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What Are The Basic Requirements to Receive VA Disability Benefits?

It’s hard to believe, but this blog is about to turn 6 years old! Thousands of people now read our content every month, and we’ve covered hundreds of topics. But,  with new readers joining us each month, we thought it would be a good idea to review some of the basics.

With that in mind,  what are some of the minimum requirements for a Veteran to receive VA Disability Compensation?

In order to receive VA Disability Compensation, the person applying must be a Veteran. That may seem obvious to most, but it’s not as black and white as it may seem. The reason? Not everyone who served in the military can be considered a Veteran. So who exactly is a Veteran? VA’s website offers the following explanation:

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 situation that can cause confusion pertains to individuals who receive an Other Than Honorable discharge. VA states the following about OTH discharges:

Generally, in order to receive VA benefits and services, the Veteran’s character of discharge or service must be under other than dishonorable conditions (e.g., honorable, under honorable conditions, general).  However, individuals receiving undesirable, bad conduct, and other types of dishonorable discharges may qualify for VA benefits depending on a determination made by VA.

So, a person has to be a Veteran to get VA Disability. But that is not the only requirement. A person pursuing a VA Disability claim must also have a disability, and that disability must be the result of time served in the military. The VA makes this point a little clearer:

Disability compensation is a monthly tax-free benefit paid to Veterans who are at least 10% disabled because of injuries or diseases that were incurred in or aggravated during active duty, active duty for training, or inactive duty training. A disability can apply to physical conditions, such as a chronic knee condition, as well as mental health conditions, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Besides Veteran status and a disability related to military service, a VA disability claim must be for a chronic condition. For instance, a knee condition can only be pursued if the condition is currently an issue. So, if a Veteran had a condition for his or her knee in service, but ten years later he or she does not have residual issues because of that condition, their claim will not be approved.

If one meets these basic requirements, they are then eligible for VA Disability Compensation. However, getting to that point can be a long road filled with a lot of confusing detours. For help navigating that road, call the VA Disability team from Jan Dils, Attorneys at Law at 1-877-526-3457 for a Free Consultation. If you’d like to be called at a later time, fill out this form now and a member of our team can call you at a better time.

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Procrastination and Your VA Disability Claim

According to some researchers, procrastination has more than quadrupled in the last 30 years. Society places a stigma on those who procrastinate, with many viewing it as a lifestyle choice. Some may even label you as lazy for putting off tasks. However, there is additional research showing that procrastination can be based in fear rather than apathy. In fact, fear of failure is one of the leading reasons why people procrastinate. When it comes to VA disability, however, procrastination can cause your claim to close, resulting in the loss of your original backpay date. While it is bad to let your claim close, it’s not the end of the world. So, what happens if your claim closes?

To be clear, it’s always best to keep your claim open and make every effort to refrain from letting your disability claim close. There are many different timelines in the VA. At some stages, you have a year to file an appeal. In other situations, you only have 30 or 60 days to file an appeal. It’s important for Veterans to realize that reopening a claim does not reestablish your initial back pay date. Your new back pay date commences once your case is reopened.

However, if it does indeed close, it’s not the end of the road. Veterans can actually reopen their claims once they’ve closed. The process, unlike many things withMarine VA disability, is somewhat simple. There are a few steps that you have to take in order to properly reopen your claim. A Veteran can’t simply call the VA and say that they want to reopen their claim. Instead, you have to submit what the VA defines as new and material evidence.

Unless you have a legal background, you’re probably not familiar with that term. It may seem obvious, but new evidence is something that you haven’t submitted to the VA before. Do not resubmit medical records, statements, etc. that you’ve submitted before. For instance, a medical evaluation pertaining to your knee condition that you used when you originally filed your claim wouldn’t be considered new.

Material evidence is proof or testimony that has a significant relationship with the facts or issues of a case or inquiry and can affect its conclusion or outcome. In other words, your evidence has to pertain to the claim that you are reopening. For example, if your original claim was for your knees, the evidence you use to reopen your claim with must pertain to your knees. You can’t reopen your claim for your knees with a medical evaluation for a mental disability.

How do you obtain new and material evidence? Don’t let the phrase throw you off or intimidate you. It’s simple. New evidence can be new medical records, a new statement from a witness, often referred to as a “buddy statement,” or “statements in support of the claim,” or even new treatment like rehabilitation or therapy.  Work with your primary care doctor to obtain this new evidence. In some situations, your doctor may be able to refer you to a specialist.

