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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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The 5 Most Common Issues Veterans Have with Dependents

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

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

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

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

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

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Agent Orange Ship List Updated Again

Veterans who served in Vietnam have something referred to as Presumptive Conditions. There is a list of conditions Veterans can service connect for as long as they served in Vietnam and were Boots on Ground. Essentially, a Veteran who is boots on ground is one who stepped foot in country. Meaning you had a stay in the country for at least a few hours. Veterans who served on ships during the Vietnam conflict aren’t subject to the same rules. These Veterans must have served on a ship that is on the official ship list released by the VA. The ship list does change from time to time, and it was just updated again last month. In total, 19 new ships were added and changes were made to nine existing ships.

Here the new ships and the changes:

NEW SHIPS

USS Arnold J. Isbell (DD-869) sent small boat ashore while anchored in Da Nang Harbor on April 12, 1970.

USNS Barrett (T-AP-196) carried US Army 2nd Transportation Company to Qui Nhon during August 1965 and transported additional troops to Vietnam from April to December 1968 and January to May 1969.

USS Bennington (CVS-20) [Anti-Submarine Aircraft Carrier] entered Qui Nhon Bay Harbor to pick up Bob Hope for onboard Christmas show on December 26, 1966.

USS Berkeley (DDG-15) sent small boats ashore at Da Nang and elsewhere for gunfire support missions during May-June 1970.

USS Brinkley Brass (DD-887) conducted fire support mission in Rung Sat Special Zone during February 9-11, 1970; sent crew ashore for work details and liberty leave while anchored at Da Nang, Cam Ranh Bay, and Vung Tau during April-May, 1970.

USS Carpenter (DD-825) sent medical team ashore at Song Tra Village on December 20, 1968.

USS Fox (DLG-33) sent small boat ashore from Da Nang Harbor with Captain for mission briefings on October 24, 1967.

USS Kennebec (AO-36) provided fuel to vessels while in Ganh Rai Bay during August 1969.

USS Mobile (LKA-115) docked to pier at Da Nang on April 16, 1971; transported troops and cargo to/from Da Nang and elsewhere July-September 1970, during April 1971, October-November 1971, and January-July 1972.

USS Persistence (MSO-491) docked to piers at Da Nang and Cam Ranh Bay during October 1970.

USS Pyro (AE-24) [Auxiliary Explosive, Ammunition Ship] sent small boat ashore from Da Nang Harbor with injured crew member for medical tx on September 29, 1972.

USS Quapaw (ATF-110) provided tow on Saigon River with deliveries to inland river base at Nha Be during June 1966.

USS Stoddard (DD-566) operated on Saigon River during September 1965.

USS Taylor (DD-468) operated on Ganh Rai Bay during August 1967 and November-December 1968.

USS Truxtun (DLGN-35) sent small boats ashore from Da Nang Harbor on June 2, 1968 and October 25, 1969.

USS Vescole (DD-878) operated on Saigon River during December 1965-February 1966.

USS Walker (DD-517) operated on Saigon River during December 1968.

USS Welch (PG-93)

USS Wilhoite (DER-397) sent crew members onto enemy vessel in De Sey Ky River during July 16, 1965 and sent landing party ashore from Vung Tau Harbor on September 28, 1968.

UPDATES TO EXISTING SHIPS

USS Catamount (LSD-17): ADD: travelled up Saigon River to Saigon during November 1962.

USS Firm (MSO-444) ADD: docked to piers at Cam Ranh Bay February-April, 1971.

USNS Geiger (T-AP-197): ADD: transported troops to Qui Nhon and Vung Tau from September to December 1965 and additional troops to Vietnam January to February 1967 and July 1969.

USS James E. Kyes (DD-787): ADD: provided naval gunfire support on Song Ca River during October 1967.

USS John W. Thomason (DD-760): ADD: operated on Mekong River Delta for Operation Deck House III during August 1966.

USS Procyon (AF-61) docked to Pier #1 at Da Nang Harbor on August 18-19, 1967.

