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Late last month new reports surfaced regarding Air Force Veterans and Agent Orange exposure. While the news received a lot of attention, and some new Vets will be eligible for presumptive benefits, it’s important to focus on the actual Veterans effected by this change. Too often people get lost on the positive spin put on stories when an organization like the VA is desperate for some positive attention.
So, what happened? Essentially a report found that Air Force and Air Force Reserve Veterans who served stateside are now eligible to file VA Disability claims as a result of exposure to Agent Orange. As many Veterans know, in order to qualify for Agent Orange presumptive benefits, one must traditionally be considered “boots on ground” in Vietnam. Granted, there are a lot of exceptions to this rule, but the majority of Veterans who file these claims are those who served in Vietnam. On occasion, the VA releases other areas in which Agent Orange was used throughout the years. This includes bases in the US and Puerto Rico as well as countries like Korea and Thailand. This recent announcement follows in that same tradition, but pertains more to the aircraft that were used while in Vietnam. In this case the VA is being very specific about the aircraft. The only plane that is a part of this is the C-123.
The report also states that only about 1500-2100 new Air Force Veterans will likely be found eligible as a result of this study. Further, the VA stated in their news release that:“Air Force and Air Force Reserve personnel who served as flight, medical and ground maintenance crew members on ORH C-123 aircraft previously used to spray Agent Orange in Vietnam were exposed to the herbicide.” In other words, not every Veteran who served in the Air Force at the bases listed below is eligible. For Veterans who serve in Vietnam, as long as you were boots on ground, and have a presumptive disability, you are eligible. In the case of these new Air Force requirements, you have to meet the specific criteria.
“Air Force and Air Force Reserve personnel who served as flight, medical and ground maintenance crew members on ORH C-123 aircraft previously used to spray Agent Orange in Vietnam were exposed to the herbicide.”
You’re likely still wandering who this really effects. The VA actually supplied a very detailed list that should alleviate any question as to who was exposed. On a personal note, I found that an uncle of mine could possibly be one of the Airmen eligible. He was actually stationed at one of the bases listed during the time period. For everyone else, here are the dates and areas affected that will determine eligibility.
Dates: Air Force and Air Force Reserve Veterans must have served from 1969-1985
Reservist must have served here:
- Lockbourne/Rickenbacker Air Force Base in Ohio (906th and 907th Tactical Air Groups or 355th and 356th Tactical Airlift Squadron),
- Westover Air Force Base in Massachusetts (731st Tactical Air Squadron and 74th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron)
- Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, International Airport ( 758th Airlift Squadron)
The VA states that if you were in the Active Air Force during this time, you may qualify for benefits if you meet all of the following criteria:
- You served in a regular Air Force unit location where a contaminated C-123 was assigned.
- You had regular and repeated contact with C-123 aircraft through flight, ground, or medical duties.
- You have an Agent Orange-related disability.
To see a full list of Active Air Force Units that may qualify, click here.
One of the most important factors to keep in mind here is that the same rules apply for these new Veterans regarding Agent Orange claims as previous Vets who were eligible. In other words, you must have a disability that is on the presumptive list in order to qualify for compensation. The VA does not compensate based on exposure. You must instead be diagnosed with one of the conditions on the official VA list.
If you are an Air Force Veteran who meets the criteria listed above, give us a call today regarding your VA disability claim. We can help you determine your eligibility and help get you the benefits you deserve. Our toll free number is 1-877-526-3457. You can also contact us by filling out this form and we will reach you at a later time.
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 particular 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Fear 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.
- 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.
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 interaction 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 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.
I’ve decided that in 2015 one of my goals will be writing more blogs regarding the subject of alternative PTSD treatments. It was something I started writing about late in 2014. I found that it was actually quite intriguing. Something I discovered last year that works well for some Veterans is yoga. However, there are other options. What I want to discuss today is something that is on the opposite end of the spectrum…motorcycle clubs.
