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What Does Evidence Mean In A VA Disability Claim?

By Jon Corra · January 3, 2018
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The Greek philosopher Socrates once stated, “The beginning of wisdom is a definition of terms.” While some detractors state that this quote is ubiquitous, others call it timeless. Regardless of how you interpret the quote, you’ll likely agree that conflict and confusion can result from failure to understand and define terms. And one term that is often misunderstood when it comes to VA disability is “evidence”.

Due in large part to the emergence of legal dramas in pop culture, the noun “evidence” is omnipresent. When most think of the term, they think of a blood-splattered glove or “exhibit B” on the latest episode of Law and Order. When applied to Veterans disability, evidence is not as complicated. The following examples will help clarify how evidence is incorporated in a VA disability claim.

The first, and arguably most important, example of evidence is that of medical records. A Veteran’s medical records paint a picture of his or her time in service and provide a roadmap of their medical journey since discharge. Medical records are forms of evidence that prove a Veteran has been diagnosed with a specific condition, has been treated for that condition, and can also prove the extent of an injury or medical condition. Medical records can also confirm the date in which a condition was diagnosed.

While medical records are an important form of evidence for a VA disability claim, they aren’t the only type of evidence that can be submitted for a claim. Administration records are another form of evidence. Most Veterans who served will confirm that the military keeps track of their every move. Some will say, in a hyperbolic fashion, that the military even keeps track of their sneezes. While this sentiment is meant to be humorous, it shows how aware military personnel are of their administrative records. The military keeping such a watchful eye on individuals can help establish where they were when a condition occurred. This, too, is evidence, and can help prove that a Veteran was in an area in which Agent Orange was sprayed, for example. The legal team at Jan Dils, Attorneys at Law has used this type of evidence in countless cases to verify an individual’s location during the Vietnam War and succeeded in getting them the benefits they deserve. The use of administrative records as evidence does not stop there. Sometimes the VA will argue that an injury is not related to a Veteran’s time in service. If this occurs, a Veteran’s administrative records may verify that an injury occurred while serving. Also, if he or she has military medical records to confirm this claim, they too can be used as evidence.

Statements in support of the claim are a final example of evidence. The layman may refer to this type of evidence as a “buddy statement.” Essentially, a buddy statement is simply a witness statement claiming that a Veteran had an injury in service, or that someone witnessed the injury occur. For example, the Veteran who is filing the claim states that he or she was injured due to a rocket-propelled grenade attack. He or she states that their head injuries are a direct result of this blast. However, his or her administrative records are not able to confirm this claim because it happened in the middle of combat. This Veteran can turn to his or her fellow Veterans who served alongside for a statement. Their statement can be used as evidence to prove that the blast occurred, and possibly caused the head injury. These statements may also be provided by non-Veterans, too.

There are other types of evidence that can be used for a VA Disability Claim, but the examples covered here are the most common. Veterans reading this post need not fear the terminology used by the VA. They likely have more than enough evidence to prove their claims. Sometimes they just need a little help to find it. For this reason and more, many Veterans turn to the team at Jan Dils, Attorneys at Law. Since 2008, we’ve helped thousands of Veterans get the disability benefits they deserve.

Socrates also said, “Every action has its pleasures and its prices.” This can apply to calling Jan Dils, Attorneys at Law for a VA Disability Claim Consultation. The pleasure involves learning about the services they provide and possibly gaining peace of mind for your case. The price, though, is free. Just call 1-877-526-3457. If you don’t have time to talk currently, fill out this form and a member of the team can contact you at a better time.

5 Things All Vets Can Do To Benefit Their VA Disability Claim In 2018

By Jon Corra · December 16, 2017
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Your VA Claim can be frustrating, but having an understanding of the process can relieve a lot of stress.

Now that 2018 is underway, it’s time to get your VA Disability Claim into shape. But, where do you start? You probably feel like a lot of what happens with your claim is out of your control. While some things are beyond your control,  there are still some steps you can take to keep your case on track for the New Year. Use this list as a guide to help you get the benefits you deserve:

