Category Archives: VA

Why Can’t I Reach my VA Clinic by Phone?


pain14I was really excited when I was able to go to the Orange City, Florida VA clinic. I thought it would be closer to my house than Daytona, but with traffic and the indirect route it is still almost a two-hour drive. I am amazed by the fact that you cannot call this clinic. Well, I should say you can call all you want, but if you want to actually speak to somebody than I don’t think you’ll want to spend a week on redial with them while the phone rings and rings.

smlkeI should be able to reach my clinic. I just got out of the hospital for 10 days and nobody seems obligated to reach me by phone, however, they love to make appointments I can’t make on my VA pension. I don’t have enough money for gas. They do reimburse me, but it is about a month later. That doesn’t help me this month.

pain5I tried to complain about some of these issues and more and they have just blacked out communication. If you try to call Orlando VA it’s often voice mail. I tried several times to reach the Orlando patient advocate’s office and they don’t answer. You leave a message and unless you raise holy hell like I did last time about how I had never received a call back in 4 tries to contact them in the last few months.
stomachThe woman who called told me that I should make my appointments. Apparently my wife and I should starve because we need to make medical appointments. Oh, did I forget to mention that my wife has serious stomach issues and other things to do with personal issues. Let’s just put it this way – she does not do anything but puke every meal out. Not on purpose, of course, but, because that’s how bad her stomach is.

A surgeon did not tie off right on an ulcer operation for her and she almost died. She had her stomach in a triple hernia and she was very ill. She also has had other issues to do with hyperglycemia.

I have so many issues myself to do with the Gulf War and they are not recognized. Nobody seems to have the time or inclination to help me. I am not worthy of a VA doctor or PA, in my case which is typical here, who probably hates his position there and is going to show it, to actually read my record. To actually see the many issues I deal with on a regular basis. I cannot hardly move from the chair to the bathroom or the bed to the kitchen.

mean docIt seems that things are much different here in Florida. I hate to say it, because it is something locals hate, but I was spoiled in Wisconsin. I know that there are many, many more veterans in Florida. The most of any other state, I belive it is 8 million, but why can’t they ask for more staff? Probably a budget issue. The employees get more money this way? I don’t know, but for whatever reason there’s not way to get people to answer phones, read records, and you can’t even get an introduction, at least not a proper one, from a VA doctor. They don’t want anything but a quick in and out from you. I’m not an in and out kind of patient. I have had my rights violated in so many ways for too many times and it needs to end.

So what do I do now? Well, I saw that the VA “Secretary Bob” has given out his cell phone number and well, I decided, “What the hell!” I’m going to call the number? I was nervous as could be, but I did it. I complained.

My main complaint now is something that I probably should be so ashamed of, according to the VA, I smoked a joint when in pain before I signed a contract not to smoke anymore after they gave me a very small amount of pain killers.

mjI came up positive for cannabis and suddenly I am a “drug addict” I was told I have to “jump through hoops!”

I don’t do hoops since I got out of the Navy and I don’t plan on jumping through any damned hoops again! I grow my hair to the damned length I wish, I don’t shave if I can’t stand in front of the mirror very long and I just don’t take orders anymore.

I have earned that right by the six years I gave the Navy. I wasn’t a perfect sailor, but I wasn’t the worst one either. I did some things that I think are commendable and the point is I shouldn’t have to defend my reputation.
mean doc 2So, I was told I have to see a drug counselor and then report promptly to the Pain Clinic again. After Gainesville and the treatment I got there where I was told I was fat, lazy, and uneducated, I will not go to another pain clinic in my lifetime. I will not see there “pain psychologist.” Which is like “military intelligence,” to me! The two words just don’t go together. It’s a major mismatch of terms. What am I going to use Freud to stop the pain?

TVI_cameramanNext, I plan to contact the local newspaper, TV stations, maybe the VFW in Washington, D.C. or whoever will listen and let them know that even the social workers at the VA are unable to help. They don’t seem to have the time from the things I was told. Nobody wants to do their job or they are just too unorganized and incapable to keep up to the standards of the treatment of veterans that are in serious need of some help like me. They make excuses and say how busy they are and I know they are, but I have also been in the lobby while the phone rings and people who are not busy are just ignoring the phones.

