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Have you ventured to the market recently and been overwhelmed by the number of choices there are for each product? Ice cream is a good example. Most grocers have an aisle dedicated to ice cream. If you don’t have a specific flavor and brand in mind, you could be overcome with anxiety due to the large variety. How do you know which one to choose? Do you buy the high-end brand with the TV show host on the carton, or do you go with the less expensive, simply flavored bulk ice cream? Do you buy the branded flavor or the classic? The choices are seemingly endless. So why choose the expensive brand over the value brand? At the end of the day, aren’t they both ice cream?
And what does ice cream have to do with a VA Disability Attorney? Like ice cream, when you select a representative, your choices may seem endless, and it can seem overwhelming. Many Veterans want to know why they should consider choosing an attorney over a person or organization that doesn’t charge for their services.
There are various individuals, often referred to as Veteran Service Officers, and organizations, referred to as Veteran Service Organizations, that represent Veterans for free. Most are non-profits, and they do a lot of good work to help Veterans in a variety of situations, assisting Veterans with their GI Bill, VA home loans, burial arrangements, issues at VA Medical Centers and more. And they often don’t charge for their services. So, why would you hire an attorney when you can get free representation from a VSO? We can’t speak for all law firms, but we can tell you about the benefits of hiring Jan Dils, Attorneys at Law.
It takes a team
In our firm, no one person works on your case alone. We believe in hiring individuals to specialize in specific areas of your case. For instance, we have a team that focuses on leads, another that focuses on appeals, some that focus on medical reviews and, of course, we have our attorneys. Some may see this depth and worry about not making a personal connection with us, but that’s not the case. Every Veteran is assigned two case managers, and these individuals get to know each client quite well. The VA process is quite lengthy and, as a result, the case managers will be in contact with you frequently over the course of your case. Our case managers often get to know our clients on a personal level, keeping in touch even after their cases is complete.
Our attorneys and staff have dedicated large portions of their lives to studying law and learning the discipline. For someone to become an attorney, in most cases, they have to complete at least four years of college, and then attend law school.
C-Files: the truth is in there
A C-file is one of the most important aspects of your case. These files are often huge, and they can take a long time to review. C-files contain medical records from your time in service, your administration records, all of your VA medical records, and more. We don’t have an individual review these records, we have a team. This team is specially trained to review these records and find evidence to support your claim. They also look at past decisions rendered by the VA. They look for mistakes made in past decisions. At times, we’ve even been able to get Veterans service connected at a higher rating.
Our firm does not charge anything upfront for our services. We only receive attorney fees if you’re approved for benefits. So, if your claims aren’t approved, we don’t receive attorney fees. We are only successful when we make sure your claim is successful.
Our firm has a network of doctors established to help get Veterans additional medical opinions. Those opinions can help Veterans get the disability benefits they deserve. Since our firm has been established for so many years, we have built great relationships with these doctors.
Since 2008, our firm has helped thousands of Veterans get the disability benefits they deserve. If you’d like to know more about the services we offer, call us today for a free consultation at 1-877-526-3457, or 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.
It’s no secret that PTSD is a major concern facing Veterans in the United States. When a Veteran seeks treatment at the VA or from a private doctor, they are often prescribed medication to combat the symptoms. While medication can be beneficial for a lot of people, many Vets find that the side effects from medication can cause even more issues. A lot of Veterans seek alternative treatments, many of which we have covered on this blog before. Yoga, community service, and even motorcycle clubs have been covered in the past. Another concept that may help Veterans is meditation.
While many people have heard of meditation, there can be some confusion about the practice. Meditation is defined as engaging in contemplation, reflection, or mental exercise (such as concentration on one’s breathing or repetition of a mantra) for the purpose of reaching a heightened level of spiritual awareness.
So how does this apply to Veterans? A 2016 study found that meditating can actually help Veterans reduce or even eliminate their PTSD symptoms. According to Psychology Today, this study included 74 active-duty service members with PTSD or anxiety disorder. Many of the participants had experienced multiple deployments in recent years and were seeking treatment for PTSD at Dwight David Eisenhower Army Medical Center’s Traumatic Brain Injury Clinic at Fort Gordon, Georgia.
