Thank you for checking out Veterans West at Battleship IOWA. We’re here to assist you with your service and benefits questions. Below, you will find comprehensive information regarding Pro Bono & Low Bono Legal Services, however, you may find ADDITIONAL RESOURCES here which lists basic information on a multitude of veteran benefits and programs. Please click here to access this list.
There are many pro bono legal working groups for veterans in and around Los Angeles and Orange County. I have personally used many for both personal and business purposes. In addition to writing some of my service dog non-profit contracts and by-laws, I have also sought assistance for family law, discharge upgrades, service-connected benefits, evictions, and alternative sentencing. There are many options for veterans seeking counsel and if a specific matter is not *usually* provided at one firm they will usually tap into their network to locate a firm that will be able to assist you. Please see below for the resources I have used and can personally recommend. Please reach out to me with any questions ~ Janice
- Public Counsel: Los Angeles & other SoCal facilities. Phone: (213) 385-2977. Best local SoCal connection for discharge upgrades, evictions, and disability claims.
- Inner City Law: Phone: (213) 891-2880; Email: Info@innercitylaw.org; Veterans Website: http://www.innercitylaw.org/homeless-veterans/ Discharge upgrades, disability claims assistance
- VA Legal Services Resources: The Veterans Administration LEGAL Resource list. Connecting veterans to pro bono legal services nationwide.
- VetLex: VetLex is a national, dedicated web-based network of coordinated pro bono service providers to serve the legal needs of veterans. VetLex does not provide legal services; rather, it is an online cooperative system of intake, assessment, and referral envisioned to quickly and effectively connect veterans in need of legal services with those who stand ready to provide them.
- 5. Stateside Legal: Broad range of legal services with over 4 million veterans assisted.
- LACBA’s Los Angeles County Veterans Legal Services Project
- CVJP – Community Veterans Justice Project: Community Veteran Justice Project. Jodi and the CVJP team are the ONLY local organization that specializes in the laws of California which provide for alternative sentencing by connecting current and former military service members to treatment and services – as opposed to incarceration or other sanctions. Jodi is also the chair of the legal working group at the Los Angeles Veterans Collaborative.
- Center for Justice & Social Compassion “CJSC” (EZ ID Program): Consulting services, workshops, seminars, training, conferences, service learning, round-table discussions, community service projects, talks, lectures, presentations, school curricula – all designed to meet the needs of the participants.
BELOW PLEASE FIND ADDITIONAL RESOURCE INFORMATION, INCLUDING VA DISABILITY / SERVICE-CONNECTION GUIDE
APPLY FOR YOUR VA DISABILITY SERVICE-CONNECTION
This can be a very frustrating and time-consuming project. Do not overlook the benefits that you have earned and are eligible for. Not only could this help you, but it may also help your family too. Manage your benefits, apply for compensation, caretaker, Aid & Attendance, compensation, pension, education: GI Bill & Vocational Rehabilitation, etc. Go online or call: 1-800-827-1000. *Battleship IOWA is working on securing a dedicated Veteran Service Officer (VSO). This person or team of VSO’s will provide virtual assistance and will relocate to our ship once we reopen. Please contact me, Janice Bowman, manager, for personalized assistance: 323-412-3522.
HELPFUL DISABILITY & BENEFITS WEBSITES & FACEBOOK GROUPS Here are several Facebook Groups and websites that may help you gather evidence and information as well as understand the process to work on your claims and benefits.
- Veteran Claims Assistance Group (Facebook): MOST INFORMATIVE GROUP ON FACEBOOK!
- Veterans, VA Disability Claims, C&P Exams & Nexus Letter Assistance (Facebook)
- VA Service-Connected Derivatives Matrix:
- Proposed rating reduction:
- Disabled Vets Group:
- Veteran 2 Veteran Info:
- Veteran benefits videos:
- Itunes veteran benefits:
- Nexus Letter & DBQ Providers********THIS LIST IS BROUGHT TO YOU AND HAS BEEN COMPILED BYVETERANS WEST AT BATTLESHIP IOWA*******
- VA Checklist of Benefits by Rating Level:
- Military Times Article: VA, DoD recommended PTSD therapies don’t help many military patients, review finds
- The White House Veteran Hotline: The White House hotline, available at (855)-948-2311, is designed to give veterans an outlet to voice concerns about VA and other federal programs.
Things to keep in mind: Maybe I am giving the VA too much credit, but it is my opinion that the VA wants veterans to receive their due compensation. Having compensation helps to provide veterans to be productive members of society and not fall into a burden state. This description may sound harsh, but nobody wants to see “broken” veterans who do not have money or the ability to work in the societal perception of “normal” becoming homeless and/or worse states out of desperation. This becomes a cycle of descent when disability compensation is not provided to assist veterans to get back on track and become productive members of society. It is win-win for everyone. However, even though everyone wants to have you receive your benefits, the VA must have substantial evidence to support your individual claim(s) that are being made. This requires your engagement.
