So what about the recent VA Fast Letter regarding the incentive program around Fully Developed Claims for disability compensation? Should veterans jump or not? One question I’ve heard is how the veteran is supposed to access his/her service record. Even as experienced advocates, this is a difficulty we face everyday. In fact, lack of records is far and away the biggest reason for denials. For a little background, if you serve in the military, the Department of Defense keeps all your records from your service.
At some point when you begin working within the VA benefits system, you will do a double take when a veteran brings you a decision that says their combined disability rating is 50% but there are 2 disabilities listed at 30% each. You will correctly assume that 30+30=60, but with “VA math,” this is not the case. This may be confusing, but hopefully this quick introduction will help you understand the process of combining ratings.
For a veteran to file a claim, or “intend to file” a claim, there are only a few very basic requirements. It must be in writing. Sounds odd, but it can be written on anything, but it must be a written statement. In fact, I’ve seen ones scribbled on top of a phonebook page that was accepted. Now as to what is actually written in the statement, it must describe the benefit sought and expressing some intent to seek it. 38 CFR 3.1(p) and 3.155(a).
Those who served in Vietnam and have PTSD have been victimized by the government, particularly by the Army, in various ways. Two of the most damaging ways that has happened have been to classify veterans with PTSD symptoms as having not PTSD but a personality disorder, or, worse yet, by giving them less than honorable discharges, even when their conduct was caused or influenced by the PTSD. Either of those results could make a veteran ineligible for compensation benefits from the VA that he might otherwise be entitled to.