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Old 19 October 2011, 07:37
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Thumbs up I got my VA Compensation Determination

Over the last 18 months, I have been applying for my VA disability compensation. My Father, before he passed away, continued to urge me to apply for this. I received a call from a very competent and polite VA representative in ST Louis who called to inform me that I was going to receive 60% and would get back pay from the time of my initial application, March 2010. As I approach the end of the line, here is my AAR.


Overview:

I spent 15 years on active duty and 13 as a reservist, my claims were all for injuries / maladies I received on active duty. My injuries included:
  • A broken Hip
  • Torn meniscus / Knee Surgery
  • Planter's fasciatis
  • Chronic Tendinitis in my ankles
  • A ruptured Ear Drum (Combat Diver!)
  • Kidney Stones
I had most of my records from my first tour of 13 years on active duty and made copies before I ETS'd. My kidney stones were from Post 9/11 service and were easily obtainable from my current health care providers.

On several occasions, I started the application process on the VA's web site. The situation with this is if you do not complete the entire application in 30 days, it dumps your information. The saving Grace is that whatever you upload you can save as a .pdf file to print email etc.

I never completed this process, but I did save the .pdf's

At the good advice of an Old USMC Gunnery Sgt, I used the Service Officer from the VFW. She was extremely overworked but her assistance was invaluable. I had my wife send her my records, but she (wife) failed to make a copy. My records were then lost by the VA. Through the diligence of my Service Officer, they were found and eventually my claim was processed.

I was scheduled for a series of appointments by a VA contractor that was very efficient and well organized. I was even compensated for my mileage when I had to travel more than 30 miles. The physician I went to see, however only wanted th hear war stories and felt the need to rush through the exam. Fortunately, I must have told good war stories.

Lessons learned:
  • Never leave active service without a complete paper and electronic copy of your medical records. Back them up and lock them in a safe. In the event you do lose them for good (My records were lost when I left Key West) you can complete a VA Form 21-4138 and have it signed by your medic, Bn Surgeon or anyone with first hand knowledge of your injuries. If you do not have medical records, then have these signed before you leave that unit.
  • Complete your VA benefits application as thoroughly as possible. if you use the Veterans Online Application Portal (VONAP), make sure you save a copy of everything you upload in the event you have to start over. The VA rep that called me was very adamant that the thoroughness of my application helped get it processed in a few weeks after he received it as opposed to months as many reps will not call the veteran and do research when they have time. BLUF, if they ask you a question, answer it. For instance, one field he stated was often left blank was the date and place any previous marriages that were terminated.
  • When you go to the doctor for your physical exam. Don't be hard corps. They will ask you a series of questions as to whether or not your injuries have improved, stayed the same or gotten worse. Mine "changed" i.e. chronic sprained ankles transformed into chronic tendinitis. This is considered "gotten worse". If it hurts, say as much.
  • Do not overlook anything in your claim. You can receive compensation for things as small as scars and minor disfigurement. I had surgery on my left leg. It is still to this day, smaller than my right. This is considered disfigurement. While I did not know this during my exam, a series of smaller impairments like this can be the difference between something being acknowledged but not compensated for and actually being compensated for it. I have a big scar on my chin from the H 2 H Pitt in Ranger School. Never claimed it, I could have received an additional 10%, as per the VA rep. That equates to an additional $290 a month, $87,000 for the rest of my life. (Holy shit, I need to reapply!)

Best Practices:
  • The contractor that schedules your appointments is very efficient, however they will schedule you twice and then send your paperwork back to the VA. If you travel as I do, tell the initial scheduler you need to coordinate your appointments and not to count the initial call as a missed appointment. Once I did this, they were very helpful and always called to coordinate an appointment s opposed to just scheduling it.
  • Use a Service Officer from the VFW, American legion or other veterans organization. They know what to do and how to do it. Mine was Saint. I owe her some flowers.
  • Be patient, polite and considerate. It IS a very frustrating process and we only read about the VA folks that suck. This guy that called me was very professional and very helpful.
  • Here is a website that tells you your compensation based upon your rating and dependent status.
These are my experiences and what I have been told by professionals in the field. I cannot claim anything as government policy, I just wanted to share my experiences in this arduous but worthwhile process.

For all you BTDT's that are nearing the end of the line, get ready before you retire. Leaving the Army is enough stress, don't let this add to it, get off you ass and file your application!
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Old 19 October 2011, 08:07
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Quote:
Originally Posted by The Fat Guy View Post
For all you BTDT's that are nearing the end of the line, get ready before you retire. Leaving the Army is enough stress, don't let this add to it, get off you ass and file your application!
When I retired at Ft. Campbell my discharge physical was also a VA physical, which greatly sped the process of receiving my determination. In fact, I began receiving my VA disability compensation within 2 or 3 months of my retirement date.

