Square 1 At the VA
by Thom Stoddert
Recently at a reunion I realized that most veterans simply do not understand the benefits they have earned, and justly qualify for.. The scope of VA benefits goes beyond just getting a check each month for an injury incurred in the service. Consideration should also be given to how a service connected medical condition affects other medical conditions, your family, your employment, and your education. The more you understand the more effective you can be in dealing with the Dept. of Veteran Affairs.
We all know the VA is a massive bureaucracy, but it can be dealt with all by your self without lawyers
and congressmen. All it takes is a little understanding of some basic
1)Service-connection of a chronic injury or disease is granted when there is evidence of it having been
caused by military service, or if it arose during military service. This is a legal determination that only the VA can give to any medical condition.
2)Compensation is payable for a chronic medical injury or disease that was incurred in the service or as result of military service when it has been granted the status of service-connection.
3)Secondary medical conditions that have been incurred because of a service-connected condition or made worse by a service-connected condition can also be granted service-connected status and compensation paid.
4)Service connected conditions are eligible for VA hospital treatment regardless of the percentage granted to the condition, FREE.
5)Greater percentages granted for service-connected conditions, can result
in further benefits to the veteran and his family.
6)Consideration of a disability is based on how it affects the whole person in their social and occupational efforts and the rating percentage is applied by the use of a standardized Rating Schedule that is a part of federal law.
Everything is hinged on evidence. There must be evidence of a disease or injury having been incurred in service. There must be evidence of that condition existing now. There must be evidence that the present condition is linked to that injury or disease that was incurred in the military.
1)Evidence is usually seen in your service medical records, but statements from former NCOs, Officers, or witnesses can be accepted, especially if during a period of combat.
2)The VA is responsible for getting records in possession of another government agency.
3)You must identify any after service medical records/evidence so that the VA can try to obtain them on your behalf.
4)In some unusual cases the veteran must obtain and present the evidence to the VA in support of their case.
5)Evidence must meet at least basic
legal requirements of credibility.
The Infamous “Agent Orange” Issue
The VA, the Air Force, the Institute of
National Health, and others have extensively
researched the effects of exposure to this
herbicide. As a result there is a list of cancers and diseases that will receive service connection automatically. Cancers of the prostate gland and diabetes are especially prevalent among Viet Nam
veterans and have been associated with
Agent Orange exposure. Agent Orange conditions receive service connection with evidence that you were in Viet Nam, and a diagnosis of any of the recognized conditions. When there is a diagnosis of an Agent Orange presumptive cancer, the VA will grant service connection at 100%, plus possible additional benefits, during periods of active treatment and convalescence. Afterwards the residual effects will be evaluated and compensated.
Diabetes is compensated based on evidence of the types of treatments and hospitalization. Secondary issues resulting from diabetes, such as heart disease, peripheral neuropathy, and retinitis are often granted service-connection.
However, remember, exposure to Agent Orange in itself is not a compensable condition. You don’t get money for just having been exposed to Agent Orange. You must have a disability related to it. Hint: unless your boots hit the ground in one of the recognized contaminated areas; the VA will not recognize presumptive exposure.
Agent Orange Presumptive Illnesses:
1.Chloracne (must occur within 1 year of exposure to Agent Orange) 2.Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma 3.Soft tissue sarcoma (other than osteosarcoma, chondrosarcoma, Kaposi’s sarcoma, or mesothelioma)
4.Hodgkin’s disease 5.Porphyria cutanea tarda (must occur within 1 year of exposure)6.Multiple myeloma 7.Respiratory cancers, including cancers of the lung, larynx, trachea, and bronchus 8. Prostate cancer 9.Acute and subacute transient peripheral neuropathy (must appear within 1 year of exposure and resolve within 2 years of date of onset)10.Type 2 diabetes 11.Chronic lymphocytic leukemia
Newly added:hairy cell and other B-cell leukemias, Parkinson's disease, and ischemic heart disease.
PTSD is a mental health condition that actually changes the physical structure of certain organs in the brain due to excessive high levels of stress and adrenaline. The symptoms are chronic, vary over time, and can adversely affect your behavior and health. If you think you suffer from this condition go to the nearest VA Vets Center or VA hospital requesting treatment and evaluation. Don’t forget your spouse, family members, and close friends
are useful allies when dealing with this condition. Another hint: don’t claim service connection for this
issue just because you had a “bad hair day” in the service and you have not planned well for retirement. Your fellow vets will look at you funny.
The VA will provide compensation when there is evidence of an in-service stressor event and a
current diagnosis of this condition. The evidence for a verifiable service related stressor is most often provided for by your DD-214. This is because it shows the receipt of a Combat Infantry Badge and/or other combat related awards, duty assignments, and military occupational skill identifiers.
The more you know and understand about this condition, the more you can deal successfully with it. So do your research by starting with your family, the VA treatment centers, and the Internet.
There are many, many additional benefits that are available to veterans and their families. Here are a few:
1) Additional compensation can sometimes be paid when service-connected disabilities reach certain levels of impairment.
A)Loss of or loss of use of a paired organ such as a foot, leg, or eye.
B)Loss of bowel and bladder control due to a service-connected condition.
C)Multiple high percentages assigned to service connected conditions.
2)Educational benefits can be granted when;
A)The veteran has service-connected conditions that interfere with employment and rated greater than 20%.
B)The veteran is rated at 100% or evaluated Individually Unemployable; therefore family members can receive educational benefits.
3)Pensions for veterans and/or surviving spouse;
A)The surviving spouse can be eligible for a program called D.I.C., if the veteran dies of a service
connected condition or has been rated 100% for ten years prior to death.
B)The veteran can be given a pension if non-service connected medical conditions prevent
employment, regardless of age, and if certain income levels are verified. At least one day of war-time is also mandated.
C)A surviving family member can be granted a pension if the veteran had war-time service and meets certain income (a lack of) requirements.
4)Burial benefits can be paid at different levels depending on whether or not the veteran died of a service-connected condition, or was rated at 100%.
5)Health care benefits are available at different levels for both the veteran and family members depending on the level of disability recognized.
6)Medical equipment and appliances for service-connected conditions can also be provided.
7)Insurance plans and various loans for homes, farms, and businesses are available.
Summary suggestions and resources
Evidence is the very essence of any claim to the VA. An application for any benefit must meet the requirements for that benefit and have the supporting evidence. Evidence must always meet the legal standard of being credible. In some cases the standard must be at least to the level of a reasonable doubt.
Though not absolutely needed, having a good Veterans Service officer who is well trained can prove invaluable to developing the evidence needed for your claim. Veteran Service Officers can be found at VFWs, DAVs, American Legions, AmVets, and other organizations. Their services are for free regardless of membership. Just find one who has been nationally trained by their organization.
Any correspondence you receive from the VA must be read carefully and as many times as needed. A veteran’s service officer is helpful in explaining any letters you have received. If your claim has been denied, a letter will explain why it was denied and will indicate how the decision can be reversed.
The Department of Veterans Affairs
Everything, all the laws, regulations, benefits, and more are here.
VA Vets Center
Located in most large cities
These are excellent places for information and treatment
A good additional site to go to.
“Nam Vet” and “Down Range”
Books by Chuck Dean, 173rd Abn, 1966-67,
“Nam Vet” and “Down Range”Books by Chuck Dean, 173rd Abn, 1966-67,
Point Man International
Just do web search, multiple sites for the various local outposts.