USS Renville (APA-227): ADD: May-August 1965, and March-October 1966.

USS Rupertus (DD-851) ADD: sent motorized whaleboats ashore while in Da Nang Harbor on January 4, 1973.

USS Shelton (DD-790): ADD: conducted small boat inland waterborne logistics craft (WBLC) surveillance of Cua Viet River on August 16, 1972.

Please keep in mind, the ships listed above are just the ones that were added or were changed. To see the complete list of ships, check here. We know that a lot of Vietnam Veterans aren’t aware of the changes, so please help us spread the word.

If you’re a Veteran who served in Vietnam and would like more information about our services, call us toll free, 1-877-526-3457. Or, if you’re not available now, fill out this form, and a specialist will call you at a better time.

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Smoke and Mirrors; How the VA is Spinning the Backlog

As I get older I’ve noticed that I’m becoming more aware of the way people and organizations try to spin things. Perhaps I’m just becoming more jaded as I approach the third year of my “flirty thirties.” For instance, when I am at a hockey game and they show some fella propose to his girlfriend on the jumbo Tron, I immediately boo them. I mean, that’s not romantic, that’s just a ploy to get attention. This is especially true because I am a Columbus Blue Jackets fan. They’ve only made the playoffs twice. Do you really want to tell your kids that their father asked you to marry him at the arena of the worst hockey team ever in the NHL?

There is a lot of smoke and mirrors out there in the world today. This is especially true when it comes to the VA Disability Backlog. 2016 will mark my fifth year working with VA disability. Claims have been backlogged since I started in 2011. So, the news reports state that backlog is dwindling, but what does that really mean?

Lohan smokingTo better understand this, let’s first examine what a backlogged claim really is in the mind of the VA. They consider a claim backlogged if it is waiting for more than 125 days for a decision.  That is the equivalent to four months or so. Here in the real world I know that it really still takes about 8-12 months to get a decision, appeal, or really any other type of decision, back from the VA. Here is where the smoke and mirrors come into play. And trust me, the VA has more smoke and mirrors than Lindsay Lohan’s apartment after her father has upset her again.

So, these backlog numbers you hear about going down on the news are quite deceptive. Did you know that this number only pertains to new applications, not the claims that are on appeal? So, what the VA is saying is that they use to have over 600,000 claims backlogged and now that number is 73,000. It’s a miracle and the VA has done such a great job. But have they? First of all, 73,000 Veterans who have not received an initial decision yet is still pretty bad. Let’s put that in perspective. In West WVUVirginia, most of us are fans of the West Virginia University Mountaineers. This excludes people in Huntington who went to Marshall or the few individuals who think Matthew McConaughey is a good actor. The Mountaineers play football at Milan Puskar Stadium. This stadium seats 60,000 people. That is quite a lot of individuals. However, you could not seat every Veteran who has a new claim for benefits backlogged in that stadium.

The VA magic show continues because they just make a decision on these claims. They aren’t necessarily approving benefits. They can deny a Veteran service connection on the initial application and that claim then goes away from their queue. So, they can say that the backlog is being decreased, but it does not mean Veterans are getting their benefits.

Here is a staggering fact…there are currently 425,480 VA disability claims on appeal.  That’s like 6 mediocre football team stadiums.  So, if there are 425,000 claims on appeal, and 73,000 backlogged at the initial level, doesn’t that mean that nearly 500,000 claims are pending? Well, the VA won’t advertise that. It’s much more sensational to say that most of the backlogged claims are gone.

blog photos 046Here is the truth about why we aren’t fans of this spin. We represent Veterans for their disability cases. A lot of people see these news stories about the backlog being diminished, and they get upset that their claim is still pending. They assume something is wrong, or that the person representing them is purposely dragging their case out. This is simply not the truth. But, because the VA came under more fire then General Motors in the past few years, they are doing a lot to make themselves look good. Most Veterans simply aren’t aware that these reduced backlog numbers only apply to new applicants.

