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Monday, March 9, 2015

When to Stop Fighting for Military Disability

I approach this topic today with great hesitance. The entire goal of www.MilitaryDisabilityMadeEasy.com is to teach vets how to fight better and more effectively for the Military Disability Benefits that they deserve. There is nothing more rewarding in this career than knowing that by helping a vet get their proper compensation, we’ve ensured a better future for them and their family.

But what happens when there is simply no chance? Is it wise or healthy to continue to fight a losing battle? The last thing I want to do is to deprive people of hope, but there are instances where fighting will only bring frustration, malcontent, and a very expensive lawyer who probably won’t succeed either.

Instead of putting yourself through that, it might be a healthier, wiser choice to accept the situation as it is.

Regardless, the choice is ultimately up to you. I do believe that change can be achieved by standing up for what you believe. But it may not be possible without a long, drawn out lawsuit. Is it worth the hassle? Maybe yes, maybe no. Only you can decide that.

All we can do is advise you on whether or not your fight will be successful against the laws as they currently stand. The following are various situations when it might be best to not pursue the fight.

1. No military medical records documenting the condition. Documentation is by far the most essential aspect of getting both DoD Disability and VA Disability. If you did not go to the doctor and have your condition recorded while you were IN THE MILITARY, there is no way to prove that your condition was caused by military service (i.e. “service-connected”), and thus it is not eligible for Military Disability. (This is an over-simplification of service-connection. See our website for other ways a condition can be considered service-connected. This is, however, the main rule that is fully applicable in the vast majority of cases.)

This is why we stress that it is essential to get all of your conditions documented before you leave the military. We have seen far too many cases where people didn’t think it was serious enough, or didn’t want to complain, or didn’t want to be viewed as weak or a wimp, etc. Then, down the road, after they leave the military, the mild knee pain that they had worsens until they have to have a knee replacement. They know that the original knee pain began after twisting the knee in an exercise while in the military, so they think that they will qualify for disability. Wrong. They have NO PROOF that the knee pain started while in the military since it wasn’t documented by a physician. No proof = no compensation.

If you do not have proof, it is a complete waste of time to try to get disability compensation. It sucks for those of you who are honestly caught in this snag, since this rule is designed to keep the liars and cheaters from abusing the system, but it’s the just the way it is. Sorry. No amount of begging or story telling will change their minds. They legally MUST have solid proof.

2. You believe you deserve more even though you are getting the right amount the law dictates.

All right now, guys. Let’s chat about this. The VASRD is the law that determines the exact rating each condition should receive. The VASRD is far from perfect. There are many things that don’t really make sense or seem unfair.

For example, hearing loss is rated on how bad your hearing is without a hearing aid. Vision loss, however, is rated on how bad your vision is WITH glasses. How is that fair? If someone with glasses sees perfectly fine, they will get a 0% rating, even if they would have received a 30% rating without glasses. At the same time, someone with a hearing aid might hear perfectly fine, but still gets 30%. In my opinion, both should either get a rating based on the severity with a corrective device or both should be rated based on the severity without a corrective device.

Regardless of my personal opinions, however, that’s the law, and so that is what must be followed. “But the law's unfair!” you might exclaim. Yes, absolutely. You’ll get no argument from me.

But there is nothing you can do about it unless you want to wage a legal war against the system to get the laws changed. If you do, go for it! I’m all for making the laws more fair. If you want to fight that battle, kudos!

Most vets, however, don’t have the resources available for this epic undertaking. Submitting appeal after appeal won’t get them anywhere. The law is the law. There are still options, however, for these individuals.

Currently, the VASRD is being entirely rewritten with the new updates being released section by section throughout 2015 and 2016. When each section is ready for review, they accept comments about the suggested changes before finalizing them. SUBMIT COMMENTS! Now is the time for us to let our voices be heard and make changes happen without having to wage war. As each section is published, we’ll post a full article about it here with info on how to submit comments.

If you don’t bother to do this, then it’s a huge waste of time to submit appeals. The laws won’t change that way.

3. You are not properly educated. If you are not properly educated about the disability system, just quit right now. There is no point. The majority of denied claims and appeals are the result of the veteran being ignorant about the system and thus asking for the wrong things.

When I worked on the PDBR, time and again I would see vets making foolish claims simply because they were clueless. If you insist on remaining this guy, just quit now. Your efforts are completely worthless.

“But it’s complicated, and people keep telling me different things.” Yep, I totally get that. It was in response to these clueless veterans’ claims that I assembled my team to create MilitaryDisabilityMadeEasy.com. The majority of clueless vets are completely innocent. They are just not able to find the information they need in a thorough and understandable format.

With our website at your fingertips, though, you no longer have this excuse. We’ve provided information on practically every aspect of Military Disability, from the Medical Evaluation Board (MEB) to the exact ratings for asthma, and continue to further improve and expand the information to help you guys know exactly how things work, what you rightly deserve, and how to get it.

There is a lot of information, and it will take time, but with the info readily available to you, if you insist on remaining uneducated, then just quit now.

