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Military Sexual Trauma Information for Veterans

By Jon Corra · March 17, 2014
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Military Sexual Trauma, or MST, is in the news a lot right now. In fact, the second season of the hit show "House of Cards" dealt with a subplot involving this subject. It's obviously a big issue for the military right now. While it is a big topic in the mainstream media, a lot of Veterans don't know where to turn for help. A look at the VA website actually has some helpful information on the topic. For instance, did you know that a Veteran does not have to be service connected to receive treatment at a VA facility for MST? In fact, there is no need to present evidence in order to receive treatment. We strongly encourage any Veteran to seek treatment for their MST at a VA facility. While you don’t need evidence to get treatment, you do have to evidence in order to get service connected.

There is a lot to discuss on the subject of MST. One thing that happens often is that individuals believe that MST is simply PTSD. When it comes to the rating code, the VA does rate MST the same as PTSD. This actually true of most psychological disorders. The VA for instance uses the same rating code for PTSD as it does depression. You won’t actually be service connected for MST, but rather PTSD due to MST.

It’s also important to note that any physical conditions that are a result of Military Sexual Trauma can be service connected as well. Due to the sensitive nature of those injuries, we won’t go into detail, but it’s something you would definitely want to speak with a healthcare professional about.

If MST results in your inability to have children, then you may be able to file special monthly compensation due to the loss of a creative organ.

While doing research for this blog, I pulled a few of our cases for Veterans, male and female, who have filed for MST. While I can’t go over specifics, I can say that there are a few things that stand out that can help a Military Sexual Trauma Claim.

For one, reporting the incident while serving will provide a lot of help in a MST claim. We understand the struggle most Veterans have when faced with reporting MST, and understand why this can be difficult. 

Providing a detailed statement about the incident, or incidents will provide a lot of valuable evidence for the VA. Once again, we know it’s not easy to recall those times, but it will likely help you get service connected.

Buddy Statements are also a great help for MST cases. Sometimes we see cases in which a Veteran didn’t officially report the MST to a commanding officer, or make a formal report, but did talk to others he or she trusted while serving about what took place. Reconnecting with your fellow Veterans, and asking them to provide statements is not only beneficial for your case, but it can also help you personally. Also, if you know of other Veterans who were sexually assaulted by the same individual, their statements may help your claim.

Like with any other type of VA Disability Claim, every MST claim is different. Even if you have the evidence listed above, there is still a chance you will get denied. These are just some helpful tips from what we have seen over the years.   

Regardless, if this is your first time filing a Military Sexual Trauma claim, or if you have been denied, give us a call for a free consultation. 1-877-526-3457, or fill out this form for us to give you a call. 

Simple questions to consider when you are curious about PTSD

By Jon Corra · February 13, 2014
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We are excited to welcome special guest blogger Julia McLaughlin, M.A. to our blog. Enjoy her first post:

Curious if you have PTSD? Here are some quick questions to consider!

Sometimes it is difficult to tease out the facts.  Information is abundant, but not all of it is correct.  When it comes to practically understanding Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, it is important to know facts from fiction.

This is your life.  You have to figure out whether the incidents in your past are truly impacting your present, and impeding your future.  You are responsible to determine whether or not you are experiencing difficulties.  

Top 10 Questions to consider:

1. Do you prefer to not discuss the events of the past?

2. Do your try to avoid similar sorts of jobs, situations, activities, or events?

3. Do you find yourself with a super-ability to tolerate similar difficult situations, often impressing yourself and others?

4. In spite of your best efforts, do you find yourself caught up in thinking about the negative parts of the past events?

5. Do you sometimes dream about what happened, remembering the events vividly (even with changes in the story, ending, or people)?

6. Does your anger get the best of you, more than usual, hurting the ones who love you?

7. Do you use drugs (illegal or prescription) or alcohol help you cope with stressful feelings?

8. Do you find yourself on edge?  Easily startled?  Quickly irritated? 

9. Do you feel guilty or ashamed about your behavior, often feeling enslaved to your reactions?

10. Does the prospect facing the pain of the past make you nervous, hopeless, or self-destructive?

If you answered ‘no’ to 5 or more of the questions above, it is likely that PTSD is not an issue for you.  Your relationships are good.  You have support.  You’re not being haunted by the excessively ridiculous circumstances you endured.  You are likely doing pretty well.

