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DEPARTMENT SERVICE OFFICER NEWS
 
Posted 1 December 2017
 

 


Posted 14 September 2017
VA updates rating criteria for dental disabilities

If you’ve ever wondered how VA rates disabilities for compensation, you’ll be interested to know that after more than 70 years we doing a review and update of the rating criteria for all 15 body systems.Previous updates have been done as needed, but this is the first comprehensive review of the VA Schedule for Rating Disabilities.

The first of these updates, for Dental and Oral Conditions, went into effect September 10. This update includes updated medical terms, new diagnostic codes for conditions previously rated under other conditions, and added disability levels. No existing dental or oral conditions were removed.

Often referred to as the “VASRD” or rating schedule, directs claims processors on how to assess the severity of disabilities related to military service. While VA has routinely updated parts of the VASRD, for the first time since 1945, VA is updating the entire rating schedule to more accurately reflect modern medicine.

Since 2009, subject matter experts, including physicians, reviewed each of the 15 body systems that make up the VASRD. This effort is part of VA’s continued commitment to improving the delivery of disability compensation benefits to Veterans and modernizing our systems.

If you have a claim or appeal pending for a dental or oral condition before Sept. 10, 2017, VA will consider both the old and new rating criteria when making a decision. All claims for dental or oral conditions received by VA on or after Sept. 10 will be rated under the new rating criteria.

If you are already service-connected for a dental or oral condition and submit a claim for increase, your disability rating may increase (or decrease) based on the new rating criteria. However, VA will not change your disability rating just because of the update to the rating criteria.

In the coming months, more body systems will be updated until all 15 are modernized, ensuring VA provides the most accurate ratings for disability compensation claims based on modern medicine.


Posted 14 September 2017

matrix 

Dear VA Beneficiary, 

Do you know all of the VA benefits that you may eligible for based on your service connected disability rating, receipt of a non-service connected benefit, or special circumstance? To help you find them, we created charts to show you what benefits you may be eligible for based on your current situation.

Have a service connected disability rating from 0-100%? Use the Service Connected Matrix to find more benefits that you may be eligible to receive.   

Not service connected? Are you getting VA pension or Aid and Attendance or Housebound benefits? Use the Non Service Connected Matrix to discover benefits that you may be eligible to receive.

Also, check out the Circumstance Matrix to see if any of the listed circumstances apply to you.  

We want to make sure everyone is aware of all of their benefits! 

Thank you for your service!

 

Sincerely,

Veterans Benefits Administration



 

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Veterans Benefits Administration · 810 Vermont Avenue, NW · Washington, DC 20420 · 1-800-827-1000


Posted 1 September 2017
The VA Friend or Foe
 
As a veterans Service Officer I routinely encounter people who share their VA experiences with me. They normally fall into three categories those who despise the VA ratings system which they generalize as the VA as a whole. Those who have fought a long and arduous fight with the system and prevailed; these individuals hate the ratings system but typically love the VA. Lastly and in the minority there are those who can’t believe their good fortune and are overjoyed with what they are receiving. I ask myself how can three different individuals who have very similar military careers have such a different perspective on the exact same system. I realized that each person has a different expectation on what the VA should provide them. Furthermore very few people understand the system, what is required to file a successful claim, or the language the VA uses in correspondence. In this series of articles I will try to explain what you need to file a successful claim, what the correct steps are to filing a VA claim, and provide some answers to common scenarios.
What you need to file a VA claim that has a reasonable chance of succeeding
There are three requirements to be entitled to veterans’ compensation benefits.
  1. The veteran must have evidence of a current disability.
  2. The veteran must also have a disease, injury or incident that occurred during his period of active military service. In some instances, such as a PTSD claim, a veteran’s statement or buddy letter of an incident can be accepted as proof of the incident.
  • Presumptive conditions don’t require an in-service event or diagnosis
  1. Lastly, the veteran must have a nexus between the current disability and the in service disease injury or incident.
What is a Nexus?
A nexus letter is an opinion by a doctor as to whether your current condition is related to your military service. The phrasing that you are looking for is that your current disability is “as likely as not” a result of your in-service injury. Note that above I said two things “disability” you have to have something wrong with you today that is a result of what happened in the Military. So for example if you broke your arm in jump school; but it currently doesn’t hurt or hinder you in any way you don’t have a disability. Second the term “as likely as not” this is what is called in equipoise in legal terms. It means that there is a 50/50 chance that your in service injury caused your current disability. By law a tie goes to the veteran. This of course isn’t the best wording one could hope for in a nexus letter. See the list below from best to worse.
  1. “is due to” (100% sure)
  2. “more likely than not” (greater than 50%)
  3. “at least as likely as not” (equal to or greater than 50%)
  4. “not at least as likely as not” (less than 50%)
  5. “is not due to” (0%) "
  • Presumptive conditions don’t require a nexus.
How do I get my Medical Records?
Medical records can be requested online at the following link:
You can mail in an SF 180 request for medical records to:
National Personnel Records Center
1 Archives Drive St. Louis, MO 63138
 
