I received my fair share of bumps and bruises while I was in the Marine Corps, but to this day I still feel like I owe the Corps more than it owes me.

In late April 2006, I went to my first SEP/TAP class provided by Marine Corps Community Service. SEP and TAP are the Marine Corps’ separation and transition assistance classes and are important for Marines leaving the service.

James Killen

I didn’t feel like I need anything else from the government, though. I thought I was good, so I essentially gaffed it off.

In the months leading up to being honorably discharged, I listened to Marines talk about filing their VA claim. Not me. Not interested, not worried about it.

I had a college fund waiting for me, I had experience that set me ahead of my peers, I had seen Mt. Sinai and crossed the equator. I had the lifelong friendships that came with being in combat (love you guys, you know who you are) and I didn’t want the moniker “disabled Veteran” at the age of 23. Effectively, I was a bull-headed Marine.

What I didn’t know then, and what I am learning now, is that a lot of those things that were bothersome when I was 23 would become major problems years down the road.

I never would have guessed that my chronic stomach issues in the Corps would eventually lead to surgery. My mid- and lower back are shot, my hearing shows the tell-tale signs of being used and abused, and then there are the headaches and brain-housing group issues.

Ten years ago, I thought I was invincible. Today, I understand that I was very wrong.

Thankfully, my issues were well documented and I was able to start my VA claim. And I am fortunate to be in a position to share that journey with other Veterans.

I started reading through the VA benefits website trying to get a vector and trying to figure out where I should start. I asked some friends who had been through the process and I read a few blogs.

One common theme emerged from my research: contact a national service officer (NSO) with one of the nationally known Veterans organizations like Disabled American Veterans (DAV), Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) or American Legion.

NSOs work with VA every day and know the ins and outs of the system. Admittedly, VA is a bureaucracy, so navigating it with a guide is a good way to go.

My NSO is Paul Shook with the Washington, D.C., DAV office, and I felt immediately at ease when I sat down to talk to him about what I wanted to accomplish.

Even though I work for VA, I’m using the resources that are readily available to all Veterans to accomplish this process. That is why Paul is my NSO — he knows more about the process than I ever will and I trust him to have my best interest at heart.

What I have discovered so far is that the key in all this is to know what I want to accomplish ahead of time and know what direction I want to travel. Anyone who is putting a claim together should ask themselves what their expectations are and then work with a NSO to manage them from the outset of the claim.


There is a lot that goes into this process, which is why it takes time. Not to mention, the more a Veteran is seeking from VA the longer the process is going to be.

First, I had to gather my records for Paul, do the initial power of attorney and document all the issues I would be submitting to VA. This is a pretty painless step if all your records are intact.

Next, we submitted my claim. VA has to process the claim and then send a request to the National Archives for my official medical record. This is understandable because they want to make sure the records they go over are official and not tampered with. They’re being prudent.

This part of the process can take 1-3 months to complete. Between the volume of claims being submitted and the sensitivity of the information, the process just takes time.

Fortunately, I have substantial medical records for four medical issues that bothered me while I was on active duty. All four issues are still bothering me today and they are the things I submitted my claim to address.

I do not care what percentage of disability VA comes back with, I will accept whatever their decision is provided I get a fair shake in their review.

I know what you’re thinking, “Who determines whether or not I got a fair shake?”

That is a determination Paul and I will make. If he tells me I got a fair shake, I’m going to trust him in that, because he’s a Marine combat Veteran and a brother. I know he has my best interest at heart. If I thought otherwise, I would find a new NSO.

I suspect this is where many Veterans take issue with their claims. They go into the process with an expectation and if that expectation is not met they may become distressed.

Killen_Bio.jpegThat’s not to say some Veterans do not have a legitimate grievance with a VA decision— many do —but an NSO is going to be able to recognize a legitimate grievance and walk a Veteran through the appeals process.

I’m only just beginning the process and have a new perspective on this already. What has your experience been? Similar, different? Do you have questions about it? Share your thoughts here and I’ll talk with Paul about them and relay his thoughts. (Keep in mind, though, that we can’t answer case-specific questions and ask you not to share any of your case information. You’ll want to work with a NSO for those questions.)

For videos and more information about the VA claims process, visit the Veterans Benefits Administration’s Youtube channel.

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Published on Jan. 19, 2016

Estimated reading time is 5.2 min.

Views to date: 355


  1. Michael Richards January 27, 2016 at 6:19 am

    First of all I would like to thank all you vet that have served I am a vet of the eighties and was stationed at Camp Lejeune I received a package in the mail about taking some blood test and a urine test I’m wondering what this is for and if anybody out there I could give me a comment on if it was something in the water and it causes cancer and if I should do anything else to pursue the matter

  2. RY January 26, 2016 at 5:57 pm

    Yes, file a claim…

  3. David Lee Myers January 26, 2016 at 5:07 pm

    Im going to try to make this short as Im very upset with VA. health care. I been kicked off then was welcome back to VA. health care. After I was told my co-pays will cost me hell of lot of money, Va. goes by your gross income, which is deceiving. cause I have so many bills like food, rent, car payments , health care, taxes coming out of my gross income and im lucky if I can live month to month. I have to wait to pay off my Va. health care bill before I can make another doctor visit and get more of my RX’s. Yea I know I can make payment plans with Va. My point is Va. should go by net income not gross income. that to me is your true income. I served from 1971-1974 I was not drafted I just joined and here is the thanks you get yea you can get health care if you don’t make too much money or you pay very high co-pays. And if the USA stop sending billions of dollars to other countries to feed their people and to help re build their countries up, they should keep the money here to help the people here in the USA who goes hungry, homeless. I hope somebody who reads this will let the people in Washington DC who runs this country let them read this then maybe just maybe, we can get some help, but I dont think it will happen.

  4. James Weeks January 26, 2016 at 12:23 pm

    I share a similar though not as “clean cut” experience with the V.A. claims process. One of the biggest and most critical things I learned about the process is “documentation, documentation, documentation”. Being a pack rat literally saved my neck.

    Regardless of any previous track record of the Benefits side of the V.A., many times they get blamed for the fault of the National Records Archive for not forwarding a file/complete file/correct file or even your own Command that never properly forwarded your records. Oddly the V.A. has no real way to say “it wasn’t us!”.

  5. Gloria J. Fullard January 26, 2016 at 8:40 am

    Once a veteran files for disability compensation and it is granted, if you received any severance pay during the military draw down of forces, you will not receive any compensation pay until all the severance pay is paid in full. I felt this was a slap in the face. We served all those years and have nothing to show for it. Some of us veterans will not see any of their disability compensation in their life time because of the recoupment of the severance pay. We are feeling like our time served was just wiped away and we receive nothing. These injuries happen during our time on duty and continued on into our life out of the service. This process really need to be looked at. It is hurting a lot of our veterans and the government refuses to see that. My time served was with pride, now I have lost that because I felt my fourteen years was all for nothing. Our government should not force these veterans to pay back pay that was received their time served.

  6. rain maker January 26, 2016 at 3:15 am

    The VA and most things associated with it will be closing its doors soon they have printed all the fake money they can no more left companies that supply the Govt funded programs are going out of Business. The VA has allowed so many needful vets to fall threw the cracks of the system you cannot patch it up with all these programs i have watched this carp for years now they want to appease the future vets with 3000 a month a merchant seaman on a ship carrying cargo military or commercial makes more money than that and the VETS have lost body parts some more than one part its all a fools game. Stop taking the poison they selling in those pills and hallucinogenics they legally pump this stuff on VETS while they deliberately allow IED’S to blow us apart so they can experiment on prosthetic’s and space age junk making. They con society by calling us HEROES a hero ain’t nothing but a sandwich. Pay attention to what just happened on the Persian Gulf off Iran they would never put up a fight against Iran and the Government knows it so they create phony Peace treaty we live in a country that has military with some of the most perverse behavior known to man transsexuals are running the military when they allowed that it was all over then. The Russian President will not allow another American election he cannot chance that so the score so far is 2 rockets fired that burned up on reentry the next one won’t miss in 1 hour the USA will be no more.I welcome the total destruction

  7. Sandy Ready January 25, 2016 at 3:10 pm

    My husband was a proud Vietnam Vet who actually died of a 4th heart attack in June, 2014. His death certificate stated the exact thing that he was requesting –an upgrade from 40% to 100%. At first, they promised payment up to time of his death, then excuses, excuses. And now I’m sure they hope I disappear.

  8. Brenda Jordan January 25, 2016 at 8:36 am

    The Flint MI contaminated water scandal is trending in the news these days so gov agencies are jumping through the hoops trying to make things right only to get the media off their backs. It was the same way a few years ago when the VA scandal broke and Americans got to see how veterans were being treated at their most desperate time of need and how subpar many VA treatment facilities are. The scandal also exposed the failure of the gov and DVA to ensure all veterans receive their rightful entitlements and benefits. Additionally, the scandal uncovered more than just wide spread incompetence, it exposed the long wait times for medical care and the many promises that were being broken to veterans at VA facilities across the country. But now that this news has become old news…it’s like nothing has changed.
    Back in 2013, I received a letter indicating that my claim was closed because I FAILED to make it to a C&P appt. I never received any notice!! After filing an appeal and waiting almost 4 years, I get a call from a VA Rep on my cell phone telling me I FAILED to show up for two C&P appts and she just wanted to know WHY?? Well it turns out that the section/dept in the VA Medical Center that schedules the C&P appts had my old, three year ago, address. I told the Rep on the phone that I changed my address in eBenefits and I sent a VA Form 21-0958 with the correct address way back in 2013. Well she tells me that even thought I had my correct address on the 21-0958 and in eBenefits, I would have to go – in person- to the VA Medical Center and show verification/documentation of my name change and address change. The system does not automatically update these changes at the VA Medical Center and they are who schedule and mail out C&P appt notices. Well HELL…how was this novice veteran supposed to know that when I change my name and address in eBenefits and on an official VA Form that it would not change this information across the board! So it turns out that all the way back from 2013 when it was alleged that I missed my first C&P appt and my initial claim was denied, it was because the notice they claim was sent to me, probably went to a wrong address. Even though I did Post Office change of address card, I know that some of my other mail wasn’t forwarded properly to me. So I went to the VA Medical Center and submitted the documents to change my address and name. Then I called the 1800# and left a message to inform the VA rep. She called me back again and told me that needed to send all my updated med records from 2013 to present to the Evidence Intake Center in Georgia. Mission complete for more than 8 months now…still no word/notice/call from VA as to the status of getting a C&P appt.
    I am beyond being feed up. I saw on one of the earlier feeds that it is recommended that veterans work with a National Service Officer, or someone who works for Disabled American Veterans (DAV) or Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW). Even after working with a DAV rep, I still have been waiting almost 4 years.
    I was wondering if it moves things any quicker when and if a veteran works with a Veterans Disability Lawyer?

