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Regardless of their branch of service or Military Occupational Specialty, most Veterans had a physically demanding experience while serving. This is obvious for Veterans who served in combat, but it may not be as obvious for those weren’t in combat. Everyday life in the Military is physically demanding. Everything from ruck marches to the type of footwear you’re required to wear can take a toll on the body. It’s no surprise that so many Veterans have issues with their joints. Regardless of whether it’s their knees, ankles, shoulders, or other joints, many Veterans file claims for joint-related issues.
So, if joint issues are common, and it makes sense that many Vets suffer from joint-related medical conditions, it should be easy for Vets to service-connect for VA Disability pertaining to joint conditions, right? Unfortunately, it can be far from easy. While there are many issues that make this process difficult, one of the more common reasons has to do with something known as “range of motion.”
Our firm has represented Veterans for more than a decade, and we have been helping individuals get their Social Security Disability benefits since 1994. So far, we have yet to have a client approach us about a joint issue because their range of motion is limited. Instead, most Veterans want to file a VA Disability claim for a joint because they have some sort of pain. Perhaps they can’t stand for a long period of time because their ankles hurt, or they can’t lift as much as they used to because of their knee pain. Unfortunately, the VA rates joint conditions based on a range of motion, and not on pain alone.
What is Range of Motion?
According to verywellhealth.com, Range of Motion (ROM) is the measurement of the amount of movement around a specific joint or body part. It is commonly measured during a physical therapy evaluation or during a course of treatment. Other impairments that your physical therapist may measure include strength, gait, flexibility, or balance.
How do I get service-connected?
While it may seem like an uphill battle, getting service-connected for a joint issue is possible. However, you do need to check a few things off your list first. One of the most crucial items is treatment in service. If your knees were treated in the service, it will help immensely with your claim. Also helpful is a Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) which dealt with a lot of wear and tear. For instance, if you had to perform a lot of parachute jumps, worked as a mechanic, or were in combat, it will help establish proof that your injuries were a result of your time in service.
Treatment in service alone may not be enough to get service-connected. Treatment after service is important, too. Seeing your doctor regularly and receiving treatment for your joint condition will also help your claim. These medical records can be submitted to the VA as evidence for your claim. While we’re on the topic of medical treatment, it’s imperative to be free from large gaps in treatment. If you didn’t treat in service and had a gap in treatment of five years or more, it may be difficult to get service-connected.
Finally, if your injury is impacting your job, it may help your claim. For instance, if you must take a lot of breaks because of your shoulder pain due to an injury sustained while in the Military, or if you must have some sort of special accommodation to perform your duties because of your injury/condition from the Military, you can use this as evidence, too.
Dealing with the VA can be a difficult and complicated task. That’s why so many people turn to experienced law firms like Jan Dils, Attorneys at Law. Since 2008, we’ve helped thousands of Veterans get the VA Disability benefits they deserve. For a free consultation, call us at 1-877-526-3457. If you can’t talk now, fill out this form so we can contact you at a better time.
If you are a Veteran who has applied for VA disability compensation, you already know that few aspects of the process are pleasant. This is especially true if you’ve ever been involved in a situation that led to calling the VA’s 1-800 number. Some Veterans have shared stories in which they’ve been placed on hold for hours, or even been given false information. To say the least, most Veterans don’t enjoy calling the VA for help. But in some situations, calling is necessary—but it doesn’t have to be as unpleasant as you might think.
There are some cases in which a Veteran may receive an overpayment. One of the most common situations results when a Veteran receives severance pay from the military, and then later receives VA disability compensation. In some instances, the Veteran may have to pay back their severance pay in order to receive their monthly compensation. Another instance that is common involves dependents. For instance, if you were married when you were granted benefits, but failed to notify the VA of a divorce, the VA may have overpaid you. This can amount to thousands of dollars’ worth of overpayments. The VA will want that money back. So, what are you to do?
There is a helpline operated by the VA that is very helpful. It’s not a myth. It exists, and it may help you when you are in dire need of help. This helpful center within the VA is the Debt Management Center. It’s located in St. Paul Minnesota, and they have helped many of the Veterans our firm has referred to them.
