Archive for Jan Dils Veteran Disability

Who is Considered a Veteran?

There are a lot of questions you must ask yourself when you are applying for VA Disability Compensation. What conditions are related to my time in service? Which doctors have I treated with for these injuries? Will my family be taken care of if something happens to me? However, one simple question you may forget to ask yourself is; am I a Veteran?

It may seem like a simple question to answer. However, it’s not that black and white. I joined this firm in March of 2011. In that time, I’ve met a lot of people who thought they were Veterans who weren’t, and a lot who thought they weren’t Veterans but were.

Before we get too far down the rabbit hole, let’s look at how the VA defines who a Veteran is. Essentially, a Veteran is a person who served in active military, naval, or air service, and did not receive a dishonorable discharge. The latter part of this condition is met if you received a general, medical, or entry level discharge. If you received any other type of discharge, the VA must determine that your discharge was other than dishonorable.

One area in which many men and women get confused falls under length of time. Too often people think that they must serve a specific time to be considered a Veteran. That’s not true. Many Veterans enter the military for a set period, but they must be discharged early for several reasons. Here is a common example we witness. An individual joins the military on a 4 year enlistment. Near the end of the 2nd year, they injure their ankle and are no longer found fit for duty. In this case, that individual will likely receive a general discharge because of medical reasons. When he recovered, he’d likely be assigned a general discharge, and he’d be sent home.  Keep in mind that this person has done nothing wrong, he was found unfit for duty. The military can’t really punish a person for that, especially if the injury was not intentional. This also doesn’t mean that this person should lose their Veteran status. Though our firm does not deal with education benefits, we’ve heard that a general discharge means that you may have some issues with your education benefits.

We also meet some men and women who think that the only people who can be considered Veterans are those who served in combat, or served overseas. This is also not true. For the most part you have very little control over where the military sends you, or if you are deployed to combat. So, the military and the VA can’t really hold that against you.

What about people who think that they are Veterans, who aren’t? There are a few times in which this can be issue. You may assume that it goes without saying that anyone who didn’t serve in the military isn’t a Veteran. It’s also important to note that the spouse of a Veteran, and the children of a Veteran, are not considered Veterans (unless they also join the military.) Also, individuals who participated in ROTC programs in high school or college, but never entered the armed forces, are not considered Veterans. Finally, anyone who received a dishonorable discharge is .

If you are a Veteran and would like to know more about the services we provide, call us today for a free consultation. Our Number is toll -free 1-877-526-3457. If you can’t talk right now, fill out this form, and we will call you at a better time.

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What I Learned from Attending Two Large Veteran’s Stand Downs

Earlier this week I attended a Veterans Stand Down in Columbus. It was an amazing event full of great vendors, healthcare providers, and service organizations. I’ve been attending these types of events a lot this year. In the past month, I’ve been to Pittsburgh and Columbus, and these cities do not mess around. Their stand downs are huge! Columbus had over 500 Vets, Pittsburgh slightly more than that, but overall they were great events to attend and to meet Vets. The event in Pittsburgh was in a concert venue. I made a joke andpitt-1 said that it was like Coachella, but for people who make the world better. Meeting and helping Veterans is always great. However, the events have been more eye-opening than I would have imagined. Here is a recap of all of the Stand Downs I’ve attended this year.

The Numbers Are Staggering

pitt-2Since April, I’ve attended 5-6 Stand Downs or Resource Fairs. The first few were in smaller cities, but they had pretty good turnouts. While most Stand Downs are aimed at homeless Veterans, the first few events I attended were more like resource fairs, and they were attended by a lot of individuals who were not homeless, but rather in search for everyday resources. They were great to talk to. In New Castle, PA, I met a few individuals who were still in the active National Guard. I was able to talk to them about what they would need to do after discharge to get their disability benefits. I even made some friends at these early events because there was so much downtime. Those early events may not have introduced me to many new clients, but they got my foot in the door and helped prep me for the bigger events.

