There are many benefits available to those who served in the military, many that veterans fail to take advantage of either because they are not aware the benefits exist or because they have no knowledge as to how to go about it or where to find the right form, and finally learning how to file.
Some may say that this was done by design to make up for funding limitations. This article is not intended to prove or disprove such allegations but one point is clear, don’t expect anyone to contact you or offer assistance unless you ask for it first. It is up to you to initiate the effort to obtain these benefits.
This article is intended to enlighten you (veterans) as to some of what is available as well as point you in the direction to seek out and obtain those benefits. As one veteran put it to me recently, “You performed your part for your country by placing your life on the line and now it is time for the country to fulfill its promise to you in return.”
Let us use the name John Doe for a real person who left the U.S. Army with service connected injuries years before computers, mass electronic storage devices or the Internet became household names. He applied for disability by writing down the dates and circumstances surrounding his in-service injuries and submitted a claim to the Veterans Administration expecting they would check his records, verify his inputs then award him for the damages incurred. Of course, they denied his claims, not because he wasn’t entitled to them, but because he had failed to follow proper procedure, probably the single most important reason given for denying claims. That’s when he learned he had the right to appeal and something more about the meaning of the term Nexus.
What is Nexus? In VA jargon it means a medical link or relationship between the in-service injury and a present disability, and is often described as a three-legged stool:
(1) An in-service documented injury or disease (condition),
(2) Medical evidence of a present condition,
(3) And a connection between the in-service condition and the present out-of-service condition, i.e., Nexus.
It would be many years later before Doe would learn more details, like a disability claim should be supported by a letter from a medical doctor, preferably board certified in the conditions listed in the claim. The doctor states that he or she has thoroughly reviewed all available and pertinent medical records, and this next part is critical, including not only “civilian” medical records but Service Medical Records as well. It is important to note that the VA follows an almost exact code when it comes to the wording used in these Nexus letters. The doctor states that based on his/her examination, the present condition is “due to” (100% due to) OR “more likely than not” (more than 50% likely) or “at least as likely as not” (50% likely) or “not at least as likely as not” (less than 50% likely) or “is not due to” (0% likely)… the in-service injury or exposure, and that he or she believes the existing condition and the in-service condition are connected.
When John Doe’s hand-written claim was denied back in those days without the Internet and computer based system, he wrote to the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC) asking for his medical records and was notified they did not exist. All your records, they claimed, had perished in the infamous fire that occurred in St. Louis in 1973. With that piece of information, any hope he had of ever filing a claim or an appeal went out the window.
Fast forward to 2004 when Doe learned from the Internet that it might be possible to reconstruct his lost medical records. One reply to the many inquiries he sent out came from NPRC, the ones who told him his records had perished in the fire. This time, decades after the fact, they wrote to tell him: “Good news! We are happy to inform you that your military record was not affected by the fire…” Finally, he could file his appeal – but not retroactively. Those prior decades during which they kept telling him his files had burned were lost years when he could have been receiving compensation. It was as though he had left the Army in 2005 instead of 1962.
After years of frustration, with no one helping him and not knowing where to start, John Doe began a new odyssey of learning where to go and what to do, and guess what? After all those years, he’s still learning. Only a few months ago he discovered he would have been entitled to a higher disability payment each month because he has a wife but failed to report her. Buried in reams of paperwork the VA sent was a line telling him they had him listed as a single man. Either he never saw the part that listed him as single or he did not know its meaning in terms of dollars, and even if he did see it there, how was he to know that being married entitled me to about sixty more dollars a month? Either way, the VA was not obligated to go back and reimburse him for the lost payments. The point of this story is that if you don’t seek out these benefits, you won’t get them and then some day when you do discover they exist, the VA won’t necessarily make them retroactive to make up for your past mistake or failure to apply.
So, as you can see, these and many more benefits do exist for veterans but it’s up to you to find out which they are and if you are entitled to them. Perhaps the best place to start is by finding an advocate. There are plenty of places to seek out an advocate who will guide you through the maze of obstacles and educate you on just what is available to you: the DAV, AMVETS, VFW, American Legion, Blinded Veterans Association, and local county service officers, to list a few – and they are free.
