VETERANS CORNER: The veterans pathway to getting medical assistance needed

Veterans Administration facility at Togus. (Internet photo)

by Gary Kennedy

Each veteran who is trying to file a claim for what they feel is a service connected medical condition should seek the formal advise of a service officer from one of the many agencies, American Legion, Veteran of Foreign Wars, Disabled American Veterans, Amvets, or Paralyzed Veterans of America. Although clerks and secretaries can give you minor advice you should not rely on anything other than the forms that they may give you.

Although many people want to be of assistance, not all are qualified to give good sound advice. Some of you have probably discovered that there are some that are trained to assist you with your needs and others that can just muddy up your water. In any case, unless you yourself are a trained authority on how the system works, you will probably be doing your case more harm than good.

There are several issues that put you in the ball park for VA help:

(1) You might have a direct service connected issue; something that happened while in the military.
(2) Secondary service connection which is a condition which is caused by a previously service connected condition.
(3) Aggravated service connection and outside conditions that are aggravated by military service.
(4) Presumptive service connection which is a condition that is presumed to have been caused or aggravated by the job the veteran was assigned to do.
(5) VA faulted situation such as, error in adjustment, negligence, lack of a proper skill set, also carelessness and/or negligence.

The government doesn’t allow anything to be easy. So, of course, it would be wise to begin these things with a good representative/advocate to assist you with all the hurdles. All successful cases are based upon honesty and the compilation of all the relevant data that could possibly be necessary. Never assume you have a winner because you know it to be the truth. The government sees the truth only through the eyes of evidence. I used the word mostly intentionally as I previously mentioned the presumptive issue. There are situations that can be presumable, by the nature of one’s injury, the position held by the veteran in the military and the probability of the happening is a few other venues. Examples could be flat or damaged feet of a foot soldier wearing combat boots or perhaps a rifleman with Tinnitus and/or hearing loss. In these cases the story might be the decision maker. There are avenues a good advocate can use to help prove his/her clients case. I don’t want to sound demeaning but like any kind of business, there are good and not so good advocates. Think of your advocate like a lawyer and you will understand what I am trying to convey.

It’s wonderful to have copious amounts of support data, which all advocates should have but then again it’s another thing to know how to use and deliver that information. Also, your veterans representative must have time for you. All cases are not black and white and some require stepping outside of the coveted box and do a little extra. I have had many veterans who have applied for help on several different occasions and failed. Some used themselves as a representative and others had an advocate who couldn’t /wouldn’t give enough time. Don’t be discouraged because you have failed in the past. I personally have presented many cases that had failed previously and won. You must follow the appropriate pathway no matter how tedious and difficult. The quality of someone’s life depends on it and the advocate’s reputation relies on it.

When you begin your claim you need to have your form DD-214, you will need copies of your medical records, both military and civilian, especially those which are relevant to your claim. If you need assistance with those documents, visit your local VBA and they will assist you. You will still need an advocate after you receive these things. (Building 248, first floor or bldg. 205, third floor).

As far as administrative records, you can request a form for the procurement of these also. They are usually housed at a different facility. I always look at administrative records for the entrance exam and the exit exam. There is much information that may be disseminated from the admin, file. Cases have been won with just that file. So in conclusion of this brief explanation I will explain the pathway. You are not eligible for VA services and compensation just because you would like it. You need to present evidence that military service was in some way more likely than not the causation of your problems. I probably should mention that being in direct contact with one of the many chemical agents such as Agent Orange can be relied upon in many cases as, Direct Service Connection or even, Presumptive Service Connection, it depends on the situation. Help is available to all Honorably Discharged Veterans. In Maine just call 207-623-8411 and press “0” when you get the recording and explain the nature of your need. The operator will direct you to the correct department.

I am not sure if you will read this article before Veterans Day or not, but November 11 is the day we officially honor our veterans. I honor our vets with information that can help them along the way. “Veterans Day” has been known by several names, Remembrance Day, Armistice Day and now Veterans Day. Veterans Day got its day because WWI. Armistice day ended on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month. In any case, remember, freedom isn’t free even if sometimes it is taken for granted. We owe so much too so many for the ultimate sacrifice they gave to God, Country and those that they loved. God bless all that have served and God bless America. Happy Veterans Day and remember to pray for those who made it all possible.

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