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Could use some advice. 11 year appeal


hammerman15

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I have had an ongoing appeal for the last 11 years with the VA regarding a mental health claim. It has went to the BVA three times and been sent back for more development each time. The most recent action was a letter in the mail that states LHI will be doing an mental health evaluation. I have done similar things two other times where I interviewed in person. It appears that this one will be done via records. I sent in a statement a few days ago to the BVA using the ID.me portal regarding my claim prior to getting this letter today. Will this psychologist see this statement?

Do I need to send it to the compensation people as well? It is critical to my argument of service connection that the evaluator reads this before rendering an opinion. I know that the Judge will see it as I sent it to the BVA. So at a minimum before he finalizes the order he will/should review it.

The crux of the problem is I am having is that the VA keeps stating my problems were not caused by service but rather divorce, alcoholism, a child with ADHD, homelessness.

In this statement I have attempted to connect that dots.

I will attach my statement below to give a better understanding to those who answer. I appreciate your time and thoughts.

To whom it may concern:

I am writing to you today because I have not previously been allowed to describe how my experiences in the military has affected my everyday life and how these experiences directly relate to my claim for depression and anxiety. Even though I have been evaluated 3 times by 3 different evaluators, none of the evaluators allowed me the opportunity to share my specific military experiences with:
My service-connected disabilities 
A physical assault led by my own platoon mates 
My witness to a horrifying and devastating accident
My current mental illness and self-well-being as it relates to my military experience

Each of these experiences are described below. Please note that during all 3 evaluations, I asked to share my experiences but was denied due to time restrains and the need to get through a formatted process – which included answering questions that focused on my pre-service history. This made no sense to me, but I proceeded to answer the questions as instructed during each evaluation. 

Initial Evaluation by Dr. ====:
During my initial evaluation by Dr.====, I attempted to share the assault, I wanted to share my paranoia, my depression and my fear and anxiety. I was told that there was only a limited amount of time allowed for the process and there was a format to be followed. Dr. ==== only focused on my pre-service history and dismissed any connection to my service injuries and mental illness.

Evaluation by Dr. ====: 
A few years later I was evaluated by Dr. ====. He focused on my pre-service drinking history and that I had attended treatment prior to enlisting in the military (I am proud of myself for attending treatment and achieving sobriety during this time). I once again tried to share the assault, the accident, and my service-connected disabilities, but he did not allow me to do so stating there was a format to be followed. Please note that the military allowed me to enter only after being cleared by a MEPS psychologist who granted me a waiver for enlistment. Dr. ==== only focused on my pre-service history and dismissed any connection to my service injuries and mental illness.

Evaluation by Dr.====:
The most recent evaluation was with Dr. ====. She also only focused on my pre-service history. When I asked to share what happened to me during my time in the service, she stated that my file had hundreds of pages and she only had a limited amount of time to review. She followed the same format as the others. This was my third attempt asking to be heard and my third time being denied. I was angry. 
 
My military experiences:   
During basic training, I suffered a shoulder injury that followed me throughout my military career, and still does to this day. I have numerous buddy letters in my file on how this injury has impacted my ability to fully perform certain tasks. During my service, I lived in constant fear of reinjury to my shoulder, guarding it and knowing it could easily "pop-out" again. Because of this guarding, I was often bullied and called a "broke dick". To this day, I still guard my shoulder, especially when performing overhead tasks. Along with this service-connected injury, the history of being bullied contributes to my overall mental illness. 

Soon after at my first duty station, I was physically assaulted by my own platoon mates. Some call it an “initiation” – but this was not that, rather this was a traumatic assault that has caused permanent life altering mental damage that cannot be undone. Against my will, I was held in physical bondage, physically beaten, and sexually threatened. This assault permanently altered my mental health and physical well-being. I was left in a depressed and anxious state suffering from panic attacks followed by rage, anger, hatred, and fear. Alcohol became my coping mechanism. To this day, I live in constant fear. I have become a VERY angry person. WHY DID THIS HAPPEN TO ME? I DID NOT DESERVE THIS! This experience traumatized me FOR LIFE! To this day, I am being treated for paranoid personality disorder, depression, and anxiety.

At my next duty station, I shattered my leg and ankle. I became angrier and more depressed, isolating myself from others. I missed schools and promotions, and the bully label of "broke dick" followed me around everywhere. I did my best to perform in the hi-intensity environment at Fort Irwin where we conducted mock battles 2 weeks straight every single month, over 37 times. I xxxxxxx tried my best! This additional injury and constant reminder that I was a “broke dick” contributed to my continued alcohol coping abuse and growing mental illness.

