Lessons Learned Filing for VA Disability

Hi folks, I’ve been away from the blog for two years, and wasn’t very active for two years before that. I’m hoping that I’m on the verge of a comeback. For now, I wanted to write up some lessons we learned filing for VA disability last year. I realized that we’re already forgetting some of the pain and frustration we went through, and I thought that if I could memorialize some key points here, it might help others navigate the unknown territory and provide some starting points and resources for more information.

Don’t Assume Everything is in Your Medical Record

To prove a service-connected disability, the VA is going to be looking for a diagnosis of your injury or condition in your medical records, during your years of service. To ensure that you actually HAVE that information, request your medical record from the unit and scan or make a hard copy of the entire thing. The VA will need a copy for the claim, and you need to review it first, to make sure you have support for the things you want to claim.

Read through it all. Look for your specific diagnosis detail. Flag those pages with sticky notes, make a catalog of the page numbers where to find things, whatever method works for you to help easily find that information again. If you don’t own the full version of Adobe Acrobat or don’t have access to it in some way, I would suggest it’s worth the money to invest in it. It will make the process faster, but this is all doable with paper copies if that’s your only option. With Adobe, you can use the Find function to search for key words for your condition and jump directly to the information you need.

As you go through your records, you may find that (a) you don’t have the diagnosis that you thought had you been given at some point, or (b) that some of your records are missing from the file. (We ran into the latter.) If you are missing a diagnosis that you thought you had, see your doctor about your condition(s) and have them documented into your record before you separate. Get copies of any additional records to add to your master copy at home.

If records are missing altogether, which is what happened to us due to service in remote areas and being treated at civilian facilities, start reaching out to those facilities and request your medical records. Don’t assume all your records were appropriately provided and added to your military file. We thought it had been done, and it fell through the cracks.

Use DD Form 2870 to request your records. We had better success at obtaining records in a timely fashion when listing the unit HS as the person to release the records to. Just be diligent and stay in constant contact with the HS to follow up and know that the records were received, and make a copy for yourself when they come in. You can request to have records released to you personally, but some facilities dragged their feet when we did that. Regardless, if you have to track down old records that were not in your official file, be prepared to make a lot of calls, and to do a lot of follow up. Don’t expect someone else to take care of it for you or to make you their priority. You might have some headaches at this stage, but just keep following up until you have everything you need. If any records are sent directly to you rather than the unit, make a copy to for yourself, and then provide them to your HS to be added to the official file.

Get Help with the Actual Filing

Use someone who knows the system to help you file. We used Disabled American Veterans (DAV) and I would highly recommend their service. (We had some frustrations but it was worth it in the end.) There are many other Veteran Service Organizations offering filing assistance as well. Contact a VSO and find a representative to work with early on; don’t wait until you need to file and you’re up against a deadline. Many transition officers are volunteers with limited availability and very full schedules.

VA Pays One Month Behind – and a there’s a “Zero” Month

Our decision paperwork said our payment start date was November 1st. When no payment arrived, we contacted the VA and this is what we were told. Keep this in mind when planning your budget.

Because we received your claim within one year of your release from active duty (RAD), the effective date of your claim is the day following your RAD. Your RAD is September 30, 2018, so your effective date is the first of the month following your discharge date which is October 1, 2018. Your payment entitlement date is the first of the following month. You will receive this money the first of the next month (because the VA pays one month behind). For example:

RAD: September 30
Effective Date: October 1
Payment Start Date: November 1
Actual Pay Date: December 1


Payment of VA benefits starts the first day of the month following the award of benefits. The award date is the date the application was received or the date the individual became a Veteran which leaves a “zero” month of payment between the discharge or retirement date in which no benefits are paid.

The Math is Confusing

Most people know this but don’t really understand it. I won’t try to explain it either, because I get it but I don’t think I can explain in a few words. If you want to try to understand it better, a very good explanation is provided by the VA here, along with a lot of other helpful information. Bottom line, if you have, for example, 7 disabilities with the following percentages: 50, 20, 20, 10, 10, 10, 10, your combined won’t be 130, it will be 80. This awesome website will do the math for you so you can do some estimating and planning your budget so you’re not just waiting and wondering how your claim might add up.

Be Realistic About Expectations

Read up on how the VA determines their ratings. Think about your condition(s) and research how the VA will view them. You might think something is terrible to live with and should be considered more severe than how the VA views it. It might be a hard pill to swallow but knowing up front how your health conditions are translated into “disabilities” by the VA ahead of time will help you be more prepared. It will also let you know whether you need to revisit your doctor to discuss and document the severity of a condition. If you’ve never been truly honest with your doctor about the severity, your records won’t support your claim. Don’t sweep your condition under the rug because you feel like you’re admitting weakness. If you’ve been adversely affected or injured during your time of service, disability is a benefit that you have every right to claim.

Types of Claims and When to File

There are many different types of claims and everyone’s situation is different. We filed a claim through the Benefits Delivery at Discharge (BDD) but that might not fit your situation. Visit the VA website to read more about the many different options. Or contact a VSO to start getting hands-on help from a transition officer.

If you have questions about our experience that I haven’t mentioned here, please feel free to contact me. I’ve included additional links for other resources that I used or found helpful below.

Actual VA Schedule for Disability Ratings – dry and technical, but helpful

More about VA math

Veterans Benefits Video Series on YouTube

Veteran’s Law Blog

Update on Harmony’s Unexpected Adventures

xmas2015-2For those of you following Harmony’s progress since my last post in December, she had her stem cell transplant in January. She spent a little over two weeks in the hospital. The process really wreaked havoc on her body but she’s a tough girl and she hung in there. It was a long road. Thankfully, she’s back in her apartment now, resting and recovering.