  9. LINDA GALE STURGILL January 24, 2016 at 6:57 pm


  10. james m farley January 24, 2016 at 5:46 pm

    I’ve been fighting the Albuquerque VA for 24 plus years since 1992. They have my service dates screwed up plus they are saying that my service is not honorable when it is. Recently the RO stated my service was honorable but have not done anything to correct it. I have another hearing in Feb 24th 2016. Any advice on correcting the honorable service? Also the RO did a administrative decision in 1995 which does not mention the honorable period of service. I 2011 just prior to a BVA hearing they did a amended administrative decision stating both periods are dishonorable because I reenlisted early when I did not. The RO did this decision prior to a BVA hearing in which they failed to notify me of the decision. In 2014 they RO states the first period of service is honorable. I therefore should receive benefits retrograded to first filing in 1992 100%. Still no benefits as of yet. One period of service was completed and started another did not complete the second. And the RO has Army service listed as Air Force. Any advice

  11. Michael Astemborski January 24, 2016 at 4:16 pm

    Greetings to all and thank you for your service,

    My question is concerning my wife who while she was in boot camp was raped by a superior officer way back in 1982.
    When the offense occurred she was of course threatened in a multitude of ways that if she reported the rape or told anyone, bad things would happen, she never said anything.
    Fast forward to today and she is permanently disabled with severe mental issues and has had to go on social security disability because she cannot work anymore. Her doctors feel that a lot of her problems are from what happened to her when she served in the Army.
    We have been told to file a claim with the VA for benefits, but are concerned that since there is no documentation from when she was raped, it would just end up being tossed out and would bring up many horrible memories for her. Of course she has all the recent medical records pertaining to this issue from mental health professionals and her family doctor, also from the 3 different times that she has been hospitalized.
    Anyone have any suggestions or advice on if we should proceed with a disability claim with the VA? Any advice will be greatly appreciated! Thank you and God bless.

    • Al Butler January 25, 2016 at 12:05 pm

      Michael Astemborsk:
      I would file suit against the military. Find a good lawyer.
      Also, get the Attorney General’s office (from your state) involved.
      Then they will point you to other support groups….for help.

      Then wait, wait, wait….Upon hearing nothing, head for your local congressman as well and
      get the media involved. (e,g, Your local TV stations)

      Good luck. Keep me updated. Open up a Facebook page and invite people to connect. (me also)

      Regards Al

    • S Jackson January 25, 2016 at 6:28 pm

      Dear Michael Astemborski:
      I’m terribly sorry about your wife. I experienced a similar incident as your wife but not in Basic training. It happened to me in 1986 and I also went on to suffer additional disabilities. I fought for over twenty years, & also went on to have additional problems. Nobody knows what something like that does to you unless they experience something like that themselves. If your wife went to any type of doctor, especially a Mental Health doctor, her chances of proving it may be better than you think. Mental Health professionals are trained to pick up on things that other doctors may not pick up on. I requested my own Mental Health records after MANY years of fighting to get a total of 100% to include being unable to work. I am still fighting at this time to try and get this claim to go Total & Permanent but I am at least receiving the income of a person that is 100% Total & Permanent. As I stated, I have fought for many years and I am continuing to try and get it to go total & permanent. It resulted in PTSD as I feared for my life and had flashbacks. I went to sexual assault classes & wrote a journal of the events that occurred. Now that all of the years have passed, I don’t know why the man who did this to her cannot be brought up on charges or at least confronted about it. I’m sure she wasn’t the only one and that would probably be learned if he were confronted. I also had Compensation & Pension Hearings and it seemed that nobody believed me until after I requested my own records. In those records it showed that I had gone to a Mental Health professional and the the last person performing a Compensation & Pension Hearing could read between the lines. She is the one that finally helped me. I don’t know if a lawyer could help you or not due to the fact that the statute of limitations run on many things and I’m unsure if it would on that or not. But, a Congressman or Senator couldn’t hurt. I BELIEVE THAT IT WOULD HELP YOUR WIFE IF THE TRUTH WAS KNOWN BECAUSE FEELING LIKE A VICTIM FOR SO LONG, AFTER GOING THROUGH THAT IS A VERY DIFFICULT THING TO DEAL WITH AND CAUSES MORE MENTAL HEALTH ISSUES. THE ACT ITSELF SEEMS TO PUT YOU PUT YOU MORE IN TOUCH WITH YOUR INNER CHILD, THUS MAKING YOU FEEL EVEN MORE WEAK. I would tell her TO NEVER GIVE UP. TRUST ME ON THAT. I FINALLY FILED THE FIRST CLAIM IN 2003 and it happened in 1986. I WAS STILL TURNED DOWN BUT I KEPT TRYING, LEARNING ALONG THE WAY AND EVENTUALLY IN THE YEAR OF 2013, I WON MY CASE & WENT 100%. AGAIN, IT’S NOT TOTAL & PERMANENT YET BUT I WON’T GIVE UP UNTIL IT IS. Please tell her to gather up all of that strength that she HAS (most women won’t even join. That takes guts alone) and NOT TO LET THIS GUY BEAT HER!!!! I’m sure that she is not the only woman that he has hurt and may even hurt more in the future. I send my Best Regards. If I can help, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

      S Jackson

  12. Mike January 24, 2016 at 3:40 pm

    I’ve been separated from the Navy 20 years, how do I go about filing a disability claim. I’m very clueless.

    • Al Butler January 25, 2016 at 11:59 am

      Head for your local VA outpatient clinic
      File a “Intent to File” document/
      While you are there also sign up for VA Health. (A different doc)
      This way you can try and get Veterans Help,

      Bring your DD 214. Have them make copies…..keep the original

      Also, I great wealth of information is at your local unemployment office.
      Even though you might not be unemployed, there is a VA rep there.
      Get an appointment and pick his brain.

      • Al Butler January 25, 2016 at 12:00 pm

        That should read….”This way you can try and get Veterans HEALTH”

  13. Anthony Raynor January 24, 2016 at 1:37 pm

    I stand corrected my father in law was served from 1957 to 1959.

  14. Anthony Raynor January 24, 2016 at 1:33 pm

    All these stories are heart breaking and I understand them from first hand and second experience. My father in law is in the army I believe from 1953 to 1956 and he has been trying hard since late 2000’s to file his claim. Not playing the race card but he was a Black man in the Army in the 50’s… 76 years old today and has clear indicates of agent orange exposure… Yes his records are was losted due to the St Louise fire… And all he has as proof is old photos and most all of his battle buddies have passed on or simple unknown as the VA asked him for statement from people who knew during this time period… I hate watching his hope for his service and va claim to simply be recognized… Any recommendations I’m located near Fort Bragg, NC..

  15. Marjory Gray January 24, 2016 at 11:39 am

    My experience with contacting an NSO was not helpful nor encouraging. I contacted three American Legion Posts via the phone numbers and info given to me by the VA. Not one of them knew what I was talking about…when I finally got someone, they were rude and told me they don’t work for the VA…two of the three had phone messages stating that they don’t answer the phone so don’t leave a msg. The third responded but only offered to drive me to a VA hospital. I was trying to file an appeal for a funeral benefit for my husband, the combat, Korean Veteran. I ended up sending in my own letter with whatever info they needed in November 2015. I have not had a response other than the form letter from them stating they would investigate. I can’t tell you how much time has been wasted on this process, my husband died in May 2014.

  16. Willie J. Goings January 23, 2016 at 6:27 pm

    Iwould like to no how get see a va dr,

  17. Perry J. Taylor January 23, 2016 at 3:31 pm

    I always joked around about all the PT was going to be the death of me and after over 9 years in the Marine Corps my knee finally gave out on me while running an obstacle course. Being late in the afternoon by the time I got to sickbay, the doctor had already left for the day. The Corpsman on duty did what he could which was just to make sure nothing was broken, gave me a cane and a few of the infamous APCs, wrote up what I had been in for and told me to report back in the morning. When I finally got seen by the doctor the next day, the first thing he asked me was what the problem was with my ankle. Duh! I explained again that I had screwed up my right knee. He pawed around and checked the range of motion and what not then gave me a light duty slip and told me to come back in a few days. In those few days, my right knee had started feeling better however the strain of favoring my right knee caused my left knee, which was also going out on me, to give out. So, when I went back in to sickbay, the doctor, a different one of course, asked me how my right knee was doing. He gave me a really funny look when I told him that knee was better but the other one hurt now. I can only imagine what he thought when he read the Corpsman’s report about my ankle, the first doctor’s report about my left knee and now my other knee. This was at good old Camp Lejeune. Again he gave me some more APCs and another light duty chit and sent me on my way.
    When that light duty chit ran out, I was still hurting, the pain was see-sawing from one knee to the other, so I went back to sickbay. This time they sent me to the base hospital where I saw a third doctor. He didn’t know what was wrong either so, more APCs and another light duty chit. Since my knees finally started to feel better I gave up on our base doctors and decided to just stick it out.
    Not long after, I got orders to Japan but had to extend my enlistment for an extra 6 months to fill them. When I got to Iwakuni, they gave me a check in slip and a check out slip and I was on my way to Okinawa. While there, my knees started acting up again so I went back to sickbay. When the doctor there saw my records he sent me to Camp Kuey, Army Hospital.and a specialist. He checked me out, diagnosed me with chronomalacia and asked if I might want to apply for a medical discharge. By this time I had 10 years in and thought I would just try to get out of the Marines and try another branch of Service where they didn’t go overboard on the PT. so I said no to the Medical. I’m still kicking myself for that one!
    I did get out but never made it back into another branch, family problems at home kept me out, and so I took a civilian job. Even though that job kept me on my feet all day, my knees didn’t give me much trouble until about 8 years ago. I had started a new job and though I could do the work, my boss kept complaining I was moving too slow. I gave up on that job and found another but by the end of the day my knees would be swollen and I could barely walk. I finally gave up on that job too and went unemployed for awhile until I finally decided to go to the VA to see what could be done.
    I knew I had to have my medical records so I sent off for them before I went in to the VA. Clinic here in Daytona Beach. I signed up, and after just a couple of months I was assigned a primary care doctor, had a complete physical, xrays, a CAT scan of my knees, and was seen by an Orthopedic specialist. I was given pain meds, and a knee brace to keep my knee from going sideways on me and an offer for knee surgery if it gets worse. At first I was given 20% disability but on the advice of my Ortho Doctor and with the help of my DAV rep I appealed and was upgraded to 40%. I am also able to get my eye glass prescription through VA for free each year, and am now wearing hearing aids also free from the VA. I am also receiving regular checkups all at my local clinic. My primary care Doctor has also scheduled me for an appointment with a Urologist at the Orlando VA Hospital next month to check for a possible problem with my kidney.
    I know I got a bit long winded on this but the main thing I want to say is that I am very happy with my local VA and that I have had excellent service through them. This will be my first trip to the Orlando Hospital but I’m sure they will be just as good as my local clinic here in Daytona.

  18. James Vernon Clark January 23, 2016 at 3:21 pm

    I find my self in a much simIlar situation. I am in an appeal now that needs to be approved. Like you I thought I was fine and could lick the world. I have found out differently. My years of activity duty took a greater toll on my mind than I thought.
    I was even so nigh eve that I turned down 100% disability. I believed I could accomplish anything.. Mcch to my chagrin.
    I now suffer. Military life is far more disabling then most people imagine, even me. Respectfully James Clark

  19. William H. Brown January 23, 2016 at 12:27 pm

    I think it is great the work you are doing. It appears there has been a Black Hole that you have closed.
    …NSO for many years was known as Non Sanctioned Operation. For those of us who were sent on an NSO have no record of that action( s). Many of us were not sent as a unit where we could later contact a buddy, but an Ad Hoc Team..We were told we were like an ” All Star Team “, top notch from several places, best in our MOS. We faced factors that we were not prepared for such as our dead fellow Americans ((( this is still very hard for me to tell and it was over fifty years ago. It is still highly classified apparently ))); such as incoming fire and WE WERE NOT ARMED.
    After completing the mission and risking our lives, on the return trip being told ” This never happened. ” ..A few days after that I spent over two weeks in 130th Field Hospital for really unknown reasons but they called it ” Appears to be Mono ” No wonder I have many problems everyday since. All that is recorded.
    American Legion is doing my claim, I really hope I live long enough to see it upgraded to 100%. Parts of the US Army were very good to me, parts made me mistrust the truth and very ill. My life has been at times in shambles or worse. I feel like I am in a hole. so far any help has been a shovel to only dig deeper, but made to feel it is better. Thank you all for your service and sharing. Bill Brown

  20. Larry Stoneking January 23, 2016 at 11:11 am

    I am pre diabetic with peripheral neuropathy. VA will not accept unless I am diabetic II. I am Vietnam vet.

