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Not Sure Where I Belong



Hello all I am new here.

I am not sure where I belong so I will post some of my story here and hope for some advice.

I was recently (November 2012) diagnosed with a brain tumor/ Falx Cerebri meningioma. The meningioma was found by an Indian Health Service doctor who was treating me for migraines. I was being referred out to a neurologist by my Tribe because of financial matters I asked my local VA clinic if I was eligible for the VA Neuro and was then referred to the VA Neurosurgeon in Portland, Oregon. I just got back from a consultation which was on 01/02/13 found out I also have Chiari Malformation. The VA Neurosurgeon has scheduled me for surgery on 02/07/13. I have all the symptoms that go hand in hand with these two diagnoses. Headaches, tinnitus, tingling, double vision, memory loss, confusion, etc. The list goes on and on.

Here is the catch. I only served two years active duty 1992-1994 at a time when they were doing apprecticeships and then I did a so called inactive reserve until 2000. I was just a kid when I went in. I was only 17 when I enlisted and 19 when I got out. I am now 38 years old. I never really involved myself with the VA because for the longest time I thought because I only did 2 years I was not really a veteran until one day I was at the employment office and the VA rep asked me why I was not doing the veterans programs and then signed me up for servies.

So back to my service days... During my two years I also had a child while I was in the Navy. I was stationed aboard a sub tender during the first 5 months of my pregnancy which this paticular vessel was homeported in Italy. Due to my pregnancy I was sent stateside by my sixth month and finished out my two year stint on shore duty. My son was born in a Naval hospital and was born with a birth defect called a hypospadius the Navy doctors were real careful to tell me it was ok and this was just a cosmestic defect and could be repaired when my baby was older. This was later fixed by civilian doctors at the expense of Indian Health Service and private insurance when my son was 3 years old.

I have lived a fairly normal life and been healthy besides migraines, tinnitus and and some female problems which I never associated with my service.

Now I am overwhelmed with these diagnoses and am being told I should file for pension.

I am not sure how or where or what kind I would even be eligible for.

Now looking back I realize the ship I was on is one of the ships that had asbestos, lead paint, and what else? During my ship duty I was a deck seaman and with that job we all know we are exposed to the paints and primers and what ever else all day long. On top of that I was prgenant. I do not think in this day and age anyone would be put in that situation while pregnant. Now looking back I also remember an incident when I painted and had an accident with a sander and cut my hand open and still this day have a huge scar 20 years later. I went to sick bay and even got wrote up for not wearing gloves while sanding. My question is if I was sanding while pregnant whatever I was sanding obviously got directly into my blood stream. Could any of that have an effect on my diagnosis now or with what happend to my son?

I have done a quick google search on hypospadius and realize my sons defect is also directly related to maternal occupational exposure to chemicals like lead paint and asbestos. I am still in awe and shock of all of this and also preparing for surgery.

What steps should I take? And is any of this service connected or not? I was not even thinking of any of this but I had a friend ask me because their dad recently found out his ship had asbestos.

I never in all these years thought anything bad healthwise about those two years in the Navy or what happend to my son until now but this has me thinking what if?

I am a little scared for my upcoming brain surgery and this was my first visit to the VA hospital but so far they treated me good and the Neurosurgeon is really good and just wants to help veterans.

Made me feel good about myself and my little two years in biggrin.png

Edited by jaglo (see edit history)
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I'm sure one of the members who have been here a while can help.

Either way I wish you good luck!

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Here is the deal.

You have "TWO" issues, compensation and pension. You can apply for both at the same time, but you will only actually receive the greater of the two. If your rating winds up being, say, 30%, then pension is much more. However, if your rating winds up above 80%, then compensation will be more. The VA will automatically pay you the greater of compensation or pension.

1. To get compensation, you will need a "nexus". This means a doctor will have to opine that your medical conditions are at least as likely as not related to military service. I have no idea if a doc will do that or not, you can simply ask your doc if he thinks your conditions are related to chemical exposure in military service.

2. Pension does not require a nexus or service connection. It does require service during war time AND financial need. Pension will pay you "about" $1000 per month, plus or minus dependents AS A TOTAL INCOME. So, if you are working and earning $600 per month, and eligible for VA pension then you would get another $400 per month as pension to total $1000 monthly.

Bottom line: Apply for both, be honest with the VA, and let them sort out which, if any, you are eligible for. If you dont agree with what they say in the initial decision, you can appeal.

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Welcome aboard! And thank you for that very articulate description of your disabilities and your service.

I am so glad your son's situation was resolved.And very glad that the Indian Health Service has been helpful to you.

