What You Need to Know About VA Hospitals and Elder Abuse

In the United States, qualified veterans of our nation’s armed forces have access to US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) services. This includes medical care at VA hospitals as well as long-term care at VA community living centers. It is unfortunate, however, that sometimes our nation’s older veterans don’t receive the attention and respect they deserve in these government-run facilities.

The Rising Problem of Veterans Elder Abuse

A Veteran’s Affairs scandal swept the national news in 2014 where it was revealed that VA hospitals nationwide were delivering subpar services to veterans. Some former service members were asked to wait months or even years to see a physician or have a procedure done. Some of these delays were even costing patients their lives.

Veterans who were able to see a physician found that they would receive treatment in a VA hospital that was short on resources, understaffed, or both. Because of this, patients received substandard care, and many suffered from abuse and neglect.

The Veteran’s Health Administration (VHA) is this nation’s largest federally-funded health care system, which treats approximately 13 million veterans and their single surviving spouses, ages 65 and up. This figure represents about one-third of this country’s total senior population as well as more than 45% of our total veteran population. As more than 7 million Vietnam-era veterans get older, this figure is expected to soar.

In 2000, an analysis was completed that compared the health status of U.S. residents and looked at their health care resources. The study found that the patients in the VA population had poorer overall health, more hospital admissions, and more medical conditions than the general population. Unfortunately, not enough data has been compiled specifically on veterans and elder abuse. In 2010, a GAO report stated that there were hundreds of allegations of physical abuse, neglect, and exploitation of veterans between 1990 and 2010. The numbers that are out there so far seem to indicate that elder abuse among veterans remains largely under-reported.

 What is Elder Abuse?

According to the National Council on Aging, as many as one in ten Americans over the age of 60 are subject to some form of elder abuse. This means that there could be as many as 5 million elderly Americans who are abused each year. Even more disturbing is the fact that just one in fourteen cases of elder abuse are ever reported to authorities.  When not perpetrated by family members, elder abuse could come from the staff at hospitals, nursing homes, and other facilities. Abuse of elderly adults includes:

  • Physical abuse refers to physical pain or harm inflicted upon an older adult.
  • Emotional abuse can include intimidation, threats, verbal assault, and harassment.
  • Sexual abuse occurs when an older adult is sexually assaulted, threatened, or touched without their consent.
  • Confinement refers to isolating or restraining an elderly adult for reasons that are not medical.
  • Neglect happens when a caregiver fails to give patient necessities that might include food, water, clothing, and medical care.
  • Abandonment refers to willfully depriving someone of life necessities or physical assistance.
  • Exploitation occurs when someone withholds or misuses a patient’s resources.

 Increased Risk Factors for Veterans

While veterans get sick and suffer from common diseases such as cancer and diabetes, they are also at a higher risk for certain issues. These include:

  • Substance abuse
  • PTSD
  • Physical disabilities

Any of these issues, or a combination of them, could require hospitalization in a VA hospital and place an elderly veteran in harm’s way if the facility is not properly staffed or well-run.

Handling Veterans Elder Abuse

If you suspect that a veteran has been the victim of elder abuse, a knowledgeable Connecticut veteran’s issues attorney will able to provide guidance. This may involve taking steps to begin an investigation and contact the agencies necessary to protect your rights. The APEX Law Firm, LLC understands the unique needs of veterans and their families because we are veterans ourselves. Our experienced and compassionate veteran’s issues attorneys have the knowledge necessary to navigate the complex VA system, and we will work to make sure that you receive the care and compensation you deserve.

Our firm handles cases throughout Connecticut. Contact The APEX Law Firm now to schedule a free, no obligation consultation to discuss your case and learn your options. Call our Hartford County office at (860) 900-0900 or visit us online at uptonlegal.com.

Veterans Administration Malpractice in Connecticut

Medical malpractice is, sadly, a fact. Most physicians do not purposefully harm their patients, but there are times accidents happen. VA malpractice happens, and unlike standard malpractice claims, filing is a complicated and tedious process. It is wise, often necessary, to hire a medical malpractice attorney with experience in VA malpractice.

