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  • Can a 100 percent Disabled Veteran Work and Earn an Income?

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    You’ve just been rated 100% disabled by the Veterans Affairs. After the excitement of finally having the rating you deserve wears off, you start asking questions. One of the first questions that you might ask is this: It’s a legitimate question – rare is the Veteran that finds themselves sitting on the couch eating bon-bons … Continue reading

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100% SC P&T Mental going to college


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Please pardon the length of my post, but I am looking for feedback.  I haven’t been on the board for awhile, and already miss the critique that Carlie and Stretch would have offered.

I am 100% service-connected Permanent and Total for Bipolar Disorder.  I was awarded 100% in October 2009, backdated to September 2007.  Initially, I was in the VA system from 1994 to mid-1997, before they finally successfully diagnosed me as having a Bipolar Disorder.  I responded to medication treatment well for seven years (during which time I used the Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment (VR&E) program to obtain two computer-related degrees, until the medication stopped working overnight.  My Bipolar Disorder came back worse than ever, and nothing tried by VA and private psychiatrists worked in the least bit.  Finally after 2007, in which I missed half the year being hospitalized time and again, I listened to my psychiatrists telling me I was disabled and resigned.  After 8 years of failed attempts at controlling my Bipolar Disorder, the VA has finally given me the Veterans Choice program allowing me to see a psychiatrists and psychologists specializing in Bipolar Disorder.

I have a rare form of Bipolar Disorder, which is why it took the VA so long to diagnose what was wrong with me.  I am hyper-manic, as a result, I have longer days than most people do, and look for things to fill up my time.  I do not suffer from depressive episodes like many others having Bipolar Disorder do.  The lack of depression, in itself, is a danger sign, and the VA has given me months of therapy to cope with depression if it should hit me.  There is a school of thought that people with my form of Bipolar Disorder cannot handle depression, and just spiral downwards until they commit suicide.  But I digress, sorry about that.

I was recently talking to another veteran about MIT offering their entire course curriculum online for free.  You don’t get any credit, but you can study the subjects and I was playing around with that.  He informed me that the VA is required by law to retrain me into a different profession, since I cannot work at my previous one; due to not being able to work a regular full-time job in the field I was previously trained in through VR&E.  So I researched it and found:

According to 38 USC Chapter 31 §3103. Periods of eligibility:  (c) In any case in which the Secretary determines that a veteran is in need of services to overcome a serious employment handicap, such veteran may be afforded a vocational rehabilitation program after the expiration of the period of eligibility otherwise applicable to such veteran if the Secretary also determines, on the basis of such veteran's current employment handicap and need for such services, that an extension of the applicable period of eligibility is necessary for such veteran and—(2) that such veteran had previously been rehabilitated to the point of employability but (A) the need for such services had arisen out of a worsening of such veteran's service-connected disability that precludes such veteran from performing the duties of the occupation for which such veteran was previously trained in a vocational rehabilitation program under this chapter, or (B) the occupation for which such veteran had been so trained is not suitable in view of such veteran's current employment handicap and capabilities.

So, indeed I qualify, but there is a caveat.  I must have a feasible Rehabilitation Plan to present to the Vocation Rehabilitation counselor consisting of education needed, and employment plans.  The only option that would fit me is self-employment.  So I looked at self-employment careers, and found photography.  I researched further, and found that VR&E had even given someone $30,000 to start their own photography studio after they were trained.  I know I cannot be relied upon to work at the studio full-time, but I am not alone.  I have a wife who wants to use her Dependents Educational Assistance to obtain a degree in photography too.  The difference being is that mine would be a Masters of Fine Arts in Photography, while hers would be a Bachelors of Fine Arts in Photography.  While I would be the one to setup everything to run the studio on my own time, she would actually be the manager with a receptionist.  We would even hire local freelance photographers to shoot events, if need be.

So basically, I would utilize project management skills to develop a business plan for the studio, and perform everything necessary for the start-up.  Having a Masters degree would give me the necessary knowledge to oversee the entire operation, but not have to be there 8 to 5; which I know I cannot do.  My wife will be the studio manager.

I have researched 100% service connected Permanent and Total for Mental Disorders and going to college.  Most of what I have read is “why would you risk the Golden Apple?”.  First:  I cannot be absolutely sure I will achieve the Masters degree, although I am quite confident; because having a Bipolar Disorder has no impact on your Intelligence Quotient.  Second:  Each and every one of us is unique, and not one size fits all.  While some may consider 100% SC P&T the Golden Apple, I feel a need to do something other than exist and age.  Third:  I doubt that I will the studio will make enough after expenses for the initial couple of years for me to make more than Substantial Gainful Activity.  If the studio starts to succeed and grow, then I can put myself on the payroll.  Fourth:  With a Masters degree, I will be qualified to teach other photographers the finer arts of photography.  Fifth:  I can undertake subjects for photojournalism and submit my work in competitions.  Sixth:  I believe in helping others.  I live in a small rural town, and there are under-privileged Seniors who cannot afford to have Senior Pictures taken.  I would love to help them.  Seven:  There is a World of opportunities to be explored that I haven’t even thought of.

