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About atomicwidow

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    E-3 Seaman

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  1. I'm a surviving spouse of a Navy vet who was exposed to atmospheric ionizing radiation in his active duty years. My husband developed a "presumed" cancer long after his exposure. He kept excellent records; he applied for the IRR (Ionizing Radiation Registry http://www.publichealth.va.gov/exposures/radiation/benefits/registry-exam.asp)to verify his military radiation exposure. When he died, I finally received adjudication that his death was 100% service connected. That brought several benefits including an award from Dept of Justice, VA DIC, DEA and CHAMPVA. Sad why I get them, grateful for the VA honoring the service. My point is, there is a precedent for service connected disability (a long list of presumptive conditions) for atmospheric radiation exposure http://www.publichealth.va.gov/exposures/radiation/diseases.asp. The VA may not yet have those rules clear for Operation Tomodachi, but if you were there, save all records, get medical documentation now and in the future.
  2. "full Grant On Appeal"

    BIG mail received today...."full grant on appeal", including rating decision by DRO with DIC, DEA, eligibility to apply for CHAMPVA. I'm elated, relieved, sad for what my husband went thru to make this happen, hopeful for my future. Thank you, thank you, thank you for the advice and support on this site.
  3. Champva And Survivors

    BIG mail received today...."full grant on appeal", including rating decision by DRO: "1. service connection for the cause of death is granted. 2. Basic eligibility to Dependents' Educational Assistance is established." DIC was granted with effective date 10/13, the month after my husband's death. I'm elated, relieved, sad for what my husband went thru to make this happen, hopeful for my future. Thank you, thank you, thank you for the advice and support on this site. Jo
  4. Champva And Survivors

    9 July 2015 update: I got a letter from the VA service center dated 6/30/15 notifying me that burial benefits were granted and I'd receive a check in the near future. Listed as evidence used to decide my claim is "evidence establishing that the veteran's death was related to his service". I've received nothing else about my notice of disagreement or DIC claim, but approval of burial benefits for service connected death seems hopeful. Jo
  5. Champva And Survivors

    I'm hoping for a shorter wait time than Berta's :-) I learn so much from you all - thank you.
  6. Champva And Survivors

    Hi Berta, I haven't received a Statement of Case. It appears that a SOC is part of the Traditional Appeal process, but not the Decision Review Officer process. I selected the latter. The VARO letter explains that after the Decision Review Officer reviews the claims file, evidence, arguments & statements, they may request additional evidence or an informal conference with me to discuss the case. "The DRO will then make a new decision. You will be notified of the decision and your appeal rights." So I'm now awaiting the DRO process.
  7. Champva And Survivors

    I thought I'd share a brief update. I received the letter of clarification from the diagnosing MD. I mailed my Notice of Disagreement with this letter; I received the Regional Office's letter asking whether I wanted to go with the Decision Review Officer process or Traditional Appeal Process. I selected the DRO. That was in early April. So now I wait, again. Any guess how long? I'm expecting 4-6 month minimum?
  8. Champva And Survivors

    We think alike, Berta. I'll begin wordsmithing my Notice of Disagreement as I await the doctor's clarification. I understand medical lingo and I'm succinct, these skills will help. In my professional writing, I try to say as much as necessary and as little as possible. Thanks!
  9. Champva And Survivors

    I just read Berta's 2/3/15 post.....I'm blushing. I truly hope my knowledge of DIC application for atomic vets helps another vet or widow down the road. Today I received a letter from VA regional office/claims telling me they corrected my husband's social security number in his file. It only took them 7 months and my follow up. Argh. I'm waiting for the diagnosing MD's written support in IMO terms. I expect it in March. I'm also waiting for a copy of my husband's claim file from the VA. I won't hold my breath. My next step is to submit a NOD (Notification of Disagreement) with a cover letter connecting the dots, referencing the CFRs (Code of Federal Regulations), including all the documents/medical records to support "probable" lung cancer. I have until August, so I'm okay on the timeframe. My sister said this is a bit like writing her doctoral thesis.....I agree. Jo
  10. Champva And Survivors

    Wow Berta, you dig deep....that's a compliment! Yes, my husband has a Defense Threat Reduction Agency exposure record. I have a copy of his dose exposure estimates. We requested those records as soon as they were declassified, long before the cancer diagnosis and death. Veteran groups at that time advised that vets radiation exposure numbers would appear small, perhaps not representative of their true exposure. DOJ, via their RECA (Radiation Exposure Compensation Act) award concedes his presence, so with a presumptive cancer, I believe the dosage is not important. My husband also registered in the IRR: Ionizing Radiation Registry. I have that documentation. That also was long before his cancer diagnosis and death. Again, the fact that the feds acknowledged Fred's radiation exposure via the IRR long before his cancer hopefully connects the dots. His Navy radiation exposure was during Operation Castle, including Castle Bravo: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/bomb/peopleevents/pandeAMEX51.html I'm in and out of this site...sometimes I may not reply timely. Just so you know, I work full time, take care of aging parents, recently (8 weeks ago) survived a rollover car accident on ice on my way to work and I'm pretty achy but mostly ok & grateful. Tenaciously, Jo
  11. Champva And Survivors

