Posts Tagged ‘PTSD’

When Disability Befalls A Loved One ~ Veterans

Written by Maurice Abarr on . Posted in Veterans Disability

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Your friend or family member may be suffering. You’re rightly concerned. They may be unable to see a path forward. That you’re reading this is an important first step.

Your loved one may be a U.S. military veteran who’s suffering in body. Or, you may see a range of behaviors that worry you—despite him/her having filed a disability claim with the Veterans Administration. (For female veterans, see our special Blog Part I and Part II.)

Your compassion for your loved one brought you here. And, yes, we have the means to help.

The Bottom Line: My staff and I specialize in such cases. Our skills and the unique strategies we’ve evolved enable us to be a powerful advocate for your friend or family member (or for you). Take the next step and contact us for a free case evaluation.

VA Impediments & You

Written by Maurice Abarr on . Posted in Uncategorized, Veterans Disability

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The Veterans Administration is like most bureaucracies. Despite the lofty mission statement, it’s fundamentally geared to protect and preserve…itself. Moreover, the VA seems to make information that would actually benefit the veteran as difficult to locate and understand as possible. Instances of intentional deception (positive and negative) are not uncommon. The same is true with manipulation of Veterans Disability Ratings.

All of this necessitates the deployment of specialized legal strategies capable of protecting and serving the veteran’s interest—rather than the VA’s institutional interest.

The Bottom Line: Getting a fair shake from the VA often requires more than your personal tenacity. You need a specialized legal resource with proven strategies to protect your interests and those of your dependents. That is our mission. If you believe your disability claim has been unfairly denied or undervalued, contact us for a free case evaluation.

Preventing PTSD Tragedy & You

Written by Maurice Abarr on . Posted in Uncategorized, Veterans Disability

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We’re left with a mix of sadness and frustration in the wake of the shooting incident at the Yountville (California) Veterans Home. The combat veteran, Albert Wong, and three of the employees working there to help veterans at The Pathway Home are dead. Wong was believed to be suffering from PTSD—a consequence of his service in Afghanistan. The factors that drove him to this act may never be fully known. Delusion and paranoia, combined with misdiagnosis and bureaucratic ineptitude, come to mind. Clearly, the potential for tragedy haunts segments of our veteran population.

It is not yet known what happened to Wong during his service or why he was removed from The Pathway Home. Should he have been receiving inpatient care at a federal VA medical center? Was his case referred to VA for follow-up once he was ejected from the program? We don’t know.

We do know that families and caregivers of PTSD veterans usually have the proximity and familiarity to notice when a veteran’s perceptions and behaviors become troubling. This makes intervention possible.

Unfortunately, veterans with a PTSD rating may fear that lawmakers will push for new legislation denying gun ownership to those in PTSD treatment. Soldiers have been trained to place their trust in their weapons. It’s possible that some veterans will refuse to seek treatment out of a misguided fear they will lose their 2nd Amendment rights.

The Bottom Line: If a veteran in your midst begins to veer into dangerous waters, seek help for them. Our staff is uniquely qualified to address cases where veterans disabilities—such as PTSD—have been mis-diagnosed and/or under-valued by the VA. We have the resources to help prevent tragedy. Contact us for a free case evaluation.

New Legal Decision Benefits Veterans PTSD Ratings

Written by Maurice Abarr on . Posted in Veterans Disability

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An important legal decision has been handed down that will impact veterans suffering from the debilitating effects of PTSD. The criteria the VA must use has been broadened. The decision requires the Board of Veterans Appeals to “engage in a holistic analysis” of a veteran’s mental health symptoms to determine the proper disability percentage when establishing a PTSD rating. The arcane case details that led to this important decision are probably less relevant to you than they are to us. What matters is that we now have new legal tools and evaluation standards to help ensure veterans like you are correctly evaluated for service-related PTSD.

The Bottom Line: We pride ourselves in being at the leading edge of Veterans Disability issues. If you feel your (or a loved one’s) PTSD case has been mishandled or undervalued by the VA, we have the expertise to help you get a fair shake. Contact us for a free case evaluation.

Scheduled For Your Veterans Administration C & P Exam ~ What You Need To Know First

Written by Maurice Abarr on . Posted in Veterans Disability

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You’d probably expect me to recommend consulting with an Accredited Attorney BEFORE going to a Compensation & Pension Exam. But, there are IMPORTANT considerations for this. The best way for me to demonstrate this is by way of an actual client example:

“Jane Veteran” was discharged from the military in 2010. She saw combat and was directly engaged on multiple occasions. At the time of discharge, she “just wanted to get home.” Making a claim for a mental injury or disability was not a priority at that time. As time went by, she struggled with nightmares, insomnia, flashbacks, physical and mental fatigue. “Jane” wanted to put the trauma she experienced in service behind her. But she couldn’t. It was, as she put it, “eating [her] alive.” She had trouble keeping a job. She had trouble in her relationships. She began to socially withdraw and isolate herself.