  21. R Smith January 23, 2016 at 2:18 am

    LOL. Let’s see how you feel a few years from now.

  22. Tom Schneider January 23, 2016 at 12:47 am

    I thought about posting something lengthy, but will make it short and sweet:

    1) Be patient, it’s a virtue, like mom’s use to say

    2) Be your own advocate. Nobody will fight harder and care more than the guy in the mirror.

    3) Do your own leg work. Always document and always make copies during and after military. It will always help your case.

    4) The first claim when you get out, ALWAYS…..do a De Novo Review (2nd set of eyes), because myself and many others have gotten only 10 percent during the initial claim and if you fight and do the De Novo, you will 9 out of 10, get a way better disability rating and get what you are entitled to if you have all your medical records, documents, etc… on file with VA.

    5) Never stop fighting for what you believe you are worth. Everyone will tell you something, but trust your gut. I lost out on a lot of retroactive pay because I closed my first claim many years ago, then had to do a new one here in 2015….Follow what you believe.

  23. LINDA CADENA January 22, 2016 at 11:01 pm

    Where there ever any successful claims of veterans who served in Ft. Lewis Washington and the TCE exposure?

  24. Samuel Douglas Bennett January 22, 2016 at 10:49 pm

    I have a law suit against the VA that is being handled by a civilian lawyer.
    I think 80% or so of these could be precluded if the VA would treat people
    right. I got fed up with the Va’s cheating me, and I decided to do something
    to let them know I’ve had enough of their cheating me out of what I am law-
    fully entitled to. They made threats to take my entitlements away because
    they couldn’t determine I had a spouse after a certain time, yet it was established
    several years back that I had a wife. The problem with all this is the VA activity
    who wanted the redundant paperwork I submitted was the evidence collection office in
    Newnan Ga,, and it had been submitted to Nashville office [as well as I re-
    member back around 2006?} Veterans can determine 2 and 2 are 4 by
    using simple logic. The VA can come up with ways that has 2 and 2 equals
    any number they desire it to be. Almost all the things that can be claimed under
    “Agent Orange” I qualify for yet much of that has been denied to me.

    It blows my mind how people in the hiarchy [not right spelling] can waste
    millions of dollars on an art object, yet they cheat my comrades,
    my brothers out of stuff that they are entitled. There is so much that need to
    be done to make the VA do what they should and by law. If I had the power to
    do things I had a whole bunch of ideas how tro make i better. I think section
    heads in the VA would function better and be more efficient with ex GIs’ running the

  25. William Pearson January 22, 2016 at 10:36 pm

    I am an old Ranger. I was in Pleiku,1969-70. If you go to the doctor you are known as a wimp! I broke my ankle, and had to go. Most of my team were alcoholics. The VA took the bones out of my ear and replaced the bones with a piston. I have seizures from Agent Orange. The VA has taken care of me after The DAV and my U.S. senator went to bat for me. It takes time to understand how the health system works. I used to think that the VA wants us old grunts to die first and then send money to the wives, but they do care, it least I think they care…..empathy instead of apathy.

  26. Larry Jones January 22, 2016 at 10:29 pm

    Thank you, Mr. Killen, for a calm, rational account of the claims process. I am accustomed to seeing mostly rants about how slow and unfair the system is. I was fortunate. I retired in 1995, had a review in 1996, enrolled in VA healthcare in 2000, and asked a DAV representative to review my case sometime before 9/11. It didn’t take long, and I was upgraded to 100%. All I had really wanted was the “DV” license plate. It’s ok with me if this comment is not published. God bless.

  27. Mark S McKinney January 22, 2016 at 9:15 pm

    I also was too proud to seek help from the VA for many years. I am a Vietnam Combat Vet and although I’ve had many injuries during my service (most in Nam) including concussion from a mortar explosion. I waited until I was already disabled from work to seek any help from VA as they were all related from service. My leg and back injury was from Basic Training and re-injured in Nam. I’ve had migraines since and have lived off pills and in the earlier days alcohol to try and overcome the pain. Yet I continued to work and support my family.

    My uncle (also Vietnam Vet and who worked for VA) told me to apply for compensation as he knew my history. I applied. Having no insurance I went to VA Hospital and was immediately accepted for treatment. They took good care of me at VA for the most part. A few situations with a couple foreign doctors, but that’s another story.

    What I did ind out was that the VA Administration will and did lie when they rejected all but my hearing disability. I am so glad I went to ask for all my records (three reams thick) before they sent the reasons for denial as I have proof of their lies. Now it’s in the hands of an attorney for Vets and yet it’s been over 5 years. And it’s possibly true, they are waiting, hoping we will die before they have to pay off. Frustrated to say the least. Our two Senators have helped and when they responded back to the Senators, they never even mentioned my military service injuries at all but was saying my injuries were other related problems. And by the way, in trying to seek all my records, the VA said they didn’t have my records and don’t know where they are when I requested them. It took the 6 months to respond back to me with an answer.

    They attorney did say after contacting the Senators that they moved beyond the Regional now and it should proceed much faster. I old the Senators, well at least the VA is still getting their bonuses!!!

  28. Weaver T. Brian January 22, 2016 at 8:15 pm

    I was once denied service connection for hip problems. I thought I had written the claim properly, and I was certain my records backed me up, so I had a hard time understanding why I was denied. I requested a copy of my case file under the freedom of information act, and got it. As I read through all the information the raters had, I found out the independent medical examiner (non-VA) had screwed me. They said that I arrived there in a wheelchair that I bought with my own money, and used crutches, that I bought with my own money, implying that these were “props” that I didn’t need. I was using the 3rd wheelchair the VA had issued me, and crutches issued by the VA. When I wrote my letter of disagreement, I impeached the independent examiner using my VA records to show every time they had issued me a pair of crutches, a wheelchair, and the hip surgery I had 3 weeks prior to the exam. My appeal was granted. Sometimes it takes a little more than others, and sometimes…… I do still have another appeal pending before the VA board of Appeals. It has been pending for almost 4 years now. They may get around to it in another 2 or 3 years

  29. k starr January 22, 2016 at 7:46 pm
  30. Peter J. Duffany January 22, 2016 at 7:43 pm

    I am finding out more and more that WE “The old Veterans” must not matter at all. I’ve been putting in claims for 50 Years. Up until last year, most things were find and understandable, until all of a sudden, I GET A LETTER STATING THEY ( THE VA) IS TAKING AWAY 10% OF MY BENEFITS, BECAUSE ‘THEY’ MADE A MISTAKE. WHAT THE HELL? THE math I do sill gives me 70%, but they come up with 60%. So wrong and frustrating. I have THREE outstanding claims I’ve been waiting to hear about for 2 years now….I will most likely die before they find out if I ‘deserve’ any compensation for these two very upsetting claims that are making me sicker and sicker on a daily basis. I say, WAKE UP Manchester, VA. Now, do you pay for destruction of mental health, and cruel treatment, as well as mental anquish, which I sit here and rot away while waiting FOR YOU to get to my claims???? No fair.

  31. William Higgins January 22, 2016 at 4:56 pm

    This stream is exactly the reason I want to form a non-profit. I and others wish to help Veterans with the needs they have which are not addressed by public assistance. We also want to assist those waiting for Social Security Disability as well.

    I lived at a homeless shelter for over 700 days during a 4 year period. I saw the needs of people, and see them now as an advocate for the homeless in Portland, ME.

    Recently a veteran I have encouraged for the past 5 years was granted his 100 % disability from the VA. It was a matter of PTSD during naval Service that was not related to combat. In my early career as an officer I heard stories about “fan room discipline”. Some behemoth did this to him when he was a junior enlisted. He actually was taken out of the service while he was in patient for mental health issues. When he first shared his story I encouraged him to apply again, and the process finally worked.

    He has made a small donation to the non-profit for its incorporation costs. Our name will be “Semper Resurgam-Always Rising”. While we will file in Virginia, we aim to make a difference nation wide. Eventually we hope to train and employ other veterans with partial disability to be those working as counselors, reaching out and helping others in need. Another mission is to coordinate the assistance given by other organizations by creating a single application which multiple organizations can use to assist those in need. This can reduce administrative costs for multiple organizations.

  32. William Higgins January 22, 2016 at 4:36 pm

    I commend you for your working through the system. I realize that I was very lucky when I applied for the VA Service Connected Disability for Manic Depression. Mental health issues were documented in my medical and service record. They led to my being taken out of Nuclear Submarines and put up at squadron. At that point I was 5 months from the end of my required service as an officer. Due to pressure from my former spouse I attached my request to leave active and join reserves to the de-nuking letter from my CO.

    Ten years later I had drilled continuously in a paid billet, even though I had not gotten my submarine designator. I had been through two layoffs, and then spent over two years in a company start up which I led. Unfortunately that former wife led to it’s demise, and I was again suffering from depression while on a 2 week active duty. I then had a random urinalysis and had to divulge that I was taking medications for the depression. The VA made me Category “H”, out of drill status, which removed the only income I had coming in each month. I ended up moving to Maine, collecting $20 a week unemployment against the company which I had been President of.

    After several years of up and down jobs, then being homeless three times, a former Command Master Chief, RIck Thornton took the time to bring me to the VA Medical Center in Augusta. As they processed the application their reaction was why had I waited that long to apply? Within 5 months I went through the Compensation and Pension Evaluation, and was granted a 70 percent Disability. Even though I have not worked for much income since 2006, I have not gone for unemployability. My goal is to earn a MSW degree with a certificate in non-profit management. That can be done through VA Vocational Rehabilitation, since I need a career change. The jobs are not there for a former Nuclear engineer with mental health issues.

  33. Frank Leo Luebbert January 22, 2016 at 4:22 pm

    I also have trouble with the va on my disability rating and comp. My knees are shot and I have pea-sized lesions in both lungs which the va says are asbestos related from working in enginerooms on board. They say my knee and shoulder are worth 20% and the lesions treating with 3 different inhalers are worth another 10%. They say I am able to be hired with my disability, I asked them to name any. I’M IN THE PROCESS OF APPEAL. tHEY TOLD MY LAWYER THAT i SIGNED A POWER-OF-ATTORNEY over to them; which is a bald faced lie. In fact just the opposite, I went to records and directed them to make all my records available to him. My lawyer said they failed to co-operate and quit. I tried hiring another but after I sent all my info, they declined and told me to file an asbestos claim on my own.If you think everyone is honest as you are try dealing with these people or any government officials. IN my opinion they are all liars.