If you’d like to read more first-hand progress, please visit her blog.

Thank you to everyone who has wished her well, donated for her cause, or just kept her in your thoughts. Every bit of love and support is appreciated. ❤



“All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.

From the ashes a fire shall be woken,
A light from the shadows shall spring;
Renewed shall be blade that was broken,
The crownless again shall be king.”
~ J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring  

Lilla Rose Flexi-Clips are AMAZING!

I stumbled on these unique clips at the Puyallup Fair last year. I am so thankful that Don kept me from walking right on by the booth. In my opinion, Lilla Rose Flexi-Clips are the next generation of up-do clips. They are far superior to that ugly old claw clip we’ve all been using for years. I don’t know about you, but those claws put dents in my head that give me headaches! I’ve been using flexi-clips almost every day for the last four months and I’ve never had a single day that I got a headache or an uncomfortable dent. And they are so much prettier! 🙂

The clips come in various sizes. I have three – an extra-small, medium, and large. We bought the extra-small and the medium at the fair.

three clips

The small one is good for half-up hair days.

small clip

The medium one is good for the half french twist, flip up and over, ponytail sort of look. The downside is you don’t see the clip but OMG it’s so comfortable and easy to do.

medium clip

I managed to also use the medium for a full bun, sort of smooshed and crammed into the clip. I made it work but it’s wasn’t easy and I didn’t wear it that way often. For Christmas, my SIL gave me a large clip and BOOM, now I’m all set for full bun action, or messy full body days that just need a bigger clip.

Large Clip

I would say I’m all set and don’t need any more clips, but really…what girl couldn’t use more styles? I have a feeling the clips are going to be like scarves for me…I can never have too many.

There is a bit of a learning curve to using the clips, but there are lots of youtube tutorials and, I’m betting that a lot of ladies out there are even more coordinated than me and would get the hang of it pretty quickly. 🙂

So, ladies…I’m here to tell you…go check out the flexi-clip at Lilla Rose! It’s worth every penny and I promise you that you will fall in love.

The hair is the richest ornament of women.
~ Martin Luther

Reading Corner – Take Me Tomorrow

take me tomorrowTake Me Tomorrow is hard to describe. My impression of it is that it is an intriguing story of a future, dystopian North America. The United States has dissolved into a fractionated world of Regions due to a war precipitated by a clairvoyant drug called tomo. Following an uprising from tomo users and supporters that results in a massacre, the Regions are created and strictly controlled by the governing body, the State. Travel and communication between Regions is rare. Punishments for any illegal activity are swift and harsh. Within these strict boundaries, curfews, and rules lives Sophia Gray and her father. Sophia exists in a Matrix-like bubble of ignorance of the ongoing undercurrent of war between citizens and the State, but her ignorance is slowly stripped away as she learns that she and her friends are right in the heart of the resistance.

The story is told from Sophia’s point of view and readers learn along with her as her perceptions of the world change. Details about the plot and the structure of world are revealed slowly through the dialogue and action surrounding Sophia. It’s a style choice that isn’t my favorite but Thompson handles it well. She unwraps the story piece by piece in a way that keeps readers guessing and turning pages for more. I wanted even more detail in some regards but I think that the lack of detail is either intentional and will be revealed in a later installment (Thompson is already working on Book 2) or it is simply a result of writing for a younger target audience.

Overall, I think Thompson does a good job of crafting a unique young adult story with relatable characters. There is a bit of romance but it’s not heavy-handed (which I appreciated) and it doesn’t detract from the main plot and action. I have personally outgrown the young adult genre but despite that I still enjoyed the story and I think that fans of the Hunger Games, Divergent, and similar stories would really enjoy it.

Unfortunately, Take Me Tomorrow isn’t currently available for purchase. I was provided a review copy in exchange for an honest review (many months ago. I’m really behind schedule!) The good news is that Thompson is working on re-releasing it, probably in conjunction with Book 2. You can keep an eye on her progress here.

A book is a dream that you hold in your hand.
~ Neil Gaiman

Reading Corner – Indie Author Debut: Backlash by T.R. Lemke

backlashFantasy fans and fellow book lovers, you simply MUST check out T.R. Lemke’s debut novella Backlash. It is well-written and intriguing. If you enjoy fantasy, supporting indie authors of any genre, or are an agent looking for the next big name, you should read Backlash. It’s a quick read, more of a novella than a full size novel so don’t expect grand world development – not yet. That’s going to come later in Lemke’s full-scale fantasy series. (Agents, seriously, someone needs to discover this author.)

Backlash is the story of a working-class young man struggling to make ends meet in a society ruled by nobility. Running his family’s business alone and attempting to support his ailing mother, Samel can barely stay ahead of his debts. One day he is approached by a stranger who offers to apprentice him to a new craft. Desperate to escape the wrath of the tax collectors and to finance proper treatment for his mother’s illness Samel accepts. He learns quickly and life begins to change for Samel. But the price of his education is far more than he could have ever imagined.

No spoilers here. You have to read it to know more. I can tell you that Lemke has a knack for storytelling. His character development is well-done. The imagery is vivid. He has a strong grasp of the martial arts and it shows through the well-crafted fight scenes. Having also read some of Lemke’s other work in progress I know that it’s set in the same world as his larger scale series and that was particularly fun for me. Regardless of that, I think that any fan of fantasy will recognize a strong new author for the genre.

Read more about Backlash and T.R. Lemke on Smashwords or connect with T.R. Lemke on Facebook.

Killing a man was easy; there were many ways to stop the machinery of man’s body.
~ Samel Dorwen, Backlash