God help you if you are planning to move to Florida. My advice if you are a veteran is go somewhere else if you want good healthcare. I have been to both local VA systems in Gainesville and Orlando and I am so frustrated with both that I am just ready to burst with stress and I don’t need it and neither does my wife. God help you too if you ever become sick or disabled. This country isn’t helping people like me or my wife. They have all these programs and they don’t seem to want us to use them. Isn’t that what they are intended for? That’s what I thought, but I was told that home health care was a program I had never heard of. I could actually get a doctor to come to my house.

The social worker said, “It’s usually for people who are wheel-chair bound or who can’t hardly get around and have no wife to drive them.”

cathyI almost burst a blood vessel in my head when I heard this comment! She has no idea how much it hurts my wife, who also suffers from sciatica and hip trouble, along with some mental health issues, and anxiety. How dare her just assume that I am not a candidate when I can barely walk, I have been hospitalized four times in this year alone. I spent New Years to Easter in a damn hospital. I am completely fed up with the Florida V.A.

 

 

Seeking Help & Compensation for PTSD


ptsd3Thousands of Veterans are struggling with the problems associated with post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD. Many of these men and women are reluctant to get help for this problem. Let’s face it, it can be very hard to tell a complete stranger deep secrets. Sometimes there feelings are very violent and therefore they may fear reprisal by authorities. Or there are those who just don’t recognize the signs of PTSD and keep themselves isolated so it is hard for others to detect. This is often associated with not just PTSD, but depression and possibly other mental disorders. The VA Mental Health departments at any VA medical facility are no strangers to PTSD. Their doctors and therapists are used to dealing with Veterans with combat-related problems and they have some wonderful methods of dealing with them and some great programs as well. The first step is to ask for help. If you are really bad you may want to suggest that they keep you there for a while in a hospital setting and voluntarily, unless of course you are suicidal, in which case you should seek help immediately by calling the VA Suicide Hotline at: 1-800-273-8255. I have a friend who called and he is so much better today. He can’t talk about it, but let’s just say that he is looking to the future and on the right path.
ptsd1PTSD is also a service-connected disability. I have taken the test and I’m not sure if it is the same everywhere, but when I took it their where several questionnaires and scan-tron type tests. They ask a series of questions such as do you hear voices, do you like being in crowds etc.. and then you have a confidential meeting with a psychiatrist who is there to determine if you qualify for service-connected PTSD. He will most likely ask you about combat related incidents that disturb you to this day, how often you have nightmares and do you feel like hurting yourself or others. If you have claimed other mental disorders as service-connected he will ask you about these as well. Do not be offended by his demeanor as his job is to prove you are not service connected. You will most likely be turned down on the first try for this and have to repeat this exam which is called a compensation and pension exam. Remember not to take anything personally, but make sure to prove your case and do not hold back. If you are suffering let them know and don’t be afraid to answer their questions truthfully. If you don’t know the answer tell them that. It’s a pain, but it’s a necessary process, because unfortunately there are those who are looking to claim things that are untrue. It is a blow to those of us who suffer from these problems. ptsd2The main thing is just be yourself and it should go fine. If you do not get approved you can appeal.
Often times it is suggested that you also try and get a diagnosis from a regular physician outside the VA. This will not hurt your case at all and is worth the expense if you can afford it. See if you can get a list of physicians in your area from your VSO or your representative of physicians who see veterans and are familiar with PTSD and similar mental disorders. If you can’t get a list, try and call around and ask the person who answers the phone if their doctor would perform an evaluation for PTSD. Veteran’s organizations may know of Veteran doctors as well or you can ask your family doctor for a referral to a psychologist.
Vets with PTSDAs 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.
I am writing this in honor of all those Veterans who did not get help and are not with us anymore. This is a very serious problem in the United States and with our allies as well. If you know a Veteran who is suffering from PTSD, please urge them to get help today. Time is very important and even though some people may seem okay does not mean anything, some people hide their emotions to avoid treatment. God bless.