  34. Frederick Douglas January 22, 2016 at 3:47 pm

    Fred Douglas,
    I actually have much praise for the VA
    I was navy. Enlisted in 1958, discharged 1961.
    I tried to join the VFW, and the American Legion,both would not talk to me. You had to have served in the war.
    During the start of Vietnam I was active duty in the 7th fleet.
    I walked away and never look back. I was not looking for a place to drink cheaply anyway. years later I heard a co-worker echo my story to me. There is nothing for us. We were willing to fight if called on.
    If it were no for a brother in my church, . and a step brother I would still be out in the cold.
    I filled out a form on the computer, Went to the VA; saw a doctor; explained my condition to the Doctor.
    None of these were service connected.
    God bless the VA and all the veterans that served.

  35. J. Craig January 22, 2016 at 3:47 pm

    I am having trouble getting my medical records. I contacted the Department of Veterans Affairs record management center. They sent me a disc which was copied from microfiche and is black and unreadable. I contacted them again and was told the copy they sent was the best copy available plus it was not the entire record. When I was in the USMC I had a female surgery that is considered a disability. No one ever told me to copy my medical record or that I could file a claim and now that I want to, I can’t get my record with the documentation. Do anyone know how I can get a good copy of my record or get the microfiche?

  36. Charles Gruber January 22, 2016 at 3:04 pm

    The new V.A. isn’t much better than the old V.A. several phone calls to a machine, all went unanswered.
    My initial claim was denied, and eventually had to undergo surgery for a service related injury.
    The sergeant in charge told me under no terms, would I go on sick call, since the injury was my fault, I placed myself and several people in danger because of my error. When I got to my duty station, I was informed, I would NEVER make it beyond my E-3 status – and should be thankful, I would not get out of Germany like my forefathers – through a smoke stack.
    Yes, that was yesterdays US Army.
    Naturally there is nothing in writing, go prove conversations – go run to a senior officer

  37. Robert L. Bullock January 22, 2016 at 2:30 pm

    Robert Bullock is my name I am a vet I gave over 25 years of my life to the U.S. Army and when my body start to brake down in 2006 I put in some clam that when my troubles started it Was Always we need this we need that What about that And then They Give Me 20% After 4 years And then 4 years later they took it Back and said that they Made an error and took it Back and put My 20% Down Too zero In 2014 and I am still trying to get it Back with no luck it’s like start in all over again more this and more that The same old s_ _ _ all over.

  38. Dan Fenton January 22, 2016 at 12:56 pm

    appeal process entirely to long and i find this unacceptable. some veterans are waiting 8 to 10 years. a total over haul in the appeals process is needed to expedite appeals.

  39. JACK L. HATCHITT January 22, 2016 at 12:51 pm


  40. jrnfla January 22, 2016 at 12:41 pm

    It is good that you have some flexibility and you are able to hold down a full time job while applying for your disability. However, if you believe your rating is low or if your conditions worsen please remember that you can ask for revised disability ratings based upon changing circumstances. I should have listened to the retirement counselors and applied for my disability while on active duty which provides an accelerated review and determination (or that was the case in the dark ages I served :)). (But, one of the best pieces of advice I received was to make a copy of my medical and dental records – I’m not sure why I paid attention but I am really glad that I did!) I too was able to work full time after I retired but as the years past my medical issues became worse and finally debilitating. My disability percentage went from 20%, to 60%, and now 100%. I prepared my own application but having a good rep will make it easier for you.Hang in there and do NOT let the bureaucracy kick your butt. You too can prevail! Semper fi! JR, CWO, USMC, Ret.

  41. Jose CLAUDIO January 22, 2016 at 12:32 pm

    Hello James. I just finished reading your blog & I wanna thank you for it.

    Just like you, when I “ETS’d”, I didn’t care about filing anything. Even though I did have several health issues while on active duty. I was an infantryman all the way. Made it all the way to the rank of E-6 staff sergeant. I was the acting platoon sergeant when I got out.

    All I wanted was to work. And I did. I started working @ the VA Hospital in Puerto Rico. There, I ran into several people who served with me. And the first thing they would ask was; “did you filed a claim???”. And I my answer was NO. That I didn’t care about filing no claim. Specially after seeing them and the condition they were in.

    After a couple of years after I ETS’d, that’s when my health issues began even though I tried keeping that military mentality about running, exercising & staying in shape.

    I never got any treatment @ the VA Hospital even though I was an employee. I didn’t want my coworkers & supervisors finding out about my health. I had a private primary Doctor that I would visit using my employee health benefits.

    My health is so bad even though I take care of myself that I finally decided to submit a claim. I visited the Puerto Rico Regional Office. I had filled out all the paper work and turned it in. I even included copies of some medical records & X-rays. I even signed authorizations so they could request copies of all my medical records. I keep getting these letters that they are working on my claim & to visit the VSO.

    I did visited the VSO and they told me that they were waiting on my military medical records.

    But it’s been 6 months.

    Seriously, why do they take so much time??? I finally gave up & decided to just keep waiting. Considering that when they finally review & process your claim & assign a percentage, they have to pay you all that back pay. It’s effective from the day you submitted your claim. Even if it’s 6 months; a year or more. So the longer it takes, the bigger the back pay.

    It is a good idea to visit the VSO every once in a while

  42. Alexis Nichols January 22, 2016 at 12:29 pm

    Great, insightful article thank you for documenting your efforts. I am new to this. I have hearing loss that I believe is resultant from my US Army service in the mid-late 1980’s. Didn’t document it with them at time of departure but I’ve had no jobs since then involving ear damaging work or tasks and I’ve always worn hearing protection when I thought the activity might compromise my hearing due to the constant ringing, etc. I’m not really trying get any $$$ but would like to obtain a 0 rating so that I can get DVBE status for my construction company. Not sure how to proceed so an advice would be much appreciated.

  43. Alan L Conner January 22, 2016 at 12:21 pm

    I used a local state of Alabama VSO rep to help me with my VA claim in 2012. I was in the U.S. Army for 10 years. I was enlisted for 3 years and an officer for 7 years. I have been very fortunate with the VA claim process and with all my VA healthcare! My local VA primary care clinic staff & primary care physician has been so good to me. The VA Hospital in Birmingham, AL has been so nice, caring and professional as well. I see an oncologist on a regular basis at the VA hospital in Birmingham, AL. The VA approved my claim in 15 months. My state VSO rep was very knowledgable and professional and she helped me so much. I would have been lost without her. I wrote a letter to the Govenor of Alabama & the retired admiral who is the head of all the VA VSO offices in the state of Alabama. I wrote the letter on behalf oft he state VSO who helped me & let them know how much I appreciated everything she did for my family & I. I would advise anyone reading this to contact your Congressman and Senator if you are having any issues that you feel can’t be resolved with a state VSO, the DAV or American Legion. I have had a very rare type of cancer & many other health issues that the VA determined was directly linked to my service in a combat zone in 1990-1991 in Desert Storm. I had to quit work in 2012 because of my major health issues. I know some people who have had good luck working with the DAV to help them get the VA benefits they filed a claim for. I will be hoping and praying all the vets that are having issues with the claims will get those issues resolved in the near future. I personally have been very fortunate & pleased with my VA claim decision! It was because I had a realky good state VSO to help me, because I have many documented health issues that were directly related to & are well know issues with Desert Storm vets. I have had excellent health care treatment with the VA. One of my major concerns relates to the suicide rates with veterans. I am concerned that some of the suicides could be from all the stress of the claim process & issues, healthcare issues or the fact the vets won’t seek professional help, feel all alone & like they have no place to Tyumen, because they won’t call the VA crisis hotline, etc. My advice on all claims is to be very thorough! We live in a free country because of the sacrifices of our veterans! It’s been that way since the revolutionary war & it will be that way in the future! Combat veterans and all veterans deserve the help they need & have earned & all veterans deserve the proper respect for their sacrifices!

  44. Lemuel Clayton Bray January 22, 2016 at 12:16 pm

    How does one submit an article?

  45. Isaac Jensen January 22, 2016 at 12:07 pm

    I’m kind of in the same boat. I injured my knees pretty badly (considering I’m only 28) throughout being in the Army for 8 years. I got the significant incidents documented with LODs, but when I felt something pop in my right knee on deployment I took the injuries more seriously. I was certain that something was torn, had grinding under my kneecap and constant inflammation and pain in my right knee. When I returned from the deployment I went to the VA for treatment and was sent through for a disability rating. They keep telling me that the MRIs show nothing, and that the injury is just a repetitive motion injury that they cannot fix. They’ve given it several names, the most frequent being Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome, Chondromalacia and Internal Derangement of the Knee.

    I really just wanted to get whatever it is fixed, but instead I got a 10% rating and told to go home. The problem is, when they sent me through for that rating, the rating was just for the right knee due to the deployment injury situation. My right knee is significantly worse, but I have continuous pain in both knees and have significant tinnitus in both ears. What I am trying to figure out is can I, or should I, return to get a rating for these other issues that are not directly linked to an LOD?

  46. Paul Wayne Elzey January 22, 2016 at 11:27 am

    I certainly feel sympathy for the Veterans that are having problems/delays with their legitimate claims, and I wish them the best of luck. Perhaps my case was different or maybe I was simply lucky as my request was worked on and approved almost immediately (within 2 months). I realize that the Veterans Administration has a huge workload of cases and some amount of patience has to be allowed when filing claims. I also suggest that VA may need to look to the private sector, perhaps, to catch up on their back-load of pending cases until they are caught up so that future cases can be handled promptly. I, personally, am very happy with my situation and can only praise the VA for the medical help that they are giving me.

  47. Larry Clark January 22, 2016 at 11:03 am

    I got shot up in Viet Nam (67-68) with the 101st Airborne Division on my last combat assault mission. Enemy gunshot wound to the head resulting in paralysis of my left side (for life). As a result of this I have Traumatic Brain Injury, PTSD (we all know what that is), subjected to Agent Orange (required open heart surgery in later years), lower back surgery (as a result of the way I walk due to the paralysis because of the gunshot wound to the head), surgeries on my right foot and knee (as a result of having to compensate for the paralysis of my left side) – all of this has been and was well documented by private personal physicians and surgeons. I was awarded 50% disability rating by the VA and the Army when I was medically retired – requested an increase to 100% rating from the VA on numerous occasions and finally got it raised to 70%. Again – tried numerous times to get it increased to 100% but was denied until finally, after 43 years of being out of the Army, they finally relented but did not back date or retro pay from the time I originally requested the increase. So – how to say Thank You to an organization like the Veterans Administration and the US Army for being there for the Viet Nam Veterans? Not sure I can. By the way – I spoke with DAV reps early on in the process and they indicated to me that I was probably not going to get an increase and they couldn’t help me. The reason I finally got my increase to 100% was through my own initiatives and follow-ups and numerous doctor appointments, etc. So Thanks – VA.

  48. Christine Muff January 22, 2016 at 10:57 am

    My experience was nothing like yours. I was told in no uncertain terms that I could not file a claim because I had waited to long after getting out of the Army. Now I can get no help and have retired (because it is hard to walk) and I live in a very small town where the closest VA Hospital is 90 miles away. Is there any light at the end of this tunnel?

  49. Ronald K Robbins January 22, 2016 at 10:47 am

    I went through basic training at FT DIX, my DI did not beleave in ear plugs, by the time I arrieved in Nam I was all ready hard of hearing. Now I am really hard of hearing, back issues, digestion problems, I sucked it up then like a good solider should. When I filled a claim I was told they had lost most of my records, and now recieve minimal care benifits. My VA doctors do not speak ENGLISH very well and understand it less, it makes for a poor office visit. Still I consider my self lucky to get anything, as there are many vets getting nothing.

