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Pursuing initial VA claim after separated 8 years ago, currently using a VSO. Worried - Do I need to provide VA full access to my providers or can I provide them records?


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Hi All -

I am new to the community, just found you guys a few days ago, because I had concerns about my initial claims process.

My question is:

Which is better - telling the VA to pull my records, or give them the records and letters I have or will get?



It has been eight years since I separated, and because of my mental health condition (depression, PTSD symptoms, anxiety) and just trying to fit into civilian life, I have been unable to begin my claims process. With the help of friends and family, I have now been able to do things like go through my military records (difficult process, emotionally), pull civilian records, and seek further assistance for my mental and physical health issues.

I have been doing research over several online platforms with regards to how to go about supporting my claim. The VSO that I paired up with seems to be of the idea to just give my list of conditions to the VA along with consent to pull records, and give it to them from there. This seems to conflict with advice given in the communities, who would say that the claimant should just turn over relevant or full records, along with nexus/medical opinion letters from individual doctors. They would say this provides the best chance at an accurate and speedy outcome.

I really can't bear the thought of being tied up with this claims process for another few years, because it already feels like it has been killing me for the last months/years. I want to be able to feel like I did it right the first time. 

Also, on the mental health side, I really do not like the idea of giving the VA access to ALL of my mental health sessions and care, because it is very personal and much of it is unrelated to military life. 


EDIT: I appreciate all these answers and am reviewing them. I think at this point I am leaning towards giving consent to access all records, as well as perhaps sending the full records on my own, along with my personal statements. My psychiatrist has requested that I basically give her my personal statement for her benefit, so she can review and get a full picture of the timeline and progression of the mental health side. I would like to have a letter from my my psych and therapist with the needed wording. 
 

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I'm going to disagree with you on this.  I have NEVER seen a VA physician for PTSD.  I was diagnosed by a private physician.  My private physician filled out the DBQ I submitted with my Claim showing

This is pretty much how I did every one of my claims except the initial one back in 2002 when I didnt know any better. Its time consuming, but seeing it from my end,now, it makes things SO much easier

I just did my claim online through ebenefits in January of 2019 (10 years after my separation), uploaded my pertinent health and mental health records, and was scheduled for my exams within a week of

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  • HadIt.com Elder

It will be faster if you have the private ones, but the military ones have to be certified from National Records or the Service (NG, ARNG, whatever) that they are complete so we have to request those anyway- its a legal requirement under Duty to Assist. YOu can't certify that your military (personnel and medical) are complete- we have to have a DD 2963 in order to stop pursuing them. 

As for  you submitting vs your VSO and what you read on the internet- it doesn't matter. Either way can be fast or slow, there is no magic formula. For sure if you have nexus letters, private DBQs whatever, submit them, but you'll still probably get referred for a VA exam

If you can't trust your VSO with your records, to request them, etc, why are you working with them? *confused* Your MH records for VA treatment we have access to anyway- we just log onto the VAMC and pull them- Duty to Assist, again. Private MH Records? If you don't submit them then you don't, but if your claim is denied and whatever you needed was in those then you delayed your claim. 

There is nothing in  your records that I don't see every day, every week, every month, from hundreds of other veterans. Psychotic breaks? Got 'em. MST, male or female? Yup. Drinking/Gambling/Drugs/failure to show up for formation, whatever? Uh huh. Adjudicative actions under UCMJ? See them all the time. Civilain marital issues, homelessness, suicide attempts in the past. Yes. 

Other than when im working on your claims I don't commit it to memory. I have my own SC issues, MH and otherwise. I don't want to carry yours around, too. 

Thats part of what makes this job difficult for a lot of people. They, in a small way, deal with the same issues you have and many others, day in and day out, multiple times a day. Because we have to read through it all and mark it so the raters can find it in order to move your claim forward. 

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2 hours ago, brokensoldier244th said:

It will be faster if you have the private ones, but the military ones have to be certified from National Records or the Service (NG, ARNG, whatever) that they are complete so we have to request those anyway- its a legal requirement under Duty to Assist. YOu can't certify that your military (personnel and medical) are complete- we have to have a DD 2963 in order to stop pursuing them. 