I don't know if they're still doing the combined physical at Campbell, or if other installations have followed suit, but I certainly hope so.
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Old 19 October 2011, 08:39
tooslow tooslow is offline
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That's just plain, great, news!
It was my father, as well, who 'pushed the issue' for me.
I returned the favor by counseling my neighborhood 'grasshopper'.
We both receive that which we 'fell into'.
Now, you have to figure out what you're gonna do with that first retroactive check; it's a big one!
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Old 19 October 2011, 08:57
Just Another Guy Just Another Guy is offline
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It's been 19 years since I retired and just filed last month. Your advice is absolutely spot on. After months of agonizing over the online form, I went to DAV Denver and the rep finished it in about an hour and submitted it immediately. I also provided them the releases for my post-retirement medical records to send to VA. I know, the wait begins.....
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Old 19 October 2011, 09:38
Gray Rhyno Gray Rhyno is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by firstshirt View Post
When I retired at Ft. Campbell my discharge physical was also a VA physical, which greatly sped the process of receiving my determination. In fact, I began receiving my VA disability compensation within 2 or 3 months of my retirement date.

I don't know if they're still doing the combined physical at Campbell, or if other installations have followed suit, but I certainly hope so.
Camp Lejeune is doing the same thing, at least as of 2009. VA office/doctor right on base that does all the physical exams. They have some of the tech stuff at the office (I remember getting x-rays there), but they sent me out in town for the audiogram. BAS doesn't have any part of the process except to give you your medical record at the beginning and take your paperwork at the end. The rest of it is all in the hands of the VA. The DAV even has representatives on site to help go through your medical record and identify all possible problems.

I work with guys now that have been retired 5+ years and still haven't been to the VA.

Brings up the question; I've had my VA physical, and receive my check monthly. As long as I'm not having any other problems, is there a reason to even bother the VA? Should I bother getting the VA ID card if I don't use them for health care?
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Old 19 October 2011, 09:39
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Spot on post TFG.
I did my claims on my own with no one to guide me and got 70%.
Only advice I give is don't quit, it can be a PITA but persistence and having your ducks in a row help.
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Old 19 October 2011, 09:57
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Quote:
Originally Posted by firstshirt View Post
When I retired at Ft. Campbell my discharge physical was also a VA physical, which greatly sped the process of receiving my determination. In fact, I began receiving my VA disability compensation within 2 or 3 months of my retirement date.

I don't know if they're still doing the combined physical at Campbell, or if other installations have followed suit, but I certainly hope so.
When I got my ETS physical (At Campbell), the LTC told me I would not get SHIT if he was giving me my disability physical as I was drawing too much special duty pay. Good thing I didn't run into him.

That is a good system however, all of your paperwork is right there already.
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Old 19 October 2011, 10:00
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 0699 View Post
Camp Lejeune is doing the same thing, at least as of 2009. VA office/doctor right on base that does all the physical exams. They have some of the tech stuff at the office (I remember getting x-rays there), but they sent me out in town for the audiogram. BAS doesn't have any part of the process except to give you your medical record at the beginning and take your paperwork at the end. The rest of it is all in the hands of the VA. The DAV even has representatives on site to help go through your medical record and identify all possible problems.

I work with guys now that have been retired 5+ years and still haven't been to the VA.