During my time at Fort Irwin, there was a horrifying accident while we were out on the battlefield, several soldiers were KILLED and multiple injured when several Bradley fighting vehicles went over a cliff. These soldiers had my same MOS and during that mission we were directly opposing them. That terrified me and every time thereafter when we would do night missions, I would live in fear until daylight. I have a letter in my file from SGT ==== describing these missions in detail and the effect they had upon us soldiers. This experience contributed to my continued alcohol coping abuse and declining mental health. To this day, I suffer from terrifying nightmares for which no medications can help to control. 

Once at Fort Hood, I was assigned to staff. It was well known that if you were a combat arms soldier you DIDN'T WANT TO BE ASSIGNED TO STAFF. I felt I was being "blacklisted" by my unit and was not even given the chance to perform. Paranoia, anxiety, rage, anger, hatred, and fear followed me. I was only worthy of the broke dick label which had slapped onto my back years ago.

By now my mental health and drinking had spiraled out of control. My thoughts where not always rational, even when sober. I was drinking off-duty wherever possible. This was my pattern during my time in Korea and in Fort Hood. I felt victimized at every turn and basically screwed. I was angry! 

On staff I was assigned as the squadron commander's gunner on his Bradley fighting vehicle. I was soon up for reenlistment and planned on asking for an assignment elsewhere so I could get out of staff. About 6 months before I was to reenlist, I attended a squadron function where alcohol was provided and, on the way back to the barracks I received a DWI.

My last six months of military service were a living hell. I had just spent almost 8 years of my life for nothing. I was in a daze; I would alternate between wanting to kill myself and wanting to kill others. I had been abused, traumatized, and suffered painful injuries for nothing! I was humiliated and ashamed. My dreams were crushed. I felt I had been robbed of my life and had become an “broke dick” alcoholic. 

My life after serving the military:
One of the most painful calls I had ever made was to my father – telling him I was kicked out of the military, and to ask if I could come back to live with him again. I was no longer a superhero to my father, to my brothers, or to my mother. All I knew is that I was programmed to be an angry broke dick alcoholic miss fortunate soldier, too ashamed, embarrassed, and proud to share the assault that happened to me.  

When I first enlisted in the military, I dreamed of a life-long career. My life before may not have been perfect, but I was healthy and OK. My life after the military was drastically different. I left the military full of rage, hatred, pain, injury, mental illness, and alcoholism. I have statement letters in my file from both my brother and mother testifying to my character change.  

Prior to my military service I had no problems getting jobs and certainly was not a mean or bitter person. But since I left the service, I have had over 10 jobs and terminated from each of them due to failure to get along with others and performance. I was called abrasive and angry by my employers. I was unable to interact well with my co-workers or customers. These were jobs in the HVAC industry that paid well and were sought after jobs. Getting the job wasn't the problem. It was keeping them after I was hired.

My first marriage dissolved due to my anger, rage and drinking. My children were afraid of me, my wife couldn't understand what was wrong with me.

On Aug 8th, 2011, I put a gun in my mouth in front of my 8-year-old son and was a hair trigger away from ending my misery. 

I have now been sober for over 10 years. Aug 11th, 2022 marks my 11th year of sobriety. 

I see my VAMC psychiatrist ====, regularly, and have for many years now. I have shared the assault and the other experiences with him. He has stated in my file that these military service experiences have a direct connection to my mental illness. 

However even with all these years of sobriety and years in therapy at the VAMC (which I am grateful for!), I am still a very depressed and angry person, a paranoid, fearful and anxious person, and continue to suffer from mental illness due to my military experiences. 

I routinely have vivid nightmares about how I was injured, the assault I suffered, the horrible accident at Fort Irwin, and the shame of being forced out of the military. I routinely suspect strangers of wanting to cause me or my family harm, I am always on high alert. When things go wrong or something changes for the worse, I feel despair and hopelessness, there is no way out but only down. 

In closing:
These experiences have been life damaging to me and traumatic to my mental health. These experiences have forever changed my personality and outlook, how I view others and life in general.

I feel that the VA refusing to take this information from me is almost as traumatic as the events themselves. I feel frustrated and angry every time I am told that my assault and service-connected disabilities have no effect on my mental illness. 

I do not see how my claim for service-connected depression and anxiety can be fairly decided until the entire picture is looked at and understood, not just my drinking history, but my entire history to include my time serving the United States Of America.

