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  • Trouble Remembering? This helped me.

    I have memory problems and as some of you may know I highly recommend Evernote and have for years. Though I've found that writing helps me remember more. I ran across Tom's videos on youtube, I'm a bit geeky and I also use an IPad so if you take notes on your IPad or you are thinking of going paperless check it out. I'm really happy with it, I use it with a program called Noteshelf 2.

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  • 14 Questions about VA Disability Compensation Benefits Claims

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    When a Veteran starts considering whether or not to file a VA Disability Claim, there are a lot of questions that he or she tends to ask. Over the last 10 years, the following are the 14 most common basic questions I am asked about ...
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  • Most Common VA Disabilities Claimed for Compensation:   

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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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    • So, my lawyer sent an IME w/ IMO and filed a supplemental claim solely for IU on March 20.

      It was closed on March 25, and va.gov just states claim closed and nothing more.

      Hopefully, I get good news.
    • Thanks for the responses. I am filing a new claim but will continue pushing the NOD. My new question is it stated in law or statute that if during the claims process the VA finds conditions that could possibly rate service connection that was not originally filed for, the VA will “invite” the veteran to file the claim on the claims form. Reason I ask is that my private DBQs, NEXUS letter, and even the VA nurse examiner's DBQs lists bilateral upper radiculopathy as present. If it is written in statute or official guidance it might qualify as a CUE. Just looking at all angles. 
    • Everyone needs to read our stories so they can try to avoid these screws by the va...
      Thank you, everyone contributes, good or bad, all of our stories will help others, and yes, they have been stated by others for ages, over and over, but we just get depressed, and the time turns into years as they screw us..

      Welcome to the department of Veterans Affairs!  I can honestly say, "been there, done that".  

      Even after winning my tdiu in 2017, it was back to the drawing board as VA hornswaggeld my effective date.  (but of course).  

      I finally won my tdiu effective date in Feb. 2020, 18 years after I first applied!!!  

      Here is how they managed to drag mine out 18 years:

      1.  They never adjuticated my decison until 2009, where they called it "moot".  

      2.  I appealed, said it was not moot because it could result in an earlier effective date and SMC S under Bradley vs Peake.  The judge agreed with me, and ordered VARO consider me for extra schedular TDIU, under 4.16 b.  

      3.  The VARO piddles with  the remand for 3 years, and hoped I wouldnt notice.  I noticed and raised cane until they adjuticated it.  (denied of course).  

      4.  Finally, after the baord denied again, I hired a lawyer, in 2014, and appealed to CAVC.   

      5.  The lawyer won a remand, got an IMO and I won tdiu in 2017.  But at the wrong effective date, even after 15 years.  

      6.  I hired another lawyer, Chris Attig, and appealed the effective date, and he won a remand for effective date.  Trip 2 to CAVC.  

      7.  Mr. Attig won a remand, and advised me to get another IMO.  

      8.  The board awarded my earlier effective date in Feb. 2020.  

           So, I do have advice fighting VA for TDIU, they fought and fought and I hung in there and won it all.  

      ADVICE:  Dont count on VA, they could easily throw your fax in the trash.  Follow up!  
    • "Keep in mind that due to the nature of the digestive system, VA would most likely combined your conditions and pay you at the higher rate to avoid pyramiding".    That is one of my main gripes.  They are only listing the GERD with hiatal hernia and ignoring the rest of my gastric issues such as the gastritis which I also had in service.  I included it in my 2007 request for increase and again in 2019.  The info from the civilian dr that stated I had the gastritis with H pylori was not even provided to the examiner in 2007, nor did he have my VA health records. The 2019 request was based on an EGD I had AT THE VA in Jan 2019.   I filed for an increase 6 Mar and they did an ACE on 27 Mar and downgraded to noncompensable on that date.  The only reason I was thinking CUE:  38 CFR § 3.326 - Under Examinations  it states (c) Provided that it is otherwise adequate for rating purposes, a statement from a private physician may be accepted for rating a claim without further examination".  
    • Enough has been said on this topic. This forum is not the proper forum for an attorney and former client to hash out their problems. Please take this offline
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flow1972

How To Know What Injury Or Event Connects Current Issues

Question

Some of you know, I'm new to all of this.  I feel like I'm trying to build a 5,000 piece puzzle with no picture or instructions to look at.  I currently have 10% SC for Tinnitus.  I have a C&P scheduled for the 18th of November for my PTSD caused by MST Claim.  I have a ton of things in my SMR's as well as CMR's that I have no idea how to connect the dots on.  Is there some "place" or "person" that assists with this stuff???  I feel lost, and I'm a Data person.

