Treatment and Compensation for Psychiatric Disability

29 Dec 2016

Veteran disability applications can take months.  If the application is for a psychiatric disability, the process can take much longer and include multiple appeals.

Most veterans getting treatment for a psychiatric disorder are getting that treatment for conditions other than PTSD. Many are also eligible for a disability rating and compensation.

Veterans and those helping them to access services and disability compensation should know that treatment is available for a variety of psychiatric conditions including: depression, bipolar disorder, substance abuse, schizophrenia and others.  Disability compensation can be awarded for psychiatric conditions which are acquired as a result of service or during service.  There does not have to be a direct link between an actual military related event that caused a particular psychiatric symptom or disorder.  One requirement is only that the symptoms began during military service.  Some conditions, such as schizophrenia, may have occurred whether a person served in the military or not.  If a service member is diagnosed or presented with symptoms of schizophrenia (or other conditions) during military service, they may very well be eligible for a disability rating and compensation because the illness began in the service. 

Veterans who are suffering from a psychiatric condition can benefit from having their case evaluated for a connection to their service.

Treatment for a psychiatric disability can be hard to find.  Access to psychiatric care varies across the country regardless of veteran status.  Getting treatment for psychiatric symptoms is important for quality of life and overall wellbeing.  Treatment can be life-saving.  It is important to get treatment from the VA or elsewhere even while waiting on a claim.  Veterans may be eligible for treatment in VA healthcare facilities without regard to service connected status.

 A record of continuous treatment for a psychiatric condition provides for continuity of care and provides documentation needed to properly adjudicate a claim.  Don’t hesitate to get treatment for any psychiatric symptoms. 

Getting help with a claim for a disability rating for a psychiatric condition can greatly improve your success. Contact us to get expert, professional legal help processing your claim.

Veteran Awareness in Our Society

22 Dec 2016

Supporting veterans is so important and often lacking in citizen morale in the United States. In these troubled times, Americans need to be drawn together to champion common issues. Sometimes, whether you truly agree or truly understand, it's more meaningful to just stand together and believe in something. Like the popular mantra, tis better to give than to receive, this helps everyone, emotionally.

Our country has gone through more than a few ups and downs when it comes to societal treatment of the troops, whether overseas in combat or here in the states. Extending this support is something that flows in ripples throughout a community, lifting the military families and filling civilians with pride in their acts and a sense of stability for their nation.

It isn't hard to pull the community together in support of military neighbors. These few suggestions involve low expense and high rewards.

  • Neighborhood Cookouts on Patriotic Holidays ~ This is a great way to both honor veterans and include the entire community. Everyone celebrates Independence Day and Memorial Day and similar holidays. Everyone loves to eat and laugh and share time together. Implementing a military theme and extending special invites to the families in your area is a small act that goes a long way.
  • Reaching Out to Military Spouses During Deployment ~ Small gestures like a hot meal or a cup of coffee and conversation can mean a great deal to a spouse feeling alone in a new place. Spouses are suddenly parenting alone, managing the household and missing their confidante. Just having that other person to talk to is a meaningful part of someone's day when that person is suddenly gone for a long period of time. This is all compounded by worry. Their spouse is not just gone, but likely in danger.  
  • Being Sensitive to Military Children ~ Sons and daughters missing their serving parent can display this loneliness in many ways, including misbehaving or acting out. Try and think of this before passing judgment. Their parent is not just gone, but it's likely they don't understand the absence or the potential risk.
  • Anonymous Care Packages to Deployed Veterans ~ Those who may not have a lot of family at home will appreciate your surprise packages, which don't need to contain anything special or expensive. These types of acts can truly affect a person's time away and how they feel during those long months.
  • 'Adopting' Disabled Veterans ~ Much like a big brother or sister, we can reach out and make a disabled veteran one of our own. There are so many lonely people who need only reach out to one another to find family. Discover a new parent or grandparent, in the heart of a veteran.

Check out these links on how different communities have found creative ways to reach out and support their military families.

  1. - Read about this organization using equine therapy to both lift up active duty families and treat returning soldiers suffering from PTSD. These animals have a way of touching those in need without words.
  2. - See how this Minnesota University laid the ground work for a lasting connection between military families and their communities.
  3. - The Ohio Department of Education has made it their mission to bring civilians and military families together.

Extending your support to the veterans and military families in your community isn't just easy, but it also benefits you and your family as much as those you are reaching out to. You may not be a military family, but you could easily fall into a situation where you would benefit from the help of others. Imagine this experience and just think of what would provide some relief for you and your family. Contact us for advice on personal and legal struggles for the veterans in our communities.