  1. Seek treatment. This should be at the top of your list every year. In fact, if you read much of the content on this site, or from the VA, you’ll see that medical treatment is the most important aspect of any case. Maybe you are already being treated. But do you continue to treat your conditions after they are approved? Too often Veterans quit treating after they receive a favorable decision. This can cause a problem if the VA attempts to reduce your benefits down the road. If you’re facing a reduction, and the VA finds that you haven’t treated for your service connected condition in years, it will be difficult to argue against the reduction.
  2. Ask questions. Our firm has been practicing VA Disability Law for more than a decade. We know that the process can be frustrating. We get frustrated, too. But, if you ask questions, you’ll almost always find the answer. For instance, the VA sends paperwork to our clients at the same time they send it to the firm. We both get copies of everything. If you’ve never filed for benefits before, this paperwork can be daunting. We often find that our clients become concerned when they get some documents. However, once they call us and we explain what the forms mean, they relax. A VCAA is a good example of this. This is a long letter that lists a lot of additional forms that need to be completed. It also claims that it must be submitted within a very short period of time. This can cause a lot of our clients to worry, but our case managers put them at ease once they explain that the latter is nothing to worry about, and we’re on top of it. If you have concerns, ask questions. We are happy to explain the process and let you know what you can expect every step of the way.
  3. Go to your C&P exams. A Compensation and Pension exam may seem the same as seeking treatment, but it’s very different. Remember that a C&P exam must be performed by the VA (sometimes they contract them out) while traditional treatment can be performed at any medical facility. If you don’t usually treat at the VA, this can be difficult or frustrating. You’re seeing an unfamiliar doctor who is likely asking you a lot of personal questions. It’s important to remember that a C&P Examiner is evaluating your case to determine service connection. His or her report will help the VA determine if your conditions warrant service connection and to what degree. Also, you may have more than one C&P exam. This is especially true if you have multiple conditions. Sometimes Veterans think they only need to go to one exam because they don’t realize that the others are for different conditions.
  4. Appeal your denials. Getting rejected hurts. When it comes to a VA disability, a denial can feel personal. The VA is claiming that a condition isn’t related to your time in service when you know for a fact that your condition is related to your service in the military. We understand that it’s upsetting, and we see it far too often. But it’s important not to let that stop you from appealing the decision. We’ve seen Veterans who have fought for more than 10 years eventually get their benefits. So, if you are denied, file the appeal.
  5. Consider getting help with your case. Just over a year from now, in 2019, some major changes will be taking place with VA Disability claims. They will make an already complicated process more complex than ever before. Some of those changes are rolling out early. If a Veteran makes the wrong move now, his or her claim may be delayed even longer. With uncertain times ahead, 2018 may be the best time for you to consider hiring an attorney. There is a lot an attorney can do for your claim besides represent you at a hearing. Attorneys can review your records, check for mistakes made by the VA, submit evidence, help obtain secondary opinions, and so much more. The right attorney can guide you through the process and make you feel at ease. And our firm goes even further. We have case managers to help answer questions, and a dedicated team trained in claims file review. They check for evidence as well as mistakes made by the VA. We also have professionals specializing in appeals, intake, and even hearings. An attorney may not be able to make your case go faster, but they can help you get approved.

To learn more about our services, call today for a free consultation. Our toll-free number is 1-877-526-3457. If you would rather be contacted at a later time, fill out this form now so that a member of our team can reach out to you later.

What Are The Basic Requirements to Receive VA Disability Benefits?

By Jon Corra · December 6, 2017
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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.

Procrastination and Your VA Disability Claim

By Jon Corra · November 17, 2017
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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.

How Veterans Use Meditation to Alleviate PTSD Symptoms

By Jon Corra · October 20, 2017
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It’s no secret that PTSD is a major concern facing Veterans in the United States. When a Veteran seeks treatment at the VA or from a private doctor, they are often prescribed medication to combat the symptoms. While medication can be beneficial for a lot of people, many Vets find that the side effects from medication can cause even more issues. A lot of Veterans seek alternative treatments, many of which we have covered on this blog before. Yoga, community service, and even motorcycle clubs have been covered in the past. Another concept that may help Veterans is meditation.

While many people have heard of meditation, there can be some confusion about the practice. Meditation is defined as engaging in contemplation, reflection, or mental exercise (such as concentration on one’s breathing or repetition of a mantra) for the purpose of reaching a heightened level of spiritual awareness.

So how does this apply to Veterans?  A 2016 study found that meditating can actually help Veterans reduce or even eliminate their PTSD symptoms. According to Psychology Today, this study included 74 active-duty service members with PTSD or anxiety disorder. Many of the participants had experienced multiple deployments in recent years and were seeking treatment for PTSD at Dwight David Eisenhower Army Medical Center’s Traumatic Brain Injury Clinic at Fort Gordon, Georgia.

