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Archive for Helpful Hints and Advice – Page 2

5 Ways the VA Has Made Improvements Over the Past 5 Years

Five years ago I walked through the doors of this law firm and I had no idea what I was doing. I was told I’d be working with Veterans to help them get the benefitsblog-photos-045 they deserved. “Heck yeah,” I thought. Veterans are really awesome and I am sure that getting them their benefits would be easy. I was young, naïve, and wrong. When I say wrong, I mean Ashley Judd in Dolphin Tale 2 wrong. I was right about Veterans being awesome, though, and I can honestly say that I love working with Vets. They are really awesome, and I’ve made some friends from my work here. But the part about the disability process being easy was very untrue. However, I am not a pessimist. I believe in looking at the good in life, and I try to focus on the positives. When dealing with something as complicated as VA Disability, it’s not easy to think about positives. In fact, I might say that this is one of the hardest blogs I’ve ever written. It wasn’t easy to find positives, but there are some, and that is what matters.

Full disclosure: I don’t work for the VA. I am not paid by the VA. I am not some undercover propaganda machine either. I work for a West Virginia-based law firm that focuses on Veterans Disability, Social Security, and Personal Injury. To prove that I am indeed a real boy, here is a link to my Twitter profile. It’s been active since 2011. I usually go on rants about race cars and Ashley Judd. I love JJ Watt and you’ll often see me talk about cars, product placement and food. I am real. Enjoy the list.

  1. Electronic records. When I first started working here, an electronic medical record or claim file was unheard of. In fact, we would get so many records on paper only, that I seriously considered making a fort out of them at one time. A claim file can be thousands of pages long. Imagine getting those every day by mail. And then we would have to take those files and sort them. The records were thrown to together haphazardly. Admin records would be mixed with VA medical recs, Entrance exams were thrown in with private records, and it was what most people would call a hot mess. More care and planning went into the remake of Fantastic Four than the VA used to put into these records, and that’s not saying much.
  2. Initial Application turn-around. Way back in 2011, after Instagram but before Snapchat, Initial applications for disability benefits used to take at least 12-18 months before the VA would make a decision. That process has improved in many ways. Initial applications for most Veterans are able to come back within a year. However, Veterans who apply as a part of their discharge process can get decisions back in as little as three months. Also, Veterans with fully developed claims can get their initial applications back quickly too.
  3. BVA Hearings. Another area in which the VA has improved vastly is in the BVA or Board of Veterans Appeals. Heather Vanhoose, our lead VA attorney, has witnessed this firsthand. She mentioned that she’s seen the turnaround time for BVA hearings decrease steadily over the past five years. The VA has hired more people to deal with the backlog and they’ve actually done a good job to get these hearings scheduled quicker.
  4. Public Awareness. If I were to give the VA an “A” in one area, it would be Social Media. I guess that is kind of ironic considering I work in social media too. However, maybe it’s because I do work in social media that I notice this, but it’s worth noting. First of all, every Regional Office and most VA Medical Facilities have Twitter handles. That is pretty impressive for an organization that didn’t make use of scanners until 2015. The VA also makes use of social media to have question and answer sessions, live video chats, and even behind the scenes info. It really appears as if they are making a valent effort to reach young Veterans. Their accounts are also pretty interactive. They actually take the time to answer questions.
  5. E-Benefits. The E-Benefits  sites by far one of the most helpful tools a Veteran can use. The E-Benefits sight helps Veterans sign up for benefits, gets copies of documents and even lets them know where their case is at in the process. It’s a very helpful way to keep Veterans informed. It was not always this way, though. When I started it was not very interactive, and it really didn’t do much to help a Veteran with his or her case.

Overall, I am not trying to say that this process is perfect now. In fact, it’s actually far from it. I just wanted to shed some light on a few things that the VA is doing well. Also, I understand the fact that the VA has a good Twitter account means very little to you if you’ve been waiting years for a claim to get approved. But, the VA is making some moves in the right direction.

If you feel as if you are stuck with your claim and would like to know what our firm can do fo you, call us for a free case evaluation. Our toll-free number is 1-877-526-3457. However, if you can’t talk right now, fill out this form  so that we can contact you at a better time.

