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2019 has started, and that means it’s time for new goals for the new year. If you’re a Veteran one of your goals for 2019 might be getting your VA Disability Claim approved. If this is one of your goals for the new year, it may be a difficult task. Claims are still backlogged, and more Veterans are applying for service connection. Don’t let that discourage you though. There are certain things you can do this year to help you get the benefits you deserve.
- File for benefits. If you haven’t applied for VA disability benefits before, take the time today to You can’t get approved if you don’t apply first. Applying is easier than ever. You can apply online via the VA website. One of the benefits of applying online is that you can save your progress and come back to the application if you need to take a break. This is also helpful if you need to get additional paperwork. For instance, if you need to look at the date of your DD-214, you can pause the application while you find the information you need. It’s also easier to submit the application online too. However, if you’d rather fill out your application the traditional way, you still can. The application is tricky though. You may want to seek help when filing for your benefits. Our law firm will help you with your initial application.
- Get treatment. This was on our list in 2018, 2017, and every list since this blog started in 2011. And (spoiler alert,) seeking treatment will also be on our 2020 list. Treatment is the most important aspect of any VA Disability Claim. Treatment is the evidence the VA uses to approve or deny your claim. Treatment can be obtained from a medical professional like a doctor, but that does not have to be the only type of treatment you receive. For instance, if you have PTSD, you may seek treatment from a doctor, but if you attend some sort of PTSD Support Group, that too can be considered a form of treatment. Not only does it show the VA that you have the condition, but it also proves that you are treating for your PTSD. Even if you do nothing else on this list this year, be sure to get medical treatment.
- Don’t procrastinate. This may be one of the most difficult goals to accomplish this year, but it’s one of the most important things to consider when pursuing VA Disability Benefits. The reason why it’s so important to be prompt with the VA is that they have some strict deadlines. If you wait too long and miss an appeal, your claim will automatically close. If your claim closes you will lose your backpay date. If you lose your backpay date you may lose out on thousands of dollars worth of back pay. Also, considering it takes at least 12 to 18 months to receive an initial decision, missing an appeal could mean several more years of waiting.
- Talk to other Veterans. Many individuals who serve in the military develop great bonds with others who serve. This bond often ends after service though. Too often Veterans find themselves isolated when they return from serving, especially when they’ve served in combat. Reconnecting with others who serve can be beneficial. Finding others with shared experiences can help you feel less alone. With social media, it’s easier than ever to reconnect with other Veterans. However, you can still connect with other Veterans in traditional ways too. One of the most common ways to connect is to try a local Veterans organization. Many are social clubs which require membership to attend. However, they often host events which can be a lot of fun.
- Consider hiring an attorney. VA Disability claims can be tough. Many claims take several years and it’s almost as if the VA is working against you. Not only are the claims time consuming, but they are also frustrating. Sometimes Veterans are hesitant to hire an attorney because they’ve sometimes never hired one before. A VA Attorney doesn’t charge an upfront fee. This is how our firm handles fees. Our fees are based on a contingency. In other words, we only receive an attorney fee if you get service connected. The fee is 20% of whatever backpay you receive. Attorneys help in many ways. We submit paperwork, file appeals, help with evidence, we can help get second opinions, and much more. We’ve helped thousands of Veterans and we have the knowledge and the compassion you need.
We hope you have a great year, and we hope you get the VA Disability Benefits you deserve. If you’d like to know more about the services we offer, give us a call today for a free consultation. Our number is 1-877-526-3457. Or you can fill out this form so we can call you later.
Each year, more and more Veterans apply for VA Disability. However, there are even more Veterans left wondering if they can apply. The process is so daunting that many Veterans avoid it out of fear that they won’t qualify for benefits.
Our firm has been pursuing VA Disability benefits for more than a decade. Over the years, we’ve learned a lot about the process. More often than not, a Veteran who thought he or she couldn’t apply for benefits was qualified. So, how do you know if you should apply for VA Disability? Granted, anyone can apply for benefits, but most Vets want to know more about what the VA is looking for in a successful claim. Here are some questions to ask yourself if you’re considering pursuing VA Disability.
- Are you a Veteran? This question may seem silly, but many people who haven’t served ask us if they can file for Veterans Disability. Keep in mind that we aren’t talking about Survivors Benefits in this blog, just service-connected disability. A service-connected disability is an injury or trauma incurred or aggravated by the Veteran’s time in service. Only Veterans are allowed to pursue service-connected disability benefits. For instance, once an individual called our firm asking if he could apply for VA Disability. He didn’t serve, his family didn’t serve, and his only connection to the military was his work as a custodian at the local VA hospital. He was injured on the job and thought he may be entitled to VA Disability benefits because he worked for the VA. He was not a Veteran, so he did not qualify for VA Disability. He instead needed to file a worker’s compensation claim or Social Security Disability.
