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The Department of Veterans Affairs: Good or Bad?

The Department of Veterans Affairs

I hear conflicting opinions on the level of care veterans receive from The Department of Veterans Affairs. I am a veteran myself. I was stationed in the Army with the 2nd Ranger Battalion and also the 82nd Airborne Division. I currently receive service connected disability from the VA rated at 60%. This disability rating is mostly for PTSD that I suffer from and for a metal plate I have in my leg. If a veteran receives a disability rating from the VA above 50% they will not have any co-payments for any medical expenses including perceptions.

No copay for health care coverage is great. The Department of Veterans Affairs should be providing all veterans with same level of health care and in a timely manner. The VA health system definitely has some room for improvement.

I will give you an example of the poor healthcare I received at The Department of Veterans Affairs. Two years ago I tore my rotator cuff lifting weights. By the time I was finished cutting through the bureaucratic red tape of the VA three months had passed by. This whole time I had been suffering with what the doctor called one of the worst rotator cuff tears he had ever seen.

 The lovely VA had let me sit around in pain with a completely torn muscle for three months! The more I think about what I went through it really worries me to think about what other veterans may be experiencing with the VA. What about the older veterans that have serious health issues?

 The Department of Veterans Affairs claim that they are making large improvements to their health care process. Veterans are seeing shorter wait times to get health care.  

VA Claims Process

The Department of Veterans Affairs VA claims and VA appeals processes can be an anxiety filled experience. Not to mention VA claims/appeals can take upwards of three to five plus years before a veteran receives a rating decision. I am a veteran myself and I get the fact, somewhat, that the Department of Veterans Affairs has millions of veterans applying for disability compensation yearly. It’s understandable that a VA claim should take a while to be completed.

I have a VA claim now turned into a VA appeal that is currently at the Board of Veterans Appeals for a second time. My original VA appeal was remanded. It has been almost three years that I have been waiting for a favorable answer from the VA. During this three years of waiting for the VA to make a decision Congressman Ted Yoho has reached out to the Board of Veterans Appeals on my behalf. This congressional inquiry on my VA Claim hasn’t seem to help much because the BVA has taken it’s time in making a decision.

I would be cool with the wait time that comes along with a VA claim, if the Department of Veterans Affairs did a thorough job in reviewing my disability claim. When I got the first statement of the case in reference to my VA claim being denied I was disappointed and shocked. It seemed like the VA didn’t even bother to look over their own medical records where they had been treating me for the issues that my claim was for. As I read through the statement of the case I realized that the decision review officer (DRO) reviewing my claim probably just stamped a big red denial on my claim without properly reviewing the evidence.

I probably would’ve been better off if the DRO had just flipped a coin. There are many veterans just like me out there going through the same difficulties as I am with their VA claims process. Some of these veterans are experiencing serious economic hardship and a prompt and fair decision from the VA would make all of the difference in the world to them.

 

So how do we fix this broken system we call The Department of Veterans Affairs Claims Process? What can be done to improve the long wait times for VA claims and VA appeals to be completed?

The Department of Veterans Affairs is trying to make improvements on these issues, but they still do have a long way to go. A person enters the military with a promise, made by the government, that if you serve your country we will take care of you when you get out of the military. The Department of Veterans Affairs is struggling to live up to these promises they made to veterans.

The VA and their lack of prompt medical treatment has spilled over into their Claims and Appeals process. Like I said I have serious doubts that the Decision Review Officer (DRO) reviewing my VA disability claim actually did a comprehensive job. For example I filed a claim for chronic sinusitis. The VA has been treating me for that condition since I have been out of the Army in 2004. I am a member of the Burn Pit Registry and the Gulf War Registry. This states that I was exposed to hazardous burning material while on my deployments.

 The Department of Veterans Affairs denied my disability claim for chronic sinusitis. Did they even take a look at my medical records? The answer more than likely is no the VA didn’t review my records properly. If they had done so they would have arrived at a more favorable claims decision? I am not asking for a lot. I am only asking for the VA to do what is right and fair.