I have currently diagnosed conditions:

1. Carpal Tunnel

2. Raynaud's

3. IBS/Spastic Colon

4.  Current Gastritis 

5.  Just had my Tonsils out at 46 (yep...tonsil lesion after decades of recurrent pharyngitis/Strep/Tonsilitus)

6.  Lower back disk degeneration (been on my Xrays for years)

7.  Arthritis in hands (not RH)

8.  Cold Sores

9.  Asthma/Allergies

10.  Right Hip (Injections a few months ago)

11.  Vertigo (I believe it's Motorist Vestibular Disorientation, but the one time I asked my PCP about it, they thought it may be my allergies causing it)

I left service back in 1996.  I had just had my first child and was still recovering from the affects of Pre-Eclampsia.  ( All over my SMR's.)  No physical at Separation. I have things in my SMR's where I had Asthma as a child but no issues since early childhood (on my Entrance paperwork).  I also have an entry where they state there was a review of my Medical Records (Security Review for Above Top Secret) and "No Chronic Illnesses" or something to that affect.  I literally had 9 cases of URI/Bronchitis/Phneumonia or a related lung issue in my 5 years of service logged in my SMR's. 

There was 12 cases of Strep/Pharyngitis/Tonsillitis along with a visit for some stomach issues that went on for several weeks (pretty sure this is when my IBS started showing up), a broken 9th rib (got kicked by a horse in Germany), Left Ankle Overuse Syndrome (I don't know why it says this because I'm pretty sure that's when I got sever shin-splints in both legs), Right ankle sprain, left knee strain, left hand and wrist injury, left thigh myalgia 2nd degree strain..then I started having to be given meds for allergies/Asthma episodes again the last few years in service.  I had a ganglian cyst removed from my right hand just a little over a year after I left service...I've read there isn't a "known" true cause but arthritis can be a possible cause...

I'm just overwhelmed with what relates to what and so forth.  My Carpal Tunnel...you know they'll try to say that's 100% due to my work as a Data Analyst when the "know" hand/wrist injuries as well as job duties that require repetition also contribute...I even have a note in my SMR's about my fingers being numb while I was pregnant, but I guarantee they'll attribute that to the Edema from the Pre-E.  So.....how do you work through it all in the best way NOT to screw yourself????

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flow1972 I would recommend getting a vso that you can trust; you don't have any faith in the one you have and rightfully so. Ask around; if you have veteran friends that have submitted claims, do they recommend anyone? You really want access to VBMS so you can tell what's going on and many vso do now have that capability. But your instincts are correct; no one is a better advocate for your claims than you are. Never forget that. If you can do it yourself, it's just one more thing you can cross off as being done correctly and in a timely manner.Trust and reliability for MH disabilities is very important as you know. If you have a good doc and can afford it, keep him/her. The VA docs can be good, or, not so much. But they can switch you off to another one and that might not be very good for your treatment either. You don't have to give up your record; cherry pick what you send in for evidence from you doc. If you can, try to include only things that support your position. You don't have to disclose anything negative; you just can't lie.There are several folks on here that can talk to what the process is that you can expect for your C&P, and I hope they can give you a few pointers, but you already know to talk about your bad days, not when things are ok. Bring our important documents provided by your doc and ask them at the exam if they saw ..... If the answer is no, offer to give them to them if it isn't in your file. This holds true for any C&P you take. You're right about presumptives; look up anything you have and see what the criteria is the VA deems necessary. For presumptives, most if not all have a limited physical location requirement.

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If you have never filed any claims before, the first thing to do is get together a list of things you want to claim. Looks like you have done much of that already. Don't wait to have all the evidence and records before filing. You should consider filing and "Intent to File" claim. This is where you tell the VA specifically what you want to file for. What this does is reserve your effective date. If you are within a year of leaving the service, your effective date is the day after you left the service. Otherwise, it is the date that you file. Effective dates are important because if you win your claims, the VA will pay you retroactively back to the effective date. You can always file additional Intent to File claims if you discovery additional issues you want to claim. Just remember Intent to File claims have a time limit of just one year. If you don't open a new claim by the time it expires, your claim will be denied and your effective date deemed void. The one year window gives you time to get everything together and submit your application for benefits.

