Tag Archives: VA Process

The Forgotten

My father served in Vietnam in the late 1960s. When he came home, he was spit on and called a baby killer. He was one of too many. Everyone hated him and everyone that put that uniform on. That was a horrible time for our military.

As our country engages more and more across the world, spreading our military might too thin, their overall support dwindles. I watched as everyone wore their American Pride well during the First Gulf war in 1989. But the political landscape capped that quite well – “It’s all about the oil.” Everyone listens to the media.

And then one horrible day that has spread across the world, 9/11 ripped through our lives, everyone’s lives. And our national pride soared once more. For a while, anyway. And then everyone started listening to the media again. The spun any part of “The War on Terror” as a waste of money, Bush’s War, the daily death count. I was confused when the new phrases came out – “Where’s the weapons of Mass destruction?” No one could think that a plane would be a weapon of mass destruction, or bio-weapons. All they cared about was seeing the nukes. Where were the nukes? Unfortunately, we gave them plenty of time to get those out of their country. And when we couldn’t produce a cache of weapons that the media wanted and the fact that we weren’t getting out of there any time soon, the phrase changed to,  “Support our troops, but not the war.” How can you support that which engages in the thing you don’t like? It was a complete conundrum for me that still leaves me scratching my head. Just ugh.

Why do we continue to hate on our military?

According to a report released in March 2016 by the National Center for Veterans Analysis and Statistics, the greatest number of Veterans still comes from the Vietnam Era, closely followed by  peacetime only Veterans and then The First Gulf War. Yet, everyone focuses their attention, and money, on those Post-911 veterans, which only account for 13% of the total number of Veterans in that census.

Thirteen.

And yet, they are the ones who receive the attention, the focus, the help. They are the ones that all the charities gear their marketing efforts towards. In 2014, there were 19.3 million veterans living in the US and PR. Of those 19.3 million veterans, only 3.8 million have been awarded a service connected disability. Other statistics include: 7 million served in Vietnam, 5.5 million served during the Gulf War era (representing service from August 1990 to present), and 2.5 million served in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Now, when I say that 2.5 million served in Iraq and Afghanistan, I’m sure that is an accurate number in the sense that there were 2.5 million people deployed to those areas. However, it is a well-known fact that of those 2.5 million people quite a lot have been on multiple deployments. So, in essence, there aren’t 2.5 million veterans of those two wars. The RAND Association explains it best –  in troop years, rather than number of deployed. At present, I have been unable to locate the exact number of Iraq and Iran Veterans. However, RAND is stating the strength of approximately 554,000 soldiers in December 2011. The VA is reporting that it has seen approximately 860,000 Iraq and Afghanistan veterans utilizing their Health System.

As the US Veteran population ages, the older generation numbers will dwindle. This is only natural. But with our continuing efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan, the number of veterans from these two areas will undoubtedly surpass the Vietnam era.

I am in no way trying to downplay the younger generation of veterans. By no means. What I am trying to point out is that Every Veteran Matters. 

And that’s how ALL these benefits/charities SHOULD be run. But they’re not.

I lived through my husband’s combat deployment. He experienced it. Still experiences it. Every. Horrible. Moment. And how many people remember Kosovo and their atrocities?

Only those who went there in the beginning.

So why is it that only the latest veterans, those post-911 combat veterans, are the only ones to get any benefits, any assistance, anything from anyone?

We are not ones to ask for assistance or help. We are those people who would offer up our help to others, no matter how bad off we were. But this last year has put us in a bind. With my medical insurance premiums and cost going up, the services and prescriptions covered going down, we’ve pretty much wiped out our savings. The VA hasn’t paid for any of the procedures he’s gone through since they stopped working back in 2012 or so. I can’t remember the last time he went. They don’t pay for any of his pain medications. So we are forced, now, to go seek civilian help.

He’s been going to a civilian neurologist since we moved to Florida and he’s been doing Botox injections in his neck and shoulders for his dystonia. For the past two years, all we had to pay for was the doctor visit for this procedure. Now, we have to pay for the Botox and the doctor visit. At $1000 every 3 months, that’s a no go. So he hasn’t had this since October of 2015. His pain is ever-increasing.

I did some digging and found out that now the VA Pain Center can do the Botox injections for him. I also want him to try ketamine infusions, as it’s helped a couple of people with their chronic pain that no pain medications have been able to touch.