While there are a lot of alternative treatments for PTSD, meditating can be beneficial for many Vets with busy schedules, due to the abundance of meditation apps available for smartphones. One such app is called Headspace. The makers of the app state that “The techniques used within the Headspace app have been refined and developed over many centuries. Their aim is to cultivate awareness and compassion so we can better understand both the mind and the world around us. The additional health benefits that occur with regular meditation are helpful byproducts.”
Use of the Headspace app is quite simple. For individuals who have never meditated before, the app explains in simple terms how it should be used. The program starts out gradually and expands as the user becomes more comfortable. The first session lasts only three minutes. The audio instructor has a soothing, British voice, and explains how to do the breathing exercises efficiently.
The reason the app is such a nice alternative for Veterans who would otherwise visit a yoga studio is that it can be used as an individual is preparing to sleep. Simply insert a set of earbuds and start the lesson. It’s great for people who have busy schedules or those who travel a lot. Ideally, this type of treatment would be combined with yoga taught by a professional instructor but, in a pinch, the app is a great alternative for individuals who don’t want to treat PTSD with medication alone.
To learn more about benefits for PTSD, call the VA Disability Team at Jan Dils, Attorneys, at Law. Also, be sure to ask about a free consultation. Our toll-free number is 1-877-526-3457. For Vets who can’t call right away, fill out this form so a member of the team can contact you at a better time.
Since there is a lot of misinformation about the VA Disability Process many veterans aren’t aware of how certain aspects work. For instance, many Veterans assume that VA disability works just like Social Security Disability. Social Security Disability is a program in place for individuals who can’t work because of their disabilities. VA Disability Compensation allows Veterans to work while still receiving the benefit. Let’s examine how this works in more detail today.
First, a program like social security disability is one in which you are either granted or denied. So in other words, you either get it or you don’t. There’s not really a gray area with social security. This contrasts with VA Disability which is granted to Veterans on a scale from 0% to 100%. So, you can be granted VA Disability and not be compensated. This would be a 0% rating. Veterans are paid different amounts depending upon how high they are rated. A rating of 10% might be $133.00, while a Veteran being paid at 100% might receive over $3,000 per month. This is some discrepancy on the amount a Veteran receives after he or she reaches 30% because they can file for dependents.
One of the biggest differences between social security and VA disability is the amount you can work after you are approved. In VA disability, a Veteran can be paid at 100% and still work full time. While some individuals receiving, social security can still work, it’s only for very short periods of time for a set amount of money. On VA disability, however, you can make as much money as you’d like and still receive benefits. There is, of course, an exception.
Any Veteran pursuing VA disability compensation will tell you that it’s not an easy accomplishment. Further, getting rated at 100% the traditional way, which we refer to as a scheduler, is even more difficult. In reality, to be paid at 100% in a traditional sense, you have to be paid between 190% and 230%. That is very difficult. So, many Veterans pursue 100% compensation via a different route, individual unemployability.
Individual Unemployability, or IU, is a program in place to compensate Veterans at the 100% rating, even though they are not actually rated at 100%. The way it works is based upon ratings. If a Vet is rated at 60% or more for a single condition, they may be eligible for IU if their disabilities keep them from working. Further, a Veteran rated on multiple conditions at a total of 70% or more may be able to receive IU as long as one of the conditions is rated at 40%. However, receiving IU, over-scheduler rain means that you can’t work. In all honesty, you can’t work full time on IU at all. You may go to school, but working is out of the question.
We know how confusing this process can be. This why so many people turn to the attorneys at Jan Dils Attorneys at Law. Our team is focused on VA Disability, and we know how to get results. To learn more about the services we offer, or to learn how to become a client, call us via our toll-free number. 1-877-526-3457. If you can’t talk now, fill out this form, and we will be happy to call you at a better time.
There are a lot of questions you must ask yourself when you are applying for VA Disability Compensation. What conditions are related to my time in service? Which doctors have I treated with for these injuries? Will my family be taken care of if something happens to me? However, one simple question you may forget to ask yourself is; am I a Veteran?
It may seem like a simple question to answer. However, it’s not that black and white. I joined this firm in March of 2011. In that time, I’ve met a lot of people who thought they were Veterans who weren’t, and a lot who thought they weren’t Veterans but were.