Below is my VA doctors notes relating to this.
Note LOCAL TITLE: MH PSYCHIATRIC EVALUATION & MANAGEMENT STANDARD TITLE: PSYCHIATRY E & M NOTE DATE OF NOTE: FEB 16, 2022@10:53 ENTRY DATE: FEB 16, 2022@10:53:34 AUTHOR: ==== EXP COSIGNER: URGENCY: STATUS: COMPLETED PSYCHIATRIC EVALUATION AND MANAGEMENT FOLLOW UP VISIT Duration: 25 minutes phone Time spent performing psychotherapy services: 16-37 minutes

INTERVAL HISTORY: Mr.==== reports that he's contending with a sore shoulder and neck that came on suddenly for no obvious reason. He's had chiropractic treatment and a deep tissue massage (that was quite painful), and he's using a lot of ibuprofen and naproxen to get through it. He contacted his mother on her birthday and read a letter to her that recalled good times from his childhood. He says while there were rough times, he knew she cared about him and regretted her limitations as a parent, so they have repaired their relationship and have been close for some time now. He enjoys seeing the grandchildren occasionally. His mood and temper are reasonably good as long as he stays on the sertraline. ==== is anxiously waiting to hear back on his SC claim. He says he applied for service connection for depression and anxiety as being caused by his experiences as a cavalry scout in Germany, and then later as an OpFor scout at Fort Irwin. He forwarded to me an account of the initiation ritual he was subjected to in Germany, which clearly was a traumatic event that fits his history of the onset of a depressed, hostile and anxious paranoid orientation ever since then, persisting to this day. He says that he didn't make an official report at the time, as that could have made things worse, but it changed his mood and personality decisively. ==== says that a C&P examiner many years ago attributed his depression and anxiety to a rough early childhood, but he says he was functioning well despite that, up until the point of the initiation trauma when things got really bad, and never recovered. The experiences at Fort Irwin were of a different sort; he wasn't targeted personally any more than all the scouts were, but the prevailing attitude was that no one's safety or life mattered all that much. That only confirmed the depressed, helpless and paranoid position he'd developed when in Germany.

CURRENT MEDICATIONS: Active Outpatient Medications (including Supplies): Active Outpatient Medications Status ========================================================================= 1) AMPHETAMINE/DEXTROAMPHETAMINE 30MG TAB TAKE ONE ACTIVE TABLET BY MOUTH EVERY MORNING 2) SERTRALINE HCL 100MG TAB TAKE TWO TABLETS BY MOUTH ACTIVE EVERY DAY 3) SIMVASTATIN 40MG TAB TAKE ONE-HALF TABLET BY MOUTH AT ACTIVE BEDTIME TO REDUCE CHOLESTEROL -IF TOLERATED AFTER 2 WEEKS, INCREASE DOSE TO ONE TABLET (40MG) AT BEDTIME AND NOTIFY PROVIDER 4) ZINC OXIDE 20% OINT APPLY MODERATE AMOUNT TOPICALLY ACTIVE TWICE A DAY AS NEEDED FOR SCROTAL RASH Pending Outpatient Medications Status ========================================================================= 1) SERTRALINE HCL 100MG TAB TAKE TWO TABLETS BY MOUTH PENDING EVERY DAY Active Non-VA Medications Status ========================================================================= 1) Non-VA ASPIRIN 325MG TAB 325 MG MOUTH EVERY DAY ACTIVE 6 Total Medications

STATUS EXAM: mildly depressed mood, affect moderately broad range, normal flow of thought

ASSESSMENT: depression; paranoid personality. In my opinion Mr==== depression, irritability, anxiety and paranoia are substantially attributable to his traumatic military experiences, and are much more pervasive and strongly held than what would reasonably follow from a childhood that wasn't great, but wasn't terrible either.

RISK: Risk of self harm appears low, with protective factors including his family ties and willingness to seek treatment. Risk factors include persistence of symptoms.

PSYCHOTHERAPY PROVIDED THIS VISIT: Supportive

PLAN: RTC about 3 months. /es/ ====, M.D. STAFF PSYCHIATRIST Signed: ============

Thanks for reading and offering your thoughts everyone.

 

 

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Additionally you need medical  evidence connecting (nexus) your present disabilities to your active service time (direct service connection) or alternatively medical evidence showing your present disabilities are directly due to, caused by and/or aggravated by another already service connected disability you may have from the VA.  This is known as a secondary service connection.

You should have received assistance from a paid professional DAV, VFW, or American Legion VSO a long time ago to help you with your claims.  They charge nothing for their services to vets.

An extremely long statement about your history is not ever going to be enough to convince a VARO rater or examiner that you meet the criteria for service connection unless you have the supportive medical evidence to accompany your statement.  I did not read your long statement in full.

