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First Class Petty Officer
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JustGettingStarted last won the day on September 14

JustGettingStarted had the most liked content!

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About JustGettingStarted

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    E-5 Petty Officer 2nd Class

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    USAF CMSgt, Retired
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  • Service Connected Disability
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  1. JustGettingStarted

    Won my CUE Claim for Skin Condition

    I just got a phone call from my VSO who said my RAMP decision letter will be mailed out today. I won an earlier effective date (CUE claim) for my skin condition! I was denied on the PN earlier effective date which I knew was a long shot. My skin condition was rated at 0 in May 2009 and I had an overall rating of 60. In Jun 2017, I was finally increased to 60 for my skin condition. If I had been rated correctly for my skin condition in 2009, my overall rating would have been 80. So the back pay will be the difference between 60 and 80 percent from May 2009 to June 2017 -- not bad. I can't wipe the silly grin off my face. You can see my other posts in the CUE Forum.
  2. JustGettingStarted

    CUE for Eczema-like condition going to RAMP

    My VSO didn't get back to me today, and I know he is off tomorrow, so being the impatient person I am, I just called VA myself. The person I talked to was very helpful. He said I did not need to file RAMP again; they would use the opt-in I already submitted. Also, my claim will skip the DRO and Statement of Case, and be sent straight to RAMP,--do not pass Go, do not collect 800+ days of waiting. He put a note in the system to make sure everything is laid out clearly for the RO. Hopefully, someone at the RO can read and my claim will soon be off to RAMP bliss. I went for Higher Review (no new evidence), but if I get denied any part of my claim, I can add new evidence and all the lovely info provided by Berta, and switch to the Supplemental Lane. I believe my claim for an earlier effective date for my skin CUE is as solid as they come. If the peripheral neuropathy gives me any trouble, I've got that neurologist from Wilford Hall in my back pocket. Will keep you posted. Fingers crossed that within 125 days I will be posting in the "I won my CUE" thread. JustGettingStarted
  3. JustGettingStarted

    CUE for Eczema-like condition going to RAMP

    My appeal showed up in Vets.gov yesterday. The status is 13 to 30 months for DRO Review. However, when I filed NOD, I checked Traditional BVA on my NOD per my VSO's instructions (there is no block for RAMP right now) and attached the RAMP opt-in per instructions on the VA video. I hope it doesn't sit in someone's box actually waiting for DRO Review. I called my wonderful VSO this morning to ask if I need to resubmit RAMP since I got that denial letter earlier this week. He has to check on that. I am keeping records of all your advice because I hope to use it in my Form 9 when I finally get a Statement of Case. Maybe the DRO will realize their errors when they try to write the SOC - miracles happen every day, right? On the PN, from Asknod's recent post, I learned I don't need CUE to get an earlier effective date. I can reopen and that still leaves the CUE card open for later if I need it. Asknod said if you complained of something when you got out, and it didn't get service connected, then it was service connected later, and you have evidence they didn't use the first time, you can reopen the original date. I think that fits my PN really well and I believe the records I have are highly "relevant". Just in case there are more doctor's notes I don't have, I called Wilford Hall yesterday and faxed a records request. The STR I have says something like the MRI I had certainly supports my clinical symptoms of radiating pain and numbness. In my case, I complained of radiating pain and numbness from my cervical stenosis when I got out and it is in my 2009 VA exam. PN was denied service connection because of no diagnosis. In 2016, I was diagnosed with bilateral PN at a C&P exam and given 20% each side. When researching to request an earlier effective date, I found no records from my evaluation by a top AF neurologist in my C-File although I had a copy in my STRs, and the neurologist was listed twice as a treating neurologist in my C-File (info I provided when I was retiring). Per the Asknod blog, this is better than CUE because it doesn't dead-end like CUE.
  4. JustGettingStarted

