going on. We discussed my hypertension, and my issues with sleeping. (Which you can read about in another blog.) At the end of the appointment his nurse entered the room. I spoke with her for a while, some may call it flirting, I call it talking with enthusiasm, and she handed me a summary of our visit. In that summary there were notes about the conditions I told my doctor about moments before. Guess what, that is now in my medical records forever. It shows that I mentioned a sleep issue.

What if you have not been to a doctor, is that the end of the road? The answer is no. One thing I encourage Veterans with headaches to do is to keep a headache journal. Sometimes simply documenting when your headaches occur, the severity, and the length, over a period of time, can help get a claim like this service connected. This really works for any number of conditions. Another helpful tool for multiple conditions is a Statement in Support of Claim. Regardless if it is from you, or someone else, these statements can help establish service connection.

So, if you do this you will automatically get service connection, right? Nope! The VA is like Bed Bath and Beyond in the fact neither makes sense to me. Sometimes even with a mountain of evidence your claim can get denied. That is why we are here. We can properly argue against what the VA has decided, schedule independent medical exams, and of course represent you at hearings if you are denied.

If you would like to set up a free consultation, or to learn more about what we do, give us a call. 1-877-526-3457. To be contacted by a member of our staff, click here.   

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What is the difference between a diagnosed and an undiagnosed illness?

Have you ever struggled to understand something that so many people you know grasp so quickly? I will admit that I find myself in this type of situation often. For instance, when I competed in speech and debate in high school I struggled to remember my speeches. Every tournament I would lose because I had pauses in my speeches as I forgot the lines I wrote. One day my coach had a private conversation with me. He informed me that the judges don’t know what I know. If I forget something, they are never going to realize it because they didn’t have a copy of my speech in front of them. It all made sense to me then. The next tournament I ended up winning my favorite category and placing in two others. I had finally grasped this whole speech thing! Sadly though it was my senior year and that was our last tournament. 

When I started learning the VA disability process I had a similar problem with differentiating between a diagnosed illness and an undiagnosed illness under Gulf War Illness. Looking back it seems like it should just be so simple, but I struggled with it for longer than I want to admit.

According to the VA-you know, the people who are turning “The Hunger Games” into reality-an undiagnosed illness may include but is not limited to: abnormal weight loss, fatigue, cardiovascular disease, muscle and joint pain, headache, menstrual disorders, neurological and psychological problems, skin conditions, respiratory disorders, and sleep disturbances. Honestly, that definition isn’t satisfying. This is why I struggled for so long to understand this term. I shouldn’t really be surprised that the VA is not fully explaining something.

I believe if you look at it like this, it will make a world of difference. Let’s say a Veteran who never smoked was deployed to Iraq for 18 months. When he returned home he was discharged. Later in life this Veteran started having a respiratory issue. When he went to the doctor all of the medical tests could not prove what caused his respiratory problem. Thus his problem is undiagnosed. The VA agrees that his exposure to certain elements while serving in Iraq may have caused an undiagnosed respiratory issue.

What if a Veteran was diagnosed with something like asthma after serving in Iraq? This is a little tricky. If the Veteran has no other risk factors for something like asthma, then he may still be able to get it service connected as an undiagnosed illness. If he didn’t smoke, no other family members had it, or he didn’t have allergic reactions to anything prior, it would be difficult to prove where his asthma originated. Therefore one can easily be led to believe that it was a result of serving in Iraq.

We always say that every case is different and that two Veterans never have the same results. When it comes to undiagnosed illnesses, this is extremely true. If you are curious about service connecting for your undiagnosed illness, give us a call today for free consultation. 1-877-526-3457. If you would rather be contacted by a member of our staff, complete this form.

Having an attorney in a situation like this will be very beneficial. 

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Sleep Disturbances and Sleep Apnea in Veterans

I’ll be honest, if I found a magical lamp randomly on one of my many misadventures to my local flea market, I would wish for the three following items: First, money, because I am human. Second, I would request that the Kardashians be allowed to keep their show, but it’s now a crossover with “Deadliest Catch,” and third, I’d wish for a guaranteed eight hours of sleep every night for the rest of my life. In fact if the genie was a new age hipster genie and only granted me one wish, I’d take the sleep over the money. It would be a tough call between sleep and the Kardashian show though.