You can fax your SF 180 to: 314-801-9195
 
  • Make sure to specify you are requesting all medical records to include in-patient, out-patient, dental, and psychological if appropriate.
Steps to Filling a VA Claim
In this section I will explore steps to filling a claim please keep in mind that there are numerous types of claims and different ways to file a claim.
  1. On-line through eBenifits:
     
  2. Over the phone.
    1-800-827-1000
     
  3. By mail.
    Pittsburg Regional Benefits Office
    1000 Liberty Ave.
    Pittsburgh, PA 15222-4004
     
  4. American Legion VSO
    (See your local VSO)
In all cases I recommend doing an “Intent to file” http://explore.va.gov/intent-to-file
An intent to file will establish an effective date for your claim and gives you one year to file the official claim. The effective date is the date you will start getting paid from should your claim be approved. Your effective date is always the 1st of the month following the date you either file an intent to file, or medical evidence shows you were disabled whichever is later. As an example if on 19 March you did an intent to file your effective date would be 1 April. Let’s say you waited six months and then turned in your claim. If you were awarded a 50% disability you would have just made an additional $6000 by doing an intent to file.
Fully Developed Claim:
The fastest possible claim is a fully developed claim filed through eBenifits and sending me a VA form 21-22. A fully developed claim is one in which you are telling the VA here is all the medical evidence for my disability please rate me. In order to do a fully developed claim you should have a doctor fill out a “Disability Benefit Questionnaire” (DBQ) for your claimed condition.
Regular Claim:
With a regular overseas claim you would ideally file using eBenifits and sending me a VA form 21-22. You would then wait for the VA to set up your “Compensation and Pension Exam” (C&P). This is done through the U.S. Embassy who will contact you via mail and set you up with an appointment. It is absolutely critical that you make this appointment and come prepared to adequately discuss your disability. Study the link below to become familiar with how your disability is rated and identify what level of disability you have. Add any supporting evidence through eBenifits, give it to the C&P examiner, or send it in by mail to the Pittsburg regional office.
 
Using a VSO:
Talk to an American legion VSO and they can assist you in filling out a VA form 21-22 and a VBA 21-526 this will allow the American Legion to work on your behalf. Your local VSO can then send the two documents to me and I will scan them to the regional office in Pittsburg. The American Legion office is conveniently co-located in the same building as the VA regional office in Pittsburg. Your C&P exams will be scheduled through the embassy and you would follow the same path as a regular claim.
Things to Note
  • All overseas claims are done by the Pittsburg regional office
  • Claims normally take about 9-12 months
  • Disabilities are rated based on the “38 CFR book C, Schedule of rating Disabilities” http://www.benefits.va.gov/warms/bookc.asp
  • The ratings manual translated to layman’s terms can be found here. http://www.militarydisabilitymadeeasy.com/search.php
  • You can be rated for secondary conditions as well. These are conditions that are caused by your service connected disability. As an example if you compensate for a knee injury brought about by military service and your other knee is now disabled as a result of your altered gate it would be compensable.
  • Medical costs for those residing overseas associated from your service connected conditions are compensable using the “Foreign Medical Program” (FMP) * You must register * https://www.va.gov/purchasedcare/programs/veterans/fmp/
  • Certain conditions are known as “Presumptive” this means if you have them it is presumed it was caused by your military service.
  • Most joint disability is rated based on range of motion. When asked how far can you bend or twist etc. The first thing out of your mouth should be, “without increasing my pain”? A C&P exam isn’t the place to show how much pain you can take. The second you feel an increase in pain stop your movement and visibly show you are in discomfort.
     
