VETERANS CORNER: Service groups can help

All gave some…some gave all: Flags line all the graves at the Maine Veterans Memorial Cemetery, in Augusta. Photo by Kevin Giguere, Central Maine

by Gary Kennedy

It seems some of you are very angry with the VA and how you are received when you try to apply for benefits as well as medical care. Normally, your first step is to approach a service organization for assistance. The service organizations that are readily available are, Disabled American Veterans (DAV), American Legion¸ Maine Veterans Services, Americans with Disa­bilities, Vet­erans of Fo­reign Wars, etc. One of these organizations should be able to talk you through the process.

All of these organizations require that you develop your own case. They will not search for your record. You must be the one to own your situation. You would need to request your military medical records, which you can do or request the Bureau of Veterans Affairs to help you. If you are already connected to the V.A. system and have a primary care provider (PCP), then you will probably have accumulated some medical records at the VA level. If you are already invested with a percentage then BVA has some of your records.

You would go to release of information in Building 200 and ask for a copy of all relevant medical records, labs, and X-rays. By relevant I mean any and all records that would support/benefit your application. These along with any outside records will aid your claim. Then your claim will be processed and any entitlement will be decided. You might be asked to undergo an examination relevant to your request for benefits. If your records are compelling you might not be asked to do that. In any case it is imperative to develop your case initially. Once the ball is rolling your advocate will advise you as to what you will need to do next. Your needs must be proven real and not frivolous.

There are some disabled veterans such as myself who volunteer to guide veterans through the process. We are not paid staff; we just try to offer a hand. I have recently heard many complaints about the process that I have just described beginning with some service organizations, as well as B.V.A.. It seems individuals tend to make it difficult for veterans by using a degrading/condescending attitude; that is how some vets describe it. Also a lot of vets take issue with Veteran’s Affairs (BVA) .

It seems some veterans speak with a veteran’s rep at BVA at length about an issue and when he or she returns to continue their subject matter they aren’t allowed to speak with the person they had originally spoken with. This is not logical. For me, that only seems logical. If a veteran prefers, feels more comfortable with a previous B.V.A representative and is willing to accommodate time constraints for any reason, why shouldn’t it be allowed? Take as they come, in my opinion, is condescending in itself. The veteran wants to feel that everyone is out to help him/her not feel the pressure of numbers or outdated procedures.

Perhaps the new center director will take a serious look at this situation. Even if the veteran isn’t successful in his/her first attempt, there is a kind way to settle that. Our vets have been through a lot; show them they are special, win, lose or draw. The closing with a veteran is very important. I think some training may be in order. God bless.

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