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What is a VCAA on a VA Disability Claim?

By Jon Corra · March 1, 2012
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If you are a Veteran who is pursuing a VA Disability claim, there is a good chance that you will receive a VCAA. If you do receive one of these documents, it can be quite confusing. You may find yourself asking: “What is a VCAA?”

The abbreviation VCAA stands for Veterans Claims Assistance Act. This document is sent to the Veteran once the VA has received a claim. This document should be received before there is a decision made on a claim.

The VCAA not only lets you know that the VA has received your claim or claims, but it also lists the claims they have received and lets you know that they are working on them. The VCAA also tells you how to helpthe VA when they are trying to get all the information they need for your claims. This document tells you what evidence the VA has already, and what additional evidence they need, like medical records or statements from people who have seen how your disability affects you. This form also explains what the VA is responsible for getting in for evidence on your claims. They describe what new and material evidence is and what it must show for service-connection or secondary service-connection. Finally, this form explains how the VA determines the disability rating and the effective date of the rating.

The VCAA is a very important piece of the process of filing claims and contains very important information. It not only assists the VA in rating your claims faster, but also explains to you exactly what they need you to send them to help with your claims. Here at Jan Dils Attorneys At Law, we can help with understanding this and many other forms and we can help you get the benefits you deserve. For a free consultation, please call 1-877-526-3457. Or Tell us about your case.

Discharges, and Your VA Disability Claim

By Jon Corra · February 25, 2012
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When applying for VA Disability Compensation and/or Pension Benefits, the characteristic type of discharge may play a huge factor in deciding whether or not you are eligible for benefits.  There are five different types of discharges that you may receive, which are as follows; Honorable, General, Other than Honorable, Bad Conduct (BCD), and Dishonorable. If you receive an Honorable, General, or a Discharge Under Honorable Conditions, you would be eligible to receive any type of benefit.

To be able to receive an “Honorable Discharge,” a service member must have received a rating from very good to excellent from their time of service. You are eligible to receive a “General Discharge” when you get separated from the service, under honorable conditions, and your performance is satisfactory. If you receive an “Other Than Honorable” discharge, it was either for misconduct or security reasons. When receiving a “Bad Conduct Discharge” you are normally separated from the service under conditions other than honorable. This is approved by a sentence of a special court-martial. Lastly, if you receive a dishonorable separation as part of a punishment then you will receive a Dishonorable Discharge.

If you do not agree with your discharge, you are able to fill out a DD Form 293, Application for the Review of Discharge From the Armed Forces of the United States. When becoming a new client at Jan Dils Attorneys at Law, one of the first questions that we ask is what type of discharge do you have? We are able to answer any types of questions that you may have and we will let you know if we believe you are eligible for VA Disability Compensation and/or Pension. If you are looking for legal representation for your VA Disability Benefits, you have come to the right place. We have several experienced people who have the knowledge and ability to help you with your VA Disability Claims. Feel free to give us a call at at 1-877-526-3457. Or Tell us about your case.

Can I Get VA Benefits if I was in the Coast Guard?

By Jon Corra · February 23, 2012
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 I had a client who was in the Coast Guard come into the office the other day. He wanted to know if his Coast Guard service made him eligible for VA disability benefits. I then realized we do not have a lot of Coast Guard Veterans, so others might have the same question. The answer is yes.

 The United States Coast Guard is a branch of the United States Armed Forces. They are a small military service with approximately 38,000 active duty and 12,000 reserve p

ersonnel. All the qualifications for applying for VA disability are the same as if with any other branch.

For the purposes of determining if a Veteran is eligible for Veterans Disability, a Veteran is defined as “[a] person who served in the active military, naval, or air services, and who was discharged or released under conditions other than dishonorable.” 

We understand how confusing this can be for anyone to go through alone. So many Veterans turn to Jan Dils Attorneys at Law because we have the knowledge and the ability to navigate through the VA Disability Claims process. Our friendly staff is always willing to answer questions you may have about eligibility, so feel free to give us a call: 1-877-526-3457. Or Tell us about your case.