I have not read anywhere that someone with a 100% SC P&T Mental cannot go to college.  I know “a 100 percent evaluation is warranted where there is total occupational and social impairment, due to such symptoms as: gross impairment in thought processes or communication; persistent delusions or hallucinations; grossly inappropriate behavior; persistent danger of hurting self or others; intermittent inability to perform activities of daily living (including maintenance of minimal personal hygiene); disorientation to time or place; and memory loss for names of close relatives, own occupation, or own name.”.

I know I cannot attend a traditional college with scheduled courses, but I have found an online University that is regionally accredited where I can take the classes at my own pace.  My social interactions would be online and not in person.  I can study at-home, even when I have locked myself away from the World.  There will be deadlines to meet, but I worry more about getting the work done too early, rather than late.  Going to college is different than having an occupational job, although obtaining an occupational job is the goal of attending college.

I need to mention that my wife is my rock I cling to.  She tells me to go lay down, when I’m getting manic.  It is absolute torture to lay down and rest your body, when your mind is racing with all the things you could be doing, and the minutes go by ever so slowly.  She goes to all my appointments with me, and tattles about everything!

The floor is open for comments, and thank you in advance.

 

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I think when we get a certain age & living with a SC.Disability for years & years...at some point in our life we need to stop worrying so much about the damn VA and get on with our life and st

I have been in serious discussion with a mother of a professional photographer, and found out that there is a reason for all the closings of photography studios around the Country.  The field is fairl

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2 hours ago, Bonzai said:

Please pardon the length of my post, but I am looking for feedback.  I haven’t been on the board for awhile, and already miss the critique that Carlie and Stretch would have offered.

Welcome back and I'm sure "Carlie and Stretch would do the same...

In your "spare time", you could study Title 38, VA Rating Manuals and other material pertaining to veterans.

 I'm sure you would be a great asset to the Hadit Family/forum/board by reading/studying/contributing "opinions".   Good Luck!!

 

 

!

 

The floor is open for comments, and thank you in advance.

 

 

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Tomas89031,

Thank you for your suggestion.  I was quite an active member on HadIt years ago, but I had to choose between here and devoting more time to a different board dealing with problems people encounter with the Social Security Disability Process that was in more need of my services.  I chose the latter, and established a section for veterans.  I am not the board's owner, but I am the main Administrator of the site now.  I have been able to recruit a team consisting of a co-administrator (to cover for me, when I am not available) and four Moderators.  The board now runs smoothly and I only step in to be the heavy, and issue warnings to or banning members who violate the Terms Of Service they agreed to prior to joining that board.

Now that that board runs smoothly, does not mean that I am leaving it.  I will still do that too, but I am not 'needed' as much as when it was just me and the owner running it.  So I was looking for other things to occupy my time.  Full-time employment for me is not an option as I have been inpatient and wide awake for 12 1/2 days.  On day 8, the Chief Psychiatrist had a meeting with me, and told me that I was on enough medications to sedate two people, but he could not tell I was on anything.  I informed him that in full manic mode, I am unaffected by medications.  Due to my severe Obstructive Sleep Apnea, they were afraid to induce sleep via IV medications, so they let my period of mania run its course until I finally fell asleep for six hours.  Last night was a good example of what I deal with.  I went to bed at 12:30 am after taking my nighttime medications, and the last time I saw the clock before falling asleep, it was 2:30 am.  I woke up at 4:15 am, and I am up for the day.  Per doctor's orders, I will lay down to rest my body around 1:30 to 3:00 pm, but I know I do not normally fall asleep for an actual nap.  This therapy combined with adjusting my daily medications, adjusted according to how I assess my mental state, helps to prevent more frequent breakouts of mania, where I do not sleep at all for days.  Those still occur, far too often than the VA psychiatrists like to see.  That is why they have thrown their hands up, and I was approved for the Veterans Choice program to see Bipolar Specialists outside of the VA.

What I am looking for is feedback critiquing my logic and plans for becoming a useful member of society and becoming self-employed: barriers, suggestions; anyone having prior similar experiences, etc...