We’ve dealt with the VA Debt Management Center directly many times since we started representing Veterans a decade ago. Also, several of our clients have had positive interactions with VA Debt Management. We’ve seen instances in which they’ve helped a Veteran in need who could not pay back an overpayment. They actually work with Veterans to help resolve the issue. So, instead of having to pay back a $1,000.00 overpayment with one month’s check, the VA may make arrangements for you to pay a smaller amount over several months.
This probably won’t surprise any Veteran, but the VA makes mistakes. Sometimes they will say that you owe them money even though you don’t. In this circumstance, the VA Debt Management Center will do what they can to fix the issue.
One of the best things is that the VA Debt Management Center has a direct line. You may still have to wait when you call them, but it shouldn’t be as long a wait as if you called the main 1-800 number. They even outline on their website the best time to call, and explain that the first Monday of every month is their highest day for call volume. They are even open on Saturdays to take calls. If you need to call them, their number is 1-800-827-0648.
If you do find that you have an overpayment, do not ignore the issue. The Debt Management Center will work with you. There are options. We discussed making payments earlier, but there are some situations in which they will waive an overpayment. This doesn’t always occur, but it is a possibility. In some situations, you may even be able to request a hearing.
Overpayments can be frustrating, but the VA is usually accommodating. If you would like to know more about this subject, or if you would like to know more about the services we offer, call us today. Our toll-free number is 1-877-526-3457. If you can’t talk now, fill out this form so that a member of our team can call you at a later time.
Most national reports state that, on average, 22 Veterans take their lives every day. Obviously, this is an alarming rate, and that number may actually be on the rise. However, many people don’t realize which Veterans are at risk. Some suggest that Veterans with depression and/or PTSD are more at risk, but simply saying that Veterans with mental health issues are at risk for suicide is too broad. There are a lot of Veterans who suffer from PTSD and depression, and there are varying degrees of severity for both conditions. Many Vets are able to manage the symptoms of their mental health conditions with medication or other alternative treatments. Simply stated, a diagnosis of either condition or both does not mean a Vet is at risk for suicide. Instead, there needs to be more data to show other factors. Recently, the Department of Veterans Affairs released data to show geographic factors that can contribute to higher suicide rates among the Veterans community. The news is dire for Veterans who live in rural areas.
Recently the VA released data on suicide rates by state for the first time. The study found the following states are among the highest for Veteran suicides: Montana, Utah, Nevada and New Mexico. The four states mentioned averaged 60 per 100,000 individuals or higher, which is far above the national Veteran suicide rate of 38.4. In other words, the rates in those four states are nearly twice that of the rest of the country. The VA found that other states with high suicide rates, including West Virginia, Kentucky, and Oklahoma, also have the highest rates of opioid use.
When compared to their civilian counterparts, female Vets are two and a half times more likely to commit suicide, and male Veterans are at an even higher risk. The suicide rate among male Veterans is 19% higher than in civilian males. Age is also a contributing factor for many Veterans, with VA reporting that 65% of Veterans who commit suicide are 65 or older.
Suicide rates for individuals who live in rural areas aren’t just an issue for Veterans. As a whole, people living in rural areas are more likely to commit suicide than those who live in urban areas. One main reason is a lack of access to medical care. Some reports state that there is also more of a stigma attached to mental health conditions in rural areas.
In addition to a lack of medical care and the stigma associated mental health issues in rural areas, there are other reasons that Veterans in rural areas are more likely to commit suicide. One such reason pertains to the isolation Veterans may experience in rural areas. Many Veterans struggle to find other individuals with shared similar experiences, especially for those Vets who served in combat. There are fewer social organizations, like the VFW, for Veterans to find companionship.
While this news is disturbing, the fact that VA is doing research and producing reports means that they are trying to identify problems and create solutions. If you are struggling with PTSD, depression, or a TBI, you may be able to get compensation for your disabilities. 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.
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.
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 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.
While doing our ‘end of the year countdown,” we realized that for the second year in a row, our most popular blog was about Veterans with headaches. That blog post was written way back in 2014 when the world was more innocent. The hit TV show Parks and Recreation were still on the air, and Justin Bieber’s new album was still months away. They were good times. That blog has held up well over time, but it won’t hurt to revisit the topic. So, let’s take another look at headaches and your VA disability claims.