Intent to File
https://www.benefits.va.gov/BENEFITS/factsheets/general/intenttofile.pdf

 

As others have mentioned this, but here are some additional things to gather before you submit your your application for benefits. Not all of these may apply, but it never hurts to request them. These requests need to be submitted in writing.

1. Service treatment records (medical/dental/hospital)
If you got out of the service in the past 20 years, get these from the VA medical center's Release of Information (ROI) office. They can print out the form and help you fill it out. Hospital records should be included for any instances where you may have been admitted, but there is a chance you might need to contact the facility directly.

2. VA medical treatment records
Get these from the VA medical center's Release of Information office (see #1). 

3. VA radiology/imaging records
These tend to be stored in a separate office at the VA medical center. You fill out the same release of information form and they will make a CD or DVD containing the imaging from studies like X-ray, CT scan, MRI, ultrasound, etc... They used to include the radiologist's report on the discs, but I don't think they do that any more. I had to get a recent radiologist report from the regular RIO office. 

3. Military personnel records
You can get these from the national archives. These should include your DD-214, some (not necessarily all) of your orders, awards, and other records covering your period of service.
https://www.archives.gov/veterans/military-service-records

4. Get setup on VA's ebenefits web site
Go here and click register: www.myhealth.va.gov
This site allows you to pull up VA medical records, get VA lab results, get VA imaging results, refill VA medications, send secure messages to your VA doctor, and even download your military records. To take full advantage of the site, you have to do a bit of extra registration (see #5).

5. Ebenefits or va.gov
The VA is working to combine these two pages. You need to do an in person verification to get enhanced access. Once you submit a claim, it will eventually show up on va.gov and you can check the status. It's not always 100% perfect and can bounce back and forth (consider that indication of activity and don't get discouraged).
www.ebenefits.va.gov
www.va.gov

6. Non-VA treatment records
These can be medical, dental, or even mental health. Obtain those from your treating facility. Just be aware that some places may charge a reasonable fee to look them up and print them out.

7. If police were involved, request those records

8. Unit records
These might be handy depending on the circumstances. You can request these from the national archives. Here's a good presentation to help you get an idea of what can be requested and why it might matter. Just keep in mind that depending on the type of records, they may have different retention requirements and may be destroyed at various intervals. Some records must be retained for long periods of time or even forever (i.e. military personnel file).
https://www.archives.gov/files/calendar/know-your-records/dec8-veterans-presentation.pdf

9. Buddy statements
These are statements that can come from friends, family members, coworkers or even fellow service members. They must be objective in that the buddy can state what they observed, but should make no attempt to diagnose any medical or psych condition unless they happen to be a properly qualified professional. The VA will consider them as evidence, but sometimes does not give them considerable weight. The good thing to know about getting SC is you don't need to have 100% certainty or even 75% certainty. The VA requires "relative equipoise" which means if the evidence is at least 50% for you and 50% against, they must give you the benefit of the doubt. Sometimes buddy statements can tip those scales in your favor.

10. VA claims file
This is the collection of records the VA has on you. If you never filed, there probably won't be much there. The VA tends to take a long time to provide these. You can request them as paper or on disk. It never hurts to request them every few years or so, depending on what has been going on between you and the VA.
To request, look up VA form VA3288 Request for and Consent to Release Information From Individual's Records. Mail it off to the Va.

 

It is not required that you collect everything before filing a new claim, but it can help to eventually get a copy of everything pertaining to you, military service, treatment, etc...

Once I got all my records together, the first thing I did was go through them very carefully. It took a long time, but I just did it casually a couple of hours per week. My service treatment records were on paper because I got out in 1995. I had to find a doctor to help decipher some of the handwriting scribble. As I went through everything, I scanned each document into my computer to a separate file. I named the file like "YYYY-MM-DD {and a brief description}.pdf". I keep a backup copy on CD and a USB flash drive in my fireproof safe. I also made a master list document consisting of the date, name of involved facility/person, brief description, and even broke it out a bit further. For example, I had a car accident while in the service, so I noted that. Make it easy to search and find what you need just like a table of contents or index in a book. When it came time to file a new claim, I was able to easily locate document for the specific dates, locations, and circumstances. It sure beats going through a mountain of paper and trying to remember everything.