While there are a lot of alternative treatments for PTSD, meditating can be beneficial for many Vets with busy schedules, due to the abundance of meditation apps available for smartphones.  One such app is called Headspace. The makers of the app state that “The techniques used within the Headspace app have been refined and developed over many centuries. Their aim is to cultivate awareness and compassion so we can better understand both the mind and the world around us. The additional health benefits that occur with regular meditation are helpful byproducts.”

Use of the Headspace app is quite simple. For individuals who have never meditated before, the app explains in simple terms how it should be used. The program starts out gradually and expands as the user becomes more comfortable. The first session lasts only three minutes. The audio instructor has a soothing, British voice, and explains how to do the breathing exercises efficiently.

The reason the app is such a nice alternative for Veterans who would otherwise visit a yoga studio is that it can be used as an individual is preparing to sleep. Simply insert a set of earbuds and start the lesson. It’s great for people who have busy schedules or those who travel a lot. Ideally, this type of treatment would be combined with yoga taught by a professional instructor but, in a pinch, the app is a great alternative for individuals who don’t want to treat PTSD with medication alone.

To learn more about benefits for PTSD, call the VA Disability Team at Jan Dils, Attorneys, at Law. Also, be sure to ask about a free consultation. Our toll-free number is 1-877-526-3457. For Vets who can’t call right away, fill out this form so a member of the team can contact you at a better time.

American Prison

Veterans Disability Compensation and Incarceration

By Jon Corra · September 25, 2017
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What happens to a Veteran’s Disability Compensation when they are incarcerated? Before we begin, let’s make sure that we are clear on a few things. The most important thing to consider is that there is a difference between serving time in jail, and serving time in prison. The biggest difference between the two is the length. Prison is usually a long-term stay to whereas jail is normally a short-term stay. I wouldn’t likely go to jail for a few days for murdering someone, and I likely wouldn’t go to prison for a public intoxication citation. For the most part, in order for the VA to reduce your benefits, you have to be convicted of a felony and incarcerated for more than 60 days.

Here is what to expect if you are incarcerated and receiving VA Disability Compensation: VA disability compensation payments are reduced if a Veteran is Prison Wire convicted of a felony and imprisoned for more than 60 days. Veterans rated 20 percent or more are limited to the 10 percent disability rate. For a Veteran whose disability rating is 10 percent, the payment is reduced by one-half. Once a Veteran is released from prison, compensation payments may be reinstated based on the severity of the service-connected disability(ies) at that time. Payments are not reduced for recipients participating in work release programs, residing in halfway houses (also known as “residential re-entry centers”), or under community control. The amount of any increased compensation awarded to an incarcerated Veteran that results from other than a statutory rate increase may be subject to reduction due to incarceration.

What if you’re receiving pension instead of VA Disability Compensation. The VA States that: Veterans in receipt of VA pension will have payments terminated effective the 61st day after imprisonment in a Federal, State, or local penal institution for conviction of a felony or misdemeanor. Payments may be resumed upon release from prison if the Veteran meets VA eligibility requirements. Failure to notify VA of a Veteran’s incarceration could result in the loss of all financial benefits until the overpayment is recovered.

There are some special considerations for family members too. The VA states: All or part of the compensation not paid to an incarcerated Veteran may be apportioned to the Veteran’s spouse, child or children, and dependent parents on the basis of individual need. In determining individual need, consideration shall be given to such factors as the claimant’s income and living expenses, the amount of compensation available to be apportioned, the needs and living expenses of other claimants as well as any special needs, if any, of all claimants.

If you’re facing incarceration, it can be tough to prepare yourself and your family for what to expect in advance. Knowing how your finances will be impacted can help alleviate some of those issues.

Pursuing a claim can be very frustrating. If you’d like to learn what an attorney can do for you, give Jan Dils, Attorneys at Law a call today for a Free consultation. The toll-free number is 1-877-526-3457. If you can’t talk now, fill out this form so that a representative can contact you at a better time.

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

By Jon Corra · July 21, 2017
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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.

My Sleep Apnea Journey (Part 1)

By Jon Corra · July 21, 2017
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From time to time I like to share my personal experiences in this blog. It’s rare for me to relate to my clients often, mainly because I’ve never served in the military. However, on occasion, there are some experiences in which we have common ground. Before I’ve written about the negative side effects of taking anti-depressants and experiencing what a lot of Veterans have described to me. In all honesty, I know my conversations with Vets helped me to realize the issues I was having with the medication I was prescribed. Just like that instance, I felt similarly when I started to have problems with my sleep. I wrote about sleep apnea before. This blog turns six in November. Our firm has a lot of VA clients with Sleep Apnea, so I knew early on it was a topic I needed to cover. When I wrote about this topic in the past I wasn’t having the issues that I have now. I simply couldn’t sleep. It was more like I had insomnia. Fast forward a few years, and things have changed. So, I want to use my experience to hopefully shed some light on this issue that thousands of Veterans are currently suffering from. Join me on this journey.

