Posted on Dec 1, 2013
MSG Curtis Lange
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Many installations can now start the process for Soldiers to get benefits from the Veterans Administration before leaving active duty.<div><br></div><div>Two examples:</div><div>In my case I had a physical with the VA while on active duty. My initial VA benefit was on my first retirement check. That is not the end as I am still in the process of documenting additional active duty related ailments.</div><div><br></div><div>In my son-in-law's case he was paid this week for a claim that started when he left the Marine Corps about 18-months ago. The VA paid from the date of initial claim, not from when approved. Now he will work with a DAV, American Legion, or VFW service representative for other related ailments.</div><div><br></div><div>Bottom line is to start your claim while on active if possible or as soon as you leave active duty. As a minimum talk to a service claim representative to know your options.</div>
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SGT Robert Petersen
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I do a lot of public work for the Department of Veterans Affairs. As part of my gig, I am out in the public with a Medical Mobile Unit almost every day. To be honest, I am nothing more than the schmoe that drives the vehicle (It pays the bills while I write). So what you are about to read is advice from a veteran who has been proactive with his care and has been through the claims and treatment processes within the VA.
First item is eligibility. Everything I am about to say is with the assumption that you an honorably separated service member, or at least separated under Honorable conditions. Your DD214 copy 4 will illustrate the nature of your separation.
There are certain criteria that make a veteran an automatically qualified health care recipient (you still have to register). These criteria are:
Medal of Honor
Purple Heart
Vietnam Veteran that served in Theater
Desert Storm Veteran, again in Theater
OIF/OEF/OND Veterans that served in Theater.
Eligibility for VA health benefits covers you for the Affordable Care Act.
Retirees will have certain benefits in addition to their branch retirement packages. I encourage all perspective retirees to pay special attention to the separation briefings about VA benefits for themselves and for their dependents.
Veterans that do not meet the above will be accepted based on the annual household income minus out of pocket medical expenses, or on service connected issues (injuries, or illness incurred while on duty).
Even something as petty as breaking your toe one night on fire watch is a service connected issue if you are still suffering from the injury today.
For all honorably discharged veterans, it’s a snap to sign-up. You have several options here.
One: Follow this link https://www.ebenefits.va.gov/ebenefits/homepage On this website you will be able to access your personal records, request copies of your DD214, make claims for compensation and pension for service connected issues and apply for medical benefits; that’s just to name a few of the services available on the site. If you’re internet savvy, this is the place to go in my opinion.
If the internet is not an option, you still have a couple of other methods that will get the ball rolling for you.
Two: I help veterans daily with this method: All you have to do is take a copy of your DD214, medical records (if available) and any prescriptions to a local VA Community Out Patient Clinic, Hospital, or a VA mobile medical unit. A benefits specialist will assist you with the paperwork. The sign-up process only takes a few minutes. Depending on the facility, you may be asked to have a “Vesting Exam”. What this is, is a medical provider (MD, NP, or PA), will assess your current health and review your records if you have them available. Licensed clinical social workers are always available for veterans to discuss other issues they may be experiencing. Social Workers assist veterans with PTSD, Family issues, job loss, homelessness, mental illness, and most importantly, suicide prevention. Static facilities will always have someone that a veteran can talk to if that veteran is in crisis. Check out the below links if you are, or know a veteran in crisis.
http://www.vetcenter.va.gov/
http://www.veteranscrisisline.net/
Three: For veterans who live to far from a VA facility, or do not have a Mobile Unit that visits their area, you can go to a Veterans Service officer (VSO). VSO’s can be found at most VFW, American Legions, AmVETS, and via the Disabled Veterans of America websites or facilities. The mission of the VSO is to assist veterans with everything that I just mentioned. Some are extremely helpful and motived to assist veterans in any way they can. Others not so much. My advice is for each veteran to take personal responsibility and educate your selves about your options and benefits.
You stood up when others would not. You have earned your benefits, use them or lose them. If you live in the Hines VA hospital catchment area, look for the Medical Mobile Unit. We’re out there taking care of our own. Come check us out.



In Closing, there is no greater Veterans Advocate than you. Be proactive and educate yourself and your loved ones. Remember, nothing with the VA starts without your DD214. Veterans that served before 1947 will have branch specific separation papers (the Department of War changed to the Department of Defense in 1947). Many World War Two Veterans that we encounter have trouble getting benefits due to lost paperwork. I urge anyone that has a living World War Two loved one to secure their paperwork and make copies.
Best of Luck brothers and sisters! Welcome Home!
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MAJ David Vermillion
MAJ David Vermillion
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Great advice.
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MSG Curtis Lange
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Some installations are setup so that your retirement/separation physical is also your VA physical. If they are not you can start the VA process while on terminal leave.

Make sure that your active duty separation physical lists all of your physical issues, no matter how insignificant they seem. A zero percent rating for a condition means that the VA already recognizes the service connection for the condition making it easier to raise the rating when a condition worsens after separation.

Most of all Soldiers should get any problems noted in their medical records when they happen, don't wait until a separation physical. Things noted in a medical record make it easier to establish a service connection. When something is not noted in the medical records it is up to the Soldier to prove service connection through statements from witnesses. Witnesses may be hard to track down once you are gone from a unit or active duty.

The VFW, DAV, and American Legion all have people that assist in submitting claims. Talk to them all since one may see something the others have missed. You can submit by yourself, but the service organizations have experience dealing with the VA that most people don't have. Save time that way and maybe increase disability rating.
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SFC James Baber
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I did that, but the other aspect you have to deal with is probably why you are having to pursue additional issues is that the contract Doc that you went to for your initial physical omitted many things, you have to remember they are working for the VA not you, so the more money they save the VA the better for their bonuses as well.
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