On the other hand, if this questionnaire is a snap-shot of your life right now, know you are not alone.  There is hope and help available.  You have earned the right to obtain appropriate care.  Don’t go at this by yourself.  Get the services you need to move on to a happy, safe, and peaceful life.

If you are a Veterans who has PTSD, and would like to know more about legal representation, give our office a call today for a free consultation. 1-877-526-3457. Fill out this form, and we will be happy to give you call. 

Information about our Guest blogger:

Julie is a Licensed Professional Counselor with a Master’s Degree in Clinical Counseling from Ashland Theological Seminary.  She is licensed by the Ohio Counselor, Social Worker and Marriage and Family Therapist Board.  Her practice includes individual counseling, EMDR therapy, adolescent counseling, couples and marriage therapy, and group therapy.Since 1988, Julie has worked in a variety of counseling and pastoral care venues.  She has developed support group curriculum addressing issues of parenting difficult children, overcoming grief and loss, and managing fear and anxiety. Working with Support and Recovery at Vineyard Columbus, Julie volunteers by helping train program teachers and leaders.Past Secretary of the Board for the Ohio Association of Spiritual, Ethical, and Religious Values in Counseling (OASERVIC), Julie has also served as Vice President of Beauty For Ashes Ministries, an organization addressing healing of sexual abuse victimization in religious environments.  Currently a member of the American Psychiatric Association, American Counseling Association, Ohio Counseling Association, and the National Association of Christian Counselors, Julie is also available for public speaking on a variety of topics. If you would like to know more about Julia, be sure to check out her website.

How Can I Tell if I’m a Combat Veteran?

By Jon Corra · February 5, 2014
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Most of the topics for this blog come from my interactions with real Veterans, and the questions they ask. Unlike Alex Trebek, I don’t have all of the answers, and occasionally I have to look them up. That was the case today when speaking with a Veteran about combat. His question was: "What exactly makes anyone a combat Veteran?" Some may be quick to say that serving in combat makes you a combat Veteran, but there is more to it than that.

The VA lists several different ways in which a Veteran can prove he or she was in combat.

·         If you received a combat service medal, then you are considered a combat Veteran

·         If you received hostile fire pay, imminent danger pay or tax benefits

·         If you received military service documentation that documents combat theater

So, does serving in a foreign country automatically qualify me as combat Veteran? Not necessarily. Even if you served in Iraq or Afghanistan during the past ten years, it does not guarantee that you are a combat Veteran.

How can you find out? Well, your DD-214 is a great place to start. Your Discharge won’t automatically say that you were a combat Veteran though…that would be too easy.  Box 13 on more modern DD-214’s is where they list medals, awards and ribbons. The VA does recognize certain medals etc. as a qualifier for combat service. (That list will appear in an upcoming blog.)

Also listed on your DD-214 is the type of pay you received. Box 18 would be the place to find out if you received Hostile Fire Pay, or the Imminent Danger Pay. It is important to note that this can appear in box 13, though it is rare for it to appear there.

Overall, proving combat, and stressors for that matter, can be a difficult task. This is just one of the many reasons so many Veterans hire our firm to represent them. If you are having trouble proving your combat service, give us a call today for a free consultation. If you would like to learn even more, request a free copy of our guide here

Dogs may help Veterans with PTSD

By Jon Corra · January 17, 2014
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Treatment for PTSD can come in many forms. I often speak to Veterans who are involved in group counseling, outpatient treatment, and many other traditional types of treatment. While working (ok, playing) on Facebook yesterday, I noticed a post by the Fayetteville VAMC that reminded me of a non-traditional method I had forgotten about…pet therapy.

Granted, I am one of the 5 people in the world who doesn’t like animals, but I believe in this type of rehabilitation. I decided to do a little research on this topic, and was surprised to find information on the VA website. According to the VA, Some people with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) find that service dogs or emotional support dogs help them manage PTSD symptoms. The VA is quick to note that studies of the effectiveness of this type of PTSD treatment are still in their early stages.

 

But, how does it work? After all, I have only known dogs to tear up furniture and make messes. Well, it’s actually quite interesting. The VA website states that dogs make good friends, can help reduce stress, and will help bring out feelings of love. They also mentioned that a dog will help a Veteran with PTSD get outdoors. This aspect is something I hadn’t really thought of, but it makes perfect sense. Veterans with high levels of PTSD are often withdrawn, and don’t go out of their houses much. This is a great way to get a Veteran in a new setting. Also, from my personal experience, dog owners really like other dog owners. So, the argument could be made that owning a dog is a great way to meet other people.