First Signs

I’ve had a pretty rough couple of years involving a sick parent, and a substantial weight gain. I am single and sleep alone. However, about two years ago I had to share a hotel room with my sister while my mother was in a hospital out of town. She stated that I snored quite a bit, and it lasted nearly all night. For the most part, I ignored it. Honestly, there were more important things going on, and I wasn’t too concerned about my own health. Eventually, mom was released from the hospital. I went back to work like normal and didn’t think about the snoring problem much. That was until last summer when my friend Shawn and I took a trip to Philadelphia to participate in their Comic-Con. Once again, I was sharing a hotel with someone. I fell asleep first. Shawn stated that he noticed my snoring and thought I quit breathing a few times. Once again I brushed it off.

Symptoms Getting Worse

As summer became fall, and fall became winter, there were a few more personal setbacks in my life. I noticed that I would often wake up with a dry mouth, which never occurred before in my life. I also started to notice headaches occurring often in the morning. Further, I was getting tired easily and electing not to associate with people outside of work. I really just wanted to go home and be by myself. Once again, I ignored all of the signs and just went on about my work.
Nine months ago is when I noticed that things were getting severe. I started getting very tired at work, almost to the point of falling asleep at my desk. I had no energy at all d uring the day. I would also pass out in a recliner when I got home. I didn’t want to do much. As I travel for work and pleasure often, I knew it would only be a matter of time before my driving would be impacted. For some reason, I often fell asleep sitting up in my bed. On more than one occasion I woke up because I fell out of bed. Once I actually hit my head on a dresser. I had to stop ignoring this problem and talk to a medical professional.

It’s Obvious

I made an appointment to see my doctor. She agreed that it sounded as if I had Sleep Apnea, but I had to see a specialist first. It took more than a month for me to see the specialist. I must admit that this was a little annoying because the problem kept getting worse. The specialist asked me a lot of questions about my symptoms and my sleep habits. She also believed that I had sleep apnea, but she then had to determine how severe it was. I was then told that I’d be scheduled for a sleep study at a later time.

Watching me sleep

It was nearly another month before I was able to actually have a sleep study. So, at that point, it had been nearly three months since I talked to my medical

Preparing for the sleep study with sensors.

professional about this issue. So, the wait has been a big issue. The problem had gotten worse. I was hoping to have some answers by then. Regardless though, I wanted to share my experience with the sleep study.
I will admit that I was extremely nervous before going to the sleep study. I was to arrive at a local medical facility at 8:00 pm. I recall being really on edge on the drive to the office that evening. Upon arriving at the medical complex, I was asked to sit in a waiting room with several other people waiting for their sleep studies. There were 5 other people there that evening other than myself. I was easily the youngest person there, and everyone else was talking as if they had been friends for years. I’m an extroverted introvert. This means I can be the life of the party when I want to be, and a shut-in when I don’t. This evening I preferred the latter. I didn’t feel like sharing my life story with this group. I am lucky because I have an expressive face. This evening my face told the world not to talk to me. Luckily everyone left me alone. I scrolled through my Twitter feed and Snapchat Stories so that no one would bother me. I am not normally like this, but once again, I was nervous.
Around 8:15 the team of doctors and nurses met us for the study. They brought all of us back together. As I was nervous, I was not thinking straight. Thoughts crossed my mind that a normal person wouldn’t think of. The most prevalent intrusive thought was: “Are we all sleeping in the same room?” The answer to that was no. Everyone would have their own rooms. I then thought

The bed I slept in for the sleep study.