Veterans Disability Claims: Understanding Your Representation

19 Dec 2016

You faithfully performed your duties for your country and completed your military service. Now the injury that you sustained during your time in the military is keeping you from living a full life. You need to submit a disability claim for your service-related injury, but you don't know where to begin. Maybe you have gotten started but, so far, the process has been confusing and frustrating. You need answers.

Veterans Disability Claims

Who Can Apply For Veterans Disability Benefits?

If you are a veteran of the U.S. military and have a current injury or condition that is connected to your service, you may be eligible for disability compensation.

The Veterans Disability Claims System

You must prepare yourself - the veterans disability claims process is lengthy, time consuming, and includes a lot of paperwork. This process can be even more frustrating if you don’t have someone on your side to help you. A Veterans Service Officer (VSO) can be your advocate for your initial claims process.

Filing Your Claim With Help From A Veteran Service Office

A VSO is a representative of one of the many veteran service organizations that exist to support veterans. A good VSO has a lot of experience filing veteran’s disability claims. A VSO will assist you with understanding your eligibility, gathering appropriate information, and filing your claim. Throughout the process a VSO should provide you with the support you need to successfully navigate the VA system. They should answer your questions, help to resolve your problems, and provide you with the assistance that you need and deserve. 

It is important to understand that the VSO working with you is NOT directly affiliated with the VA. Veterans Service Officers work for organizations separate from the VA. For example, the following organizations have Veteran Service Officers nationwide:

These organizations often have offices within VA facilities, but that does not mean that they are associated with the VA. They are generally outside organizations staffed with Veterans Service Officers (VSOs) that can help identify benefits that you may qualify for and help you to apply for your benefits. 

What can I expect at my first appointment?

At your first appointment, the VSO will work with you to identify potential veterans benefits that you and your family may be eligible for through the VA. In order to represent you and help you file any applications or appeals, the VSO will have you complete paperwork (i.e., a Power of Attorney or POA) that gives them permission to access your records and speak with the VA on your behalf. Please note that this POA is for VA benefits purposes ONLY. Make sure to read the forms carefully before signing them so that you understand which organization you are working with and what types of access you are granting to the VSO.

What information do I need to apply for benefits?

While the VA is responsible for gathering information that is relevant to your claim, it is ultimately your responsibility to make sure that they have what they need. The type of information the VA is looking for will include:

  • Service treatment records (establishes an injury in service) – bring your own copy if you have one; if not the VA will request them from Archives when you file your claim.

  • Medical records (establishes a current injury) – you must obtain private treatment records yourself. The VA will only have access to VA Medical Center records. 

  • Statements from individuals that you served with (“buddy” statements), if necessary – these statements will help provide witness testimony confirming that your disability was noticed by other individuals while in service. 

  • A Disability Benefits Questionnaire completed by your physician, if you have a private physician. If you are only seeing VA Medical Center physicians, the VA will request that a physician complete the DBQ at a Compensation and Pension exam. 

Once you have gathered all of the required information, contact your VSO to set up a time to submit your claim for veterans disability benefits.

What happens once the VSO helps me submit my claim?

Once your claim is submitted, ask your VSO for:

  • Their contact information 

  • Copies of any documents filed including confirmation of fax or delivery to the VA; remember, the VSO doesn’t work for the VA so it’s important to make sure that the VSO delivers your documents to the VA.

After the application is submitted, you will be able to call the VA to check the status of your veterans disability claim. Additionally, you can register online to check the status of your claim at (your VSO can assist you with the eBenefits registration process). Please note that the eBenefits page and the 1-800-829-1000 are often confusing or missing information. You can get a better status check by contacting your VSO. 

As you wait for the VA to review the evidence, it is important to continue to attend your medical appointments. If you see physicians, psychologists, or other medical professionals through private insurance or outside of VA treatment, you should request a copy of your records after each visit and inform your VSO of any updates or changes in your medical conditions. 

The most important thing is to not get discouraged. The VA Disability Benefits Claim Process can be lengthy, overwhelming, and frustrating, but finding answers to your disability claims questions doesn’t have to be difficult. Take our free quiz today to determine what resources are available for your specific needs.