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6 Things You Probably Don’t Know About The United States Coast Guard

Ask individuals who haven’t served what their favorite branch of the military is, and the Army will likely come in first. The Marines and Navy will probably battle ithelicopter-615168_1920 out for a second, and a distant fourth will be the United States Air Force. Most people will associate their favorite with a friend or family members, who served in a specific branch. The Army has the most individuals enlisted, so it makes sense that it is first. The Marines are very tough, and the Navy defends our seas, so it makes sense that they are popular too. Oh, have you seen some of the equipment the Air Force has? It’s no wonder they’re popular. Honestly, every branch is cool for different reasons, and they all do so much to keep us safe. I also believe that any individual who signs up for any branch is quite brave. I also want to mention that I have close friends who have served in the Army and the Marines, so I can be a little biased there. Then again, I also have friends who served in the Navy and in the Air Force, so I guess were back at square one. So, which branch is my favorite?

Some of you may have noticed that I haven’t mentioned the United States Coast Guard yet. If you did notice, you are my kind of person. Too often the Coast Guard gets overlooked ad forgotten. Full disclosure, the Coast Guard is my favorite branch of the military, and I have my reasons. In honor of Coast Guard Day, here are 6 things you probably don’t know about The United States Coast Guard.

  1. The Coast Guard is not actually a part of the Department of Defense. All of the other branches of the military are a part of the Department of Defense, but the Coast Guard is actually a part of the Department of Homeland Security. What’s even more interesting is that the Coast Guard has been transferred quite a few times. In their 226 year history, The Coast Guard has been a part of several different agencies. Before it was called the United States Coast Guard, they were a part of the Department of the Treasury, and they were simply known as “The Cutters.” The year was 1790 and the Secretary of the Treasury decided to create a fleet of ships to enforce tariff laws. Do you know who the Secretary of the Treasury was back then? Well, he’s more popular in 2016 than any previous time in history. You may know him as “…the ten dollar founding father, who got a lot father by working a lot harder by working a lot smarter…” Alexander Hamilton. Since its founding, the Coast Guard has also been a part of the Depart of Transportation, Department of The Navy, and currently, the Department of Homeland Security.
  2. They aren’t just seaworthy, they fly too. The Coast Guard may have a small fleet of aircraft, but they do fly. Currently, there are 221 aircraft in the Coast Guard’s Inventory. They are used for search and rescue, personnel transport, Law Enforcement, Ice Cutting Services, and much more.
  3. The Coast Guard isn’t just on the coast; they patrol lakes and rivers too. For instance, last spring I took a trip to Cleveland. Right next to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame the Ninth Coast Guard District. They’re responsible for patrolling all five of the Great Lakes. Through the Coast Guard Auxiliary, the Coast Guard operates in all 50 states, the Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Guam, and America Samoa. Through the Auxiliary everything from boating safety to fishing vessel inspection is performed.
  4. The Dude abides. Jeff and Beau Bridges served in the US Coast Guard, as did Arnold Palmer. In the film, Ashton Kutcher, Chris Pine, and Kevin giphyCostner have all played Coast Guardsmen. The 2016 film The Finest Hours is based on actualevents that occurred in 1952.
  5. Despite what some people will tell you, the Coast Guard does serve in combat missions. A full list of the Coast Guard’s involvement in combat can be read here. An expert from the official Coast Guard Website explains their involvement in recent conflicts. As a prominent member of the new department, (Department of Homeland Security) US Coast Guard units deployed to Southwest Asia in support of the US-led coalition engaged in Operation Iraqi Freedom early in 2003. At the height of operations, there was 1,250 Coast Guard personnel deployed, including about 500 reservists. This included two large cutters, a buoy tender, eight patrol boats, four port security units, law enforcement detachments and support staff to the Central (CENTCOM) and European (EUCOM) Command theaters of operation.
  6. Coast Guard Veterans are eligible for VA Disability Compensation. Though we don’t hear from a lot of Coast Guard Veterans, they are just like every other branch of the military when it comes to physical disabilities. Coasties have military occupations too, and a lot are very physical. If a Coast Guard Veteran was injured while on active duty, then they can file a claim for disability compensation. One area where there seems to be some confusion has to do with mental disabilities like PTSD. Though most Coast Guard Vets don’t serve in combat, PTSD is a very real possibility for many Guardsmen. I’ve talked to thousands of Veterans about their PTSD symptoms, and one of the worst stressors I recall came from a Coast Guard Vet. He was on a search and rescue team that had to respond to areas affected by hurricanes. The amount of death and destruction he witnessed was simply staggering. Though he was not in combat, his non-combat stressor was more than sufficient to get him service connected for PTSD. There’s not always a lot of information out there for Coast Guard Vets regarding disability compensation. If you served in the Coast Guard and have questions about compensation, call us, and we’ll be happy to help. Our toll-free number is 1-877-526-3457. If you’d rather be contacted by a member of our team at a different time, fill out this form now.