 I am definitely not the only veteran out there with a story to tell. I have plenty of more stories I could share with you about the Department of Veterans Affairs. I feel bad for the older crowd of veterans. These veterans need more serious medical attention and are not receiving it in a timely manner. They are made to jump through the bureaucratic hoops the VA has just to get medical treatment. The VA drags out there disability and appeal process for several years, making it hard on these older veterans to survive.

 Like I said the VA has put procedures in place to streamline the claims and appeals processes. They are trying, but they really need to step up their game. There are so many veterans out there that are homeless because the VA is jerking them around with their disability claim. There are veterans out there not receiving medical treatment. There are veterans out there that are dying because the Department of Veterans Affairs can’t do their job.

Veterans Affairs Disability Exams 

Here I sit on Sunday night. I have to be up early and drive an hour and a half to the nearest VA hospital and be there by 0800. I have a series of compensation and pension exams tomorrow for PTSD.

 I am already service connected for PTSD, but this for an increase in my rating. Other exams are for anxiety and depression. Both of compensation these conditions the Department of Veterans Affairs has been treating for and prescribing medication for well over ten years now.

 As a veteran my faith in the VA's ability to give a fair and just decision is almost gone. I am honestly apprehensive and border lined scared to go to my appointment s tomorrow. I have good reason to be worried just like so many other veterans are when going through this process.

 I will give you some examples why I don't trust the Department of Veterans Affairs. I was diagnosed with a service connected disability of TBI. I was so excited to see that, but when I looked on the right of that I saw I was rated at only 0%. I went through three years on that claim and only to get 0%. Is the VA kidding me?

 The VA acknowledged my service connection but gave me 0%. Another example of how the VA has screwed me is they gave me a hearing aid. Then they said I have 0% hearing loss. Explain to me the logic behind that decision.

 So I am sitting here at home thinking about the exams tomorrow. I hope and pray that I get an examiner that does a good job. The Department of Veterans Affairs really needs to work harder at fixing this whole process. Its crap.

 I was an Army Ranger had two combat tours. There are many guys just like me that were hurt overseas that struggle to get the right rating from the Department of Veterans Affairs. I hear about people all of the time with 100% disability rating that were in the rear with the gear when they deployed. I think the VA should pull their heads out of their butts and acknowledge the fact that their system is not working for the veterans that need it to.

Department of Veterans Affairs: Disability Compensation Math

The Department of Veterans Affairs stuck it to me again lol. So for starters, if the VA just used simple math to decide their disability ratings my combined service connected disability rating would be for 80%. I receive a VA rating of 30% for PTSD, 20% for a metal plate in my leg, 10% for tinnitus, 10% for right knee issues, and 10% for migraines. If you add all of those disabilities up that equals an 80% disability rating through the Department of Veterans Affairs.

This is where many veterans with multiple disabilities run into an issue with the VA. Like I said my combined disability rating ads up to an 80% service connected disability rating. However I only get paid for a 60% according to the VA! What? Does the Department of Veterans Affairs even know how to add? So I got ticked off and I called the VA toll free customer service number seeking an explanation of this BS. To his credit, the Veterans Affairs customer service rep tried to explain the VA Math the best he could to me.

 In the middle of his explanation I busted out laughing. I couldn’t help myself. I asked him to stop and realize how ridiculous what he was saying sounded. It was the biggest load of crap I had ever heard come out a Department of Veterans Affairs worker. He went on to explain than when a veteran has multiple disability rating that there is a formula that used to calculate the combined rating.

 The VA representative said, yes Chad you do have several disabilities that add up to an 80% service connected disability rating, but…he went on to explain that with the VA formula I would only be paid for 60%. I hit the roof! I did understand the explanation the Veterans Affairs representative gave me. That doesn’t mean I have to agree with the VA’s messed policy of calculating VA disability claims and it also doesn’t mean I have to like it.

