Hey Guys and Gals,
Thanks for giving me a bit of your time. I'm currently in the process of an IU upgrade claim with the VA.
A quick version of my back ground.
Iraq 05-06... I started having problems in late 07 with rumors of a redeployment. Suicide attempt in Nov 07. Notified my guard unit at our annual med screening and had my medical discharge started in 04/08. I initially went to VA for a mental health screening and it was a total disaster. I was thrown some pills and "sent on my way." I had an appointment it a mental health specialist that they wouldn't even let me see him without a lot convincing. Oh ya, and it was a 3 hour drive from my house to the VA office. I had a local retired CSM that helped me get some private therapy sessions paid for through the army one source. I fought for the next 5 years and 2 months to get my discharge completed. My unit and state dropped the ball in so many ways it's hard to even talk about it. I had to get the JAG, state IG and even state CSM to get my discharge packet back on track. During these 5 years, I only saw private doctors and therapists because I knew I wasn’t going to get the help I needed from the VA. Also going through private doctors and therapists, I knew that I would be able to get much better documentation.
I have not been able to work since mid 2008. My wife supported us for the first several years while we lived with her parents. For the next I was paid month using the INCAP program through the national guard. It’s an interim disability payment while you are going through the discharge process. My wife quit work in early 2011 to stay home with me full time because she was so afraid that I was going to hurt myself.
I was finally discharged in April 2013 with a 70% rating with the Army and also the VA. With the new system when you are discharged, they work with the VA so you have both ratings when you are done. My 70% rating is for Major depressive disorder, recurrent. I currently suffer from major depression, insomnia, anti-social behavior, anxiety problems, suicidal ideations and daily tension and stress headaches.
After my initial rating, I immediately disagreed with the decision and it was declined but they were also working off medical evidence from two years prior.
Right now I am under the care of two different doctors, one medical for my prescriptions and another with a PHD for my therapy. Both have been extremely helpful and I honestly feel I wouldn’t be here today without their help. The MD is a prior VA navy doctor and the other has a long history helping military members, current and prior. From day one, neither has felt that I am capable of holding gainful employment due to my condition. I also have current letters from both stating that strongly that i should not work as it would only aggravate and worsen my condition.
After my immediate rating disagreement, I put in for an official appeal with a De Novo review with a DSO at my regional office. After filing the initial paperwork for the De Novo review it was back to waiting as I was instructed not to send in any additional evidence until I was instructed by a letter in the mail.
Here is where I’m quite confused and upset. I received my letter in the mail in early April. It was dated, APRIL 7, 2014. In the first page of the letter it states I needed to reply with VA Form 21-8940 and my additional evidence within 30 days. 30 days, so that would mean by MAY 7, 2014.
On May 1, 2014 I mailed in the VA-Form 21-8940. I mailed priority, certified with return receipt. I made sure every single paper had my case number on it so they would never doubt what case the paperwork went with. It was signed for at my regional office on May 5, 2014.
Well yesterday I received a packet in the mail from the local regional office saying my De Novo review decision was to stay with the original 70%. This letter was dated May 7, 2014, and stated that they did not receive any response to their April 7 letter. So this means even though it was signed for at the Regional office, apparently no one attached my 21-8940 and additional evidence to my packet.
I am sitting here tonight no knowing what my next step should be. The entire packet I received yesterday was to start the next formal appeal to the BVA. What do you all suggest I do? Do you think there is any chance of getting another De Novo review since I can prove they jumped the gun and didn’t give me the full 30 days to get them my VA 21-8940 and additional evidence?
Up until this point I have done all the paperwork myself and have not got had a VSO rep. If the BVA is my only option, I’m not quite sure I even want to get a VSO rep for this.
What do you guys think?
Any thoughts or suggestions would be greatly appreciated.