Once again, it’s best to keep the claim open. While the deadlines can be confusing, there are options for Veterans. Many Vets turn to the team at Jan Dils, Attorneys at Law. The attorneys and staff can help you keep your case on track and prevent your claims from closing. If you’d like to learn more about the services available, call toll-free 1-877-526-3457. If you are unable to talk now, fill out this form so a representative can reach out to you at a more convenient time.

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My Sleep Apnea Journey (Part 2) 8 Things I Wish I Knew About a CPAP Machine

Earlier this year I wrote a blog profiling my sleep study and sleep apnea diagnosis. Unfortunately, it took nearly two months for me to receive my follow up appointment and then an additional two weeks to receive my CPAP machine. I want to write a quick follow up as to what it’s like to live with a CPAP machine. I’ve had mine for nearly two weeks. I can honestly say that I feel like a different person with this device. It’s magical. However, there are a few things that you need to know about the device and what to expect. So, since so many Veterans have this condition, I thought this list would help. I’m sharing this because I want Veterans to understand that it’s not too bad. I hesitated to get treatment because I was worried about how I’d live with a CPAP. It’s already made my life better. So here are 8 things I wish I knew about using a CPAP machine.

  1. They are not as a big as you’d believe. Though I used a CPAP machine while at my sleep study, I didn’t get a good look at it. I do remember that it was bulky. The only other exposure I had to a machine was by way of the show Orange is the New Black. On the show, one of the characters has a CPAP machine and it is very big and bulky. I was afraid that I’d also have to use something that resembled an Iron Lung. In all reality, what I received was quite small. Please note that CPAP machines are as diverse as cars or boats. What I received may be much different than what you received. My employer offers us good insurance and I was able to get a nice modem machine. I’ve been told that some Vets who receive machines from the VA aren’t like what I have. But they aren’t gigantic either. My CPAP looks like an iPod docking station.
  2. It’s simple to use. One of the things that impressed me about the CPAP machine was the ease of use. You essentially have to try to mess it up. There are many buttons to use. It has a rotary dial, a home button, and an on/off switch. Most of the functions are controlled through the rotary dial by way of the onscreen options. With the rotary dial, I’m able to access my sleep reports (read more about that below) and I can change some options too. The CPAP even can detect if my mask is fitting properly. I’m a big fan of the built-in Wi-Fi capability.
  3. It’s not too noisy either. All I hear at night is a gentle humming. Honestly, the sound my air conditioning is more intrusive than my CPAP machine. However, I prefer noises at night anyway, so the noise is fine. I am not an expert, but I think this sound would help Veterans with tinnitus.
  4. Bane would be jealous of the mask I use. It’s not cumbersome in any way. There are three options with the CPAP I use. The first option is a full-face mask. There are also two versions that only fit over the user’s nose. What I use is referred to as “pillow.” I think they call it this because it’s the softest mask you can use. I was told to use a nose only mask because I’m a nose breather, not a mouth breather. The sales rep informed me that this is the most popular mask. There is a strap on the back of my head to keep it on. The top of my head is where the hose from the CPAP attached to the mask. Overall the mask is very comfortable.
  5. The future is now. Like I mentioned above, I get reports each day to let me know how I slept. It pretty much just lets me know how long I slept and how well the mask fit. I thought this was cool but then I found out that there is an online program that I can access on my iPad. It gives me info on my sleep disturbances too. In my sleep study, I had 70 instances in an hour. In my most recent sleep, I only had .04. The program gives a score based on several factors. Last night my score was 95 out of 100. I lost points because I took my mask off at one point.
  6. Not waking up in Vegas. One thing I wasn’t prepared for was how quickly my sleep habits would change. Before I had my CPAP machine, I was a very light sleeper. Dust falling on my night stand would wake me up. Now that I have the CPAP, I am sleeping heavier. For the first week, I was sleeping through my alarm. To alleviate this problem have continued to use my current phone’s alarm, my old cell phone’s alarm and the alarm on my iPad. They are all placed around my bedroom so that I have a surround sound alarm. You may not have the same issue, but it really caught me off guard. So, if you are a light sleeper, you may want to plan an alarm strategy.
  7. Water, water, everywhere. The type of CPAP machine I use has a humidifier. That’s no big deal. I’ve been using a humidifier for years. However, on a CPAP machine, you must use distilled water. It’s not a big deal for most people, but it was something I didn’t know about before. I bought a gallon of distilled water at my local supermarket for $1. It’s been two weeks and I haven’t quite used half of the jug yet.
  8. Traveling concerns alleviated. I travel a lot for work and for fun. One of the things that I was concerned about with the CPAP machine was traveling with the device. I wondered how I would pack it and not damage anything, especially the hose. My device came with a carrying case. It looks like a big lunch bag. This case is specially made for the machine. Inside it has compartments for every piece of the CPAP. It will be easy to take it with me.