Filing against the VA for malpractice starts with an administrative claim for the amount of damage you have suffered. This can be difficult to determine, and often a risk is involved. An administrative claim also means you will never be able to file again, so be sure to ask for the absolute maximum before filing. There are exceptions: evidence of additional damages or a lack of prior knowledge, but both of these are extremely difficult to prove, even with an attorney.

After the claim, the VA has six months to review your claim. They will have three options: pay the claim in full; settle the claim for less money; reject the claim and pay nothing.

Should your claim be rejected, a lawsuit in federal court is necessary. During the six month period, you are well-advised to write down everything you can about your claim, including people you speak to, if you are visited by the VA, any required appointments and the like. Get copies of everything, and make copies yourself.

You have two years to file a claim, including the six months processing time. Failure to file a lawsuit in this time means your claim can be lost forever. Immediately contact a veterans benefits attorney with experience in medical malpractice upon learning your claim is denied or you are offered less than you feel is fair.

How to File a Claim for Veterans Administration Healthcare

The Department of Veterans Affairs has a completely portable health care for veterans. This program allows veterans to carry their healthcare around the United States It, like most government programs, requires you to file, wait and see what they decide.

There are eight levels of healthcare, depending on your specific disability. Those who are disabled over 50 percent, need a service-connected disability, or have a disability linked to your service are automatically enrolled. Others will need to apply online, by phone or in person.

The levels of disability are resource-based. It is a sad fact, but this is the purpose of the groups. You will be assigned a group when you apply. Those eligible for more than one priority group are placed in the higher echelon group.

Apply; the VA will let you know the status of your application and eligibility. You may be responsible for a certain number of co-pays during the process. Be sure to get receipts for each co-pay, names of physicians, dates and more information than you think you will need. The more information you have, the better your chances if your claim is denied.

No veteran wants to be denied, particularly after honorably serving their country. You will be given the necessary information you will need to file an appeal. The information you previously gathered will be helpful if you choose to hire a Veterans Benefits lawyer. If you choose a disability lawyer, find one that is a veteran to help you and your case. The information, coupled with a fellow veteran, will help your case significantly.

How to File a Veterans Benefits Claim

Firstly, allow us to give a warm word of thanks for your service to our country. If you are reading this blog, you are interested in filing a claim for the benefits you so rightly deserve, but you also understand that nothing done with the government is cut and dry simple. Here are a few things to do as you are trying to file a claim for your benefits.

Visit your primary care physician. It is much better if your physician is not affiliated with the VA for no other reason than the chances of the diagnosis being less biased. Get the diagnosis in writing for the claim. Be sure to have dates as accurately as possible. Only list the particular disabilities which you currently suffer symptoms – adding more to your claim will only delay the processing.

Collect all medical records. This may take time particularly if you have changed physicians or have more than one physician. Make several copies, and be sure to keep the originals for yourself. If you choose to submit online, scanning the documents is a wise thing to do. Save these in more than one location as well.

Prepare to wait. It can take a few weeks to several years to process a claim. The waiting time can be reduced with the “Fast Track” program, so long as you have your medical records submitted along with the claim. This program can expedite the process quickly.

If things go well; congratulations to you and your well-deserved benefits. However, should the claim be denied, do not fret. Get copies of everything together, call the local VA, and request documentation as to why it was denied. Write everything down. Times, people you speak to, dates and the like. Contact a veterans disability attorney, preferably one that is a veteran. The more information you have, the better a chance you have in court.

Issues Facing Today’s Military Veterans

Veterans and their families often face numerous problematic issues and find themselves in need of assistance upon exiting the service. The backlog of claims that stands between our Veterans and the benefits they deserve is an obstacle worthy of removal.Veterans are very important people, not only because they have fought for us and have returned home to face a life that is entirely different from the one they previously knew, but many veterans have come back forever changed by the remnants of the war that they were not able to leave behind.

What are the Issues?