In January 2016, I called for a VA neurology consultation so he could possibly be seen for both Botox injections and get a referral for the ketamine infusions. February 3, 2016 was his appointment and the VA neurologist evaluated him and said he’d refer him over to the VA Pain Center where they do the treatments. March rolls by and so does April. OK, we knew we’d have to wait, but I had him call and check anyway. Come to find out, February 4, 2016 another neurologist revoked his referral due to “having a civilian neurologist and received Botox there.”

Um, no! Just no!

So he had to fight to get that referral reinstated and he had his fist consult with the VA Pain Center in May 2016. Despite having previously been seen there, with quite a few procedures that eventually failed, and records to show for it, the evaluating “doctor” decides to “try” a procedure he had, that failed, twice, since he hadn’t been there in several years. He kept trying to say it was “new” when it really was the exact same procedure he’s had there before. We are convinced he was fishing to get TheHubs to say, “no, I don’t want to do that” just so the VA could deny him benefits because he refused a recommended treatment. But TheHubs suffered through this treatment in June 2016, which seems to have made his pain worse. They have scheduled his Botox injections for the end of October 2016 (a full year without Botox, so it’s like starting completely from scratch.) And to top it off, they can only inject HALF of what he was getting in the civilian world. HALF! How the heck is that even going to help when his full dose only took the edge off the pain!?

Not only do we have to deal with all his VA and civilian doctors, TheBoy had to have surgery on both his feet last year. Now he’s in braces, which we are still paying on. And, of course, my medical issues. And last month, our A/C died. At 95 degrees, in Florida, you don’t want your A/C to die. I had just emptied out our savings to pay off all the medical bills and then this happened. Everyone in my support groups were great, giving me places to apply for assistance, in the hopes that someone, somewhere could help me with the payment of a brand new A/C handler and compressor.

That’s when I found just how frustrated and forgotten TheHubs REALLY feels…

Out of about 35 organizations I tried, only 2 were open to all eras. But both of them were out of money. Everywhere else, you had to be a post-911 combat wounded veteran. I was crushed. All the charities I see out there, helping people with all kinds of needs and assistance, and we don’t qualify. Just like the VA Caregiver Program or any of the “automatic benefits” these veterans get without having to fight for their compensation Retreats, discounts, even a day at an amusement park (even *if* he could go with all those people) are not an option for him. Heck, even just a simple tool box for veterans, and we were denied.

Nope, we have to fight tooth and nail for everything he deserves. He has always called it “The Forgotten War.” I understood it. But now, I am seeing it as “The Forgotten Veterans,” too. It breaks my heart. And what about my dad? He had to wait 30 years before the government would even acknowledge the fact that they used Agent Orange. Luckily, now they have automatic diagnosis that fall into the Agent Orange category. But, really, any assistance that my mom might need, like the Caregiver Program, is lost to her as well.

I just can’t believe that we are a NATION OF NOW, a reactionary force to whatever happens to be in your face at the moment. And since the Iraq and Afghanistan wars are still ongoing, because the returning and broken veterans are so young and so plentiful, more people see them, see their wounds, and want to help…them.

I want to know where we can go for ALL era veterans. I want to know why we continue to discriminate and forget about those that came before. I want to know why we can’t recognize and help them too! This is only a small portion that adds to the 22 veterans a day that die by their own hands. I only hope I can keep his hope from fading!

LadyJai

 

 

Related Articles you may like:

Our Story

VA Appeal Update

VA Appeal Update #2

VA Appeal Update #3

VA Appeal Update #4

VA Appeal Update #5
VA Appeal Update #6

VA Appeal Update #6

I contacted the VA Under Secretary, in hopes to either speed up the process or at the very least, let them know about the gobbledygook woman that did his C&P.

Again, they just “passed the buck” on the whole thing. We did get an “update,” if you want to call it that.

Here’s what we got:

STATUS OF APPEAL:  Your husband’s appeal began in July 2011 when VA received his Notice of Disagreement.

BVA VIDEOCONFERENCE HEARING:  On 07-24-14, a videoconference hearing with the Board of Veterans’ Appeals (BVA) was requested. The next step in the appeals process will be the scheduling of that hearing. Your husband will be notified in writing of the date and time of the hearing.

 A hearing is not required. The wait for a BVA videoconference hearing can be long as there are limited slots available. The St. Petersburg, FL Regional Office – which is where the hearing will be held – received many requests for BVA videoconference hearings prior to your husband’s July 2014 request. Those requests are filled based on date order.

