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About BigRedDog

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    E-3 Seaman

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  • Service Connected Disability
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  1. So ......... I logged in to eBenefits tonight, and the first thing I saw under open claims was "Decision Notification Sent," but also back to "Review of Evidence." Oh crap. So I click on the claim ..... and the expected completion range is now 19JAN2019 to 09MAR2019. Arrrggghhh. But I start thinking, hmmm, sounds like some sort of partial decision maybe. I went to look at my disabilities, and BOOM, there's the big 100% at the top of the screen. Looking further, I see that I'm at 100% for seizures now, with the date I filed the intent form, and one (but not all) of my 20+ year conditions is noted as (PROTECTED). BTW, I noticed several weeks ago that maybe half of my rated disabilities have the wrong effective date. Bottom of the screen still shows all the pending claim stuff, but I'm guessing this will all work itself out. I checked the benefits link and they have added the Education Assistance Program AND I'm rated for SMC (S-1). The letters page confirms everything as well. I won't truly believe it until I get the BBE and the money, but it looks good right now. Big thanks to everyone here who has shared helpful info in the past.
  2. It's definitely entertainment. You'll laugh .... you'll cry .... Just checked it again and it's at "Preparation for Notification," with a date range of 27DEC2018 to 16JAN2019. No other changes yet.
  3. I'm attempting to get my recent C&P exam records as well. The Release of Records office at my local VA facility told me yesterday that I would have to contact the Regional Counsel's office for records of any contractor C&P's performed this year. If it was prior to 2018, then maybe the local records office could do it. Apparently this was due to a change in policy this year. No number was listed for contacting the VARO Counsel, so I called the VARO operator a few times yesterday and left voicemails with a handful of people in the counsel's office. No call backs yet. The District Counsel's office numbers are listed on the main VA website, so I might give them a call in a day or two if I don't get a local response in the meantime. I've read conflicting stories about when the records should be available. Seems like some vets have been able to get them quickly, but perhaps more recently, vets are being told they have to wait until the claim is decided.
  4. From what I've read, the experience can vary widely. I had a C&P exam last month (Nov 13th) with a doctor from VES (Veterans Evaluation Services). He was a retired army doctor, and he seemed happy enough to be sent all over the world doing these exams. He started his career in Vietnam; we had a brief discussion about the injuries he had seen. I had the impression that he was more or less satisfied to input whatever I was saying straight into the DBQ or his notes. He had at least read enough to know that I was already service connected and at what percentages. I had filed for IU (already eligible) and an increase for seizures. Most of his questions (and my answers) revolved around those issues. FYI, any condition you state on a TDIU claim is treated as an increase by the VA. Besides seizures, I had also listed the old damage to my left arm. It was almost as an afterthought at the end that he realized he should actually physically check that out, instead of just taking my word for it. Nothing with my arm has changed in over 20 years. But after looking at it and using a tape measure to gauge the level of neuropathy, he freely stated that he did not think the VA had previously taken everything into consideration, and he would have that in his report. That was a pleasant surprise. I didn't ask him much about anything else, but when I did, I received a standard reply about him not really knowing what the VA was looking for in regards to seizures, IU, etc. The only other time that he volunteered to share any info, was a comment he made about understanding employers not hiring people with a history of seizures. Overall, I think it went well. My only concern is that I may not have properly conveyed the status of my seizure condition. Could make the difference between a 60, 80, or 100% rating. If I had studied the DBQ and VA rating literature, I probably could have answered his questions better. So my best advice is to study the DBQ's for your issues, as well as the rating criteria. Then cross your fingers.