 

I really can’t pinpoint why I have such affection for the Coast Guard. I don’t have any friends who served in the Coast Guard, and, full disclosure, I’ve never seen any of the movies that Hollywood has made about them either. It honestly comes down to the work I do. While I don’t often get to talk to Veterans who have served in the Coast Guard, and when I do, it’s always an enjoyable experience. I’ve had a few Coasties tell me that my blog really helped them understand the disability process a lot more and that always makes me smile. I also feel that the Coast Guard is the forgotten branch of the military, and they don’t always get the accolades they deserve. I’ve seen countless military tributes that forgot to include the Coast Guard. Just last week I walked by the military recruitment center in our local mall and noticed that there was not an office for the Coast Guard there. Granted, we are in West Virginia, and there’s not a lot of demand for the Coast Guard here, so I understand.

Simply, the Coast Guard is pretty awesome. I enjoy every chance I get to talk to a Coast Guard Vet, and hopefully, this blog will help a few more of you realize you can get benefits.

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What if You Didn’t Treat in Service?

How does a Veteran get service connected for VA disability compensation? It’s a pretty common question, and we teach all of our new employees that a Veteran hasPi Photo Shoot 1 085 to have a disability that was either diagnosed in service or made worse by their time in service. However, all of our employees will also tell you that it’s not always true. The first thing that comes to mind is a mental disability like PTSD. More often than not, a mental disability like PTSD does not have to be diagnosed in service. Instead, you have to have a stressor from your time in service that would cause PTSD to manifest later in life. This rule is also true for presumptive conditions. If a Veteran was exposed to Agent Orange in service, he or she would not likely show symptoms until after they were discharged. For instance, if a Veteran served in Vietnam and was later diagnosed with Diabetes, they would be excluded from the rule. So, what about physical conditions that are not a part of the presumptive list, do they always have to be diagnosed in service? The answer to that question is yes, no and maybe.

What a surprise, the VA disability process is confusing. For the most part, yes, a physical condition needs to be diagnosed in service. There are some exceptions to the rule, though. This is where hiring an attorney really comes in handy. Sometimes we have to prove that a physical injury is a result of time in service even if a Veteran did not receive a diagnosis.  The best example of this I can provide involves Veterans who jump out of planes. Vets who went to Airborne School, became Rangers, have a Parachutist badges and so on.

Now, I can’t speak from experience because I can barely jump out of the bed of a pickup truck, but I’ve done some research. I actually found a website that explained the physics of parachuting…but I studied communications, and I am pretty sure even Janitor Matt Damon from Good Will Hunting would struggle with those equations. If you would like to see how the math works, click here. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that falling from the sky and landing on the hard ground can mess up your joints. Actually, I am Snapchat friends with a gentleman who is currently going through Ranger School. He is in great shape and works out multiple times a day. He’s the type of fella who lives every day like it’s leg day. When he first started the jumps, he would complain about how sore his body was after each jump. Since I’ve been in an attorney’s office for so long my first thought was; save those Snaps! Yes, they could be used as evidence later. Simply, this is a young man, who is in great shape, but is experiencing pain because he’s jumping out of a plane and landing on the ground with incredible force. This fella has only done it a few times; just imagine how bad it is for a Vet who has 40-50 jumps. In this case, you may not have a diagnosis of a knee problem in service, but if one developed shortly after, it wouldn’t take a lot to connect the dots.

photos 4 050What about someone who didn’t jump, but a had a physical MOS. I have a buddy who was an airplane mechanic for 20 years in the Air Force, but he never jumped out of a plane. First of all, being a mechanic on a jet is not the same as being a car mechanics. But, it’s safe to say that both are very physical. 20 years of turning wrenches alone would be enough to cause arthritis and joint pain, but think about all of the lifting an individual has to go through as a mechanic. Take that, and then multiply it by 20 years, and it’s easy to see how someone might have a back issue though they were never formally diagnosed.

