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VA Disability is a benefit for Veterans who were injured or suffered an illness while in the Service and now have disabilities as a result. You need to show that you have disabilities as a result of an injury or illness and the Nexus; the connection between your current disabilities and the injury/illness from when you were in the Service. You can file your own claims online or by snail mail. You can seek out the assistance from a VSO (Veterans Service Officer) or DAV, VFW, etc. You may also seek out an attorney to represent you. Only an attorney can charge a fee of 20% of any retro pay.
It would be best to have Medical reports of your disabilities from your private sector medical care providers. The VA Medical Centers and Clinics are NOT setup to document your disabilities nor are they able to render medical opinions. This is something which is frowned upon by the VA. When you file your Claim(s) the RO (Regional Office) has the duty to assist you in making a Fully Developed Claim. They will gather your medical records, ask for your Statement and may also schedule you for C&P (Compensation & Pension) medical exams.
All of the above is readily available at any Veterans site. I want to share my experiences with you. I originally filed in 2005. Was Denied and asked for reconsideration. Denied again and walked away. Big mistake. Also, if you're being medically discharged, follow up with the VA to begin the disability process prior to separation. I screwed that up as well. Fast forward to 2013 and I filed my claims again. This time, I'd used one of those advocate companies. They did all of the paper work but they claimed many things that are not Service Connected.
Denied again 2014 and this time, I hired my own Attorney. He did the NOD (Notice of Disagreement). 20% of something is always better than 0% of nothing. He was able to get me a Hearing at the Regional Office with a DRO (Decision Review Officer). Following the Hearing, I had several C&P Exams; one very favorable and the other, not good. Finally, Sept. 2017 I was Rated 50% for Panic/Anxiety and 10% for Asthma. I had two collapsed lungs in the Service. Collapsed lungs on their own are not disabling, however, the left chest tube was EXTREMELY painful after insertion.
We Appealed their decision and entered the Legacy Appeal Process. The RO sat on the Certification for almost two years. Jul 2019, my Appeal was Certified to the Board (BVA). 29 Oct 2019 my Appeal was Remanded. Now once I digested the Judge's Order, I'd realized that he was challenging the C&P Exam from 2017. Stacked against all of the evidence, that DBQ needs much more explanation. He also wants the effective date of the Asthma to be earlier. Went to two more exams at the VA Medical Center. The guy was literally cussing about what I had gone through. He had completed the DBQ (Disability Benefit Questionnaire) completely in my favor. Said it should take a month.
The most important thing I did was to research the procedure for placing a chest tube. Come to find out that accidental injuries caused by the tube are common. I also reached out to a local Lung Doctor; he nailed it by concluding that the chest tube likely caused injury to the intercostal nerve. I'd also sent to the Board, medical article on complications from a chest tube. Both the article and my doc's report are cited in the Remand Order. I feel pretty good that I will get SC for collapsed lungs/chest wall defect, increased Rating and earlier effective date for asthma and IU (Individual Unemployability).
You must own your disabilities. You must request a copy of your C-File; this is where you'll find all of your Service medical records. Never assume that the VA will comb through your records; that's your job. Do the leg work. Even with my Attorney, I did all of the research and leg work. I don't care who gets credit for whatever; all I care about is winning. Take full ownership of your case and your chances of winning increase greatly. Leaving your case to others is a disaster. Don't repeat my mistakes. Don't try to talk yourself out of the benefits like "there are Vets with blown up limbs; they need it more than me" yeah, I did that too. We're all entitled to those Benefits as long as we stay in the game and never give up.
One more area that I would like address: The VA is jammed up big time. Every Veteran is entitled to have the VA help them with their claims. How many could possibly be, not Service Connected? We'll never know but it's a long process and it can be aggravating. Never assume anything and keep your expectations to a minimum. Never put your full faith in what you see happening on va.gov Stuff moves around and goes back a step and so on. When you get something in writing, that is the Gospel. Their site is a useful guide, that's it. Take full advantage of it; you can upload documents to help your claim. I bought one of those cheapo USB fax/modems...best $25 I ever spent. I was able to fax directly to the BVA and also to evidence intake in Janesville, Wisconsin. Learn, Research and fully understand the process. Good luck. I'm in the Facebook Group all of the time. The only stupid question is the one that is not asked.