In all honesty though, I am awful at sleeping. If I sleep a full eight hours in one night I feel if I have won the lottery the next day. Recently I looked into this a little more with a medical professional. I was thinking that I had sleep apnea as I am a larger person, and I have other things that would put me at risk for this condition. However, I don’t actually have sleep apnea. My issue is that I can’t fall asleep because of anxiety, and a bad case of the Netflix Blues. The Netflix Blues occurs when a new TV show is released and the subscriber feels that he or she must watch all episodes in two nights or the world might end. “Orange is the New Black” may be ruining my life, but it is some great television.

Why did I spend two paragraphs in my VA Disability Blog talking about my own sleeping issues? Well, I thought it would be entertaining, and sleeping issues are affecting a lot of people, especially Veterans. This morning, after a few hours of sleep, I was checking the Google monster for news on Veterans Disability, and I came across an article from New Jersey regarding sleep apnea in Veterans. New Jersey, I thought, how exotic. However, the tone of the article is what really made me look into this topic more so. According to the article, 13% of all Veterans who served post 9/11 are getting service connected for Sleep Apnea. The article then looks into how the VA is attempting to reevaluate the process by which Sleep Apnea claims are service connected.

Before I go too much further, I want to differentiate between Sleep Disturbances and Sleep Apnea. Sleep Disturbances fall under Gulf War Illness, and are undiagnosed. Sleep Apnea is a condition that is diagnosed, and thus would have to be affecting you while you were serving…or within a year of discharge, in order to get service connected. When it comes to Sleep Disturbances, those don’t have to be diagnosed while you were serving, as long as you served in Iraq, or one of the other countries listed. Also, you have to have some record of sleep disturbances. You can’t just walk into the VA Regional Office and say: “I have sleep disturbances,” and expect to get service connection. Just keep in mind that Sleep Apnea and Sleep Disturbances are different.

Wait, you have to be diagnosed while serving for sleep apnea? Well, the answer is a little convoluted. Technically the answer is yes. However, it is possible to get service connection for sleep apnea if you have buddy statements from those you served with that witnessed your sleeping patterns or if you sought treatment for trouble sleeping while serving and were diagnosed after you were discharged. Speaking of convoluted, some Veterans may have claims that read: “Sleep disturbances to include Sleep Apnea,” but that is really complicated, and really evaluated on a case by case basis.

Wow, this is really complicated. It’s important to file for the proper disability when it comes to the VA. Trust me; they are sticklers for the rules. When we represent a client, we have trained professionals evaluate their claims based on the evidence provided, and set best course of action in order to get a Veteran service connected. If you are reading this at 3:00 A.M. because you can’t sleep, it’s worth your time to give me a call. Our consultation is free, and can usually be completed in fewer than 8 minutes. Just call 1-877-526-3457, or fill out this form, and I’ll call you. 

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Joint Pain and Your VA Disability Claim

So many of our Veterans are unaware of what disabilities they can actually apply for through the VA. Granted, it’s not the fault of the Veteran, but rather the overall lack of information being provided to them. I found this was the case early in my tenure working for our firm. When discussing Gulf War presumptive conditions I tend to sound like a late night add for muscle cream: “Do you have joint pain, headaches, or fatigue…if you answered yes to any of these questions than you may be eligible for Gulf War presumptive conditions.” The answer is usually yes, however, I always ask the follow up question, have you ever filed for these conditions, and the answer is often no.

So, besides not knowing that they can file for joint pain, why do so many Veterans refrain from filing for joint pain? From my experience, many Veterans explain that they just believed that it is from their age or the fact that they were in the military and that their bodies went through a lot of physical conditions. Well, most individuals returning from Iraq are in their 20’s or 30’s, and joint pain is not really typical of for people that young. The same holds true for most of the Gulf War Presumptive Conditions.

The important thing to remember if you are pursuing this type of claim is to seek treatment. While you don’t have to have a diagnosis while serving for these types of claims, you do have to seek treatment. If you are interested in learning more about this topic, or would like to have a free case evaluation, give me a call. 1-877-526-3457. If you would like for me to contact you, fill out this form, and I will give you a call back. 

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Are Sailors and Airmen eligible for Gulf War Illness?

Gulf War Illness is an issue affecting a lot of Veterans. As we stated before, the VA has a list of presumptive conditions in which Veterans, who served in specific areas, can service connect. Headaches, Joint Pain, Fatigue, and several other issues, are on this list. When discussing Gulf War Illness, many people think of Marines and Soldiers as the Veterans affected by it, but are Sailors and Airmen affected too?

Granted, if you stepped foot on any of the countries listed in the Southwest Asia theater of military operations, you are eligible for the presumptive conditions. This is often referred to as “boots on ground.” However, many Sailors and Airmen who served in this area over the past 20 years without stepping foot in the countries listed. Are they still eligible? The answer is yes.