 If your husband decides to withdraw his request for the hearing, the appeal would then go directly to BVA for their review. (provided no additional evidence has been submitted requiring Regional Office action) Please know that he is entitled to a hearing – it is his choice whether to have the hearing. If he decides to withdraw the hearing request, that written, dated, signed statement should be submitted via:

·         fax to VA’s Evidence Intake Center at (844) 531-7818
·         or mail to Evidence Intake Center at –
Department Of Veterans Affairs
Evidence Intake Center
PO Box 4444
Newnan, GA 30271-0020

APPEALS BACKLOG:  The appeals backlog is large. Regional Offices and the BVA are working those appeals based on the date they were received. I apologize for the long wait which I know can be frustrating. The Under Secretary has repeatedly requested additional resources from Congress to help VA work appeals more quickly.

EXPEDITING AN APPEAL:  However, please know that an appeal may be expedited for a veteran who is terminally ill, homeless or otherwise experiencing very serious hardship. If your husband is in one of those categories, he may request that his appeal be expedited based on such circumstances. To do so, submit that request in writing with documentation of the hardship to the VA regional office in St. Petersburg, FL. Documentation of severe financial hardship could include such things as copies of bankruptcy proceedings, eviction notice, past due bills, utility shut-off notices, etc. Submit the request and the supporting documentation via:

·         fax to VA’s Evidence Intake Center at (844) 531-7818
·         or mail to Evidence Intake Center at –
Department Of Veterans Affairs
Evidence Intake Center
PO Box 4444
Newnan, GA 30271-0020

 If your husband does not fall into one of the above categories, then his appeal will continue to be worked in date order. That means it may be a few months to many months to even more than a year before the next step in the appeal, which is the scheduling of the BVA videoconference hearing. Again, I apologize for the long wait – but I want to give you a realistic timeframe.

 CHECK STATUS OF APPEAL:  To check on the status of the appeal, please call 1 (800) 827-1000. Your husband’s representative, Disabled American Veterans, can also provide updates and assistance.

I hope that this information is helpful to you and your husband. As noted above, the next step in the appeals process will be the scheduling of the BVA videoconference hearing. Your husband will be notified in writing of the date and time of the hearing.

This waiting is expected. I grew up in the military. Everything was hurry up and wait. But this is absolutely ridiculous.

Let the “more waiting” ensue.

LadyJai

 

 

Related Articles you may like:

Our Story
VA Appeal Update
VA Appeal Update #2
VA Appeal Update #3
VA Appeal Update #4
VA Appeal Update #5

VA Appeal Update #5

I’ve been trying, for two months now, to find the contact information for Secretary Bob McDonald. I’ve had one person offer help with our claim because she had his “cell phone number” and would “gladly help so no one had to go through what they had to deal with.” Yeah, after 3 attempts to contact her different ways with no response, I’ve given up on her.

I sent the second letter to Rep. Ted Yoho on 6 February 2015 and haven’t heard anything back.

On 3/4/2015 I tried sending a letter to the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs and when I hit the submit button it returns a 404 PAGE NOT FOUND error. I also sent that same letter to the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs and when I hit the submit button on their contact form, I receive “Access Denied.”

Yeah, I’m beginning to think there’s a conspiracy to cover up anything dealing with the VA. So much for their “TRANSPARENCY.” UGH.

Sent them both a tweet about it. No response.

Went to the Senate’s Facebook page but the option to post on their page has been disabled.

Went to the House’s Facebook page and asked about the 404 error there, and tagged the Senate’s account. Now we wait to see if they respond.

Yes, I’m getting very, VERY frustrated.

I went home that night and posted this in my caregiver support forum:

Today was a complete waste of time and effort. So many things I WANT to do but I spent most of it lost in google and government red tape. Someone in another offered to help with our claim issues and never followed through. I also haven’t heard back from my Representative I wrote to a month ago. So I decided to see if I could look up Secretary McDonald’s contact info. No luck there either. Then, I went to the House AND Senate Veterans’ Committees and their contact us form. One gave me a 404 Not Found error. The other, Access Denied. I thought maybe it was just the browser, so I tried another. Nope. Me thinks there is a conspiracy! I tweeted both of them. No response yet. I went to their Facebook pages. The Senate Committee page doesn’t allow posts from followers. But the House one does. I commented about their web page issue and tagged the Senate in that same post. No response yet. So frustrated. I guess we are supposed to be patient and wait, even though we’ve been doing that since 2003. I guess we aren’t meant to be lucky like everyone else. I guess pain and suffering in more ways than just what he’s going through is our lot in life. I should accept this. But I’m not going to stop. I will continue to try to get my heart hurt because that’s what I have to do. If I don’t do it. He will give up. It just reminds me of the story of Job in the bible. There’s always hope. Right?