 

Discharges and Your VA Disability/Pension Claim

By Jon Corra · February 21, 2012
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When applying for VA Disability Compensation and/or Pension Benefits, the characteristic type of discharge may play a huge factor in deciding whether or not you are eligible for benefits.  There are five different types of discharges that you may receive, which are as follows; Honorable, General, Other than Honorable, Bad Conduct (BCD), and Dishonorable. If you receive an Honorable, General, or a Discharge Under Honorable Conditions, you would be eligible to receive any type of benefit.

To be able to receive an “Honorable Discharge,” a service member must have received a rating from very good to excellent from their time of service. You are eligible to receive a “General Discharge” when you get separated from the service, under honorable conditions, and your performance is satisfactory. If you receive an “Other Than Honorable” discharge, it was either for misconduct or security reasons. When receiving a “Bad Conduct Discharge” you are normally separated from the service under conditions other than honorable. This is approved by a sentence of a special court-martial. Lastly, if you receive a dishonorable separation as part of a punishment then you will receive a Dishonorable Discharge.

If you do not agree with your discharge, you are able to fill out a DD Form 293, Application for the Review of Discharge From the Armed Forces of the United States. When becoming a new client at Jan Dils Attorneys at Law, one of the first questions that we ask is what type of discharge do you have? We are able to answer any types of questions that you may have and we will let you know if we believe you are eligible for VA Disability Compensation and/or Pension. If you are looking for legal representation for your VA Disability Benefits, you have come to the right place. We have several experienced people who have the knowledge and ability to help you with your VA Disability Claims. Feel free to give us a call at at 1-877-526-3457.

Why Does My Attorney Want to Schedule a Pre-Hearing?

By Jon Corra · February 20, 2012
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After receiving a hearing notice, most Veterans ask two important questions: Will my attorney be present for the hearing, and will I get to talk to my attorney prior to the hearing? The answer to both is yes.

 

The hearing clerk will call and schedule a time for you to speak with your attorney.  This is called a pre-hearing. The pre-hearing is usually two to three weeks before your hearing, depending on the type of hearing you have. There are several reasons why the pre-hearing is important to your case:

  • We make sure to have all your updated info, medical records, etc.
  • We will go over the strategy the attorney has for your case.
  • We will fill in any gaps of history that we or the VA needs to know.
  • You will find out what to expect at the hearing and the attorney will make sure you are comfortable with all aspects of what will take place.  The attorney also will let you know where to meet and what time.
  • The attorney will explain how the law reads on each issue and what the VA is looking for.

Also, while scheduling your pre-hearing appointment, the hearing clerk will ask a set of questions to get all your updated information so he/she can prepare your pre-hearing notebook for your attorney.

There are many benefits to having Jan Dils Attorneys at Law represent you for your VA Disability claim. This is just one of the many things that set us apart form the others. If you are a Veteran who is seeking service connection for a disability, don’t hesitate to give us a call. Our toll free number is 1-877-526-3457. You can also find us online at www.fight4vets.com

 

Can I Collect DIC if my Spouse Committed Suicide?

By Jon Corra · February 20, 2012
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While widows and widowers of veterans have many obstacles to overcome, one not often discussed is a Veteran committing suicide. VA Disability Benefits may compensate for physical and mental illnesses, but this area is not often discussed.

The process for determining to grant death benefits to a widow or widower of a veteran who committed suicide is much like any claim for compensation. The VA issues a decision based on examined evidence.
And like any other claim, decisions are made on a case by case basis. However, there are guidelines the VA follows that are standard for determining entitlement to death benefits. These are found in 38 CFR 3.302, which is available for review on va.gov.

In this circumstance, the veteran must have had an unsound mind. To be found of unsound mind, the self-destructive act must be performed intentionally. Therefore, the veteran cannot be guilty of willful misconduct. An attempt to take one’s own life demonstrates unsoundness.