    CUE for Eczema-like condition going to RAMP

  5. JustGettingStarted

    CUE for Eczema-like condition going to RAMP

  6. JustGettingStarted

    CUE for Eczema-like condition going to RAMP

    This is a case that is similar to mine that was lost at BVA and went to CAVC. The CAVC sided with the veteran that his oral antifungal drug is a systemic medication, and then they remanded it. The court uses Mauerhan v. Principi to say any medication that affects the entire body is systemic. It is based on the 2002 change to the skin law. The meat of the decision is this: "Because "systemic therapy," which is the type of therapy that creates compensability, is connected to the phrase "corticosteroids or other immunosuppressive drugs" by "such as," those drug types do not constitute an exhaustive list of all compensable systemic therapies, but rather serve as examples of the kind and degrees of treatments used to justify a particular disability rating. Mauerhan, 16 Vet.App. at 442. Consequently, the types of systemic treatment that are compensable under Diagnostic Code 7806 are not limited to "corticosteroids or other immunosuppressive drugs." Compensation is available for all systemic therapies that are like or similar to corticosteroids or other immunosuppressive drugs." http://www.veteranslawlibrary.com/files/CAVC_cases/2016/Warren_13-3161.pdf
  7. JustGettingStarted

    CUE for Eczema-like condition going to RAMP

    Are you talking about the RAMP letter that says I can't do RAMP right now? That letter was all wrong because St Pete hasn't even processed my appeal yet. From I'm learning, it could take them a year or longer to do the Statement of Case. So I have no BVA decision letter. There wasn't much at all to the last denial from St Pete for my skin condition because they completely ignored my request for an earlier effective date. It is like it never happened. They treated it like I was requesting an increase for a condition that is already at the max rating. I am attaching a copy of the last real denial which used false reasoning to deny me. They based the denial on an update to MR21-1 that occured in 2015 (The VA said 2016, but they got the date wrong, of course). The skin law is Title 38 and it has not changed since 2002. The update to MR21-1 was because this was a common error many evaluators where making. You can search BVA decisions, and find decision after decision in favor of the veterans because the VAROs did not apply a broad enough definition of "systemic" medications. If you check the BVA decisions, you can see where other drugs, such as anti-inflammatories, antivirals, antifungals, etc... were not being counted as systemic drugs. In the vast majority of these cases, the veterans won their claims on appeal. I have never seen MR21-1 used against a veteran in the BVA decisions. Here is where the change to MR21-1 is that they used to deny my claim: https://view.officeapps.live.com/op/view.aspx?src=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.benefits.va.gov%2FWARMS%2Fdocs%2Fadmin21%2Fm21_1%2Fmr%2Fpart3%2Fsubptiv%2Fch04%2F10-5-15_Key%20Changes%20M21-1III_iv_4_SecJ.docx Scan0025.pdf
  8. JustGettingStarted

    CUE for Eczema-like condition going to RAMP

    I answered the questions above in brackets. Sorry for the confusion, I kept writing Jan 2017 when I should have written Jan 2018. Here is a synopsis of the denials: 6/6/2017: Evaluation of [skin condition] is continued as 0 percent disabling. We reviewed the evidence received and determined your service-connected condition hasn't increased in severity sufficiently to warrant a higher evaluation. [This is when the examiner left my medications off the exam, although I provided them to him. Also, the rater did not weigh all the evidence that had been submitted. I had lots of medical and pharmacy records to support the constant use of systemic therapy in my file]. 10/01/2017: We received you reconsideration of the evaluation for your service-connected [skin condition]. We scheduled you for a VA examination and a medical opinion regarding your current continuous treatment. However, we received notification that you were unavailable for your scheduled VA examination on September 8, 2017. The results from this scheduled exam may have allowed us to grant an increase in your service-connected disability compensation. If in the future you provide us with your good cause reason for missing your scheduled VA examination and you indicate a willingness to report for another VA examination we will reconsider your claim. We have continued our non-compensable evaluation for [skin condition]. [The exam was never scheduled and VA admitted that later. I got my own dermatologist to do a DBQ at this point and reopened the claim.] 1/05/2018: The evaluation of [skin condition] is increased to 60 percent disabling effective May 5, 2017. Service connection has been established from the day VA received your claim. When a claim of service connection is received more than on year after discharge from active duty, the effective date is the date VA received the claim. We have assigned a 60 percent evaluation for your [skin condition] based on: Constant systemic therapy required during the past 12-month period. This is the highest schedular evaluation allowed under the law for dermatitis or eczema. [They ignored my request for an earlier effective date when I filed for the increase, but at least I finally got the increase.] 1/23/2018: Whether the effective date assigned for [skin condition] was clearly and unmistakably erroneous and evaluation of [skin condition], currently 60 percent disabling. Rating decision dated August 11, 2009, granted service connection for [skin condition] at 0 percent disabling effective May 1, 2009, day after discharge. The rating decision correctly assigned a 0 percent evaluation based on [skin condition] involving less than 5 percent of the entire body or less than 5 percent of exposed areas affected. The 2009 rating decision noted that you continue to take [medication] on a daily basis to reduce flares of the condition. At the time of the August 2009 rating, [medication] was not considered systemic therapy as it is an anti-[redacted] drug but not an immunosuppressive drug, therefore a higher evaluation was not warranted. We received your claim for increase evaluation for [skin condition] on May 5, 2017. Rating decision dated January 5, 2018 granted a increase evaluation to 60 percent disabling effective the date we received your claim for increase based on policy changes that took effect in 2016 that states the term "systemic therapy such as corticosteroids or other immunosuppressive drugs" medication(s) prescribed by a medical professional to treat the underlying skin disorder. Therefore, no clear and unmistakable error is shown. [They quoted MR21-1 and not Title 38 to determine CUE here. I objected because CUE cannot be based on policy; it has to be based on law. The skin law in Title 38 has been exactly the same in 2002 and that is what my request is based on.] 5/17/2018: The evaluation of [skin condition] is continued as 60 percent disabling. We have assigned a 60 percent evaluation for your [skin condition] based on: Constant systemic therapy required during the past 12-month period. This is the highest schedular evaluation allowed under the law for dermatitis or eczema. [In this decision, my request for an earlier effective date was completely ignored.]
  9. JustGettingStarted