My message for Veterans is simple. There is a pretty good chance that your claim is still going to take a long time. If you are about to face discharge, try to take part in a program called Benefits Delivery at Discharge. It’s a program that allows individuals approaching discharge to get a decision back quickly. You can read more about that here. If you have been discharged already, apply for all of your claims at once, submit evidence early, and be sure to get regular treatment. Of course, it never hurts to hire an attorney. Despite what some people may want you to believe, we actually want to get your claim approved as quickly as possible. While an attorney can’t speed up your case, there is a lot they can do to help you get approved. I’d be happy to tell you all about it too. Just give me a call for a free consultation. You can reach me toll free here: 1-877-526-3457. Or, fill out this form so I can call you later.

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The United States Coast Guard: A Fascinating 225-Year-Old

For the most part I write this blog to educate Veterans, spouses and the public about the VA disability process. I’m approaching five years in this career and I’ve been writing this blog for nearly four

Photo Credit: US Coast Guard Twitter Account.

Photo Credit: US Coast Guard Twitter Account.

of those five years. It’s by far one of the most rewarding parts of what I do. I’m aware that my blog is quite successful and a lot of people read it every month. With that in mind, I like to open up from time to time and tell you a little about myself. After all, if you trust me to get facts about the VA, you should likely know a little about me. Today I want to spend a little time talking about my favorite branch of the military, the United States Coast Guard.

Before I get too deep into this blog, I want to say that all the branches of the military have some pretty cool aspects. Any person willing to put on any military uniform deserves our respect and admiration. I actually have friends who have served in the Army, Navy, Air Force, and the Marines. However, I don’t know anyone personally who served in the Coast Guard. As today is the 225th birthday of the Coast Guard, I’d like to explain why I am so fascinated by what some call “The Coasties.”

First of all, Coast Guardsmen are like unicorns for me in that I so rarely get to interact with them. Over the past four and a half years I’ve talked to thousands of Veterans. Most of these Veterans served in the Air Force, Army, Marines, and Navy. I’ve talked to fewer than ten Coast Guard Veterans during my time with the firm. However, that number has increased in recent months. Some might say I have engineered our SEO to appeal to Coast Guard Vets, but that can’t be proven. Honestly, a lot of Coat Guard Veterans are aware of their eligibility for VA Disability Compensation, and that needs to be addressed. Also, many civilians forget that the Coast Guard is a military branch. That is really unfortunate. Granted, the Coast Guard is not a part of the Depart of Defense like the other branches, but instead it’s a part of the Department of Homeland Security.

Photo Credit United States Coast Guard Twitter Profile

Photo Credit United States Coast Guard Twitter Profile

Many people also don’t realize that the Coast Guard participates in foreign wars and conflicts too. While their numbers are much smaller than the other branches, the Coast Guard has participated in Operation Iraqi Freedom, Operation Enduring Freedom, Dessert Storm/Shield, Vietnam, Korea, and both World Wars.

I actually learned a lot recently while talking to a Coast Guard Veteran about the role of the Coast Guard. I had no idea that in addition to patrolling our oceans, they also patrol our rivers and ports. I live along the Ohio River, and they patrol this river on a regular basis. We have a lot of industry along the river so they do their part to keep it safe.

In a superficial way, I even like the way their aircraft, boats, and cutters look. Most of them are white with a large orange stipe and a smaller blue stripe. They really stand out and look amazing.

So I am nearly at the end of my blog, and I haven’t actually told you what it is about the Coast Guard that I find fascinating. Really it isn’t one thing in particular. It’s the fact that they are often forgotten as a military branch, the fact that they are doing more than we know to protect our coastline, ports and rivers, and even that they deserve better than to have Ashton Kutcher represent them in the cinema. (Will anyone get that reference?) Honestly the interactions I have has with Coast Guard Veterans has been great. I always talk their ear off, and they are happy to answer all of my questions regarding their time in service. I hope to learn a lot more about the Coast Guard in my remaining time with the firm. And, if any Coast Guard Veterans want to learn more about VA Disability, give me a call today for a free consultation. 1-877-526-3457. Or, fill out this form and we’ll call you at a more convenient time.