Before I get into the bulk of this blog I have to start with a little bit of controversy. I really don’t like motorcycles in any capacity. I don’t like dirt bikes, I don’t like “choppers,” I don’t even like those really fast bikes with the crass nickname. When I saw that Chris Pratt would be riding a variety of motorcycles in the new “Jurassic World” movie, I immediately took to Twitter to express my distain. Words like “cliche” and “basic” were flying left and right. I’m a car guy. I’ll take a Toyota Highlander over a Triumph Speedmaster any day. I really don’t have time to get into all the reasons why I am not a motorcycle fan right now…though I am sure it started when I wrecked one as a kid. Regardless, something made my opinion of motorcycles change recently, and that is what I want to talk about today.
I have a friend who is a Veteran. He is one of the coolest people I know. He’s genuine, really into cars, and has a great personality. He likes me, so obviously he has good taste. When he returned home from serving in our recent conflicts he had issues with PTSD. I won’t get in to the details, but it was severe at times. He happens to be a big motorcycle guy. He has the whole look: leather attire, unique helmets, boots…I’m talking full “Sons of Anarchy” mode. When he was searching for an outlet he found a motorcycle group, and that helped him tremendously with his recovery. When I asked him what the appeal of the motorcycle group was, he said: “I get a sense of freedom while riding especially with my brothers. Being a part of a club has helped me open up since I came back home.” When he elaborated on this my mind was truly open to how much a motorcycle club makes sense for a Veteran.
“I am an Iraq Veteran and I can sit and talk to a Vietnam Veteran with no issues. We may have a lot of years between us and a different war, but we still have a bond. It helps me talk to someone and get things off my chest because I know they have been there and understand where I am coming from. In a club you have a rank structure just as we did in the military. You ride in formation, you must prove yourself, and you also have a brotherhood that is just like the military. It is a great stress release to many Veterans and it is rewarding helping others in need even if it is just a handshake. Wearing my vest covered in all my veteran patches, I get respect and thanked everywhere I go.”
This is why I am so supportive of groups like this. I made the “Sons of Anarchy” reference earlier, and I think that is what so many people have in mind when it comes to any motorcycle club. However, my experience with the Veteran’s Motorcycle groups has been positive. For instance, during our annual Walk4Vets, the West Virginia Patriot Guard Riders are present. They have been at all of our events, and they put on an awesome display. To see a long line of motorcycles complete with American Flags traveling down the road is an emotional experience for me. While this group isn’t a dedicated club for Vets with PTSD, nor is it exclusive to Veterans, it’s a great example of how these groups make a difference in their communities. This particular group is present at funerals of service members killed in action. They do so much more than that though. They welcome everyone and participate in parades, community events, and even charitable endeavors.
Other groups are more exclusive and serve a different purpose. A group exclusive to Veterans with PTSD exists in Illinois. You can read more about this organization in the article I found, but the story is pretty straight forward: finding individuals with shared experiences can be beneficial. This article describes how these Veterans found a sense of camaraderie.
Many of the Veterans I speak with are 30 years of age or younger. When they return home from serving they often get married, have kids, and aren’t around many other Veterans. It can be difficult for them discuss their PTSD symptoms. Finding a group like a motorcycle club can be very therapeutic. It’s not just a group of individuals who have similar experiences; it’s a group of people who share your passion. That is what stands out for me.
For instance, I like some pretty random stuff. This can be isolating at times because I don’t know a lot of people who share my passion. When I find someone who does it’s magical. You start out by discussing your passion, but then your guard comes down and you can share more important aspects of life.
While I may not be a big motorcycle fan, I am a huge fan of these clubs, and an even bigger fan of what they do for Vets with PTSD. Sometimes just proving that you aren’t alone in this world can make the biggest difference in someone’s life.
If you are a Veteran who would like to know more about service connecting fir PTSD, feel free to give me a call for a free consultation: 1-877-526-3457. Or, if you’d rather be called at a more convenient time, you can fill out this form instead.
On Valentine’s Day 2006 I crashed my Kia Optima into a tree. It was snowing out, and I was on my way to my former employer. At the time I was working at a pool store and it was so very important for me to get to work that day. Keep in mind that I live in West Virginia, it was snowing, and no one was interested in buying a pool that day, but it was important that I make it in to work. When I called to say I couldn’t make it in, I was met with utter disdain. I would later find out that being relieved of my position there would eventually lead to me finding employment that actually matters. I would also later find out that the wreck really messed up my right knee. I was reminded of this fact the other day at the gym when I tried to be someone who exercises. My knee injury came back in full force, and I was forced to leave the gum early. The “walk of shame” out of the facility ended with me nearly falling in the parking lot. As I gracefully flopped into my car I recall thinking that I should write a blog about instability when it comes to VA Disability.