Does it actually work? Like I mentioned earlier, there is not a lot of evidence to support the effectiveness of dogs on Veterans with PTSD. However, there are some studies that show it works. For instance, a 2009 survey found that 82% of participants with a PTSD diagnosis report symptom reduction after partnership with a Psychiatric Service Dog. Another 40% report that their use of medication has decreased subsequent to human-canine partnership.

On a personal note, I met a Veteran with severe PTSD at our company’s annual Veterans Day cookout. He shared his personal story of how his dogs have helped him cope with his issues. He went on to say that his dogs were often the only thing he can turn to in his darkest hours.

If you are curious about filing a VA disability claim for PTSD, or would like to know more about our services, give us a call today for a free consultation. 1-877-526-3457. Or, fill out this form and I will give you a call. 

How the friends you make in service can help your VA Claim

By Jon Corra · December 4, 2013
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I’m probably the next to last person who should be writing a blog about how important friendships are. (Pretty sure Judas was worse at friendship than I am.) I tend to hold people to high standards, and this means I have to go to movies by myself a lot. However, from my experience working with VA claims, I know how important it is to stay connected with the people you served with.

From a mental standpoint, it’s always great to connect with people who have shared experiences. This is especially true when it comes to combat situations. A lot of PTSD counseling involves group therapy as it tends to make people feel more at ease. In this modern time, we find that social media plays a big part in staying touch as well. There are countless groups on Facebook that are dedicated to Veterans sharing their experiences and staying in touch with their fellow soldiers.

I have also seen units within the military starting Facebook pages. For instance, in Parkersburg, we have the 1092nd Engineer Battalion. They have a Facebook page. They post a lot of photos, and really keep current Guardsmen and Veterans who served in that Battalion, up to date and in touch.

Something I really like are these modern organizations for Veterans that stray away from the norm. A lot of Veterans Organizations are oriented towards older Vets. Individuals who served more recently aren’t likely to join that type of club. Instead, they want something that is a more involved and goes beyond traditional activities. Steel City Vets is one of those organizations that go beyond the norm. According to their website, “Steel City Vets is a group of OEF/OIF Veterans from the Greater Pittsburgh/Western Pennsylvania areas. We strive to provide a group that Veterans can turn to for peer support and social gatherings as well as provide a hub to share information on news and events affecting the Veterans of the area.” I have personally worked with this group and believe what they are doing is great. That is of course with the exception of attending Pittsburgh Steelers games. Go Texans!

However, another reason to stay in touch with your fellow soldiers is that they may be able to help your claim. When it comes to your disability, a “buddy statement” can be one of the most helpful pieces of evidence. We use these statements a lot in MST and PTSD cases, but we can also use them for physical injuries too. For instance, if someone you served with can verify your combat mission, or recall the time you hurt your shoulder, their testimony will be very valuable to your case.

It’s not just your friends though. Family members can provide valuable information too. If you were married or dating someone before you went to combat, and they can attest to your behavior change, this will help with a PTSD claim. The same applies to parents, siblings etc.

Overall, the friends you make in service will share something with you that few others will ever experience. Keep in touch with those people. If you would like to learn more about buddy statements, or talk to me about your case, call me toll free-1-877-526-3457. Fill out this form, and I’ll be happy to give you a call.

One last thing…I’m always in awe of the friendships and loyalties of individuals who serve. It’s something that is missing in the civilian world. It makes sense that most of the people I call “friend” are Veterans.

What are PTSD Stressors?

By Jon Corra · November 18, 2013
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A few months back I received a phone call from a Veteran who wanted to file for PTSD. He served from 1988-1990 and never left the country. Due to the fact that he had not served in combat, I decided to, like I would for any non-combat Veteran, ask him to verify his stressor. For those who don’t know, a stressor is something that makes you worried or anxious: a source of stress. In combat there are numerous valid stressors. In non-combat situations there are a lot too. However, what this Veteran claimed to be his stressor left me speechless. He instructed me that his drill instructor yelled at him in boot camp.

Readers of this blog know that I am not a Veteran, nor have I served in the military at any time in my life. However, I am pretty sure that if I ever stepped foot on a military base someone would be yelling at me within seconds. I am sure even as a civilian this would occur as I tend to get distracted easily. I’ve seen movies like “Jarhead,” -it's actually my favorite all time movie. I even have the poster framed on my wall-I know nobody is going to welcome me to a military base with a muffin basket and an embossed schedule of activities. I assumed most people knew this heading into boot camp, but this gentleman was not aware. Also, “Full Metal Jacket” was released the year prior to him joining…that should have been a heads up for him that it was not going to be the most pleasant experience in his life.

