Because nobody cares about your claim like you do!
Your VA Claim
Have you filed a VA disability benefits claim? Are you confused about
what's happening? Have you received conflicting mail or messages from
the VA? Are your buddies telling you tales of how you should do things?
Do you feel abandoned by the system that you thought would help you?
Welcome to the club. You're now one more of the hundreds of thousands of
American military veterans who are anxious and wondering what to do
next. The system is failing us. That isn't news these days.
Most of you want to reach out to a "representative" who will take you
worries on as their own and diligently work to resolve your problems for
you. You'd like to make a phone call to someone who cares. You want to
find that one special person who will help you.
That's not going to happen.
Any representative you talk to may help you complete some paperwork and
that's about it. Some of the people who claim to be "VA reps" aren't
trained, they have no qualifications, no skills, to do much to help you
and once the initial contact is completed, they will promptly forget who
VAWatchdog has always promoted the Do It Yourself (DIY) method of
working with VA. We've often said, "Nobody cares about your claim like
you do." We believe that the VA would rather work directly with you to
resolve your claim than to have to work with a middleman who make make
mistakes and FUBAR your claim.
Why do we think that? Because we've heard it directly from the VA
employees who do the work on your claim. The fact is that you are not
required to have any sort of representative. VA is set up to help you if
you work directly with your regional office.
We know these things because we've been there, done that. We pass on our
real life experience and all we've learned directly to you in the pages
of this blog. There's no hype here, this is the real deal. We aren't
professional journalists or investigative reporters, we're veterans who
have disabling conditions and ratings...just like you. Along the way,
we've learned a few things about how to effectively deal with VA and how
to maximize the benefits you earned through your honorable military
We believe that if you really want to succeed, if your goals are to
bring home the best benefit that you are eligible for, in the least
amount of time, you absolutely have to Do It Yourself. Nobody is going
to help you.
We believe that it isn't as difficult as most would like you to think.
The "representatives" who offer to help you aren't usually anything more
than recruiters for the organization they work for. Every vet who
contacts us to complain about their "VA rep" has been talked into
signing up for some organization. All too often they will (wink, wink)
tell you that if you purchase a life membership, you'll get some sort of
preference. Then they disappear.
Do you have a membership card that does you no good? Me too.
To manage your own claim isn't rocket science. If you follow a few
rules, if you have a well grounded claim, you'll prevail and you'll be
awarded what you've earned.
All it takes from you is commitment and some time. If you think you can
hand your claim over to some stranger and that he or she will do all the
grunt work for you for free, good luck. But first, you have to give
that stranger your power of attorney
(POA). That's not a move that you should take lightly. To revoke the
POA isn't as simple as giving it away. This is serious stuff folks, you
really need to think about that.
We've laid it all out for you here at VAWatchdog. If you follow a few
simple guidelines that we give to you, you'll be joining thousands of
other vets who have taken control of their claims...and their life...and
Yes, it will take time. Of course, some of it will be hard to understand
and it'll confuse you at first. Certainly, the process will cause you
anxiety and stress. You'll have to work at it.
But...aren't you a veteran? Didn't you have the courage to make it
through your military service? Why do you think you need another person
to perform some simple tasks for you now after all you accomplished as a
soldier, sailor, airman or marine?
The path to success with any VA claim is to do it yourself. All it takes is your commitment and some of your time.
VAWatchdog web site is not sponsored by
nor endorsed by the
Department of Veterans Affairs.
you glad of that?
The VAWatchdog blog is the home of Do It Yourself (DIY) for veterans.
We believe that most of you are not only
capable of managing your own claims, we believe that you are the one who
is best prepared to manage your claims.
Who knows more about you and your experiences than you?
The VA is designed to work directly with the veteran.
Most veterans are taught to believe that
the they must have a "representative" of some sort to work with the VA.
This is absolutely not true.
In the initial stages of a claim (before any appeals are necessary) the process is administrative, not a "legal" process.
In other words, you file a claim and VA reviews it in a way that should
give you the benefit of the doubt. It really is that simple
VA employees often tell VAWatchdog they'd rather work directly with the veteran.