Many Veterans know that they can service connect for their joints, especially their knees. The knees are a very common claim because of how much wear and tear all Veterans face in the military. Think about all of the exercise Veterans have to do on a daily basis. If you add to that the fact that many Veterans have Military Occupations that are very physically intense, it’s no wonder there are so many claims for knees active today. Take for instance Vets who are Army Rangers. One of their duties includes jumping out of airplanes. I’ve talked to many Vets who were Rangers, and it is not uncommon for them to have 40-50 jumps over their career. Recently a Veteran who served as a ranger enlighten me to the fact that they have to do a lot of training and mock jumps that involve heavy impacts. These mock jumps aren’t counted as part of the jump total, but they can have just as much impact on the knees as a traditional jump.
Read Further: The 10 Biggest Myths About VA Disability
So, it’s easy to see how an individual’s knees can be rated for disability. However, each knee usually tops out at 30%, and that is only after a knee replacement. Replacements are somewhat rare unless you are older, so must Veterans will be rated anywhere from 0-20% on a knee. (Before someone says “I know someone who is rated at 50% on his knee,” keep in mind this is for a general claim. I could spend days going on about how nuanced rating codes are, but nobody wants to read that.) However, if your knees are causing you to be unstable, you can possibly file for instability.
Many of us would refer to this as your knee “giving out,” or becoming so weak that you fall. However, it does not necessarily have to be that severe. It can also include difficulty going up or down stairs, or even having difficulty with inclines. Keep in mind that not all Veterans who have knee issues will have instability. It is a very common side effect of knee issues, but is not the case in every knee claim. The majority of Veterans I talk to aren’t aware that they can even file a claim for instability of the knee. So if this is something you are having an issue with, be sure to talk to your doctor about treatment, and then look into filing a claim for Instability of the knee.
If this all sounds difficult and convoluted, I assure you that you are not wrong. VA disability is not easy. That is why so many people to turn to the experienced attorneys who represent Veterans for these types of claims. If you would like to know more about what our law firm can do for you, call me today for a free consultation. Our toll free number is 1-877-526-3457. Or if you can’t speak now, fill out this form and I will call you at a later time.
I often like to get up on my high horse and pretend that I know everything about everything. This may explain why I’m so unpopular. Though I pretend to have all of the knowledge in the world, I often get knocked off that high horse when I am proven wrong. One such instance occurred recently when I was talking to a Veteran about his PTSD symptoms. The end result was a valuable lesson about how PTSD is different for everyone.
It’s no secret that I love working with Veterans. I really enjoy getting to know individuals who served for many reasons. However, I will confess that it’s not always easy discussing PTSD with a Vet. When we take a new client on who happens to have a claim for PTSD, I have to discuss how it occurred in service. This is necessary because we have to get a good baseline of information about each individual case. It’s just like if you are claiming a shoulder injury. I have to how your shoulder was injured in service. One can’t simply respond by saying that they were injured in service. I have to know what led up to the shoulder injury. Did you fall? Was it a combat injury? Did it occur because of wear and tear? When it comes to PTSD, things are a little different. You can’t just say “I have PTSD because I was in combat,” and expect to get it service connected right away.
Some might say “Combat Vets don’t need prove their stressors when it comes to PTSD.” Well, yes, that is true. We can argue that combat action is your stressor. However, this goes well beyond proving why you have may or may not have PTSD, we have to look at the severity of PTSD too. This is why we ask individuals to describe what caused their PTSD. We also have to look at non-combat Veterans too. They have to prove their stressors, so we need to know what caused their PTSD.
You might still be asking why this is important. Well, it’s simple. We thoroughly review Claim Files so that we can better represent our clients. Knowing ahead of time what to look for will make our review more efficient, and quicker.