Before we get too far down the rabbit hole, let’s look at how the VA defines who a Veteran is. Essentially, 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 area in which many men and women get confused falls under length of time. Too often people think that they must serve a specific time to be considered a Veteran. That’s not true. Many Veterans enter the military for a set period, but they must be discharged early for several reasons. Here is a common example we witness. An individual joins the military on a 4 year enlistment. Near the end of the 2nd year, they injure their ankle and are no longer found fit for duty. In this case, that individual will likely receive a general discharge because of medical reasons. When he recovered, he’d likely be assigned a general discharge, and he’d be sent home. Keep in mind that this person has done nothing wrong, he was found unfit for duty. The military can’t really punish a person for that, especially if the injury was not intentional. This also doesn’t mean that this person should lose their Veteran status. Though our firm does not deal with education benefits, we’ve heard that a general discharge means that you may have some issues with your education benefits.
We also meet some men and women who think that the only people who can be considered Veterans are those who served in combat, or served overseas. This is also not true. For the most part you have very little control over where the military sends you, or if you are deployed to combat. So, the military and the VA can’t really hold that against you.
What about people who think that they are Veterans, who aren’t? There are a few times in which this can be issue. You may assume that it goes without saying that anyone who didn’t serve in the military isn’t a Veteran. It’s also important to note that the spouse of a Veteran, and the children of a Veteran, are not considered Veterans (unless they also join the military.) Also, individuals who participated in ROTC programs in high school or college, but never entered the armed forces, are not considered Veterans. Finally, anyone who received a dishonorable discharge is .
If you are a Veteran and would like to know more about the services we provide, call us today for a free consultation. Our Number is toll -free 1-877-526-3457. If you can’t talk right now, fill out this form, and we will call you at a better time.
Earlier this week I attended a Veterans Stand Down in Columbus. It was an amazing event full of great vendors, healthcare providers, and service organizations. I’ve been attending these types of events a lot this year. In the past month, I’ve been to Pittsburgh and Columbus, and these cities do not mess around. Their stand downs are huge! Columbus had over 500 Vets, Pittsburgh slightly more than that, but overall they were great events to attend and to meet Vets. The event in Pittsburgh was in a concert venue. I made a joke and said that it was like Coachella, but for people who make the world better. Meeting and helping Veterans is always great. However, the events have been more eye-opening than I would have imagined. Here is a recap of all of the Stand Downs I’ve attended this year.
The Numbers Are Staggering
Since April, I’ve attended 5-6 Stand Downs or Resource Fairs. The first few were in smaller cities, but they had pretty good turnouts. While most Stand Downs are aimed at homeless Veterans, the first few events I attended were more like resource fairs, and they were attended by a lot of individuals who were not homeless, but rather in search for everyday resources. They were great to talk to. In New Castle, PA, I met a few individuals who were still in the active National Guard. I was able to talk to them about what they would need to do after discharge to get their disability benefits. I even made some friends at these early events because there was so much downtime. Those early events may not have introduced me to many new clients, but they got my foot in the door and helped prep me for the bigger events.
Pittsburgh was eye opening. I arrived at Stage AE next to Heinz Field on a balmy September morning. The air conditioning in my rented Hyundai Tucson was on full blast. I learned so much on this day. The first thing I learned was that I don’t want to own a Hyundai Tucson. The motor was anemic. It had such little power that overtaking cars on the interstate was hazardous. I hated this car so much that I wanted to leave it parked next to Heinz Field with a note proclaiming: “I found the only thing worse at passing than your quarterback.” To be fair, the car did get me to my destination. I quickly gathered my items, took a quick Snapchat photo, and raced over to the American Eagle stage. I quickly learned that I was not in Parkersburg anymore. Outside the concert venue, there were four to five rows of tents that were at least 20 feet long. They were covering tables full of donated clothing. “This is major league,” I thought as I crossed the road.
As I entered the venue, I had one of the volunteers help me find my table. I was near an entrance, and we were crammed together tightly. There were far more vendors here than I was used to. But, that was a good thing. It was so refreshing to see so many other organizations interested in helping our Vets. Around 9:00, the doors opened, and within moments I was talking to Veterans non-stop for over an hour. When there was a break in the action I took a look around. The area was packed. I took a few moments to walk outside around lunchtime. It was during this time, when everyone was in a central location, that I understood how many people were actually there. Hundreds of people lined up for the free lunch provided by one of the vendors. It was a bit overwhelming.
Those aren’t yoga mats.
