Travel Pay

Since the VA adopted the new mileage application via the internet, I haven't received any travel money. I checked with my travel clerk and he told me that there is a big back log here in Florida. Have others experienced this problem? Thank you Jim.

Jim's Reply:
I'm in Florida so I feel your pain.
We're supposed to be reimbursed a per mile amount for certain travel to and from medical care. In my time with VHA I've seen long lines and over an hour wait to receive a few dollars gas money. Then we went to a fill-out-the-form system. The check-in kiosks were introduced a few years back and those worked well other than you had to remember to sign out and sign in again to submit the travel voucher.
Not all that long ago I checked in to my small clinic and the kiosks were unplugged and parked in a corner. I was told to check in the old school way and only when I asked, I was given an old form to complete for travel pay. I was told the kiosks were gone forever.
I returned to that clinic 2 weeks later and the check in kiosks were back, plugged in and ready to go. There was no option for travel reimbursement, I was told to go to the Internet and figure it out. I haven't seen any deposits either.
I don't have any answer for you other than...welcome to your VA. They care!

Stateside Legal Help For Veterans

Jim Strickland is a Vietnam era Army veteran and nationally recognized expert on VA disability benefits.

Jim writes extensively about VA and Social Security disability benefits. 
Jim's Mailbag is a regular column featured at  Stateside Legal  where veterans, servicemembers,
and family members can  ask Jim their questions  about VA and Social Security disability benefits. 

Means Testing

If a disabled Veteran (100%) is earning 3k+ a month, can the vet still get snap? Does it matter what disability % they are or how much they are earning?

​Jim's Reply:
Like many low income assistance programs SNAP benefits are means tested. Whether you are eligible is going to depend on your household income when you apply. Your VA benefits count as real income so if you're a veteran alone, you likely have too much income to be eligible for SNAP. If you have a family and the VA benefit is your main or only source of income, you may be eligible. You'll need to apply before you know for sure though. Good luck!

Veterans Survivors Dependency and Indemnity Compensation    ​DIC

Cancer C & P Exam?

My lung cancer appears inactive but I am still receiving treatment. Do I need to report a change to the VA or wait until they ask?

​​Jim's Reply:
I'm going to assume you're a Vietnam veteran rated at 100% during a post-treatment period while waiting on a mandatory C & P exam to reevaluate your rating.
No, you do not need to notify VA of anything. In fact, I usually coach vets to learn never to volunteer ANYTHING with VA. Ever. If they ask you any question, you should think of your answer very carefully, in the context of what they may interpret.
For example, you: "I'm an honest guy voluntarily reporting I've improved a lot after my treatments." The VA response: "Dear veteran, thank you for reporting your death. We will proceed to terminate the benefits of the deceased veteran."
OK, sure...that sounds far-fetched but it's an example of what happens on a day to day basis in my world and when you realize things have gone horribly wrong, it's too late. You're in for a nightmare.
If VA asks, answer honestly, briefly and only to the point of answering the specific question. Never volunteer information not specifically asked because VA sees that and judges your motive suspect.
You should be notified around 6 months to a year after your therapy has completed that you'll have an exam coming up. Until then, take care of yourself and don't worry about VA. Good luck sir.

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Cardiovascular diseases?

I have a 10% VA rating for high blood pressure. I had a pacemaker installed on in 2016. Should I file for a VA rating? Thanks in advance.

​Jim's Reply:
Yes, maybe. The need for the pacemaker must first be proven to be secondary to your high blood pressure (HBP). If you can prove that your HBP has caused or contributed to the need for a pacer to control the timing of your heartbeats, you may have a well grounded claim that the pacer is service connected (SC) secondary to the HBP. If you're having a touch of heart failure that will be enough to require a pacer and heart failure is often secondary to very high/treatment resistant hypertension.
If you do have a diagnosis of heart failure, you should file that as secondary to the SC HBP also.
As I so often do, I predict that to prevail you're going to have to have an Independent Medical Opinion that spells out exactly, precisely how and why your SC HBP caused the need for the device. Unless you have the IMO, the VA isn't going to see the secondary connection. More about that is here h
ttps://  Good luck.

DIC Benefits

I am TDIU P&T for 11 years now. If I die, what

does my spouse (wife) have to do to claim her compensation?

