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Old 10 April 2018, 12:11
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10thvet 10thvet is offline
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helpful claim advice

I am not here to state the position of the VA or writing on behalf of the VA. Here are some things I have come across that vets do to themselves that tends to hamper their own claim. Sometimes, Vets are our own worst enemy.

All the items listed below are things I have personally seen with my own two eyes. Some of this may seem like I am complaining... Maybe I am but only to the extent of how vets can create problems for themselves.

I work in Appeals section and before you ask, I cannot review your claim, check status of your claim or enter your claim folder unless it is assigned to me by my supervisor. Don’t even ask. I can and do answer general questions in the Forum, and will continue to do so.

1) Keep the VA updated with your correct address: If you receive benefits and your spouse or children are included, be sure to keep the VA updated with your current address if you move. The VA will periodically send out documents to verify you still are married etc etc. If the form cannot be delivered because you move every month and have not updated the VA, they can and will pull your benefits for your spouse to the last time you verified them. This can create a huge debt. Also if you were married and get divorced, spouse passes away, children drop out of school... make sure you inform the VA because they will remove your spouse the day the divorce is final. I have personally seen this go all back to the early 90s. And think $150 a month for 27 years will not get expensive... try it and find out. Also if you get married...Congrats, The VA can only go back 1 year in most cases. If you fail to tell the VA, you were married in 2005 and notified the VA in 2017, guess what, they are only going to pay you from 2016(other issues not withstanding) . Keep a copy of the notices you send VA and you can use postal tracking to confirm VA received your notice. You don’t need to send it Certified or Registered mail. The tracking record is sufficient.

2) Sign your forms: If you do not sign it, I cannot do anything with it. There are certain forms your POA (VSO) can sign and there are also forms that do not need to be signed, sign your forms if there is a signature block... but if it is one of the forms that needs to be signed and it is unsigned, we have to ask you to complete the form again with a signature. If this is the case, please verify that it is signed and do not just submit the unsigned form again. Your original date may be preserved but it can delay your claim significantly.

3) Just stop with “see attachment”. If you submit a form, fill it out in its entirety and stop putting “see attachment” unless you run out of space on the form. If you do have to attach pages – make sure your claim number (SSN) is on each page. You risk it being lost, illegible or missing pages which may hamper or delay your claim. Case in point. A vet submitted a claim for individual unemployabilty. On the form you have places where you can submit your former employer’s information so we may contact them. What the vet did was fill out the header (personal information) and then stated see attachment. He then submitted 18 pages of why he could not work and NO employer information. Since he did not supply the requested information which was his employer’s name and address, we went back to the vet and asked for the information again. If he would have just completed the form as instructed, he would have been OK... He did not supply the information and his claim was denied.

4) Illegible Handwriting: If you have access to a computer, use a computer to complete and file your claim or other paperwork. If you do not have access to a computer, find someone with good handwriting to complete the paperwork. Your messy and unreadable handwriting will slow down your claim or appeal by having me asking you to clarify your hieroglyphics. If you don’t have a VSO, and have to handwrite it, have a buddy read it and verify it is readable.

5) Snarky Comments: While I do enjoy a good snark every now and then, if you are asked to submit or resubmit something specific (Medical records for example), your response should not be “already did and I am not doing it again”... we are asking for you to submit or resubmit for a reason. Think of this being the equivalent of someone stomping on the ground and say “you will see this again”. Computers/faxes and other office equipment malfunctions can render the paperwork illegible. The evidence may not have made it to your file or if it did, it may be missing pages. If you are sure you sent it in, call your VSO/POA to review your file to ensure it’s there. If you do state “I’m not doing it”...The VA will just make your claim ready for decision and I will catch you on appeal.

6) Follow the instructions on the paperwork you are sent: For an example If you have to file to appeal on a rating decision, its states you must use a certain form such as a 0958(Notice of disagreement) and you have 1 year from the date of the notification letter you were sent (with few exceptions). If you wait for 360 days to file and it’s on the wrong form, there is nothing by law we can do, we will deem your claim “Not timely” and you are ass out: submitting the incorrect form does not extend, toll, or otherwise delay the time limit for filing the correct form. We do make exceptions such as mis-delivered mail and natural disasters but remember, we have to follow the law also. You will not be given a month because you were out hunting or in Vegas hitting the slots.