I am so glad that I got my CPAP machine. I feel so much different now. I went from nodding off at work and stopping on road trips to nap to having energy I haven’t had in years. While I didn’t serve in the military, and my sleep apnea is not a result of time in service, but I know a lot of the concerns I had are like what a lot of Veterans have concerns with when they talk to us.

If you’re a Veteran with sleep apnea and would like to know more about what our firm can do for you, give us a call today for a free consultation. Our toll-free number is 1-877-526-3457. If you can’t call now, fill out this form.

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How Veterans Service Connect for Headaches and Migraines

While doing our ‘end of the year countdown,” we realized that for the second year in a row, our most popular blog was about Veterans with headaches. That blog post was written way back in 2014 when the world was more innocent. The hit TV show Parks and Recreation were still on the air, and Justin Bieber’s new album was still months away. They were good times. That blog has held up well over time, but it won’t hurt to revisit the topic. So, let’s take another look at headaches and your VA disability claims.

Pertaining to headaches, one of the biggest misconceptions Veterans believe is that their headaches are normal, and thus not service connected. I’m not judging because this makes sense to me. When I was in 1st grade I started having severe migraines on a regular basis. They were so bad that I would become sick, then I would become nauseous and eventually vomit. As I got older, the migraines became less frequent and I eventually “grew out of them.” I still get headaches now. Most of my headaches are brought on by stress. Headaches can be difficult because of there so many people who haven’t served who have issues with headaches too. The major difference between what I experienced, and what a Veteran experience are that my headaches are preexisting. Most Veterans who have a headache condition do not have a preexisting condition. However, a preexisting condition would not necessarily keep them from getting service connected. The important thing to remember about headaches and any condition for that matter is that it must either be caused by your time in service or made worse by your time in service.

There are many ways in which a Veteran can have issues with headaches because of service. Any type of head injury can lead to headaches later in life. For instance, if a Veteran suffered from a TBI while serving he or she may have headaches after service. Even if a Veteran doesn’t have a head injury they can still pursue a headache claim. This is especially true if you sought treatment in service.

One thing we must consider when pursuing a claim for headaches is; “What exactly is a headache?” In my previous blog, I explain the process in detail. You can read that here. However, I want to make things a little simpler today.

The following is an example of a Veteran who likely wouldn’t get service connected for their headaches: The Veteran seldom has headaches. When they do, they are not very severe, and they are easily alleviated by taking over the counter medicine like Tylenol.  On average, the type of a headache occurs once every six weeks.

The following is an example that would likely result in a Veteran receiving service connection for headaches. This Veteran has headaches at least three times per week, and they are prostrating. Prostrating sort of means debilitating. In other words, the pain from your headache is so severe that the Vet is unable to function. Generally, this means they must retreat to a bedroom with no light, no sound, and sleep until your headache is resolved, often hours later. There is a good chance the Veteran misses work often because of their condition.

Once again, if you want to read the full explanation, please see my previous blog post.

I was surprised by the number of people who turned to my old blog post for help. Obviously, this means that there are a lot of Veterans still suffering from headaches, and many still need help. If you think you may have a headache condition that should be service connected, give us a call today. Our toll-free number is 1-877-526-3457. If you can’t talk now, fill out this form, and we’ll be happy to talk to you at a better time. Our consultations are Free, and we’ve helped thousands of Veterans get the benefits they deserve.

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Which Disability is Claimed the Most by Veterans?

I’ve been working with Veterans for more than nearly six years. At this point, there aren’t a lot of things that surprise me. Don’t get me wrong, I still love what I war-1447010_1920do, and if this blog is any evidence of my passion, I don’t see that passion going away anytime soon. When something does come along that surprises me, it has to be pretty major. The last time it happened was earlier this year when the VA released a list of conditions they believed to be associated with water contamination at Camp Lejeune. It was so shocking that many of us in the office just stood around discussing how the eventual presumptive list would help so many Vets. The latest news that blew my mind was found in an NBC news article. While the article was about politics and a bunch of other things I don’t care to discuss in my blog, they asked the answered the following question: Which disability ranks highest amongst Veterans receiving disability benefits? The answer isn’t what I expected.