I received an offer to help from one of the admins who was “connected.” Four emails later, and started feeling a bit better.

But that didn’t last.

I’ve sent the letters to Senator Ted Yoho, the House & Senate Committee several more times since February. I have heard nothing. What else can I do to get this going? I know I’m supposed to “Hurry Up And Wait.” That’s been the military motto my father drilled into my head since I was a baby. You’d think I would understand this by now. Logically knowing this is so very different from actually practicing this.

A few days ago, we did receive a letter from our Regional Office stating:

We have certified your appeal to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals and are transferring your VA records to the Board in Washington, D.C. The Board will notify you when it has received your records.

More Hurry Up And Wait. Let’s see, here’s a brief rundown of our latest claim with the VA:

  • 7/22/2009 – Claim Received
  • 7/29/2010 – Claim Considered
  • 8/2/2010 – Notice of Decision
  • 7/14/2011 – Notice of Disagreement
  • 10/2/2012 – Personal Hearing at the VA Regional Office
  • 1/29/2014 – VA C&P Exam
  • 7/14/2014 – De Novo Review election Received from Appellant
  • 6/22/2015 – Certified the appeal and sending records to the Board of Appeals in DC.

You can see how frustrating waiting can be!

In the mean time, I continue to advocate for him, anyway I can. But I’m running out. If anyone has any more ideas I can try, I am open and willing to listen. Please send them my way. I have finally found Secretary Bob McDonald’s phone number, which I will leave here for anyone else; but I think I might be too chicken to call him. I wouldn’t even know what to say. I write better than I speak.

http://static.c-span.org/assets/swf/CSPANPlayer.1434395986.swf?clipid=4507948

LadyJai

 

 

Related Articles you may like:

Our Story
VA Appeal Update
VA Appeal Update #2
VA Appeal Update #3
VA Appeal Update #4

VA Appeal Update #4

I guess it’s about time to update you on our VA Claim/Appeal process. Last time I wrote about the VA Scandal and where it got us. I was so excited to see that Washington actually took our story and made movement on it. My veteran was getting all kinds of calls for a week or so and each time they told him that they couldn’t do anything until such-and-such department made their decision.

Well, I guess that department made their decision because we got a letter from the Director of the C&P office. Here’s what they said:

We received your letter regarding your Compensation and Pension (C&P) exam
with <EXAM DOCTOR>. <CHIEF OF C&P DOCTOR>, Chief of C&P, reviewed the letter
received, the C&P exam notes from <EXAM DOCTOR>, and met with the examiner to get their
input.
<EXAM DOCTOR>’s professional opinion is based on objective evidence and a
thorough review of available resources, to include: service treatment records,
electronic medical records, Disability Benefits Questionnaires (DBQs), and Veteran’s
statements. The diagnosis was reached through a forensic disability psychological
exam. This is standard practice across all Compensation & Pension services within
VHA.  reviewed the examination notes and supports ‘s
rationale behind her professional opinion. <CHIEF OF C&P DOCTOR> mentioned that during his call
with you on December 3, 2014, your concerns were discussed and you indicated you
were currently going through the appeals process with VBA.
We apologize for any misunderstanding that may have been caused.

If you have been following our Appeal Updates, you might remember that the C&P examiner only saw my veteran for no more than ten minutes and rushed him out, saying his memory is fine if he can remember all the meds he takes every day for the last 7 years and that his nightmares are nothing more than “gobbledygook”. How is gobbledygook “objective evidence?” 

Why do they continue to only focused on the PTSD portion of his claim? He’s been told he missed the PTSD qualifications by 2 points. Ok, fine. He doesn’t qualify for PTSD. BUT, the VA found, during that C&P exam that there is evidence of depression and mood disorder and his VSO clearly defined the precedence in his NOTICE OF DISAGREEMENT SUBMITTED ON 7/8/2011.

July 8th, 2011!

That was 2 and a half YEARS ago! And they STILL ignore it.