I will soon be compiling a list of types (examples) of supporting medical evidence needed to win a claim but not now due to fishing obligations.

Others on this forum can provide you with more detailed information.  Good luck.

My comment is not legal advice as I am not a lawyer, paralegal or VSO representative.

 

Edited by Dustoff 11
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I guess I thought that my service medical records indicting broken bones and buddy letters and parents and brother indicating a major change in personality after service would do the trick. The lawyer I spoke with said the evidence is there and that they just didn't connect the dots. They keep piggybacking off the first doctors statement. In the this current remand the judge actually said that they did not answer his question the other two times and bold typed exactly what he wanted answered.

Do you know if this psych doctor will see my letter? How can I be sure she does?

Thanks

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Over the past many years I have sometimes successfully given or added my medical evidence and statements to a C&P examiner who actually looked at it kept it for making their decision that was favorable.  I always send the same type evidence to VARO with the claim also.

Sometimes other examiners have ignored or refused to see my offered statements and evidence copies.  They are not obligated to see, read or accept any of your offered information/evidence during a C&P exam but I try anyway.  No harm no foul.

One biased VA examiner even became insulted and hostile toward me for offering him the evidence in person.  His negative opinion against my claims was recently overturned by the BVA and the board granted me my OSA appeal and SMC-S with 5 years backpay.  Just like Google Search the BVA is my friend.

You have to have a tough hide as unfair as it is to vets.

The comment is not legal advice as I am not a lawyer, paralegal or VSO.

Edited by Dustoff 11
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I do commend you for seeking help. Most important part and continue treatments. 

What really catch my eyes is the part that you were kicked out of the military. Was it an honorable discharge? I don't think it should matter imo but sometimes I do see vets get denied just for that reason. 

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Posted (edited)

My advice is to review your entire records.  However, if this is a recent BVA decision (under 120 days) , consider hiring an attorney to represent you at the CAVC.  

If you are "in a time crunch", for example, if its been 110 days since your decision, YOU can file an NOA (notice of appeal) to the court.  Its not that hard.  Fill in and mail or send electronically this form:  https://www.uscourts.cavc.gov/documents/RulesFormsAppendix.pdf

    Note:   Many, many lawyers win a remand based on "in adequate reasons and bases" (from the Board.  Example:  

     The board failed to give an adequate reasons and bases as to "why" consideration was not given, to your testimony, (above).  

      The board is not required to beleive every word you say, but, if they find your testimony "not credible" (basically the board thinks you are lying), then they have to give a reasons and bases for that.  Continuing this example, if some of your testimony "was in conflict" with known facts, such as statments made by your doctor or commanding officer, then the BVA  can deem your testimony "not credible".  

     In my case, the board stated they "found my testimony credible" because it was consistent with known facts.  I was careful not to give conflicting testimony.   Its kinda easy to do.  You know, you go to the doc, and he asks you when the attack happened.  You dont recall the date.  So, you tell him it was the spring of 2004.  Later, you speak to your wife.  She says, "heavens no.  You wrote me in July of 2005, just before 4th of July."  Oh, yea it was then.  If this happens, send a correction:   "I had previously reported the attack took place in spring, 2004, however, after speaking to my spouse, I realized I had not remembered the date correctly, and it should be July 2005.  I tried to block this awful event out of my mind, so I apologize for this inconsistency, and thank my spouse for pointing out my messing up the dates.  Everything else was correct, except that I guessed at the date with the doctor, and my wife corrected me.  Then ask the VA to "correct" the dates.  Its okay to say something then make a correction.  But dont be inconsistent, always be truthful.  

      However, the board "can not" rule your testimony not credible "based solely on the fact you are an "interested" party".  In other words they have to give reasons why they dont beleive you.  

Sometimes, Vets can give conflicting testimony.  (Avoid that, if possible).  As an example, they may ask the date you were attacked.  If you said it was July 1, on one of your staments, then said it was December 4, on another document, then your statements conflict each other.  Be careful not to do that..make sure on the dates.  

      Yes, if you were sexually attacked, or bullied, then you need dates, times, places, etc.  A buddy letter may help, especially if he witnessed said attacks/bullying/demeaning.  

      You may need additional information to coorborate your testimony.  Buddy letters.  You wife, especially if you were married in service, can testify to the fact, "you wrote her (or called her)" describing the attack.  She can testify she observed you crying or other PTSD type behaviours, if, of course, she saw that.  As always, tell the truth, never lie to get benefits.  You will sleep better at night that way.  Dont use my words or my examples, use your own words and your own examples from your life.  

 

Edited by broncovet
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