- Did my injury occur in service, or was it made worse by my time in service? When Veterans are seeking our help with their VA Disability claims, we ask them when and where their injuries occurred. For instance, if you came to us seeking service-connection for a shoulder injury, we would want to know when, where, and how it occurred. If your shoulder injury was caused by a car wreck that happened 20 years after service, you’re not likely to get that injury service-connected. However, if your shoulder was injured because you fell off a truck while in service, you may be able to get that injury service-connected. It’s important to note that this is just one example. There are many different scenarios for VA Disability claims. For instance, mental health claims don’t have to be diagnosed in service. Their symptoms often manifest years after a Veteran has been discharged.
- Does my injury still impact my life? If you injured your shoulder in service, and it still causes you issues today, that’s something to consider pursuing. However, if you injured your shoulder, fully recovered, and have no lingering problems, you probably won’t receive service-connection. Many Veterans have physical injuries that become more painful over time.
- Am I seeking medical treatment? Treatment is paramount for any VA Disability claim. Why is treatment so important? Medical tests and treatment are the evidence that helps prove your disability. A gap in treatment will not bode well for your, For instance, if you had a knee injury in service and didn’t see a doctor about the condition for 15 years, you’re going to have a difficult time getting service-connected. There are some exceptions, of course. We mentioned mental health earlier. Also, Veterans who were parachutist in service may have physical injuries creep up later in life. They may still get service-connected for their conditions even if they weren’t diagnosed or treated in service.
These examples are just some of the ways in which a VA case can become confusing. There are rarely any black or white situations when it pertains to VA Disability. This is why we say every case is unique. Please use these questions as a guide when asking yourself on whether or not you should apply for VA Disability benefits. If you’d like to make the process even simpler, you are more than welcome to call us for a free evaluation. Our number is 1-877-526-3457. Or, fill out this form. Our intake process is very thorough, and we ask detailed questions to help ensure we’re getting you all the benefits you deserve.
Most Veterans pursuing a VA Disability claim are subject to a Compensation and Pension Exam (C&P Exam). For those who have not filed a claim before, a C&P Exam is a medical exam performed by a medical provider at the VA. These exams are directly related to the claims Veterans file when they apply for VA Disability Compensation. It’s not like seeing your regular doctor. The C&P examiner will not prescribe you medicine or send you to a specialist. They are only going to evaluate the medical conditions for which you’re seeking service connection. C&P exams can be frustrating, and many Vets make the following mistakes when they go to their exams:
- Playing tough. Most people who served in the military are trained to downplay injuries, and they don’t want to admit when they’re in the pain. We understand why Veterans downplay their pain and the severity of their conditions. However, doing that in a C&P exam isn’t going to help your case. When Veterans ask us what they should or should not do during the exam, our answer is always the same: be honest. If you’re having a rough day, tell the doctor. If you’re back pain makes you want to scream, don’t be afraid to admit just how much it impacts your daily life. If you’re finding it hard to perform your job because of your depression, the doctor needs to know that. Also, we encourage Veterans to refrain from exaggerating about their conditions. This can negatively impact your claim.
- Expecting a familiar face. Many Veterans treat at the VA on a regular basis. Even if you visit the VA on a regular basis, there’s a good chance you’ll be evaluated by a doctor you’ve never met before. Don’t let an unfamiliar face throw you off. It’s important to discuss your symptoms with the C&P examiner as if he or she was your regular doctor. This is not the time to be shy. While it can be intimidating, especially when it comes to mental health claims, it’s important to present your symptoms in an honest manner.
- Waiting for Dr. Super Nice. We’ve been representing Veterans since 2008. We’ve reviewed thousands of C&P Exams, and we’ve talked to a lot of Veterans after their evaluations. Often, the C&P exams don’t go as well as they had expected. We’ve heard countless stories about rude doctors and long waits, combined with disappointing evaluations. We’ve seen our fair share of poor evaluations. But that’s ok. We know how to handle these types of evaluations, and have assisted many Veterans with getting second opinions from independent medical consultants.
- Expecting Answers. Many Veterans assume the C&P Exam takes place near the end of the decision process. With that in mind, we understand a Veteran may be tempted to ask the doctor for a status update about their claim. The C&P examiner does not know how your case is going to be decided. The medical provider performing the exam is not the one making the decision. The examiner will present his or her findings to the VA Regional Office. The Regional Office will then make their decision.
- One trip and done. In a perfect world, you could go to the VA one day, and all your evaluations would be completed within a few hours. The reality, however, is much different. If you file multiple claims, you may have to go to the VA on multiple days and times for different exams. It’s frustrating, and it occurs more often than you realize. However, you may also have to go for multiple exams for the same condition if you’re denied.
- Getting upset over a chart review. At times, it can seem there is no rhyme or reason to how the VA schedules exams. Sometimes the VA won’t bring you in for an exam, but have the C&P examiner do a chart review of your exam, instead. It can seem like the VA is passing over your claim, but sometimes a chart review is sufficient for specific types of claims and their severity. We often receive calls from clients who are upset after a chart review. If a chart review would prove to be insufficient, there have been instances when we have assisted Veterans in getting second opinions through independent medical consultants.
The C&P exam process can be frustrating, but when you hire a firm like Jan Dills, Attorneys at Law, the process can become a little easier. If you’d like to know more about how we can help you with your claim, call us today for a free consultation. Our number is 1-877-526-3457. If you can’t talk right now, fill out this form so we can contact you later.