    CUE for Eczema-like condition going to RAMP

    There is no appeal yet so there is no decision. That is one of the things that is so wrong with the letter. I faxed the NOD in on 22 May 2018. According to Vets.gov, I should check after 3 months if it doesn't show up on their site. Then St Pete will have to do a Statement of Case before they file the appeal with the BVA. I think Vets.gov is saying it can take 12 to 18 months before the appeal is ready to go to BVA/RAMP.
  10. JustGettingStarted

    CUE for Eczema-like condition going to RAMP

    My RAMP application is not off to a good start. I followed the instructions on this VBA video where it says technically you can't file NOD and RAMP at the same time, but you really can do it by filing the two together (Start at 7:00 to cut to that part). Today, I got a letter from the Appeals Management Office at Washington DC that says I can't file RAMP because I no longer have an open appeal. It even says there was a recent decision on my appeal and I should refer to that. This is so wrong since St Pete hasn't even logged in my appeal yet and I've never had one. This is just so discouraging that one hand doesn't seem to know what the other is doing. I've attached the opening of the letter I received. I guess I will have to wait for St Pete to process my appeal before I can begin the RAMP process. I was hoping to get a jump on this, but with my luck, RAMP will be as back-logged as the traditional BVA appeal system by the time St Pete gets to my claim. I am beginning to wonder if I should withdraw my NOD and go back to the reconsideration hamster wheel. At least that is a wheel I know.
  11. I saw on this site where a BVA CUE claim has to be in the form of a motion? Is that still true and why? If using RAMP, does a CUE claim have to be in the form of a motion? JustGettingStarted
  12. JustGettingStarted

    CUE for Eczema-like condition going to RAMP

    BERTA, I am sure because I have submitted them more than once and more importantly, they are in my C-FILE. Tricare has a Blue Button much like myHealthevet. I was able to pull up my pharmacy records from 2004. Also, my C-FILE had all my military treatment records with my initial diagnosis, the appointment where I was put on medication constantly for suppression, and subsequent records showing I had a pharmacy waiver to be on the meds constantly. It is also in my 2009 C&P exam about 4 times. I even have two decision letters that state I was diagnosed and put on the medication constantly while in service. The first was from 2009 when I was service connected at 0 because I was rated on area of coverage instead of systemic meds. The second decision letter was in Jan 2017 when they said I was taking the meds constantly in 2009; however, my med was not considered a systemic medication in 2009. It went on to say there was a policy change in 2016 that reclassified it as systemic. That was a serious error since the skin law did not change since 2002 and we all know the VA cannot base CUE on policy. I have seen plenty of BVA cases prior to 2009 where my med was classified as systemic and a recent US Veteran case on toenail fungus also supports that. I think that case was for a 2004 claim. It said the 2002 Title 38 was written so any medication taken orally or by injection for a skin disease was considered systemic. Topical meds don't count. If the veteran had to use it over a large enough area to be absorbed and be systemic, then they could still be rated by area of coverage. BUCK52 - I did not need to inquire about the DRO wait time. I know lots of Florida vets through Facebook that have been through that wait and also discussed with my VSO.
  13. JustGettingStarted