LET’s GET STARTED
To start a disability claim process you want to go to https://www.ebenefits.va.gov. Register and login. Once completed you will go to “Claims” or “File a New Claim”. This will allow you to have an “Intent to File” that will give you one year to finish your claim and to submit. If the VA determines you to have a rating (after the final claim is submitted), the rating will be backdated retroactively to the date you first filed an “Intent to File”. An intent to file is automatically started when you begin your claim process and fill in your basic information and no more — do not submit it until you collect all of your evidence, including your lay statement, nexus letters, friends/family letters, etc.
OK…You got your 100%. Do you stop filing?
Although the VA states that 100% is the highest rating, that is simply misleading information. I have a total of 150%. If I have a total of 160% (requires one diagnosis to be 100%) then I can receive what is called Special Monthly Compensation (SMC-S) which is on top of my 100%. There are several reasons to continue to file after you get 100%, but there are also reasons to stop. Each situation is different so you need to get with your VSO and discuss each:
- If you live overseas, you only get VA healthcare for service-connected conditions. This may be a reason.
- If you are likely to die from a currently non-service-connected (NSC) condition (that you have evidence that it should be) before you get to 10 years at 100%. Dependents Indemnity Compensation (DIC), a monthly payment to your survivors. After 10 years at 100% (5 years if initially 100% upon discharge), it does not matter what you pass away from, your survivors can be eligible for DIC. In the first case, DIC is about $1,340.14/mo. In the latter, it is about $1,624.71/mo.
- If your new claim or increase will result in 60% or more separate from a single 100% rating, you will get SMC-S, an extra about $280/mo. You can look at the CFR 38 Schedule of Ratings and see what the maximum for the claimed condition will be as well as the criteria for each percentage level.
- There are other SMCs (Special Monthly Compensation) claims including Aid and Attendance (SMC-L) that should not effect your current 100%. There are over 70 combinations of SMCs. Also, if you have Loss of Use (LOU) of any extremities or LOU of creative organ (ED or FSAD).
- Other possible reasons to continue to file for might be P&T status (Permanent & Total) and erroneous effective dates.
Now, why should you NOT file if Im already 100%?
- Any time you open a new claim or file for an increase, you open all your ratings up for review. If you have improved significantly, you may get a reduction and lose your 100% pay and benefits so be very aware of what you are doing. Even if you are P&T (Permanent & Total), until you have had an individual percentage for 20 years, it can be reduced.
- Unless you are overseas, you get full medical treatment through the VA, – if that is your choice of healthcare – whether it is service-connected or not so continued filing thinking it must be service-connected to get treatment is not a good reason.
- Overall, be careful and know what you are doing! Your VSO can explain each situation for your specific issue.
- DO NOT file just so the DoD or the VA acknowledges a disability. That is a very poor reason to file.
- Increased compensation? Sure…Go for it with KNOWLEDGE of the possible benefits and possible downfalls.
SPECIAL MONTHLY COMPENSATION: PLEASE SEE DOCUMENT ATTACHED “SMC” AND SEE “CHECKLIST OF BENEFITS PER RATING LEVEL”
- SMC (SPECIAL MONTHLY COMPENSATION) – Payment Schedule: https://www.benefits.va.gov/compensation/resources_comp02.asp
- SMC (More details): https://www.law.cornell.edu/cfr/text/38/3.350
- SPECIAL CLAIMS – Other than SMC, includes, Automobile Allowance, Clothing Allowance, Recovery from Surgery, Dental, Individual Unemployability, Disability-related to VA Care, etc: https://www.va.gov/disability/eligibility/special-claims/
WHY YOU WANT TO KNOW THE SYMPTOMS OF A RATING AT DIFFERENT LEVELS PRIOR TO FILING A CLAIM:
Become familiar with the rating symptoms specific to your claimed disability(ies). This will allow you to know what to expect when filing your claim. Further, (AND MOST IMPORTANTLY) write a detailed lay statement (Personal Statement) that explains these symptoms (IN DETAIL) which are found and outlined in a “DBQ” form (possible symptoms are listed in detail herein), as well as, in the 38 CFR Table 4 Impairment Rating Guide (basic symptoms overview) and add it to your claim! Prepare yourself so that you know and can control what your final claim rating will be. Know what to discuss with the doctor performing your evaluation and have your personal (lay) statement that you submitted to the VA with you when you are with the doctor. NOTE * Mental health, by and large, provides the highest rating. Severe back injuries may only provide for a 30% rating, whereas PTSD, most times, by itself, provides a 70% to 100% rating…. Know what disability contentions provide the biggest rate of return so that you can concentrate your energy and efforts into providing proof to those contentions!