According to the Department of Veterans Affairs 1+1 doesn’t equal 2…it equals 0! Let me know what your thoughts are on the VA’s claim process.

I received a 0% rating for Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)

The Department of Veterans Affairs in their infinite wisdom finally made a decision on my appeal for Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). I logged onto my ebenefits account one day and noticed that I had been granted service connected disability for TBI. I was so excited! The long wait for the VA to do the right thing was finally over. My excitement was short lived until my eyes journeyed to the right hand side of my computer screen. The VA had granted me service connection disability for TBI which was awesome, but they rated it at 0%.

Are you kidding me? 0% service connected rating! I was so pissed off, so I called the Veterans Affairs customer service phone number to give them a piece of my mind. I probably shouldn’t have called them, because it only added to my frustration. If you are a veteran and are going through or have been through the VA claim/appeal process you understand my aggravation. To her credit the VA representative I talked to on the phone was very nice, which took the sting out of my pain a little bit. She explained how she was a veteran herself and understood the struggles veterans face with the VA claim process. She actually had a claim being processed by the VA herself.

She tried as hard as she could to calm me down and put a positive spin on the decision the VA had just given me. She said that getting the Department of Veterans Affairs to acknowledge a disability as being service connected is the biggest hurdle to jump for a veteran. The VA representative went on to explain that once a disability is labeled service connected it is a lot easier for the veteran to apply for an increase in that rating.

 

Give me a break! You can’t polish a turd. The VA could’ve done the right thing and instead they gave me a rating of 0%. It was just another stab at me by the Department of Veterans Affairs. I told her that I appreciated her kind words and that I knew it wasn’t her fault. In reality she was just the messenger. She was not the Decision Review Officer (DRO) that administered the jacked up decision on my appeal.

 

So, what do I don now I asked? This VA claim has already been appealed all the way up to the Board of Veterans Appeals (BVA) in Washington D.C. The VA representative told me that I could appeal my appeal decision. Seriously? Appeal an appeal? That makes zero sense to me. Here we go again with the VA! I guess all I can do is keep fighting the VA for what is right.

I encourage every veteran that is currently stuck in the abyss of VA claims, like me, to remain diligent in your fight. Don’t give up. The process is long. Sometimes it’s just one big suck fest of getting your VA claim/appeal denied. The VA wants us veterans to give up. They want us to quit. Don’t you quit!

 

What’s up with the Department of Veterans Affairs Customer Service Reps?

Let’s lay it all out there on the line and address the topic of the level of knowledge or lack thereof that The Department of Veterans Affairs customer service representatives have. We all know the VA claims process is a very long and arduous process. Basically it’s a suck fest of waiting in anticipation of something that may or may not go in the veterans favor. I personally have an appeal in with the VA that has been in Veteran Affairs limbo for about three years now.

Waiting for a decision about a VA claim can almost drive a veteran to the brink of insanity. To get an update on the status of a VA claim/appeal a veteran can log onto www.ebenefits.gov or call the (800)827-1000 VA customer service number.

Veterans already experience enough anxiety as it is. Why add anymore? I understand that the VA is slammed with veterans filing claims and asking questions about those claims. When a veteran calls the customer service number the representatives that they speak with are most likely looking at that claim for the very first time. Most of us veterans stay on top of our VA claims and know what step in the process it is in, but hey we want to know the specifics.

I don’t want to call the customer service number and listen to somebody reading from a script. I mean what the bleep! If I want to I guarantee you that I can go on the internet myself and probably find and read word for word what the VA customer service reps are telling me. What veteran wants to hear that? A veteran wants to hear in detail what is going on specifically with their claim.

Hey, I get it. The Department of Veterans Affairs customer service reps are probably limited on what they can and can’t say to veterans. They are not the decision makers. They are just the messengers out on the front lines. So my advice to all veterans is this: Don’t worry yourself to death…Try and be patient if you can. Stay on top of the VA and where you claim/appeal is. Set up an account on www.ebenefits.gov if you haven’t already done so. 

 


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