Claims Backlog

Currently, there are over a million claims that have been backlogged by the VA.  When a Veteran submits a claim for benefits, the process can be very complicated and time consuming. For many, finding the right treatment, understanding the right benefits to apply for, and completing the complicated paperwork can be very challenging. Keeping up with the process becomes a daunting task.

Too often, claims are denied for avoidable reasons and the Veteran or family member is faced with appealing the rejected claim.  Veterans and their families should be educated about the benefits available and what is required in order to submit a valid claim that reduces the chance of being denied.  By submitting a qualified claim with all of the appropriate supporting evidence, the claim will get approved faster and thus lessen the backlog.

Ptsd and Trauma

Statistics show that one out of every three veterans who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan now suffers from PTSD, TBI or a combination of the two. (Citation)  However, when they return home, many Veterans and their families do not receive the help that they need because they may not be aware that treatment is available or where to find it.

Speaking with a VA counselor, a VA accredited attorney, a Veteran’s agency such as the VFW, American Legion, or DAV, or even their own doctor, the veteran may learn about options and opportunities that exist to get the help needed.

Homelessness

The claims process can take several months or even years to complete during which Veterans often begin facing many hardships in the absence of much-needed assistance.  Homelessness is a horrible result of the overwhelming hardships that Veterans face.  Sadly, one-third of all the homeless in the United States are Veterans.

Despite some Veterans being powerful leaders in the military, many are faced with unsustainable financial hardships which lead them to living on the streets. Also, when Veterans are denied the right type of medical treatment, they may begin self-medicating with drugs and alcohol which many times leads to problems within the justice system where they are still not able to find the help that they and their families need.

Unemployment

Veterans who retire at a young age and are in good health can also face a struggle when they return to civilian life. With the unemployment rate for veterans nearly twice that of the national average, many are unable to compete with civilians who were afforded the opportunity to complete higher education.

While there are incentives for companies to hire Veterans and there are those companies that put a priority on finding Veterans to hire, this is one step in ensuring that Veterans receive the help that they need.

Conclusion

The system that the Veteran’s Administration uses to receive and approve claims may be in desperate need of review.  Veterans deserve the benefits that they are entitled to and more focus should be put on educating Veterans about the benefits available to them and their families.If you have questions about Veteran’s benefits or need assistance with filing a claim, call The APEX Law Firm and ask to speak with one of our VA Accredited Attorneys today!

Understanding the VA Disability Rating System

If your veterans benefits claim is approved by the VA, you will be assigned a disability rating from 0% – 100%.  A 0% disability rating does not pay any benefits, however, by receiving a 0% disability rating the VA has recognized that your disability is service-connected.  If, in the future, the disability worsens or causes a secondary disability, then service connection is already established and you only have to provide evidence that the condition has worsened or has caused a secondary disability.

The 2014 rates are as follows:

Disability Percentage

10%

20%

30%

40%

50%

60%

70%

80%

90%

100%

Veteran Alone $131 $259 $401 $578 $822 $1,040 $1,312 $1,526 $1,714 $2,858
Veteran & Spouse     $449 $640 $901 $1,137 $1,423 $1,652 $1,857 $3,018
A/A for Spouse     $44 $59 $73 $87 $103 $117 $131 $146

 

Combined Ratings

A single rating percentage may also be a combination of a number of disabilities rated at different percentages.  For example, you may have a rating of 50% for PTSD, a rating of 10% for hearing loss, and a rating of 20% for a back injury.  This does not mean that the combined rating is the sum of the individual ratings. It’s more complicated than that.  To calculate the combined rating, you sort the percentages descending from the largest to the smallest.  If your disabilities are rated as above: 50%, 20%, 10%, you would subtract the largest percentage from 100%.  So, in this example, you would subtract 50% (the largest percentage) from 100%, leaving a yield of 50%.  This is the first number used in determining the combined rating.  The VA assumes that if you have a 50% disability rating, you have the efficiency to perform work at a 50% level.  You would then multiply the next largest percentage (20%) by the remaining efficiency (20% x 50%).  This is 10% which you add to the first disability rating (50%) and you have a 40% remaining efficiency to perform work.  Multiply the remaining efficiency of 40% by 10% for the hearing loss and you get 4%.  Now add up the numbers to get the rating: 50% + 10% + 4% = 64%. This final number is rounded down to the nearest 10th, so your benefit would be paid at the 60% rate instead of the 80% you might expect if you just add up the original individual ratings.