Additional Resources
U.S. Department of Veterans Appeals
List of Veterans Affairs Offices by State
Directory of Veterans Service Organizations

Volunteers Sought for Study on New Treatment for PTSD

16 Dec 2016

The number of active-duty military and veterans diagnosed with PTSD continues to climb, and to this point, there hasn't been a very promising treatment plan. That may be changing soon, as a relatively new treatment is looking for volunteers to participate in a new study.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) starts when a person experiences a traumatic incident, and is marked by depression, anxiety, flashbacks, aggression, fear, and hyper-vigilance. Until now, treatments ranged from counseling and medication to the use of medical marijuana, but for many, nothing has been found to provide relief.

Now, the US Defense Department has awarded a grant to RTI International, a research facility, to look into a treatment that has seen some improvement oversees. Right now they are looking for active duty personnel to undergo treatment in Fort Bragg, NC, Honolulu, Hawaii, or Landstuhl, Germany.

The treatment is called a stellate ganglion block, and was originally designed to help menopausal women with hot flashes. It involves getting two injections two weeks apart in the neck. Two-thirds of participants will get the local anesthetic believed to help PTSD, while one-third will get a placebo. The procedure only takes about 15 minutes.

It is believed the anesthetic affects the nerves, and, in a way, resets them to levels they were at before the trauma. Those who have gotten the treatment overseas have reported that it is not only effective, but immediate, with a noticeable difference in about 30 minutes. Occasionally, another injection is needed to get the desired reaction.

The study will run through November of 2017, and hopefully at that point there will be more scientific research to defend whether this treatment is effective or not. If you are a current or former member of the military dealing with PTSD and feel you need help with disability benefits, contact us.

Mask-Making: An Innovative Art Therapy for Veterans With PTSD and TBI

09 Dec 2016

Melissa Walker, an art therapist working with veterans, recently lead a TED Talk about the use of mask-making as a type of art therapy for veterans suffering from combined PTSD and TBI. Melissa works at the National Intrepid Center for Excellence at Walter Reed, and has found that the symbolic nature of masks, the act of putting a face on trauma, on a piece of art, can begin significant healing.

A combination of physical blast trauma and psychological injury from exposure to the inhumanity of war can lead to a protective response by the brain--it seems to wall off the trauma, to hide it away in a primitive part of the brain. This act of sequestering is an emergency response, but the longer the brain sequesters the trauma, the deeper and more entrenched it becomes.

Talking isn't going to reach into this primitive zone, and medication isn't, either. The brain is unable to process the experience because it's hidden away, and keeping it quiet and hidden and under control takes a huge amount of energy and effort.

The mask-making is a nonverbal way to give a face to this experience, a way color and form can be used to shape an experience and share feelings in a way that is powerful, direct, and healing. With a personal, concrete image taking point, traditional therapies can begin to reintegrate talking and speech to process an experience that has, until then, been out of the realm of speech-based therapies.

The National Intrepid Center for Excellence is an intensive healing therapy program that combines neurology and psychology. National Geographic recently published a photo on its cover of retired Marine Gunnery Sgt. Aaron Tam holding a mask he made in the program. The mask shows his brain exposed, first by blast trauma from combat, and then by the invasive imaging machines of modern medicine. National Geographic has published a documentary called Behind the Mask. It includes photos of vets wearing the masks they made, and short interviews with the veterans and their wives.

If you need more information on PTSD, please contact us.

Veterans with a Traumatic Brain Injury

02 Dec 2016

traumatic brain injury occurs when a blow or jolt to the head takes place that disrupts the normal functioning of the brain.

According to the CDC, each year in the United States, approximately 1.7 million people sustain a traumatic brain injury. Of these, about 50,000 die, 275,000 become hospitalized, and 1.4 million end up treated and released from an emergency room. In addition, according to the Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center, each year, over 20,000 U.S. military service men and women sustain a traumatic brain injury.

The most common reason that military personnel suffer a traumatic brain injury is due to shrapnel or being hit with some other object from a blast. Physical symptoms can include blurred vision, dizziness, headaches, problems with coordination that affects walking or other activities, vomiting, ringing in the ears, seizures, or unconsciousness. Psychological symptoms can include agitation, confusion, depression, memory problems, mood swings, or slurred speech. Symptoms can last for a short time, or they can last a lifetime.

According to the Military Times, in 2016, more than 24,000 veterans qualified for a second medical exam for brain injury. Due to confusion with the VA's policy of requiring exams by only certain doctors, a large number of veterans were erroneously denied disability or received a lower disability rating.

If you're a veteran and have suffered a traumatic brain injury while serving your country and haven't received the compensation you're due, contact us immediately. The Veterans Law Group -- though located just outside of San Diego, California -- represents veterans in every state. Working with a trusted veterans disability lawyer is your best chance for getting more benefits from the earliest effective date possible.