A VSO can be very helpful, but ultimately you are still responsible for your claim. They can help you navigate the VA system, but don't expect a VSO to go through everything and connect all the dots. My initial VA claim was submitted by a VSO and consisted of a single sentence containing each claimed condition. They said the VA will go through everything and make a decision. One thing you will learn about the VA is they make mistakes often. That's what happened to me. After appealing my initial claim, it took a very long time to get service connection awarded. Years later I found out that I should have had a higher rating because the VA made some mistakes, but I filed with the VA and informed them of the errors. 

If the VA sends you a rating decision on your claim, don't assume it is 100% correct. They might have missed or overlooked something, incorrectly denied, or granted the wrong rating percentage.

Learn about how the VA calculates disability percentages:
This page includes the combined ratings table. 10% + 10% does not equal 20%. The page explains how they calculate your combined rating percentage, which is how the VA determines monthly disability compensation rates.
https://www.benefits.va.gov/compensation/rates-index.asp

Learn about VA service connection percentages and benefits:
https://www.benefits.va.gov/COMPENSATION/resources-rates-read-compAndSMC.asp

Learn about the VA rating criteria for each disability and criteria for disability percentages. The current version can be found at this link:
https://www.ecfr.gov/cgi-bin/text-idx?SID=6802aa4a909160700733c1b265930f4e&mc=true&node=pt38.1.4&rgn=div5

Learn about VA compensation and pension (C&P) exams, which are often used, but not always required. The VA doc will use a disability questionnaire (DBQ) for the specific body systems to examine you, perform tests, and note the findings. You can print the form out and take it you a non-VA doc and have them fill it out. If you do that, do some research here in nexus statements and independent medical exams and opinions (IMO's or IME's) because they need to include some specific details.
https://www.benefits.va.gov/compensation/dbq_disabilityexams.asp

You can actually call the VA hotline:
1-800-827-1000. Ask them any questions you want, but just keep in mind that they may not always have all the answers. They can send you forms, talk about benefits, how to apply, but are just front line call center agents. For active claims, I call about once a week to get the pulse of what is going on. The va.gov site is a bit abstracted which is why I call. If they give you flaky advice, you can always call back and talk with someone else or just ask folks here for their unprofessional opinion.

Check out the AskNOD web site:
It is a blog run by one of our members. There are some great articles. He is also a certified rep and can help represent you officially for a fee, but keep in mind he is pretty busy and doesn't accept all types of claims.
https://asknod.org

 

Go to the main hadit.com page and examine the blogs and other articles. You can browse and search the forums. There is a wealth of information here. Don't hesitate to post questions.

 

Laws/regulations in effect change over time due to changes in laws, regulations, and even court rulings. Keep this in mind if you look up anything that might be over a year old.

 

Most Important: If you post any details, screenshots, or documents online to the forums, be sure to redact or omit any personally identifiable information.

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My word @Vync.  After that I have nothing to add.  You should write a book about applying for benefits. 😎

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1 hour ago, Vync said:

 

Wow!  You are wealth of information!  I have done quite a bit of what you already outlined.  I have my SMR's already.  I already requested and rcvd my in-patient records from in service.  I don't have the X-Ray scans though.  I'll have to request those.  I haven't been seen by a VA Doc/Facility yet.  I just got registered to use them last week.  I've gathered most of my CMRs.  I do have a gap from when I got out for a few years...can't remember the PCP I used way back then.  I had surgery on my hand just a little over a year after leaving service though, and I finally have those records being sent to me.  I think the old PCP is on them as the "referring physician".  I have my personnel records, but I noticed the leave requests and such weren't included.  Not that I need those at this time; just noticed that kind of stuff wasn't included.  I got out in 1996, and I've kept the giant file of my SMR's for years.  Just figured they'd come in handy one day...and here we are.  LOL  I'm also in the process of scanning everything and noting what each sheet contains and date as well as making a spreadsheet to cross-reference.  I'm a Data Analyst (actually a BI Manager now), so I'm all about detail and easy look-up.  I have the OSI Investigation Report and am in the process of obtaining the Action Report from the assault that happened to me in Germany.  So...I'm getting up to speed as quick as I can.  I've decided to focus on one thing at a time...otherwise, it's just too much information to unpack and really understand.  I have my C&P for my PTSD due to MST claim coming up in November.  I'm SERIOUSLY not looking forward to that....literally to the point of it's making me sick to my stomach.  So...to take my mind off of it, I started building out a folder itemizing the many URI/Bronchitis/Walking Pneumonia/Asthmatic Bronchitis/Allergic Rhinitis/Allergy entries in my SMRs.  Building out a time line..then going to work on the CMRs that link to that stuff and see what it all looks like.  That's a lot in and of itself..so, one major thing at a time.  Really appreciate the info!