As for you submitting vs your VSO and what you read on the internet- it doesn't matter. Either way can be fast or slow, there is no magic formula. For sure if you have nexus letters, private DBQs whatever, submit them, but you'll still probably get referred for a VA exam

If you can't trust your VSO with your records, to request them, etc, why are you working with them? *confused* Your MH records for VA treatment we have access to anyway- we just log onto the VAMC and pull them- Duty to Assist, again. Private MH Records? If you don't submit them then you don't, but if your claim is denied and whatever you needed was in those then you delayed your claim. 


Thank you for this reply. My military records are full and untouched, no issues there. 

With regards to trust for my VSO - that is definitely not my issue here. I think he is a great rep. My concern is perhaps that we are not doing enough up front to give the VA. That they might take my inability to be fully vulnerable with my mental health providers over the first several years after military service (denial of depression, etc...), as a *lack* of symptoms. My thought is that if I can work with my psych and therapist to get documentation, it will be a more directed and encompassing picture of how I am doing currently and where this has originated. 

I understand that there is a likelihood for VA exams for these conditions, I think that would only be good for fleshing out the full impact that they have had on my life. Perhaps it is more of a thought of "What can I do to not make this an uphill battle". 

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  • HadIt.com Elder

I see a lot of veteran claims for MH issues years after the fact. I don't think that will be an issue if you have, for example, evidence of stressors and whatnot. 

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roger to all @brokensoldier244thsaid

Can the VA get most/all of that information, sure. But if you have it why make the process take longer than it needs to, claims take enough time to finish why add to it with dragging your feet on anything you have. As he said they pull your military/VA stuff anyways, but when I make claims i always pull my own copies and insert them into my claim with a explanation on the cover page of what that evidence shows in support of my claim.  I try to make it easy for raters to see what i want them to see and they can verify the authenticity of that document seperately but they dont have to word search old military scans for keywords.

 

As far as your VSO goes,I would be leery.  If he/she is not pushing you to pull all the evidence you can find, get supporting statements, etc thats a big red flag.  A claim is two parts...

1) Linking to you service, ie in service event, something that happened to you while you were in that is causing the issue you have now (as well as documentation its still present/current diagnosis).  This gets you the SC, the VA is admitting that the disease/issue you are experiencing now is directly related to military service. Thats the big one

2) How it affects you. This is what influences your %.  You need to not only say "I have PTSD, depression, anxiety, etc..etc..." but you need to get statements from as many people as you can. Wife, friends, coworkers, boss, whoever is willing that can attest to how your condition affects you both personally and at work.  It needs to be as detailed as possible. Everything from short temper over small arguments, checking locks on the house at night multiple times, difficulty concentrating at work, poor work performance, missed deadlines, counselings from your boss, firings, etc.  Everytime you have not gone to a fair or family reunion because of anxiety, crowds, etc.  The VA needs to know how your condition inhibits you from experiencing life in the way you would have had you not gotten this Service Connected illness.  It may seem too personal, invasive, etc. but the more information you give them the better they will be able to make a fully informed decision on your claim.  Likely your C&P exam will be remote with a VES/QTC psychologist and when you are setting up that appointment with them ask them for a email address that you can send information to the examiner.  Send those sworn statements from yourself, family and friends.  If you can make sure you relay to the examiner all the information you have down there.

This is just my personal experience but I only used a VSO once and a VA appeals lawyer once.  Both times i was dissapointed which isnt a knock on all VSO's or attorneys, but I ended up doing all the work and the only thing i found them good for was VBMS access.  You CAN do all of this yourself. We can converse offline/messaging, but heres a short run down of how i do my claims

 

1) i gather all the information i can. download VA records, get your C file (if you have previous claims/ dbq/exams), military records & private med records.  I have a filing cabinet at home where i keep a copy of all my records and update my VA med/private med records every 3 months with printouts of the doctors notes, exams etc (along with PDF versions on the computer).

Find ALL relevant information you can and scan it into seperate PDF files

2) i have a cover sheet that i create with every claim before i send it in that looks like this...

---------------------------------------

Evidence List for New Claim of __________

Note: You will see in the top left hand corner BATES NUMBERING (i.e. 000001, 000002, etc.) to denote page number. A total of XXX pages of evidence is to follow this cover page listing all the evidence to be considered.

Contains names of files uploaded and how many pages per file and brief description of evidence contained. I REQUEST THAT THIS LETTER AND ALL EVIDENCE SUBMITTED BE INCLUDED IN MY C FILE.