    I have a few things in process: 1. the pulmonologist who diagnosed the lung cancer's clarification....I drafted the suggested wording (subject to her approval/changes) including "more likely than not" primary lung CA and that it significantly contributed to his death (using IMO language and reinforcing the death certificate) 2. a call this AM with VA regional office; they have my husband's soc security # wrong despite me mailing them corrections in July 2014. She read my correspondence with correction documents, so we know they received it, just didn't yet update/correct the file. Correction is now in process. 3. request to the VA RO for copy of the claim file. Waiting on that. Free Spirit, yes, the MD who diagnosed the cancer is a different MD than who signed the death certificate. So you're right, there are 2 MDs who state "probable". If the VA has my husband's SSN wrong and has not corrected it in the 6 months since I sent the documentation they need to correct it, I wonder if they also missed medical evidence sent? Getting the claim file contents will be telling. 2 more questions: - at what point should I sent the Notice of Disagreement......now or wait til I get more evidence? I have until August (12 months) to appeal. - as I read recent posts, it seems BVA gets involved at some point. Is there a link or tutorial to explain the steps & timeframes bumping it up the legal ladder? Thanks, all. Jo
  12. Champva And Survivors

    Whew! I go to work for 2 days and come back to your research. Thank you. I have a lot to learn about VA acronyms and the appeal process. What's the difference between RO and BVA in the appeal? "Twisted words....from probable to possible"....understanding that as a tactic helps. I'm in the process of creating irrefutable documentation around my husband's lung cancer (not the larynx cancer) because lung cancer is presumptive for VA documented radiation exposed vets, which he was. That's why I've asked the pulmonologist at the major medical center who diagnosed my husband's lung cancer in 2013 to use the IMO words "more likely than not" (I gave her the reference). I've asked her to state he "more likely than not" had lung cancer, the cancers were more likely than not two different primary cancers and NOT metastasis, and to explain why she couldn't biopsy the lung for a definitive diagnosis. Her assistant already told me they're happy to do it but the MD is having a baby and won't be back til next month. I'm confident I'll get it....I crafted the draft letter for her review. My husband died 7 weeks after cancer diagnosis in 2013. His Operation Castle radiation exposure was in 1954. He was a "registered Atomic Veteran" so I believe timeline isn't important in my claim, nor was his dose exposure. I've narrowed down the crucial medical records to 2 reports from 2013. The pulmonologist I referenced above is helping me make those reports tight. As I understand the medical documentation I need to submit, those 2 reports plus the pending doctor's letter will be all I need. What I'd appreciate input on is how to write the appeal letter and where do I send it. My words of advise to readers: If you are a vet or love a vet who was exposed to radiation, do your homework NOW. Get your records organized. Get registered as an atomic veteran: http://www.publichealth.va.gov/exposures/radiation/benefits/registry-exam.asp Know what you may qualify for in advance. Get yours ducks in a row. We did as much as we could in advance of my husband's death. It's still a lot of work for the surviving spouse. Grief is hard enough. You all help me feel tenacious. It would be easy for me to fold because I have no experience in the VA system. You'll chuckle....when you mention a new acronym I have to Google it. I average 2-3 acronym definition checks with each message here. So maybe help me and others here by explaining acronyms such as SMR = service medical records or RO = regional office. I still don't know what BVA means in my case :-) I'm worldly, but just not in the VA system. I DO appreciate your help, Jo
  13. Champva And Survivors

    Free Spirit, Thank you for your thoughts and for catching the VA's wording change from "probable" to "possible". The MD clarification I'm seeking isn't truly an IMO because it's the pulmonologist who diagnosed him. I just asked her to reference and clarify her own medical records in what I've been advised here are VA terms (to define probable as "more likely than not..." and clarify other points in the records). I'm going with the lung CA diagnosis because it's on the atomic vet presumptive list and his death certificate lists "probable lung cancer" as a contributing cause of death. The VA has already conceded his radiation exposure in his Navy years; he enrolled in the Ionizing Radiation Registry years before his death. What I need to figure out now is how to write up my appeal on their denial of DIC. I need to establish the probable lung cancer as "entitlement to service connection as the cause of the veteran's death". Can anyone advise me if there's a sample format to follow in word-smithing appeals? thanks. Jo
  14. Champva And Survivors

    thanks, PR. I'll pursue getting my husband's claim file ASAP. As for the rest of my appeal of DIC denial: - lung cancer (not a specific type) is a presumptive condition from military exposure to atmospheric ionizing radiation; - the VA conceded his participation in active duty atmospheric nuclear testing. - my husband's death certificate lists "probable lung cancer" under the heading "significant condition contributing to death"; - so I'm getting the pulmonologist (lung cancer specialist) who diagnosed my husband to write an evidence-based opinion that "probable lung cancer" was "more likely than not" lung cancer and why it couldn't be biopsied for 100% certainty. I'm also asking her to provide evidence-based medical research and her opinion supporting lung cancer contributing to death. I expect to receive that documentation from the MD in March when she returns from maternity leave. Once I have it in hand, do I just attach a cover letter, form 21-4138 (Statement in Support of Claim) to the medical records and send a copy of all to VA certified mail? thanks for the wisdom. Jo
  15. Champva And Survivors

    Can a surviving spouse request the deceased Vet's c file? Wondering if I can sign his name or my name then "surviving spouse". In reviewing VA form 3288 (request for release of information from individual's records) there's a section heading: INFORMATION REQUESTED (Number each item requested and give the dates or approximate dates - period from and to - covered by each.) Can I ask "entire claim file" and leave it at that? or better to request from date of service to present? There's also a section heading: PURPOSE(S) FOR WHICH THE INFORMATION IS TO BE USED. I presume I state "DIC appeal".....?