The best-kept secret in a VA DISABILITY Rating is the Mauerhan case.
The Code of Federal Regulations – before listing the PTSD rating criteria in DC 9411 – says that when rating PTS, the VA should consider symptoms “such as” those listed.
That’s key language – as the Courts told us in Mauerhan.
You don’t have to find ALL the factors on the list to qualify for a particular rating. You just have to make a case for your symptoms being similar to the symptoms listed at the rating level you believe you are entitled to.
WHERE CAN I FIND VA IMPAIRMENT RATING INFORMATION (DBQ’S & 38CFR‘S): What are the symptoms related to 100% disability, 70% disability, 50%, 30%, 10%, 0%, etc?
You can use DBQ’s and the 38CFR to guide you in finding out where your symptoms fall within the “basic” parameters outlined within each specific disability.
Use these resources as a basic guide — however, do not be fooled by the language. The basic *extreme* descriptor language in the 38CFR guide sounds very harsh. When you look at the 100% symptoms summary it *seems* very dramatic, however, please use the DBQ (specific to the disability you are claiming) to see a more detailed list of symptoms that may help broaden and provide a less “severe” outlook on the possibility of receiving a much higher rating than what the following Impairment Rating Guide (38 CFR) makes it seem. The DBQ (“Disability Benefits Questionnaire”) is a form that a doctor scheduled by the VA may fill out when you are seen for your disability claims process. If, for example, you are claiming “hearing loss” and “PTS”, then you will see two doctors, each who specialize in each particular disability, e.g. audiologist (hearing loss) and psychiatrist (mental health/PTS). In this situation, there will be two DBQ’s filled out for each contention.
* NOTE * Although DBQ’s are no longer available to download on the VA website, DBQ’s ARE STILL available on certain websites, ARE valid, and provide SUBSTANTIAL supplementary evidence for your claim submittal. I HIGHLY suggest using these DBQ forms as they are key to writing your lay statement and providing *leading* evidence that that the VA is specifically seeking to have answered in order to make their decision and rate you properly. You can even bring a DBQ to a personal doctor to be filled out to be included with your claim submittal (this is before you hit submit on your claim), or you can just look at it for reference and let the VA schedule you an appointment with a QTC doctor for free — this way you know the questions that the doctor will most likely ask you which will allow you to be prepared and take notes if need be. Below, please find two resources where DBQ’s are able to be found and downloaded. If you need assistance, please contact Janice Bowman. 323-412-3522 or firstname.lastname@example.org
WHERE TO DOWNLOAD DBQ’s: MOST INFORMATIVE & COMPREHENSIVE DISABILITY CLAIMS GROUPS
- Veteran Claims Assistance Group (Facebook):
- Veterans, VA Disability Claims, C&P Exams & Nexus Letter Assistance (Facebook)
DBQ “Disability Benefits Questionnaire”
- I recommend FOR ALL CONTENTIONS RELATED TO MENTAL HEALTH that you hirea mental health professional to evaluate you. Do not depend on your in-service treatment records, VA medical records, or the 3rd party Mental Health professional that is hired by the VA to evaluate you. In order to receive a JUST diagnosis, rating, and NEXUS for your MH disability, you should seek outside professional treatment and ask for them to fill out a DBQ and make a clear argument and NEXUS to your time-in-service.
- I recommend an outside psychiatrist to evaluate you for VA Mental Health claims. If a QTC appointment (3rd party rater scheduled by the VA) is also scheduled, fine, but you want to have a back-up psychiatrist/psychologist evaluation that typically provides more detailed information to the VA for rating purposes than what a QTC doctor provides in a 30 minute brief “cattle herd” session….. Mental health, by and large, provides the largest rating. Severe back injuries may only provide for a maximum for a 30% rating, whereas PTSD, most times, by itself, provides a 70% to 100% rating…. Know what disability contentions provide the biggest rate of return so that you can concentrate your energy and efforts into providing proof to those contentions!
o Further review…. yes, all ratings potentially receive compensation, however, I have noticed that mental health receives the highest ratings e.g. I wear hearing aids and have significant hearing loss, however, I am only rated at 10% for bilateral hearing loss. Whereas, I have PTSD/MST and have been rated for PTSD at 100% by itself, without any other disabilities being added into the equation. Furthermore, without PTSD, my other disabilities, combined, equal a total of 50%. These include: back, dermatitis, hip, bilateral hearing loss, and tinnitus…. Note that a 20% and a 30% rating of two separate disabilities do not equal a 50% rating. There is a VA disability schedule that can help to explain how combined percentages are added.