The first thing that came to mind was PTSD. This seemed like a pretty logical answer. PTSD was the subject of the article and it’s something I encounter often. In fact, most of the blogs I write are about PTSD. However, PTSD was not first on the list. It also wasn’t number two military-662863_1920on the list. It was number three. Currently, there are 813,277 Veterans receiving benefits for PTSD. Trust me; there are a lot more who have PTSD claims pending. Regardless, this was a surprise to me. Not only was it surprising because it was not number one, but also because 800,000 seems like such a low number. Not only was it low in my mind, there are nearly half as many PTSD recipients as the condition what was number one on the list.

So if PTSD wasn’t number one, then something else major had to be first. My first thought turned to physical conditions. A lot of Veterans have issues with their feet. Everyone in the military is on their feet a lot and they have to wear boots that aren’t exactly comfortable. Add to that all of the marching, the harsh terrain, and for the brave souls who jump out of planes, the consistent harsh impacts, and it would make sense that the conditions involving the foot would be number one. Conditions involving the foot were not even the top 10. By this time I started wondering if I even knew what I was talking about half the time. Was this blog just full of lies?

By this time panic was starting to set in. What could be number one? Was it a back condition? Nope, they were at number 10! And actually, that was just arthritis of the spine, which is not the kind of back condition I am used to seeing. I started frantically guessing.

Shoulders?  Nope, not even close.

Diabetes? Not quite, this condition is at number nine.

Knees? Surely knees are at number 1. They have to be. It’s a major joint. No, knees are not number one. They’re not even in the top 5.

Heart? No.

Lungs? Nope!

Legs? Nope, this is embarrassing.

Time to start swinging for the fences. This is my only shot now.black and white twitter

Bilateral Fingers? Come on Jon, you know better.

Nose?

Vampiris?

MacGregor’s Syndrome?

Bieber Fever?

No matter how hard I tried, the number one condition would not come to mind. I finally gave up and just looked at the condition. It was Tinnitus. I was disappointed by this result. It actually made me a little sad that so many Veterans have this condition. To understand why you have to know more about Tinnitus.

Before I worked in VA disability compensation, I had no idea what Tinnitus was, or how it affected people. Within the first week of working for a law firm that helps Veterans, I knew exactly what Tinnitus was and why it was such an issue. For those of you who don’t know, Tinnitus is a ringing or buzzing in the ears. No, this isn’t an especially painful condition, and it’s not going to keep you from doing most things, but Tinnitus, in its smallest form is a mild buzzing or ringing. It might just be noticeable when it’s quiet. However, in severe cases, it can be so bad that it nearly drives a Veteran insane.

photos 4 054There is a good chance that, even if you’re not a Vet, you’ve experienced Tinnitus. For a lot of us, it’s not a permanent condition. If you’re near and explosion or at a loud concert, you may experience some ringing for a short time after. Those who serve in the military are exposed to loud noises every day. Some detractors might say that it’s a bit of an exaggeration because most people who serve aren’t around explosions every day. That is true, but it’s not just explosions that cause the issue. If you worked as a mechanic, you were around a lot of equipment, which produces a lot of noise. This is also true for Vets who worked as heavy equipment operators. If you were a pilot of planes or helicopters, worked on the flight crew, or really worked anywhere near an aircraft, then you were around constant noise. This is also true for individuals who worked in the kitchen, with any type of radio equipment, or even had a role in the marching band. Don’t forget every Veteran, regardless of MOS, had to learn had to shoot a weapon. This involves countless hours on a firing range. It’s no wonder so many Veterans have Tinnitus.

One of the worst aspects of Tinnitus is that can last forever. There isn’t a lot anyone can do if the condition is permanent. To an individual who hasn’t been diagnosed with this condition, it may not seem like a big deal. It’s just a ringing or buzzing in the ears, right? Well yes, it is, and most people who have Tinnitus are able to function like everyone else. However, Tinnitus is worst when there is no noise. If you have Tinnitus, and you are in a silent room, the ringing can be deafening. Often, the Veterans I talk to have trouble sleeping because the Tinnitus is so bad. I always suggest using a fan or white noise app to drown out the ringing. This can help, but it’s no sure.