It seems reasonable to believe that most
raters who are processing claims would like to eliminate the middleman.
The representative you choose usually
doesn't do anything more than help
you complete paperwork
and then forwards it to the VA.
Not all Veterans Representatives are created equal.
Believe it or not, there is no
educational or licensing
requirement to be a VSO representative. The VSO
has no nationally standardized test to pass. There is no single
oversight group or organization that will assure that your
representative is competent.
If you go to a doctor, a lawyer, an optometrist, or a plumber, there are
schools and licenses and oversight agencies that dictate standards of
practice for those people.
All a VSO representative has to do is join or be employed by
organization and they can be immediately
approved to represent you. The
sponsoring organization may
or may not effectively train the
individual. You won't ever know because nobody is required to tell you.
Can you really Do It Yourself?
VAWatchdog has long believed that not only can you DIY your claim, we believe that you will be much better off for your efforts.
You're sure the claim was properly filed because you used certified mail.
How To...Do It Yourself
Step 1: Make the decision that you
are taking control. Stop depending on other people to help. Most of the
people who offer you help aren't as smart as you are. None of the
people who offer to help have no clue about you and your military
experience. You are just one more veteran in the long line of vets who
are waiting for advice.
Step 2: Develop your strategy. What will you file? Are you filing
a new claim or are you seeking an increase in an existing claim? As you
begin to take control of your VA benefits, you need to determine just
what your goals are. Then stick to the plan.
Step 3: Get organized. Gather up all the old papers you can find
that have any relation to the VA or your military experiences. You may
want to begin making copies now...you'll need them. If you're submitting
civilian medical records, get them yourself, don't depend on VA to do
that for you. This is DIY, remember? You don't trust anyone,
particularly the VA, to do what they're supposed to do.
Step 4: File your claims. Be specific as you go about this. The
VA doesn't want to hear about how your problems have spilled into your
personal life and that your souse is angry with you. VA doesn't need to
know that you can't afford the new television or that your rent payment
is late. The only information VA will review and use is that which is
pertinent to the claim. Keep your communications brief and precise.
Step 5: If you haven't made the request for your c-file, do that
now. Getting a copy of your c-file may reveal things to you that you
didn't know was in there. Many vets find that there are missing files or
even some other veterans files in your folder. Get your c-file and get
Step 6: Over the long haul, keep in mind that it's important to
cooperate with the VA. It doesn't matter if you get a request for a C
& P exam that you know duplicates things already in your records.
Just do it. Don't waste time questioning the rules or complaining about
how stupid the rules are. If you're asked to do something, step up and
get it done. I can't tell you how many veterans I've watched shoot
themselves in the foot because they wanted to teach the VA how things
should work. Your opinion isn't important in the claims process. You
must decide if you want to win your claim or argue with the VA? I'd
suggest that you win your claim.
Step 7: Read VAWatchdog often. If that sounds self serving and
like a promotional piece for our web site, it isn't really. If you're a
constant reader, you'll be the first to know of any changes to the
system. The veteran who is alert and aware is always going to come out
ahead. We know that the VAWatchdog is the most up to date and accurate
site on the Internet so we're sure you should stay in touch.
Step 8: Be patient. From the moment you file a claim to the
moment you receive an award letter will take years. Not days, weeks or
months...years. You will have C & P exams even if you don't need
them. You'll get computer generated mailings that make no sense to
anyone. Your first award letter from VA will probably be a denial and
you'll have to appeal. The sooner you accept the fact that VA is broken,
the better it's going to be for you. Working with VA isn't a one time
deal and there are no quick fixes.
Step 9: If all this seems a bit much, ask your spouse to take
over for you. We know that a great many successful claims are driven by
the spouse doing most of the grunt work. That's fine. You have to help
her though. Try to be a helpful as you can as she tries to help your
Step 10: Prepare to win. If you have a well grounded claim and
you have followed the rules of engagement, you will win. If it takes 1,
2, 3 or more years...well, that's a shame. What's important is that in
the end you will have the benefits that you earned by your honorable