I want to be clear, though. It still helps to get treatment in service, and it still really helps to get diagnosed. Let’s say you only served two years in the military, but worked 30 years as a coal miner. In that situation, it’s going to be a lot more difficult to prove that an injury is a result of your time in service as opposed to your civilian job if you didn’t get diagnosed or treated in service. It’s also very important to get treatment after you are discharged. A gap treatment can hurt your claim severely.

As a firm, we know that the people who join the military are pretty tough, and don’t often get treatment in service. They fight hurt if you will. That is why we try to find alternatives to get Veterans service-connected. One way we do this is through secondary opinions. A doctor or medical professional can look at your medical records, and do additional testing to determine if your injuries are related to your time in service. This is commonly referred to as a nexus letter.

Overall, while treating in service really helps, it’s not a deal-breaker if you don’t. Just remember to get treatment now, and don’t put off pursuing a claim too long.

If you’d like to know more about our services, call us today for a free consultation. Our toll-free number is 1-877-526-3457. If you can talk right now, fill out this form to be contacted at a better time.

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The 5 Most Common Issues Veterans Have with Dependents

It takes a long time for a VA Disability claim to get approved. It’s safe to say that everyone knows that by now. When you finally start getting compensated for dependents.  While it may seem like being compensated for your dependents should be easy, you can’t forget that we’re dealing with the VA. They’re not known for being user-friendly. In this blog, we will examine the 5 most common issues with dependents.

  1. Right from the start, the VA makes it difficult. Veterans who are only rated at 20% overall or below will not be compensated for VA disability. The VA states that you have to be rated at 30% overall or higher in order to be compensated for dependents. Nine out of 10 Veterans will tell you that they were not compensated at their highest level right off the bat. They’re generally rated low at first, and then later get an increase. So one reason that many Veterans aren’t getting compensated for their benefits is due to the fact they were originally rated at a lower percentage, and then later moved above the 30% threshold, but the VA neglected to add their dependents. This happens quite often. Here’s a tip: if you do move above the threshold, make sure you are being compensated for the right amount. Checking is actually quite easy. Just compare the amount you are receiving with the rate table found here.
  2. Think about all of the changes you’ve been through in the past four years. Personally, I’ve changed jobs, had a couple of different cars, and went from loving The Bing Bang Theory to thinking that the show is really condescending and preachy. There’s a pretty good chance that your life had more meaningful changes than mine did. Maybe you married the love of your life or brought a new person into this world. Regardless of what happened, there’s a good chance that your life is much different now than it was in 2012. The reason I’m being nostalgic has to do with your application for benefits. Everyone fills out the same thing when they apply. The form has a section where you list your dependents. If you applied when you were discharged, there’s a strong chance you weren’t married yet and didn’t have kids. If you applied later in life, maybe you divorced your spouse or had another child. It generally takes 2-4 years for a Veteran’s final decision to process. When that happens, the VA will use information from your original application to determine your dependents. If you’re not being compensated by the VA, you really wouldn’t have any need to notify them of a life change. If you do get approved a long time after you applied, take a few moments to review everything. Make sure you are getting everything you are entitled too.
  3. The next thing we have to talk about is children. For the record, talking about children is one of my least favorite subjects in the world, but I care so much about Veterans that I am going to talk about them anyway. All kidding aside, it’s really important to keep information about your children up to date. For instance, if I were to ask you; “How long can you claim a child as a dependent,” you’d likely reply “18.” While that is true in a lot of instances, it’s not true if your child is attending college. In that instance, you can actually claim your child until he or she is 22. You will just have to make sure that you provide proper documentation to prove that your child is still in school. Speaking of documentation, it’s important to note that you may have to provide a birth certificate, marriage certificates, or even proof of a divorce. Keep in mind that this is VA, so there is a good chance that you will have to provide this documentation more than once. Switching gears just a little bit here, we have to discuss who you can actually claim as a child. Currently, a Veteran can only claim a biological child, adopted child, or stepchild as a dependent child. Once again, just have the proper documentation to show proof.
  4. Did you know that children and spouses aren’t the only individuals that you can claim as a dependent? You can also claim a parent as a dependent. For instance, if your parent lives with you, and they are dependent upon you for their income, then you can claim them as a dependent. Actually, you can claim both parents as dependents if they are dependent upon you.
  5. Lastly, Veterans with helpless children can also claim them as dependents too. We need to clarify this a little bit, When we discuss this with some of our clients, confusion occasionally sets in. A helpless child is defined by the VA as the following:
  • the extent to which the child is physically or mentally deficient, such as the
  • the ability of the child to perform self-care functions, and
  • ordinary tasks expected of a child of that age
  • whether or not the child attended school and the maximum grade attended
  • if any material improvement in the child’s condition has occurred
  • if the child has ever been employed and, if so, the
  • nature and dates of such employment, and
  • the amount of pay received
  • whether or not the child has ever married,

