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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

Question

Hello everyone and thank you for accepting me in to the forum.

Last year I filed a new claim for Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Major Depression. For the past 3 years, I have been seeing a civilian psychiatrist for my anxiety and depression. She had already diagnosed me with GAD and Major Depression, and I have been on anti-anxiety medications, antidepressants, and sleep medication. I was on differing types of the same medications since coming out of the service, but it wasn't until about 3 years ago, that I admitted to myself that I needed mental help, and that is when I started seeing my civilian psychiatrist, and that is when I first heard of GAD and Major Depression, when she said she had diagnosed me with them. It was at her suggestion, that I file a claim with the VA for GAD and Major Depression. She said she very much felt like my conditions were associated with my time in the service. When it was finally time to have my C&P exam, I was interviewed by a VA psychologist. I told her about my civilian psychiatrist, and her diagnosis for me, and the medications she had me on. I also talked to her about my time in the service, me being overseas in the Gulf War, and me being in a humanitarian mission in Ecuador. I told her about my friend who was with me during basic training. And how he was shot and killed right in front of me, in a horrible accident, during one of our live ammunition training exercises. I told her how all this had affected me from those moments on, all the way until now. At the end of our meeting, she told me that she felt like my condition was more PTSD, rather than Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Major Depression. At the time I didn't think anything of what she said; that is until I was sent my denial letter. In my denial, it stated that my 2 claims for GAD and Major Depression, was changed to GAD (to include PTSD) and Major Depression (to include PTSD). So the VA psychiatrist did what she said she would. She essentially changed what I had claimed, and added (to include PTSD) on each of my 2 claims. So, for the basis of PTSD, there has to be a proven stressor. The VA used what I had talked to the psychiatrist about the death of my friend during boot camp, as my stressor. The VA said they searched records during the time I was at boot camp, and found no incidents related to what I was saying. So, because the VA psychiatrist took it upon herself, to change my claimed conditions from GAD and Major Depression, to GAD (to include PTSD) and Major Depression (to include PTSD), now it was up to me to prove a stressor, because with claims associated with PTSD, you must prove your stressor. I knew from talking to other Army buddies of mine, how difficult it could be sometimes to find old records of deaths. The death of my friend during boot camp happened in 1962 at Ft. Jackson, SC. My civilian psychiatrist never suggested to me that I had PTSD. She always said it was Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Major Depression. If I had wanted to file a claim for PTSD, I would have done so. But I knew how difficult it would be for the VA to search for and find any record of the death of my friend at boot camp. So I filed GAD and Major Depression, because I was told those claims did not require a specific stressor (exact time, place, person, etc). I was told that GAD and Major Depression, could be claims based on your entire military career, with everything you've done and everything you've experienced, all amounting to intense anxiety and depression. So that is why I claimed GAD and Major Depression, over that of PTSD. But because the VA psychiatrist took it upon herself to change my 2 claimed conditions, and added the words (to include PTSD) to each of my claimed conditions, it was not just GAD and Major Depression any longer; it includes PTSD, which requires a specific and provable stressor. I had a stressor, and very specific one - the death of my friend during live ammunition exercises during our time at Ft. Jackson, SC boot camp in the summer of 1962. But the VA said neither they nor the JSRRC could find any record of that taking place. If my 2 claims had remained what they were suppose to be, simply GAD and simply Major Depression, I do not think I would have been denied. But because the VA psychiatrist added PTSD to each of my conditions, the VA asked for my stressor, the VA and JSRRC said they could find no record of my stressor, so my claims were denied. I believe I would have been approved if not for the VA psychiatrist adding PTSD to my 2 claimed conditions.

So with all that said (and I apologize for the length of it), is there any hope for me, if I appeal my denial? And do any of you know how I would go about appealing it? Would I simply say to the VA that I disagree with the VA psychiatrist adding PTSD to my 2 claims, when I never claimed PTSD myself?; that that was her decision entirely. I have had a VA Disability Representative for the past couple of years, but he was utterly useless. He never answered my calls or emails. He basically never helped me at all. I did most all myself over eBenefits. But now, since I've had this recent denial, I have considered hiring a VA Disability Law Firm to take my case. I've spoken with 2 so far. They both told me I had a very strong case and that I could win. But they also said they couldn't take my case because of their huge client load. I think it was simply that they could probably win my case, but there wouldn't have been much in the line of backpay, so they wouldn't have gotten much compensation for their work for me. So I guess I will continue searching for other VA Disability Lawyers, or I may have to appeal my denied claim myself over eBenefits.

Could any of you, please help me with this? I have read many questions on here regarding GAD and Major Depression, but I haven't come across one yet, where they filed a claim for GAD and Major Depression, and then the VA psychiatrist during the C&P exam, decided to change the claim (to include PTSD), thereby changing the criteria for acceptance, by now making me prove a specific stressor, instead of it she had just left my 2 claimed conditions alone, without including PTSD to them, then no specific stressor was required - it would simply go by your overall experiences while in service. I am a 20 year Veteran by the way, with most of my time served in the National Guard. But I was activated numerous times during my 20 years, including during the Gulf War. It isn't my fault that the death of my friend during boot camp, isn't something the VA or JSRRC can locate in records. If the VA psychiatrist had just left my 2 claimed conditions alone, instead of tacking on (to include PTSD), then the VA wouldn't have even had to search for a specific incident, they would have just based my conditions on my overall military experiences.

Thank you for any help, assistance, or advice you might be able to give.

Donald

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There is a fairly simple method to verify a stressor, which is not documented in your records:

Buddy letters.  You need to have a buddy in service state your stressor, as you posted it, above.  

OR, you can pay an IMO doc to opine that you have GAD, not ptsd, and it was due at least as likely as not to (certain) events in service.  