  5. The records office at my local VA hospital said that for any contractor C&P exam done this year, I would have to contact the Regional Counsel's office at the VARO. I was told that this was a policy change put into effect this year. Prior to 2018, the local records office said that they could probably pull it up. There's no number listed, so I had to go through the VARO operator a few times, and left some messages with different folks associated with the counsel's office. If I don't get a call back within a couple of days, maybe I'll try the District Counsel's office; that number is available on the VA website. I'll report back when I make some headway. I've read that these reports may not be available until a claim has been decided, but I can't confirm that.
  6. Checked eBenefits tonight. Claim status is now "Pending Decision Approval." Doesn't mean it can't move back to "Gathering Evidence" with more hoops to jump through. Estimated completion date range moved up again, 01JAN2019 - 26JAN2019. I'm sure by this Friday, they will do something to crush my growing sense of optimism.
  7. If the exam was done by a contractor, and not by a the VA itself, then you won't be able to pull it up online. Your local VA facility should have a Release of Records office, or something similar, and I advise contacting them. I've heard of cases where you might be able to show up there and have them pull it up, but my experience has been with more extensive records, always requiring an FOIA request and a lengthy wait for the CD in the mail. I need to look at my own recent C&P exam. I'll let you know what my local office tells me.
  8. Just updating for future reference. As of today, eBenefits says my claim is back to Preparation for Decision. Estimated completion date range has been moved up to 12JAN2019 - 23FEB2019. That's a lot better than the last date range which extended from March to June 2019, which was given last time my claim moved from Prep for Decision back to Gathering Evidence (requested info on my self employment). My original date range was from mid December to late January. For anyone who hasn't dealt with the online claims process yet, this just goes to show you that these time frames are completely arbitrary and subject to wild swings. Try not to worry about it too much. However, I do recommend checking eBenefits on a regular basis when your claim is at this stage. It took at least 10 days to receive the letter from VA which asked for more info about my self employment. Since I was watching eBenefits, I saw the notation for the request right away, and I submitted the info online several days before I got the letter in the mail. I'll continue to check online, in case they want more info from me, or anyone else. On another note, primarily due to recent info posted by Asknod, after reading the pertinent parts of the M21 and those other internal process manuals, I have a better understanding of the workflow and decision making process that the claims people try to undertake. For example, they are always supposed to get more info from people who have been self employed, when those claimants are filing for IU. I wish that had been something that was done early in my claim, instead of the reviewer or rater sitting on it for two months, and then deciding that the VA needed it, after my C&P exam results were documented. Also per these manuals, one can see and understand the circumstances which will generate a request to Social Security or Voc Rehab for more info. In my case, they should also technically be taking a look at my old Voc Rehab docs, since my file should indicate my completion of a Voc Rehab program several years ago. This is probably why it's best to already have a letter from Voc Rehab stating that more training is not feasibly going to help. In my case, this should already be evident, just like it was evident from my statements that I'm not receiving SSDI. But there is no note in eBenefits for a Voc Rehab request, as there is for SSA. So I'm left to wonder .... is the reviewer sending this up to the rater in order to finalize a decision, only to have it sent back down again because no Voc Rehab info was requested? It seems like that's what happened when my claim was previously pending decision and then moved back down to gathering evidence; the reviewer had yet to request info from me about self employment. Anyway, I'm feeling fairly positive that this will finally move forward now. But there are several things for the rater to determine (IU, possible increase to 100% schedular, possible SMC S), and eBenefits certainly doesn't help much when it comes to figuring out what point they're at in deciding a claim. I'll keep updating, as eBenefits changes. I was planning on hitting the button to "Request a Claim Decision" today if there had been no updates, but I guess I'll go back to waiting again. I'm not sure if clicking that button would do much at this point anyway.
  9. I found your blog post over the weekend and spent some time looking at those ad hoc guides that the employees made, plus the M 21. Really learned quite a bit, thank you. For anyone wondering about the procedure that the paper pushers and raters try to follow, it's well worth the time to look.
  10. These are the two big contractors I'm aware of that do the C&P exams.