Pittsburgh was eye opening. I arrived at Stage AE next to Heinz Field on a balmy September morning. The air conditioning in my rented Hyundai Tucson was on full blast. I learned so much on this day. The first thing I learned was that I don’t want to own a Hyundai Tucson. The motor was anemic. It had such little power that overtaking cars on the interstate was hazardous. I hated this car so much that I wanted to leave it parked next to Heinz Field with a note proclaiming: “I found the only thing worse at passing than your quarterback.” To be fair, the car did get me to my destination. I quickly gathered my items, took a quick Snapchat photo, and raced over to the American Eagle stage. I quickly learned that I was not in Parkersburg anymore. Outside the concert venue, there were four to five rows of tents that were at least 20 feet long. They were covering tables full of donated clothing. “This is major league,” I thought as I crossed the road.

As I entered the venue, I had one of the volunteers help me find my table. I was near an entrance, and we were crammed together tightly. There were pitt-3far more vendors here than I was used to. But, that was a good thing. It was so refreshing to see so many other organizations interested in helping our Vets. Around 9:00, the doors opened, and within moments I was talking to Veterans non-stop for over an hour. When there was a break in the action I took a look around. The area was packed. I took a few moments to walk outside around lunchtime. It was during this time, when everyone was in a central location, that I understood how many people were actually there. Hundreds of people lined up for the free lunch provided by one of the vendors. It was a bit overwhelming.

Those aren’t yoga mats.

Earlier in the day in Pittsburgh, I noticed a man off in the distance carrying what looked like a yoga mat. This really excited me because yoga is a topic of discussion often in this office. Lauren Ward, our Operations Manager, is a certified yoga nut. She’s also certified as a yoga instructor. We have discussed the benefits of yoga more times than I can remember. We worked together to actually present a free class for Veterans Day last year. She even managed to get me to try it. Turns out that it’s not for me. However, a lot of Veterans find yoga very beneficial. This is especially true for Veterans suffering from PTSD. There are countless articles outlining the benefits, and there has been a lot of research to back up all of the claims. I wanted to meet these people and get them in touch with Lauren because she is a part of a charity that brings yoga to those in need, including Vets.  I looked around to see if there was a yoga studio there giving out mats. I didn’t see any. I couldn’t look too hard because I didn’t want to leave my table unattended too long. As things started winding down I took another opportunity to look for this mythical yoga booth. I looked all over and found nothing. As I was walking back to my table I passed an older man who I had spoken to earlier. I noticed that under his arms he had one of the things I thought to be yoga mats. I was about to ask him where he acquired it…then it hit me like a ton of bricks. I may not be a yoga enthusiast, but I’ve seen and used the mats before. What he had was far too long and thick to be used for yoga. Instead, it was actually a mat for sleeping. The health department or someone similar was handing these thick foam mats out so that these Veterans could have a portable place to sleep…on the ground.

I felt so stupid that I didn’t realize this sooner. Of course, a privileged person from rural West Virginia would think that they were giving out yoga mats to homeless people. I love what I do. I am not pandering when I say I get excited to go to events and meet Vets. Sometimes, though, it’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of meeting people you regard as heroes, and forget the reason you are there.

By this time, the event was over, and I didn’t want to leave right away. I packed up the Tucson and pitt-7decided to go for a walk. In the distance, I saw the football field sponsored by ketchup and decided that a lap around that might clear my head before the long drive home in the uncomfortable Korean crossover. I wanted to reflect on all of the people I met that day and what kind of struggles they must face every day. I was walking around a stadium that cost the taxpayers in Pittsburgh millions that sit vacant most of the time. On 8 Sundays a year, people pay $5 for sodas and watch their team lose to the Patriots. At the same time there are people in the parking lot struggling to stay warm. I am not saying that we shouldn’t have football. I know how much money can be generated for the city because of the Steelers. Further, the Pittsburgh Pirates were one of the sponsors of the Stand Down.  It was just hard seeing so much wealth in the presence of so much poverty. I also have incredible respect for the city of Pittsburgh and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania after attending so many events in this area this year. They have a huge respect for Veterans. I walked back to Stage AE. I noticed all of the people in yellow shirts cleaning up. These were the volunteers that signed up to help with the event. It was at this point that I noticed how many of them came to the event. There were well over 100 people there to help out for the day. That was really refreshing.

