6 Things Veterans Need to Remember About the VA Disability Process
This blog is approaching its 5th birthday. In November, on Veterans Day, it turns 5. I must say that I am proud of what I have been able to accomplish with this blog. It started out with just about 20 readers per month, and it has since exploded to several thousand. Veterans often tell me how much the content I write has helped them better understand the process, and it means a lot to help veterans with topics like PTSD, MST, and the process as a whole. Since I’ve written so much content over the years, I want to share a few things I’ve learned along the way. Here are the top 6 things Veterans need to remember about the VA Disability process.
- That backlog didn’t vanish. According to a recent Military Times article, there are still 70,000 VA Disability claims backlogged. That number was supposed to be 0 about 7 months ago. Even with a generous grace period, the VA is way off on this goal. However, we are not here to bash the VA. They did get that number down from 610,000 a few years ago. So they did some good work. Or did they? As I reported last year, the backlog is essentially just moving. Claims start out in the initial stage, get denied, and then they go into the appeals process. There were over 400,000 claims on appeal in November of 2015.
- Be proactive. Regardless if you have filed a claim with the VA, or if you need to get an appointment for health care, you have to be proactive. The VA is kind of like a two-year-old…a disrespectful two-year-old that needs to be disciplined. If you don’t watch it constantly or remind it to behave, it will just wander off and forget about you. Keep an eye on the VA, and if they haven’t rescheduled an appointment for you, remind them about it regularly.
- Get treatment. I’ve never seen a claim gets denied because a Veteran had too much evidence supporting his claim. I get it, though, I hate going to the doctor too. I could do other stuff with that time like complaint about celebrities on the internet, or act like it’s ok to be in my 30’s and still buy action figures. The good news is that you don’t have to go to the doctor’s excessively. For some conditions, once every few months or at least twice a year will suffice. For something like PTSD though, even going to group counseling sessions will help you get approved. I also understand that most people in the military, regardless of branch, have an unspoken rule about getting medical treatment in service. They see it as a weakness. Often that mindset will continue after you are discharged. Just look at how many claims are pending and you will realize that you are not alone. A lot of the people you served with are going through a similar experience now, and no one will think less of you if you get treatment.
- Prepare for denials. I try not to be too pessimistic these days, but the sad truth is that you’re likely going to get denied on your first claim. Practically every Veteran gets denied the first time. Often it does not matter how good your claim is, or how much evidence you have to support it, you’re probably getting denied. It’s a fundamental flaw with the VA. One of the reasons for this has to do with what we mentioned above, the backlog. It’s been speculated that the VA was not reviewing initial applications very well and denying claims just to get them out of the system. Once again, that is speculation, not fact. I think we can all agree that denial isn’t helping any Vets.
- Be careful who you trust. The beauty and the downfall, of the internet, is that anyone can use it, and practically anyone can make a website. That means that there are a lot of websites with false information out there. Further, certain organizations hire volunteers to represent Veterans for their claims. While everyone means well, a lot of their information can be correct, and they can hurt your claim. This holds true for some lawyers. For instance, I once talked to a Veteran who was represented by another individual before coming to us. He had claims for every single gulf war presumptive condition. Normally that would be fine, except this Veteran didn’t serve in Iraq, Saudi Arabia, or anywhere outside the US. But his representative wanted to pursue it. Simply, Veterans who haven’t served in parts of the Middle East are not eligible for Gulf War presumptive conditions. That would be like me taking my 10-year-old Chevy Malibu to a Lexus dealer for warranty work solely because I saw other cars getting warranty work performed there. The Veteran then told me that he did not really want to pursue the claims but the representative filed them anyway.
- Don’t go quietly into the night. Or, to be less dramatic, don’t give up. We like to be upfront with everyone about their cases. If we see that you have enough evidence to get connected, we will fight for you. We’ve seen Veterans who started their cases long before we represented Vets get approved after many years. So, you can’t give up. While it’s worth fighting for a claim that should be connected, it’s not worth pursuing a claim that’s not worth pursuing. For instance, that frivolous Gulf War Illness claims that we discussed in point 5. We would not pursue that because there is no evidence to support it. Or, let’s say that you want to get your knee service-connected, but you had no injuries in service, no treatment, and did not have any issues with your knee until you hurt in a car wreck 15 years after discharge. While we can’t pursue that as a VA Claim, you might have a good personal injury claim instead.
I am sad that the backlog has not really decreased in nearly a year. However, I know Veterans do get approved. I like Veterans, and several of my friends have used our services and gotten approved. I even keep track of Vets I’ve met here just to see how their claims are going, and they’ve gotten approved too. It just takes time. So, call us today for a free consultation. Our Toll-Free number is 1-877-526-3457. If you can’t talk right now, fill out this form so that we may call you at a better time.