    https://www.vesservices.com/   2707  Loop W, Houston, TX  77008

    https://www.qtcm.com/924 Overland Ct, San Dimas, CA  91773

    1. Berta


      Thank you very much!

    2. BigRedDog


      No problem.  Figured that I should help out a bit after learning so much form your posts.

      LHI  https://www.logisticshealth.com/

      328 Front Street South
      La Crosse, WI 54601


      Phone: 866.284.8788
      Fax: 608.783.7532

  11. I'm also in the process of deciphering eBenefits. The request for the exam being closed simply means that the VA has successfully handed it off to the contractor. My own C&P was approximately a month ago, and it still says the same thing; VES got the results to VA a couple of weeks ago. Definitely show up for your exam. You may even want to call QTC and ask how many issues you're exactly being examined for, and what they are, so that you can be better prepared. Ebenefits will simply show "one" exam request, even if it's for multiple issues. I'd bet $2 that your doc or specialist referred your issue. I think there is a lot of variability here; some of them really take the "duty to assist" part of their jobs very seriously. On the other hand, I've been telling my doc at the VA about my worsening conditions for 2 or 3 years, and it hasn't gotten me anywhere.
  12. I'll keep updating this thread for future reference for anyone else trying to gauge how their claim is progressing in eBenefits, and what the different tea leaves may indicate. I still have some questions myself about the process. Yes I know I shouldn't drive myself crazy with this. I checked earlier today, and it indicated that the statement I uploaded last week was marked "Initial Review Complete." Took 'em a week, but it's nice to know someone looked at it. This evening I checked again, and it is showing a new request. Although it appears under the "Needed from You" tab, it appears that it is a notation for info from Social Security. The notation is "SSA Coordinator request," but it's also marked as No Longer Needed. Since I don't remember anyone else bringing this up before, I'll go ahead and mention how non-intuitive (stupid) it is that information requests aren't numbered sequentially in eBenefits. New requests are always at the top, as Request #1, etc. But in this case, the SSA Coordinator request came in at Request #4, the bottom of the "Needed from You" tab, knocking the employer request on the next tab down to #5. Anyway, my take on this was that there must have been a prior reach out to SSA at some point, but for whatever reason, it just didn't show up before. To make it more interesting, I went to look at the "new" version of claim status, which as some of you know, actually shows the dates that requests are made and closed. The SSA Coordinator request didn't show up there, although the previous requests were all renumbered. Anyway, it looks like things are happening. I'm optimistically inclined to believe that this means they don't need more evidence in order to make a decision, at least for IU, and I'll soon see this move back to a pending status. And then not back to gathering evidence, geez.
  13. Berta, thanks for responding. I have not taken the SSDI route yet. Probably going to start that journey next week. Like a lot of other vets, it's taken me awhile to come to grips with the fact that I'm actually pretty messed up now, and none of us ever wanted to be "that guy" on disability. I went through Voc Rehab for school after the Marines, but I haven't tried that route since I started having seizures. It's only from reading here over the past couple of weeks that I realized having a denial letter from Voc Rehab would help me out. I'll give them a shout and see what they have to say. I'm going to start a separate thread about how they screwed me twenty years ago. Just trying to see a VA neurologist has proven impossible so far (I'm learning now to get my requests documented, instead of making pointless phone calls). Lucky for me I had a great civilian neurologist when I still had insurance, and his work was enough to get me service connected with my new claim in 2014. The VES doc that did my recent C&P started his career as an army doctor in Vietnam, and now he gets sent all over the world doing C&P's. He didn't break any rules by telling me what he was typing up. But I quizzed him enough to make sure that he had read my file and he went out of his way to document some extra physical observations on my older injuries. We had a good conversation about brain trauma and all of the things he had seen in his career, and I didn't have to prompt him much before he started talking on his own about the difficulty of getting or keeping a job for someone with seizures. I plan to provide much more info to you and everyone else here in another post about my background situation. I've learned much here just from reading everyone's unique cases. I just posted this to start in the eBenefits forum because I'm getting impatient and I want to hit that link and get them to decide on my claim ASAP. As we all know, eBenefits isn't very self explanatory.
  14. What's the new claim in regards to? Did you recently attend another C&P exam? I had a C&P exam about three weeks ago, and the VES doctor must have indicated something, because I'm also showing a "new" claim, for something I'm already rated for. I'm guessing that the rater will get this all figured out. But if your C&P exam came out of nowhere, I'm guessing that they are reexamining your condition.
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