Some may wonder why I was so surprised by this; especially because I’ve been doing what I have for so long. It’s actually simple. Most of the Veterans I’ve met in my time with the firm are not homeless. Most are fully employed, have a home, and are able to afford a vehicle. That’s not to say that they aren’t in need, it’s just that they’ve had different circumstances.

Too much misinformation.

pitt-8When I started this blog back in 2011 my goal was to get accurate information to as many Veterans as possible. While in Columbus I was reminded of how much misinformation there is out there. At one point a Veteran came up to me and said he was told that he couldn’t get both social security and VA disability. That’s not true. You can get both. Read more about this subject here. Another Veteran said that he was told that was not in the military long enough to get benefits. He explained to me that he served for two years and had an honorable discharge. That was also untrue. I had the opportunity to answer a lot of questions while in Columbus. It gave me a lot of pride. In my years here I’ve learned that a lot of Veterans haven’t applied because they were told false information. During the hours I was in Columbus, I was able to answer questions for over 50 Veterans. Many of them weren’t even aware that they could file a claim or hire an attorney.

I am so glad that I had the opportunity to meet so many Veterans this year. Interacting with these individuals gave me a sense of energy I haven’t had in a while. It was humbling yet uplifting at the same time. The most rewarding part was when people became excited to work with us. Our organization isn’t like many others out there. We really do have a passion for helping Veterans, and it shows.

If you would like to know more about our services, feel free to give us a call today for a consultation. It’s completely free. If you can’t talk right now, don’t hesitate to fill out this form f. Just let us know a good time to contact you.

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Camp Lejeune Presumptive List May Soon be a Reality for Thousands of Veterans

If you enter Camp Lejeune in Jacksonville, North Carolina, you’ll notice a big sign that reads: “Home of Expeditionary Forces in Readiness.” That slogan is Camp Lejeune Wateractually prominent throughout the base, as well as in publications associated with the base. This name is due in large part to the fact that the base occupies 14 miles of beaches and houses a lot of amphibious assault training. Plus, the United States Marines are Also the “first to fight.” The access to the water makes it easier for the Marines in this location deploy quickly. There is a bit of irony here. Camp Lejeune was founded because of its location relative to a body of water, but its water supply is why so many people of it now.

From 1953 to 1987, many residents of Camp Lejeune were exposed to contaminated water, and they are suffering the effects now. For more than three decades residents of this base drank and bathed in water that was apparently contaminated by a nearby fuel supply. Not all water sources on the base were impacted, and not everyone who served at this base, or lived there, was exposed.  Many of the people who were exposed have cancer and other types of diseases too. This has been public knowledge for most of my life, and yet the VA does not allow Veterans to file for presumptive conditions as a result of Camp Lejeune water contamination. But, that may actually be changing.

First of all, what is a presumptive condition? Veterans familiar with Agent Orange exposure or Gulf War Illness already have a good understanding of what a presumptive condition entails. For the rest of us, though, a presumptive condition is one that the VA claims a Veteran could have if he or she were in specific place during a specific time. For Vets who served in Vietnam, Diabetes is a presumptive condition. In other words, if you’re a Veteran who served in Vietnam, and have been diagnosed with diabetes, then you don’t have to prove that the condition came from your time in service. The VA assumes that your exposure to Agent Orange is what caused your diabetes. The same is true for certain conditions for Veterans who served in Iraq, and other parts of the Middle East. The VA has an established list of conditions that Veterans may have as a result of their time in country.

 I started working for this firm in 2011. Back then there were talks of the VA creating a Camp Lejeune presumptive list. However, we’re dealing with the government, and they move slower than I do when it comes to an unexpected flight of stairs. Granted, there have been a ton of lawsuits, but not much came of that. Congress got involved a few times, but they’re like the Kim Kardashian of the Government…they’re famous for doing nothing.  Then, it kind of went on the backburner for a while. Camp Lejeune talks pretty much stopped. Up until this spring, I worked in our Intake department, and we even started getting fewer calls from Veterans inquiring about Camp Lejeune. Honestly, I had forgotten about Camp Lejeune. I mean, I was still aware of it, and I knew it was an issue, but I didn’t think about it as much Agent Orange or Gulf War Illness. That was until last week.