Included below is a link that you can click on to take you to a long list of sites that describe veteran benefits. Some sites on this list have been removed and others replaced but I ran a test of each site on 3/8/2010 and found that around 70% were still active. I cannot list the hyperlinks here for you because I am restricted from including more than four in any one article included herein. But if you follow the above link that I included below as “Links for Veterans,” you can get to each one that I have listed here as active.
A sampling of a few important sites are described briefly below:
1. Board of Veterans Appeals: The Board of Veterans’ Appeals (also known as “BVA” or “the Board”) is a part of the VA, located in Washington, D.C. Members of the Board review benefit claims made by local VA offices then issue decision on appeals.
2. Veterans Benefits and General Information: This site lists all benefits and provides links to each, including Education, Home Loans, Compensation and Pension, Survivor’s Benefits, Vocational Rehab, Life Insurance. Also benefits for veterans returning from Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom.
3. Veterans Benefits Administration: This is where you can look up the Code of Federal Regulations (38 CFR).
4. Veterans Benefits Administration – 38CFR Book C: Schedule for Rating Disabilities, an important reference when filing a claim or making an appeal.
5. GI Bill Website: The Post 9/11 GI Bill provides financial support for education and housing to individuals with at least 90 days of aggregate service on or after September 11, 2001, or individuals discharged with a service-connected disability after 30 days.
Below is a list of the 70% that tested Active on “Links for Veterans.” You can go to the actual list by clicking on the following link: http://thedonovan.com/archives/2008/12/links_for_veter_2.html
- Board of Veteran’s Appeals
- CARES Commission
- Center for Minority Veterans
- Center for Women Veterans
- Compensation Rate Table
- Department of Veterans Affairs Home Page
- Directory of Veterans Service Organizations
- Disability Examination Worksheets Index, Comp
- Electronic Code of Federal Regulations
- Emergency, Non-emergency, and Fee Basis Care
- Environmental Agents
- EVALUATION PROTOCOL FOR GULF WAR AND IRAQI FREEDOM VETERANS WITH POTENTIAL EXPOSURE TO DEPLETED URANIUM (DU): See also, Depleted Uranium Fact Sheet:
- EVALUATION PROTOCOL FOR NON-GULF WAR VETERANS WITH POTENTIAL EXPOSURE TO DEPLETED URANIUM (DU)
- Federal Benefits for Veterans and Dependants 2005
- Forms and Records Request:
- Geriatrics and Extended Care
- GI Bill Website
- GI Bill Post 9/11
- Guide to Gulf War Veteran’s Health
- Gulf War Subject Index
- Gulf War Veteran’s Illnesses Q&As
- Homeless Veterans
- Index to Disability Examination Worksheets C&P exams
- M21-1 Table of Contents
- Mental Disorders, Schedule of Ratings
- Mental Health Program Guidelines
- My Health eVet: NASDVA.COM National Association of State Directors
- Neurological Conditions and Convulsive Disorders, Schedule of Ratings
- OMI (Office of Medical Inspector)
- Online VA Form 10-10EZ
- Parkinson’s Disease and Related Neurodegenerative Disorders
- Policy Manual Index
- Prosthetics Eligibility
- Public Health and Environmental Hazards Home Page
- Publications Manuals: Records Center and Vault Homepage
- Records Center and Vault Site Ma
- REQUEST FOR AND CONSENT TO RELEASE OF INFORMATION FROM CLAIMANT’S RECORD
- Research Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans Illnesses April 11, 2002
- Pensions, Bonuses & Veterans Relief (also 3.317 Compensation for certain disabilities due to undiagnosed illnesses found here): U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims
- VA Best Practice Manual for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
- VA Loan Lending Limits and Jumbo Loans
- VA National Hepatitis C Progra
- VA Office of Research and Develompment:
- VA Trainee Pocket Card on Gulf War
- VA WMD EMSHG
- Vet Center Eligibility – Readjustment Counseling Service
- Veterans Benefits Administration Main Web Page
- Veterans Benefits Administration – 38CFR Book C
- Veterans Legal and Benefits Information
- VHA Forms, Publications, Manuals
- VHA Public Health Strategic Health Care Group Home Page
- Vocational Rehabilitation
- VONAPP online
- WARMS – 38 CFR Book C
- War-Related Illness and Injury Study Center – New Jersey
- Welcome to the GI Bill Web Site