Jon: Alright everyone, thanks for joining us today for our VA Disability Q/A. We’re currently sitting here with Devon Burnfield and Jess Hacker-
Jon: From our VA Disability team. Now, you guys know Jess. SHe’s done these videos before, but you may not know Devon. Devon is a case manager, but I wanted to give him a minute here while everyone is joining us to tell us a little bit about yourself. What do you do here and how long have you been with the firm? What are your hobbies? Biggest fears?
Devon: Well, I’m currently a VA case manager. I have been here for almost two years. I started out, when I first started here, as a support specialist for VA case managers. So, I was kinda doing behind the scenes work, paperwork, outside inquiries, things like that.
Devon: And then I’m a case manager currently. Outside of here, I like to travel, write, be outdoors generally.
Jon: You just got back from the beach, right?
Devon: I did.
Jon: Very nice. So, Devon what do you like best about being a case manager?
Devon: I know it seems like a generic answer, but I really do just like to help through the process… Because it’s something that you don’t realize, that sometimes the system isn’t the best as far as there are pieces of the system that are not the best laid out, or what not, and so it’s nice being able to, us having experience, go through. And I know how everything works and the things that you need when being able to assist the veterans through that process.
Jon: Well, I run our social media and I got a lot of good compliments about Devon, all the time, and Jess, both. So, they’re good at what they do.
Jess: Good gonna serve you!
Jon: Yes. Review us on Facebook
Jon: Now, you guys know Jess, of course. Jess has done four or five of these already.
Jon: But it’s been a little while since we’ve done it.
Jess: Yeah, it’s been a while.
Jon: VA Facebook live. Anything new going on? Big plans for summer?
Jess: Yeah, we’re going to the beach. Can’t wait.
Jess: Get away a little bit, so I’m excited about that.
Jon: You guys could have asked me to go with you. Kidding. Yeah, Jess is, of course, our team leader so she’s had a little bit of every position here.
Jess: I have.
Jon: Tell us, just briefly, what you’ve done cause we’ve got new listeners or new viewers.
Jess: Yeah. Whenever I very first originally started the firm, seven and a half years ago, I started out in the reception department. I worked there for about two months then I transitioned into our VA line of business. We were much smaller back then compared to how we are now cause we’re growing so we can help our clients.
Jess: I was an Intake Specialist for about a year and a half, then I transitioned into case management. I’ve done appeals, I’ve done a hearing cleric, I’ve done [C-POW 00:02:45] review. I’ve pretty much done it all.
Jon: Awesome. Well, we do have a few people watching right now. We want to encourage anyone who’s watching, who may have a question, don’t hesitate to comment below. We’ll review it and possibly answer it live on the air. To prepare ahead of time though, we’ve taken a few questions that people have submitted from the last broadcast, and as well from the past few weeks, and since this is Devon’s first time, we’re gonna go to him first.
Devon: Yeah, yeah.
Jon: But it’s an easy question. I think he knows this one because it’s his job. What does a case manager do and how do you help a veteran with their case?
Devon: As far as the things that we do, again, I said it earlier, there’s a lot of tricky things. Sometimes it can be a process, a lengthy process, and it’s nice that we’re able to assist a veteran and our client through that. So, really, generally speaking, navigating through the process, filling out that paperwork. The veterans normally receive corespondents before we do. We respond to those correspondents, submitting evidence that the VA is asking for, things to that effect. As far as we would file claims, we gather the evidence that is needed, review over that information, correspond between the attorney and the client, kinda being able to get those questions answered for the clients and get them back to them.
Jon: You’re kinda like the go-to person for the client.
Jess: Also very important… Sorry, I just kinda chimed in there.
Jon: No, it’s fine.
Jess: Also very important position that Devon and all the case management, I mean our whole entire staff does … With the case management, whenever we would get the veterans claims filed, our review team, they do a complete analysis over the file. And our case managers call the client and go over that with them. So, their job is very important along with all of our other staff and all of our other positions. So, we’re very grateful for them.