A lot of people seem to think that taking care of an unemployed adult child makes them a helpless child. This is simply not true. If your adult child does not meet the above criteria, then they can’t be considered a dependent.

Why is all of this so important? Your monthly compensation can be much greater if you properly claim all of your dependants. However, failing to report a divorce or a child graduating college could also cost you. Keeping up with your dependents is actually easy now. You can actually update your dependent status by way of a premium e-benefits account. Remember, a premium account does not actually cost any money, it just requires more information to set up. However, if you’re working with an attorney, they can also make sure your information gets sent to the VA properly, and we can even argue effective dates for dependents too. For instance, if your child was born in May, but the VA didn’t start to compensate you until December, we can argue to get your back pay back to the proper month.

Thanks for reading, but we’d love to hear from you. Call us today to talk about your case. Our toll-free number is 1-877-526-3457, or fill out this form so that a representative can call you at a more convenient time.

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How finding the right VA attorney is like finding the right car dealer

I’m car shopping right now, and it is becoming rather difficult for me because I change my mind three times per day regarding what kind of car I want to buy. I’m not joking when I say that I’ve considered everything from large pickup trucks to small hybrids, and everything in-between. While the kind of car I desire has changed often, the type of listing I’m searching for has not. I will not be purchasing a new car or a used one, but rather a certified pre-owned car. I really don’t see the point of buying a new version of a car when I can get the same model, just two years older, for much cheaper. However, I am not about to buy a Mercedes-Benz C-Class from a dealer that is not authorized to sell that brand of car. A Certified Pre-Owned car has to go through multiple inspections and has to be up to certain standards in order for it to be marked as “certified.” For most manufactures, this means new tires, brakes and several other safety and mileage requirements. A two year old C-Class with 100,000 miles will not be certified by Mercedes. Essentially, when you buy a CPO car, you are paying a little more for some piece of mind, and the people you are purchasing your car from have a vested interest in you purchasing from them. If I buy a CPO Mercedes today, there is a good chance I will go back to their dealer when it’s time to purchase a new Mercedes. That is what I try to explain to individuals when they ask why they should hire our law firm instead of going with a volunteer organization. It’s not like buying a car; it’s more like trying to find the right car dealer.

089Yes, there are some ways to have people represent you in which it won’t cost you anything. But while these may seem enticing, the fact of the matter remains that they don’t have a vested interest in your case. Essentially, a vested interest means that we have a stake in your case. In this situation it will benefit us financially to get you approved as quickly as possible. We have a contingency fee for our representation. Our fee is 20% of whatever back you receive. In other words, if we don’t get you service connected higher than you were before coming to us, then you won’t be charged an attorney fee. This is in contrast to a divorce attorney for instance which charges a retainer fee that they keep regardless if you win or loose. The quicker we get a Veteran their benefits, the quicker we are paid for our services.

Another aspect that comes in to play when you hire a moderately sized law firm like ours is resources. Small law firms and certain volunteer organizations may only have one or two people working on your case. Our firm has over 20 staff members and 3 dedicated attorneys who specialize in VA Disability Claims. Because our staff specializes in different aspects of a VA Disability case, we are more efficient across the board. Kris is a C-file review expert while Andrea schedules hearings and Bobbie reviews records. Having a support staff like this also frees up our attorneys to better represent our clients at hearings. I often use the comparison of lawyers to doctors. If you walked into the emergency room, you’d be a little put off if the head of neurology was doing triage, mopping the floor, changing the bed sheets, writing your bill, and on top of all of that, performing your brain surgery. When we go to the ER, we accept that the doctor does one part of the medical process, and the other people support him or her. Our firm works in the same way. Our attorneys are like the head of neuro. They are usually meeting with clients to prepare them for hearings, or representing our clients in a courtroom. Because of our large staff, the attorneys don’t have to worry about filing appeals, or requesting medical records. They can focus on the most important aspects of the case instead of paperwork that is very tedious and time consuming.