    CUE for Eczema-like condition going to RAMP

    Excuse my French, but H - E - double hockey sticks, No! That kind of hearing takes over 800 days in Florida. The reason I reopened my claim over and over again was to avoid that long wait. As it was, with reopening the claim over and over, I did get my skin rating increased from 0 to 60% which put me at 100% P&T. So now I am enjoying the benefits of P&T such as no property taxes, life insurance, etc... If I had given up and done DRO Review, I would still be waiting for that 100%. This is why I skipped DRO Review and went straight to RAMP. I knew VARO was getting ready to decide on my claim again so I was following everything on RAMP so I could make an intelligent decision. I also discussed it with my VSO. RAMP was averaging decisions in 60 days before they opened it up to everyone. They also have a higher approval rating than BVA. My VSO knows two other VSOs that got their claims approved by RAMP in only 30 days. JustGettingStarted
  14. JustGettingStarted

    CUE for Eczema-like condition going to RAMP

    Broncovet - Did you read my previous post mentioned above? I have reopened this claim 7 or 8 times. The first time I claimed it, my C&P examiners left my medications, essential for 60% rating, off the exam although I listed them 4 times. I complained about the exam and the VA reopened again. This time they denied my claim saying I did not go to an exam that was never examined (and I have that in writing). Reopened again and I was scheduled for a new skin exam - when I arrived I found that someone at VA had opened a claim for increase on my left hand and that was all the examiner could look at. I was denied again. I opened it again and was denied because the VA said I used topical medication which was not systemic whereas nowhere in my records does it mention topical medication. Then I had my dermatologist do a DBQ and I was finally awarded 60% for my skin condition, but my request for a back date was not addressed. I reopened the claim again for the back date and it was denied because VA said Title 38 did not consider my medication to be systemic in 2009 but it was systemic in 2017 due to a policy change. I reopened the claim again pointing out that the skin law in Title 38 for my claim had not changed since 2002 and they could not decide CUE based on policy change; it had to be based on law. My claim was reopened again, and the VA treated it as an increase instead of a request for an earlier effective date, sending me to yet another exam. This was made even more ridiculous since I already have the maximum rating for the condition. I have cited the regulation every time I did this. I also cited two cases decided at the US court of veteran appeals that supported my claim (see my other post mentioned above.). Every time, the VA ignored my request for an earlier effective date and treated my claim as an increase, or ignored my medications, or gave me the wrong exam, or listed the wrong medication, or did not follow the law. Believe me, I have read every decision carefully, along with my VSO. We are both shaking our heads over how ignorant the examiners are, or they think I must be. My VSO said he has learned more about CUE from me than he learned in a 2-week class he had to sit through. I have read a dozen cases where veterans with the same skin condition on the same medicine have won their cases at the BVA level. That is why the policy in MR21-1 was changed in 2015 - too many VAROs were making errors in interpretation of the law, which is the foundation of CUE. I agree with Berta - the raters at the regional office cannot read. JustGettingStarted
  15. JustGettingStarted

    CUE for Eczema-like condition going to RAMP

    Thanks! I am printing out 38 CFR 4.6 - Evaluation of evidence to have in front of me when I talk to the RAMP decision maker. That's a keeper. § 4.6 Evaluation of evidence. The element of the weight to be accorded the character of the veteran’s service is but one factor entering into the considerations of the rating boards in arriving at determinations of the evaluation of disability. Every element in any way affecting the probative value to be assigned to the evidence in each individual claim must be thoroughly and conscientiously studied by each member of the rating board in the light of the established policies of the Department of Veterans Affairs to the end that decisions will be equitable and just as contemplated by the requirements of the law.

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