I also applied for the VA Caregiver Support Program in May of last year. Some caregivers told me it took them a month, while others told me it took them a year. I’ve given it a while now, somewhere in the middle, and decided to check up on my request. After many calls to many different people, we found that the national office had attached it to my file but never emailed the Caregiver Support Coordinator. When she found it, she apologized profusely and said she’d do what she can to get this pushed through as fast as she could. A few days later, we had our eligibility appointment. I just received a call from the VA Caregiver Support Coordinator telling me that we qualify based on his mental health. However, there is no record that it’s service connected. I proceeded to explain to her that it’s still in the claims/appeals process that we’ve been fighting for years over. She informed me that if/when we receive that service connection, to contact her and she will get this pushed through again.

This is just our luck. What a kick in the teeth.

So now the scramble again, to get this ball rolling. I’ve contacted Rep. Ted Yoho again with a second letter. We’ll see how that goes. And TheHubs is trying to contact his VSO about this. Since he’s always so busy, he had to leave a message.

And the waiting game continues.

LadyJai

VA Appeal Update #3

Do you remember the Veterans Affairs scandal that broke on 30 April 2014? The one where a whistle-blower claimed that as many as 40 veterans died waiting for care while the Arizona facility pencil-whipped their schedules to make it look like they were maintaining efficiency and the infamous “secret” wait-lists? That scandal opened up an internal audit of the VA across the nation, including The House of Representatives passing legislation to fund an investigation by the Justice Department.

A scathing interim report released by the VA Inspector General revealed Wednesday that the average wait time for registered patients at the Phoenix facility was 115 days.

It also found that about 1,700 area veterans were not even on the wait-list and “continue to be at risk of being lost or forgotten” and “may never obtain their requested or required care.”

The report determined there is “systemic” misconduct throughout the VA.

The report did not confirm whether the long delays resulted in veterans’ deaths, but promised to investigate the link between wait times and “possible preventable deaths.” (Source: http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/veterans-adminstration-scandal/story?id=23914029)

The media was all abuzz about these investigations and veterans from all over the country sent in their stories. I happened to be watching Fox & Friends one morning where Peter Johnson, Jr. was talking about the many stories veterans had sent to him. At the end of his commentary, he asked that if anyone else had stories to please send them along. I sent Mr. Johnson my husband’s story. If you’re not familiar, you can read it here.

I had already written our Senators and our Representative in hopes to move my husband’s claim along. The only one to take any action was Rep. Ted Yoho. His aide called me and they sent an investigation into his claim. That was earlier in the year. We did get a denial, again, in July. I wrote another update about this here.

In May, I wrote to Fox News. I never really expected anything to come of it, honestly. There are so many others out there worse off than we were, but I had to get his story out there. I still held a tiny sliver of hope for him. And that’s all it takes I guess, because on 1 August, I was contacted by the Assistant Director of the Congressional Liaison Service of the Department of Veterans Affairs. She stated that my letter to Fox News was forwarded to “Chairman Jeff Miller, House Veterans Affairs Committee, U.S. House of Representatives.   The Chairman has asked the VA Congressional Liaison Service to assist with answering your concerns.  Due to privacy issues,  I need the Veteran to contact me directly with full name and address and specific concerns/issues that he/she is experiencing with the VA.

HOLY WOW!

I immediately got TheHubs to send another letter back to her. We summarized his previous letter and added more detail about his latest C&P as well as the appeal letter his VSO sent up the chain. Some of it is included in the Appeal Update #2 post. He also included this last bit:

I got out of the Army in July 2002. Here I am, 12 years later, still fighting for my benefits. I may not have the visible wounds that others have, but it doesn’t make me less broken. I may not have had boots on the ground in Iraq or Afghanistan, but that doesn’t make my experiences in Albania/Kosovo any less than anyone else’s. I am sick of people looking at me like I’m faking it, or telling me “You don’t look disabled.” I’m sick of being dismissed because I served in “The Forgotten War” as I call it. But most of all, I’m sick, and tired, of fighting. If it wasn’t for my wife, my caregiver and soulmate, I would have given up on my fight and life a long time ago. That’s what the VA wants–for the veteran to give up so they don’t have to pay out. We cannot let them win!

My hope had been restored again after he sent that email. But, per usual, as time passed, this subject faded to the far reaches of my mind. I forgot about it. Not completely, mind you. I still held onto it by a sliver of a thread of hope.