Most organizations who offer free representation usually have one, or just a handful of individuals working on cases. So, that is one person who has to do all of thecfilex2_w640 following; evaluate Veterans to see if they’re eligible for benefits, request and review medical records from private doctors and VA facilities, file appeals, file new claims, request and review claim files, not to mention keeping all of their clients informed about updates. That is a lot for one person to handle. Now multiply that number by however many people they are representing and the workload becomes even more overwhelming. So, in an office like ours, we have are able to share the work load and keep our clients informed. We even have policies in place for our employees to return calls in a timely manner, and we have safeguards in place so that appeals get filed before they expire, and to make sure we get records from providers on a regular basis.

Another reason why I wanted to buy a certified Mercedes from an authorized dealer is that they have mechanics that are specially trained to work on this specific brand of vehicles. I know that the people who have certified this car have special training from Mercedes-Benz to work on their cars. The same is true when you go with a law firm as opposed to a volunteer organization too. Our lawyers have law degrees and they are passionate about law. It’s not just something they do on their spare time, it is their career.

Overall, I am not trying to bash any volunteer organization. They do great work, and they do a lot to help Veterans as a whole. These groups often give Veterans a sense of community, and that’s really important. However, when it comes to something like a disability claim, it’s often better to let experts represent you.

If you’d like to know more about hiring an attorney, or if you’d like to speak to someone about your case, call now for a FREE consultation. Our toll free number is 1-877-526-3457. If you’d rather be contacted by one of our specialists, fill out this form, and we will be happy to call you at a better time.

 

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You Had One Job…and here is how it impacts your VA Disability Claim

One thing that separates my blog apart from all of the other VA disability blogs is that I’m a fan of Veterans first, and it’s my job second. It’s no secret that my favorite branch is the Coast Guard, but IJason Watkins 056 think all five branches are pretty cool. I am not pandering when I say I get excited when I get to meet someone who served. Everyone who serves is pretty brave in my mind. However, there are different jobs in the military that are, arguably, more dangerous than others. I met someone who served as an Army Ranger last you and you would have thought I was a teenage girl meeting one of the Backstreet Boys. (I realize that is a dated reference, but I have no idea what young people listen to today.) Every job in the military is important; some are just more difficult than others. No judgement, but a 44C Finance Specialist Accounting Specialist, isn’t going to have the same experience as a 31B, Military Police. Simply stated, a Veteran who was a Military Policeman will likely have a more physical job than an accountant.

Your MOS can actually play a big part in establishing service connection for your claim. We can assume that an MP had to do a lot of physical training, and physical work every day. In the same regard, a Veteran who was a 44C will likely get service connection for something like carpel tunnel easier than a Veteran who didn’t work with as much data entry.

While my title is trying to be cute, and play off a popular meme, a lot of Veterans have multiple Military Occupations in service. Also, a lot of Veterans have told me that they may have been assigned a specific MOS, but did a different job entirely. From what I’ve been told, no one in the military ever really just does their MOS.

work gifYou have to work hard no matter what job you do in the military, but what if you were an accountant, and chose to go to Airborne School? Well, that plays a part in your case too. Veterans, who passed Airborne, or really any school or classification in any branch that required you to jump from a plane, are really tough. I know this because I’ve researched cases of Veterans who did jumps in service. They almost always have severe joint and back pain. The reason is that jumping in the military is far different than what a civilian does when the go skydiving. The landings are much tougher, and the frequency to which they jump is much higher than a civilian. So, we look at cases for Veterans who did multiple air jumps in service much differently than Veterans who didn’t have any jumps. This really only pertains to joint issues though.