​Jim's Reply:
She will notify VA of your passing...often enough the funeral director will do that for her.
Details are here

Presumptive Hypothyroidism

I filed for hypothyroidism in 2018, it was denied. It is now on the AO list. The VA is required to review every denied claim and back date to the original date of filing. My question I am TDIU and 100 percent. TDIU started in 2003. The claim is on appeal since 2019. The VA added it as a new claim on ebenefits in June 2021. If they ever get the claim completed I don't think I will receive retroactive back pay, true or false? Thank you.

​​Jim's Reply:
You may or may not be due for some retroactive benefits. In a previous and similar situation not all that long ago, the decision was in favor of vets who had filed and been denied to receive retroactive benefits.
I'm a bit tied to studying this as I have a distant in-law who is a retired-after-20 Blue Water Navy vet in a similar situation. His non-service connected hypothyroidism had had a deleterious effect on his service connected diabetes that was (lowball) rated at 20%. He was in and out of civilian hospitals and in critical care more than once and VA paid no attention...even though he was a DoD employee.
After a stroke the family asked for my help.
We were successful in filing an increase for his DM2 and then got an IMO to connect the hypothyroidism to his military service. (Of course we don't need the IMO now it's presumptive.)
He is currently rated as 100% with SMC-S and he is fully housebound with VA caregiving benefits kicking in.
Of course I'd hope that you never run into the illnesses my in-law has but considering all that, I think it's worth your time to aggressively pursue this benefit so you don't have to do it when you're not well. 
I've been referring these cases to a 
trusted veterans law attorney who has shown a particular interest and who has a great track record in dealing with these particular claims. (He did appeals for my relative)
Let him know I sent you his way and listen to what he thinks about your particular situation. He never charges veterans to provide a great evaluation of what they've got going on...he's a vet, 'nuff said.
Good luck sir.


I am TDIU and 72 years old. Can I now work part time and earn over the poverty level

​Jim's Reply:
No. You may lose your TDIU benefit if you earn more than the federal poverty level. TDIU is the unemployable benefit.

If you're able to work, you aren't eligible for the benefit.

Effective Date

I applied for disability in April 2021. It was approved and I received 100% in July 2021. I want to know if I’m entitled to payments when the cancer was finally confirmed - approx. 2 years earlier. I also have 3 Purple Hearts, nothing major, which why I didn’t  apply earlier.

​Jim's Reply:
The date that a claim begins payments is known as the effective date of the claim. If you file on January of 2020 and your claim is awarded in July of 2021, your effective date is the date that you filed, January 2020.
To establish the effective date you must file a claim. There are rare circumstances that an earlier effective date may be filed back to the dates of a diagnosis but that's an unusual event often as a result of a clear and unmistakable error on the part of VA when processing a claim.
In the end, if you didn't file a claim back then, I don't see any way to claim retroactive payments.

VA income and HUD subsidized housing

If VA disability is not counted as income, why do I

have to give my HUD housing 30% of my disability pay?

​Jim's Reply:
I'm not sure who told you that VA disability pay

isn't income but it's usually seen as a part

of our overall total income. VA disability pay

isn't taxed, but it is usually recorded as income.

Medical Malpractice?

I was, and am, under the care of the VA for service-connected injuries. In 2014 my primary care doctor finally decided to remove my tonsils to help with my obstructive sleep apnea. Before the procedure, the surgeon noticed after looking at my imaging that I had a deviation in my right sinus. The surgeon asked me a couple of days before my procedure if I would like him to correct it as well since it would take a short time and I would already be under general anesthetic. He said he would be working in that same location and that he could do it within 20 minutes or so. I agreed and the surgery on my tonsils and septum was done in 2014.
After surgery, I had problems breathing out of the right side of my nose. Of course, they said this was due to swelling after surgery and other issues post procedure. This went on for quite a while and after many visits to the VA hospital it was discovered that the procedure was not done correctly and my septum was actually worse than it was before the procedure. I was then prompted to have a corrective surgery for the surgery that was supposed to fix the problem in the first place.
Since the surgery couldn't be done within 30 days, I was able to go outside the VA. I went to a plastic surgeon at a non-VA facility who did a septoplasty on my nose to correct the previous surgery done by the VA surgeon. The septoplasty took around six hours and the post surgery pain and other issues were very bad. I now have a very crooked nose after the second procedure, my sinus (and the area of my nose closest to the sinus opening) constantly itches and feels as though there’s something in there, and I am constantly rubbing or scratching it. If I put my glasses on and you look at my face, my nose is completely bent and disfigured and it’s an issue for me every time I look in the mirror.
I am a service-connected veteran but the surgery was not done for anything service-connected so I’m wondering if I can claim this as some kind of disability rating under my current disability rating. Any answer you have or information you can provide would be greatly appreciated.  Please forgive me for any mistakes in punctuation, grammar, and spelling as I am doing this on my smart phone.