So, the Veteran who reiterated an important lesson to me about individuals with PTSD was a combat Veteran. He explained to me what events led up to his traumatic experiences, and made copious notes. I then had to ask how PTSD affects him now. This will determine severity. Once again, not all combat Veterans have PTSD, and it does affect everyone differently. Two people could have had the same experience in a war zone and one could be mildly affected while the other was severely affected. That is why we ask how it is affecting Veterans now. He mentioned that he was having issues sleeping, issues with his wife, and he couldn’t keep friends, and even struggled at work. This is all pretty common for an individual struggling with PTSD. However, it wasn’t until I asked the following question that I was surprised. “What about large crowds, or public places, do you have issues there?” Keep in mind that almost every Veteran I have asked that question to previously replied by saying yes. They usually tell me that they avoid public places because of their PTSD. Well, this Veteran told me that it was not an issue for him. I was so surprised by this that I asked him again just to make sure. He assured me that it was no problem to go out in public or be in large crowds. While he did have several other symptoms of PTSD, this very common one was not an issue for him. I was surprised.
Too often we want to throw a blanket over everyone who has a condition. Regardless if it’s something like PTSD, or even something physical like a knee injury, we think it affects all individuals the same way. It’s easy to group everyone who has PTSD together. It really does affect everyone differently. While I am aware of that, it’s easy to forget when you see so much of it every day. There are different degrees of PTSD, and that is why the VA has a rating scale. It’s also why they make use of things like the GAF score.
Overall the experience I had with this Veteran was a great reminder that everyone is different. Further, since PTSD affects everyone differently, we can’t assume that one form of treatment will be effective for every Veteran. Because of this, I encourage all Veterans with PTSD to find the type of treatment that works best for them.
If you would like to know more about this topic, or if you’d like a free consultation for your VA Disability Claim, give me a call. Our toll free number is 1-877-526-3457. If you’d rather we call you at another time, feel free to fill out this form so that we may contact you at a later date.
When I was just a young fella I recall having severe issues with migraine headaches. I was only about 6 or 7 years old but I recall that they were so severe that I would become nauseous. I was not able to do my homework at night and it really concerned my mother. I eventually went to a doctor about the issue. They performed X-rays, ran multiple tests, and could not figure out was wrong with me. I assumed I was just so smart that my brain was struggling to contain all of the knowledge I was gathering. Sadly this wasn’t the case either. My doctor said that I would eventually grow out of it. I obviously thought he was a quack. (I was awfully judgmental as a child.) It turns out my doctor was correct. By the time I was 9 I wasn’t having migraines any longer. It’s rare for me to get a headache that severe as an adult.
Why am I bringing this subject up now? Well, it’s rare for me to relate on a lot of claims Veterans file for in VA Disability. Migraine headaches are one of the areas in which Veterans can service connect for in VA Disability yet often aren’t aware that they can claim. Migraines are very prominent in our younger veterans, and headaches in general are a presumptive condition under Gulf War Illness. Let’s examine this subject in more detail.
Migraines are quite interesting in VA disability. For one, the most you can service connect on migraines is 50%. In fact, the ratings for Migraines are as follows: 0%, 10%, 30% and 50%.
According to the 38 CFR, here are the criteria for each level of migraines:
With very frequent completely prostrating and prolonged attacks productive of severe economic inadaptability 50
With characteristic prostrating attacks occurring on an average once a month over last several months 30
With characteristic prostrating attacks averaging one in 2 months over last several months 10
With less frequent attacks 0
One thing that stands out in the description above is the phrase “prostrating attacks.” I don’t see a medical degree hanging from my walls, so I decided I better figure out what that means. According to Merriam-Webster, prostrating means that you are: “stretched out with face on the ground in adoration or submission; also : lying flat.” In other words, the pain of the headache is so severe that you are only able to go lie down to deal with the pain. I can relate to that. I recall many nights as a child in which I had to retreat to my bedroom to deal with the pain. Many Veterans have told me that they have to go to their bedroom in order to deal with the severe pain. They will black out all of their windows, get rid of all noise, and just lie on their bed for hours until the pain goes away. Some Veterans I have talked with in the past state that they have severe migraines multiple times per week. I personally couldn’t imagine trying to function as an adult with severe headaches like this every week.