    For Future Publication
Let’s explore some common compensation case examples. Keep in mind that each case is so varied that it is impossible to cover all of the nuances in such a short format.
“I recently retired what should I claim” You should claim anything that is in your medical record and is chronic in nature. Many veterans come to me who have already filed a claim before. When I look at their medical records I don’t see evidence of 12 of the 15 things they claimed. When I ask why did you claim A,B,C. their response is a VSO at XYZ told me to just file for it and maybe I would get lucky. Think about this from the perspective of the VA rater, would you be sympathetic or have faith in the claim of someone who randomly claimed things without any medical evidence?
The less time between the in-service incident and your claim the easier it is to prove. Keep in mind that if you hurt your knee in 1980 and never went back to sick call for 20 years; in the VA’s thinking how bad could it really be? Also how does the VA know that your current knee pain has anything to do with the time you tripped in Korea and fell 20 years ago?

Posted 1 September 2017

VA Checklist

EBENEFITS: https://www.ebenefits.va.gov/
  1. Obtain DS LOGO PREMIUM ACCESS
INTENT TO FILE:
  1. Submit „INTENT TO FILE“
IF you want your Service Officer to help you, complete the Authorization to disclose personal information:
  1. Fill out the VBA-21-0845-ARE.pdf
    1. Web address: https://www.vba.va.gov/pubs/forms/VBA-21-0845-ARE.pdf
  2. and sign it and send it to
    1. DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS
      CLAIMS INTAKE CENTER
      PO BOX 4444
      JANESVILLE, WI 53547-4444
    2. or Fax to:
      TOLL FREE: 844-531-7818 & 248-524-4260 (Utilized for Foreign Claimants)
REQUEST YOUR SERVICE AND MEDICAL RECORDS:
  1. Web address: https://www.archives.gov/veterans/military-service-records
  2. Request your Service Records and ALL of your medical files
AFTER YOU RECEIVE YOUR RECORDS:
  1. Make a list of all conditions you want to file for
  2. Make an appointment with your Service Officer to file your formal claim
     
    NOTEBOOK:
  1. Purchase a Notebook
  2. Purchase a divider inserts (at least a 12)
    1. Set up tabs like attached example
  1. Compile supporting medical documents for each condition
  2. Scan the supporting documents as a reduced sized pdf for each condition
  3. Print a hard copy of the supporting PDF documents and insert them into the appropriate tab in your notebook
  4. Make a CD of your files in your notebook
USAGE:
  1. As you receive VES correspondence, C & P appointments, VA Award letter, etc.- file it under the corresponding tab
    Bring this notebook to ALL your Benefit claims appointments
AFTER YOU RECEIVE YOUR AWARD LETTER FROM THE VA:
    1. Web address: https://www.va.gov/vaforms/medical/pdf/vha-10-7959f-1%20-fill_012317.pdf
  1. Make sure you send a copy of your award letter.
  2. Once you receive your Award letter – FROM THE FMP – you can start receiving paid foreign doctor’s visits, hearing aids (if service connected), etc.
    1. Don’t forget that all service connected related bills, dated 2 years prior to Award letter, can be reimbursed.

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Posted 1 September 2017

 

You, then, need to upgrade your DSLogon Basic to Premium. Just follow the instructions.