Jon: I think it gets lost, sometimes, how much the case manager does. And that’s why … I don’t know how long we’ve been doing this, not more than a year if I’m not mistaken, but Jesse you can correct me, every veteran now has two case managers, correct?
Jess: Yes. So we wanna make sure we give the best customer service possible, so each section does have two case managers. So, you have two case managers available for you at all times.
Jon: And Devon, who’s your partner?
Jon: And you guys are a great team. I feel like you compliment each other really well, so that’s awesome. Well, thank you for answering that. Your first question went extremely well.
Devon: Oh, thanks.
Jon: Now I’m gonna throw it to Jess. And this was on my mind recently because I had a massive headache and I just couldn’t function for most of the day, and it made me think about how a lot of our veterans have issues with headaches, also. Why are headaches such an issue with veterans, especially more recent veterans, and what can a veteran do to document their headaches for a claim?
Jess: As far as headaches go, our Gulf War veterans are the ones who experience a lot of the headaches. Not saying that any other veteran doesn’t either, but it is a presumptive and a diagnosed illness of Gulf War syndrome. So, if a veteran is experiencing headaches, a lot of time they don’t even realize that they can file a claim for it, especially if they are considered a Gulf War veteran and they were in one of the countries that the VA recognizes.
Jess: So, documentation is very important. You definitely wanna make sure you get treatment. The only thing is with headaches since it is considered an un-diagnosed illness, you don’t necessarily have to show signs of it in service, but it is something that is helpful, that would help you, but you can fill out a headache log. The more severe types of headaches and what the VA rates the headaches on, it is based on the frequency of them, whether or not they have prostrating attacks. It just really depends. The more severe the headaches, the higher rating that they are gonna wanna receive.
Jon: And that’s something that’s taken me a few times, just how severe these headaches are for these veterans.
Jon: Cause I thought I had migraines and it turns out … Some of the descriptions they’ve given me, it’s just intense, and you can’t help but feel for them. And it’s difficult because you mentioned logging which is a great idea, but you can’t really go to the doctor when you have a headache necessarily. That’s one of those things where if it’s a flex issue with your knee, that’s something they can see. But a headache is more subjective in a way.
Jess: Yeah. You don’t necessarily have … Which, is for Gulf War veterans, but any other veteran, if you have signs or symptoms of migraines, headaches, while you were in the service, everything is still rated under the same rating code. So it is important that you document that. … If you’re a current client or you’re wanting to be a potential new client, if that’s something that you have, especially Gulf War veteran, we can file that for you.
Jon: And of course, dealing with the VA is always a headache, right?
Jess: It is, but we’re thankful that they do what they do.
Jon: But we’re like the Tylenol.
Jon: So, we’ve got a bunch of people watching right now, thank you all for tuning in. Once again, I wanna encourage everyone, if you have a question, do not hesitate to comment below. We’ll try to answer it live online. You’ve got two very knowledgeable people here with a lot of experience that is willing to see what we can do to help you out. And if you’re interested in becoming a client, we can direct you to the ways in which to do that. I wanna throw it back to Devon though real quick because we’re all about communication. I studied communication in most of my life and our firm is really focused on communication with our clients. And we know that modern clients don’t necessarily wanna just use a phone to keep in contact with us. So, Devon, what are the ways in which a veteran can update you about their claim?
Devon: Well, as you mentioned earlier, we are kind of the liaison between the attorney and the client, the veteran. There’s a team of us working to get the information that we need, with everybody specializing in different areas, so it is important, especially before we get the claims filed, as Jess was talking about earlier, and that’s reviewed. A lot of the information comes from medical records we’re receiving in front of the client informing us. So, anything as small as your address changing to a condition getting worse, things like that, and we have a lot of avenues for you to do as far as our website, Facebook, email, as far as texting us. Although, generally, the best way is a phone call just so that way we can make sure that we’re being able to have that communication back and forth with you, update you, let you know what and how.