It’s now 4 December 2014, and a few days ago it decided to come to the forefront of my brain. All because TheHubs got a call–rather, several calls from the St. Petersburg Regional VA Office stating, several times, that they received a “letter from the White House” about his case and they were looking into his concerns.  When looking into his case, one of the people who called him stated that his case was really “messed up.” Ya think? We’ve known that for years. Apparently they were the group of people set up by the VA to investigate messed up claims. They told him not to be surprised he received a dozen or so more calls over the next few days as they all worked his case. Even another person called yesterday, this one shocked us both. It was the guy in charge of the facility where he had his last C&P, the one who said his nightmares were “our brain’s way of processing gobbledygook.” He told TheHubs that if that is indeed what she said, and if he indeed only had a 10 minute meeting, that it was so very wrong. Yeah, why would we make that up?

I sit here, now, still processing what’s transpired over the last few days. At first, I didn’t know what to feel. I was beginning to wonder if it was because I’ve been traumatized all these years dealing with a screwed up VA who would send us mixed signals. Or if it was merely shock, as a friend told me. I did feel a bit sad that our media could make the VA move faster than my Congressman, and faster than the VA ever did. But that’s all I felt these last few days. So, I was leaning more towards the trauma. This morning, though, I woke up and that familiar stir inside. You know the one? The anxious excitement of hurry-up-and-get-it-over-with-already returned to my stomach and chest.

I’m almost at the end of this post and I am still debating with myself whether or not to post. We’ve had plenty of luck over the years, plenty of BAD luck and I don’t want to jinx this. Seems as though a lot of things I get all excited and hopeful about, that moment we acknowledge it out loud is the moment everything takes off full-speed downhill. It’s just so frustrating to see (and know) so many people who’ve gone through their own VA claims process that have had more minor issues than TheHubs and skated through the system in less than a year with more percentage than he has. And they can still work! It’s high time my husband had some good news, I think. So if you have it in you, could you please pray to your God, send positive energy, or whatever you do to give GOOD luck, send it our way for a speedy AND JUST resolution to this incredibly LONG fight.

Thank you so very much.

LadyJai

VA Appeal Update #2

If you’re not familiar with our story, you can read it here.

The History

We started his claim for PTSD, as well as an increase for his migraines, on July 22, 2009.

According to the VA’s time-table, the claim was considered on July 29, 2010. They then sent out a Notice of Decision on 8/2/2010.

This is when we began our Notice of Disagreement. He went to visit his VSO representative and together they filled out the NOD. We had family write letters, gathered all his civilian medical records, and even sent in several news articles and his orders for both Albania and Kosovo. This took some time before they could mail it off. The VA received the NOD on July 14, 2011.

On October 2, 2012, we had a personal hearing at the St. Petersburg VA where we were interviewed and recorded. Sort of like a deposition. The moment we entered the meeting, the VA Decision Review Officer (DRO) immediately conceded to the maximum allowable rating for migraines. Relief. We didn’t have to fight for that one anymore.

However, the rest of the meeting was quite painful. I learned a lot more than I ever had, and I probably still don’t know it all. But I watched him break down and I couldn’t help him. I had to sit there and listen and absorb everything. It was so overwhelming and my emotions overflowed as well. This was one hard meeting. I never want him to have to do that again. Learning about the things he kept inside, the things he tried to shield me from, the things he never really wanted to talk about, started me on my own path of shared PTSD. That’s what I am calling it now. Shared PTSD or Secondary PTSD. Doesn’t matter, depression/PTSD, all ailments are shared by the entire family. I didn’t know it until much later, but I had my own breakdown; hence the reason for this blog.

After that meeting, we waited, and waited, and waited some more.

On January 29, 2014, he went to his Compensation & Pension (C&P) hearing. You can read about the outcome here in more detail if you wish. But let’s just say that this was a complete waste of time. Five minutes he was in there with the lady. He came out completely broken. She wouldn’t listen to him. She dismissed everything and sent him on his way. We knew then, it was the final nail in the coffin.

The Continuation

On July 14, 2014 the VA sent their Statement of Case (SOC). It was very thick and full of legalese.  Understanding this is near impossible. But what we got out of that 34 page document is that they were NOT going to change their decision. He immediately called his VSO representative but couldn’t get him in until July. He’s both very busy and THAT good!

Last week, he saw his VSO rep and they discussed his options. We now have to appeal his (NOD) and our VSO recommended that we opt for a BVA Hearing by live video conference because that is the shortest wait time with a better possible outcome –  if you consider a year and a half to two years short. But looking at the other options, our VSO said that if we opted for “I do not want a BVA hearing” or “I want a BVA hearing at a local VA Office” those two were sure ways to receive a quick turnaround with a denial letter. The last option of a hearing “in Washington DC” could go upwards of 3 years or more. Just, NO!