7) For PTSD, if you file a 0781, it asks you to list incidents detail, you need to complete the entire form. The VA needs a two month window for certain incidents so be specific as possible. Simply stating “I was deployed to Iraq” will not work, either. Just writing your “buddy was stabbed outside a bar” will not work unless you give very specific information such as the date and time, police station, the bar’s name, newspaper clippings or buddy statements. Instead of writing “I was in Iraq”...Try something like “I was stationed at Camp Green Beans in Iraq between this date and that date and we received rocket fire, mortar and sniper fire almost every day. I feared for my life the entire time I was there. Or “In order to blend in with Iraqi’s my duty was to patrol Route Irish in a taxi with orange doors. My buddy John Smith was wounded on Sept 15 2005 and Cpt Doe was KIA the next day while we were out on patrol. I helped med evac both of them”.
8) Has to be a connected: By this I mean your medical issue has to be connected to military service. Most issues can easily be connected... Have bad knees and was a paratrooper, there is your connection. But what about issues that are not as clear. Let’s use Diabetes Mellitus (DM) as an example. It is common knowledge that DM is connected to Agent Orange and if you have “in country” service in Vietnam (and a few other locations) your DM is a presumptive disease because of your service in Vietnam and the use of Agent Orange. If you cannot prove you set foot in Vietnam (or other areas), your DM is not automatically service connected. It may be that you came down with DM because you are now 100 lbs overweight and eat at McDonalds every night...your DM is not automatically service connected because there is no link to Vietnam (or other locations). I am not saying that your DM is not connected to your service; I am saying it is NOT automatically connected. It is up to you to connect the dots between your service and the issue you currently have. A doctor will verify the medical connection with what you claim. Think: Incident of injury or disease in service – current disability - and nexus between them. If you had an injury before service (think football knee) and it was aggravated by your service (say, as a paratrooper), VA can and does compensate for the additional disability attributable to your service.

9) Read the entire form: The new VA form 526, the form you file to complete your claim, tells you exactly what documents you need to submit to aid in your claim, you just need to follow the instructions. Filling a claim for PTSD, submit a 0781, If you have private medical records you want the VA to get, submit the required 4142 and 4142a and it should save you at least 60 days. I will warn you. Sometimes this is a double edged sword. The example is a vet as a civilian (after service) was in a motorcycle accident and basically destroyed his shoulders and back. On his 4142 he submitted that he would like the VA to get only the records prior to the motorcycle accident. The VA followed his instructions and notified the office of the dates we wanted however the medical provider did not and submitted everything to include the motorcycle accident. Since this was medical evidence the vet did not hurt his shoulder in service (to the extent he claimed), his claim was denied. Can the Vet sue the doctor’s office for a HIPPA violation...? Not sure, not my bailiwick

10) Secret missions: If you were in a unit that cannot be mentioned in polite circles and missions were secret to the POTUS level, there is no need to state “the mission was secret and therefore I cannot tell you anything”. Believe it or not, the VA has connections in the Special Ops Forces for all services that can and will verify details without violating your NDA. I personally have reviewed claims of Delta, Navy Seals, TF 160 and all other high speed units. I do not get the details; I turn the appeal over to a specialist and a few days later I get an email that states “Details and stressor verified” Approved for such and such contention...or something along those lines. While access to member’s names is limited while serving, once released from the assignment the Veteran’s previous affiliation with an SMU is acknowledged by DoD. It is not classified. Missions may be classified, but there are no classified awards.

11) Buddy Statements. I cannot tell you how overlooked this is. If you are a paratroop and had a compound fracture of your leg during a jump but drive on and complete the mission because you are too hoah to have it checked it by medics....then you can have your buddy state something along the lines “I was on the airborne mission with PVT Tentpeg and when he arrived at the assembly area, he was carrying his leg strapped over his rucksack like a the mortar tube he was carrying” Of course you know I am joking about the seriousness of that injury but I think I get my point across. Also you can submit pictures, jump logs and just about anything else you think will help your claim.

12) Exams: Make the appointment; there is nothing else that will get your claim denied for service connections faster than missing a CP exam without good cause. If you can’t make it call 1-800-827-1000 and tell them you cannot make it and they SHOULD reschedule it. It may take a few more months but they can and will reschedule it. There may be another number in the exam packet you receive. Call the same number if you miss it but beware there is a phrase called “good cause” which means you must have a good cause to have missed it. A good cause is an emergency for you, family member, or you didn’t get the letter. It happens, just tell them you did not get notification the exam was scheduled. Mine arrived by UPS and had to sign for it so that was not going to happen. You ask what is not a good cause to miss an exam: Forgetting, being at the wrong place or the wrong time (although they do their best to fit you in), couldn’t get off from work, pet had to go to vet (but I have seen that overturned if it a service dog). The bottom line is that if you filed a claim, chances are you will be contacted for an exam, be prepared. In Montana, the extreme case was to send someone to Denver to get have their CP exam... think about that one...

13) POA fees.
If you have a lawyer helping you through your appeal, be very careful when you or the POA withdraws representation. Most lawyers will ask for the maximum allowed by the VA which is 20% of the award for any past due bennies. There are other stipulations but let’s stick with the fees. When the lawyer stops representing you, The lawyer must waive the rights to any fee and it MUST state they waive/give up all rights to fees (or words to that extent) in the letter for any awards prior to a specific date. It is common practice that if you drop your lawyer, they will state they retain the rights to any fees and the fees can be substantial. I am reviewing an appeal where the POA wrote one letter on behalf of the Vet (over 6 years ago) and since the revoking of the lawyer was not conducted correctly by the vet, the lawyer was still listed as POA. For that one letter the lawyer is getting $19,000, the vet is getting $90,000. There is a process to review the attorney fees but it can be difficult to overturn.