The Code of Federal Regulations (C.F.R.) and Why it’s Important to Your Claim


howdoIappeal

cfr1The Code of Federal Regulations or C.F.R. is important to veterans filing claims for the first time or in appeal because there are laws protecting us from the mistakes that can be made by the V.A. in the process of reviewing your information. Be sure to check the links section of the site to find out more about the C.F.R. You should look only for title 38 Pensions, Bonuses and Veteran’s Relief. Below are some examples of some of the codes that may apply to your case. I also recommend looking up some of the previous cases online from veterans who challenged these codes. You may be surprised what you can find in research. I will post anything I find as I am just starting this process myself. Feel free to share with me any links you have that I don’t.

38 CFR 3.103
Procedural due process and appellate rights

Every claimant has the right to written notice of the decision made on his or her claim, the right to a hearing, and the right to representation….Claimants and their representatives are entitled to notice of any decision made by the VA that affects payment of benefits. The notice must state the decision made, effective dates, the reasons for the decision, the right of the veteran to a hearing on any issue involved in the claim, the right of representation, and the right to appeal.

38 CFR 3.159
Department of Veterans Affairs assistance in developing claims

cfr2The VA is obligated to complete applications. This substantial completion includes the claimant’s name, his or her relationship to the veteran if applicable, sufficient service information for the VA to verify the claimed service, the benefit claimed and any medical conditions on which it is based, the claimant’s signature, and (for claims of nonservice-connected disability or death pension and parents’ dependency and indemnity compensation) a statement of income.
The VA is also obligated to accept “Competent medical evidence” provided by a person who is qualified through education, training or experience to offer medical diagnoses, statements or opinions. “Competent medical evidence” may also mean statements showing sound medical principles found in medical treatises. It would also include statements contained in well-respected in medical and scientific articles and research reports or analyses.
The VA also accepts “competent lay evidence” which is defined as evidence not requiring specialized education, training, or experience from the person offering the evidence.

cfr5These are just a few examples from the C.F.R., Title 38. You can look up more via the links page. As you can see these codes are very important to your case. Remember, when you enter the appeal process if you are trying to prove service-connection the burden of proof is on you. You must use all the tools available to you to prove your case. Do not rely on your veteran representative to do this for you. There are some great reps out there who sometimes are willing to go above and beyond and have vast knowledge of this process and may know these things and guide you correctly to getting your case approved, but unfortunately a lot of these guys are very over-worked and underpaid and although they do their level best to help veterans they sometimes do not have the knowledge or time to go that far for you and so it is up to you to try to prove all you can by yourself. I had to find this out the hard way and now I am about to have my second compensation and pension exam for my appeal for service-connection for gulf war illness related medical conditions.
If anyone would like to contribute anything they know about this article please contact me. I am learning as I go and sharing it with my readers, but I am far from an expert and don’t think I would ever make that claim. If I ever get my case approved I hope to never look at any codes or regulations again! I would be happy to share what I know or my opinions here as usual and help other vets, but I will be happy to not fall asleep with books on how to appeal VA claims on my lap again!
Good luck to you all on your claims and I hope that somehow you are able to muddle through this fight. The important thing is to never give up! The VA will send you confusing letters, try to intimidate you by saying that “it’s all in your head” or you are trying to “prove a conspiracy theory” and silly things like this. Don’t be intimidated and don’t get angry. Just get your case approved and get the benefits that you fought for! God bless.

Veterans are Worst Enemy When Dealing with VA Disability Claims


dis1A veteran can be his or her own worst enemy when it comes to dealing with their VA disability claim. Common examples include repeatedly sending in the same evidentiary documents, and not taking the time to thoroughly read through the Statement of Case (SOC) that the VA sends to the veteran after you give your request for disability benefits.