  50. JUNIOR A.D. BROWN January 22, 2016 at 10:34 am

    I went into detail about all the horrible expenses my husband has gone thru with the VA. I just completed entire documentation this A.M., and the only thing that is showing “his name and email address”. Where did my entire documentation go? EVERYTHING I HAVE WRITTEN IS FACT.
    I GUESS YOU CAN’T STAND THE TRUTH. I know if I had been married to my husband when he came home from the military, you definitely would have heard for me. You people don’t work with the Veteran, you work against him. Veteran has to have verified documentation if he files a Claim; however, the VA can go for 9 months and just send out a Form Letter stating “we are still working on your Case”. No limitations at all on the VA. You have these idiots sitting in Washington on their butts making decisions for the men and women who have the boots on. The closest they got to Military Service is attending a ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and only then because they will be on TV. If these people who “review” these cases, then tell me how they get everything as backwards. I would love to appear before Congress and you certainly would get an ear full.

    • JUNIOR A.D. BROWN January 22, 2016 at 11:02 am

      Where did my original complaint go? I was going to show to my husband, but all that was there was his name and email address. I’ve been around so many Veterans that it makes me furious to think their Country can treat them the way they do. One poor man was in a wheelchair and could hardly write. He wanted to get some paperwork, but there were two people ahead of him in line. He was shaking so bad and I was behind him in line. He told me he had been setting there for quite a long time and he was so tired. I told him “if he wanted me to wheel him over out of the way”, I would be happy to wait in line for him. He thanked me and that’s what I did. I waited and when the lady saw me “first comment – what do you want?” Wasn’t the least bit friendly. I told her this was for the gentleman in the wheelchair. Immediately I was informed I couldn’t turn a form in for him – and I told her to cool it and I would wheel him up to the window. I got him and all she did was hand him two papers and said “you’ll have to fill these out before I can help you”. The man got tears in his eyes and I told him not to worry, I would fill these papers for him. He shook so hard and tears were running down his face. I told him to “not let the people upset him because it wasn’t good for his health”. He explained “his wife had passed away six months previously and it was so hard for him now. He told me whenever he came to the VA, he always had trouble now. He said they treat him like they don’t care. CAN YOU IMAGINE BEING IN HIS SPOT?

  51. Barry du Moulin January 22, 2016 at 10:00 am

    I served in the Coast Guard active and reserve for over 24 years and am one of those you feel I owe the service back since in was truly a great experience and a rewarding career overall. I too am one of those that never missed a day, and toughed it out when similar injures sent colleagues to the medical clinics. After hearing stories of other Coasties filing for injuries sustained by buckling a seatbelt in a GV and collecting from the VA, I was disgusted. After retiring, I enrolled in the VA and felt for the most part they were very helpful and felt the agency was burdened by vets that refuse to take care of themselves (Generally speaking).

    Keeping a full copy of my medical records and sustaining a serious injury while on active duty and became a chronic issue, I filed and was denied. I never appealed, but as the problem got worse, I found a MD that actually took the time and agreed with documented letters from the USCG, that my chronic issues certainly could have been the result of the injury in question by the VA. I filed again, along with an additional new claim of contracting Lyme Disease (I still did not miss a day at work even with Bells Palsy) and again verified on my medical records to see if I get a different response back. I did this when I heard that a fellow coastie who contracted Lyme Disease filed and is receiving benefits and he makes 98K a year at his current job. My dad who passed away last year at 97, a WWII vet, also Coast Guard (MM) was losing his hearing and was told to file and was awarded benefits almost instantaneously, with no records to boot, but only collected one check, maybe there is a different process for elderly vets, I never found out how he did it. Anyway, it will be interesting to see what results will transpire if I don’t die from cancer waiting for a response in the meantime.

  52. BRIAN M DARY, SR. January 22, 2016 at 9:37 am

    I think the hardest part of having a claim is just realizing that you are ENTITLED to it. Many Vets feel that they would be a burden on the system and don’t want to make an issue of their maladies. Wrong attitude. Get evaluated right at discharge, even if you only get a 0% rating. Your foot is in the door for future claims and you might get an evaluation of 10% or more from this start. I retired from the Marine Corps after 25 years, often putting up with a lot of miseries throughout my career. I was awarded 60% from that first evaluation, which later evaluations later turned in to a 100% rating.

  53. Ray Butterworth January 22, 2016 at 9:27 am

    I have to agree with the individual who stated he was denied benefits because he made too much money. What does your financial situation have to do with a military documented and established disability? There should not be any connection, and should be asked on any application.

    When I enlisted I was told that if I put in 20 years or more of service, that I would receive “FREE” medical benefits for the rest of my life. If so, why do I now have to pay for Medicare just to get my “FREE” military medical benefits in Tricare For Life?

    I’m thinking that Congress is approving cuts into our medical benefits because most of them have never served and have no idea of the sacrifices we made.

    Thank you for asking for our comments, maybe we Vets have to start fighting back to earn what we were promised and deserve.

  54. 1SG (R) Walter A. Sitarek January 22, 2016 at 8:52 am

    Hello, great article and I share the same experience with my claim. I hesitated for several years before my body started to fall apart from serving 22 years I combat arms.
    Shortly after I filed my claim, they awarded me a very small percentage for my one ear. I currently have 10 additional item or body claims that have been pending for three years now. Periodically I call and ask for an explanation for the delay to my claim. The VA response is that they need additional information from a doctor. (3 years). but they state that doctors are reviewing??? Does anyone else have any similar situation and what can be done?

    No matter who I speak to I get the same response from the VA.

    I considered filing an appeal but found out that this will only delay the matter even more.

    Someone please advise or guidance would be appreciated. Again thanks for your article.

  55. 1SG (R) Walter A. Sitarek January 22, 2016 at 8:51 am

    My fellow brother in arms. I hear you and wish all of you the best in your quest for your earned disability. I too am fighting an uphill battle with the VA on my claims. Hang in there and cover my left flank. Ill do my part. God Bless!

  56. Steven Denbo January 22, 2016 at 8:32 am

    This is dog and pony propaganda. First hand I’ve experienced delay and denial of service; as well continue to experience an autocracy from a lack of action as my condition worsens and the delay is extended.

    Lets be brutally honest and call it what it is. “Deny till the day you die.”

    James, understand that service delayed is service denied.

  57. Sandra Hollie January 22, 2016 at 8:25 am

    i agree with LCPL Valdez’s above posting; the VA and the military medical system should be attached to the hip. Additionally, they should be an intricate part of discharge procedures to assure an enhanced transition to your return home. It all should be a mandatory discharge/transition process that is open for attendance by the soldier’s family or designated support(s).

    As the spouse, support and daily contact of a Vietnam Vet, the military systems needs to consider being more receptive/open to working with the Soldier’s natural support systems.

  58. Don Schneider January 22, 2016 at 8:19 am

    Don Schneider 91T20 retired drafted 1968. I hope you all that are dealing with the VA bureaucracy realize you have another VA affiliated Bureaucracy representing you. The NSO’s rely on the VA for their Office space and are very very closely tied to the VA. If you have a case that will require someone to REALLY have your back, and with apparent reluctance on the part of the NSO to believe your claim or get involved, GET A LAWYER ! I fought through the system and it took almost 5 years and the assistance of a Congressman and a US Senator before PART of my claim was adjudicated favorably. The other part remains ignored and in limbo. Think I am exaggerating or simply displaying an attitude ? Ask any Vietnam Vet how much of a hassle he/she had in the early days of the battle over Agent Orange. The VA/Dept, of Defense is still stonewalling the use of A/O on bases outside of Vietnam. They battled for 30 years before admitting A/O use in Thailand, Cambodia,South Korea, and the waters around Vietnam and the Delta. They currently deny the presence or use of A/O on and around Okinawa, the biggest supply depot for “war chemicals” outside of the US . Even in the face of Veterans testimony , many expose news articles with photos of buried barrels containing A/O residuals, and the Army’s own report called “Operation Red Hat”, where agent orange and other weapons grade chemicals were shipped FROM storage facilities to the Johnson Atoll in the South Pacific where they were “incinerated” so the VA & Defense Department claim…NSO officers at Vietnam Veterans of America, DAV and the Am. Legion REFUSED to help pursue the claims of many of us in face of VA denials. Get A Layer !

  59. dave c January 22, 2016 at 8:16 am

    Your VSO is not your friend or pal, if something goes wrong they willl leave you in the dark as they become another layer of beuracasy …if your records are lost they. Will be of littlle help .My VSO said “you shouldnt be worrying about that scar” as i sat there with a blood stained gauze in full view “worry about proving you ever served” and never helped find them..my advice Hire a 3rd party to go get your records. There is nothing easy about this the very second we get hurt we are never treated the same again. Bless you if you find a vso you like Hope it goes smooth .But do your homework keep copies of everything Remember this! ” they see you the vso and the va as nothing more then a % and what money’s. You seek…Dont ever ever forget This is about your follow-up. Care!”

  60. Douglas Schenk January 22, 2016 at 8:16 am

    Let me start out that I am very thankful for all the veteran services out there. Not only have they opened the door for service members to receive care and benefits, but are leading the March for all of us to receive the credit we deserve.
    I feel that a major issue is the “entitlement” that everyone thinks they deserve. It’s a touch and go issue. Proving to the VA that your chronic back issues that you have today are caused by combat and service from 10 years ago is a task. As I was separating a year ago, all everyone kept saying was man I hope I get VA disabilities. From private to Sgt Major everyone thinks they are entitled. But a lot of people making these comments, never deployed, never saw actually combat, and never left Camp Comfy. Sorry if I offend anyone
    USMC (0311)04-08
    US Army (11B) 08-14

  61. James January 22, 2016 at 8:01 am

    Going towards six years of appeals. VFW rep helping me.

    • Cassandra Scott January 22, 2016 at 6:27 pm

      Im working on 6 years appeal status. Does it really take this long? All documents submitted.

  62. Katrina January 22, 2016 at 7:50 am

    Excuse the typos. Using my phone.

    • Jose Claudio January 22, 2016 at 1:14 pm

      Hi Katrina. So once you reach 100% you can still claim other stuff??? Cause I’ve been told that 100% is the lucky number.

  63. Katrina January 22, 2016 at 7:45 am

    I read this artucle and it reminds me of the process i went through. See i used the DAV had an asdign NSO and was majorly screwed. Until i took initiative to work my own claim. I sat in appeals for four years, atleast that is what I wad told. Found the number to the BVA and asked for a docket number. Was told they have never recievef my case.

    I read up on rules and regulations that Congress set that VA raters and claims officer are suppose to follwow.. Its posted online 38 CFR PART 3 AND PART4 ARE The most important.

    Educating yourself helps. Do not just rely on another perdon word. Knowing the law helps. Im now 100%permanent and total. Knowing the right questions to ask helps your case tremendously.
    Some will tell you once you reach 100 thats it. Nit true!

    I now volunteer helping other veterans. Its crazy how the system can be when you have no knowledgege of whats going on.

    Your your best advocate. Read do your rearch. It works.

  64. Samuel Cardiel January 22, 2016 at 6:31 am

    It’s all fine if you have all your medical records available to the VA. 10 years if my military records were stolen whole in-processing so only 11 years are accountable for. The VA will not consider any claim I submit on my behalf. Have tried.