For most Veterans, the disability process is long and frustrating. When a Veteran gets approved, they are usually relieved that the journey is over. However, the journey isn’t necessarily over when you are approved. There are still several things a Veteran may need to do once their claim is approved. Here are the 4 most common mistakes Veterans make after their VA Disability claim is approved.
- They stop getting treatment. Treatment is one of the most important parts of any VA Disability claim. If your claim is approved, there is a good chance you had a lot of medical treatment to support your claim(s). However, once they’re approved, many Veterans stop getting treatment. This can be bad for two reasons. For one, an approval does not mean that your condition goes away. Regardless of whether you have a physical disability or a mental disability, you should continue treating because your condition could worsen without treatment. The other issue with stopping treatment arises if the VA proposes a decrease in your benefits. It’s easier to argue against a decrease if you have medical evidence to support your claim. Medical evidence post-approval will help even more.
- They let other claims slip. Most Veterans file for multiple disabilities, and it’s rare for those claims to get approved at the same time. So, if you’re approved for a claim for your back condition, don’t let your PTSD claim slip. It’s important to continue your other claims because, if they are approved, they can help your overall combined rating.
- They settle for less than they deserve. It’s difficult to get a claim approved, but often when the VA approves a claim, they approve it for a lower percentage. For instance, you filed for PTSD and the VA rates you at 30%, but, you have evidence that supports a 70% rating. Many Veterans worry they’ll lose the initial rating once they file an appeal. However, that’s not necessarily true. You will continue to receive your monthly payment that you were approved for, in addition to any back pay that you were eligible for. If you wonder how you’ll know if you deserve a higher rating, you may want to consider getting help from an accredited VA Disability attorney.
- They fail to add or update dependent information. Once a Veteran reaches 30% service connection, he or she can claim dependents and the VA will add to their compensation. You can get additional compensation for each dependent. So, if you have multiple children, a spouse, or a dependent parent, you can receive compensation for each individual. You may also claim your children as dependents up until the age of 23 if they are in school full time. However, once your children reach the age of 18, you must show proof to the VA that they are still in school. Also, if you are no longer married and your current spouse is on your dependents claim, it is very important that you let the VA know to avoid any type of overpayment.
If you worry about mistakes you may make once you’re approved, you might benefit from having an attorney help you get approved. Thousands of Veterans have turned to the VA Disability attorneys at Jan Dils, Attorneys at Law. Call us today to see what we can do for you. Our toll-free number is 1-877-526-3457. If you can’t talk now, fill out this form so we can call you at a better time.
When individuals are asked to recall the last time they felt really nervous, many situations come to mind. Perhaps it was a wedding or joining the military, or even buying a home for the first time. What do all of these situations have in common, besides their ability to induce a case of nerves? They happen with the help of others. Weddings include a new spouse. Many who join the military joined with a friend or quickly got to know individuals while they were in boot camp. Those buying their first home likely turned to their family and friends for help. While scholars like Robert D. Putnam assert that our society is becoming more isolated, most still tend to approach uncertain situations with others.
In a VA Disability claim, Veterans can feel isolated and alone. This is especially true for those who attempt to pursue claims on their own. The complexity of the VA disability process can often spell failure for those trying to navigate the process on their own. But many Veterans turn to the legal team at Jan Dils Attorneys at Law for guidance. Our attorneys and staff pride themselves on customer service and the ability to help Veterans at every stage of their claim, including attending a hearing for the first time.
One way in which the Jan Dils Legal Team helps Veterans alleviate the stress of a hearing is by holding a prehearing. Think of a prehearing like a practice test or a wedding rehearsal. In its simplest form, a prehearing is a structured conversation with an attorney to prepare the Veteran for his or her hearing. It’s like getting tips from Tom Brady prior to starting the Super Bowl, or Gordon Ramsey working as your sous chef. During a prehearing, the attorney advises the Veteran on everything from the temperament of a judge or decision review officer to how to dress. It may seem silly to advise someone on how to dress, but it can help alleviate a lot of stress if you know what to wear in advance. Since 1994 this team has represented thousands of individuals in cases, and they know what questions come up most often.
Speaking of questions, the attorneys also use this time to answer any questions the Veteran has prior to the hearing. For instance, attorney Heather Vanhoose may be asked about specific questions to expect during the hearing. Attorney Angie Lowe is often asked how to navigate the VA Reginal Office during her prehearings. They also use this time to answer questions about how the hearing will take place. A lot of Vets have more concerns if the hearing takes place via video as opposed to in person. So they address this as well.
It’s normal for a Veteran to be nervous before a hearing. In all honesty, most attorneys were nervous before their first hearing, too. It helps to meet with someone who has been through the process before. These attorneys aren’t volunteers. They have a vested interest in the cases they argue. They are also passionate about law. A Veteran interested in learning more about the services available at Jan Dils, Attorneys at Law should call 1-877-526-3457 for a Free Consultation. If this isn’t a convenient time to talk on the phone, fill out this form and someone will reach you at a better time.
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.
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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 with 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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
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.
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
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
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
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.
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.