Memorial Day is a time to remember our fallen service members. They paid the ultimate price for you and me. Perhaps it’s the moment to remember a friend or family member. Most of us know someone who died while serving our country.
In Indianapolis, flags waved, troops marched and speeches praised the ultimate sacrifice. Yet, no one mentioned the underserved veterans now engaged in their lonely ongoing battle with the Veterans Administration (VA). If you listened to any of the recent Congressional oversight committee hearings, VA management was described as “a bungling group of self-serving bureaucrats.” I will not argue with that congressman’s assessment or his comment.
If you are a discouraged veteran, your claim disapproved; or a service member unsure of how to file a disability claim, may I provide insight? I have filed claims for myself with marginal success, and I have witnessed more serious cases resulted in denial.
Eighty (80%) percent of first time claims are reported to be denied. My suggestion is this: Interview several Veteran Service Officers (VSO) before filing. Then, make your decision. Hey vet, you also want an experienced team on your side. Find people you trust to guide and represent you through the VA’s Wall of Discouragement!
The VSO needs your help. First, proof you were in the military. Second, get a medical diagnosis. Your friends may say, “Hey, you aren’t the same person. What happen over there, I think you have PTSD.”
It doesn’t matter what your friends and family think. The VA makes its decisions based on medical evidence and proof of in-service injury! You can have the VA diagnose you; make an appointment.
BUT FIRST, talk in over with your VSO. Your representative may say, “Stay the hell away from the VA hospital! Their psycho doctors go out of their way to discredit a veteran’s claim.”
Ask your VSO, “Where should I go to be medically diagnosed?” Your VSO will fill out and file your claim. But, if you are going it alone, let me give you some advice. You will fail if you are not medically diagnosed. The VA’s paperwork will ask you for reams of proof detailing your plight. A complete waste of time, as the VA does not believe anything the veteran writes.
Your response to their question should explain that you are filing a claim of in-service injury, and medical professionals have provided a diagnosis (list it). Then the VA will review your medical and personnel service records and compare them to the medical DIAGNOSES.
Third, you must provide the VSO/VA proof of injury while in-service. This effort may require contacting the military personnel archive records in St. Louis Missouri. Normally, St. Louis mails summary information.
Another suggestion, request a copy of every page of your medical and personnel records. For example, in my case there was no proof of wounds in my medical records. Once I was patched-up, the enemy killed the medic. But, within the army personnel records Form 20, Line 40, Wounds, were the words: Frag. Wnd. Bk.; fragmentation wound back. It did not matter that I had a Purple Heart; the VA would not believe anything I said or wrote.
If you are a recent veteran, you might enjoy this conversation I had with the VA’s medical examiner. During the exam I said, “Doctor, I was caught in the crossfire of three exploding claymore mines. Is it possible that my spine injury was due to concussion blast?” VA doctor responded, “Absolutely not!”
I keep saying and writing to Indiana’s best medical doctors who do not work for the VA. As of this writing there are nearly 300,000 veterans appealing their denied claim. 13,000 new appeals were filed in the first five months of 2015.
To sum this up: Our country is a great country and our military is the finest in the world. But all this comes with a price, and the price doesn’t seem to be recognized by bureaucrats whose children may have never been at war. Meanwhile, millions suffer as a result of what happened to their relatives in wars. During this Memorial Day weekend, remember their heartfelt sacrifices. Hug a vet! And if you want to take a proactive stand, elect someone to Congress who shares your concern for our veterans.
Happy Memorial Day!
Note: Andrew Robbins was a member of the 3rd/187th Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division, (1 December1967 through 3 October 1969; Vietnam). He is a staff writer for CSMS Magazine. He lives in Indianapolis, Indiana.