Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Guest Blog - Part II

This is the second installment for Michele Rosenthal’s wonderful site about PTSD. She is an excellent writer and is a joy to read. Hers is much better than my ramblings and ranting of a mad man. Her website is http://parasitesofthemind.blogspot.com. Please check out her site because it has tons of helpful information about PTSD.

Guest Blog – Part II

Dealing with the VA is my subject this time around. The problem with informing you on how to deal with the VA is the VA varies so much from state to state. The VA within each state is a separate entity from the Veterans Administration in Washington D.C... What you say? I know this sounds stupid but appears to be how the system operates. To get care, you have to be registered in that state where you live. Therefore, that means if you live in Michigan and spend the winter in Florida then you need to register in both states. In addition, the medical records cannot be accessed from state to state. Each system seems to be independent from each other.

This may sound really messed up but trust me the system is greatly improved from what it was years ago. President Bush put a lot more funding into the system from the previous president. The former head of the VA, James Peake, really made some great changes to the system. He also increased our mileage reimbursement up to the present 41.5 cents a mile. The previous amount had not changed for 30 years. The old reimbursement would not even cover gas for half my trip. Now it covers my gas and leaves a little extra.

I hope that the new VA Secretary Shinseki will keep up the improvements and make life a little easier for us Vets. As I stated in the first blog, veterans who recently returned from a combat zone are eligible for no-cost VA care. They are entitled to five years of free VA care. The five-year “clock” begins with their discharge from the military, not their departure from the combat zone.

Each VA medical center has an enrollment coordinator to provide veterans information about these programs. Veterans may also contact VA’s Health Benefits Service Center at 1-877-222-8387 or visit the VA health eligibility Web site at www.va.gov/healtheligibility.

If you feel you deserve a VA compensation for injuries or PTSD, it is best to get a representative to submit your paperwork and represent you to the VA. The VFW, American Legion, DAV (Disabled American Veterans) and others have representatives. I personally believe the DAV can represent you the best because they are paid employees and not just volunteers that may or may not know the system well. The DAV represented me for my PTSD. I had already had a 30% disability for injuries in Nam since my discharge. Once the paperwork is submitted, HURRY UP AND WAIT. It can take as long as two years for older veterans but I believe the current veterans are getting through much quicker. At some point in this process, they will send you to a Compensation and Pension examination. You are getting close at this point.

Usually you will be rejected the first time so keep pushing for another review. If you are suffering with PTSD, try to get into one of the Post Traumatic Stress Recovery Tracks they run at the VA hospitals. These tracks run from 28 days to two months. It is intensive therapy along with medication adjustments and group therapy. Going through a track will help you get VA compensation. You will also be paid when you go through a track.

You can get up to 75% disability and if you cannot function enough to work, an additional 25% will be added for unemployables. I have an 88 years old WWII veteran in my group therapy that has tried to get unemployables (the word we use is unemployability but I do not think that is a real word). At 88 years of age, he should have unemployability. Sometimes we feel the VA figures, “kill a vet, save a check”.

One thing I forgot to mention in my first blog was about brain injury. They have discovered that big explosions close to you might cause a jarring of the brain. You will not have any external injuries but your brain is injured. These injuries will appear similar to PTSD but can only be detected via an MRI exam. Both PTSD and explosive brain injury can be present in combat veterans. Just something else to consider.

It is a quick overview but I hope some of it helps. Just do not suffer with the problems. Get the help you need and deserve from the VA.

Semper Fi

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