I did not dismiss his claim right away. I asked if he was subject to any ridicule based on his race or even subject to unfair punishment, and everything checked out fine. I asked if he had any other claims from his time in service and he said no. Sadly I could not take him on as a client, and wished him the best. He was a nice gentlemen, just didn’t do his research before joining the military.

Stressors are an interesting subject. His story reminded about how important they are for PTSD claims. Earlier I mentioned that there are a lot of valid non-combat stressors. For instance, one we see a lot in Veterans who stayed in country is Military Sexual Trauma. This stressor is very valid. I’ve also spoken to many Veterans who were subject to regular assaults by fellow soldiers, and this too can be a valid stressor. Even things from your civilian life that occur while serving can possibly be valid stressors.

When it comes to combat Veterans, stressors need not to be verified. The VA assumes that being in combat is your stressor. This was not always the case though. In fact, until a few years ago, combat Veterans had to verify stressors. A mental health study examined issues that caused distress in Marines who served in Iraq. A stunning 87% of the Marines stated that the stressor was “knowing someone who was killed.” Other incidents include being shot at, being ambushed, and seeing dead bodies. Numbers for all of these are very high among Soldiers and Marines. With that in mind, it makes sense that combat Veterans no longer need to verify a stressor.

(I know I had some fun earlier, but PTSD is something we take seriously. Most of the time when a Veteran describes their stressor I am left speechless for other reasons. I get reminded everyday why we should all be grateful to the men and women who protect us, even the ones who stay here. It was refreshing to hear a somewhat comical one though.)

Overall, no two Veterans will have the same experience in the military. If you believe that you are suffering from PTSD, or if you have questions about a stressor, give me a call for a free consultation. 1-877-526-3457. You can also fill out this form and request to be contacted. While online, request a free copy of our VA Disability Guide.  

 

PTSD infographic for Veterans

By Jon Corra · October 29, 2013
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Check out our easy to read infographic we created to help Veterans navigate through the complicated process that is PTSD. To learn more about what our law firm can do to assist you with your PTSD claim, give us a call: 1-877-526-3457. Fill out this form, and I will be happy to give you a call.

 

PTSD; Why Your Spouse Isn’t (Usually) Qualified to Diagnose You

By Jon Corra · October 16, 2013
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When it comes to PTSD, there are a lot of misconceptions out there about it, and I hope to clear a few of those up over the next series of blogs. Today I want to tackle the very first step, getting a diagnosis. The reason I thought of this topic was a conversation I had with a potential new client last week.

The Veteran in question is a non-combat Veteran who served just shy of two years. He was medically discharged for a problem with his ankle. I was going over his issues just as I normally do with all of our new clients when the subject of PTSD came up. I always ask follow ups for PTSD as I know there is a lot of bad information out there…and I'm also good at what I do. When I asked him if his PTSD has been diagnosed, he hesitated. We always ask if PTSD is diagnosed as you must have this in order to get service connection. It really is step one. His reply to my question was actually something we hear a lot. “My wife thinks I have it.” Well, unless his wife has a medical degree, and in his case, works as a VA doctor who can diagnose Veterans with PTSD, that won’t hold up against the VA. He then stated that she was a nurse. While I am sure she does great work, and is underappreciated like most nurses, the VA won’t accept it as a diagnosis. In fact, the VA won’t accept a diagnosis from your mom, brother, commanding officer, preacher, or someone you served with…unless of course those people are doctors…and even then you may want to get the diagnosis from someone who does not know you outside of the medical facility. While I did take this Veteran on as a client, we were not able to file that PTSD claim. I explained to him how to get diagnosed. Once he gets diagnosed, we will file his claim.

Some might wonder why we didn’t file that claim. Well, that is not what this blog is about, so too bad. (Insert winking emoticon here) I will explain why not in a post that will come out tomorrow.

