July 11, 2010

VA Questions

So I have been trying to "help" my husband with his re-appeal of his 40% disability he received from the VA. We are appealing for 100% based on several things, and the Disabled American Veterans are helping us with my husband's case. I hate to say it, but man oh man, what a major pain in the ass! I know that nothing in life is free, especially with the VA and the systematic way they keep turning down our Veterans with PTSD. I know we were pretty lucky he was awarded the 40% the first "go at it" rather than a big fat "Sorry, no can do soldier".

I have no idea what I am doing on this stuff. We re-appealed and the DAV we haven't heard much from since it all started. Now we are members of this organization, and still unsure how all this process works but we are leaving it in their hands. However, there are so many questions I have that no one seems to know the answers to! Trying to navigate the mysterious VA website is like trying to fish in a black hole in outer space. Although college educated, I feel like a major idiot when it comes to understanding any of this stuff! What I wouldn't give for a "How to Get Your VA Disability Benefits" Book for Dummies! The more info you come across, the more no one seems to know about it or have any experience with it. I ask questions, and people all of a sudden get the bad case of "Just give me a call next week" which is rather frustrating because that is their job they get paid for. I leave messages with many no return phone calls in the process and I feel my questions are pretty damn important. Ok Ok Ok, I know.......everyone's questions are pretty important and not pouting or throwing a hissy because no one answers my questions. It's just that if I can't figure it out, how the hell am I supposed to help my husband? If I can't find it, how does everyone else do it?
Following the world and all it's online fiascos, I do have a Facebook page. On there is a group called Veteran's Benefit Support in which I quickly joined in hopes for the answers to my impossible questions. No such luck as of yet and it's been over a week now. I had hoped that even a spouse or fellow soldier could have answered based on their experiences and nothing. I guess I get frustrated because I don't know what I am doing, I read that you are supposed to do all the leg work for the VA because even though they have the files in their system, they won't look at it. You as the Veteran must bring to light and show them why you are in need of disability. Ok....so here I sit with all this freaking paperwork and half of it I don't understand myself. So how do the soldiers do it on their own when such things as PTSD and TBI interfere with their thinking processes? It's like a conspiracy theory. Government makes it so hard to understand, you are forced into "do I keep fighting or do I give it up?"

My husband is constantly asking me questions in regards to the VA and the disability paperwork and I can't answer them. It would not be so bad, but this weekend is drill weekend. We have had about 12 soldiers who were deployed come home and guess who they asking questions about the VA and their disability? As the FRG leader, I am supposed to send them in the right direction and provide resources for my guys and so far all I can do is point and say "Good luck there buddy-cause I have absolutely no clue". So here I sit with one big ass question mark weighing me down and no where to find the answers. I think my questions are fairly simple and yet, so hard to get answers too.

Maybe a fellow Veteran or a spouse who has been there and done that can help answer my questions, so I am going to post them because just maybe...one of you knows the answers.
  1. At what percentage of disability does the Veteran gain the ChampVA insurance which covers the whole family? My biggest fear right now is that although my husband's Commanding Officer is not pushing for a medical board review, this is an expected route we are going to take. He is still a damn good soldier, but our fear is he is going to get kicked from the service and there goes our health insurance for which we pay 197.00 a month for. Right now, there is no way we could pay 500 a month for health insurance through his job.
  2. I have two letters of doctor (psychiatrists) statement from the VA with "unemployable" written all over it. I read somewhere that the VA can grant up to 70-80% of disability but the rest of the 100% you will have to show that you are "unemployable". Aren't these two letters proof of that? Last appointments he went to, both doctors asked him why the VA didn't give him his 100% based on their recommendations. Beats the heck out of us!
  3. At what percentage will they remove you from service from the military? This seems to be a question with many answers. Some say 70%, some say 50% and then some say you have to have so much of a percentage in one area...if its several things with different percentages, then it's ok. I don't think any of these are right.
  4. Because we re-appealed, do they back pay you any like they do the first time you apply for disability? Another words, if they grant him a higher rate....do they go back and back pay from the time you first applied, the date you applied for the re-appeal or no back pay at all? My husband is under the impression that he will get back paid and I can't find the answers to that. Would be awesome, but not holding my breath!
  5. He has recently learned that his hearing loss is so severe that they are now fitting him with hearing aids in both ears the end of this month. The audiologist says this is war related. Do they give a percentage for such severe hearing loss? I read that they do not, yet they give 10% for ringing in the ears.
  6. For TBI, do they even count this as a service connected and rate it on your disability?
So as you can see...not entirely over the rainbow questions, just standard every day Joe questions. Yet, these have stumbled some of the VA experts and no one can answer them. It's as if I have questioned how humans got on this planet or how the Bermuda Triangle works! So simple, yet so tough. If anyone can point me in the right direction, I would appreciate it. Or if you have questions, go ahead and post them! Someone else might be able to help you in the process.

Hopelessly Lost in VA paperwork,

Uncle Sam's Mistress


  1. In the right column is a list of Resources for Soldier, Veteran, Family, and Loved Ones - Veteran Benefits. In there you will find instructions on how to file that claim and who to do it with.

    I suggest using your local Department of Veterans Affairs, but first learn the VA directives that will make them treat you and give you favorable C and P exams. Thats where I got my best results, the DAV is a good organization but the 'insiders' can get you better results.