Note:    A claimant who has three disabilities with each rated at 10%, will receive a combined rating of 30%.  However a veteran with only two disabilities, one rated at 60% and another rated at 10% will receive only the 60% compensation rate.  The effect of combining additional ratings gives greater weight to multiple 10% ratings at the low end of the scale as opposed to an additional rating of 10% on a higher rating since the 10% is diminished by the formula above.  In a nutshell, having multiple low ratings increases the payment for a veteran whose primary diagnosis has a low rating; but it has a much smaller effect for veterans who have a single condition with a high rating.  A veteran with a 90% single disability rating with multiple 10% to 30% secondary ratings will most likely never get to 100%.

Disability compensation is intended to replace average impairment in earnings capacity. Claimants with a combined rating between 60% and 90% who are determined to be unemployable solely as a result of service-connected conditions, qualify for IU (individual unemployability). IU claimants are entitled to the same benefit payment as those rated at 100%.  Conditions that result in the veteran not being employable override the medical impairment rating.

If you have any questions regarding your Disability rating, or if you would like to consult with one of our VA Accredited attorneys about a Veterans benefits claim, contact us today at (860) 900-0900.

Veterans Benefits Claims in Connecticut

When Veterans think of benefits they can receive from the VA after service, the most popular benefits come directly to mind:  Disability compensation benefits; VA backed mortgage benefits; the GI Bill; and even Vocational Rehabilitation training and assistance.  Almost everyone has heard of or used these benefits at some point in their post-service life.

 

The GI Bill and the VA backed mortgages are easily obtained and typically someone else will help with the process or will complete the necessary steps for you.  Vocational Rehabilitation offers specific counselors and case managers at the VA to guide you through the process, step-by-step.

 

Disability compensation claims are a little trickier and require a bit more knowledge than the average veteran has.  But even with these claims, it is well-known that agencies such as the Veterans of Foreign War (VFW), American Legion Posts, the Disabled Veterans of America (DAV), and others can help with your claims and are very successful in getting them approved, especially where claims have been denied originally.

 

There are, however, other benefits available to Veterans and their surviving spouses that the VA does not advertise.  The following are well-kept secrets that most veterans do not know about:

 

PENSION – This is a disability income program that offers cash benefits to Veterans to help cover the cost of ongoing medical expenses.  It is dependent upon income, assets, and medical expenses.  Medical costs are estimated based on out-of-pocket – unreimbursed expenses only, and cover costs associated with long term care services, independent or assisted living, adult day care, nursing home services, health insurance premiums, prescription and non-prescription drugs, regular visits for medical treatment, and renting medical equipment.

 

To be eligible, a Veteran had to have served on active duty at least 90 days with one of those days during a period of war; service in combat not required.

 

  • World War II – December 7, 1941 through December 31, 1946
  • Korean Conflict – June 27, 1950 through January 31, 1055
  • Viet Nam “In Country”  prior to August 5, 1964 – August 5, 1964 through May 7, 1975
  • Viet Nam Era – February 28, 1961 through May 7, 1975
  • Gulf War – August 2, 1990 through date to be determined

 

The veteran must have been discharged with anything above dishonorable. And Gulf War Vets must have served 24 months or completed requirement for active duty service.

 

Compensation is based on a Disability and Medical Needs Test.  If Veteran is under the age of 65, he or she must be totally disabled.  If Veteran is over the age of 65, there is no requirement for disability.

 

However, there must be a medical need for assistance or supervision due to disability in order to get a VA rating.  Your combined income of household cannot exceed the MAPR for the category of Pension applied for. And generally your total assets cannot exceed $80,000 (personal residence, land, personal property and automobiles for personal use are excluded).  But there are exceptions.