A favorable decision often results if the veteran had been granted service-connection under a mental illness prior to the act. Whether the veteran realized the consequences of the action taken or could resist the impulse depend upon medical and lay evidence. Any circumstances that lead a rational person to self-destruction can be considered a valid motive.

Again, like any compensation claim, determining entitlement to death benefits on suicide weighs heavily on evidence. For help in a confusing and difficult process for obtaining VA Disability/Death Benefits, you may contact Jan Dils Attorneys at Law where we fight for those who fought for our country.  Tell us about your case.

 

What is a GAF Score?

By Jon Corra · February 6, 2012
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When it comes to a PTSD rating, many Veterans are not aware that their GAF score plays an important part in how the VA decides their claim. You may be asking, “What is a GAF Score?” While a GAF Score can be somewhat complicated to assess, the explanation of what it means is actually quite simple.

GAF stands for Global Assessment of Functioning Scale. The GAF Scale is utilized by a clinician to measure a Veteran’s overall level of functioning and his/her ability to carry out activities of daily living and functioning. This information is useful in planning treatment, measuring its impact, and predicting conclusion.

The Global Assessment of Functioning Scale is a 100-point scale that measures a Veteran’s overall level of psychological, social, and occupational functioning on a hypothetical continuum, with 100 measuring very minimal limits to daily functioning and 0 indicating that the individual is having severe difficult with daily activities and functions.

The scale below illustrates what is typical in each range along the scale. This scale was provided By Michigan State University:

100-91 Superior functioning in a wide range of activities, life’s problems never seem to get out of hand, is sought out by others because of his or her many positive qualities. No symptoms.

90-81 Absent or minimal symptoms (e.g., mild anxiety before an exam), good functioning in all areas, interested and involved in a wide range of activities. Socially effective, generally satisfied with life, no more than everyday problems or concerns (e.g., an occasional argument with family members).

80-71 If symptoms are present, they are transient and expectable reactions to psychosocial stressors (e.g., difficulty concentrating after family argument); no more than slight impairment in social, occupational or school functioning (e.g., temporarily failing behind in schoolwork).

70-61 Some mild symptoms (e.g. depressed mood and mild insomnia) OR some difficulty in social, occupational, or school functioning (e.g., occasional truancy, or theft within the household), but generally functioning pretty well, has some meaningful interpersonal relationships.

60-51 Moderate symptoms (e.g., flat affect and circumstantial speech, occasional panic attacks) OR moderate difficulty in social, occupational, or school functioning (e.g.. few friends, conflicts with peers or co-workers).

50-41 Serious symptoms (e.g.. suicidal ideation, severe obsessional rituals, frequent shoplifting) OR any serious impairment in social, occupational, or school functioning (e.g., no friends, unable to keep a job).

40-31 Some impairment in reality testing or communication (e.g., speech is at times illogical, obscure, or irrelevant) OR major impairment in several areas, such as work or school, family relations, judgment, thinking, or mood (e.g., depressed man avoids friends, neglects family, and is unable to work; child frequently beats up younger children, is defiant at home, and is failing at school).

30-21 Behavior is considerably influenced by delusions or hallucinations OR serious impairment in communication or judgment (e.g., sometimes incoherent, acts grossly inappropriately, suicidal preoccupation) OR inability to function in almost all areas (e.g., stays in bed all day; no job, home, or friends).

20-11 Some danger of hurting self or others (e.g., suicide attempts without clear expectation of death; frequently violent; manic excitement)  OR occasionally fails to maintain minimal personal hygiene (e.g., smears feces) OR gross impairment in communication (e.g., largely incoherent or mute).

10-1 Persistent danger of severely hurting self or others (e.g., recurrent violence) OR persistent inability to maintain minimal personal hygiene OR serious suicidal act with clear expectation of death.

Tell us about your case.

 

 

What is PTSD?

By Jon Corra · February 5, 2012
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Today we are going to discuss Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD. This is a term that most of us are familiar with; however today we will discuss its true definition as well as signs and symptoms of the disorder.

