Back when I was in undergrad, I recall hearing people talk about this thing called Myspace. It turns out that Myspace was a social media site, and I wanted nothing to do with it or any social media platform. I was studying communications at the time, and I was determined to prove that social media was going to destroy communication. Now, 12 years later, Myspace is essentially dead, social media has pretty much destroyed the way we communicate, and my job title is Social Media Specialist. So, I did an about-face in social media. I went from hating every aspect of it to making it my career. It’s kind of like when you marry the person you hated in high school. While I do think social media will eventually destroy every relationship you’ve ever had, it can be useful in many ways. I currently use social media for marketing. It’s extremely useful for that, but recently while using Snapchat, I had an epiphany about how Veterans can use social media to help service connect for their claims. So while social media may be bad for a lot of things in life, join me on this journey of discovery and learn how social media could possibly help your VA disability claim.
Before we get into the epiphany, let’s first talk about VA disability compensation. So, in order to get service connection for a physical injury, a Veteran has to have evidence that the injury was a result of his or her time in service. This is usually done by way of military medical records or military admin records. However, those aren’t always sufficient. For one, most Veterans who have served are tough, and won’t get treatment if they are injured. Or if you’ve involved in a situation a war zone, you’re not likely going to have time to document non-life threatening injuries. In some cases, you may have all of the evidence in the world, and the VA still needs proof.
There are other ways to get proof, though. In a lot of cases, we use buddy statements to help prove that something occurred. This is often the case with claims for PTSD or MST. They can be used to prove that someone was in combat or to show how one’s behavior has changed after combat compared to before combat. However, a lot of Veterans lose touch with the individuals they served with after discharge, so that isn’t always an option either.
So now it’s time for me to talk about my epiphany. The social media site I use the much now is Snapchat. A lot of people will make fun of Snapchat, or say that it is only for an exhibitionist. However, that is not the case. Many corporations use Snapchat to market their products to a growing audience. In fact, Snapchat has about 150 million users, and it’s the fastest growing social media platform ever. As someone who has worked with Veterans for the past 5 years, I tend to gravitate towards them on social media. One fella, I follow on Snapchat is currently attending Ranger School. He often posts updates in the evening after he is done training for the day. One day, he posted about how sore his back and legs were after doing a jump earlier. I know he didn’t go to medical for his pain, and he won’t likely do that going forward. Then I thought: Could his Snapchat post be used later to prove injury from his time in service? The answer is yes.
It’s safe to say that almost everyone uses some form of social media. Facebook has over a billion users and Twitter has just over 400 million. There’s also Instagram, LinkedIn, and the list goes on. The most active users on social media are between the ages of 18-29. This age group also happens to be well represented in the military. It doesn’t take Bob Ross to draw the conclusion that a lot of people who are currently serving in the military are also using social media. Most individuals joining right now are millennials. People who were born in 1998 will be turning 18 this year. They will be entering the military, and they were 8 when Facebook was founded. That is a lot to process, but this generation essentially grew up with social media. I see posts from people who are serving all of the time.
Granted, I haven’t served, but I talk to people who serve quite often. I am also lucky enough to work with a Veteran who served overseas. I decided to ask him about his experience in more detail. Jon, my coworker, was deployed about 5 years ago. He said at that time he had access to the internet occasionally when he wasn’t on a mission. He claims that he did post updates to his Facebook page on occasion. He recalls one particular post after and IED blast. While Jon was not injured in the blast, he could have used that Facebook post as evidence. A photo accompanied his post too to show the result of the explosion.
Another example came to me by accident. I recently reconnected with someone I met about 8 years ago. While catching up, and for me, that meant scrolling through his photos, I noticed an album that caught my eye. It was titled Military. Naturally, I looked through it, and one photo stood out to me. There was a photo of him burning human waste in a burn pit. Anyone who served overseas likely is familiar with this process, and from what I have been told, it’s very unpleasant. However, if this person were to develop respiratory problems, that photo could be used to prove that he was exposed to a burn pit.
Some detractors will say that this is not the best evidence. Those people happen to be right. Evidence from a military medical record would be a lot more solid. But, like I stated earlier, that is not always available. Instead, this is an option. It’s another way in which we can prove that a disability is a result of your time in service. That is why we are different than so many others. At Jan Dils Attorneys at Law, we will do whatever it takes to prove an injury is a result of your time in service.
It’s also important to note that Snapchat is not the best social media tool for documenting injuries. As you’re likely aware, Sncapchat only keeps videos and photos active for 24 hours unless the user saves them to their device. In that regard, a platform like Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram would be more effective. The reason Facebook works better than Sncapchat for proving a disability involves the fact that Facebook uses a time and date stamp. You can even add your location to updates too. So, if you posted an update to your Facebook profile that read: “Hurt my knees really bad after an IED blast today,” It would be really difficult to prove you weren’t there, especially if you posted it with a photo and your location was Afghanistan. It would also help prove that the injury was a result of your time in service.
I want to be clear; this is not a guarantee. There is still a chance that your claim can get denied. Also, you need to have current medical treatment and consistent medical treatment since discharge for physical issues. You also need a current diagnosis and a provable stressor for any mental health condition. The VA won’t grant you service connection simply because you posted an update to Facebook. Just think of this approach as an aide to your case.
If you’d like to talk to me more about how social media can help or hurt your case, call me today. Our toll-free number is 1-877-526-3457. If you’d like to be contacted at a later time, fill out this form so that a representative may contact you.