14) Be aware of Dates.
By this I mean, know that if you receive extra money for your child under 18, they will remove your child from your award unless they are considered helpless, still in high school or college. In the case of school, you need to submit a 674. Regardless of your child school status, they will be removed on their 23rd birthday unless considered helpless. If it takes two years for the VA to catch, guess who is on the hook for the back pay. It’s rare that they are not automatically removed but it does happen....KNOW THE DATES. I can help with general dates. The VA does send out forms for you to verify your dependents and this will happen about when your child reaches 17 because they will be pulled off your award at 18 unless they are in school (high school or college). If they are attending college after graduation, it should be a seamless transition but once again, if your kid graduates early, drops out, gets married or changes school, let the VA know.


The above is not an all inclusive list of things that go wrong for claimants – but they are the majority of what I have seen. You have the right to go it alone but having a VSO on your side helps, especially when it comes to meeting suspense dates and making sure the forms get entered into the system. To be frank, some VSOs are better than others. Ask around before you select a VSO. Meet with the VSO and make sure you are comfortable working with him/her. You can change your VSO at any time, so you still have options if you don’t feel things are working out.
The Regional Offices do the majority of the work evaluating the evidence of service- connection and rating the disability per the schedules in Part 38 CFR Part IV – Schedule for Rating Disabilities. If you get upset and fire off an appeal, normally the Regional Office ceases work rating your issues. In other words, even if you are frustrated, give the Regional Office time to rate all of your pending issues. Then if you are not satisfied, file the appeal. Appeals can and do sometimes take years. True, your award date will go back to when you claimed your disability, but you may financially have a hard time until then.
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Old 10 April 2018, 20:12
Fu King Lawyer Fu King Lawyer is offline
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Thank you, brother.

To add"

If you have adult diabetes and think it may be service-connected but don't have a VSM, there is a list of areas outside of RVN where DoD used agent orange.

https://www.publichealth.va.gov/docs...de_vietnam.pdf

Without the VSM - you won't get the benefit of presumed service-connected, but if you get a medical doctor's opinion that your disease is secondary to exposure and you can show you were in one of the other areas, at the times used, you may have the ability to get your claim approved.

I would also add: Just because you were in the Kingdom of Thailand, during the period mentioned, I have seen VA come back and ask for buddy statements that the Veteran was assigned duties on the airbase perimeter where the AO was actually used. It's not a cake walk, but it is possible.
v/r
fkl
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Old 10 April 2018, 20:19
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10thvet 10thvet is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Fu King Lawyer View Post
Thank you, brother.
fkl
My college professors are bitch slapping my right now. I did not give credit where credit is due. FKL help me put this together and proof read my notes.

Yes I have an MBA, yes I forgot all I learned about writing :)
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Old 10 April 2018, 21:14
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CB CB is offline
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Thank you for the information.
And for taking the time with FKL to assemble it.
That looks like a great article for
- M.O.A.A.
- A.U.S.A.
- The Drop
- V.F.W.
- AmVets
etc. etc.
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Old 10 April 2018, 21:29
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hawkdrver hawkdrver is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CB View Post
Thank you for the information.
And for taking the time with FKL to assemble it.
That looks like a great article for
- M.O.A.A.
- A.U.S.A.
- The Drop
- V.F.W.
- AmVets
etc. etc.
^^ yep

Thanks 10thVet and FKL.
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Old 11 April 2018, 05:22
DaveP DaveP is offline
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Outstanding; that's some heavy lifting.
Thanks to both of you.

Consider making this a 'sticky'?
DaveP
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Old 2 May 2018, 09:14
Fu King Lawyer Fu King Lawyer is offline
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It is also efficient if you put all of the secondary conditions you are experiencing into the initial VA claim. While VA has a "duty to assist" and develop your claim, it doesn't always happen. If you "amend" your claim with additional symptoms, you risk delaying the process as well as issues "falling thru the cracks".

So, keeping with the example above, for instance, if you had "boots on ground" in Vietnam and later in life develop adult diabetes, and if as a result of the diabetes you have nerve pain into your legs and also have suffered a loss of vision secondary to the diabetes, claim all three: "I served in the Republic of Vietnam during the years ------ and am presumed exposed to Agent Orange. I am recently diagnosed with Type II diabetes and have chronic nerve pain and loss of vision secondary to my diabetes." (or similar wording - just make sure everything is in there. Any questions, get a VSO).

Your claim does not have to be in "medical terms", the docs will put it into those. But by claiming everything you are suffering, the VA will have to develop all your symptoms and debilitating conditions. Generally, this method of documenting your claim results in a more thorough award.

Again, VA has a duty and often does fully develop the claim. But that is not always the case and you want to be able to "focus" VA on your unique circumstances.

Good luck.
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Old 2 May 2018, 12:22
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CPTAUSRET CPTAUSRET is offline
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10thvet:

I appreciate all the work you put into this.

Thank you.
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