Brings up the question; I've had my VA physical, and receive my check monthly. As long as I'm not having any other problems, is there a reason to even bother the VA? Should I bother getting the VA ID card if I don't use them for health care?
They have really good prescription plans. My father used them vice medicare to get some better prescriptions.
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Old 19 October 2011, 10:04
Gsniper Gsniper is offline
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I had a hot/cold experience with the VA when I retired in 06. I found the actual medical people to very, very helpful, but the beauracrats were atrocious. I ended up turning my application over to the AMVETS and they got it straight in a matter of weeks, vs. months of me spinning wheels. Only bummer for me is they rated me at 40% (which I think is a fair assessment of my injuries), so as a retiree, they skin what the VA pays me right off the top of my retirement check. Can't win em all I guess.
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Old 19 October 2011, 10:11
SatcomNCO SatcomNCO is offline
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Congratulations, and thanks for the advice.
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Old 19 October 2011, 10:14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 0699 View Post
Brings up the question; I've had my VA physical, and receive my check monthly. As long as I'm not having any other problems, is there a reason to even bother the VA? Should I bother getting the VA ID card if I don't use them for health care?
I'm in good health, and between Tricare Prime and my wife's insurance my medical needs are well covered, but I went ahead and registered with VA for two reasons. First, my determination includes hearing loss and tinitus; if I ever get to the point of needing hearing aids I'm heading to VA most ricky-tic. Second, while unlikely I wanted to be "in the system" ahead of time on the off chance that I someday find myself w/out insurance.
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Old 19 October 2011, 10:17
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Originally Posted by Gsniper View Post
Only bummer for me is they rated me at 40% (which I think is a fair assessment of my injuries), so as a retiree, they skin what the VA pays me right off the top of my retirement check. Can't win em all I guess.
I'm also under 50% so I went the CRSC route to offset some of that loss. More paperwork and more waiting, but it was worth the time and effort.
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Old 19 October 2011, 10:17
tooslow tooslow is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 0699 View Post
Brings up the question; I've had my VA physical, and receive my check monthly. As long as I'm not having any other problems, is there a reason to even bother the VA? Should I bother getting the VA ID card if I don't use them for health care?
Well...
My meds are all paid for by the VA, I get glasses and hearing aids, as well.
How about my 10% 'Disabled Veteran' discount at stores?
All my medical care is through the VA... I never go to my private physician.
At the end of this month I'll get my free flu shot.
I get a discount on my property taxes.
Your decision to make, of course.
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Old 19 October 2011, 10:26
Gsniper Gsniper is offline
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I did the CRSC route also, but was only able to prove 10% combat related. Even though I was a career grunt and have bad knees and back I didn't have anything that said I had a "specific" injury related to combat or training. Guess all those 12 milers and shit were just for the hell of it, but hey, I get $123 a month I didn't used to get so I shouldn't complain too much.
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Old 19 October 2011, 12:22
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I heard about the CRSC, does anyone have alink to it?
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Old 19 October 2011, 12:31
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tooslow View Post
Well...
My meds are all paid for by the VA, I get glasses and hearing aids, as well.
How about my 10% 'Disabled Veteran' discount at stores?
All my medical care is through the VA... I never go to my private physician.
At the end of this month I'll get my free flu shot.
I get a discount on my property taxes.
Your decision to make, of course.
Please tell me more about how you get a discount on property taxes.
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Old 19 October 2011, 12:35
logan3110 logan3110 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by The Fat Guy View Post
I heard about the CRSC, does anyone have alink to it?
https://www.hrc.army.mil/site/crsc/index.html

From what I know, it's more of a DOD/ DFAS issue than through the VA.
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Old 19 October 2011, 12:37
Gsniper Gsniper is offline
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https://www.hrc.army.mil/site/crsc/index.html

Link for Army CRSC. Apparantly each branch does their own thing with this benefit. It's fairly quick, from the time I sent my app, it was probably just a little over a month till determination was reached. Way quicker and less hassle than the VA.
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Old 19 October 2011, 12:42
logan3110 logan3110 is offline
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On another note, as GPC stated earlier, you are quite capable of handling your claims yourself, especially now that you're retired, if not working.

Veteran Service organizations are interested in seeing you be awarded for a claim or appeal, but they will never have the same interest as you do. One minor mistake on their part could result in years of additional paperwork/ waiting for hearings.
Claims for disability compensation are easy to do, and I would suggest to anyone that they compare their medical records (evidence) to the VA manual on disability compensation. If you google "VA WARMS" the reference material used by VBA employees is the first that pops up. Even if you continue to work with a VSO, you will at least be able to follow along. VA WatchDog Today has some decent tips on doing this.
Disclaimer- if you have rare medical issues not covered, this might not be that easy.
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Old 19 October 2011, 12:49
logan3110 logan3110 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 0699 View Post
Brings up the question; I've had my VA physical, and receive my check monthly. As long as I'm not having any other problems, is there a reason to even bother the VA? Should I bother getting the VA ID card if I don't use them for health care?
Yes-1. For certain other benefits (like voc rehab, I believe) you can save yourself a lot of time if you're already enrolled
2.If you're not DOD retired, you can use the ID for dveterans discounts, etc.

3. The VA relys on veterans enrolling to secure more funding. The more veterans they service, the more funding they can justify requesting. You will be helping other veterans simply by enrolling and going to your yearly physical. Also, back around 2003, the VA stopped enrolling certain groups of veterans they had previously accepted. Those who were already enrolled, however, were grandfathered in. Now there's beaucoup vets pissed because the door has closed on them. With all the talk of cuts, you would simply be covering your own ass in case you lose whatever insurance you have.
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