12 comments:

  1. Sir,

    I am still an active duty Marine getting ready for retirement after 27 years of service. I go to see my VSO in June to file my VA claim 6 months prior to my retirement date. I was told to bring a complete copy of my medical record with me, to turn in to my VSO for the VA, which would accompany my VA claim. My question is: Is there a preferred method for sorting/organizing my medical record for the VA? I have heard that individuals called "raters" go through it and try to find evidence or a lack of to support or deny a specific condition being claimed. Do you recommend sorting it by chronological order or in sequence with the conditions being claimed on the VA Claim form? I just want to make it as easy as possible for the individuals who will be processing my claim. I have about 4in of paperwork in my medical record they will have to go through.

    Thank You

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  2. Sir,

    I have some questions for you regarding my VA claim. I'm an active duty Marine retiring in 7 months, and I had the following conditions diagnosed on an endoscopy: Mild Esophagitis, Gastritis, Duodenitis and Heartburn. Should I still put "stomach or chest pain, or is that implied based on the other 4 endoscopy diagnosis listed above? Someone also told me to never list "pain" on my VA claim, everything is a condition, so for example, if I have stomach pain, it should be listed as "stomach condition". I'm just trying to avoid listing duplicate items/conditions if not needed. Another example is I have been diagnosed with the following conditions from a podiatrist: plantar fasciitis, Pes Cavus, Acquired deformity pronated foot right, Acquired deformity pronated foot left, achilles tendonitis. Should I still list "foot pain" or is pain implied based on the diagnosed conditions above?

    Thank you sir.

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    Replies
    1. Hi Eric -

      Great questions. First the paperwork. My number one advice for this is to ONLY submit the medical records that provide evidence for the conditions that you are claiming. They ask for the entire medical record to make sure that you leave nothing out, but they would be super thrilled to only have to sort through the papers that are important, believe me. I hated having to sort through thousands of pages only to find the dozen that were important. That being said, definitely include everything that you have for each condition you are claiming. So, if you are claiming a foot condition, include everything you have on the foot, but leave out the dental records. Those have nothing to do with your case and would just be annoying to have to sort through.

      Once you have all the paperwork for a single condition, there is no right or wrong way to organize it, but thinking as a rater, I would LOVE it if someone had sorted it first by condition and then by chronological order for each condition. That would have been amazing. So, if I was submitting mine, that is how I would do it. Making the Rating Authority's job easier will definitely get him on your side right away. I love that you asked this question... maybe I'll blog about it soon...

      As for listing your conditions on the claim form, another good question. My bottom-line guidance is to list EVERY condition that you have and let them sort through it. This is because you may not be aware of a rule that allows two slightly different things to be rated separately. If you list only one, you'll only get one rating, but if you had listed both, you would have gotten two. It is true that many of the conditions you listed above will not be rated separately since they affect the same body system, etc., however, the Rating Authorities will compile them themselves. No need to for you do it in advance. So, again, my basic advice is list every condition that you have been diagnosed with.

      As for "condition," "pain," etc., I personally recommend never listing anything so vague. List DIAGNOSED conditions. "Stomach condition" isn't a diagnosis. Duodenitis, heartburn, gastritis - those are all diagnoses, and each should be listed separately on your claim form. There are some cases where a definite diagnosis has not been made, and then listing "stomach pain" would be acceptable. I'm not sure why someone told you never to put pain on your claim form. Pain is actually a much better diagnosis than "condition", and if there is nothing more solid that has been diagnosed, then you can definitely list pain. In your case, pain is a symptom of the conditions you've been diagnosed with and so shouldn't be listed at all. Just list your diagnosed conditions. I'd not include pain in either of your examples since it is a symptom of the diagnosed conditions.

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  3. What if some veterans lost their documents, how could they get these benefits?
    http://ow.ly/LeplA

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    Replies
    1. Hi Raman -

      You should be able to go back to the relative military records departments to obtain copies of the originals. To do this, contact the various records offices at the last place you were stationed. So if you need your medical records, contact the medical records office at the medical facility at the last place you were stationed. Depending on how long you've been out, they may no longer have those documents, but they can tell you what facility they were sent to for storage and how to contact them.

      If you are unable to locate your records after all this, or the originals were lost, then, sadly, you are just out of luck. No records, no benefits. You have to have your records in order to get any disability benefits at all.

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  4. What if your claim came back denied because the diagnosis was not a part of your military medical record but you still have documented evidence in your medical record of pain or the condition. Is it recommended to appeal with the diagnosis or resubmit the claim exactly how it is listed in the military medical file as a new claim? For example, Headaches was listed as part of medical file but migraines was listed on claim. I wish I would have come across this site ahead of putting my claim in. I was relying on the VSO and I guess I was naive thinking they should known this stuff as a VSO Rep. I appreciate you for creating this site as it is very informative and useful.

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    Replies
    1. Hi Katherine -

      Sorry to hear about the trouble you're having. Yes, applying for migraines when only headaches was noted in your medical records was not a good plan. While all migraines are headaches, most headaches are not migraines, so evidence of headaches is not necessarily evidence of migraines.

