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Aggravation Of Congenital Tarsal Coalition

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I just started researching my eligibility for VA compensation. I am looking for some information and advice on how to proceed.

Here's the story....

I am in the Air Guard and was sent to SERE training. SERE training is a very rigorous and physical training course with a lot of abuse placed on the body. At the time of the training, I didn't incur a traumatic injury, but had issues after returning from training. My opinion is that due to level of activity at the training, I aggravated what is known as a tarsal coalition (bony bridge between the tarsal or large bones of the ankle). The tarsal coalition is a congenital condition that generally surfaces during adolescence, or teenage years. It has been know to show up in young adulthood (early 20's) but usually presents itself sooner. Before this training, I had a slight limp on the first step while standing after a long run. I ran cross country in HS and would only limp after the first step of the couch after a race. No other time did I have issues.

So, a week or so after returning home from SERE training I was painting our living/dining room. Up and down the ladder all day long. By the end of the day, my ankle was in severe pain. After sitting down I tried to get up and nearly fell over. Walking resulted in severe limp. After a night's rest, my ankle would be good enough to use the next day.

With exercise, mostly running, my ankle would do the same thing. I would be nearly unable to walk by the end of the day. Any moderate activity past walking would leave me handicapped by the end of the day.

Since I'm in the Air Guard and was no longer on orders, I went to my civilian doctor. He took x-rays, didn't see anything and sent me to physical therapy. I stuck with therapy for several months without any improvement, so I stopped going. I had stopped or limited all activities that would aggravate my ankle, i.e. running, racquetball, hiking, hunting, etc, but was still having pain. I am still in the military and had to prepare for my upcoming PT test. I could run with pain, but again would have severe pain at the end of the day.

Eight months past after quitting physical therapy and I go to a second doctor to get another opinion. This doctor too some time to listen to me and referred me on to a specialist. My wife works in the medical field and told me that I would have to insist on a MRI. Once I say the specialist he wanted to to therapy again and I said, no because it didn't work the first time. I insisted on the MRI and that is when they found the tarsal coalition. Fixing it required surgery. They had to break the bone, remove the hardened part that should have been cartilage, remove the rest of the cartilage that had arthritis(the cause of my pain) and then put two 3" screws through my ankle to hold it all together.

So, at this point, I've got the two screws and limited mobility up and down, and zero mobility left and right. The surgery greatly helped the pain aspect and I can run with only moderate (bearable pain) during exercise and the following day. My ankle occasionally locks up after extended strenuous activity (long runs, hiking in rugged terrain, long days hunting). Balance on the ankle is difficult since I have no left or right movement due to the screws. Running on uneven terrain is treacherous(don't do it for fear of rolling my ankle) along with the hiking and hunting in rugged terrain I have to be particularly careful.

Up until this point, I haven't pursued anything because since I'm still in the Guard, I didn't think I was eligible until I left the service, but after researching a little, it looks like I may have been mistaken.

So the questions are:

Since the condition was congenital, how do I prove that it was aggravated by the service? Unfortunately, I did not get documentation prior to leaving the training (since I'm in the Guard I was released from orders).

Can I claim for disability back to the date it occurred or only from the date that I file?

How do I apply for these benefits and who can assist?

What documents should I present and what should I present as my case for aggravation?

Any other pointers or assistance would be greatly appreciated.

I appreciate the help.

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First, whats a "C" file? I'm just starting this process and this is the first night that I have really done any research.

I spoke with my Med Group personnel and they said that I need to have copies of everything in my MILITARY medical file. I complied and all the doctor's reports, surgery reports, and physical therapy reports have been added to my MILITARY medical file.

Thanks for the help.

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