If you cannot obtain a Premium Access, online, contact your Service Officer and they will help

you obtain the Premium Access.


Posted 1 September 2017

VA Coverletter

John D. Doe, SSN 123-45-7890
 
Active Duty: 1June 1982 - 31May 1986, Stationed in Ansbach Germany
 
MOS: 13-B, Cannoner
 
Mr. Doe is a 56 year old veteran who has resided in Germany since separation from military service in June 1986. Since discharge he has received all his care from the German local providers. Under the German medical system records are only kept for 10 years. Therefore all records from 1986 -2005 are
not available. His first General Physician from 1986 -1989 has subsequently passed away. His second physician Dr. Ristl,from 1989 - 2010 has now retired from private practice but still works part time. His current Physician has reviewed all of his medical records to include his service treatment records. He works as a small business owner of a nursery and by the nature of his profession requires extensive walking and standing. His Right foot condition has progressed steadily and over the last five years has rapidly worsened. Mr. Doe is no llonger able to stand for long periods of time without severe pain and cramping in the right foot. He has therefore had to hire additional help. He also requires custom shoes
so as to not exacerbate the foot disability.
 
Conditions:
 
Right  Foot, Morton's Neuroma, with residuals including Acquired flat foot, Splayed Foot, Arthritis of the foot, paresthesia, cramping, and a painful scar.
Hearing lass and tinnitus, Mr. Doe was a Cannoner during his mifitary service he was in the proximity or fired over 1000 rounds of   55mm howitzer. His current occupation since discharge from mifitary service is that of a Gardner and thus has had zero exposure to loud noises. He suffers from high frequency hearing loss and continuous tinnitus which has subsequently lead to insomnia.
GERD, As a result of his Morton's Neuroma and foot disability Mr. Doe has been on both pain and NSAID medication for almost 30 years. As a result he has now acquired GERD and is treated by Medication.
 
Arthritis Left Thumb, during his advanced individual training while pitching a tent Mr. Doe smashed his Left Thumb with a sledge hammer. He received a splint and pain medication for 10 days. He followed up numerous times for continued pain. His condition flares up with use and has since developed traumatic arthritis of the left thumb.
 
TMJ, during his military service in Feb 1984 Mr.Doe fell and hit his Jaw, he felt and heard a cracking sound and subsequently went to the ER. He was diagnosed with a TMJ injury and has since had reoccurring TMJ pain with popping and grinding on the right side. When aggravated this limits his ability to full open his jaw and eat certain foods.
 
Right Ankle Arthritis, As a result of his abnormal gate due to Morton's Neuroma Mr. Doe also developed and was diagnosed with Right ankle arthritis and chronic sprains of his right ankle. His treatment included casts, crutches, and was placed on numerous profiles during an 18 month period while in service. Since discharge the right ankle arthritis has gradually worsened and the ankle continues to sprain when walking on uneven ground or for long periods of time.
 

Posted 22 July 2017

Veterans and Mesothelioma
 
veterans
Mesothelioma disproportionately effects veterans, and this resource offers some great information for veterans at risk. You can view this resource here www.mesotheliomahelp.org/mesothelioma/veterans/  also check out the following link Veterans and Mesothelioma

Posted 9 July 2017
Request all Post Service Officers send their contact information to Laura Buckner, Dept Service Officer. If you know of a VFW Service Officer in your area,please let her know this as well. We are working with the VFW to provide full regional coverage for our expats, transitional service members, and veterans in Europe and wherever our posts operate worldwide.
 
The Department of France is recruiting potential candidates for service officer training. Candidates can be members of the Legion, Auxiliary or SAL.  We are working with National to to hold a Service Officer training course here in Europe.  Anyone interested in attending should notify their Post Commander or the Dept Service Officer.  More information about this course will be sent out as soon as details are firmed up.
 
Anyone who has an active claim should contact the Dept Service Officer so continuity of support can be maintained.
 


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