Last month the Department of Veterans Affairs released a study showing that 80% of Gulf War related claims get denied by the VA. For some this information may seem like a shocking number. For others however, this seems like a regular occurrence with the VA. Why are all of those claims getting denied though? While I personally can’t go in and look at every decision, I can provide some insight from my own experiences.
Let’s examine an issue like headaches for instance. This issue is on the Gulf War presumptive list. In other words, the VA assumes that if you served in the Gulf War, and have an issue with headaches, then those things are related. Thus you should receive service connection for the condition. However, let’s not forget who we are dealing with here. It’s the VA, not Bed Bath and Beyond. The VA will tell you no, and they won’t accept competitors coupons. Joking aside, the VA is not necessarily going to deny a claim for no reason. (Even though it may seem like it often.) The biggest reason a claim like headaches is denied is lack of evidence.
Having the condition alone is not always enough to get service connection. In all honesty, everyone has headaches. A few weeks ago I stayed up all night watching “Orange is the New Black,” and I had a headache for the first 7 hours of my work day. When it comes to a Veteran though, their headaches tend to be more severe and not Netflix induced. If you are filing a GWI claim related to headaches without any medical treatment, or evidence, then the VA will deny you. I want to make it clear that you don’t have to have 20 years of treatment records in this situation. Sometimes simply discussing the issue with your doctor is enough evidence.
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The last time I went to the doctor, which was not too long ago, he asked me what was going on. We discussed my hypertension, and my issues with sleeping. (Which you can read about in another blog.) At the end of the appointment his nurse entered the room. I spoke with her for a while, some may call it flirting, I call it talking with enthusiasm, and she handed me a summary of our visit. In that summary there were notes about the conditions I told my doctor about moments before. Guess what, that is now in my medical records forever. It shows that I mentioned a sleep issue.
What if you have not been to a doctor, is that the end of the road? The answer is no. One thing I encourage Veterans with headaches to do is to keep a headache journal. Sometimes simply documenting when your headaches occur, the severity, and the length, over a period of time, can help get a claim like this service connected. This really works for any number of conditions. Another helpful tool for multiple conditions is a Statement in Support of Claim. Regardless if it is from you, or someone else, these statements can help establish service connection.
So, if you do this you will automatically get service connection, right? Nope! The VA is like Bed Bath and Beyond in the fact neither makes sense to me. Sometimes even with a mountain of evidence your claim can get denied. That is why we are here. We can properly argue against what the VA has decided, schedule independent medical exams, and of course represent you at hearings if you are denied.
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