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It sounds like you want "something to occupy your time", but that does not risk loosing your 100 percent from VA and likely social security.  You could possibly achieve this, providing you were willing to risk your benefits.  The good part is it would take a while earning SGE until you lost your benefits.  Social Security has special provisions to put disabled people back to work, VA not so much.  

Remember, if your goal is a photography studio, you dont necessarily need a college degree in photography to make that happen.  

Are you an experienced Entrepeneur?  This is what you are talking about..starting your own business.  Regardless of which business you choose to enter, one thing is always the same...if the "money" part does not work, then the business will fail.  If you are good at money managing now, chances are you will be good at managing the business money, and the obverse is also true.  

It sounds like you used "logic" to choose photography, but you did not say you "love to take pictures".  Reminding you that your goal was to occupy your time, I suggest you focus on SOMETHING YOU REALLY LOVE, since earning an income matters much less now that you have disability income.    If you DO "love taking pictures" then your "work" as a photographer will be fun.  My pastor said to find something you love to do and then get paid to do it.    

When you apply to college through VA, this will be a red flag to someone..why is he going to college if he is on 100% disability?  See the criteria for 100%:

General Rating Formula for Mental Disorders

  Rating
Total occupational and social impairment, due to such symptoms as: gross impairment in thought processes or communication; persistent delusions or hallucinations; grossly inappropriate behavior; persistent danger of hurting self or others; intermittent inability to perform activities of daily living (including maintenance of minimal personal hygiene); disorientation to time or place; memory loss for names of close relatives, own occupation, or own name. 100
Occupational and social impairment, with deficiencies in most areas, such as work, school, family relations, judgment, thinking, or mood, due to such symptoms as: suicidal ideation; obsessional rituals which interfere with routine activities; speech intermittently illogical, obscure, or irrelevant; near-continuous panic or depression affecting the ability to function independently, appropriately and effectively; impaired impulse control (such as unprovoked irritability with periods of violence); spatial disorientation; neglect of personal appearance and hygiene; difficulty in adapting to stressful circumstances (including work or a worklike setting); inability to establish and maintain effective relationships. 70
Occupational and social impairment with reduced reliability and productivity due to such symptoms as: flattened affect; circumstantial, circumlocutory, or stereotyped speech; panic attacks more than once a week; difficulty in understanding complex commands; impairment of short- and long-term memory (e.g., retention of only highly learned material, forgetting to complete tasks); impaired judgment; impaired abstract thinking; disturbances of motivation and mood; difficulty in establishing and maintaining effective work and social relationships. 50
Occupational and social impairment with occasional decrease in work efficiency and intermittent periods of inability to perform occupational tasks (although generally functioning satisfactorily, with routine behavior, self-care, and conversation normal), due to such symptoms as: depressed mood, anxiety, suspiciousness, panic attacks (weekly or less often), chronic sleep impairment, mild memory loss (such as forgetting names, directions, recent events). 30
Occupational and social impairment due to mild or transient symptoms which decrease work efficiency and ability to perform occupational tasks only during periods of significant stress, or symptoms controlled by continuous medication. 10
A mental condition has been formally diagnosed, but symptoms are not severe enough either to interfere with occupational and social functioning or to require continuous medication. 0

 

The criteria for reductions specifically states you "actually improved under ordinary conditions of life", (that is, working).  The VA's thought process is that if you have improved enough to go to work, then this can subject you to a reduction.

Understand, its possible or even likely you could succeed at your "career to occupy your time", and exceed the income from disability.  Thats good.  Do you think you can succeed permanently, that is, more than a few years??  If so, go for it.  

However, based on what you posted, I dont see a committment level needed to succeed at a photography business.  If you love something that much, then you will find a way.  But, if photography is just one of many things to occupy your time, then it sounds like you would just as soon be doing something else, and you need to continue searching until you find that special something for which you want to do with your life.  If you are disabled, you probably wont have several chances like we did when we were young...oh, I thought I liked this, but that is better, so you change careers.   At your point in life, you probably only have one more hurrah left, so take all the time you need to give it your absolute best.  

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I'm not sure it would effect his VA Compensation  if he takes'' online courses''..'.he don't leave home'' and if if he gets a proposal to reduce  because VA mentions he has shown improvement  the burden is on the VA to prove that....he could possibly call taking online course a type of therapy for his disability to help him cope with everyday life.

if  the veteran pays his/her own tuition  >>without help from the VA  then how will VA Know he is taking ''online courses''??

I have always thought it's a good thing when a person wants to further/ increase his/her education & especially so with a person with a disability.

As for as working in the private sector  sure a  S.C Disable  veteran needs to be careful with that  because of Social Security. 

jmo & my 2 cents

......................Buck

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