Jon: I wanna jump in real quick. The biggest thing is not to fail to communicate.
Jon: That’s such an issue for a lot of clients. We fall off the radar and we wanna keep them informed. So, if you change your phone number, let us know. Or if you change your address, let us know so we can keep in contact with you.
Devon: Most definitely.
Jess: Yeah, we also have a policy in place now, because we did identify and we wanna make sure that we are reaching out to our clients and they’re not all always reaching out to us. So, we do have our case managers reach out to the clients every ninety days to get updated medical treatments, but as Devon said, a phone call really is the best way or if you just wanna have an update on your medical treatment, you can just go to our website at [jandils.com 00:10:39] and there’s link, “Report a Client Update.” So, you can go on there.
Jess: A far as phone calls, we definitely prefer phone calls because … And we’re not opposed to email as well, but we just wanna make sure nothing gets lost in the emails and the transition of the emails. And then that way our case managers can identify the questions right as you’re calling them and they can answer everything for you at one time.
Jess: I know it is a little difficult to … Sometimes we get told that they do receive voicemail, I just wanna make sure that we educate everyone that our case managers are on the phone about from the time they get here until the time that they leave, assisting all our veterans and clients. So, I promise you that they will contact you back. We do have a 24-hour return policy, so they definitely will give you a callback.
Devon: That’s another nice thing about what we get to do, if you are going to start seeing a new doctor or something, we can request those medical records for you. We just need to know you’re seeing a said doctor for us to do that for you.
Jon: Sounds good. Alright, Jess, pop question for you. We’re gonna get really real here in this live podcast.
Jon: Do you like going to the doctor?
Jess: I do not.
Jon: Me neither. Dev, do you?
Jon: Okay, well guess what? A lot of veterans don’t like to go to the doctor either.
Jess: I dread it, actually.
Jon: Yeah, me too. I haven’t been for about a year or so, so I should get back there. But, in VA disability, it’s really important, right?
Jess: It is. It’s very important.
Jon: So, what can a veteran do if he or she goes to the doctor? What can they do to maximize their visit with the doctor?
Jess: You definitely wanna make sure you tell the client. Or, the client. I apologize. You definitely wanna make sure you tell the doctor everything that’s going on with you. Don’t keep anything secretive. I know sometimes I personally tend to do that. I don’t tell everything that’s going wrong because there are instances where you don’t wanna do that, but with medical documentation in a veteran’s claim, it’s very important. And that’s essentially how you win the case. If there’s medical information documented, it is very important that you are letting your doctor know.
Jon: There’s a commercial right now, it’s a national commercial for some kind of medication, and there’s a patient and a doctor sitting in an exam room. And the woman’s kinda talking how most of us do where, “Oh, I’m fine.” But her conscience is to her left saying, “No, be honest! Tell him about the pain, it’s excruciating. You have to be upfront.”
Jon: And a lot of veterans, especially, have that issue because they’re tough. They’re tough individuals. They’ve been through a lot, and they don’t wanna complain but a lot of the time that can help you, not only get service connects but help you get better treatment also.
Jess: Yeah. And that’s very important, also, to be completely upfront and honest when you go to a compensation and pension exam. We can’t tell our veterans what to say or what to do, we just explain, just be upfront and honest and open with them. That way they can identify whether or not it’s service connected or if they deserve an increase based on the severity of the condition.
Jon: Sounds good. And usually, the doctor visits aren’t that bad.
Jess: No, they’re not that bad. They’re not bad once you get out of there.
Jon: Yeah. Really for relief afterward.
Jess: Like, once you’re finally in there it’s like, okay, I can do this.