      You MIGHT be successful if you submit a new VA Disability Claim for headaches, but appealing would do you no good since you do not have evidence of migraines in your military medical records.

      Now, a claim for headaches might also not be successful. Headaches would definitely be service-connected, but headaches have to be migraines to be eligible to be rated, and migraines again were not in your military medical record. It's a bit of a pickle.

      I recommend submitting a new claim for headaches. While it may not be successful, your rating authority may see the service-connection and then see your now-migraines and decide that they have enough evidence to rate it. They might not, but the might, so I think it's worth a try to submit another claim. If they also deny this claim, then you are probably not going to get your headaches rated at all.

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  5. I left the military after a brief time because I couldn't wear the boots!!! Now my feet have been hurting for years!!!! What can I do?

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    Replies
    1. If you have records that prove the state of your feet while in the military, then you can apply for VA Disability benefits.

      http://www.militarydisabilitymadeeasy.com/vadisability.html

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  6. I am a 55 yo female Camp Lejeune Navy vet. I thought I was filing a fully developed claim for water contamination-related health issues with a VSO organization, but my claim was denied even though service connection was acknowledged. At no time was I even granted a C&P exam to review my concerns.

    I am now attempting to at least go in front of the Board of Appeals to present my case, and hope to get some sort of rating.

    I have had elevated IgM blood levels for the past 3 years, and continue to have neuropathy, balance and tinnitus issues. All my doctors can tell me is that I currently have Monoclonal Gammopathy of Undetermined Significance (MGUS). I am terrified that it will progress into Waldenstrom's or Lymphoma. Do I need to have full blown cancer before the VA will do anything for me?

    I served as a Hospital Corpsman on ship board, and slept on the other side of the x-ray suite for 2 years and wonder what role that may have played in my blood abnormalities.

    I was also recalled for Gulf War 1 but remained stateside at USMC 29 Palms, CA Naval Hospital. I feel like I was never healthy again after recall. I have struggled with chronic fatigue/fibromyalgia since the early 1990s.

    I am also concerned that some of my muscle weakness/neuropathy sensations could possibly be ALS instead of the MGUS.

    I also struggle with unrefreshing sleep. Thus far, I have only been dx'd with idiopathic insomnia. They cannot explain why I do not enter the restful stage of sleep.

    Do you have any strategy suggestions for pursuing a claim?

    Thank you for the FREE information. I wish I had found this sooner!
    HMC, USN and USN-R, Retired

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    Replies
    1. You have a tough case since everything developed after service and so has to be presumed service-connected by the VA. Without definite evidence that your conditions were caused by exposure, then your condition will only really be rated by the VA if it is on their Presumptive List.

      They recently created a list for Camp Lejeun, but currently, neither MGUS or ALS is not on their Lejeune Presumptive List:

      http://news.militarydisabilitymadeeasy.com/2016/01/va-to-offer-full-disability-benefits.html

      This is why they didn't even have you come in for an exam. With your diagnosis, it simply isn't covered unless you can provide undeniable additional proof that it is connected.

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  7. I was able to get my Medical Records from the Army using the form 180 and listing the the units and hospitals I sought medical treatment. I even surprised myself that I actually completed Basic Training and earned an E5 rank in 17 months. I joined the Army in 1966.
    Here is a synopsis on my records:
    Basic Training Form 600 Health record
    Ft. Dix Basic Training started 28 Mach 1966

    12 Apr 1966 sore heels—hot soaks, wintergreen, epson salts ace bandages
    13 Apr 1966 sore ankles — epson salts
    18 Apr 1966 sore feet — diag pain calcaneal & lognitudinal arches as well as dorsal ankles, pronated feet exostosis - dorsal arch Xrays of both feet
    27 Apr 1966 X ray calcaneal cuboid lipping — no marching or run
    10 May 1966 Pain and swelling of both feet X rays reveal areas of both heals slight callus (rest undecipherable or I don’t understand medical terminology) no running, prolong standing or marching one week.
    17 May 1966 Feet improve
    24 May 1966 Heels Thomas and arch supports (rest undecipherable or I don’t understand medical terminology)

    Ft Monmouth AIT

    2 August 1966 Feet starting to hurt again (note this is electronics school)
    19 Aug 1966 Podiatry Clinic refitting arch supports
    26 Sep 1966 Podiatry Clinic new arch supports
    26 Sep 1966 DA Form 8-274 block #6 Flat Feet
    18 Oct 1966 Form 513 Clinical Record new pair arch supports
    26 Oct 1966 Arch supports and Thomas Heels
    2 Dec 1966 Feet hurting again Clinic give new arch supports and Thomas Heels for boots

    Ft Sam Houston

    19 dec 1968 Arch supports causing discomfort
    26 Dec 1968 Arch supports checked ok
    The main medical record at induction shows I was fit for service. I have put in a compensation request.
    Lou C. Erie,PA

    ReplyDelete