The Department of Veterans Affairs defines PTSD as an anxiety disorder, not a normal response to an event that can occur after you have been through a traumatic event. This anxiety disorder involves specific mental and physical changes.  This traumatic event can be something you see or experience and you may have felt your life was in danger. You may have also felt out of control in these situations. You may continue to feel other symptoms years after these events. Some of these other symptoms may include strong and unwanted memories of the event, nightmares, intense guilt or worry, angry outbursts, feeling “on edge,” and avoiding thoughts and situations that are reminders of the trauma.

When we speak of “trauma”, this can mean different things. Most people traditionally think of “trauma” as war. At one time people who suffered from PTSD were considered “shell-shocked” or thought to have “battle fatigue”. PTSD not only affects combat Veterans, but also people who suffered from flood or fire, assault, abuse, rape, kidnapping, a serious accident, or a natural disaster.

One of the signs and symptoms of PTSD is avoidance which would include feeling emotionally “numb” or not caring about anything that you normally would have cared about prior to the traumatic event. It also includes not being able to remember parts of the traumatic event. It could even include a lack of interest in things you once enjoyed. Some people tend to avoid things, places or people that remind them of the event.

Another sign or symptoms would be arousal issues. This includes difficulty concentrating, being hyperaware of your surroundings, feeling irritable or even having angry outburst. Some people also have issues with sleeping , with trouble falling or staying asleep.

You may also have “survivor’s guilt” about the event. This may cause increased anxiety, stress, and tension.

Some people experience just a few of the signs or symptoms while others experience all of them. In the upcoming blogs we will discuss how the severity of these signs and symptoms relate to a percentage of service connection for Veterans. 

 

Please remember that this is a condition that is treatable. If you feel you suffer from PTSD, there is help available. If you don’t know where to start or feel you suffer from PTSD due to a military experience, you may want to contact a law firm that is able to help. The attorneys and staff at Jan Dils, Attorneys at Law specialize in this area and are able to help. Call toll free at 877-526-3457. Or Tell us about your case now.

 

PTSD Awareness

By Jon Corra · February 1, 2012
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Join us Sunday as we kick off our week long campaign to raise awareness of PTSD. From February 5th through the 10th we will be posting daily blogs about PTSD, how it affects your VA claim, and much more. This awareness campaign will take place on our VA blog, our Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube Channels, and our website. Check back in often for all of the great information.

What if I’ve been Service Connected for Twenty Years?

By Jon Corra · January 31, 2012
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Has your service-connected disability evaluation been assigned for over 20 years, or are you nearing your 20-year mark for the evaluation? Are you wanting to file an increase on this issue but afraid of facing a decrease?  Well, there are some important things to understand once you reach this mark and how it affects your service connected disability evaluation.  Most Veterans do not know or understand if a particular issue has been evaluated at a particular level for 20 years or more that they are, according to VA.gov, “locked-in” on that rating and it can never be decreased. This means your disability evaluation has shown for the past 20 years that it has been consistently the same or worse and has not gotten better over time.

Now there is one circumstance that can cause you to lose your service connection or rating, and that is if the VA proves that you have been fraudulent in your claim. Other than that, it cannot be decreased in the future. For example, let’s say you are service connected on your left knee for 30 percent and you have had that same rating for the past 20 years. This means that if you decide to file for an increase on the disability, then it will not be decreased below the 30 percent mark. You might stay at 30 percent or get an increaseAlexe, maybe to 50 percent; however, you will not receive a rating below 30 or lose service connection all together.

Now, to ensure you meet the 20-year mark, check with the VA or look at a previous rating decision to see the date of the grant and the date of a particular evaluation.  If it does not meet the 20-year mark, then you will be susceptible to re-examination and this could result in a decrease if the VA finds your disability has gotten better. So it is very important to check your rating dates before filing an increase.

If at any point you are unsure about your disabilities, ratings, and/or grant dates, then feel free to contact us at Jan Dils, Attorneys at Law, and we will be more than happy to take a look at your file. You can find us at www.fight4vets.com or call us at 1-877-VETERAN.