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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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SwiftSig

Letter From Spouse?

Question

Good Evening,

My first time posting here, I have bunch C&P exams coming up midweek this week. My wife randomly decided she wanted them to hear what she had to say but is unable to make it to Exams. So she wrote a letter. Is this something I give to the person conducting exams? She insisted that i do this and would like to know the right way to do this.

Sig

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By all means take your spouse to your exam.  When you get a doctor hostile to your spouse being present it is usually a warning sign.  The doctor that did not allow my spouse to attend was derogatory to me and I wish I had someone to witness the jerk.

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I personally believe that a letter from your spouse or significant other is one of the most important pieces of evidence you can have inside your claim.  I believe that many examiners and raters do not consider them important and tend to dismiss them and give them no credibility.   However, on appeal it is something that seems to be a deciding factor in overturning  a poor rating decisions by the BVA. 

There are two important pieces to this letter that I believe is critical.

1.  Your spouse should only list symptoms they see.  They should never state in the letter a diagnosis.  If your letter has a diagnosis in it and your spouse is not qualified to render a diagnosis the rater will immediately ignore it.

2.  Your spouse should state how your disabilities impact your day to day living.  What things you could do in the past but cannot do now because of your disabilities.  No one is more qualified to stated how your daily life is impacted than your spouse.

I think anything else in the letter would be overkill but that is just one man's opinion. 

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Posted (edited)

Thanks for weighing in Mark.  I also know Chris Attig, in fact, he is my attorney.    I think he will agree that lay evidence can help, but sometimes spouse's try to help and make stuff worse, providing "too much information".    I have no idea how skilled the poster's spouse is at writing letters, and I also dont know how accurate or conflicting this information is.  For the lay evidence to be beleivable, it really needs to confirm the evidence, and not conflict with the evidence.  

    If your spouse has read your file, and is very involved with your everyday care, skilled at letter writing, with great attention to detail, then this letter could be golden.  

However, if your spouse just got out of rehab from substance abuse, and is unsure of what today is, then you might want to consider leaving that letter at home.  You really want your spouses testimony CONSISTENT with yours, but not exactly the same.  Example:

(VA loves to mess us up this way.)   

WHEN did your husband start needing someone to bathe him?

Husband:  Two weeks ago.

Spouse:  NONSENSE!!!  You have taken a bath since 2009!  

Husband:  That is because I took a shower, instead!!!

    Can you see where this could be a problem???

I even have it with MY OWN TESTIMONY.   Example:  

When was the last time you worked??

 (Like I would know the exact date.  What date and time did you buy those shoes?)  Oh, I think it was 6 or 8 years ago.  

Then, another doc, later, asks the same question.  You had spoken with your wife, and she reminded you that it was in April 2002, at your daughter's 21st birthday.  

So, you say:  I havent worked since April, 2002.  

OOPS....you gave conflicting testimony.  

     Did you mean to?  No.  Were you guilty of fraud?  NO.  You might be guilty of not rememebering dates.  However, VA loves to show our testimony to be "not credible..in conflict" because we sometimes get our dates mixed up.  

     This occurs even easier with husband and spouse.  This is why I suggest careful use of spouse letters..reading them and ensuring they are consistent.  "Inconsistency" is 

Spelled "D..E..N..I...A...L"  in VA speak.  

Edited by broncovet

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Posted (edited)

Excellent points broncovetJKWilliamsSr

I've studied mental health C&P exam issues intensively for 8 years, and I continue to learn important details by reading this forum. Y'all are awesome. 👍

Edited by Mark D Worthen PsyD
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I think Bronco hit it dead on.  I think people may overthink lay statements and try to do more that what is necessary by adding information that may not necessarily be relevant but used against you.  I think lay statements fall into two categories, physical and mental and how that information should be presented is different.

Mental (PTSD, Depression, etc..) -  Letters from a spouse here can be tricky and it is here where I feel Bronco's comments really hit the mark.  Mental disabilities are so subjective it is not even funny.  It is probably very difficulty to be on the same page with someone that views things differently than the veteran.   If the letter has some discrepancy in it as far as not being on the same page the rater probably often uses that to question the validity of the spouses statement.  One person's interpretation can be different than someone else's and that often can come back to bite someone in the but. 

Physical  issues are probably easier to document in lay statements.  I think where people tend to get into trouble is they will say things like I noticed my spouse was limping and he stated his knee was hurting and it was because of his arthritis.   Once a statement like that is made the rater will assume that the spouse is making a diagnosis that the knee pain was caused by arthritis and then ignore the lay statement.   The only think that needed to be said was I noticed my spouse was limping and he appeared to be in pain and he complained that his knee was hurting.  That is all that needs to be said.  Nothing more.  It is a statement that shows you observed an issue.

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