Despite the departure of Eric Shinsheki from the Department of Veterans Affairs not everything at the VA is a shambles. I have been writing about my experiences with military transition for about three years now, and no small part of my journey passed through VA country. The path was sometimes vague and there were plenty of forks in the road, but the folks at the VA were there to make sure that I made it all the way to the end, and now I am a fully vested constituent of organization.
There are tens of thousands of dedicated professionals who work at the VA, and unlike what you hear on the news every day they have their heads down as they do the best jobs that they possibly can. Nurse Deb, is a veteran who now works for the VA, is one of those professionals and she provides some very valuable insights into how to be more successful as you navigate your way through the VA disability claim process. It is a very rocky and often confusing process, but if you do your part (as she describes below) you can straighten out the road and avoid the potholes. She posted this on “Orders to Nowhere” last week:
Accidentally found your page and I was pretty impressed with the information given and how accurate it is. Thumbs up sir!
Without a ton of people replying to me here, I currently work at a very large VA in Southern California as a RN within the ER. I am also a US Army veteran (enlisted) then obtained my commission 9 years later (gulp) as a nurse to bring our guys home if needed, so technically- I’m still in (USAR). I have to tell you, the tedious process of government paperwork is overwhelming regardless of what agency it is. I agree with you sir, that the process of filing a VA disability claim isn’t difficult, however………..Step 1 is get your paperwork in order.
Taking the time to read your blog was informative and will help many veterans who are lucky to find it. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had veterans/patients come to the ER after serving years ago saying, “I never knew I had benefits”. It’s sad, personally I had no clue either. I was out 9 years before I knew I was eligible (thanks the ETS crew at Ft Benning for dropping that ball in 1992!).
Needless to say, if anyone reads this, educate all members who are still serving to “make a copy (or 2 or 3) of ALL your medical records, including copies of all hard disc/films of any or all xray reports” Most people do not know, there are two parts to any xray/radiology exam #1 the actual visual photo/film and #2 the “FINAL READ” do not get the preliminary (even though most times it doesn’t change). Also, if you ever have any type of surgery (in the operating room) either outpatient or inpatient, there is always a History & Physical done before by the doctor doing the procedure (basically saying why you need that operation) and there will always be the Operating/surgical/procedure note itself. This is important to identify where they opened you up (scars) what they found, etc….it’s helpful and most of the time, these two forms do not make it into your regular medical records, they are specific to your “Inpatient chart” . The medical records you carry around when PCS’ing are your “Outpatient” medical records.
For my husband who serves in the Navy and when he is out to sea, medical staff on the ship may use hard copy documents or the old charting system, not computerized. GET A COPY! These get lost and will never be found, I promise you-I was a medic, we lost tons without trying.
He also had to go to several civilian physicians for an injury the military couldn’t repair to his neck. Trust me when I tell you, he’s set for when he get’s out. I’ve been keeping a hard copy medical record of “Everything”.
Most charting systems in the military as of today are computerized, however, there has been documented evidence that the storage capabilities for massive amounts of records are being challenged. So again……..KEEP A HARD COPY!
Also, I was guilty of keeping my hard copy medical records from active duty (putting up hands here-I won’t even try to deny it) but, if you have them UNCLE SAM does not. Make a few copies (2-3) and be prepared to turn in your hard copies when you turn in your claim.
You can Google how to specifically write each item you feel you should be compensated for. Since I work for the VA, I had to endure TWO separate C&P physicals because I work for the VA and the medical doctor examining me could not access the records to support my claims because as an employee, my records are secured at a level 7. No one without proper security access can access them. It was a pain, so a month later, I was at a separate C&P (civilian) physical yet again. When I went to the regional office to find out what was going on with my claim, no one could access my file because again…….I was a VA employee, only a supervisor could open it to finally tell me……..I need to re-do some paperwork so I’ll keep you informed if you want.
With all the bad press the VA is receiving at this time I can only imagine how many veterans don’t even want the headache of long wait times. I know that many will feel the Government is turning their back and saying, “thanks for your service but go away we’re too busy to care” HOWEVER, on the contrary, most employee’s of the VA system are veterans themselves. I do not care how many patients come to the ER because they cannot get into their doctor, I don’t care if their appointment is months away, COME if you need us, don’t wait. I will never turn my back on a fellow veteran, I’ve walked and called offices for patients, given them the email and phone number to the Director when all resources have failed to demand in writing an appointment.
I serve because I care, I work at the VA because I still care, I’m paying it forward whenever I can.
🙂 Nurse Deb