Suggestions for Better Success in Your VA Claim:
As a paralegal and retired Marine with service connected disabilities I have a unique insight into the VA disability system which gives me an equally unique outlook on how you can successfully navigate your VA disability claim. You see, I was recently medically retired after going through the Integrated Disability Evaluation System also known as IDES – and – I served in the Marines during the Cold War, Desert Shield/Desert Storm and the Global War on Terror as a legal assistant protecting the rights and benefits of service members from all four branches of the military. Having personally navigated the IDES program and having assisted in the cases of other service members, I want to share with you the ten things that can make the difference in your case.
If you are: An active duty service member seeking benefits delivery at discharge or through the quick start program, A retiree or discharged veteran seeking to make a disability claim for the first time, or A spouse, parent, or friend offering help, these actions can increase success in any case.
10. Do the math.
What benefits will you leave on the table if you leave the service without filing a claim or seeking the best claim you can get.
9. Draft a personal statement early.
The statement should include an account of each condition you have, how and when you got it, what hurts, and how it limits your abilities. A personal statement can be used by your attorney or veteran's services advisor in presenting your case to the VA.
8. Make a digital copy of your medical records.
The VA wants a paper copy (which they are prone to misplace), but you and your attorney need a digital copy. Take the time and spend the money to make it clean and electronically researchable (that means a PDF with optical character recognition). This will go a long way in drafting a personal statement.
Don't let others talk over your head. Read and understand the service related orders and the VA guidelines on disability.
6. Collect all of your radiological notes.
The musculoskeletal system is a huge factor in VA ratings. X-rays, MRIs, and CAT scans set the baselines and indicate the presence, nature, and rate of change of many conditions (and sometimes catch the unexpected). More than the pictures, the radiology notes related to the pictures are vital to the final rating.
5. Obtain x-rays and MRI/CAT scans
related to conditions not previously reported and update films on as many conditions as possible. Updated film can indicate changes not otherwise noticeable. Yes, radiation from x-rays can add up over time, but the little that it takes to get a complete picture early may be worth thousands in benefits the rest of your life.
4. Offer to draft the non-medical assessment
(for active duty personnel going through a physical evaluation board)
Do not leave the NMA to chance that your command understands all they need to about your situation. Seek the help of your disability attorney in drafting and delivering the NMA to your command for their review and adoption.
3. Seek assistance with your case.
Active duty members are afforded a disability counsel when they enter the disability process. Members leaving active duty who want to file a claim before they leave can seek the advice of an attorney or a veterans' service organization (Disabled American Veterans, American Legion, etc.).
2. Update the status of your claim on a regular basis.
Learn how long it normally takes for each phase of your process. Be patient but don't allow your file to get lost in the system. Ask questions when it is timely to do so and utilize your resources (attorney, VSO, MEBLO, PEBLO, and, yes, even your command) to keep the case flowing.
1. Keep a running log of your claim status.
Buy an enclosed (zippered) 3-ring organizer. This will be your bible and will hold your MEB, IPEB, FPEB, C&P exam, personal statement, NARSUM, and NMA; as well as important contact information, orders, travel materials, and CDs or thumb drives with your medical records. This is just to name the most likely things you'll keep close during your claim. Most often it will contain about 200 pages. Mark it with flags and divide it into sections. You, your attorney, and your doctor will be glad you did. So there you have my Top Ten suggestions for better success in your VA claim. If you’d like to know more, call me. Getting acquainted is free. Waiting any longer to seek assistance could be very costly.