I must say, as frustrated as I am, as disappointed in the system, I am so grateful for our VSO. I love how he stated the VA FAILED. See below.

MY VA RATING LETTER OF THE
TIME AND THE C&P REPORT FOR THAT RATING LETTER BOTH CLEARLY IDENTIFIED THAT THE VA
EXAMINER NOTED THAT I WAS DIAGNOSED WITH [REDACTED] & [REDACTED].

I CLEARLY IDENTIFIED THAT IT WAS MY UNDERSTANDING THE THE VA SHOULD HAVE ADDED THESE
CONDITIONS TO MY CLAIM AND THAT THESE SHOULD HAVE BEEN PROCESSED AS INFERRED ISSUES.
THE DRO SHOULD HAVE REVIEWED THESES ISSUES AS INFERRED ISSUES AND COMPLETED ANY
ADJUDICATION REQUIRED TO ESTABLISH THESE TWO ISSUES AS SERVICE CONNECTED DISABILITIES.

TO IGNOR THESE ISSUES AS INFERRED ISSUES BOTH BY THE INITIAL ADJUDICATOR AND THE FOLLOW ON DRO UNDER THE ACTION OF A DENOVO REVIEW SHOULD HAVE NOTED THESE ISSUES AND
ACTED UPON THEM. BY NOT DOING SO THE VA FAILED TO REVIEW ALL PERTINENT EVIDENCE
ASSOCIATED WITH THE CLAIM AND THE VA FAILED TO GIVE A COMPLETE AND TRUE ASSESMENT OF
ALL POTENCIAL ISSUES WITH MY CLAIM.

and

IT APPEARS THAT THE DRO DID NOT REVIEW OR DID NOT EVEN ADDRESS THIS ISSUE OF
INFERRED ISSUES REQUESTED BY ME IN WRITING IN MY ORIGINAL NOD.

I DO NOT BELIEVE I WAS GIVEN FAIR TREATMENT BY THE VA AND I WILL PURSUE THIS
INDIVIDUAL ISSUE THROUGH ALL OF THE REMAINING LEVELS OF APPEAL POSSIBLE UNTIL THE VA
ACTS IN A FAIR AND JUST MANNER IN REFERENCE TO THE EVIDENCE OF RECORD IN MY CLAIM AND
THE LAW WITH WHICH THE VA IS REQUIRED TO ACT IN A NON-CONFRONTATIONAL MANNER.

These are the words, plus many more, that will be mailed to the VA for his appeal. I don’t think I could have said it any better. The way he worded it puts a smile on my face but I know that it will not do much in the way of making the VA do their job.

And now we wait again.

TheHubs got out of the military in July 2002. Here we are 12 years later, still fighting for his benefits. He may not have the visible wounds that others have, but it doesn’t make him less broken. He may not have had boots on the ground in Iraq of Afghanistan, but that doesn’t make his experiences in Albania/Kosovo any less than anyone else’s. He is sick of people looking at him like he’s faking it, or telling him “You don’t look disabled.” He’s sick of being dismissed because he served in “The Forgotten War” as he coined it. But most of all, he’s sick, and tired, of fighting. I have to keep at him, encouraging him, reminding him. That’s what the VA wants–for the veteran to give up so they don’t have to pay out. We cannot let them win!

And people wonder why there are veterans dying before their claims are awarded, or appointments made. This whole bureaucratic-red-tape-flaming-hula-hoop-jumping-how-high-waiting-game is down-right obscene!

LadyJai

***We would never recommend you do this process on your own. You WILL get discouraged. You WILL lose hope. You will probably be denied the first time, no matter how simple your claim is. I speak from experience. Our fist claim, he filed on his own. He received only 10%. We missed so much. The verbage, the laws and legalese that the VA looks for, the common person will not know. Therefore it is detrimental to a successful case to seek the assistance of a VSO at the very least. ***

VA Appeal Update

If you’re not familiar with our story, you can read it here.

He never claimed PTSD. His VA doctor diagnosed him with it and has been treating him for it over the last seven years, or so. I can’t remember the exact date, but that’s about right. It took him a while to decide to file for PTSD and when he finally did, the claim took 2 years and came back denied, with the caveat that there were some signs of depression. His VSO told him that if the VA found signs of depression that they had a legal obligation to open a claim for the veteran in his name. They never did.

So, in 2009 we appealed this decision. His VSO sited the official legal statute and sent off the Notice of Disagreement. We’ve been in the appeals process since.