close ups 016Friday was a long day for me. I had just returned from Vacation earlier in the week, and I was eagerly anticipating my evening of XBOX playing and celebrity bashing on Twitter. While I was a little zoned out at my desk, my coworker Kris Fluharty approached me. His presence made me jump a little. Kris is a VA savant. In fact, he recently passed the VA non-attorney rep test. He knows his stuff. “Jon, I think this would be good for the blog.” He handed me a press release from the VA titled “VA Proposes Rule to Consider Certain Diseases Associated with Exposure to Contaminants in the Water Supply at Camp Lejeune.” Though the title was long I knew it was good news. For one, Kris actually seemed happy about it, and he is normally void of emotion. We were once together when we found out that we were going to have a self-serve chocolate candy bar at our company Christmas party. I squealed with delight, while Kris just said “that’s cool,” and went back to work. So, for Kris to be excited, it was a big deal.

When he handed me the press release, I read it over and asked him what his take on it was. He said that it was good news because the VA is another step closer to making a presumptive list for Camp Lejeune. In fact, they actually have a list of conditions they believe are associated with the water contamination. According to the press release, the following list applies to active duty, reserve, and National Guard members who served no less than 30 days at Camp Lejeune between August 1st, 1953 and December 31st, 1987. (Marines aren’t the only ones who served at Camp Lejeune.)

  • Adult Leukemia
  • Aplastic Anemia and other Myelodysplastic Syndromes
  • Bladder Cancer
  • Kidney Cancer
  • Liver Cancer
  • Multiple Myeloma
  • Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma
  • Parkinson’s Disease

It’s important to note that this is not an official presumptive list. If you were a millennial you might say that this is not “Facebook Official” yet. In language adults will understand, it’s not the law yet. It does, however, mean that we are closer than ever before to getting this list established, though. It also means that the official list is probably just around the corner. If you served at Camp Lejeune during the periods listed above and have one of the aforementioned conditions, it’s time to get your ducks in a row.

If you haven’t filed a VA disability claim before, this might be the time to do so. To learn more about the possible presumptive conditions, or to schedule a free evaluation, call us today. Our toll-free number is 1-877-526-3457. Or, fill out this form now to schedule a consult at a different time.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Exciting Events Coming to Parkersburg Veterans Week 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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New VA App Helps With Disability Questions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Meet our newest VA Disability Attorney, Lindsey Bailey

The Jan Dils team is proud to announce that Lindsey Bailey is our newest VA Disability Attorney. Well, new isn’t really the proper word to describe Lindsey. She is quick to point out that this is not her first rodeo.Lindsay Attorney Profile Lindsey has been employed with our firm for several years. She represented a lot of social security clients prior to transferring over to the VA. She also informed me that she simply didn’t just start doing VA cases one day. She actually studied for a long time with lead VA attorney Heather Vanhoose. Heather and Lindsey worked well together and Lindsey really developed a passion for working with Veterans. Lindsey is a graduate of the WVU School of Law. Her father and brother are both social security attorneys as well. Recently I sat down with Lindsey to find out why she transitioned to the VA side of the firm. She had some prior knowledge of the VA disability process, but seeing things from our side really opened her eyes. She became fascinated with the law and knew she wanted to get involved.

linds Bar eSelecting Lindsey as the next attorney to represent Veterans at our firm did not occur by picking a name out of a hat. It happened by design. Lead VA Attorney Heather Vanhoose spoke about Lindsey’s passion and her compassion for Veterans. She said the fact that she possesses both of these skills makes her the ideal candidate to represent Veterans. Firm Owner Jan Dils also spoke of Lindsey’s passion for helping Veterans. She went on to say that Lindsey really picked up on the law quickly and that she was happy to have her helping our Veterans.

On a personal note, I have known Lindsey for a couple of years. In the past year I have been able to spend some time with her and other members of the staff outside of the office. The first thing I noticed about her was her distinct voice. It resonates with joy and a unique tone most can’t duplicate. If I had to think of one word to describe her it would simply be genuine. She has a great heart and is extremely intelligent. Our Veterans are fortunate to have Lindsey join the VA legal team along with Heather Vanhoose and Angie Lowe.

If you would like to know more about VA Disability, or the services we provide, be sure to give us a call today for a free consultation. Our toll free number is 1-877-526-3457. If you can’t talk now, fill out this form so that we may call you at a later time.