What about headaches that aren’t considered migraines? Are they any different? According to the CFR they are not different than migraines when it comes to ratings. I spoke with Kris who reviews all of our claim files to verify this. He stated that the VA uses the same rating code for regular headaches as they do for migraines.
If you are a Veteran who is suffering from migraines, be sure to seek treatment from a medical professional for your conditions. Treatment is key in any VA disability claim. Also, when it comes to headaches as a whole, keeping a journal of your headaches can help get you service connected.
If you would like to know more about service connecting for headaches, give me a call for a free consultation. Our number is 1-877-526-3457. You can also fill out this form so that we may contact you at a later time.
When I walked through the front door of our law firm nearly four years ago I was not quite prepared for what I was getting myself in to. I had never worked for a law firm, barely knew any attorneys and was working to finish my Master’s Degree in Corporate Communication. I was nervous to say the least. I was expecting everything to be like Law and Order. Or, for our younger audiences, I expected it to be like the set of “How to Get Away with Murder.” The world of Veterans Disability Law is nowhere near as glamorous as what you will see in the law offices on these shows. For me it’s much better. I have made a bunch of friends, had some life changing experiences, and realized most attorneys are just regular people. The one area in which I was not prepared for the most though, was working with Veterans. Here are 7 things no one will ever tell you about working with Veterans. (In VA Disability)
- Veterans know a lot about what is going on. Honestly, most of the Vets I talk to know quite a bit about what is going on with their cases, as well as the VA Disability process as a whole. A Veteran usually knows where his case is in the process, how long things take, and what to expect. This is in sharp contrast to the area in which I worked previously, pool/hot tub sales. Let’s just say that when someone walked in off the streets wanting a hot tub, I had to start somewhere after how water works. It wasn’t in area in which a lot of people had knowledge. This was way back in 2005 before the internet was used for research as much as it is today. It’s actually quite refreshing having someone who knows the process asks you for help.
- You will get attached. Maybe this isn’t the case with everyone, but it’s definitely the case with me and the people I work with every day. I know I have talked about this in the past, but I genuinely enjoy getting to know Veterans. In the past couple of years I have met NASCAR driver Austin Dillon, been to a Miley Cyrus concert, met countless NHL players, and even had a photo taken with Norman Reedus of The Walking Dead. Getting to know Veterans tops all of that. Also, I have very eclectic tastes. I have actually made friends with some of our clients after their cases are over. Our case managers get to experience this on an entirely different level. I can recall Jess talking with clients about football when fall started, or Tiffany talking to another Veteran about his horses. Our case managers get to form real bonds with their Veterans.
- You will get frustrated. My frustration, and the frustration my coworkers feel, is not with the Veterans themselves, it’s with the process of VA Disability. Because we get to know our clients so well, we also get frustrated with the VA when a claim comes back denied. Especially when there is a ton of evidence to support the claim. We are passionate about what we do.
- It can be emotional. Trust me, there is a huge difference in having to pretend to care when someone would tell me that there hot tub quit working and trying not to get too emotional when a Veteran has told you about some of the things he or she has encountered in their lives. While I don’t leave work in tears every day, it is a lot to process. This was especially true when I started working here at 27 years old and hearing individuals as young as 18 tell me about losing friends or getting sexually assaulted in the service. It’s not all bad emotions though. We are thrilled when a client gets a favorable decision. One instance in particular recall standing next to Heather, our lead VA Attorney, calling a client in which I had bonded with prior in his case. She was calling to tell him he was approved for a claim that we had been working for a very long time. I wanted to be there when she told him the good news.
- You will learn a lot. VA Disability is no walk in the park. I’ve been doing this for a while and I am still learning. Also, things are never black and white, so it can be quite confusing. Before seeing the trailer, I thought the movie “50 Shades of Gray” was about the 38 CFR. You also learn a lot about the military and how nuanced the institution as whole is for the individuals who serve. A lot of experiences are the same, but the little differences make for much different views.