Pertaining to headaches, one of the biggest misconceptions Veterans believe is that their headaches are normal, and thus not service connected. I’m not judging because this makes sense to me. When I was in 1st grade I started having severe migraines on a regular basis. They were so bad that I would become sick, then I would become nauseous and eventually vomit. As I got older, the migraines became less frequent and I eventually “grew out of them.” I still get headaches now. Most of my headaches are brought on by stress. Headaches can be difficult because of there so many people who haven’t served who have issues with headaches too. The major difference between what I experienced, and what a Veteran experience are that my headaches are preexisting. Most Veterans who have a headache condition do not have a preexisting condition. However, a preexisting condition would not necessarily keep them from getting service connected. The important thing to remember about headaches and any condition for that matter is that it must either be caused by your time in service or made worse by your time in service.
There are many ways in which a Veteran can have issues with headaches because of service. Any type of head injury can lead to headaches later in life. For instance, if a Veteran suffered from a TBI while serving he or she may have headaches after service. Even if a Veteran doesn’t have a head injury they can still pursue a headache claim. This is especially true if you sought treatment in service.
One thing we must consider when pursuing a claim for headaches is; “What exactly is a headache?” In my previous blog, I explain the process in detail. You can read that here. However, I want to make things a little simpler today.
The following is an example of a Veteran who likely wouldn’t get service connected for their headaches: The Veteran seldom has headaches. When they do, they are not very severe, and they are easily alleviated by taking over the counter medicine like Tylenol. On average, the type of a headache occurs once every six weeks.
The following is an example that would likely result in a Veteran receiving service connection for headaches. This Veteran has headaches at least three times per week, and they are prostrating. Prostrating sort of means debilitating. In other words, the pain from your headache is so severe that the Vet is unable to function. Generally, this means they must retreat to a bedroom with no light, no sound, and sleep until your headache is resolved, often hours later. There is a good chance the Veteran misses work often because of their condition.
Once again, if you want to read the full explanation, please see my previous blog post.
I was surprised by the number of people who turned to my old blog post for help. Obviously, this means that there are a lot of Veterans still suffering from headaches, and many still need help. If you think you may have a headache condition that should be service connected, give us a call today. Our toll-free number is 1-877-526-3457. If you can’t talk now, fill out this form, and we’ll be happy to talk to you at a better time. Our consultations are Free, and we’ve helped thousands of Veterans get the benefits they deserve.
Student Loan debt impacts millions of recent graduates every year. Most of you are already aware because it’s in the mainstream news quite often. However, what you’re likely not aware of is the number of Veterans who struggle with student loan debt. I was surprised to learn that so many Veterans struggled with student loan debt. If you’re like me, you simply assumed that all Veterans qualify for the Montgomery GI Bill and thus their college was paid for by the government. That’s not true.
Did you know that a Veteran who was discharged with a general under honorable condition discharge is not eligible for the GI Bill? If you’re reading this, and you don’t have much knowledge of military discharges, you might think that a General Under Honorable is a bad discharge. It’s not. To be honest, a lot of Veterans are discharged with this type of discharge. It does not mean they did anything wrong. Traditionally it means that they were not able to fulfill their entire commitment. In other words, if a Veteran enlisted for four years, but only served three due to an injury, he or she may receive a general under honorable discharge. A lot of Vets who are injured in service receive General Under Honorable Conditions discharges.
It’s not just the character of a Veteran’s discharge that may have led them to student loans. In some cases, the GI Bill may not have been enough to cover all fees. This could be the case if the Veteran attended graduate school, an out of state school, or even went to a college or university for an extended period
When I was in college I met this fella who served in the Navy. I can’t tell you his name or many details because he eventually became a client. Regardless, the first year we had classes together I didn’t like him very well. The next year we had another class together and the professor forced us to work together. We realized that we had some similar interests and, as any coming of age teen comedy will tell you, we became friends. And, just like in that same teen comedy, after college, we lost touch. As I was completing graduate school I started helping Veterans get their VA Disability Benefits. I discovered this thing called Facebook. Naturally, I looked up my old friend. Since I was working with Veterans, and he is a disabled Veteran, I thought it would make sense for him to become a client. Eventually, he did, and we got him a well-deserved rating of 100%.