“I have done a quick google search on hypospadius and realize my sons defect is also directly related to maternal occupational exposure to chemicals like lead paint and asbestos. “

That is awful. The military is a dangerous place with often long term consequences,even to our children. Such as spinal bifida in children of Vietnam vets.

This link is the latest VA release on their relationship with the IHS


I was very happy when VA years ago recognized what tribal ceremony impacts had on treating SC PTSD

regarding AmerIndian veterans. Sometimes we forget how a person's entire background and description of the world from birth can impact on combat PTSD .

This is just one of VA's many attempts to recognize and treat PTSD in conjunction with tribal factors:


This link on asbestos might help you and we have more info on asbestos related disease here.

The VA has SCed some Chiari malformation claims.

And I would think there is a strong association of asbestos to brain trauma....BUT

This case shows how this vet was Service connected for Brain tumor due to exposure to paint:


In part:

“Concerning in-service injury, however, the veteran has 
reported that he used materials such as paint and cleaning 
solvents during the course of his duties as a machinist's 
mate aboard the USS Lawrence.  The veteran's service aboard 
the USS Lawrence as a marine mechanic is confirmed by his 
service personnel records.  The Board believes that such 
evidence, along with the veteran's credible hearing testimony 
regarding his duties in service, is sufficient to establish 
that he was exposed to materials such as paint and cleaning 
solvents.  Element (2) is therefore satisfied to that extent.”

 “In this regard, with respect to 
element (3), the record contains conflicting medical opinions 
regarding the etiology of the veteran's post-service brain 
tumors, including whether such tumors are causally related to 
the veteran's active service and exposure to chemicals 



Entitlement to service connection for residuals of brain 
tumors is granted.

Entitlement to service connection for right lower extremity 
neuropathic pain, secondary to brain tumors, is granted.

“I am a little scared for my upcoming brain surgery and this was my first visit to the VA hospital but so far they treated me good and the Neurosurgeon is really good and just wants to help veterans. “

One of my husbands (I had a few)had a brain tumor but of a different situation than yours was.

This was long ago and brain surgery is fabulous these days.

I realized long after he died that the surgeon had said it was congenital but probably affected by his 2 periods of military service.I was denied DIC because I didnt know anything then about VA benefits but VA awarded me a war time widow's pension, yet said I made too much money to get it.

You should be seeking service connection compensation and not a pension. In my opinion.

Does the VA you deal with have a VSO or have you contacted any state division of vets affairs or DAV,AL, VFW, etc for representation on your claim?

They have the initial paperwork you need … form 21-526 etc........this will however cover both SC comp and the pension, but they will only award one .

One of the above links has the PIES list that you need.

This will take time and leg work on your part.

I am sure many here will chime in.with help, not sure where you belong?

You just came to the best place in town !

A moderator will probably move all this to the Claims Research forum where others will read it.

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Berta's answer was MUCH better than mine (As usual) A decade ago, I applied for disability compensation. Two years later, my doctor recommended I apply for "pension", in part, because I was broke and about to lose my home.

I did as he suggested, and got pension within a few months, but it was not soon enough to avert my foreclosure.

I still dont know why my VSO did not recommend seeking pension ten years ago. I had no idea on the difference between pension and compensation.

Even tho the regs state, to the effect, a claim for compensation is a claim for pension, the VA has a habit of sawing your claim up into little pieces when it benefits THEM, so they "didnt know" I would want pension. I just applied for benefits, and figured the VA would sort out what I was eligible for. WRONG. If you dont specifically apply for pension they will assume you would prefer to lose your home..that you "dont want" pension.

In other words, its just too bad if you dont understand your way around the VA system, or that your VSO does. Contrary to the regulations, the VA automatically assumes you are seeking the minimum benefit possible.

My suggestion:

Apply for both pension and compensation. If you get pension, then it wont "hurt" your compensation chances. In other words you can apply for both service connected and non service connected compensation at the same time. I did not know that, and between that, and the VA not following the regulations, it cost me my home. I was an idiot. I did not know I had to have a Phd in VA benefits to secure benefits from VA. I was in for a rude awakening.

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Broncovet....we all were in for a Rude awakening........

I cant believe how dumb was when I first went to the VA in 1981.

I never even questioned the first 21-534 a service officer filled out for me. I never even asked for a copy.He filled out the whole thing real fast and told me to sign it.

He acted like I had no right to even file a claim.

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Wow. Thanks for the responses. I am slowly learning what I need to know. I never thought it would be such an endruring process. It is sad to know some of us assume someone else will know what we need and file the paperwork for us. haha. So glad to have found you guys. Thanks for giving me some insight and understanding . smile.png

Edited by jaglo (see edit history)
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Can a mod move my thread to the claims research section? I am needing some help with my claim but I think it would be better over there.

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