Earlier in the day in Pittsburgh, I noticed a man off in the distance carrying what looked like a yoga mat. This really excited me because yoga is a topic of discussion often in this office. Lauren Ward, our Operations Manager, is a certified yoga nut. She’s also certified as a yoga instructor. We have discussed the benefits of yoga more times than I can remember. We worked together to actually present a free class for Veterans Day last year. She even managed to get me to try it. Turns out that it’s not for me. However, a lot of Veterans find yoga very beneficial. This is especially true for Veterans suffering from PTSD. There are countless articles outlining the benefits, and there has been a lot of research to back up all of the claims. I wanted to meet these people and get them in touch with Lauren because she is a part of a charity that brings yoga to those in need, including Vets. I looked around to see if there was a yoga studio there giving out mats. I didn’t see any. I couldn’t look too hard because I didn’t want to leave my table unattended too long. As things started winding down I took another opportunity to look for this mythical yoga booth. I looked all over and found nothing. As I was walking back to my table I passed an older man who I had spoken to earlier. I noticed that under his arms he had one of the things I thought to be yoga mats. I was about to ask him where he acquired it…then it hit me like a ton of bricks. I may not be a yoga enthusiast, but I’ve seen and used the mats before. What he had was far too long and thick to be used for yoga. Instead, it was actually a mat for sleeping. The health department or someone similar was handing these thick foam mats out so that these Veterans could have a portable place to sleep…on the ground.
I felt so stupid that I didn’t realize this sooner. Of course, a privileged person from rural West Virginia would think that they were giving out yoga mats to homeless people. I love what I do. I am not pandering when I say I get excited to go to events and meet Vets. Sometimes, though, it’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of meeting people you regard as heroes, and forget the reason you are there.
By this time, the event was over, and I didn’t want to leave right away. I packed up the Tucson and decided to go for a walk. In the distance, I saw the football field sponsored by ketchup and decided that a lap around that might clear my head before the long drive home in the uncomfortable Korean crossover. I wanted to reflect on all of the people I met that day and what kind of struggles they must face every day. I was walking around a stadium that cost the taxpayers in Pittsburgh millions that sit vacant most of the time. On 8 Sundays a year, people pay $5 for sodas and watch their team lose to the Patriots. At the same time there are people in the parking lot struggling to stay warm. I am not saying that we shouldn’t have football. I know how much money can be generated for the city because of the Steelers. Further, the Pittsburgh Pirates were one of the sponsors of the Stand Down. It was just hard seeing so much wealth in the presence of so much poverty. I also have incredible respect for the city of Pittsburgh and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania after attending so many events in this area this year. They have a huge respect for Veterans. I walked back to Stage AE. I noticed all of the people in yellow shirts cleaning up. These were the volunteers that signed up to help with the event. It was at this point that I noticed how many of them came to the event. There were well over 100 people there to help out for the day. That was really refreshing.
Some may wonder why I was so surprised by this; especially because I’ve been doing what I have for so long. It’s actually simple. Most of the Veterans I’ve met in my time with the firm are not homeless. Most are fully employed, have a home, and are able to afford a vehicle. That’s not to say that they aren’t in need, it’s just that they’ve had different circumstances.
Too much misinformation.
When I started this blog back in 2011 my goal was to get accurate information to as many Veterans as possible. While in Columbus I was reminded of how much misinformation there is out there. At one point a Veteran came up to me and said he was told that he couldn’t get both social security and VA disability. That’s not true. You can get both. Read more about this subject here. Another Veteran said that he was told that was not in the military long enough to get benefits. He explained to me that he served for two years and had an honorable discharge. That was also untrue. I had the opportunity to answer a lot of questions while in Columbus. It gave me a lot of pride. In my years here I’ve learned that a lot of Veterans haven’t applied because they were told false information. During the hours I was in Columbus, I was able to answer questions for over 50 Veterans. Many of them weren’t even aware that they could file a claim or hire an attorney.
I am so glad that I had the opportunity to meet so many Veterans this year. Interacting with these individuals gave me a sense of energy I haven’t had in a while. It was humbling yet uplifting at the same time. The most rewarding part was when people became excited to work with us. Our organization isn’t like many others out there. We really do have a passion for helping Veterans, and it shows.
If you would like to know more about our services, feel free to give us a call today for a consultation. It’s completely free. If you can’t talk right now, don’t hesitate to fill out this form f. Just let us know a good time to contact you.