One day, while reading through my Facebook timeline, I noticed that he mentioned he had all his debt from college eradicated. If I’m honest, he was bragging about it in a way he shouldn’t have been, but it peaked my interest none the less. Due to injuries, he was not able to fulfill his contract with the military. He received a general discharge, and thus, didn’t receive the full GI Bill. Prior to this Facebook post, I was not aware of any Student Debt forgiveness for Veterans. So, I did what we all do when we something unfamiliar on the internet, I Googled it.
My search results were quite helpful. According to my research, Veterans who receive a 100% Total and Permanent Disability from the VA may also have their Federal Student Loans discharged. In this context, the word discharge means forgiven. My source for this information is a government website. If you are interested in this program I suggest checking it out.
I don’t believe enough Veterans are aware that they may be able to have their student debt forgiven. Like I mentioned earlier, we assume that every person who served in the military and went to college was able to attend for free. It turns out that it’s not true, and a lot of Veterans are missing out on this program. If you know of a Veteran who may benefit from Student Loan forgiveness, please share the link above with them.
Further, many Veterans are rated too low for their disability ratings. If you believe your ratings are too low, call us today for a Free Consultation. Our toll-free number is 1-877-526-3457. You can contact us using this form as well. Thanks so much for reading.
I’ve been working with Veterans for more than nearly six years. At this point, there aren’t a lot of things that surprise me. Don’t get me wrong, I still love what I do, and if this blog is any evidence of my passion, I don’t see that passion going away anytime soon. When something does come along that surprises me, it has to be pretty major. The last time it happened was earlier this year when the VA released a list of conditions they believed to be associated with water contamination at Camp Lejeune. It was so shocking that many of us in the office just stood around discussing how the eventual presumptive list would help so many Vets. The latest news that blew my mind was found in an NBC news article. While the article was about politics and a bunch of other things I don’t care to discuss in my blog, they asked the answered the following question: Which disability ranks highest amongst Veterans receiving disability benefits? The answer isn’t what I expected.
The first thing that came to mind was PTSD. This seemed like a pretty logical answer. PTSD was the subject of the article and it’s something I encounter often. In fact, most of the blogs I write are about PTSD. However, PTSD was not first on the list. It also wasn’t number two on the list. It was number three. Currently, there are 813,277 Veterans receiving benefits for PTSD. Trust me; there are a lot more who have PTSD claims pending. Regardless, this was a surprise to me. Not only was it surprising because it was not number one, but also because 800,000 seems like such a low number. Not only was it low in my mind, there are nearly half as many PTSD recipients as the condition what was number one on the list.
So if PTSD wasn’t number one, then something else major had to be first. My first thought turned to physical conditions. A lot of Veterans have issues with their feet. Everyone in the military is on their feet a lot and they have to wear boots that aren’t exactly comfortable. Add to that all of the marching, the harsh terrain, and for the brave souls who jump out of planes, the consistent harsh impacts, and it would make sense that the conditions involving the foot would be number one. Conditions involving the foot were not even the top 10. By this time I started wondering if I even knew what I was talking about half the time. Was this blog just full of lies?
By this time panic was starting to set in. What could be number one? Was it a back condition? Nope, they were at number 10! And actually, that was just arthritis of the spine, which is not the kind of back condition I am used to seeing. I started frantically guessing.
Shoulders? Nope, not even close.
Diabetes? Not quite, this condition is at number nine.
Knees? Surely knees are at number 1. They have to be. It’s a major joint. No, knees are not number one. They’re not even in the top 5.
Legs? Nope, this is embarrassing.
Bilateral Fingers? Come on Jon, you know better.
No matter how hard I tried, the number one condition would not come to mind. I finally gave up and just looked at the condition. It was Tinnitus. I was disappointed by this result. It actually made me a little sad that so many Veterans have this condition. To understand why you have to know more about Tinnitus.