- It’s very rewarding. Regardless if it simply a Veteran telling me “thank you” for helping him out with a question, or letting a Veteran know that they are approved for 100% and can find a place to live now, it’s a feeling not too many other things can match. Just last week a young Veteran came in to become a new client of ours. A recent transition in the firm has me working with Veterans in person more, which is really cool. He was nervous at start. However, while talking, he became more relaxed. This was someone who you could not help but like. When I left he thanked me because he felt more at ease. He said that because of our interaction he was not worried anymore. I’ve seen transition within individuals who I met at the beginning of the process and are much better now that their case is over and they are getting the benefits they deserve. Witnessing that change is powerful.
- It will make you proud. I work in social media part of the time. That includes writing this blog, and of course being on Facebook, Twitter, and so on. You see a lot when you spend a large part of your day in social media. This person I know goes on and on about how much she loves her job because it pays so much and she gets to go on exotic trips to destinations like Orlando, Florida. (Sarcasm is intended there.) While there are certain perks to what I do, that is not why I like it. I get to tell people that I work with Veterans. The people who defend our country, and are often forgotten let me into their lives, get personal, and they allow me to be part of the representation for their VA Disability claim. I can honestly say I am proud of the work I do.
Read More: Read More: (Almost) Everything You Need To Know About VA Disability
I may not always work in VA Disability, but when that time comes I still want to work with Veterans in some capacity. I never believed this is the type of work I’d be doing. I didn’t realize before that simple interaction with people I respect so much would be this positive.
I encourage you to call me today for a free phone consultation. I’d love to discuss your options and see if Jan Dils Attorneys at Law can help you get the benefits you deserve. Reach me toll free at 1-877-526-3457. If you’d rather we contact you at a different time, fill out this form now so that we may contact you later.
After nearly four years of working with Veterans, and writing this blog for a majority of that time, I can openly say that I know at least a little bit about VA Disability. If you've read my blogs in the past I have often discussed how much misinformation is out there, and how so much of it is believed to be truth. One thing I keep coming back to is the notion that non-combat Veterans can’t service connect for PTSD. If for any reason this were to be the last thing I ever write, I want it to be known that a Veteran does not have to serve in combat to get service connected for PTSD.
It’s obvious that PTSD is pretty mainstream. With stories airing everywhere from your local news to one of my favorite shows, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, PTSD is getting coverage. However, the general public only sees PTSD as a result of being in a war zone. This is the furthest thing from the truth. While a lot of Veterans with PTSD did serve in combat, not all have. Also, not everyone who serves in combat has PTSD. It may sound cliché, but every case is different. Even civilians can have PTSD. Simply defined, PTSD can be the result of witnessing a traumatic event.
I personally learn best from examples. I am sharing 4 real life examples of situations in which a Veteran was non-combat and granted service connection.
- Military Sexual Trauma. Sadly, the most common non-combat PTSD stressor I have encountered is MST. Common in both males and females who served in the military. The VA defines MST as sexual assault or repeated, threatening sexual harassment that occurred while the Veteran was in the military. This is often filed as a PTSD to include “Military Sexual Trauma.”
- Accidents. Non-combat related vehicle accidents are actually very common when it comes to PTSD claims. Regardless if accidents occurred on base, or when a Veteran was on leave, it can be a stressor for PTSD. I want to clarify the type of accident though. A simple “fender bender” like I had a couple of years ago wouldn't likely be a good stressor for a PTSD claim. However a serious accident in which individuals had life threatening injuries, witnessed death, or became paralyzed as a result of the accident, would be a better example of how an accident can cause PTSD.
- Physical Assault. Something I have seen more recently in non-combat related PTSD claims are Veterans who were involved in some sort of physical, yet non-sexual assault while serving. The Veterans I have encountered who file this type of claim are almost always male. Traditionally it is a superior officer who is either bullying a lower ranking individual or an assault by several of your fellow servicemen at once.
- Death of a fellow soldier. It’s no secret that suicide is one of the biggest issues facing our nation’s military today. I've heard countless Veterans tell me that they have witnessed another soldier commit suicide. This is obviously traumatic. However, this does not just apply to suicide. Many other Veterans have told me about individuals who were killed in training exercises or while in boot camp.