I’d be in a hospital bed. That too was not true. We were given very comfortable Full-Size beds. I normally sleep alone in a King size bed, so this was a big change for me, but it was not bad. As I was placed in my room I was told that I had some paperwork to fill out, and then I’d be hooked up. By this time my nerves began to settle, and I gave myself a pep talk. (The actual pep talk included many swears, so this has been edited for a family audience.) I said: “Darn it, Jon, you will get through this sleep study just fine. You invented Snapchat (inside joke) and this will not break you. Now get off your butt and take some selfies.” It was at this point that I decided to document my experience for this blog. So, as you can tell, I took a lot of photos. The room was quite nice. It had its own en suite bathroom and was very clean. There was a TV and the bed was comfortable. It was just like being at a hotel. Well, a hotel that had a camera on the wall to watch you sleep.
It was approaching 9:00 when my nurse returned. She stated that it was time to hook me up. This part was a little more intense

All of these wires were plugged into sensors or me.

than I expected. They applied sensors to my legs, stomach, chest, and a bunch on my head. The head is the 2nd worst part. In order to get the sensors to stick to my head, they used some sort of gel. It was not super easy to get out of my hair the next day when I showered. I mentioned the head/hair sensors were the 2md worst. The goo in hair my paled in comparison to electrodes that were attached to my chest. I wish I would have known ahead of time to shave my chest. The pain was extremely intense when the nurses ripped off most of the hair from my chest. Honestly, though, this was the worst part of the night. Most of the evening was pretty laid back. Yes, I had sensors all of my body, but other than my chest hair being removed, the rest of the night was pretty simple.
It was a little odd to know that there was a camera watching me the whole time. However, the staff brought me a fan to block out the noise. There was a PA system in the room. The staff went through a few procedures with me, they informed me to clap if I needed to go to the bathroom, and then I was left alone. I had trouble falling asleep, but I eventually did.
A few hours into the evening the nurse entered the room and said that I sleep apnea. I asked her how bad it was and she couldn’t say an exact number. I was made to believe that it was pretty bad. They fitted me with a mask. I was given a choice between a full-face mask and the nose mask. Since I am a nose breather, I was told to try a nose mask. It took me a few minutes to adjust to the mask. It was odd to breathe through this because when I would open my mouth it would choke me. But after a few minutes, I adjusted, and created a rhythm, and quickly fell asleep. When I woke up in the morning I felt good. I unhooked from the monitors and went home.

The Follow Up

One of the worst parts of this entire experience involved waiting. I had my sleep study in May. I wasn’t able to do my follow up with the doctor until mid-July. That eventually got bumped up to late June. Then it was two weeks to get my CPAP machine from the medical supply store. From the time I went to my doctor for the first time to the time that I received my CPAP machine, it was nearly six months. The follow up with the Sleep Specialist was short. She essentially said “Well, you have Sleep Apnea,” and then she mentioned that I would need a CPAP machine. I could have told her that. One thing of interest pertained to my results. I had 70 instances per hour during the night. That’s bad. Essentially, I quit breathing at more than once a minute.

(Read my follow up to this blog here.)

I wanted to share my experience because so many Veterans I speak to have sleep apnea or other disorders. I couldn’t find much info about what a sleep study is, or what to expect online. I believe that most Vets have the same questions I do. I wanted to shed some light on what it’s like. I think that this can make a lot more people at ease going into a sleep study.
If you’re a Veteran with sleep apnea, give us a call to discuss your claim. Our toll-free number is 1-877-526-3457. If you can’t talk now, fill out this form so that we may call you at a better time.

Guitar Heroes Come To Parkersburg

By Jon Corra · July 14, 2017
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Most of the Veterans I’ve talked to over the years haven’t been a fan of traditional treatment for PTSD. Many these Vets have issues because doctors simply prescribe medication and send them on their way. Too often a Veteran has told me that this just doesn’t work. Traditional medication that is prescribed for mental health has too many side effects they say. Up until the past few years, I couldn’t really relate. However, I was once prescribed Cymbalta for depression and I couldn’t recognize the person I became either. On that drug my blood pressure spiked to a level that was in the stroke range, I stopped sleeping completely, and I lost about 30 pounds in two weeks because I only ate once every 3-4 days. While that last side effect was pretty awesome, I’m too big a fan of sleep and not having a stroke to keep taking Cymbalta. I eventually found a medicine that worked, but I also realize that medicine isn’t the answer for everyone, or it’s not the only answer. In the past, I’ve found that a lot of Vets benefit from alternative treatment for PTSD. I’ve discussed Yoga, Motorcycle Clubs, and even modern Veteran’s Organizations that focus on community service. However, a new program has entered the Mid-Ohio Valley, and its music to my ears.

I’m not musically inclined. The only instrument I can play is the stereo, and as mine is usually playing something by Katy Perry, most will argue that I don’t play it very well. Regardless of that criticism, I’ve always been jealous of those who can play an instrument. Learning to play something as complex as the guitar takes time, money and resources. Individuals who want to learn this discipline later in life don’t always have access to those resources. However, a national program aimed at helping Veterans with PTSD helps to rid those obstacles for Vets wanting to learn this new skill. Since 2007 Guitars4Vets has helped thousands of Veterans learn to play the guitar.