 

TOTAL INCLUDING THIS EVIDENCE LIST, PAGES OF EVIDENCE: (XXXX)

SWORN DECLARATION OF NAME: 2 Pages

Overview of Dr. Trippi report and request to revaluate my rating to reflect an increase that is supported by evidence within the report.

SWORN DECLARATION OF NAME: 2 Pages

Overview of current issues since the 2015 report

SWORN DECLARATION OF NAME: 2 Pages

Statement of issues seen by spouse.

PSYCHOSOCIAL EVALUATION BY DR. _________: XX PAGES

Evaluation by Dr. _______in 2015 indicating severe impairment due to PTSD

PRIVATE PHYSICIAN NOTES BY DR. ________: XX PAGES

Evaluations and notes of Dr. _______ for the period of 1/1/2013-1/1/2017 for counseling and mental health care relating to PTSD, indicating severe impairment of personal and work ability due to PTSD symptoms.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

I make sure that the total number of pages is noted, along with each piece of evidence that i am submitting for the claim and what it contains.  The rater can easily scan through and see what i am submitting and roughly what its saying in support of my claim.  I also include the pages from my VA/Military record. He can then check independently for that document in his copies of my VA/Mil records to verify im not bullshitting him.  This way if my claim goes south and after the decision i make a request for my cfile i can see and make sure ALL the information i submitted was included/uploaded and considered.  It does happen that key pieces of evidence are missed for one reason or another.  Say my claim is granted but at 30% when it should be 70% and they say in the decision there is no evidence of severe impairment, i can then, in the appeal, point to the evidence that was sent showing there is and heres where it is, etc etc.

 

3) After I get all my evidence together I combine them into one PDF (or sometimes i have to do multiple "pieces" since ebenefits only allows 25mb per upload) and then i shotgun submit it.

a) I send it via FAX to my Claims intake Center

b) I upload and submit it via va.gov

c) I send it CERTIFIED MAIL WITH RETURN RECEIPT to the evidence intake center.

 

It may seem overkill but i take no chances. With the Certified Mail you have verified proof you submitted on the day you did (in case there is a clock ticking for your ITF or Appeal) and with the return receipt you have proof it was received by a VA staff member. I send ALL my claims/evidence, anything of importance between the VA and myself this way.

4) Sworn Statements are important. I Use the following format.

--------------------------------------------------------------

SWORN DECLARATION OF NAME

 

STATE OF  YOUR STATE §

COUNTY OF COUNTY §

Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. 1746, I, NAME, declare under penalty of perjury that the foregoing statement is true and correct:

1. "My name is NAME. I am more than eighteen years of age, of sound mind, and fully competent to make this affidavit. I have personal knowledge of the matters set forth below.:

2. I have known _____ for 8 years and since........

3.

Executed on 1/01/2020

Signed:

 

___________________________________________

FIRST LAST

-----------------------------------------------

With a sworn statement it carries the penalty of perjury if you lie, where a classic buddy statement does not. I have no proof raters give it more weight because of that, but I think they do.  Use this for yourself, spouse, friends, family etc. Have them write detailed statements on how they see X affecting you. if they knew you before the miltiary have them describe how youre different now vs then.

5) It does happen that sometimes a VA doc or examiner doesnt note down something we said or wrote down something in a way we didnt mean it or say it.  I have expressed things in exams that never got checked off on the DBQ when i get my C file months or years later.  I have found great benefit in IMO's but other admittedly have not or balk at the cost.  To me its worth it for big claims that will significantly increase your rating with bigger retro.  If you can find a local neurologis, psychologist, podiatrist, whatever that will do a DBQ and write a nexus letter, great.  I will also say that its important to find well accredited doctors to do this.  In my experience the VA is like the military, whoever is the higher ranking medical person will win out in the rating.  If you have a NP write you a letter or do an exam and they have a MD that disagrees, youll lose or vice versa.  This is why I like IMO's because they are most often board certified with alot of years of experience and good bonafides that most VES/QTC/VA examiners do not have.  The latest IMO i got was for OSA secondary to PTSD. now the nexus letter and IMO doc used the same evidence, studies & arguments i submitted years before that and was denied, but when a MD makes the same argument it carries weight...and I won.

 

 

This is just a breif'ish overview of how I do my claims, but I think its possible for every vet to do claims on their own.  Some VSO's are good, some are bad, but NONE of them are going to give a shit about your claim as much as you do, so own that and do the work 🙂

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