 

Below are the Maximum Annual Pension Rates for 2014:

 

Yearly

Monthly

Without spouse or child

$12,652

$1,054

With one dependent

$16,569

$1,381

Housebound without dependents

$15,461

$1,288

Housebound with one dependent

$19,379

$1,615

Aid and Attendance w/o dependents

$21,107

$1,759

Aid and Attendance with one dependent

$25,022

$2,085

Two Vets married to each other – No ratings

$16,569

$1,381

Add for each child

$2,161

$180

 

 

DEATH PENSION – This is a disability income program that offers cash benefits to the Single Surviving Spouse of a deceased Veteran who meets the criteria for Pension.

 

To be eligible, the deceased Veteran must meet the eligibility requirements for Pension above. However, the deceased Veteran or Surviving Spouse do not have to meet disability or age requirements.

 

Here is a list of conditions that must be met to qualify: (ALL must me met)

 

  • Surviving Spouse must have met the conditions to be married under VA rules.
  • Surviving Spouse had to have been married to the Veteran at time of death.
  • Surviving Spouse must have lived together continuously with Veteran while married.
  • Surviving Spouse must be single at time of application and cannot have remarried after November 1, 1990.

And here are the 2014 Maximum Annual Death Pension Rates:

Yearly

Monthly

 Without dependent child

$8,484

$707

 With one dependent child

$11,106

$926

 Housebound without dependents

$10,370

$864

 Housebound with one dependent

$12,988

$1,082

 Aid and Attendance* w/o dependents

$13,562

$1,130

 Aid and Attendance* with one dependent

$16,179

$1,348

 Add for each child

$2,161

$180

 MAPR for child alone

$2,161

$180

 

*AID AND ATTENDANCE requires assistance with:

  • Bathing/showering
  • Toileting
  • Feeding
  • Dressing/undressing
  • Transferring in/out of bed/chair
  • Incontinence
  • Ambulating
  • Frequent need for adjustment of prosthetic or orthopedic device
  • Incapacity requiring regular assistance to protect patient from hazards or dangers in daily environment
  • Blind or visual acuity of 5/200 or less in both eyes
  • Patient in nursing home due to physical or mental incapacity
  • Totally bedridden

DISABILITY INDEMNITY COMPENSATION – This is payable to eligible survivors of a military service member who died on active duty or whose death after service resulted from a service-connected injury or disease.  It is automatically granted for surviving spouse of veteran who was permanently and totally disabled for 10 years or more.  It currently pays $1,233 per month, but there are additional amounts for dependent children and an additional $306 per month if aid and attendance is needed (not automatic).

BURIAL BENEFITS – Money is available for costs for veterans who were service disabled, receiving Pension or who died under VA care.

  • If death was result of service-connected disability – $2,000
  • If death non-service related and Veteran was receiving Pension or Compensation – up to $700
  • All Veterans receive free burial in state and federal VA cemeteries.
  • All Veterans are eligible for grave marker, flag, honor guard, and letter from the President

 

This is not an all-inclusive list of Veterans’ benefits but most of these are not well known.  As with any application for benefits, the key to success is in the detail and effort you put in to your application.  There is no fee for any agency to help you with your claim, but the more effort and interest you put into ensuring your claim meets the VA’s standard, the faster your claim can be approved and the faster you will receive your benefits.

 

If you have any questions regarding the content in this article, or if you feel you or one of your family members could use assistance regarding a veterans benefits claim, contact one of our our VA accredited attorneys today.

Tips for Filing a Claim for Veterans Benefits

Every application for benefits must meet all of the elements of what the VA calls “the Fully Developed Claim”.  The concept behind a fully developed claim is that you will give the Regional Office all of the relevant and probative evidence you can get your hands on to make your case. You provide this information up front when you make your formal application by filling out the appropriate benefit forms and including all of your evidence with it. The goal is for all of the evidence to be sufficient enough for the Regional Office development team to pass on to the rating activity for a final decision. This fully developed claim concept could get you a decision within a matter of a few months instead of the typical 8 to 18 months that it takes by simply applying and waiting for VA to assist you in developing your evidence.