  65. Carolyn Williams January 21, 2016 at 3:35 pm

    I was scrolling quickly through FB when the photo accompanying this article made me pause because I immediately thought, that guy has the Lyme Look in his eyes. And then I read your symptoms and thought, those all could be Lyme disease. Or the military equivalent of Lyme disease, which is Gulf War Syndrome, both being bacterial infection caused by bug bites. These infections can lay dormant for years before the multitude of symptoms, including mental illness symptoms, become pronounced enough for the victim to seek medical attention. The CDC test for Lyme is very unreliable but I beg you to get tested anyway. And educate yourself about these bug-borne illnesses. They are an undiagnosed epidemic.

  66. Aaron K. Clark January 21, 2016 at 3:42 am

    One of my NCOs made me promise to make a copy of my medical record and take it to the VFW right before I got out. I did and the VFW did all the paperwork for me, and had a claim that was dated the day after my EAS. You can file a claim within one-year of your EAS to have it backdated to the day after your EAS.

    Many of my friends are pissed because they wanted this percent or that percent, and will continue fighting the VA until they get it. I am just happy I got to serve, and even happier that America continues to take care of her warriors even after they leave the service.

    • Sharonnn January 22, 2016 at 12:10 pm

      This is an excellent idea and one that I and my husband used when we left service. Any time someone asked for our medical records we gave them a copy of the copy we made.

      I tell any young service member I meet to do the same and make sure they are seen for any medical issue. It was a stigma when I was in but on some things I still went in for. One item was a problem but I was only seen once for it, stupid. But the doc evaluating me saw it and added it to my claim.

      Be persistent if you believe you have a valid claim. It took years but it was worth it for both my husband and myself. Don’t be too proud. VFW helped with all our claims and appeals through 3 states.

      • Sharonnn January 22, 2016 at 12:17 pm

        Also, somewhere along the way we ended up with our original medical records. Not sure how that happened but it makes it easy when a new claim arises or they say they need more evidence. You can also request copies of your VA health records and have x-rays, MRIs, etc transferred to disk along with the reading / summarization. This way you have your own copies to submit.

  67. LCPL Valdez January 21, 2016 at 2:11 am

    What happens if you have nothing documented?

    I never went to sick call, I just sucked it up (didn’t wanna be labeled as sick-bay commando). Sat thru SEP, enjoyed all the motivational speakers. Like so many I pissed away my GI Bill on some correspondence program. Then ended up doing menial work, and recently unemployed. I have aches and pains that I can trace to my time in the military, but it’s not documented medically, and since I’ve lost touch of buddies from the military, hard to get buddy testimonials.

    What happens when you can’t prove your claims?

    To add to Steve Redmond’s comment above, for those just joining the military, why not have the VA sit-down and explain to boots in bootcamp, as to make sure all injuries are documented at medical during their enlistment. And have the VA ensure all military medical personnel make sure those under their care report injuries.

    The VA and the military medical system should be joined at the hips, not separate.

    • Ann van Hemert January 22, 2016 at 8:33 am

      That is a great idea to have the medical VA system, other VA systems and the military systems connected and planning for documentation from the beginning. Although my records are faded and worn, with our technology this is so doable. The military should be responsible for the physical harm that it inflicts on a soldier and the soldier shouldn’t be made to feel guilty for seeking treatment. Injuries taken seriously and treated early could mean averting lifelong struggles. I had an assortment of physical problems including a very serious problem with my back from being tasked by my supervisor to carry equipment that was clearly labeled “two man lift”. They were talking about outprocessing me on a medical discharge, but then it was time to get out of the Army and nothing ever came of it. Almost 30 years later, I needed to use the VA system for basic healthcare. Sometimes the visits were very strange with the doctor saying…”some people pretend to have a problem to get disability.” I was confused. The VA determined that I was eligible for healthcare, but some doctors seemed to feel that they were only treating or evaluating service-connected disability patients. If I already have to take a day off of work and drive an hour to get to the hospital only to have to doctor treat me like this when I was referred to the appt by my local clinic….it was very frustrating. Other doctors go over and above, it is confusing to me. Then we have the criticism from others for even going for the care that I was determined eligible for is even more frustrating. I think the most frustrating part is to be welcomed by some and rejected by some and you never know what you are going to encounter. I was a soldier for 6 years and a soldier’s wife for 15 and a half years and I have the fewest rights of them all.

  68. William D. January 21, 2016 at 12:38 am

    Quick question. I’ve been through the process with the VA. For the most part I’ve been treated fairly. As James Trantham stated above, going to sick call wasn’t really an option. If one did, you would have prepare for being called names. It strikes at your manhood. That makes it hard for getting things fixed. My question though. I got hurt in Iraq, and we was located on a COB not a FOB. We was out to fend for ourselfs. At the time of my injury we had nothing but medics at our COB. He did what he needed to do, and I was down for roughly three weeks. I jumped a ditch and he said I severely twisted my ankle and torked my knee pretty good. The VA X-rayed both, and said I had arthritis in both my ankle and knee. Since there wasn’t paper work to document what happened there wasn’t nothing they could do. I tried to explain we had nothing but medics at the time and I have no idea where the paper work would be. In the military we all know during any moves stuff gets lost. I’ve appealed it several times with no success. The liaison I have is great and keeps pushing it but same thing every time….nothing. Oh and I have ring in the ears. They always give me a hearing test. I tried to explain it comes and goes. Sometimes I’ll have it for up to two week, others a few hours and gone. Also, my MOS was field artillery. While deployed I was a gunner and the headsets back fed a loud buzz because of the CVRJ and Duke system putting out freq to jam phones etc. Thanks in advance for your time anyhelp would be appreciated! Just email me please.

  69. Gammarp@gmail Pomales January 20, 2016 at 11:53 pm

    I’ve been working with my claim, appeal now since 2009 still no d favorable decision. I started working with AFW VSO who got me a videoconference with a judge from Washington DC. Mi injury and its effects are well documented by service records and extensively by the va. I’ve got cervical stenosis and has gotten worse. Any help here as to why it has taken so long?

  70. Edwin January 20, 2016 at 11:10 pm

    I too thought I was bullet proof and those small issues would pass. 20 years later and over 18 doctors, my issues continue to get worse and make life miserable. I barely remember the doctors I went to 12-19 years ago and documentation is limited as a result.
    As far as military records, I had a visit here and there complaining about wrist pain, knee pain, shoulder issues (injury in jump school) and back pain. The doctors in the military told me nothing was wrong and here is some Motrin. Sadly I believed them and thought I would heal. I sucked it up and dealt with the pain. Until 10 years ago, that is all I did was deal with the pain and now the pain is dealing with me. The simplest things are very difficult most days and when I have a decent day, I end up over doing it and suffering more.
    I went to the VA in 1997 and was told the knee pain was normal and although they could not identify the back pain, they told me to take two Tylenol every night.
    Now I hear that since I filed a claim then for the back and knee issues, I cannot file again and have to use the other issues in order to file again. Seems like they have in place methods to keep previous claims from ever coming up again.
    Who knows, maybe I can conjure up some old medical records and hopefully remember all those doctors who all said nothing was wrong and file my claims again.

  71. Brian P. Sinykin January 20, 2016 at 9:43 pm

    Allow me to introduce my self I am Brian Sinykin US Army from 9/65 to 9/68. For over 16 years I’ve been personally dealing with the VA on a number of different issues. From winning my own disability case before it even went to the Board of Veterans Appeals. To getting the Dental department to start doing implants instead of dentures, taking the Travel Pay department to the BVA and winning, etc..

    About that same time I started helping other vets with their problems with the VA. Which turned me into a veterans advocate. Six months ago myself and another Veterans advocate Guy Terrill Gamble, were talking about all the issues going on with the VA and how working on them was pissing us off. So we decided to do something about it. Guy set up a new Facebook Group called “Problems with the Veterans Administration?”. There was just the two of us on the first day. We now have over 1900 members of other advocates and Vets who also are involved with solving these issues and growing at the rate of 5 to 10 new members a day. We have identified 26 issues that need to be solved. We have started with one of the most important issues of today. Stopping the VA Hospitals from getting away with denying veterans their Medical Benefits.

    I will be on two radio shows One is on Sunday between 4 and 6 PM West Coast time. I will be on the last Sunday of the month. The second is Buchanan Investigations radio show at 7:00 PM Mountain time. Thats 8:00 PM Central time Tuesday’s and Thursday’s. I will post when the next one will air. Please will as many as you can join us and listen or also call in with any questions you might have. We covered on the first show how the Veterans Administration is violating the veterans Civil Rights by denying you your Constitutional Rights to Due-Process every time the deny the vet a medical benefit. On the second show which was last night I covered how to fill out a Notice of Disagreement. This is what is needed to start the legal process to fight back if your denied a medical benefit or care. We also discussed two other issues. Is the Choice program working and the VA police improperly arresting vets for Disruptive Behavior. These will be covered on the other shows in the future. If you want to hear the first shows go to the link below an click on achieves and scroll till you see my name.

    We are asking those veterans that have been denied a medical benefit to join our Facebook group”Problems with the Veterans Administration?” and tell us their experience/s.
    So we can start helping you. We also will try and help those that have had problems getting their disability.

    [Commercial promotions removed by the Vantage Point editorial team per VA social media policy – vaww.blogstest.va.gov/VAntage/social-media-policy/]

  72. Fred January 20, 2016 at 6:37 pm

    What should be done if a claim was determined however results were based upon two other service members?

  73. Sonny Reeves January 20, 2016 at 5:19 pm

    as a Viet Nam vet mos 2531 I was exposed to Agent Orange as they sprayed us in the bush. Is there an agent orange registry that awards 10% ? I do not think they give any benefits with out a nexus or DBQ?

    • Heidi Trainor January 22, 2016 at 9:41 am

      Anyone out there fight an esophageal cancer claim fro
      exposure to Agent Orange?

    • jrnfla January 22, 2016 at 12:50 pm

      Brings back memories of humping a PRC, extra batteries, sometimes a 292 antenna. I came in 1973 and was with 9th Comm Battalion, FMF, at 29 Stumps. Multiple episodes at Camp Pendleton working with an exercise judge officer reporting “casualties”, numerous coast to coast trips from San Bernadino to Cherry Point on a crammed C130 in those hideous seats where we intertwined our knees/legs, and the porta head with the shower curtain! Guard duty when Symbanese Liberation Army (Patty Hearst) was hitting military posts for weapons. PM, PM, PM, PM, PM, PM with pencil erasers! LOL I never had so much fun in my life! Semper fi! JR, CWO, USMC, Ret.

  74. Joyce P January 20, 2016 at 5:01 pm

    A VA employee telling you how great the VA is. No respect.

  75. Darlene McMartin January 20, 2016 at 4:24 pm

    The National Association of County Veteran Service Officers have over 1500 Accredited County Veteran Service Officers in over 35 states to assist in filing claims in the counties where the veterans live. VSOs work with the Service Organizations to ensure veterans have assessibilty to county, state and federal benefits. Please visit the website to find a County office in your area. http://NACVSO.org

  76. David Pauley January 20, 2016 at 3:41 pm

    Not all my problems are documented but I know they are from my service in the Air Force. Mainly hearing loss. That is becoming a major issue. However the VA recently did a study linking my former job in the Air Force to hearing problems. Is that something that could help substantiate my claim? How do I go about proving my problems are service connected without the issues having been recorded?