If you enter Camp Lejeune in Jacksonville, North Carolina, you’ll notice a big sign that reads: “Home of Expeditionary Forces in Readiness.” That slogan is actually prominent throughout the base, as well as in publications associated with the base. This name is due in large part to the fact that the base occupies 14 miles of beaches and houses a lot of amphibious assault training. Plus, the United States Marines are Also the “first to fight.” The access to the water makes it easier for the Marines in this location deploy quickly. There is a bit of irony here. Camp Lejeune was founded because of its location relative to a body of water, but its water supply is why so many people of it now.
From 1953 to 1987, many residents of Camp Lejeune were exposed to contaminated water, and they are suffering the effects now. For more than three decades residents of this base drank and bathed in water that was apparently contaminated by a nearby fuel supply. Not all water sources on the base were impacted, and not everyone who served at this base, or lived there, was exposed. Many of the people who were exposed have cancer and other types of diseases too. This has been public knowledge for most of my life, and yet the VA does not allow Veterans to file for presumptive conditions as a result of Camp Lejeune water contamination. But, that may actually be changing.
First of all, what is a presumptive condition? Veterans familiar with Agent Orange exposure or Gulf War Illness already have a good understanding of what a presumptive condition entails. For the rest of us, though, a presumptive condition is one that the VA claims a Veteran could have if he or she were in specific place during a specific time. For Vets who served in Vietnam, Diabetes is a presumptive condition. In other words, if you’re a Veteran who served in Vietnam, and have been diagnosed with diabetes, then you don’t have to prove that the condition came from your time in service. The VA assumes that your exposure to Agent Orange is what caused your diabetes. The same is true for certain conditions for Veterans who served in Iraq, and other parts of the Middle East. The VA has an established list of conditions that Veterans may have as a result of their time in country.
I started working for this firm in 2011. Back then there were talks of the VA creating a Camp Lejeune presumptive list. However, we’re dealing with the government, and they move slower than I do when it comes to an unexpected flight of stairs. Granted, there have been a ton of lawsuits, but not much came of that. Congress got involved a few times, but they’re like the Kim Kardashian of the Government…they’re famous for doing nothing. Then, it kind of went on the backburner for a while. Camp Lejeune talks pretty much stopped. Up until this spring, I worked in our Intake department, and we even started getting fewer calls from Veterans inquiring about Camp Lejeune. Honestly, I had forgotten about Camp Lejeune. I mean, I was still aware of it, and I knew it was an issue, but I didn’t think about it as much Agent Orange or Gulf War Illness. That was until last week.
Friday was a long day for me. I had just returned from Vacation earlier in the week, and I was eagerly anticipating my evening of XBOX playing and celebrity bashing on Twitter. While I was a little zoned out at my desk, my coworker Kris Fluharty approached me. His presence made me jump a little. Kris is a VA savant. In fact, he recently passed the VA non-attorney rep test. He knows his stuff. “Jon, I think this would be good for the blog.” He handed me a press release from the VA titled “VA Proposes Rule to Consider Certain Diseases Associated with Exposure to Contaminants in the Water Supply at Camp Lejeune.” Though the title was long I knew it was good news. For one, Kris actually seemed happy about it, and he is normally void of emotion. We were once together when we found out that we were going to have a self-serve chocolate candy bar at our company Christmas party. I squealed with delight, while Kris just said “that’s cool,” and went back to work. So, for Kris to be excited, it was a big deal.
When he handed me the press release, I read it over and asked him what his take on it was. He said that it was good news because the VA is another step closer to making a presumptive list for Camp Lejeune. In fact, they actually have a list of conditions they believe are associated with the water contamination. According to the press release, the following list applies to active duty, reserve, and National Guard members who served no less than 30 days at Camp Lejeune between August 1st, 1953 and December 31st, 1987. (Marines aren’t the only ones who served at Camp Lejeune.)
- Adult Leukemia
- Aplastic Anemia and other Myelodysplastic Syndromes
- Bladder Cancer
- Kidney Cancer
- Liver Cancer
- Multiple Myeloma
- Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma
- Parkinson’s Disease
It’s important to note that this is not an official presumptive list. If you were a millennial you might say that this is not “Facebook Official” yet. In language adults will understand, it’s not the law yet. It does, however, mean that we are closer than ever before to getting this list established, though. It also means that the official list is probably just around the corner. If you served at Camp Lejeune during the periods listed above and have one of the aforementioned conditions, it’s time to get your ducks in a row.