Here are the steps in the process that would you will use for every claim that you file.  Since each type of claim is different, you may not need every step for a particular type of claim.

1. Decide Whether the Condition Warrants Making a Claim

Many veterans seem to think that because of their service, they have an entitlement to disability benefits even if they aren’t currently disabled. Or, if they are currently disabled they seem to think that all of their ailments are a result of being a veteran.  This attitude causes a number of veterans or their survivors to make application thinking that VA owes them something whether they qualify are not.  Unfortunately, this attitude leads to a great number of claims that are filed where there is no benefit. It is also unfortunate that many people with this attitude come away from their experience with a bad taste in their mouth.

Please don’t misunderstand. Always file a claim if you believe that your disability is a result of service connection. Don’t file a claim if you are pretty sure that your disability condition is a result of non-service connection. If the disability is non-service-connected, don’t file a claim anyway just to see what you can get. This is not fair to you or to the other veterans who are waiting for their claims to be adjudicated. An unjustified claim – or so-called claim without merit – is only going to add to the current backlog in the system making it harder for everyone else.

2. Always File an Informal Claim

Once you feel that you can justify a claim for benefits and not waste your time or VA’s time, you should proceed to do an informal claim. An informal claim allows you to notify your Regional Office that you will be submitting a substantially complete claim and the appropriate claims form in order to start the process at some future date. You have one year from filing an informal claim to providing the formal application for a substantially complete claim.

An informal claim is typically used for application for new benefits.  If you are applying for a re-evaluation of existing benefits or a change in existing benefits, you should use a formal request either on the appropriate VA form or using VA Form 21-4138, to establish an effective date.

Do not send a copy of the discharge at this time.  The discharge along with the other information above will cause VA to treat the informal claim as a substantially complete claim and it will start the process of VA’s duty to assist. You don’t want to start this process at this point until you can get together all of the evidence to submit at one time. Submitting the evidence piecemeal, based on requests from VA due to VA’s duty to assist, destroys the fully developed claim process and reverts it back to the old, time-consuming process we are trying to avoid .

The primary purpose of an informal claim is to establish an effective date. When the informal claim is received in the Regional Office, it will be date stamped and that date will become your effective date under most conditions.  The effective date could be a later date if you don’t meet the qualifications for the benefit at the time of filing the informal claim. On the other hand, we have already warned you about this issue and you should not file an informal claim unless you are sure that you do have a valid claim for benefits.

3. Get a Copy of Your Discharge and Locate Your Own Service Treatment Records (STR)

You will need a certified copy of your discharge for filing the formal fully developed claim.  If you do not have the original, you can order a certified copy using Form SF 180.  If you have an original of the discharge, and you do not want to send it in with your formal application, generally the County Recorder’s Office may provide a certified copy for the veteran. If your state has an archive of discharge records, which many states do, call your state Department of Veterans Affairs and they will send you a certified copy.

If your claim is going to be tied to service treatment records – which not all claims are – then you should use Form SF 180 to get those records from the Service Center in St. Louis as part of the evidence collection you will be doing for your fully developed claim.

The Official Military Personnel Files (OMPF), held at the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC), are administrative records containing information about the subject’s military service history. Many OMPFs contain both personnel and former active duty health records, but the service branches discontinued retiring the health record portion to the NPRC in the 1990s.

In the past, all of the military services retired the individual health record, along with the personnel record, to the NPRC upon a service member’s separation from service. The Army and the Air Force retired its health records with the Official Military Personnel File, while the Department of the Navy (including the Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard) retired these files separately to the NPRC until the 1980s.

Health records cover the outpatient, dental and mental health treatment that former members received while in military service. Health records include induction and separation physical examinations, as well as routine medical care (doctor/dental visits, lab tests, etc.) when the patient was not admitted to a hospital.