    FIND a VA rep you can trust. If you are not getting the results you want or think your case is taking to long you can DO something about it. Its all lined out in the Benefits section. You can FIRE them, just as any VA personnel assigned to you. If you know the right words to invoke AND your rights. Remember you do not have any rights if you do not know them...

    Got some homework to do girl...but chin up I have done the hard work on this. Do what I have outlined in the series of articles and you will find the process more bearable and workable.

  2. PS, I'm gearing up to file for 50% on PTSD in a couple of weeks. If that happens then I will be 70% overall. Then I would work on unemployability which wold put me at 100% pay.

    ON the 14th I see my psychiatrist and will finally admit to the hallucinations, both visual and audio and the more debilitating affects of dissociative Combat PTSD. I am going to ask him to write a letter stating that I am at least 50% service-connected. By doing this the claims board cannot reject it on any grounds. I think he will do it, I have worked with him for 5 years.

  3. see we had the letters from the psych doctors and the claims department didn't even take those into consideration. Everyone who has looked at his files, ask why they didn't give him his 100%. The DAV says its an automatic 100% with those statements, but looks like we will be fighting to get it. Will look at the benefits section on here...thanks Scott!

  4. Appeal it, 90% of ALL appeals are WON!!!!

  5. Appeal it, 90% of all appeals are won. The 'protect the budget' tactics they use is to deny ALL benefits and make us fight for it. Thats why you must learn the VA directives, if you do not tell them you know what the directives say. They will deny, deny, deny.... eternally. Learn the directives, a set of rules the VA is mandated by law to uphold our rights. When we know the language of the directives then we see a marked degree of cooperation.

    It should be 100% automatic, but the VA is set up to protect the budget first, veteran second. Know this and you can use it against them, they want to follow ambiguous rules, well flip the script. To get my 10% for hearing loss I actually gave a copy of a directive after she said she could not write any letters. After reading the directive and conferring with her peers, she wrote a letter stating that I lost my hearing in combat.

    We must be tactful and information is our weapon today, research, read and inform yourself. Take a break for a couple of days, they face this head on with something you can control. Arm yourself information, learn and study the VA directives. Its all in the resources section here at PASP...I wish I could do more, but I am feeling overwhelmed myself today.

    My mantra:

    Prepare, pray, meditate...the moment will arrive soon enough.

  6. Hi,

    I have a question about the Board of appeals process. I recieved 50% increase in Feb of 2009(up from 30%) for PTSD/MST. My symptoms became worse, so on the advice of my psychiaritrist I filed in Aug of 2009 for an increase to 70%.

    When I filed, I was out of it! Dissocative, foggy memory etc. Very frustrating when trying to remember what brought me up to the point of filing. my psychitrist says it wasn't good and won't revisit it with me. Anyways I talked to my VA rep and they said since it was less than a year(Feb 09 to Aug 09) I would have to file a disagreement and it has to go to the BVA.

    How long does it take to get a decision. I am so afraid I am going to get "sick" again and not be able to work.


  7. Aya, you have a beautiful soul. Sounds like your Va Rep is on top of it. I got an increase from 10% to 30% for Combat PTSD, but the rating letter said that the circumstantial evidence suggested that I should receive a 50% rating except the physical evidence did not warrant it.

    I went to my VA psychiatrist and told him what was going on and gave him the research, letters from me detailing my symptoms and with concentration on barriers to care and the struggle I live with everyday.

    I finally told him of the hallucinations, both audio and visual that I live with most days, I relive it and try and ignore it, but I cannot...it will kill me to continue that coarse of action...I actually told everyone...I see the blood on my hands everyday

  8. Thank you Scott...well if wasn't married..just kidding ya lol!! I am only awesome because yer guys are! It feels so good to be in comman company!

    I had the hallucinations, and it was disturbing! It was because I had a reaction to medication. It was strange because I had taken the medicine years before with no probablem. I think some how PTSD messes up the chemisrty of your brain making you have reactions to certain drugs that you didn't have before. Has anyone else had this problem? It makes me scared and paranoid about taking anything for pain in the future.

    Anyways combined with that bad medication reaction and a severe trigger, I was "gone" the whole summer(2009). I feel embarrassed because I just didn't think PTSD would take me this far. I thought sheer will(and medication) would help, and it didn't. It makes me scared.

    I work in the healthcare setting and make really,really good money when I am able to work. I want to be able to pay for my kids college on my own nickel, yet I have to realise my limitations. At any rate Scott, I realise that it is important not to be a hero and take care of yourself.


  9. Sweetheart, you help yourself or when your kids are in college you will not be able to buy them lunch. If taking care of yourself means that they have to work more to help put themselves through college, then at least you will be able to help with whatever you can afford that will not hurt you...do not think of it as a lesson for you, think of if as an example of holistic self care that your children need to see.

    They will be embarking on their journeys and need this lesson you are giving them, they need to know how to care for themselves. Just as you are just now figuring this out, so too are your children...from your example today they will model their work habits. Your strong work ethic will bust through if you do not show them temperance, moderation and self-care today.

  10. USM, I have a rating of 10% for hearing loss and 10% for tinnitus, I have only twenty five percent hearing in my left ear and fifty in my right ear. They stopped giving monetary ratings higher that 0% for tinnitus, as far as I know they are still doing a rating of 10% for severe hearing loss.


Please share your comments, stories and information. Thank you. ~ Scott Lee