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(Almost) Everything Veterans Need To Know About eBenefits

There aren’t a lot of guarantees in this world. However I think we can all agree that we will all eventually pass away, we will never see Vin Diesel win an Oscar, and if you’re a Veteran, you know that ebens 2if you call the VA, you are in for a long wait. It’s a reality too many Veterans are aware of in our modern time. Now, my goal is not to shame the VA, that’s not my job…but wait times can get ridiculous. A friend of mine recently called the VA’s 1-800 number and was put on hold for more than four hours prior to hanging up. And while it may seem like I am just making this up to make my blog seem more entertaining, he actually sent me screen shots of his phone during the wait. So, what other options do Veterans have when it comes to obtaining information about their disability benefits, healthcare, and other VA programs? The internet may have the answers.

We find that a lot of the Veterans we interact with are often not aware of the VA website “eBenefits.” Before we get too far along I want to inform my readers that my information is not a result of first-hand experience with the website. As I am not a Veteran myself, I can’t actually access most features of the site. My experience comes from what I can obtain as a civilian as well as my interactions with Veterans over the past several years.

So, what is eBenefits? Essentially the eBenefits website is a web portal in which Veterans can access information about their disability benefits, healthcare records, and even enroll in programs for education and housing. I am a cynic, especially when it comes to the VA, and even I was impressed by everything you can do on this site. I was also surprised to learn that it has been around since 2007. I mean the same organization that sends my firm claim files in paper form, and as we learned this week, has a finical management software dating back to the 70’s, actually started a web portal just a couple of years after Facebook was created. (I told you I was cynical.) However, I actually do applaud the VA for this program. Many facilities did not make online access a priority until several years later. As someone who works in social media, I will also say that the VA does really great job with their social media presence. However, if your waiting months to see a doctor for your PTSD, a nicely worded Tweet isn’t going to do you much good. Maybe the social media team can share some of their efficiency with disability administrators.

You might be wondering why you, as a Veteran, should use eBenefits. That’s actually a simple answer. It offers a great alternative to calling the 1-800 number. Further, you have quicker access to your medical records. With eBenefits you can see what is going on with your VA Disability Claim, and you can even file for benefits by way of the site. Due to the fact that I am not a Vet and I have no first-hand knowledge of this tool, I decided to ask some friends of mine what their thoughts were on the eBenefits site. My buddy John stated that he found it pretty helpful. He went on to say “I use it to keep track of claims and to get proof of payment, rating, etc.” Further, another friend of mine, Jamie, is the spouse of a Veteran. She states that they always use the website as opposed to the 1-800 number. Further, she states that they actually find it very helpful. As a whole, if you aren’t being represented by an attorney, it’s a good way to stay up to date with your VA Disability timeline. A warning though: you will likely go very long periods of time without a status change

photos_4_005_w640Is it accurate? Well, sort of. Honestly, from what I have been told by Veterans, it is better than it used to be. It’s not flawless, but it works well enough for what most people need it to do. When I first started working with Vets, most people complained that it was not very accurate and rarely updated the status of a case. Now it’s not as much of an issue. It’s not completely without issue, but it’s getting there.

So, why would I be telling my readers about eBenefits? Honestly, I have a vested interest in this site because it is helpful for what we do at the firm. Too often we encounter Veterans who aren’t aware of the status of their case. Either they had a representative who didn’t keep them informed or it’s simply been too long for them to remember their most recent decision. Well, with eBenefits a Veteran can get all of the up to date information we need to determine eligibility for their claim. This includes the status of their claim, their percentages, and what disabilities they have applied for in the past. This can be a big help for our initial appointment.

So, if you have you want to get some answers a little quicker from the VA, check out the VA eBenefits site. It’s free, works pretty well, and can be pretty helpful. If you want to know what we can do to help you with your claim, fill out this form so that we can contact you for a free consultation. Or, if you’d rather talk to me, call me toll free today: 1-877-526-3457.

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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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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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What Veterans Need to Know About Meniere’s Disease

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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