The Veteran's Adminstration has changed!

My husband is a disabled American veteran. He had an injury when he was just starting in the Army decades ago. It was hard as hell to get service connection when it happened. It was hard as hell to get treatment at all, and over the years his health got a bit worse and treatment caused more health problems with only one increase in disability percentage. The injury has caused his health to decline in a number of ways, and finally, today, someone is taking notice. It seems like it is a whole different organization.

If you don’t mind me asking, how do you get an increase in disability percentage?

Oh, and its great that changes are happening for you.

Well, this time, he went to the VA doctor because any walking was extremely painful. The issue was with his ankle, and it did not seem to be healing. The doctor said that it was an expected consequence of the last treatment for the original injury so the treatment would be completely covered, and he told my husband what he needed to do to get the VA to look at upping his disability percentage. This has represented a significant loss of mobility, and it will get worse. I don’t know exactly who initiated what, but the doctor documented his findings and the VA has begun looking into them. He got a call today asking questions about other issues that happened after the service connected injury and the person interviewing him talked about how many of them can be fairly directly linked to the service connected injury and its treatment. That is not to say or imply the treatment was incompetent. One consequence has been stomach issues due to medications used to treat symptoms. Other issues include strain on muscles, joints, etc. from having to compensate for the ones that were injured.

Originally he had filed for service connection and later appealed the finding, and then when he got much worse, asked the to reevaluate again. The first appeal changed his discharge to honorable, as well as upped the percentage and established that the type of injury meant that his condition would get worse and his claim would need to be reevaluated when it did. One reason they changed his discharge to honorable is that he was initially told after the injury he had bone cancer by a doctor that had the habit of telling injured recruits they had bone cancer and that is why they were injured so easily. Also the injury was initially caused by a drill instructor driving an overloaded vehicle in excess of the speed limit and then forcing him to march until he could not, accusing him of feigning injury. Before he left the service, she was made to apologize in public, and soon as his home doctor documented how it was not bone cancer, the original doctor lost his license. They felt his handling of all that nonsense merited the better discharge.

I have known several people who worked for the VA, including my dad at one point. The one thing they have all agreed on is that the VA is full of well meaning people trying to do the right thing, but it is hideously hampered by bureaucracy and a fair amount of incompetence. The common line I heard is that they will usually do the right thing… eventually, if you live that long.

I tend to agree with this. I volunteered with PVA (Paralyzed Veterans of America) and one thing I did was help people get services and I found out that the VA was very picky about forms.

If it wasn’t filled in just so, they kicked it right back. And some of these kicked back issues were, in my opinion very minor.

If you did exactly what the VA said, with NO arguments or variations they would get to you. But the VA clerks could get nasty and it wouldn’t suprise me if you got a bit testy with a VA worker he might put your paperwork at the bottom of the pile, repeatedly.

But if you followed their procedures, line by line, step by step, filling in every box or marking it N/A they’d get to you.

I do think unfortunately too many are getting lost in the beaurocracy

That is just it, this is nothing like what you describe. A couple of weeks after his doctor suggested this round and hubby called them, he heard back from the VA, and this is the kicker, they are the ones filling out any forms. The guy who called today, called back a while after the first call to clarify a few things. He was pleasant and helpful and explained why he asked the questions he asked.

Every VA hospital gives office space to representatives of the DAV and VFW to assist veterans with paperwork and to help negotiate the red tape associated with pursuing a claim.

My husband is 100% Service connected disabled, for several conditions and injuries including Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia due to Agent Orange exposure. Our DAV rep has earned national recognition for his work with vets in our area.

Although DAV and VFW have offices in VA hospitals, even with their help, claims were an ordeal. We had one set of forms to fill out this time. We had to fill it out partly because it involved statements of how his disability is affecting his life.

Yesterday, my husband went in for a medical evaluation related to his claim. At first the doctor was chiding him that if he needed to push past the pain or his ankle would just atrophy from lack of use. And then she examined him and apologized. Her opinion is that if he pushes it when it is as swollen as it is, then the deterioration will accelerate. She also noted that the reason he can’t take medication that would help reduce inflammation was the mishandling by VA doctors of his medication in the years immediately following his injury. For every medical answer my husband gave, she was able to find a reference in his medical records so she could use that reference in her notes. All the records were there, they even had on the computer all the records his doctors from outside the VA had sent.

I think it is interesting that she started on such a negative note and as she examined him and heard what he had been doing she changed her tune. It seems that he had followed the path that she would have recommended for him. She went through the entire list of drugs that might help, and as we had thought, the only one that is a candidate for him is Vioxx, which is very hard to get these days. She also noted that he had not received all the disability payments that he is entitled too when his knee was replaced.

They tell us that we should hear something within six weeks of when the claim was filed.I don’t know what will come of this, but I still say the VA has changed.