Guitars4Vets expanded quickly over the past decade. There are now 66 chapters across the nation. Here in West Virginia, we have a chapter in Clarksburg. Recently the program expanded to include a subchapter in Parkersburg, WV. Recently I spoke to one of the instructors, Larry Smith, who gave me a lot of insight about the program. Larry said that the program is 10 weeks long. The Veteran students are provided with teaching guitars. Each instructor works with two students to teach them the basics. After the 10-week program ends, each Veteran is provided with a guitar pack. It includes a new guitar, tuner, strap, picks, extra strings, and much more.

Larry was quick to point out that this program is very hands on, but that even a Veteran with no previous musical experience would be able to join the program and can guitar on their own by the end of the program.  You may not be able to open for Guns and Roses, but you’ll know how to play music on your own. The idea is for the Veteran to expand his or her skills after the class ends.

While the program is new to the area, it’s already garnered a lot of attention. Currently, there are 4 Veterans participating here with an additional 10 Veterans waiting to participate. Larry explained that the Parkersburg detachment is currently in need of additional Volunteer Instructors. With the 2 to 1 ratio, the need for instructors is a priority. While Larry is a Veteran, he mentioned to me that a volunteer does not have to be a Veteran to participate. They just need to have an ability to play guitar. In addition to instructors, the Parkersburg chapter is looking for donations to provide the guitar kits to the Veterans at the end of the program.

In the Parkersburg, WV area, CA House Music and Specialty Traders are preferred vendors. Specialty Traders and CA House can accept donations for the program. If you’d like to volunteer, you can contact chapter coordinator Billy Trivett. His phone number is 540-355-5461. For more info about Guitars4Vets, click here. To learn more about PTSD check out our archive.

We’ve battled government and insurance giants for over 20 years. To learn more about the services we provide, give us a call. 1-877-526-3457. To sign up for a Free Consultation, click here.

Individual Unemployability vs. 100% Schedular Rating

By Jon Corra · May 15, 2017
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Since there is a lot of misinformation about the VA Disability Process many veterans aren’t aware of how certain aspects work. For instance, many Veterans assume that VA disability works just like Social Security Disability. Social Security Disability is a program in place for individuals who can’t work because of their disabilities. VA Disability Compensation allows Veterans to work while still receiving the benefit. Let’s examine how this works in more detail today.

First, a program like social security disability is one in which you are either granted or denied. So in other words, you either get it or you don’t. There’s not really a gray area with social security. This contrasts with VA Disability which is granted to Veterans on a scale from 0% to 100%. So, you can be granted VA Disability and not be compensated. This would be a 0% rating. Veterans are paid different amounts depending upon how high they are rated. A rating of 10% might be $133.00, while a Veteran being paid at 100% might receive over $3,000 per month. This is some discrepancy on the amount a Veteran receives after he or she reaches 30% because they can file for dependents.

One of the biggest differences between social security and VA disability is the amount you can work after you are approved. In VA disability, a Veteran can be paid at 100% and still work full time. While some individuals receiving, social security can still work, it’s only for very short periods of time for a set amount of money. On VA disability, however, you can make as much money as you’d like and still receive benefits. There is, of course, an exception.

Any Veteran pursuing VA disability compensation will tell you that it’s not an easy accomplishment. Further, getting rated at 100% the traditional way, which we refer to as a scheduler, is even more difficult. In reality, to be paid at 100% in a traditional sense, you have to be paid between 190% and 230%. That is very difficult. So, many Veterans pursue 100% compensation via a different route, individual unemployability.

Individual Unemployability, or IU, is a program in place to compensate Veterans at the 100% rating, even though they are not actually rated at 100%. The way it works is based upon ratings. If a Vet is rated at 60% or more for a single condition, they may be eligible for IU if their disabilities keep them from working. Further, a Veteran rated on multiple conditions at a total of 70% or more may be able to receive IU as long as one of the conditions is rated at 40%. However, receiving IU, over-scheduler rain means that you can’t work. In all honesty, you can’t work full time on IU at all. You may go to school, but working is out of the question.

We know how confusing this process can be. This why so many people turn to the attorneys at Jan Dils Attorneys at Law. Our team is focused on VA Disability, and we know how to get results. To learn more about the services we offer, or to learn how to become a client, call us via our toll-free number. 1-877-526-3457. If you can’t talk now, fill out this form, and we will be happy to call you at a better time.