When discussing Military Occupations one MOS that is often overlooked is mechanics. First of all, I am staggered by how many Veterans are a mechanic in the military. Every branch of service has a lot of equipment, and that equipment has to be worked on. In turn, every branch of the military has a lot of mechanics. Mechanical work is also very physical and this causes a lot of joint pain. If a Veteran approached me with back issues, but didn’t treat for it in service, I’d consider his case if he served as a mechanic.

Finally, a lot of Veterans have Military Occupations dealing with Infantry. Infantrymen, Combat Engineer, and Calvary Scout are just some of the occupations in which a Veteran may have if he or she served in combat. These occupations are more likely to have physical disabilities and mental disabilities.

Keep in mind that this is just an outline of what disabilities a certain occupation may have. Of course an accountant can have PTSD or a Combat Engineer can have carpel tunnel. Every Veteran has a different experience and every VA Disability claim is different.

If you’d like to discuss your VA disability claim, call me today for a free consultation. Our toll free number is 1-877-526-3457. Or, fill out this form now to schedule your consultation at a later time.

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Get to know the face of our blog

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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7 Goals Veterans Should Set For VA Disability Claims In 2016

Jason Watkins 086It’s safe to say that I’m not the only one who hates New Year’s Eve. It’s pointless. Who wants to stay up just to watch a ball of light drop 40 feet? I’ll even go as far as saying that New Year’s was just made up to sell more calendars. Kidding aside, it seems like more and more people aren’t fans of this holiday, and that is fine by me. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t set goals for the New Year, especially when it pertains to your VA Disability Claim. Setting goals will keep you on track, and can possibly get you service connected quicker. So, here are 7 goals to set for your VA disability claim in 2016.
1. Stay Positive. There’s nothing worse than going through a difficult situation and then having someone who’s not going through it tell you to stay positive. No, I’m not a Veteran and I’ll never be able to file a VA disability claim, but I do know a lot about them. Staying positive in 2016 will help you with the remainder of your goals. Further, our law firm is up front with every Veteran we talk to. If we don’t believe that we can get you service connected, we will tell you why. We don’t believe it’s fair to give someone false hope.
2. Get Treatment. Like many Veterans I hate making trips to see the doctor. It can be expensive, the people in the waiting rooms are annoying and they never get my Grey’s Anatomy jokes. But, as I’ve been preaching for the past 5 years, treatment is what wins cases. So, if you are pursuing a VA disability claim, set a goal to get regular treatment in 2016. Keep in mind that treatment does not always mean going to the doctor. For instance, if you have headaches, keep a journal detailing the pain and duration of each headache. Or, if you are struggling with PTSD, look into yoga or joining a Veterans organization as alternative treatments.
3. Don’t compare yourself to other Veterans. Too often I hear Veterans get upset when talking about how another Veteran got his benefits in 6 months while he has had been waiting for three years. I’ll be the first to admit that it completely sucks when your peers are further along than you are and they don’t have to put in the effort. I deal with it too. However, that is just the way the system is and there isn’t much we can do change it. Every case is different and every regional office operates at different speeds. Focus on your own case. Perhaps there are reasons why your friend was connected so quickly. It’s possible they aren’t being upfront with you too.
4. Don’t wait to file appeals. This is one of those times when I really need to practice what I preach. I love putting things off. For instance, I was intending on writing this blog in December. But, in the world of VA Disability, putting things off is extremely counterproductive. Here is a good example: When you file your initial claim for benefits you have 365 days from the time the VA makes a decision to file an appeal. More often than not I speak to Veterans who wait until day 352 to file their appeal. Or they come to us the day before it expires and need it appealed as soon as possible. The VA is already going to delay your claim a lot on their own. On average it still takes about 2-4 years for your final decision to come through. In the meantime, anything you can do to keep your claim from getting delayed can make a big difference.
photos 4 0545. Educate yourself on the process. There is too much hearsay in the world of VA Disability. Sometimes I feel like I am talking to members of REO Speedwagon when discussing the process. They heard it from a friend, who heard it from a friend, who heard it from another that you can’t service connect for non-combat PTSD. Well, this is simply not the case. I’ve even seen other VA attorneys aren’t accurate when it comes to VA disability. Coming to this blog is a great first step. However, there are other ways to educate yourself. The VA website is a great first step. They actually have a lot of good information. Set up a Google Alert for VA Disability or even speak with your representative. I am always happy to answer any questions for Veterans.
6. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. While I never served in the military, I am well aware of the lack of information out there for individuals as they approach discharge regarding disability. Many Vets are not aware that they can even file for benefits. So they definitely aren’t aware that this process is difficult. If you find yourself struggling with appeals or with submitting evidence, you can get help. Talk to a service officer or better yet, contact an attorney for a free consultation today. One thing I hear often that brings a smile to my face is when a Veteran says he or she wished they had talked to me sooner. It means they trust me and they are often relived to have talked to me. It’s free. The worst thing that will happen is that we won’t take you on as a client. If that happens, we will still try to help by providing more information about other services.
7. Talk to other Veterans. While this is not exactly related to VA Disability, too often Vets isolate themselves from other Veterans. There are a lot of great Veteran Based Organizations out there and you can probably find one that will help you out a lot. It can be a motorcycle club, a Student Veteran organization at college, or even a group who is involved politically, like the IAVA. It’s important to know you’re not alone in this world.
The New Year is only a few days old. It’s not too late to set some goals. Veterans who are active in their claims stand a better chance to get service connected. While it may seem time consuming or pointless at times to set goals, it works. If you would like to know more about the process, or would like to talk to me about your claim, call me toll free: 1-877-526-3457. You may also fill out this form if you’d rather we call you at a later time.