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5 Simple Rules For Filing Your VA Disability Appeal

Who else likes putting things off? I know I do. In fact, to illustrate how much I procrastinate, I was intending on writing this blog two weeks ago.  Full disclosure, I was in undergrad for 6 years Appeals blogbecause I did not take the proper classes the first time they were available for my major. It really held me up and created a lot more problems for me down the road. So, it’s safe to say that I know the consequences of putting things off. One area in which an individual really shouldn’t procrastinate is the area of VA Disability.

I know what you are thinking. The VA takes their sweet time when making decisions, why should I be in a hurry to get back to them? I agree, the VA is slower than a person from Ohio in the passing lane on the interstate. However, they don’t mess around when it comes to your deadlines for your decisions. If you are even one day late past the deadline your claim will close. This can mean a total loss of back pay for your claim and you will likely have to start over from the beginning. No one wants that. So here are some helpful reminders for filing your appeals in a timely manner.

1. The appeal deadlines aren’t the same for every decision. It would be awesome if every decision had a time limit of 120 days, but that is not the VA way. Every type of decision is different when it comes to response times. Here is a quick way to remember the time limit for each decision.

Proposals to sever or decrease your benefits:  30 days to appeal.

Rating Decision: One year to appeal.

DRO Decision: One year to appeal.

Statement of the Case: 60 days to appeal.

Supplemental Statement of the Case: 30 days to appeal.

BVA decision: 120 days to appeal.

2. The clock starts ticking the on the date posted on the decision. We’ve seen a lot of Veterans get confused by this before coming to our firm. A lot of people think that it starts when they receive the decision. That is not the case. I’ve heard too many stories of Vets getting their decisions weeks or months after they were sent out. So, the date on the decision is the one you go by.

3. Speaking of mail, don’t wait until the last minute to file your appeal. In fact, if you can avoid using regular mail, please do so. The reason is that if you mail your appeal in, there is no way to guarantee the VA received it. Some people will send it certified, other will submit it electronically, but we find that faxing works well because you receive a confirmation from the receiving fax machine. If the VA tries to say that they did not receive your appeal prior to the deadline, a confirmation can be used to argue the effective date.

4. Beware of multiple timelines. The easiest thing to do in VA disability is file for all of your claims at once. If you do this, you are more likely to have all of your claims decided at the same time. That is not a 100% guarantee, but it is more likely to happen. Dealing with one timeline is much simpler than dealing with several. Granted, you may have to add claims on at later times. If so, make sure you appeal every decision you want to pursue. You could possibly file an appeal for one decision thinking it covered everything, when in reality; it only covered a few of your claims.

5. Keep it simple. People often ask us why they should hire an attorney. Among all of the other services we provide, we also have the people in place to keep claims from closing. We have protocols to file appeals in a timely manner. We also have dedicated computer software that helps our case managers stay on track. Hiring an attorney can greatly reduce the stress associated with the VA process. I know it may seem like a sales pitch, but we have helped thousands of Veterans get the benefits they deserve. It gives me great joy to tell a Veteran we are helping them with their case, and then hear the relief in their voice after. No one should have to fight the VA alone.

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


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6 Examples of Poor Non-Combat PTSD Stressors

I am actually still surprised sometimes about how many people read this blog each month. Thousands of people view it, click on links, and a few even call the office based on my blog posts. One migraines-vet-disabilityparticular post I wrote recently has gained a lot of traffic and generated a lot of calls. The subject for that blog was examples of non-combat PTSD. I was driven to write that post after speaking to several male Veterans who were sexually assaulted in service and were not aware that they could file for benefits. Further, after speaking with friends of mine who served in different branches of the military, I learned about other things that can occur while not deployed that can be traumatic. That post is easily the most successful writing I’ve completed this year. However, after watching a video posted to YouTube, I thought I should take a moment to clarify a few things about non-combat PTSD.

In my former post I gave four examples of non-combat stressors that I have seen a lot with new clients. Those included: military sexual trauma, physical assault, accidents, and the death of a fellow serviceman.  All of these are examples we see on a regular basis and that can be quite traumatic. With that in mind, I also wanted to shed light on what may not be a good stressor for non-combat PTSD.