Let’s say you were serving in the Air Force and were stationed at Incirlik Air Base during the first Gulf War. It is in Turkey. Turkey does not qualify for Gulf War Presumptive Conditions. If you stayed on base and in the country of Turkey you would not be eligible. However, if you flew in the airspace above any of the areas listed, then you do qualify for the Gulf War presumptive conditions. The airspace above all of the countries is considered eligible for the presumptive conditions.

As I learned by watching “Top Gun,” the Navy has planes too. (I actually knew that, but wanted to get a “Top Gun” reference in today.) Navy pilots are eligible too. Once again the airspace is open to all who served, regardless of the branch. Not all Sailors go for the glory of being in the air, most stay on the ground, or on the ship, to keep everything running properly. Obviously Sailors who were in country qualify, but if you stayed on your ship the entire time, you may be eligible too. Not only are several countries and airspace listed as, but several waterways/seas are too. If you were on a ship in the following areas, you qualify: Gulf of Aden Gulf of Oman Waters of the Persian Gulf, the Arabian Sea, and the Red Sea.

I have friends who served in all branches of the military. My buddies who served in the Navy and Air Force are the first to state that Marines and Soldiers get all of the attention. While I am not sure that is true-I think they may be biased-Sailors and Airmen aren’t the first to come to mind when we think of Gulf War presumptive conditions.

If you would like to learn more about the GWI, or would like to discuss our services, give me a call. 1-877-526-3457. Fill out this form, and I will be happy to give you a call.

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GERD is the Word…Service Connecting for a Common GWI Condition

I recently met a Veteran outside of the office, and the conversation naturally turned back to what we do for a living. (For the record, defending the freedom of millions of Americans really is a lot cooler than blog writing and Tweeting.) When the discussion turned to VA disability, he informed me that had no need for it as there was nothing wrong with him. I naturally asked follow up questions, and determined that he actually had several of the presumptive conditions of Gulf War Illness. This young male served in Iraq and admitted that he sought treatment for joint pain, fatigue and something a little more in depth. He mentioned that he had some heartburn, difficulty swallowing, and acid reflux. I immediately exclaimed: “you might have GERD…” forgetting briefly that we were in a public place, and others around us had the ability to hear. Why was I so excited about this man’s Gastroesophageal reflux disease? The answer is simple; he could get service connected for it…and I love helping people. However, I realize from my experience, and the looks form the other restaurant patrons after I shouted out my buddy’s condition, that the general public may not be as familiar with this term as I am.

So, what is GERD? As I am a blogger, not a doctor, I am going to let the fine folks over at the Mayo Clinic tell you the definition.  Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a chronic digestive disease that occurs when stomach acid or, occasionally, bile flows back (refluxes) into your food pipe (esophagus). The backwash of acid irritates the lining of your esophagus and causes GERD signs and symptoms. Honestly, that is not as helpful as I would have hoped, so they also list the symptoms:

  • A burning sensation in your chest (heartburn), sometimes spreading to the throat, along with a sour taste in your mouth
  • Chest pain
  • Difficulty swallowing (dysphagia)
  • Dry cough
  • Hoarseness or sore throat
  • Regurgitation of food or sour liquid (acid reflux)
  • Sensation of a lump in the throat

My new Veteran buddy agreed that he would seek service connection for these conditions. Despite the fact that I have seen every episode of Grey’s Anatomy, and write the best VA Disability blog in the country, he can’t just go on my word. He has to seek treatment for it from a doctor. In his case, he already sought treatment. But wait, isn’t this a presumptive condition? While that is correct, you can’t just say I have it, and get the benefit. You do have to seek treatment. This is different than a knee condition, for instance, which has to be diagnosed, injured or treated while serving.

If you would like to know more about this condition, or would like to talk to me about becoming a client, call me: 1-877-526-3457. Fill out this form, and I will call you. While you’re online, request a free copy of our book. It is really free too…we don’t even charge for shipping.

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What is Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

What exactly is Chronic Fatigue Syndrome? I found myself asking this exact question when researching Gulf War Syndrome. After all, we all get fatigued from time to time. So, what exactly makes it “chronic?” I decided to check out the VA website, and they actually had some really helpful information.

According to the VA, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, or CFS, is an unexplained, severe and persistent fatigue that is not helped by rest. There may be flu-like symptoms such as sore throat, swollen lymph glands, low-grade fever, headache, muscle pain, and poor sleep. CFS often limits the person’s previous ability to carry on daily activities.