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Answers to the most common questions Veterans have about VA Disability

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

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

 

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

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What Veterans Need to Know About Meniere’s Disease

If I were to travel back in time four years to do one thing to better prepare myself for a career in Veteran’s Disability, I would have taken a couple of classes in anatomy and physiology. I think photos 4 039 - Copylearning more about the body as whole, certain diseases, or even certain symptoms would have helped me significantly. At the very least, I could have read Gray’s Anatomy instead of watching Grey’s Anatomy to broaden my knowledge of the body. By relying on the latter option I know have an understanding of the complexity of being a modern doctor on the go, but can’t tell you the difference between radiculopathy and neuropathy.

Why am I bringing up my television habits again in this blog? It actually started a few years ago when I was talking to a Veteran about his claim. While discussing his case he mentioned that he has been diagnosed with Meniere’s disease. Before I go on too much further, I want to make it clear that I’m not completely inept. The fine educators at West Virginia University made a glorious attempt to educate me. The sad fact of the matter is that when you study communications in graduate school, you’re not likely to spend a lot of time on the anatomy of the ear. I shared my background because I want you to understand my follow up question to his inquiry. I asked if it had something to do with working in a coal mine. Please don’t judge. He was from southern West Virginia, spoke with an accident, and did work in coal mine. When he spoke I thought he had said “miner’s disease.” This is why I believe a few anatomy classes would have helped me significantly.

After my embarrassing encounter I decided to do research on Meniere’s disease so that I would not seem foolish again. It turns out the Meniere’s disease actually affects the inner ear. According to a place I learned about on Grey’s Anatomy, The Mayo Clinic, Meniere’s is actually quite serious.  They state that Meniere’s disease is a disorder of the inner ear that causes spontaneous episodes of vertigo along with fluctuating hearing loss, ringing in the ear (tinnitus), and sometimes a feeling of fullness or pressure in your ear. I also feel obligated to inform you that Meniere’s disease is traditionally a chronic condition.

When I mentioned that Meniere’s disease was serious I didn’t mean to imply that is was life threatening. It’s serious in realm of Veterans Disability because a Veteran can actually get service connected for Meniere’s disease up to 100%. In fact, there are only three ratings for Meniere’s disease in the 38 CFR. Those ratings include 30%, 60% and 100% service connected.

My intention with this blog has always been to educate Veterans. I am not concerned with impressing VA Disability Attorneys. With that in mind, I am not going to go over the different criteria for the different ratings. Just keep in mind that the biggest difference in the ratings involves vertigo attacks and cerebellar gait.

Prior to researching this blog I did not realize the severity in which Meniere’s disease can impact a person’s life. I’m glad I felt compelled to investigate the symptoms so that I may better serve the Veterans who are wishing to get service connected for this condition.

If you are struggling with Meniere’s disease, give us a call for a free consultation. Our toll free number is: 1-877-526-3457. If you’d rather speak us at a different time, use our online chat, or fill out this form to schedule a free consultation.

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