Then, “Jane” encountered a fellow veteran from her time in the service. He shared that he too was having a hard time back in civilian life but that he’d been helped by the treatment he had received from the VA–and that he was now receiving monthly benefits from the VA as compensation for his disability. He urged her to make a claim.

So, five years after her discharge, “Jane” does so for several specific disabilities and begins treatment at her local Veterans medical facility for (among other things) PTSD. She is evaluated by a doctor the VA scheduled her to see. The exam was brief. To her surprise, the VA eventually decided that her claim for PTSD should be denied because there had been no “clinical diagnosis” of her PTSD. (This is the reason frequently given by the VA for denying a claim for such a disability.) “Jane” does the right thing by taking the first step in her appeal–filing a Notice of Disagreement (NOD) with the VA’s denial of her PTSD claim. She hires an Accredited Attorney (us) to represent her in her appeal.

Soon thereafter, “Jane” receives notice from the VA that it has again scheduled her to be seen by an ‘independent’ doctor. The appointment letter is similar to the one for the first doctor—the one that the VA relied upon to deny her claim. But she knows she has to go or her appeal ends if she doesn’t show up.

We carefully review with “Jane” the areas that the VA doctor should cover in order for the evaluation to be fair and unbiased. This time the VA sees it her way and she is awarded 50% in disability following this evaluation.

We believe that “Jane’s” preparation—both mentally and informationally—helped in achieving that outcome. (Of course, it’s possible that the VA recognizes she has competent counsel and they need to get real on the merits of the claim.) We are still appealing “Jane’s” claim because the Effective Date they gave her (for when her compensation STARTED) was the date of the LAST evaluation, not the date she made her claim.

If you see your situation reflected here, contact us for a free case evaluation. My staff and I are here to serve you.

Buddy Letters

Written by Maurice Abarr on . Posted in Veterans Disability

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VA claims generally start with a statement from the veteran. The VA then examines all of the additional evidence to make a determination on that veteran’s claim. Typically, that evidence includes medical and service records. Unfortunately, those can be woefully incomplete.

That’s when additional evidence can fill in some very important blanks. The VA would call one type of additional evidence a “Statement in Support of Claim.” These are commonly referred to as “Buddy Letters” or “Buddy Statements.” There are various kinds of Buddy Letters. The best ones are those written by fellow service members who actually witnessed what you went through. The closer they were to you, the more compelling Buddy Letters will be to the VA.

For example, suppose you were an 11B Infantryman making a claim of PTSD today. An effective Buddy Letter might come from your platoon sergeant. That would be a person who saw you from the time you arrived in theater to the time you left. In the Buddy Letter, the service member could recount the actual missions or campaigns in which you were involved, provide first-hand observations of what you experienced and witnessed, and comment on any changes he observed in you over that time.

Though less effective, a Buddy Letter could be from another service member who served in the same theatre but didn’t actually serve alongside you. The service member might be able to recount general information about the circumstances of your service. Unfortunately, the specifics of what you experienced and how it might have affected you would be missing. A letter like this wouldn’t necessarily hurt your claim, but it might do little to support it.

Buddy Letters can be helpful in proving that you served in combat—especially if you didn’t have a combat MOS or if your official service record doesn’t specifically list it. Unfortunately, the VA applies a very limited definition of “combat” requiring “[e]vidence that the veteran participated in attacking or defending an attack of the enemy.” That means that service in a general “combat area” or “combat zone” is not enough to prove that a veteran served in combat. Buddy Letters, in conjunction with other evidence, can support your claim that you served in combat.

Another way Buddy Letters can have a positive impact is in cases where injuries during service aren’t always apparent. A series of small strains and sprains can lead to a much bigger problem later in life. If those smaller injuries didn’t warrant going on sick call or reporting to sick bay, there may not be a record of them. Buddy Letters from your co-workers can discuss how you hurt your back lifting equipment day in and day out. Or, how your job required typing all day leading to a current condition of carpal tunnel syndrome. Or, how you worked around toxic fumes all day leading to respiratory issues.

The best Buddy Letters will always come from those who were closest to you at the time of your injury—whether it was a single event or on-going trauma. The closer to you the letter writer was, the more impact the letter will have. So, it should come from someone in your company, rather than someone in your battalion. Better yet, it should come from someone in your platoon, rather than someone in your company. Better still, it should come from someone in your squad, rather than in your platoon. The key is that they can state what they directly witnessed of your service experience and the basis for your claim.

We at the Law Offices of Maurice L. Abarr are uniquely qualified to assist you with any issues related to disabilities caused by your military service. Contact us for a free case evaluation.

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