​Jim's Reply:
No worries about typos, misspellings, punctuation or any of that here. Typing on my desktop is hard enough and I don't even try on my (not so smart) phone. We're just glad you took the time to message us so we can help.
You're describing what may well be medical malpractice. I'm not qualified to determine whether what you've experienced is malpractice or just the breaks of being operated on and I think you should speak to an expert.
VA health care is well insulated from medical malpractice claims. There are a few hoops to jump through when you set out to sue the federal government and a lot of experience counts. For those reasons I only refer to a single medical malpractice group h
These folks are located in California but they can represent you anywhere. Medical malpractice lawyers will typically work with you on a contingency fee basis and they won't take any money from you unless and until they win the case.
Please get in touch with them sooner than later and let them know where you got the referral. Good luck sir.

Medical malpractice

If the VA caused the loss of my leg, after a mrsa infection, that led to three amputations. Why am I not considered a disabled veteran? 7 years have passed and the recovery is still ongoing. I'm still unable to walk or work. There's no help available. Any ideas?

​Jim's Reply:
A disabled veteran is one who has service connected disabling conditions. You aren't active duty so what's happening to you can't be service connected.
However, it doesn't sound as if your care has been appropriate so it's time to talk with the lawyers. Click  Good luck!

veterans law attorney

Family member benefits...VA benefits for spouses, dependents, survivors, and family caregivers...

As the spouse or dependent child of a Veteran or service member, you may qualify for certain benefits, like health care, life insurance, or money to help pay for school or training. As the survivor of a Veteran or service member, you may qualify for added benefits, including help with burial costs and survivor compensation. If you’re caring for a Veteran, you may also be eligible for support to help you better care for the Veteran—and for yourself. Find out which benefits you may qualify for and how to access them.

About VA DIC for spouses, dependents, and parents
If you’re the surviving spouse, child, or parent of a service member who died in the line of duty, or the survivor of a Veteran who died from a service-related injury or illness, you may be able to get a tax-free monetary benefit called VA Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (VA DIC). Find out if you can get VA benefits or compensation.

Survivors Pension

My husband passef away in Oct. of 2021 snd i have applied for survivors pension. The VA replied that they denied my claim because my husband did not have wartime service. He served in Air Force from Jan. 20, 1960 through Jan.17,1964. Please give me info on this as i believe from all i have read, including statements from VA, that he was in the time frame and qualifications for me to receive benefits as a qualifying Vietnam Vets widow.

​Jim's Reply:
Eligibility for survivors pension is authorized for 02/28/1961 to 05/07/1975 for Veterans who served in the Republic of Vietnam during that period; otherwise 08/05/1964 to 05/07/1975.
If your husband served until 01/17/1964 and he didn't serve in the Republic of Vietnam during that time, you aren't eligible for survivors pension. You claim that you are a "Vietnam Vets widow" and for that to be true, he'd have had to have service in the country of Vietnam during the times noted. If he didn't serve in country, you may claim to be the widow of a Vietnam era veteran rather than a Vietnam vet.
If you're sure he served in country, you should formally appeal the denial. Good luck.
More information is here.

VA Survivors Pension
A VA Survivors Pension offers monthly payments to qualified surviving spouses

and unmarried dependent children of wartime Veterans who meet certain

income and net worth limits

Dependents Indemnity Compensation

Click Here to view details of the following:
Dependents and Survivors Benefits
DIC rates
Death Gratuity Payment
Dependency and Indemnity Compensation
Aid and Attendance and Housebound Benefits
Death Pension
Survivors' & Dependents' Educational Assistance
Other Benefits for Survivors