 

Readers who frequent this blog may have noticed that I mentioned something important in my sarcasm. (I tend to do that a lot,) I mentioned that his wife would have to be a VA doctor in order to diagnose him. This is accurate for this Veteran as he was a non-combat Veteran. As I have stated before, non-combat Veterans who wish to file for PTSD have to be diagnosed by a VA Doctor. (Fact based sarcasm is not something you will find on other VA Blogs.) Combat Veterans however are subject to different rules. A non-VA doctor can diagnose them with PTSD. I want to also point out that ALL Veterans can file for PTSD. Some individuals are under the impression that they must serve in combat in order to file for PTSD, or they must have served during wartime. That is not correct. PTSD does not just occur because of war, and several non-combat related circumstances which warrant service connection, and I will cover those in an upcoming blog. So, you have to keep reading.

 

 

If you would like to know more about what I discussed here, or would like to know about becoming a client, give me a call. My toll free number is 1-877-526-3457, or fill out this form, and I will give you a call.

 

 

 

 

 

PTSD, What is the first step to get it Service Connected?

By Jon Corra · March 21, 2013
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It’s no secret that thousands of Veterans are struggling with posttraumatic stress disorder, or PTSD. One of the biggest struggles a Veteran encounters is getting Service Connected for this mental disability. Regardless if you served during Vietnam, Iraq, or even during peace time, just getting started can be an uphill battle. This blog will serve as a guide to those Veterans who want to start the process of getting service connected for PTSD.

A more condescending blog might start by saying the first step is recognizing that you have an issue. You obviously acknowledged this because you found this blog. The real first step in getting PTSD service connected is getting a diagnosis from a mental health professional. Many Veterans, especially our younger men and women, don’t know how to do this first step. It’s actually quite simple. If you are already seeking treatment at the VA you can simply ask to be evaluated for PTSD. The VA should then schedule you for an evaluation. Once that evaluation is complete, and if you received a diagnosis of PTSD, you can go forward with filing a claim for service connection. (We will discuss that in a later blog.)

Let’s say you don’t treat at the VA, or possibly, you don’t live near a VA facility, what can you do? You can get diagnosed from a private doctor. Most of us who aren’t Hollywood types don’t see a mental health professional on a regular basis, and in a lot of cases, you can’t just get an appointment with a psychologist. In this case, you can simply ask your family doctor for a referral. Your doctor should have no issues referring you to a mental health doctor who can evaluate you for PTSD.

As we are talking about PTSD anyway, I’d like to take a moment to address a myth. A lot of Veterans I speak to think that you have to be in combat to receive disability compensation for PTSD. That is simply not true. While I will admit that a combat Veteran is more likely to get this benefit, we have seen a lot of cases in which Veterans who served in peacetime, or never left the United States, were granted service connection for PTSD. Remember, Service Connection refers to disability that occurred while in service, as a result of your time in service, or made worse from your time in service. Many traumatic events from a Veteran’s time in service may cause PTSD. So, if you are a non-combat Veteran and experienced a traumatic event in service, you can still be granted service connection if you have a diagnosis from a mental health professional.  Why are we making such a big deal about getting diagnosed? To put it simply, the lack of a diagnosis will automatically result in a denial for a PTSD claim.

We realize that PTSD is not an easy topic to discuss for Veterans. However, if you would like to learn more about what our firm can do to get you service connected, give us a call today. 1-877-526-3457. Or tell us what is going on now.

PTSD Questionnaire for Veterans

By Jon Corra · June 19, 2012
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Did you know that Veterans often suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and don’t even know it?  Many times they endure the symptoms in silence for weeks, months, and even years, never realizing that help is available.  If you have ever experienced a traumatic event while in the military and now suffer from some symptoms such as anger, pessimism, anxiety, depression, or fatigue, you may have PTSD.

In getting Service Connected for PTSD, one thing every Veteran must have is a diagnosis from a doctor. However, a diagnosis and treatment alone is not necessarily enough to get you service connected. Further, it is sometime difficult for Veterans to recall the events that occurred, or where they were during their traumatic events. If you have filed a claim for PTSD, the VA may ask for additional information in a VCAA. One of the things they may ask for is a PTSD Questionnaire. This is also sometimes referred to as a PTSD Stressor Form, or a 21-0781.

This form will ask you general questions about the traumatic event, such as when and where it happened. There will also be other general questions like your rank, assignment, what medals you may have received during this time, and a brief description of the event.

Even with a diagnosis, treatment, and this questionnaire, there is no guarantee that you will service connect for PTSD. The office of Jan Dils, Attorneys at Law is familiar with PTSD and the effects it can have on a Veteran. Call our office today to see what we can do to help you get Service Connected for PTSD: 1-877-526-3457. Or request to be contacted by filling out this form.