Jon: Alright. So, Devon, I wanna shoot back to you now. We did a social security live recently and a lot of people had questions about being able to work. And obviously, social security disability is a lot different from VA, but a lot of veterans had the same question too because there’s just not a lot of great information out there about VA disability.
Jon: So, my question to you is: Can a veteran work and still receive VA disability compensation?
Devon: The general answer is yes, as far as, if you’re not receiving a claim for individual unemployability, then you can work. It has no bearing on your VA compensation. As far as if you are pursuing a claim for individual unemployability, it’s something that you can not work. In which individual unemployability, you should only be pursuing that if you’re unable to work due to your service-connected disabilities. And so, that’s something that if you are not working…
Devon: Or if you are working and you can’t. Excuse me.
Jess: If you’re working… Yeah.
Jess: If you’re working … What the VA does, what the individual unemployability does, they determine if you’re unable to work due to your service-connected disability claims. They evaluate you to see if you can sustain gainful employment because are many people who are unable to based on the severity of their conditions. There are certain criteria that you have to meet to receive individual unemployability and if that’s something that you may have questions about, please feel free to give our office a call and we can help you with that.
Jon: Sounds good. Once again, anyone who’s watching, if you have a question about VA disability, do not hesitate to give us a quick comment. Like I said, we’ll try to answer online today. If you watch this during the repeat, though, we might answer it next month when we do another live session. We do have one last question here, and I wanna shoot it back to Jess.
Jon: When you’re down on the first floor, you’re sitting next to intake, like I do all day, you’ll hear some questions that they ask the veterans, and it throws me for a second. And one of those questions has to do with how many jumps a veteran had in service. And I’m like, well, why do they ask that question. Well, Jess would know the answer to that. So, I’m gonna take advantage of our time today for you to answer that question and teach me a little something.
Jess: Yeah, absolutely. A veteran who has a parachutist badge, because when they were in the service they did a lot of jumps, or one of their military occupations where they jumped out of planes or a helicopter on numerous occasions, one of the reasons why they ask that is because when you’re continuously jumping high from the sky, you don’t necessarily have to have an injury occur exactly during the time you were in the service. Over time, the conditions can worsen. You can have back problems. You can have knee problems. One of the most common ones we see is knees or backs.
Jess: So, in that instance you don’t actually have to have a diagnosis of that condition while in service, but we can look into your records and try to prove that, due to the jumps that you had in service, you developed knee problems, you developed back problems, and we see a lot of favorable cases in regards to that.
Jon: I’ve talked to a few veterans, and thank you for that answer. It makes a lot more sense to me now. I’ve talked to a few veterans who were parachutists and the biggest misconception out there that a lot of the public has is that it’s like skydiving.
Jon: And it’s not like skydiving at all.
Jess: It’s not.
Jon: I’ve heard some stories like my goodness! The force these men and women hit the ground with is incredible. And no wonder they have issues later on, because … And I don’t know the math, but it’s so much force. Your body is almost designed not to do that, essentially. Alright. Well, that was the last question we had. I do wanna mention, real quick, Devon, the book there in front of you. That’s our VA Disability Guide.
Jon: That is free to anyone who wants it. So, if you’re watching this and you wanna learn more about VA disability, go to our website, fight4vets.com. That’s the word fight, number 4, vets.com. You’ll get a free copy of that book just by submitting an info form and we’ll ship that out to you. Or, there’s an electronic copy if you wanted to read it today.
Jess: It’s very educational too. It talks about the VA process and how it works. When Jan wrote this book, we wanted to make sure we were educating our clients. We have the education so we wanna make sure that you all have the education. So, definitely go on there and fill it out. It’s a great read.
Jon: Sounds good. We appreciate everyone who watched today. I can see there’s a bunch of people at different times watching. Once again, if you’re watching this in the replay, do not hesitate to ask a question for next time. Devon, Jess, I appreciate your time today as well.
Jess: Thank you.
Devon: Thank you.
Jon: And we’ll see y’all next time.