    • Alice Lizee January 22, 2016 at 6:55 pm

      My husband was classified as a WWII vet, although he served just after 1945. His hearing went down fast after age 70. Our local VA sent him to a specialist. This doctor immediately diagnosed the cause of the loss–unprotected exposure to M1 rifle firing ranges. When questioned about this specificity, the doctor said the range of loss on the results can pinpoint the type of weapon one is exposed to. He also knew about the lack of ear protection and the fact that 60 men firing simultaneously is much more damaging than several individuals who are not close together. If you can get to the correct doctor, they can read between the lines and know more about the circumstances than even the vet knows. Sometimes it is best to get a VA accredited attorney to help. Yes, it’s expensive, but the attorney doesn’t get money if you don’t get money. A very motivating arrangement.

      My husband died 2years ago, but I continue to fight the VA for DIC. My husband’s records were destroyed in a VA facility fire. My attorney says there may be records elsewhere and that the VA uses that as an obstacle that can’t be circumvented. But, there are ways around. I went online and accessed the exact syllabus for my husband’s training course as a heavy equipment mechanic at Lowry field, CO, in 1947. Use expert assistance wherever you get it.

  77. Cynthia Godbey January 20, 2016 at 3:00 pm

    The state of Texas has veterans service officers who can assist with VA claims. I’ve been working with one to try to get my 85 year old father-in-law’s disability increased. We had his civilian doctors complete DBQs, and we also had a comp & pen exam done by VA. After a year, we got a ruling that his disability will remain the same. Per our VSO, the DBQ we submitted regarding his diabetes should have warranted a higher disability rating. Additionally, the PA who completed the comp & pen exam made a gross error – answering the question regarding congestive heart failure as no, when in the VA records he has been seen for CHF for more than 10 years. Chronic CHF would warrant a higher disability. I do not understand how a medical professional could overlook the fact that this veteran has had CHF on his active problem list for greater than 10 years. I went through 600+ pages of his medical records, highlighting every instance where he was treated for CHF. Then we had to file a request for reconsideration – which again can take as much as year to review. In the meantime, this veteran is 85 years old with declining health. I am a former VHA employee, so I have been able to help my in-laws figure out this process. I fear that the veterans who have no one to advocate for them get lost in the bureaucracy. Even with the help of a service officer, someone has to gather all the information from private doctors, etc. – and there is obviously no guarantee that your VA records will even be assessed correctly. It is a broken system that needs an overhaul.

  78. Steve Redmond January 20, 2016 at 1:16 pm

    Are you serious? You work for the VA. Why don’t you document the thousands of us who had to fight the VA attitude that I was lying the whole time. Some of us did not have the luxury of going to the flight doc while in action. We put our units first. We were met with apathy and disbelief when we filed our claims. This article is one more example of the VA telling us how great it is and how it cares while actually doing nothing. You want a real article, write one about your brothers who were pulling the trigger not getting them ready to pull the trigger. See how their experience compares with yours. My experience was nothing like yours. Then again, I don’t work for the VA.

  79. james trantham January 20, 2016 at 1:12 pm

    the frustration of the process goes beyond what most people will ever understand. I have 10% disability at this time, it took me almost 7 years for that, i have it for tinnitus, I served with the 1st/75th ranger bat. H.A.F. savannah, ga. The hardest part of getting your claim done is the record keeping from the times i was in, 1985 – 1992. we were treated by our medics or at our aid stations, it was considered pu>:<ing out to be on sick call. As part of my training, i have received many injuries that basically hurt me to hold my children now. to anyone just going in, or getting out, file now, i am still fighting with the va for full benefits even though i am diagnosed with severe PTSD and TBI(s) going through this process and not being recognized is what hurts the most, it brings on huge depression knowing they should be doing the right thing but are making my family wait over 7 years to get records.

    • Jerry Lee Tennant January 22, 2016 at 3:09 pm

      James, I was a medic in the Nam conflict. When I filed my first claim I had an advocate who worked on a percentage which I found he wanted 40% of my back pay when I got 70% for PTSD and 30% for being unemployable. It took 10 months to get a decision in 2007.
      He sent me to a physicarist in Florida who told me I was 3 GAF points above getting a rubber room. What I found later was that the chronic pain I have in my joints and muscles (fibromyalgia)
      Is a known condition related to the PTSD. I’ve had medical issues from the time I left the Army in 1969. A short list- Kidney stones, on my 5th time now, prostrate cancer, skin cancer, severe acid reflux with problems swallowing, cysts in the kidneys and currently been passing blood & clots in urine for an ongoing 20 months.
      I filed a claim and went through BS that was unbelievable. I’m still throughly po’d about what I had to go through. They tried to make me go to a VA which was 350+ miles away for my exam
      Instead of the one 80 miles away. I did get the exam in Salem VA after many phone calls and writing both VA senators. The examiner wasn’t even a doctor but a nurse practitioner. She didn’t
      examine me physically at all even though it was called for. When I got the paper work I found she had answered more than half of the questions by guessing and was wrong. If she could not have read my records but spent half the time telling me how I was treated for the prostate cancer all wrong. I filed a rebuttal claim. I got two calls from “veterans” working at the hospital telling me how wrong I was and trying to bully me into withdrawing my complaint. I then got a letter from the Director of the hospital telling me I was wrong and that my lab work never showed what I was claiming! I gave up arguing with them.
      I finally got their decision and was denied for part of the real problems but was awarded for things I never asked for. I’m now “home bound” according to the VA. It’s unbelievable how fubared the system and VA people can be. There are some good people working at the VA but in my experience ( KY, DC, VA) it’s just a huge joke on veterans. I wish us all the luck in the world and just hang in there. Don’t be afraid to use all the influence you can including the politico’s.
      The above is true and I have documentation.

  80. Rhonda Eickhoff January 20, 2016 at 1:00 pm

    What is an NSO and how do I find one also?

  81. Rhonda Eickhoff January 20, 2016 at 12:59 pm

    We my husband and I are working with a VSo but feel he is not doing enough for us. We just started an appeaal. We are at loss of words as to how they could even deny his claim in the first place. He has been able to work for 6 months now and I am on disabilty for a nerve disease so we are in fear of losing everything. Can you direct us in any way of some help with our appeal that we just submitted. Thanks Rhonda email is raeick@yahoo.com

  82. Jason D. January 20, 2016 at 12:02 pm

    Good post. We at VBA agree: we always encourage our Veterans to use an accredited Veterans Service Organization to assist with filing an electronic claim, and there’s three ways to get one to advocate on your behalf:

    1. You can request one online at eBeneit: https://www.ebenefits.va.gov/
    2. You can visit http://www.va.gov/vso to find the contact info for one in your area
    3. You can always walk into your local VA Medical Center to physically speak with one (though we recommend making an appointment)

    Here’s why you should work with a VSO: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RGqT6SvbjPQ

    Again, here’s how: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rznmZLXoZWA

    And, another reason why VSOs are special–they have access to the same system/tools we use: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TJt9PSGbeGY

    Also, some folks don’t have well-documented evidence. That whole “suck it up and drive on” kind of thing. At least, that’s how it was in my Army infantry unit. What about those people? Here’s some tips from a former Marine co-worker on what you should include as evidence. These are the things you would need to bring to your VSO who will be building your claim packet: http://vaww.blogstest.va.gov/VAntage/20982/what-va-means-by-evidence-when-processing-claims/

    It’s also a good idea to include civilian medical records, if applicable, and if so, we recommend having your doctor fill out a “DBQ” that would be used in lieu of a VA “Compensation & Pension” exam: http://www.benefits.va.gov/compensation/dbq_disabilityexams.asp

    A DBQ also decreases the length of time it takes VA to adjudicate your claim.

    However, James, there’s one other thing we’d like to address re: “Who determines whether or not I got a fair shake?”

    VA disability compensation is taxpayer funded and, as such, has strict federal laws regarding how it is awarded. There’s a team of VSRs and RVSRs and Coaches and other claims personnel working, checking, and authoring each claim decision. Our Veterans will be happy to know that more than half of the 10,000+ VBA claims personnel are actual Veterans, most of whom are also service-connected disabled. But what about the other half? Almost all of them are the direct dependents of Veterans. So, you could say that something like 95-98 percent of VBA claims personnel have known and directly felt the effects of military life.

    It’s your VSOs job (and your claim rater) to know those federal laws and regulations. Though this blog is geared toward those who won’t be filing their claim on their own, YOU can always read up on those codes and regulations yourself: http://www.benefits.va.gov/warms/bookc.asp#g

    This will help temper some of the expectations one may have regarding claim decision outcome, which James touched on above.

    Lastly, just two more things. Everyone always wants to know–How long will it take to receive a claim decision? Since 2011, VBA has completely transformed the claim system, and it’s now taking less than ever to file a claim and receive a decision. While there are still many variables that affect how long you’ll wait (how many medical conditions are you filing? More than eight? Did you use a VSO? Is your VSO caseload heavy? Which regional office is processing your claim? What kind and how much evidence have you submitted with your claim? Did you use a DBQ? Does DoD have your medical records? Will VA need to schedule you a C&P exam? Multiple exams?), it’s comforting to kind of have a baseline, and you can find that information here: http://www.benefits.va.gov/REPORTS/detailed_claims_data.asp and here: http://www.benefits.va.gov/REPORTS/aspire_dashboard.asp

    It’s important to note that this blog an my comment information in this reply relates to claims, not your disagreeance with your VA claim decision (aka an “appeal.”). These are two completely different things with different regulations, waits, time periods, events, people, and places.

    Want to know moreabout compensation, or VA benefits in general? Follow us on our official Facebook account where we’re chatting with Veterans everyday: http://www.facebook.com/VeteransBenefits

    • James Killen January 20, 2016 at 2:32 pm

      Thanks, Jason! Great breakdown of the process! ~James

  83. Earl Carter January 20, 2016 at 7:25 am

    How do I file a claim, Ihave hepatitis c aquired in Southeast Asia. Please help.

    • James Killen January 20, 2016 at 7:46 am

      Mr. Carter, my recommendation would be to contact your nearest Disabled American Veterans (DAV) or Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW). You can follow either of these links and locate the one nearest to you. They will be able to walk you through the process of filing your VA claim.


      • John Hume January 22, 2016 at 9:31 am

        Why waste time trying to get the VA to do the right thing ? I’ve been trying since 1988. Denied every time, so [redacted per social media policy] the VA. I wish I had never joined the military.

        • Dr. Samuel Kirkland January 22, 2016 at 3:03 pm

          My Comrade…My journey in getting my “just treatment” from the VA began in 1976 and I received my just health and disable compensation in 2010. So, you see it will take a commitment on your part to not give up. Hang in there my fellow warrior!

      • Dave Turner January 28, 2016 at 1:33 am

        I have been fighting the VA since 1994. I am denied every time! Now I am told that there is NO RETRO PAY. They keep denying your claims until you are in the ground. I spent 20+ years and all I get is lies from the VA, SSA, and the Federal Government. I have been unemployed since 2008 due to my disabilities. I will try DAV on more time. The VSO at the Las Vegas VA hospital was lazy and she did not want to help anyone. Just don’t know who I can trust.

    • Ralph R Isaacson January 22, 2016 at 8:30 am

      I’ve tried to file. I was denied because I was told I make too much money. I still have the letter. Oh thank you for taking care of me for my service. 12+ years USMC, retired CAANG. This is all lip service and BS.