38 CFR Table 4 Impairment Rating Guide The VA publishes the Impairment Ratings at 38 CFR Table 4, which is known as the VA Schedule for Rating Disabilities (BASIC, sounds “severe”) which will guide you on the rating level determinations based on symptoms of different contentions (disabilities).
EXAMPLE PTSD Rating Schedule from the 38 CFR Table 4 Impairment Rating Guide
Remember what I mentioned before, this rating guide sounds “severe”, however, it really is not. I have a personal rating of 100% for PTS/MST alone. I am a productive member of society and am allowed to work with the VA Decision. I have included an abridged DBQ (detailed symptoms sheet for PTSD) below the following 38 CFR Table 4 Impairment Rating Guide (basic symptoms, sounds severe).
38 CFR Table 4 Impairment Rating guide below:
Example 1) PTSD:
- 4.130 Schedule of ratings—mental disorders.
The nomenclature employed in this portion of the rating schedule is based upon the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition, of the American Psychiatric Association (DSM-IV). Rating agencies must be thoroughly familiar with this manual to properly implement the directives in §4.125 through §4.129 and to apply the general rating formula for mental disorders in §4.130. The schedule for rating for mental disorders is set forth as follows:
9440 Chronic adjustment disorder
General Rating Formula for Mental Disorders (e.g. PTSD):
Total occupational and social impairment, due to such symptoms as:
gross impairment in thought processes or communication;
persistent delusions or hallucinations; grossly inappropriate
behavior; persistent danger of hurting self or others; intermittent
inability to perform activities of daily living (including maintenance
of minimal personal hygiene); disorientation to time or place; memory
loss for names of close relatives, own occupation, or own name —100%
Occupational and social impairment, with deficiencies in most areas,
such as work, school, family relations, judgment, thinking, or mood,
due to such symptoms as: suicidal ideation; obsessional rituals
which interfere with routine activities; speech intermittently illogical,
obscure, or irrelevant; near-continuous panic or depression affecting
the ability to function independently, appropriately and effectively;
impaired impulse control (such as unprovoked irritability with periods
of violence); spatial disorientation; neglect of personal appearance and
hygiene; difficulty in adapting to stressful circumstances (including
work or a worklike setting); inability to establish and maintain
effective relationships —70%
Occupational and social impairment with reduced reliability and
productivity due to such symptoms as: flattened affect; circumstantial,
circumlocutory, or stereotyped speech; panic attacks more than once
a week; difficulty in understanding complex commands; impairment
of short- and long-term memory (e.g., retention of only highly learned
material, forgetting to complete tasks); impaired judgment; impaired
abstract thinking; disturbances of motivation and mood; difficulty in
establishing and maintaining effective work and social relationships —50%
Occupational and social impairment with occasional decrease in work
efficiency and intermittent periods of inability to perform occupational
tasks (although generally functioning satisfactorily, with routine
behavior, self-care, and conversation normal), due to such symptoms
as: depressed mood, anxiety, suspiciousness, panic attacks (weekly or
less often), chronic sleep impairment, mild memory loss (such as
forgetting names, directions, recent events) —30%
Occupational and social impairment due to mild or transient symptoms
which decrease work efficiency and ability to perform occupational
tasks only during periods of significant stress, or; symptoms controlled
by continuous medication —10%
A mental condition has been formally diagnosed, but symptoms are not
severe enough either to interfere with occupational and social
functioning or to require continuous medication— 0%
ADDITIONAL RESOURCES Full Comprehensive List of Veteran Resources (Accepting Edit Suggestions) This list has been compiled by Janice Bowman, manager, Veterans West at Battleship IOWA. Below, please see Disability Compensation Claims as well as Legal Resources that is also included on our Master List. If you would care for Mental Health, Education, etc please use the Additional Resources link here.
APPLY FOR YOUR VA DISABILITY SERVICE-CONNECTION: https://www.ebenefits.va.gov/
This can be a very frustrating and time-consuming project. Do not overlook the benefits that you have earned and are eligible for. Not only could this help you, but it may also help your family too. Manage your benefits, apply for compensation, caretaker, Aid & Attendance, compensation, pension, education: GI Bill & Vocational Rehabilitation, etc. Go online or call: 1-800-827-1000. *Battleship IOWA is working on securing a dedicated Veteran Service Officer (VSO). This person or team of VSO’s will provide virtual assistance and will relocate to our ship once we reopen. Please contact Janice Bowman, manager, for personalized assistance: 323-412-3522.
Manager | VETERANS WEST