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OEF/OIF Veteran Access

 I. What are the major legitimate concerns of recent combat veterans in their Department of Veterans Affairs claims this Memorial Day?

The most serious is a claim for medical services and injury; the number is about 20% of the deployed combat force. The congressional blocking of employment opportunity for veterans plays a major role when wounded veterans decide to make a VA claim. Major issue: The time between when the claim is first filed until the time payment is made is considered "lost economic time" and largely contributes to the inability of veterans to catch up to their civilian counterparts who did not serve. In order to alleviate the punishing effect this lost time can have on the accumulation of wealth there are several things to consider. First, during the waiting period receive medical treatment even though you may have to do that under Medicaid's medically needy program and ask for an income limit waiver if you need to. Second, if the disability is psychiatric or a combination with medical do the same. Third, just show up at the Dept. of Veterans Affairs for medical treatment with a copy of your medical record and all active duty separation papers. Don't sit and hang out outside the system waiting for DVA. Go to their Medical Center.

II. For those that do not use DVA get into a community college program. Seek out those programs that have veteran open enrollment for one year and move around from academic program to program while you adjust. Every student needs this. Experiment and gain credits. Apply for work study. Ask about subsidized learning and externships, work at Mc Donalds, but keep moving towards your degree. Stay in the veterans club on campus and volunteer. Accept advice and handouts but keep moving. Go to church dinners and make connections. By the way,go to the public library and find out who the companies and government leaders are who are also veterans and ask for their advice.

III. Those that have serious wounds, may ask the DVA to hospitalize them, and ask they receive disability payments temporarily during the hospitalization. If DVA approves you might get up to 100% temp disability during hospital, but though a valued option, the temp disability is not binding on DVA to make your final rating 100%. But it is enough to get into the hospital for a serious condition and get treatment.

IV. After approval of DVA disability do not overlook the Aid and Attendance benefit if you need it for assist living.

V. Most states have a network of psychiatric day programs that will accept serious conditions that require psychiatric partial hospitalization and placement into a residential care setting. Once stable, a person can apply for Easter Seals residential care or another partial independent living provider. Ask DVA if Aid and Attendance can cover some of these services if your state limits these type of services. Psychology Today online has psychologists, psychiatrist, nurse practitioners and clinical social workers who specialize in post 911 PTSD treatment; you'll also find combat veterans, reservists and family members among their ranks. Red Cross also maintains a listing of these psychotherapists.

VI. Employment in the civilian sector does not play a major role in a DVA service connected disability claim because DVA concerns itself only whether a disability happened when on active duty military service. If you have a civilian employment offer take it. Lets say you work 4 yrs. at $5,000 and save $5,000.00 you hold and invest it in yourself or child. Go to the DVA website type ELIGIBILITY.

VII. DVA disability and Social Security Disability: SSD does take into consideration civilian employment and not necessarily military disability. In other words you may be disabled by DVA standards but not by SSD because you can do SOMETHING. If you can make burgers you won't need SSD. (Don't send me an email to explain the reasoning-it doesn't always make sense!)

My final advice is that if you need government help get it, but get it at the right government office. If you have serious compensable disability issues (all major disability is serious) don't waste your time at the local DVA community clinic and Vet Centers as they won't have the desire and the credential authority to argue for your condition to the VA Benefits evaluator. When I was with DVA I had the license and credential authority being recognized by the Veterans Benefits Administration to make PTSD and other psychiatric diagnoses (which they upheld in 99% of cases with an AMVETS VSO doing the paperwork.) These days most intake center workers don't have state licenses in the mental health and psychiatric field. You can read about this in my book Family Faith Land and Mysticism- its quite entertaining to say the least.

VIII. Just don't deal with intake community locations and expect high level results. Go to the top executive- special assistant to the medical director (an actual job title at the DVA medical center) is your best bet to register major complaints. If you're of the anti-government belief go to your nearest civilian medical center but go somewhere.

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