When it comes to non-combat PTSD a Veteran must prove their stressor. For those of you who may not be aware, a stressor is defined as: an event, experience, etc., which causes stress. In other words, a stressor is something that you experienced or witnessed that was traumatic and is now disrupting your life. Veterans who served in combat no longer have to prove their stressor. You just have to have the proper information on your DD-214 that shows where you were in combat. (And a diagnosis of PTSD.) The four examples I provided before were all examples that I gathered from actual Vets I’ve talked to over the past several years. Some were from my professional life, and others were from friends and other individuals I met outside of the office. I chose those examples because they are good stressors. However, with good there is always bad too. So, I am going to show some examples of bad non-combat stressors for PTSD.

Before we get too far along, I want to mention that in order for PTSD to get service connected, it has to be diagnosed and you should seek treatment from a medical professional. This blog is just for informational purposes to help illustrate the VA process as a whole and to provide a better understanding of how things work.

  1. Being homesick. Something I have heard a few times in the past few months is a stressor for being away from home. Trust me, culture shock can be intense. I recently went to Dallas for a social media conference. I could not find peperoni rolls or Coke Zero. It was very difficult. However, when it comes to VA Disability, you probably won’t get service connected for PTSD for being homesick. You likely won’t get a diagnosis for PTSD either. This is an example of a weak stressor.
  2. Mean Drill Instructors. I’ve never served in the military. However, when I was 11 I watched a film called “Full Metal Jacket.” I realized then that if I were to join the military, Drill Instructors in boot camp would not be very pleasant. It’s a part of the culture. It’s one of the ways in which they teach discipline etc. It’s not like dealing with Kate from Human Resources. I know I am making light of this, but there is a big difference between getting yelled at for not having your bunk made properly and getting physically assaulted in the military. Keep that in mind while reading this blog. Having a drill instructor yell at you is one thing, getting beat up by several people is completely different. That is why we ask so many questions when we screen our clients.
  3. Secondhand information. If REO Speedwagon’s “Take it on the Run” taught us anything, it’s that second or third hand information is not very credible. While it can be upsetting to hear that something bad occurred, unless you experienced a traumatic event first hand, you’re not likely to get service connected for non-combat PTSD.
  4. Guilt. There is a bond that individuals who serve in military have in which many can’t explain. It’s more than just loyalty or brotherhood. I personally find myself to be envious of relationships. With that in mind, I understand how one would feel guilty if you had to stay home while your brothers and sisters were deployed. We encounter this on a regular basis. Simply, guilt associated with not being deployed is not a strong stressor for non-combat PTSD. I have also encountered individuals experiencing anger because they wanted to be deployed, but they weren’t able to. Once again, this is not a strong stressor.
  5. Alex bwFear of being deployed/Fear of combat. Something I have encountered often with Veterans who served in the late 80’s and early 90’s are claims for PTSD that are a result of anxiety relating to being deployed. In these cases, these individuals were never actually deployed. That is not a good stressor for PTSD.
  6. Anything that can’t be verified. Overall, any non-combat PTSD stressor has to be verified. Verification takes place by way of reports in your admin records, physical treatment, buddy statements/statements in support of claim, and so on. If there are no records of this, then it will be difficult to prove an incident occurred. For instance, let’s say you claim a physical assault occurred. If the incident was not reported, if you did not seek medical treatment after, or if you don’t have statements in support of your claim from witnesses, you’re not likely to get service connected for PTSD. However, that is not always the case. When it comes to cases involving Military Sexual Trauma things are a little different on how we approach these claims. We realize that many individuals who have been sexually assaulted aren’t able to report it, and don’t have statements or medical records. In those instances we look through your records to find other evidence that may verify an assault occurred.

We aren’t the type of law firm that will take every case and hope for the best. We are very thorough. We don’t think it’s fair to Veterans if we drag a case out for a long period of time if we know we can’t get them a favorable decision. We use a lot of discretion when screening individuals claiming non-combat PTSD. However, we also won’t simply dismiss someone’s claim if they didn’t serve in combat.  Some people claim that PTSD is ubiquitous now. While it is very mainstream, there is still a lot of confusion about this disability and a lot of Veterans are suffering because they don’t know where to turn or how to get help.