      • Kevin Johnson January 22, 2016 at 10:05 am

        Mr. Isaacson, you may make too much to use VA healthcare, but not to file a claim for disability comp. Disability Comp is not subject to a means test.

      • Richard Chism January 22, 2016 at 8:24 pm

        I spent 11 years in the Navy with multiple trips to Vietnam including shallow water combat (they got lucky once and punched a hole in one of my ships) and boots on the ground. I was having a difficult time dealing with moral conflicts and decided to leave the service as an E7 when the war was (I thought) over. I never expected to get anything more for my service. After all, back then we were “baby killers”. However, during hard times late in life, I started going to the VA for medical care. It was the VA who pointed out that I had several physical symptoms very likely related to Agent Orange exposure, and two other nurses mentioned that I appeared to have PTSD. I had joined at 17 so I had no idea what “normal” was when I got out. They convinced me to apply for disability compensation and I thought I would be lucky to get 40%, but didn’t expect more than 30% at best. To my surprise, I was awarded 90%, and later upgraded to 100% disability (mostly for PTSD). The compensation I receive has been a tremendous boon in my senior years. My advice to those of you who apply for benefits is to be extremely detail oriented, concise and prompt with your responses for information, and courteous to those who are trying to help you. I did all my own work when applying, but unless you are very detail-oriented, I recommend that you use a VCO. Most counties have someone who will help you.

      • Jon Watkins January 23, 2016 at 9:49 pm

        It appears sir that you may have not contacted the right personnel. Try reaching out to your local VA office. There IS somebody within these doors that is able and willing to assist. God bless you and welcome home!

      • Regina Soicer January 24, 2016 at 1:35 am

        I’m happy you’ve had a positive experience receiving V A benefits, I have not! As a female medic benefits while In basic, advanced and active duty were never presented to me or any other soldier in my company, had they been my my mother, a widow at age 46 and sick would have received widows allotment monthly while I served in the Arny. I have struggled 20 yrs disabled with two denials for service connection. I was not given a copy of my medical records on discharge. Coming from a family unfamiliar with “working the VA” I was told I was ineligible for health care at the VA here in TN. After going back 10/years paying medicare co pays and broke, a veteran benefits specialist had my honorable discharge explained to regional and I now receive health care. The two civilian benefits counselors concluded I was not eligible Thank goodness for veterans who now receive jobs other than housekeeping. I have appealed my service connected denial. Must honesty and serving our country with all out heart be rewarded with such a struggle? No!

      • Robert Furman Anderson, Jr. January 26, 2016 at 12:16 am

        Guys and gals, I came home from Thailand in September of 1967 with a raging peptic ulcer and it perforated that same year while I was still in the USAF at Davis-Monthan in Tucson, AZ. One of my crew members grabbed me up and carried me to his car and to the base hospital. I was operated on and the ulcer was patched, then came two more years of of living hell because any time my stomach became empty the pain was so bad I wanted to die. In 1970 I had taken all the pain I could handle so I went to the VA hospital to see if they could do something for me. I ended up having part of my stomach cut out and the Vagas Nerve clamped. after another year or so of relative pain free living, I suddenly began having a problem of loose bowels. I was given medication for this and I had gotten aquainted with the local VFW SR in Indianapolis and would stop in to shoot the breeze with him any time I had a free time period. I mentioned the loose bowel problem and he asked me a few questions about my health. I told him about my ulcers and he asked me if I had an ulcer when I went into the service, I replied no. Bill set me down and helped me file a claim for post surgical dumping syndrome. I was awarded 40% and stayed at that level until 1996 when I went to be examined for hearing loss and tinnitis. I was awarded 10% for each raising my disability rating to 60% meanwhile I was still having bouts of dumping syndrome and it was affecting my working ability. Finally my dispatcher sent me to my primary care VA doctor for clarification of my ability to continue driving a semi. When the doctor read the letter he asked me exactly what my job entailed. I explained that I delivered concrete pipe and structures to job sites. He didn’t bat an eye but just flat told me I couldn’t work any longer and to file for unemployability. I then fought with our VA system from March of 1997 through May of 2000. During this time I was trying to do a little light work and it was working against me. I got very depressed during this time and after an incident at one of my appointments, I just lost it and blew up. The clerks called for the police to come take me to mental health and I was not allowed to leave until I saw a Shrink. I lucked out by getting a shrink that was able to tie my depression to my physical health conditions.I also got a VFW SRO that knew what he was doing and he kept getting me increases in 10% jumps until finally in May of 2000 I was notified that I was 100% SC P&T with no future exams. What ever you do, do not let the VA make you walk away from your earned benefits.
        Respectively yours, Andy

    • 1SG (R) Walter A. Sitarek January 22, 2016 at 8:37 am

      Hello, great article and I share the same experience with my claim. I hesitated for several years before my body started to fall apart from serving 22 years I combat arms.
      Shortly after I filed my claim, they awarded me a very small percentage for my one ear. I currently have 10 additional item or body claims that have been pending for three years now. Periodically I call and ask for an explanation for the delay to my claim. The VA response is that they need additional information from a doctor. (3 years). but they state that doctors are reviewing??? Does anyone else have any similar situation and what can be done?

      No matter who I speak to I get the same response from the VA.

      I considered filing an appeal but found out that this will only delay the matter even more.

      Someone please advise or guidance would be appreciated. Again thanks for your article.

      • Richard Roush January 23, 2016 at 6:30 am

        I came back from Iraq in 2005 and filed my claim. The claim was tossed, reason stated was the RO personell said the date looked like “95” instead of “05”.I was never contacted by phone or mail regarding the claim being tossed (Spokane VARO). I had waited 3 years on that one, and when the issue was discovered, another RO rep said “Lets just go ahead and cancel that one and we will put it in with this claim you are filing in 2008″. Subsequently robbing me of 3 year of back pay for the original claim. I got 10% rating after having a knee surgery, arthritis in both knees and hips, 2 broken fingers and extensive GI issues that required surgery and long term care (Extreme Hiatal Hernia and H Pylori Ulcers). After 6 years I am now at 60%. I was denied PTSD rating in the Army as the counselor said it would be too hard for me to get a job with PTSD on my record…BS. I have had a appeal in now with the Dekalb VARO for 1,137 days and as of yet no response to myself or my lawyer. My advice….Look outside the box. I now live in Germany and get my VA and SSDI here. I live better and can afford much better healthcare. Since moving here I have had 7 MRI’S to dicover a multitude of things the VA either wasnt treating or just didnt tell me about (I have had 2 more surgeries here to correct the halfassed ones done by VA). Two years here and my stress level is way down, I can sleep at night and I am in better shape. Good luck to you because I am not going to hold my breath waiting for VA. Remeber the VA Motto…”Delay Deny until they Die”

      • Dale GoodCourage January 23, 2016 at 1:35 pm

        I’ve had the battle since 70’s I have experienced continual health issues and pain. I have and continue to file appeals. The rating system is unrelenting because 100% is not 100% soon and so on.

        I started at 30% 20% compensatable crazy I know
        All these years later I’m 90% compensatable with 130%

        Put in the appeal use a service officer to get you through the nonsens. I was with the DAV and for my last 3 appeals I’ve used a VA certified negotiators for my case.

        It took me years to get the approvals but now have medical if needed and many of good services. I believe it took a lot of bitching and putting fire under Obomas ass and it moved quickly for a while, not any more.

        What happens nearly every appeal is VA says we don’t see eveidence of your case, we lost your documents. The last time I claimed with evidence and doctors testimony they came back with our investigation doesn’t show a doctors evidence. I certified the documents they sign for them electronically but lost them. I resent I certified and appealed for a video board of review.

        I’m sticking to it for my family and my wife after I’m gone. She has endured much as a wife of a DAV and she deserves better than what double talk the Predident wants to give, another story another time.

        You want My reps info let me know.

    • Dennis S Murray Sr January 22, 2016 at 10:52 am

      I spent several hours at the Decatur, GA Regional office regarding files that was lost by the VA on behalf of my Disability Benefits Claim that originally was filed in 1976. After waiting 33 years of several decades to get the original medical records from St. Louis, a place that I requested my files from in 1976-2007, thereafter a former State Representative was able to get them for me. Therefore, I was finally able to prepare my filing claim for Disability Benefits Payment the VA denied the claim from 2009 to present despite all of the evidence that was denied from 1976-2009 was in my records clear as any blind man could see.

      On March 18 0r 19, 2014 I spent several hours at the Decatur, GA Regional office regarding files that was lost my Disability Benefits Claim health records. Ms. Alford a VA GA Regional office representative informed me that the VA misplaced, lost, etc… my filing information, something I had already knew simply because the VA sent me a letter stating that. I told Ms. Alford I was fade up with the VA mishandling, lying, and providing me with untruth only to get me out of their office. She indicated that she would get my file expedited however; I just had to provide her with complete records of my Army medical records with the claims information dating back to 1973.

      After sitting down with Ms. Alford I felt that she was honest and forthright in her method to get me my benefits payments. Again she ask me to provide her with a completed filing of the issues (actual medical issues), therefore I went home and pull out those medical records that took 33 years for me to get and I prepared a complete overview of everything in my medical records, line by line items; I even placed color codes in every the file to help the VA see each item clearly with medical records attachments to them and personally handed the records to Ms. Alford and she logged it in on March 21, 2014. Every letter written by me was and every letter of denial from 1976 was also placed in the file provided to her on March 21, 2014 with copies of the medical records dating back to 1973. Ms. Alford told me in my face: and “I quote that she would have my file expedited upstairs to her Supervisor and that I would have some answers in about 6 weeks or less, she told me to be patience” and I told her the I have been waiting for 4 decades now and a couple of weeks didn’t matter right now.

      I also called her several times on her phone at 404-929-5567 and she told me that they were working on my file to get me my benefits payments. This was untruth because after she wouldn’t return my phone calls I called the VA 1800 number in June, July, and August, 2014 and they told me that Ms. Alford never expedited my file and that they had no record of me have any meeting with her at all. I am depressed, tied, and fade up with VA and it lies. I have filled all the papers and taken all thee examines requested of me by the VA and after 4 decades they still lie and provide untruth to me.

      I filled a compliant against the VA Regional Office of Ms. Alford of the Veteran Administration Office in Decatur, GA; and sent letters for years to Washington DC Headquarters, Senator Isakson (GA), and Senator Bernie Sanders (VA Committee Chairman), President Obama, and every former President, Congressman, and Former Secretary of VA for the lat 4 decades and got nowhere.
      The VA has documentation of all of my medical conditions for the last 40 years and for the last 16 years my health illness and issues have deteriorated which have caused me physical and mental harm dealing with the VA. I have been taken medication before leaving the military and have continued over 40 years.
      My VA records from 1973-to present reveals these health issues: Addison Disease, teeth decay, left eye damage, left arm nervous disorder, Heart and High Blood Pressure (taken medication); depression, stomach disorder, serve arthritis in Hip, both shoulders (taken pain medication), nerve damage to left arm (taken pain medication) and right portion of my face spasms, and severe damage to spine cords area (taken plus pain medication) and numerous Strokes in the last 18 months that almost killed me.
      In 1993 a VA Appeals Representative told me that I will probably be dead before the VA provides with my Disability Benefits Payments. However, for the records most of the VA Doctors that I have had at the VA really care about you, it’s just the VA Administration who continues to kick you in the ass time after time with paperwork after paperwork before they really help you. Some of my Veteran friends in the past 40 years have died waiting on the VA to do the right thing.