Tinnitus, no matter how severe it is, is normally only rated at 10%. I’ve personally never seen it higher, and this is the assigned rating per the CFR. It’s important to note that Tinnitus is not the same as Meniere’s disease. Some of the symptoms of Tinnitus can mimic the symptoms of Meniere’s disease, but Tinnitus is not as severe. Further, Tinnitus is a symptom of Meniere’s disease, but it also includes vertigo, hearing loss, and sometimes pressure in the ear. Meniere’s disease can often be rated higher than Tinnitus.

Tinnitus may not be the most physically painful, and it’s not as severe as PTSD, but it definitely impacts a Veteran’s quality of life.  That’s why we encourage Veterans to pursue it if they have the symptoms. It’s also important to note that though Tinnitus is claimed the most; a lot of Veterans claim multiple disabilities in addition to Tinnitus.

If need a hand with your claim, give us a call for a free consultation. Our toll-free number is 1-877-526-3457. If you don’t have time to talk now, fill out this form so that we may call you at a better time.

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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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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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Why some law firms won’t help Veterans with their initial application for disability benefits

I take a lot of pride in the work I do, especially working with Veterans. In fact, I’d feel safe saying that I really enjoy it. However, I am not perfect.  It’s hard for me to admit, but yes, I am flawed. I find that I get a little worked up when I see people being disrespectful towards Veterans. In fact, about 10 years ago my actions led to a regional fast food chain removing a disrespectful radio advertisement about Vets from the airwaves. This 089character flaw of mine comes up from time to time at work when I encounter another law firm or organization doing things poorly. Our goal at this firm is to help Veterans. Granted, we are a business and we need to make money to be successful, but we really enjoy working with Veterans. We want to help them. That is why you might see that we do things a little different than others.

Recently a young Vet who had been discharged a few years ago called for a free consultation. He had a great case for VA Disability. It was so solid that even Steve Harvey couldn’t mess it up. We talked in detail about his time in service. I then answered his questions and set him up for an appointment. Before we hung up he thanked me for my kindness and knowledge. He then told me that his previous encounters with two other law firms had not been as pleasant. He said that they were rude to him and would not help him at all. I recalled thinking that was odd with such a good case, so I asked if he knew why. He said they told him they would not help him because he hadn’t filed for benefits yet. Then it clicked. The other firm would not get paid if he was granted off of his initial filing. While I can’t say without a doubt this is why these other firms didn’t take this Veteran, I’d say there is a good chance that this is the reason why.  

FeeAgreementsnipThis is pretty common knowledge for anyone who works on VA disability claims. Essentially, an attorney can’t collect fees on a grant from the initial application. We are only entitled to fees once an appeal (Notice of Disagreement)  has been filed. In other words, if you come to an attorney without filing your initial application for benefits, they take your case on, and you are granted without an appeal, that firm will not receive compensation for it, and thus will have worked for free. We do realize that, and we still help Vets with their initial application for benefits.

A lot of people will jump to conclusions when they hear this statement. They say that we will try to get a Vet denied on purpose so that we will get our 20 percent guaranteed. That is nowhere near the truth. Let me instead give you a little behind the scenes information about how the VA does things. Almost everyone, no matter how great your case is, gets denied or approved for a small amount from the initial application. Even Captain America would get denied the first time around because of how the VA is set up. So, we try hard to get a Veteran approved off of his or her initial application for benefits. However, we know that most of these Veterans are not going to get everything they deserve after the first filing. This will also help us be better prepared if the Veteran gets denied. It generally takes 8-12 months for a Veteran to receive a decision. So, if we wait until the Veteran gets denied to help them out, we will lose nearly a year of time that we could have been working on their case. We won’t get paid if you don’t get service connected, so we have a vested interest in getting you a favorable decision. You can read more about our fee agreement here.

It is also important to note that we will only pursue a claim if we believe a Veteran can get service connected for it. So, if you call us wanting to file for an ankle injury, and there is not enough evidence to support a service connected ankle injury, we won’t help you file that claim. We like being up front with Vets and we don’t think it is right to give anyone false hopes regarding a VA Disability Claim.

So, regardless if you have filed a claim for VA Disability in the past or not, give me a call today for a free consultation. Our toll-free number is 1-877-526-3457. Or, you can use our chat feature or fill out this form to schedule a time for a call.

 

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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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Are you eligible to receive VA Healthcare?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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