Before I worked in VA disability compensation, I had no idea what Tinnitus was, or how it affected people. Within the first week of working for a law firm that helps Veterans, I knew exactly what Tinnitus was and why it was such an issue. For those of you who don’t know, Tinnitus is a ringing or buzzing in the ears. No, this isn’t an especially painful condition, and it’s not going to keep you from doing most things, but Tinnitus, in its smallest form is a mild buzzing or ringing. It might just be noticeable when it’s quiet. However, in severe cases, it can be so bad that it nearly drives a Veteran insane.
There is a good chance that, even if you’re not a Vet, you’ve experienced Tinnitus. For a lot of us, it’s not a permanent condition. If you’re near and explosion or at a loud concert, you may experience some ringing for a short time after. Those who serve in the military are exposed to loud noises every day. Some detractors might say that it’s a bit of an exaggeration because most people who serve aren’t around explosions every day. That is true, but it’s not just explosions that cause the issue. If you worked as a mechanic, you were around a lot of equipment, which produces a lot of noise. This is also true for Vets who worked as heavy equipment operators. If you were a pilot of planes or helicopters, worked on the flight crew, or really worked anywhere near an aircraft, then you were around constant noise. This is also true for individuals who worked in the kitchen, with any type of radio equipment, or even had a role in the marching band. Don’t forget every Veteran, regardless of MOS, had to learn had to shoot a weapon. This involves countless hours on a firing range. It’s no wonder so many Veterans have Tinnitus.
One of the worst aspects of Tinnitus is that can last forever. There isn’t a lot anyone can do if the condition is permanent. To an individual who hasn’t been diagnosed with this condition, it may not seem like a big deal. It’s just a ringing or buzzing in the ears, right? Well yes, it is, and most people who have Tinnitus are able to function like everyone else. However, Tinnitus is worst when there is no noise. If you have Tinnitus, and you are in a silent room, the ringing can be deafening. Often, the Veterans I talk to have trouble sleeping because the Tinnitus is so bad. I always suggest using a fan or white noise app to drown out the ringing. This can help, but it’s no sure.
Tinnitus, no matter how severe it is, is normally only rated at 10%. I’ve personally never seen it higher, and this is the assigned rating per the CFR. It’s important to note that Tinnitus is not the same as Meniere’s disease. Some of the symptoms of Tinnitus can mimic the symptoms of Meniere’s disease, but Tinnitus is not as severe. Further, Tinnitus is a symptom of Meniere’s disease, but it also includes vertigo, hearing loss, and sometimes pressure in the ear. Meniere’s disease can often be rated higher than Tinnitus.
Tinnitus may not be the most physically painful, and it’s not as severe as PTSD, but it definitely impacts a Veteran’s quality of life. That’s why we encourage Veterans to pursue it if they have the symptoms. It’s also important to note that though Tinnitus is claimed the most; a lot of Veterans claim multiple disabilities in addition to Tinnitus.
If need a hand with your claim, give us a call for a free consultation. Our toll-free number is 1-877-526-3457. If you don’t have time to talk now, fill out this form so that we may call you at a better time.
Today I am going to share the story of the moment I knew working with Veterans Disability was the right career path for me.
On Veterans Day this blog turns Five, and in March of 2017, I’ll celebrate my 6th anniversary with Jan Dils Attorneys at Law. However, before I wrote this blog before social media was a part of my job title, and well before I knew anything about VA Disability, I was just a 27-year-old guy who was a little lost. I was finishing graduate school and working part time at a small retail outlet selling satellite dishes. In January of 2011, it was announced that the retail part of the company would be shutting down. In fact, my birthday would be the last day that I would be employed. Two months later I was working for a well-known law firm in Parkersburg, WV called Jan Dils Attorneys at Law. My new job required me to talk to Veterans and give them updates on their case. I was also supposed to screen potential new clients for representation. Learning a new job is tough, but add on top of that the entire VA disability process and I were overwhelmed, to say the least. For a while, I did not think that this was for me. I questioned a lot about my abilities at the time, and several times I thought about quitting. I liked my coworkers a lot, and the company was definitely a great place, but I thought I couldn’t do the job. However, one day, after talking to a young Veteran about becoming a client, I knew I was in the right place.