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I know it is easy to say but try to relax about your PTSD/MST exam.  Yes they will make you go over uncomfortable things and it may seem to be an inquisition.  The examiner is just trying to get all of the necessary information so he can make a decision.  They expect you to be nervous and not have fun recalling details.  Do not get angry or mad at the examiner, he/she is just doing their job.  I have been through six or more and have had all manners of examiners, each has their own style but usually they are very good with you.

If you draw a jerk for an examiner, which I have, and they are goading you just remember not to get mad, if you do you lose. 

Don't drink coffee before your exam unless you need it to function. 

Go in appropriately dressed and fixed up like you would when you normally go out.

Always be honest, even if it hurts.  If you are caught in a falsehood you lose.

Any special records that have a strong bearing on your case bring along and offer them to the examiner.  The VA is supposed to provide all of your records but you may already have a file several inches thick and it is hard to pull all of the necessary information out of them in the time they have allotted.

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    • So, my lawyer sent an IME w/ IMO and filed a supplemental claim solely for IU on March 20.

      It was closed on March 25, and va.gov just states claim closed and nothing more.

      Hopefully, I get good news.
    • Thanks for the responses. I am filing a new claim but will continue pushing the NOD. My new question is it stated in law or statute that if during the claims process the VA finds conditions that could possibly rate service connection that was not originally filed for, the VA will “invite” the veteran to file the claim on the claims form. Reason I ask is that my private DBQs, NEXUS letter, and even the VA nurse examiner's DBQs lists bilateral upper radiculopathy as present. If it is written in statute or official guidance it might qualify as a CUE. Just looking at all angles. 
    • Everyone needs to read our stories so they can try to avoid these screws by the va...
      Thank you, everyone contributes, good or bad, all of our stories will help others, and yes, they have been stated by others for ages, over and over, but we just get depressed, and the time turns into years as they screw us..

      Welcome to the department of Veterans Affairs!  I can honestly say, "been there, done that".  

      Even after winning my tdiu in 2017, it was back to the drawing board as VA hornswaggeld my effective date.  (but of course).  

      I finally won my tdiu effective date in Feb. 2020, 18 years after I first applied!!!  

      Here is how they managed to drag mine out 18 years:

      1.  They never adjuticated my decison until 2009, where they called it "moot".  

      2.  I appealed, said it was not moot because it could result in an earlier effective date and SMC S under Bradley vs Peake.  The judge agreed with me, and ordered VARO consider me for extra schedular TDIU, under 4.16 b.  

      3.  The VARO piddles with  the remand for 3 years, and hoped I wouldnt notice.  I noticed and raised cane until they adjuticated it.  (denied of course).  

      4.  Finally, after the baord denied again, I hired a lawyer, in 2014, and appealed to CAVC.   

      5.  The lawyer won a remand, got an IMO and I won tdiu in 2017.  But at the wrong effective date, even after 15 years.  

      6.  I hired another lawyer, Chris Attig, and appealed the effective date, and he won a remand for effective date.  Trip 2 to CAVC.  

      7.  Mr. Attig won a remand, and advised me to get another IMO.  

      8.  The board awarded my earlier effective date in Feb. 2020.  

           So, I do have advice fighting VA for TDIU, they fought and fought and I hung in there and won it all.  

      ADVICE:  Dont count on VA, they could easily throw your fax in the trash.  Follow up!  
    • "Keep in mind that due to the nature of the digestive system, VA would most likely combined your conditions and pay you at the higher rate to avoid pyramiding".    That is one of my main gripes.  They are only listing the GERD with hiatal hernia and ignoring the rest of my gastric issues such as the gastritis which I also had in service.  I included it in my 2007 request for increase and again in 2019.  The info from the civilian dr that stated I had the gastritis with H pylori was not even provided to the examiner in 2007, nor did he have my VA health records. The 2019 request was based on an EGD I had AT THE VA in Jan 2019.   I filed for an increase 6 Mar and they did an ACE on 27 Mar and downgraded to noncompensable on that date.  The only reason I was thinking CUE:  38 CFR § 3.326 - Under Examinations  it states (c) Provided that it is otherwise adequate for rating purposes, a statement from a private physician may be accepted for rating a claim without further examination".  
    • Enough has been said on this topic. This forum is not the proper forum for an attorney and former client to hash out their problems. Please take this offline
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