We had a hearing in October 2012 which led to an immediate and undisputed raise in his migraine percentage. The only thing we had to go through was the PTSD interrogation, which was horrible…for both of us. It was my first time learning a lot of what he had been keeping inside. I’m sure I don’t know it all.

To sit there and watch my hero break down like that killed me inside. I didn’t realize just how deep. I am going to have to say that over that next year I must have buried it and let it simmer until it erupted through my subconscious. That’s the reason for this blog, really.  

So, after waiting over a year, calling for a status every 3 months, we finally got movement. A few weeks ago, TheHubs had another C&P Exam for his appeal. We had to drive an hour an a half. We both were a nervous wreck. But I was there for him, right by his side, giving him the support and love he needed. Unfortunately, they refused to allow me in his meeting. 

He was in there all of maybe seven minutes.

What? Seriously? Seven minutes? That was definitely not a good sign. And sure enough, when he returned to me, he was shaking, he was angry, and then he broke down. I held him and said everything’s going to be ok. But he told me she didn’t want to hear anything he had to say. When he finally calmed down, he told me all that happened.

  1. She asked him what medication he was taking. He rattled off the list. She said, “well, seems like your memory works.” Yeah, when you have been taking the medication for the last 7 years, you kinda remember. It’s the remembering to take the meds, how much he’s taken during the day that he has issues with. We have a white board we use that he ticks off the number of pills for each medication and when he reaches his max, he can’t take any more. I’m not there all the time to help, so this trick is what he uses. And even that doesn’t always help because he forgets to tick it off sometimes. There’s so much more to his memory issues than just remembering what medication he takes. If I had been in there, I could have offered so many more examples. She dismissed his memory issues right after her statement.
  2. She asked him about his nightmares. But wouldn’t allow him to go into detail. She immediately dismissed them as “Everyone has nightmares. It’s your brain’s way of dealing with all the gobbledygook.” And yes, she said gobbledygook. Like it was a medical term. WTF? Again, had I been in there, I could have explained to her what it’s like to wake up to your husband running in place in bed, flailing his arms, then when I reach over to touch him to wake him up, he gets up and runs out of bed smack into a wall, clawing the wall, cowering in the corner, trembling. Yeah, I’m sure that’s gobbledygook.
  3. She wouldn’t listen to anything he had to say about the “incident” and just brushed it off as “It’s in your records.”
  4. She told him something that should never have been told to a veteran about his past therapist – Why he left the service of the VA. I won’t go into detail here, but let’s just say it was horrible what happened to him. But we found out later that she was not authorized to say anything about it.
  5. She ushered him out in record time saying she has his records to review and she will read it all in there.

Seriously, WTFOver?! This was a complete waste of time, just like he said. Their typical blow off or you’re faking attitude we always seem to encounter with our VA. I guess if it’s an invisible wound, you don’t deserve anything. I hate the fighting we have to do. I hate seeing other people skate through the VA system, get 100% disability and then go out and work and have fun. How is that even possible?? But here we are, my husband cannot work because of the pain and the randomness of his migraine attacks, his inability to concentrate and remember anything, and so much more, yet we have to fight tooth and nail only to have people like this lady hold his future in her hands and crush any shred hope we have left.

And what is worse, a week later we get a phone call from his psychiatrist. He’s pissed. He had read the C&P lady’s report and it said he had “no record of treatment or medication for depression.” Um, hello… See #4 up there? She knew he was being seen by a therapist! But still she reported no evidence of such. His psychiatrist said he was in the process of writing a rebuttal to her report, pulling from his records specific dates seen by doctors as well as the medications prescribed. Oh was his psychiatrist angry. And come to find out, he said the lady who ran the C&P interview wasn’t even a licensed psychologist.

I don’t know what all this means. Do we have to wait for the VA’s decision letter to arrive, the denial AGAIN, before we can bring up his psychiatrist’s rebuttal? Or is that already sent in with the C&P report to the decision board? Oh the stress of all this is just killer. I don’t want another denial. I don’t want to have to go through all this heartache of seeing my love break down and have the VA berate him and essentially call him a liar. I don’t want to see that very thin thread of hope snap and vanish and have him just give up. We’ve been fighting tooth and nail with them for 11 years. Frustration, anger, hopelessness doesn’t even begin to cover the turmoil we suffer. If only we could catch a break.


LadyJai

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VA Appeal Update #3
VA Appeal Update #2
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