Please keep in mind that we are a law firm and I can’t give out personal or detailed information about our clients, so this may seem vague at times, but I am simply protecting the Identity of our client.
A few months after I started, I received a call from a young man asking about benefits. He was only a few months younger than me. At the time, most of the Vets I encountered were much older. Traditionally they were Vietnam Veterans who had great cases. It’s not that I didn’t care for these individuals; it was just difficult for me to relate. I cannot imagine what it must have been like to serve in Vietnam, and it’s difficult to get this generation of Veterans to really speak openly about their experiences. The young man I spoke to served in Afghanistan. I wish I knew why, but for some reason, he really opened up to me about his experience. He was a young father of many and was married to a supportive wife, but couldn’t seem to adjust to civilian life. He had been through several jobs since returning home and he could not find anything stable. Worst of all, he kept getting denied for VA disability compensation. The specific claim he was denied for that really made no sense was PTSD. This fella had a severe case of PTSD and was diagnosed and treated by a civilian doctor and by a VA doctor. Not only did the VA deny his claim for PTSD, they tried to say that he was malingering. For anyone who may not know, malingering is a fancy way of saying that the person is pretending to have symptoms. In this case, they said that the Veteran was pretending to have PTSD symptoms.
The malingering part bothered me a lot. First of all, this client served 4 tours in Afghanistan. He was in combat, and he witnessed gunfire, explosions, and the death of friends. He was obviously lost now, and he was having issues with anger, sleeping disorders, anxiety and many more of the core symptoms of PTSD. In fact, I’ll even go as far to say that his PTSD was so obvious, Ray Charles could see it. But they said he was faking.
When lead VA attorney Heather Vanhoose found out about the malingering statement, she couldn’t believe it. Heather loves all Veterans, but this case truly upset her because the VA was so blatantly wrong.
This was a tough case, but our firm was able to get the Veteran 70% on his PTSD claim, and he is connected on several other issues. He was awarded back pay to his original file date. It just goes to show that persistence pays off. We believed in this young man’s case when few others would. We got him the benefits he deserved.
Interacting with this client helped me realize that I had found my home. When he would talk, he would often get upset about how the VA would treat him. He had a distinct voice. He had a southern accent though I am not positive he ever lived in the south. I could tell there was a lot of pain in his voice. I took pride in the fact that I was able to make him laugh a few times. For a few seconds, I was able to help him forget his worries.
It’s nearly six years later and I still check up on this person from time to time. It’s interesting to see how much has changed in this period of time. He seems to be under less stress now, and I like to think that we had some small part in that.
This was the first client I truly felt a connection to, and there have been a lot more to follow. For five years I screened new clients for the firm and did intake appointments. It was great to get to know so many men and women who have done so much for this country. My current position with the firm has me working on social media and community outreach. I don’t get to know our clients as well now, but I still love what I do. Plus I still get to interact with Veterans; I just do it in the community now instead.
We’re not like other law firms. We really are passionate about what we do. I’m not alone here either. I know we’re different because our lead attorney shouts with joy when she receives a decision for a Veteran she’s worked with for years. I doubt other law firms have employees like case manager Meg, who holds back tears when she shares stories with new employees about the clients she’s helped. Most law firms don’t have non-attorney reps like Kris, who could easily be successful in any field, but he chooses VA disability.
I am so glad I was able to interact with this client. Without him, I may have gone off and done something boring, like accounting.
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As many of you know from reading my blog over the years, I look forward to Veterans Day every year. I truly enjoy working with Vets and Veterans Day is the one time of year that I really get to give a little back to the individuals I hold in such high regard. In previous years, I’ve organized a cookout with my coworkers at Jan Dils, Attorneys at Law. However, after several brisk November afternoons in which food quickly turned cold and many decided to stay away because winter was coming, we decided not to do the cookout this year. While I’d normally be sad that something I enjoyed so much has been canceled, I’m actually much more excited about what we have planned for Veterans this year. The excitement level goes to 11 this year.
