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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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BVA and SOC/Ramp narrative changes


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So, awaiting my hearing - filed in April 2019 - originally went through PEB/MEB - then filed my "first" claim in 2015

 

This is something that has been sitting in the back of my mind about my claim (4 contentions in appeal, TBI, back, bilateral neuropathy, etc.) that has me puzzled.

When my VSO and I sat down an looked over the paperwork for filing, I took note that my other issues on appeal are being claimed as secondary to tbi. I feel as if trying to SC on secondary may be in question, though the SC is not.

I'm wondering if this may hurt my claim or not because it wasn't until recently that I was SC'd for PTSD(after 3 years and several denials) (Claimed as MST/PTSD - however, there is also evidence of other personal assault(s)...)

I'm focused particularly on my Nexus statements, all of which are from VA Doc's, (and 3 Nexus' in particular) - the Nexus(s) im referring to for tbi does not include a rationale that speaks about the ptsd, but instead notes some other "significant" events leading to tbi.

I have a diagnosis for TBI, but on the last denial it stated that it wasn't a "conclusive" diagnosis.

...what are they talking about???

 

It says outright on the page(s).

First - the IME/IMO done by the VA specialist - an MD -

"Based on my initial evaluation, and his medical records, I am treating him for symptoms related to a traumatic brain injury resulting from trauma that occurred during his military service."

As if this quote wasn't enough, the next one says (my local VA doc, also an MD),

"I concur with the diagnosis of TBI caused by ..."This was confirmed on 2 separate visits to XXX" .... on active duty" - "It is my medical opinion that it is more likely than not that the current symptoms of TBI .... are a direct consequence of the injury(ies) he sustained on active duty."

 

I noted that the narrative also changed on the reasons and basis between the SOC and the Denial letter.

Ramp decision for denial ( Jan 2019 ) - "You were previously denied SC because the evidence at the time did not show an event, disease, or injury, nothing in STR's, and no current Diagnosis.

STR's show a consult from (Neuro 2012)  which you reported a syncope episode (Blackout) with no history of a head injury or trauma (WHAAATTT!?!? - Red flag here..when you combine with the details from lay evidence - it was witnessed my head struck first, this was also reported to this particular doctor (again 2012) but for some unknown reason, he failed to list it as such) I wish this record could be amended, but instead I'm just using other evidence so they just toss it out. - Ironically this was also noted as a favorable finding because when the good doctor quoted me, he did put in his report that I had an episode of syncope.

"In support of your claim you submitted a lay statement from X which indicates a personal knowledge or observation of etc etc. The lay evidence, however, was not found to be competent and sufficient in this case to establish a link, or to establish that such a link has been found by a medical professional. ----( Not anymore! )

I re-filed in 2017 but they basically threw it out again for "VA treatment records from x to x show that you were seen for symptoms that possibly were due to a TBI. However, CONCLUSIVE findings did not show a Dx of TBI" (To which I had submitted evidence stating otherwise)

SOC -

"RD dated...denies for no STR's with complaints, treatment, or diagnosis"...Here it says "You stated on your NOD the the injury occurred prior to your deployment....you also submitted a lay statement that you injured your head in XXX, however on XXX You told Dr. X - that you suffered a head injury during deployment. ---- If it happened on active duty, it happened during service right? What are they getting at here? Injuries that could have caused TBI occurred both BEFORE and DURING deployment, I feel like this is them trying to attack credibility.

"On XX your were treated for your vision symptoms by Dr. X - There YOU reported and Dr. X recorded that you denied a history of head trauma and head injury. Your STR's from 2012 list a history  of health problems and complaints that you had in service. Head trauma, brain injury, or falling is not listed. Dr. X statement, recording what you stated while receiving medical treatment for a different issue is contemporaneous to your military service and convincing evidence that you most likely did not incur a head injury or TBI in service. Service connection remains denied. -- (hold up, did they just Opine this via SOC? LOL, didn't know that was a thing)

The Nexus for my back injuries and the latter came from my PCP that opined that my back injury was DIRECTLY service connected. - What's your thoughts here on this with regard to what was mentioned above?

I don't know how the VA will eventually connect these contentions, and can only assume how this may pan out.