In comparison, clinical (hospital inpatient) records were generated when active duty members were actually hospitalized while in the service. Typically, these records are NOT filed with the health records but are generally retired to the NPRC by the facility which created them (see clinical records for more information). Medical records from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) are also not included.

4. Obtain Your Own Private Medical Records

As part of the fully developed claim process, you should never have VA order your medical records. Your doctors and specialists are used to being paid a fee to provide copies of your records to third-party organizations. Sometimes these copy fees can be as much as $100 or more. As a general rule, you will not be charged for copies of your own private medical records. When VA puts in a request for your medical records, it will not pay a fee because it is prohibited by the regulation cited below.  This does not mean that your doctors can refuse to supply copies, because they are required to respond to government agencies.

5. Have Your Private Doctors or Specialists Do Disability Evaluations

For many of the presumptive service connected conditions such as cancer, heart disease, diabetes and other chronic diseases or disorders, description of the disease process, symptoms and past and current treatment protocols are enough to guide the rating activity to assign a level of disability. Debilitating diseases or disorders are already inherently disabling.  Your private medical records might be enough for the rater to make a decision. On the other hand, some conditions or diseases need a level of disability to be determined in order to make a rating decision.  This is especially true for conditions involving range of motion limitations, requirements for assistance from others and cognitive impairment.

The VA has designed disability rating forms for private consultation for most of the disorders or diseases for which applications are made.  There are currently 70 of these and they are called Disability Benefits Questionnaires.  There are no DBQ’s for hearing loss or mental disorders (other than PTSD) as these require specialists from VA to do the evaluations. Even though these conditions do not have DBQ’s, you should still obtain a private evaluation for any condition that is not covered by the DBQ’s to include hearing loss and mental disorders.

It is extremely important for you to establish your own line of evidence and not rely on VA to provide all the evidence for your disability or your service connection. Whether the application you are making is presumptive service-connected or not, always do your own private disability evaluation. VA will often not consider your application to be a fully developed claim unless you complete one of these forms – prerequisite filing of a DBQ depends on the condition. So go ahead and do it anyway.

For more information, or to schedule a consultation for your veterans benefits related claim, contact one of our VA accredited attorneys today at (860) 900-0900.

Veterans Neglected for years in the Department of Veteran Affairs

“……. To care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow and his orphan.” – President Abraham Lincoln

Over the past few years, the government has turned a blind eye to the issues affecting the Department of Veteran Affairs. The apathy of the technologically challenged administration, the increase in backlog of compensation claims, and the slow progress on the expensive joint health record system has added more woes and worries to those who have “borne the battle” for this country. The mistreatment of veterans in need of medical care has recently caught the attention of our nation. In some instances, veterans have been left waiting for up to eight years for proper evaluations or treatment! One such veteran in a Massachusetts facility had only one psychiatric note to his file in his seven-year stay as a patient. Other complaints have reflected not only scandals and lengthy waits, but the use of unsterile equipment for surgeries, falsification of recorded health information, and lack of care and attention for elderly veterans residing in geriatric facilities.

When the troops return home after fighting a war for the nation, they should be served by the Department of Veterans Affairs with the finest facilities in the world and treated within a reasonable time. Instead of healing, America’s Military Veterans are coming home and fighting some of the toughest battles day by day alone. This battle is not being fought with trained military support units, but being fought on papers through claims against the bureaucracy of the Department of VA which is the second largest bureaucracy in the federal government. Even though the soldiers are highly trained to combat enemy forces in the world, they are the weakling when it comes to this “David against Goliath” war.

Although President Obama has expressed outrage about allegations of misconduct at veteran’s hospitals and vowed a forceful response to veteran care issues, much needs to be seen as to what is actually going to be achieved. The newest generation of combat veterans who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan say that the biggest challenge facing their peers is suicide, and the reports reflect the truth in that statement. Some soldiers are reluctant to seek mental health care for fear of being perceived as weak, and if they are entitled to benefits it may be years before they get their disability benefits and compensation.

To date, the VA compensation claims remains a grouse. The issues affecting the lives of all these veterans who served our country need to be taken better care of by the Department of Veteran Affairs.