What started with a quick conversation with my coworker Lauren Ward, quickly turned into a movement. We suddenly weren’t celebrating Veterans Day; we were instead Celebrating Veterans Week! Instead of just one day of events we’re participating or hosting five events next week. I am psyched. Here is what we have in store:
Monday November 9th: Veterans Resource Fair. We are cohosting a Veterans Resource Fair with our friends from The Veterans Corps at West Virginia University at Parkersburg. You may recall that this group was the recipient of funding raised by the 2014 Walk4Vets. Our relationship continues and we are excited about cohosting this event. Veterans will be able to speak with local representatives from several organizations. There will also be employers in attendance seeking to hire new individuals. Further, several stylists will be on hand to offer Free Haircuts to Veterans in attendance. This event is Free and open to the public. It starts at 5:00 p.m. at the Multi-Purpose Room at WVU-P and will last until 8:00 p.m.
Tuesday November 10th: Veterans and Vinyasa. Honestly, this whole week started because of yoga. You’ve likely read my blog about how yoga can help Veterans with PTSD. We’ve found that more and more Veterans are starting to use yoga in their daily lives to alleviate the symptoms of PTSD. This year, we have partnered with our friends at West Virginia University at Parkersburg to offer a class, free to the public, which explains and demonstrates yoga, especially breathing exercises. This event will be taught by Pam Santer at WVU-P. Veterans may also take advantage of free yoga classes on Veterans Day at the Full Circle Yoga studio in Vienna, WV. We appreciate the joint effort between Full Circle Yoga, WVU-P, and Pam Santer to make this event possible.
Wednesday November 11th: Veterans Day Parade. We will be participating in the annual Parkersburg Veterans Day Parade. Look for us in a classic red Cadillac. We will be handing out lots of great stuff during the parade and we will have lots of fun. We intentionally decided to leave the rest of the day open. So many organizations offer free meals and services to Veterans on Veterans Day only that we decided to just do the parade on the 11th. That being said, the parade is going to be a bunch of fun! We are also proud that our good friend Shawn Healy will be the Master of Ceremonies during the parade. We know he’ll do a great job.
Thursday November 12th: PTSD Awareness Night. This may be my personal favorite for the week. PTSD impacts so many Veterans who don’t even know it’s an issue. So, on Thursday, we are screening the film “That Which I Love Destroys Me.” This documentary chronicles the struggles of several combat Veterans as they transition from military life to the civilian world. After the film we have an expert PTSD panel who will answer any questions our audience has about PTSD. Our expert panel includes VA Disability Attorney, Heather Vanhoose, and Army Veteran/cofounder of the Steel City Vets, Ben Keen. More panelists will be announced at a later date. Due to the serious nature of this film and the subject matter, we recommend this event only for individuals 18 years of age and older. We are also pleased to announce that our friends at The Coffee Bar have agreed to host this event. It’s a great relaxing setting that will make conversation an ease. This event is free and open to the public.
Friday November 13th: Free Spaghetti Dinner for Veterans. We will conclude Veterans Week 2015 with a Free Spaghetti Dinner for Veterans at the Knights of Columbus on Market Street in Parkersburg. This event is Free for All Veterans. Non-Veterans are welcome to attend too. Ticket prices for non-Veterans are as follows: $5 in advance, $6 at the door. Children 5-12 are $4 in advance, $5 at the door. Children under 5 eat free when accompanied by an adult. Tickets can be purchased in advance at our office on Market Street, or at the Veterans Resource Center at WVU-P. The dinner will start at 5:00 p.m. and last until 8:00 p.m.
In addition to all of these events, we will be selling T-shirts and hats with the Veterans Week Logo on them. The Shirts are $15.00 each and the hats are $20.00 each. Proceeds from the dinner and apparel will benefit the Walk4Vets Foundation. The Walk4Vets foundation was started in 2011 by Jan Dils and her husband Chuck Hughes. The mission of the foundation is to support charities that benefit Veterans in the Mid-Ohio Valley. This year, we will donate the proceeds from Veterans Week to our local chapter of the Marine Corps League, and their Toys for the Needy Program.
For more information about Veterans week, click here. You can also stay up to date on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Just follow the hashtag #PKBVetsWeek.