If you haven’t filed a VA disability claim before, this might be the time to do so. To learn more about the possible presumptive conditions, or to schedule a free evaluation, call us today. Our toll-free number is 1-877-526-3457. Or, fill out this form now to schedule a consult at a different 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.
If you want to experience our firm for yourself, call us today for a FREE consultation. Our toll-free number is 1-877-526-3457. If you’d rather contact us after hours, fill out this form now, so that someone may contact you at a better time.
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.
I purchased my current car a few years ago. It was preowned and it relatively good shape. However, there was one issue that kept it from passing inspection; the hazard lights. I knew I had to get this fixed for the inspection, but I was able to wait because it was not due for nearly a year. I put it off for a long time because I was afraid of replacing it. I know a lot about cars, but I know nothing about repairing them. I did not have anyone to ask, and panic started setting near the time my inspection was due. I purchased a really expensive switch, tore off the dash of my car as if I were Thor, the God of Thunder, and quickly realized that I made a huge fuss out of something very simple. Simply, the switch that connects the wires to the lights had somehow separated. All I had to do was plug it back in. The entire task only took a few minutes. Months of panic could have been avoided if I could have asked somebody about my situation.
I know I am not alone in putting things off when I don’t know the answers. From my past 5 years of experience working with VA Disability claims, I know many Veterans do the same thing when it comes to their claims. Let’s be honest, VA Disability is one of the most complicated and frustrating processes out there. I’ve been working with it for nearly a decade and I still don’t fully understand how everything works. As many Veterans already know, if you search for answers you won’t find many. The internet is full of opinion, not fact about the process, and if you call the VA directly, you will likely put on hold for as long as 3 screenings of the film “Inception.” In other words, if you have questions, you are out of luck.
What if this isn’t how things worked? What if you had questions about your VA disability claim and you could get answers in a matter of moments? What if it were in the palm of your hand? What if it we lived in 2015 and the technology to do this had been around for years? Well, the present is now, and this does not have to be a bunch of “what if’s.”
Recently the VA launched a new app that is designed to answer questions for VA Disability claims. Called 311Vet, it’s meant to ease frustration and get Veterans answers to the questions they have about their claims. Simply type in your question and you will have an answer in moments. (More about that later.) The VA has this set up to provide quick answers by way of a database. So, if you ask a common question, your response should be immediate. However, if you something more complicated or a question that hasn’t been answered before, your inquiry will be reviewed by an individual and the will get back to you “quickly.”
Please note that this app is only for VA Disability claims, and they can’t answer questions about a specific claim. For instance, you can’t ask: “How much back pay will I receive?” or “When is my next appointment.”
So, here is the question of the hour…how does it work? While I am not trying to be counterproductive, I must admit that I am not a fan of this app. Granted, I am not a Veteran, and I have some experience working with VA disability. Not to mention I have an awesome VA Disability Blog. Overall I found it to be a tad on the basic side. The first question I asked was “How long does a VA Disability claim take?” The response time was about 45 minutes and they gave me a very generic response that was way too vague to be helpful. (The real answer is that most VA Disability claims last 2-4 years on average. The second question was more successful. I asked: “What is the highest rating a Veteran can receive for PTSD?” This response only took a few minutes. While they did say that 100% was the highest one could receive for PTSD, the answer was convoluted and they pretty much quoted the CFR. (The CFR is the rating code book for VA disability code.) If you weren’t an individual with a background in VA Disability you wouldn’t likely fully understand their response. One of the reasons my blog is so successful is that I know how to communicate with real people, not just other people who work in VA disability. No one cares if you can look something up in a book, and then copy and paste it in an app.
Don’t get me wrong, I think the fact that the VA is willing to put an app like this out there is great. Plus, it will take some time to work this app out. It’s only been around for about a month, so I need to give it more time. My best advice to Veterans reading this is to try it out on your own. It’s free and available for both Apple and Android devices. It’s free too. If you don’t have a smart phone, or if use something like a Blackberry, you can simply test your questions to 311838 and get the same response.
If you want real answers to your questions, or would like to talk with me about becoming a client, give me a call today for a free consultation. 1-877-526-3457. If you can talk now, use our chat, or fill out this form so we can contact you at a later time.