 

Anything else that could help me here in preparing for BVA that I'm missing?

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It is unfortunately standard procedure for VA raters and even DROs to totally ignore any and all medical and other evidence including strong evidence in support of your claim and thus requiring you to

Got this covered, bringing it with me into the hearing!   Done! - I appreciate the update! I'll be taking some more evidence with me on my way up! @Dustoff 11 @GBArmy @Buck52 Tha

For you benefit, work up the timeline of everything from the time you got the TBI. Use the records that are listed in your denial (evidence) and go date by date, line by line, every event that has tra

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As usual the VA raters are saying you do not have an actual official diagnosis of TBI in service from a military doctor or medical specialist.  They are also taking advantage of seemly confusing/conflicting prior statements you made to doctors about your medical conditions and as typical they are using all this for deniel and unless you have new favorable to you evidence to present to the BVA then you will have to go with what you already have in your appeal of the several issues.

On the important issues you are/will be appealing it is important you be specific enough in detailing your arguments and how they relate to the evidence of record in the claim/appeal that you do have IMHO. Lay statements alone are not enough sometimes unless the other circumstances of your event, illnesses injury also support their observations.

When the BVA rules in favor of the vet against the initial raters the BVA often cite which 38 CFR and or 38 U.S.C. rule and law or court decisions the raters ignored or violated so I always cite those rules and laws that support my contentions in the initial claim and later the appeal if one is required.

Vets often win their appeals at the BVA based upon the symptoms they were treated for in service and without an official diagnosis, however, there has to be something in the service medical records showing these symptoms and or treatment.  It sounds like you may have that.  Good luck.

My above info is not legal advice as I am not an attorney, paralegal or VSO.

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I'm going to take another approach to combat this as well. What I recently discovered is the ability to amend records - In this particular case, I'm going to the release of information staff with a request to amend the statement where the doctor misquoted me, and erroneously recorded "syncope" - but with no history of head trauma....

Just my guess here but...

I suspect it would be extremely rare for a (sober) person to black out from an upright position or walking, and NOT fall down...or perhaps even more rare where an otherwise healthy person blacks out when they are laying down - a sign of a few other medical issues in itself.

However, in my case, my head became a dart - and the floor was the target. I don't know what difficulties may lay ahead of me on this route, but from what I can tell its a very fast route (comparatively) and it could bolster my claim tenfold, as they used his evidence both for and against me on my last decision letter.

Fortunately, this is something that I believe can be attempted without interrupting the claims/appeals process.

Have any of you tried to amend bad records??? How did it go? How long did it take? If you were denied the amendment, how did you combat it, and did it get fixed in the end?

Edited by awgv001
I'm slow.
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For you benefit, work up the timeline of everything from the time you got the TBI. Use the records that are listed in your denial (evidence) and go date by date, line by line, every event that has transpired.

You do this with reference to the evidence of record. If there are two TBI incidents that need to be documented, refer to both by date and incident every time you refer to a TBI. Every medical record, every RO statement in every denial that contains an error should be logged. The rebuttal of the error should be referred to by footnote, you can include an attachment to the timeline to document the error, which is usually the failure of the rating official to check the medical records at hand. 

These should not be extremely long.  Be short, add only the issues that are relative to the claim, and explain issues only one time, including errors so that you are not duplicating efforts of the reader. Example would be when 2 or more examiners have the same conclusion, and made the same error, you only need to explain what the first one did, because that error was just rubber stamped by the next reviewer in line. They did this to me in an original claim, an SOC, and a higher level review. 

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3 hours ago, awgv001 said:

Have any of you tried to amend bad records??? How did it go? How long did it take? If you were denied the amendment, how did you combat it, and did it get fixed in the end?

As far as I know everything in your C-file stays there unless the VA finds it advantageous to lose it.

I had three really bad C&P's with two neurologists at the Johnson City TN VA.  In my appeal I took each statement that was not true and noted the evidence that was true and appended to a sheet on the back of the appeal.  The BVA noted in their remand that I was a credible historian in their decision after the doctors had tried to say I was abusing prescription medication and I said that my mother also had migraines among other things.  They even tried to paint me as a malingerer but it did not fly.

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