This seems like your 2 choices if you want to move forward winning your benefits.  

A buddy can supply lay evidence sufficient to document a stressor. Something like,

"Yea, I saw him..a man was shot and killed right in front of us"...kind of a thing.  Your buddy letter should be honest, and sincere.  Dont use the "example" i posted..its just an example.  Have your buddy actually state what he saw.  

 

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"So I filed GAD and Major Depression, because I was told those claims did not require a specific stressor (exact time, place, person, etc)"

I definitely disagree with that.

You could search for this deceased person's obit on line that might reveal their in service

death. Also sometimes the VA says they contacted JSRRC but they didn't.

You can contact them yourself- their contact info is here under a search or use goggle, and give them as many exact details as you can, their name, the unit you were both in, the date of the incident , and what happened to them.

You can also try to get Buddy statements as Broncovet said, because your unit surely has a web site and maybe contact info for members.

If the VA psychiatrist had just left my 2 claimed conditions alone, instead of tacking on (to include PTSD), then the VA wouldn't have even had to search for a specific incident, they would have just based my conditions on my overall military experiences.

I disagree with that as well.

Every MH issue claimed as due to service needs a stressor that can be verified, or some other type of inservice nexus , that caused the MH disability.

 

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The VA can really play hardball even with vets who have mental health treatment and DX in their SMR's.  Persistence is the main thing with these claims.  The VA has had a tendency to consider all psychological claims to be claims for PTSD.  If you have treatment for mental health issues in-service this should be golden.  However, be wary of the personality disorder DX.  The military just loves to use that DX to disqualify vets from compensation.

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Can you scan and attach the denial here? With the Evidence list? Cover your C file #  and name prior scanning it.

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Thank you everyone that responded to my question. I have read them all over and think your suggestions are something I could try to do, to win my case. Unfortuneately, since my stressor took place so long ago (summer 1962), I can not remember my boot camp unit number or name, and I can not remember my friend's name that was killed in front of me. So I am unable to locate any buddies that were in boot camp with me because I can not remember the unit number/name to google for it online. And I can not get a buddy letter written by anyone in my boot camp unit, because I can not remember my unit's number/name or any other friend of mine that was in boot camp with me. I realize that is a huge roadblock in my case. I have had buddy letters written for me, from family and civilian friends, that verifyed my mental problems from their point of view, but I understand what you are all saying: that I need a buddy letter written by someone who was actually there with me in boot camp and witnessed my friend being killed. That, unfortuneately, isn't something I think I can provide.

I did not know anything about IMO doctors, until I read the first reply to my question. I googled it and now know more. I will be searching for an IMO doctor that can look over my records, and hopefully write me a Nexus letter and an In My Opinion statement, that can be used in my appeal. Do any of you know if getting an IMO doctor is something a VA Disability Lawyer would do themselves for me, if I can find a lawyer that will actually take on my case? I am having difficulty finding a VA Disability Lawyer to even take on my appeal. Every one I have spoken to, answered their questions, did an intake interview, emailed documents they've requested, each of them have all eventually told me that "I had a good winable case", but they were either too backlogged with clients that they could not take me on, and then usually they would refer me to another VA Disability Law Firm, and I would go through the whole process once again, only to be told the same thing: that I have a good winable case, but unfortunately they can not accept every case, and my case is one they can not take on.

I will also try to contact the JSRRC myself. I do have a suspicion that they did not search hard enough for my stressor on record, or that they may have not even searched at all. I will give them all the information I do have, and see if they can search. But unfortuneatly again, I do not remember my unit name/number or my friend who was killed's name. But I do know the exact dates I was in boot camp at Ft. Jackson, SC in the summer of 1962. I am hoping that is enough for the JSRRC to find something, anything that could prove my stressor. I wish I could find my boot camp yearbook, but it has been lost or misplaced for so long. I've tried finding it, and it would have so much more information for me to give to JSRRC, but I just can't seem to find it. I've not seen it in years.

And also, thank you to the person that corrected me on my thinking that with GAD and Major Depression, I did not need an exact stressor. I was under the notion that only PTSD claims needed an exact stressor. I thought other mental conditions such as GAD and Major Depression, took in to account an entire veteran's military career as a whole, and not an exact event taken place to go by. But now I realize, thanks to you, that I still need a stressor, even with GAD and Major Depression.

I retired from the National Guard, with 20 years in service. I was only on active duty, while during boot camp, during my Guard time monthly and during the summer, for the short time I was overseas during the Gulf War (about a month), and during a humanitarian mission to Ecuador (an entire summer). It may be the case that I do not have an exact stressor for GAD and Major Depression, other than that of my friend being killed in front of me, during live ammunition exercises, during boot camp. And if I am unable to someone prove that incident took place, then I guess I am out of luck with my appeals. And that is very frustrating and sad, because it did happen. And it has affected me tremendously over the years, and my mental conditions have gotten progressively worse.

I wish it was enough, that my civilian psychiatrist, which I have been seeing now for 3 years, that she says she believes my mental conditions are being caused by me being in the service. But I understand she was not there with me during boot camp, and she can only give her thoughts on the matter, and her professional opinion. The VA psychiatrist who I was during my C&P exam, seemed to think my 2 mental illnesses that my civilian psychiatrist diagnosed me with, and it treating me for, could be overruled, and her diagnoses of PTSD took precident. I guess that is not for me to say, right or wrong. My only problem at this point is somehow proving my stressor.

So I will search for an IMO psychiatrist. And I will contact the JSRRC. But without knowing names of people involved, or names of units I was in, I think it will be very difficult to win my case, if not impossible. I am left with a feeling of sadness and bewilderment.

Thank you everyone, for taking the time to respond. I appreciate it. Hopefully a miracle can take place and it will all work out.

DonaldANG

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