From the above explanation we can tell this goes a lot further than just feeling tired from time to time. While it is difficult to diagnose, Gulf War Veterans who meet the criteria do not need to prove a connection between their military service and illnesses in order to receive VA disability compensation. However, just like with any condition, you have to submit medical evidence stating that you have complained of this to a medical professional,  sought treatment for it, and have a diagnosis of CFS.

While Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is just one aspect of Gulf War Illness, we have a lot of Veterans complaining of this specific issue. Even more alarming is the fact that so many of these younger Veterans are not aware that they can even file a claim for CFS. If you think you have CFS, speak to a medical professional as soon as you can, and then look into filing a claim. If you would rather not do this on your own, give us a call today for a free consultation. Or you can fill out this form and we will call you.

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What Were Veterans Exposed to in the Gulf War?

I personally never served in the military. I have a certain respect for anyone who has served, and that respect has been increased tenfold since working in a firm that deals with VA Disability Compensation. The only real frames of reference I have for a place like Iraq are Veterans I talked to, and films. Way before I worked here I watched the film “Jarhead” in the theater. There is one particular scene that sticks out in which the main character has to remove human waste from a facility and set it on fire. I remember thinking that “they probably didn’t put that in a recruiting ad.” I also thought that it probably wasn’t healthy to inhale all of the fumes from that waste. I was right.

It turns out that this isn’t the only thing Veterans may have been exposed to in Iraq. (This blog will discuss exposure for veterans who served during Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation New Dawn March 19, 2003 – Dec. 15, 2011)

Sand, Dust and Particulates

 Tiny airborne matter that can cause respiratory and other health problems

 Burn Pits

 Open-air pit waste disposal at military sites

Infectious Diseases

 Nine infectious diseases associated with Southwest Asia and Afghanistan military service

Depleted Uranium

 Uranium used in military tank armor and some bullets

Toxic Embedded Fragments

 Shrapnel and other metals that remain in the body after injury

Noise

 Harmful sounds from guns, equipment, and machinery that is often experienced during military service

 Traumatic Brain Injury

 Concussions and brain injury often caused by explosions

 Rabies

 Disease transmitted by bite or saliva from an infected warm-blooded animal

Mefloquine – Lariam®

 Round, white pill taken to prevent and treat malaria

 Heat Injuries

 Possible health problems from extremely hot temperatures

 Sulfur Fire (Al Mishraq, Iraq)

 Sulfur plant burned almost a month in June 2003; large amounts of sulfur dioxide released into the air

 Chromium (Qarmat Ali)

 Hexavalent chromium in contaminated sodium dichromate dust; water treatment plant in 2003

 Occupational Hazards

 Exposures from working with chemicals, paints, and machinery during service

Why is it important to know why you were exposed to certain chemicals and objects? It is possible that you may have certain health issues associated with these exposures. It is always important to be aware of this in case you start having health problems later on in life. If you would like to know more about this subject, or learn about what our firm can do for you, give our office a call today. 1-877-526-3457.

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What is Considered Wartime?

It seems that we’ve had a lot of people apply for Pension lately, and that made me think about the requirements. Regardless if you are applying for Pension or Survivors Pension, one of the requirements is serving during wartime. Obviously there is a War going on now, but what about in the past? What are the dates, and what exactly constitutes “Wartime?”

Perhaps it’s because I was never much of history buff, or maybe it’s because I’m more familiar with some periods than others, but I do have trouble remembering when certain wars started and ended. I feel I am not alone on this subject. This is especially the case when talking to those who want to file for Survivor’s Pension. They may know that their spouse served, but it’s possible they didn’t know them at the time, and thus they are not aware of eligibility. Granted most of us know that Vietnam was in the 60’s and 70’s but recalling the exact dates can be difficult. So, the following list should prove helpful if you are thinking about applying for Pension. This list is provided by the VA:

•World War I (April 6, 1917 – November 11, 1918)

•World War II (December 7, 1941 – December 31, 1946)

•Korean conflict (June 27, 1950 – January 31, 1955)

•Vietnam era (February 28, 1961 – May 7, 1975 for Veterans who served in the Republic of Vietnam during that period; otherwise August 5, 1964 – May 7, 1975)

•Gulf War (August 2, 1990 – through a future date to be set by law or Presidential Proclamation)

If you want to apply for Pension, and served, or were married to a Veteran who served, during the time listed above, then you may be eligible for benefits. To learn more about Pension, or VA Disability Compensation, give our office a call today. Its toll free and we will be more than willing to answer any questions you may have. If you would like to receive a call from our office, fill out our contact form now.

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