If you would like to know more about non-combat PTSD, or if you would like to tell me about your case, give me a call today for a free consultation. Our toll free number is 1-877-526-3457. You can also fill out this form if you’d rather someone call you at a more convenient time.

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Veterans Make Use of Social Media to Reconnect

I’ve spent some time this year looking at alternative forms of treatment for Veterans who are struggling with PTSD. Through my work with Vets over the past few years I’ve encountered a few trends when it comes to those individuals who are the most at risk. The main trend I see is isolation from other Veterans who have similar experiences. Whenever I am talking to a Veteran who is filing for PTSD I ask several questions. The last question I always ask is: “How often do you interact with other Veterans?” The answer is often never.

I of all people know how easy it is to lose touch with people. But, with Veterans, especially those who served in combat, there is a brotherhood that is strong and everlasting. As a civilian I often find myself envious of my friends who are Veterans because of this brotherhood. However, when you join the military you are meeting people from all across the country. You’re not likely to enter with a bunch of people from your same neighborhood. Once you’re discharged, you’re not likely to be geographically close to those who served with you.

photos 4 049This brings us to social media. We live in a time now in which we are more connected to those we know, and those we wish we knew. I am personally on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, SnapChat, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and I have an awesome YouTube channel. Not to mention one of the top VA Disability blogs in the country.  So, we could easily say that Veterans could connect with each other on entities like Facebook, but… Facebook is toxic. I’m being blunt, but in its current form, Facebook is really not helpful for anyone wanting to get help with anything. I won’t go on and on about this, but I think it would be a little difficult for any Veteran to discuss their issues with PTSD in the same arena in which people are posting pictures of their dogs and recipes of food no one intends to make.

Not all social media is bad. Late last year I looked at how Veterans were using the service Whisper to discuss PTSD and the positive outcomes it had. One individual even sent me a message that my blog entry helped him realize he had PTSD. So social media can be used for good. But what we really need is a social media outlet geared for Veterans, by Veterans. Actually, we don’t need that. The reason; one already exists. If you’ve read this blog before then you know that I am a big supporter of a group called the Steel City Vets. Ben Keen, one of their founders, was interviewed by People magazine recently and mentioned a social media outlet called RallyPoint. He informed me that it is a social media site for Veterans and he uses it quite often. I trust Ben as he is a very motivated individual and often provides me great insight for my blogs from a Veteran’s perspective. I decided to see what I could find out.

Honestly, I didn’t expect to get past the metaphoric front door. After all, I haven’t served in the military, and this site is intended for those who are Veterans or currently serving in the Armed Forces. I was surprised though. They actually allow civilian supporters to sign up for the site too. I think it’s safe to say that I fit into that category. In just a few clicks I was able to sign up as a civilian. My first thought when accessing the main part of the site is that this is a lot like LinkedIn. It turns out that my initial thoughts were warranted because my research found that the site is intended to be like LinkedIn for Veterans. So, keen observational skills on my point. Speaking as someone who has studied social media for a long time, I actually found it to be like LinkedIn, but much more interesting. I quickly found a lot of great topics about military issues, current events, and general topics. As we were approaching Memorial Day there were a lot of great topics about remembering fellow servicemen who had been killed in action as well as discussions about the film “American Sniper,” and a lot of other personal posts.

My only annoyance with RallyPoint was that some members were trying to turn it into a Facebook clone. I saw a few instances of the things that annoy me on Facebook showing up on this site too. Examples of this are posts by individuals just trying to troll others, and other random nonsense. But you will have that with any social media site.

Overall though, this is something I’d recommend for the Veterans I speak to on a regular basis. You can search for people by branch, location, and by more specific criteria too. It’s a great way to reconnect with those you served with as well as making new friends from within the military community. Plus it appears to be a great way to make connections in the business world and to find a new job for Vets.

In my mind, the greatest aspect of a site like this is that it can help you find people you served with and possibly open a dialogue about PTSD. Most of us feel better when we know we aren’t going through a tough time alone.

If you’d like to find out more about VA Disability give us a call via our toll free number: 1-877-526-3457. If you aren’t able to talk now, be sure to fill out our contact form so that we can call you at a better time.

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