I've said it once, and I'll say it again, it's on you to see to it that you get the proper medical compensation for your time in the service. Besides, it's your right.
Many of you and your peers will no doubt feel that you're taking advantage of the system or taking away from "someone who deserves it" if you apply for a Veterans Affair Disability/Compensation Claim. I fully admit, I too was in the same mindset a few years ago, however, I now scoff at such a thought.
If you do feel this way I have some good news for you: you're NOT doing anything wrong. Applying for VA compensation is actually part of you being in the service. Yep, it's true. Here's some good gouge I received in an email from a co-worker;
What you're thinking: It doesn’t feel right to be rated like the people with combat injuries.
The truth: This is part of your compensation package already appropriated by Congress and you are giving this part back to the Treasury. The wounded soldier gets the same base pay as you. Are you going to donate your Base Pay back too? You volunteered for the CG, but you gave the best 10, 20, or 30 years of your life. This is a recognition of the physical and mental toll that service to your country took on your body and mind.
What you're thinking: I’m preventing others from getting the money.
The truth: Nope. Funding is available for all veterans who have service-connected disabilities.
What you're thinking: If I get 100% disability, I can’t work.
The truth: False. There are tons of people that work with a 100% VA disability rating. The only way anyone will know that you are rated at any percentage is if you tell them. The VA would get a HIPAA violation (and the person that did the violation would be personally liable) if they told anyone, including your employer or other government agency. Also, the compensation is about $3K per month (give or take). So $36K/year is not likely your full employment value (adjusted for location). It’s a system design to compensate you for the reduction in work ability. It acknowledges that because of service-connected disabilities you are not employable to your full potential. There are many fed, state and local government employees that have 100% rating.
What you're thinking: The VA is not effective or trustworthy.
The truth: Not the modern VA. You must give them a chance and see. We have corrected claims from 1990. They are not perfect, but they are not your grandfather’s VA.
What you're thinking: I’m just getting old.
The truth: Get over yourself. You didn’t serve in your worst years. You served in your best years and that wear and tear reduces your ability to work. You didn’t question running in dress shoes. You took orders, not requests.
What you're thinking: I don’t want to be disabled.
The truth: You are correct and this is a good attitude. Maybe this program has a bad title but it really is just about compensation. Many others such as police and fireman have these programs, just with some better program names. Again, nobody knows but you. It is about proper compensation. Call it VA Pay instead of Disability Pay.
Now that you've accepted the fact that you CAN and SHOULD submit a compensation claim we can move on.
While you're getting your medical records ready you should also be researching who you're going to use as your Veterans Service Organizations Rep. Don't be fooled, you need one, don't go it alone! (Oh, and it's FREE!!!)
Find a VA Advocate
Rule one, your advocate won't be able to submit your record until 180 days (6-months) out from your actual retirement date, but they can assist with getting your claim and package together within a few days/weeks of the 180-day date. So if you call them more than seven months out and they say they can't help right now, they're not blowing you off, they just can't do anything yet.
An advocate is a volunteer to help you. These heroes are trained to scour our records to find any potential medical issues that may be of hindrance to you now and/or into the future and can be linked back to your service. These ailments are the ones that are eligible for compensation. They're taught to look over your records in terms of 38 CFR, Book C, Schedule for Rating Disabilities. YOU, the member, also need to know what this says. This is the bible when it comes to what percentage(s) you get for your claim.
The process of a VA claim is one we can spend pages upon pages on, so I implore you to start your own research into the world of VA advocacy and compensation. That includes doing some digging on your advocate- not all VA Advocates are the same. Ask around for reviews and advice, it'll save you a lot of trouble in the long run. If you find someone who's trying to charge for this service, this is a big red-flag! Do not pay for this service.
Submit your claim
No need for me to get into this, your advocate will give you the details you need. But in short, once they do their review they'll give you some paperwork to submit along with your medical records to the VA. This makes the processing on the VA's side go a lot quicker as the VA rep has something to start with.
Within a few weeks of submitting your record to the Department of Veterans Affairs you'll get a call and/or some packages in the mail to schedule your VA evaluation(s). These appointments determine your percentage of disability. Word of caution: DO NOT MISS THESE APPOINTMENTS. If you do, you run the risk of having to wait until after you retire to reschedule your assessment(s).
I'm working on more posts; next, some resources for your job hunt or personal rebranding (career wise) while you're waiting for retirement/discharge.
If you have any questions, feel free to ask! If I don't know the answer, I know people who do.