Posts Tagged ‘PTSD’

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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