While there are other stressors for a Veteran to claim non-combat PTSD, these are the most common ones I have encountered while working in VA Disability. PTSD as a whole can be difficult to deal with. Too often the Veterans I speak with who didn't serve in combat didn't feel shame about filing a PTSD claim. This is unnecessary. Traumatic events affect everyone differently. A Veteran who served in combat may not have any symptoms of what he or she encountered during that time, but may be bothered by an assault that occurred while living on base in the US. It’s a serious issue and it affects everyone differently. We simply can’t group every Veteran who has PTSD together. That is why the VA rates it at different percentages.
If you have questions about filing a claim for PTSD, feel free to give me a call. Ill be more than happy to tell you what our firm can do for you. Our toll free number is 1-877-526-3457. If you can’t call now, feel free to fill out this form, and I will contact you at a more convenient time.
Last week was the opening of the NFL season. My beloved Houston Texans won, which made me pretty happy. However, the season kickoff also made me a little annoyed because it means that fall is here. That means winter is just around the corner, and thus bad times are ahead. For me winter means snow, firewood, and dressing in layers. I hate all of those things. Since I can’t move to Houston yet, I kind of have to deal with the weather. Winter also means that I will not be interacting with as many Veterans as I do during the warmer months.
Fall and winter are busy times for everyone. We get distracted by kids going back to school, preparing for cold weather if you live in a part of America that is not Florida, and even the holiday season. This can be an issue for Veterans who are pursuing VA Disability. Even though what I am saying may seem false, it’s not: The VA does not take time off. Granted, they aren’t usually open on Christmas or Thanksgiving, but they are working just as hard during the third and fourth quarter as any other organization. Maybe I shouldn’t assume so much about the VA working hard. Let’s just say they are working during the winter months. If you get a denial letter in the mail, there is no reason to hesitate on pursuing an appeal. While the winter months can be hectic, I have compiled 4 tips to help keep a claim going smoothly during the cold months.
- Keep your appointments! Some of us have this stuff called snow, and it makes traveling very difficult. Many Veterans have to travel long distances in order to get to a VA hospital. There is no need to wreck your car if traveling is compromised by snow. Simply call to reschedule your appointment with the VA. You will have to be proactive about this though as the VA is not going to call you back to reschedule. The same can be said about VA hearings. If your appointment is cancelled, or if you can’t make it, then get it rescheduled as soon as possible. This is a circumstance in which having an attorney will come in handy. We are able to contact the VA about reschedules in an efficient manner.
- Don’t procrastinate. I’m the biggest fan of putting things off to last minute. In fact, if there was a show about procrastinating, I’d probably put off watching it for a few seasons. While TV shows can wait, VA disability can’t. I talk to Veterans who want to wait until the New Year to file for benefits. There is simply no reason to wait until you have to buy a new calendar to file for benefits. The same can be said for filing appeals, new claims, and reopens. To put it simply, you don’t have time to wait. There is a time limit. Once you get into the appeals process there are time limits at every level. Just because the VA gives you one year to file a Notice of Disagreement doesn’t mean you have to wait until day 360 to file an appeal. Once you get to the SOC, and the SSOC, the time limits are quite shorter. Missing the deadline will result in losing back pay. Once again, having an attorney will help alleviate some of the stress from these deadlines.
- If you have an attorney, or even if you’re working with a service organization, don’t hesitate to call them during the winter months. We generally tell our clients to check in at least once a month to see what is going on with their case. There is a good chance that nothing new is happening, but it’s good to call in with updated information at this time, or new appointments.
- Seek help. The winter months can be a tough time for us all. We see all of these commercials about Veterans coming home to loving families, but the realist in me knows that is not always the case. A lot of Veterans are alone, or may be even be isolated in their family. Going at it alone is never easy. I am a big fan of seeking out recreation in non-traditional forms. For Veterans, seeing a counselor can be difficult. While I do recommend seeing a counselor, it’s a good idea to supplement that with something that gets you around other Veterans with similar experiences. This is especially true if you are living alone or have limited interaction with others.
Follow these simple tips in the upcoming months and you will likely see more efficient results in your VA Disability claim. If you would like to know more about what a law firm like Jan Dils attorneys at Law can do for your claim, give us a call today for a free consultation. Our toll free number is 1-877-526-3457. If you aren’t in a good position to talk right now, fill out this form, and a member of our staff will contact you at a more convenient time.