Once you send any medical documents or other evidentiary evidence to the VA, all that needs to be done then when you communicate with the VA is to remind them that you had before submitted those documents. Even better, if you can remind them of the date that you originally sent them the documents, this helps keep things organized and will most likely result in the case manager being able to find the information quicker. That is why it is imperative that veterans dealing with the VA keep copies of everything on their case in a well-organized home filing system. This applies even if you are being assisted by a Veterans Service Officer or V.S.O. or a representative from one of the approved veteran’s organizations. (refer to my links section of the site for a complete list).

dis2Personally, I prefer the Disabled American Veterans (D.A.V.) because they have a higher clearance rate than any other group. They are especially effective in service-connected claims. However you are free to choose who represents you and remember that you are not required to be a member of the organization. You are also now allowed to hire an attorney to represent you in your case appeal. Make sure that you and your representative work well together on your case and that you are happy with what you hear. If you suspect you are receiving bad information or that you are being lied to then I would switch. I have had this happen to me so be careful of certain representatives, especially the Veteran’s Service Officers. Keep in mind that the VA does not want you to get your benefits approved. They will do every thing in their power to confuse you, discourage you and flood you with disinformation. Don’t ever give up!

dis3Repeatedly sending the VA copies of documents that you’ve already submitted is time wasted and can lead to confusion on the part of the VA claims administrator and can cause further delays in the completion of your case.

Also, failure to thoroughly read and scrutinize the SOC that the VA sends you is risky as well. For example, the first few pages of the SOC will usually include a paragraph informing the veteran how long he or she has to give a Notice of Disagreement (NOD). A NOD letter is a simple letter for you to write back to the VA essentially telling them that you disagree with their decision, and why you disagree. If you do not know consider what it is you are claiming and reconsider. If you are worried about what you say then run it by your representative or someone else you trust such as a good friend, family member or spouse. It does not have to be perfect, just on time.

dis4With new claims the VA allows one year from the date of the SOC for you to give a NOD letter. This is not the case with existing claims wherein you are requesting an increase for an existing disability. In those cases you will usually be given only 60 days to give a NOD letter.

It is vital that the veteran read the SOC from start to finish, and pay particular attention to the deadline that the VA has established for your response. When that deadline passes and you have not submitted a NOD postmarked no later than midnight of the last deadline date, the VA’s decision becomes final. So it is imperative that you are timely in this matter.

dis5Also advisable is to use the Post Office’s green “Certified Mail” tag when sending documents or correspondence to the VA. This will need the VA to sign a receipt when your letter is delivered to them, which the Post Office then mails back to you for your records. This receipt is legal proof that you submitted your response before the deadline. File it in your home records system.

Why are these things so important? Because you can lose out on substantial sums of back pay in cases where the VA has approved your claim, but not at the percentage that you feel is commensurate with the effects that your disabilities have on your lifestyle or earning capacity that you have lost as a result of your disabilities.

When a claim becomes final, you will have only two ways to reopen it. The first is by submitting “new and material evidence” that clearly bolsters your case, and the other is when you or your VSO or representative find what you believe to be “clear and unmistakable error” (CUE) in the VA’s decision-making process. If you would like more information on the legalities of this you can e-mail me at rockstarinart@gmail.com. I have a book that lists examples of errors and references to earlier cases where examples of errors were pointed out and the veteran’s appeal was ruled in their favor. I will try to put up a link to this information as well as soon as I have it available.

dis6New evidence is just that. It has to be new to your case. Submitting a doctor’s note that repeats what has already been said before by that doctor or another is not new and material evidence.

So just what is “new and material evidence”? Let’s say you were denied for fibromyalgia and you allow your claim to become final on this issue by failing to submit a NOD. Then, two years later the doctor starts to give you medication for fibromyalgia. Since you were not taking this medication previously, this becomes new and material evidence.

As a Persian Gulf War Veteran, fibromyalgia is a “presumptive” condition that is listed under Section 3.317 of the Code of Federal Regulation (CFR); “Compensation for certain disabilities due to undiagnosed illnesses”. But the fibromyalgia must be serious enough to call for at least a 10% rating. For a veteran to get to the 10% level for fibromyalgia he or she will need to be receiving medications specifically meant to treat fibromyalgia. So if you are prescribed new medications for this or other conditions, it’s important that you recommend the VA so that this can be considered in reevaluating your case. This is how “new and material evidence” comes in to play.

