If you’re a veteran of any branch of this nation’s Armed Forces and are living with a service-related disability that interferes with your daily life, you need help. If you’re a female* veteran, you are subject to a range of unique issues—physiological and psychological—that stand to impact you. The last thing veterans need is trouble dealing with the VA over a disability claim.
After you’ve filed your claim with the VA, you’ll receive a ratings decision. Unfortunately, all too often, the VA’s decision is not exactly what you were hoping for. It may:
Value your disability lower than you think it should be.
Grant you parts of your disability claim but denies others.
Deny your claim outright.
Fortunately, the VA has a system in place by which veterans can appeal their ratings decision. Unfortunately, it can be a complicated and tricky process. We can help guide you through all the steps of the appeals process to ensure that you have the best chance of a successful appeal.
* NOTE: Female veterans will benefit from reading my blogs “Female Veterans Will Face Unique Health Issues, Part I ~ The Facts” and “Female Veterans Will Face Unique Health Issues, Part II ~ The Implications” in the Veterans Disability Blog section.
Military Sexual Trauma (MST)
Military Sexual Trauma (MST) is defined as sexual assault (up to and including rape) or repetitive, threatening, or coercive sexual harassment. If you were a victim* of MST, in addition to the initial trauma, you may find that it has continued to impact you in psychological and physical ways.
MST includes instances of any sexual activity where someone is involved against his/her will. This includes not only physical force but also coercive threats—such as threats abusing the chain of command (e.g., threats of negative performance reviews or, conversely, promises of faster promotions)—or instances where a service member was unable to consent. Other forms of MST can include patterns of unwanted sexual advances, inappropriate physical contact, or offensive or harassing language about your body or sexual activities. Additionally, there may be instances of retaliation that occur after such an event is reported—assuming that it was reported at all.
If you suffered MST and it impacts your current life, you may be eligible for disability compensation from the VA. As with other service-related disabilities, you still need to have three elements to prove your case. These are:
You experienced MST while on active duty.
You are currently diagnosed with a mental or physical disability/disabilities, and your current mental or physical disability/disabilities were caused by, or were worsened by, the MST you suffered in service.
As with other service-related disabilities, the MST by itself is not a basis for receiving compensation. You must have a compensable health condition, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, or substance abuse that can be connected to the MST. If you’ve made a claim based on MST and the VA has denied it, you have the option to appeal that decision.
The goal of a successful appeal is to make it as easy as possible for the VA to say, “Yes.” In MST cases, successfully appealing a disputed rating decision may hinge upon collecting and framing the evidence in the best possible way. Because of the special nature of cases involving MSTs, it’s a good idea to seek legal help. We lead a team of professionals uniquely qualified to assist you with sensitive cases of this type.
* NOTE: Military Sexual Trauma is not a gender-specific issue. Statistics suggest it occurs as often with males as with females.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a psychological condition commonly associated with combat. But diagnoses of PTSD are not limited just to service members and veterans who’ve been in combat.
To make a successful disability claim for PTSD with the VA, you will need to show three things:
You have a current diagnosis of PTSD.
You experienced an in-service injury or stressor while on active duty.
Your PTSD was caused by, or was worsened by, the in-service injury or stressor you suffered in service.
If you’ve made a PTSD claim and the VA rates your disability lower than you believe it should have or if the VA has denied claim outright, you have the option to appeal their decision. The goal of a successful appeal is to make it as easy as possible for the VA to say, “Yes.”
Given the complexities involved in a PTSD claim, successfully appealing a PTSD claim with the VA can be a challenge. After suffering the trauma that led you to this point, you may be facing another fight to get what you deserve.
My team of professionals are uniquely qualified to assist veterans like you with the tenacity you expect and the sensitivity you deserve.