On the other hand, a claim wherein you have discovered what you believe to be “CUE” is a little harder. In these cases it is advisable for the veteran to seek out a good VSO or someone who understands the laws of veteran’s disability claims. A good VSO will be aware of the relevant court cases that have been decided in favor of veterans with issues like yours.

donttreadonmeflagBottom line, be ever mindful of response deadlines that are included in the Statement of Case (SOC), and consult with the experts if you believe that the VA has made an error or errors in deciding your case.

Finally, always remember that YOU are your strongest advocate. Be always on the alert, read everything that the VA sends you, and then act accordingly. The old adage applies; “if you snooze, you lose

Where to Start Getting Help for Gulf War Illness (or Syndrome)


gw18gw3If you are struggling with the various conditions associated with Gulf War Illness there is help at the VA although I have yet to see a primary care doctor who will help. You have to be persistent and explain to them that the VA website and the VA position has finally changed on this. You may have to fight to get benefits and you are entitled to service-connected disability for your problems. If you are struggling to get by and you feel that there is no hope you really need to talk to someone. Where do you start? Ask your Veteran’s Service Officer located in your county seat (usually the courthouse building). Check the yellow pages or look on the links section of this site for a complete list of all of them nationwide. Keep in mind, though, that although these representatives of the VA are there to help you and they will, they also work for the same institution that is not just going to hand you the key to the city. You will have to work hard and be prepared to wait a long time for actual benefits unless of course you do what I did and apply for a non-service connected pension first if you cannot work anymore like me. That’s not as much money, but it’s better than nothing and they give you more money for dependants. And, depending on the state you may qualify for food stamps and other benefits. This is just a precursor to getting service-connected for me and that’s something altogether different. Study the Federal Benefits Guide for more information.

gw4The VA website that is actually chalked full of information about how your medical team can treat you for gulf war illness, what all of the different chemical exposures are and how to find out if you might have them and what to do about it. The problems is to get your doctor to look at it. (at least in my case). But, check it out here:

http://www.publichealth.va.gov/exposures/gulfwar/

I highly recommend you check this out. It is a fairly new thing for the VA and your health care team should be aware of it. Perhaps your veteran’s advocate or attorney, if you have one, can recommend a course of action based on the information on this page and coordinated with your healthcare and get you the tests you need. I also recommend you read this if you have been waiting a long time for a claim. The honorable Secretary of the V.A. Shinseki has ordered the VA to expedite these claims. More here:

http://www.blogs.va.gov/VAntage/9217/va-expediting-claims-decisions-for-veterans-waiting-a-year-or-more/

For PTSD counseling you can get help from the VA here: http://www.ptsd.va.gov/public/pages/gen-treatment.asphttp://www.blogs.va.gov/VAntage/9217/va-expediting-claims-decisions-for-veterans-waiting-a-year-or-more/

Also there are some great magazines put out in both electronic and paper form and the VA one is called Vantage Point. The link is here: http://www.blogs.va.gov/VAntage/9217/va-expediting-claims-decisions-for-veterans-waiting-a-year-or-more/a

There are also other similar magazines from most every veteran organization such as the V.F.W., the American Legion, Amvets, and more. Just do a google search. There’s almost too much to read in a month!

I also get e-mail alerts from the D.O.D., the C.D.C., the V.A., and many other government organizations. I’m not sure how I did this. But I can give you a link to the VA one: https://public.govdelivery.com/accounts/USVHA/subscriber/new

And there are so many more veteran’s organizations that can help you. Wounded Warriors is a great one for the vets returning home recently and if you go on twitter and search for veterans organizations you can find a lot of them there.

ptsd3If any of you are thinking of suicide. I urge you to call the Suicide hotline here: 1-800-273-8255. There are people who do care about you whether you want to believe it or not. And you are better than that. Fight it! I know that we all have bad days, bad years and just crappy things happen, but that is no reason to end it all. Life is hard, but you can get help. These people will go out of there way to ensure you get the best help available. Please, I beg you don’t do anything until you at least give it a try. I beg of you don’t hurt yourself. We all care about you and not just because you are a veteran, but because you are a person who deserves to live!

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