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. 

Depriving Our Veterans of Their

Constitutional Rights

An Analysis of the Department of Veterans Affairs’ Practice of Stripping Veterans of Their Second Amendment Rights and Our Nation’ s Response 

What We Need to Understand About

Veterans and Firearms
A culturally informed consideration of military veteran gun ownership

What you think you look like with your badass you!


And...what you really look like.

Awards & Denials

My spouse has a VA decision letter that was sent by his attorney. It states he was awarded 100 percent rating and back dated to 2015. The decision is taking a long time to become final and I'm wondering if the VA can change it to a denial. Have you heard of other cases where this had happened?

Jim's Reply:
No, I haven't heard of VA changing an award this soon after it's made. The delay is probably due to the numerous tasks that have to be done since the retroactive award will be large.
VA will send the entire file to be reviewed by a quality check team to insure that all t's are crossed and i's are dotted. Then the big labor, it goes to finance to determine just how much he's owed. The retro calculation involves adding the 100% rating to his record and backdating, updating and balancing the account since the rates change each year. 
Add the labor challenges that VA has had during the pandemic and there's your delay. Although you don't tell me that this was remanded from a higher authority (BVA) if that's the case the regional office will have more work to do. 
This is a great question for the lawyer who represents him...get in touch! Good luck.


If I'm rated at 90% and then am awarded unemployability do I qualify for DEERS?

Jim's Reply:
If your TDIU award is permanent you and your dependents will be eligible for a DEERS card and all the associated privileges.


Can a disabled veteran refuse a general blood work at the va clinic/hospital? (Non drug related)

​​Jim's Reply:
Refuse lab testing? Sure you can.
It doesn't matter if you're dodging a drug screen or just don't want your blood drawn for whatever the reason, you won't lose any benefits because you aren't getting the full range of health care provided for you by the VA. Even if a drug screen popped as positive, no benefits will be lost.
In reality though, if you're going to decline lab testing there really isn't much reason to continue to see a care provider. Your provider can't offer you much, if anything, without the results of the usual panel of blood work and testing. Those blood and urine tests are a window into the mechanics of how your system is running and without that your provider is blind.
If you plan to refuse lab work as recommended by your primary care provider, I'd suggest that you simply decline any future health care appointments in the system and make room for a vet who wants the full compliment of care. Good luck!


I am currently 100% TDUI and currently working as I have completed my Voc Rehab from the VA. My question is what is going to happen when the VA finds out that I am working full time and making over the poverty limits? I have not worked for more than a year, but I have made more than the poverty limits. Will I have to pay back a difference from my previous disability rating, and when does that have to be paid? And what would I need from my employer to show sheltered employment?

Jim's Reply:
VA tracks our income via the SSA and IRS. When it's apparent that you are making too much money you'll receive a VA form 21-4140 and that will give you the chance to explain the circumstances that led you to gainful employment. If it appears that you no longer need the TDIU benefit your rating will fall to the underlying rating you had before.
No, there isn't any payback required.
For the purpose of VA disability applications, sheltered employment means that your employer knows about your service-connected disability and makes accommodations that allow you to continue working. 
Good luck sir.

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Is there a resources that will draft a Power of Attorney for a Soldier getting ready to leave the states for overseas deployment?

​Jim's Reply:
Assigning a POA to anyone is serious business. The Power of Attorney can be a lifesaver or it can cause you a lot of grief years from now. If you're deploying and thinking about a POA you should also have a current will that goes along with that.
You should be able to access JAG services through your command to get all that done. Ask your organization if that's available to you before you deploy.
If JAG isn't available or if you'd rather go the civilian route, your best bet is to seek a lawyer who is local to you to help you. You can call around and ask if they will offer you a discount because of your military status.
You can find a VA accredited lawyer who will help you here. These lawyers understand our military processes and they may be able to help even if they aren't local to you. 
This is too important for you to use one of the on-line or other services that promise a free need a professional to advise you. I've been in your situation and a sudden deployment overseas is quite the experience to prepare for. Get the POA done right even if it costs you a few bucks because getting it wrong can be a nightmare.
Good luck sir.

Preexisting Conditions?

Can you confirm to your viewers that the Military can not discharge a serviceman for a preexisting condition after he/she have served on active duty for more 180 days. There is the presumption of soundness once you complete boot camp and if you are honorably discharged for preexisting condition after a year on active duty you can file a CUE for that injury dating back to when you were discharged example 1978.

​​Jim's Reply:
Can I confirm that an active duty soldier can't be discharged after 180 days because of a preexisting condition? No, of course not. You say, "the Military can not discharge a serviceman for a preexisting condition after he/she have served on active duty for more 180 days". Using that logic we'd have a lot of people who can't perform military duties sitting around in uniform.
If a preexisting condition that was either unknown or known and thought to be of no consequence on entry to the armed forces should become worse during active service, it must then be evaluated as to how it will affect the soldiers MOS duties.
Let's consider a known preexisting condition...this soldier had a badly broken bone in the left ankle that happened during high school athletics. The injury was repaired with routine surgical procedures and the individual returned to athletics and physical normalcy for 4 years before entering service. The well healed injury with surgical scarring was noted during the intake process and the soldier went on to complete 2 1/2 years of service with no issues. Then during normal and routine military duties the previous injury was reinjured (during a fall from a ladder) to a point that the ankle was surgically fused, limiting all motion of that lower leg and foot and requiring orthopedic footwear in the future. This soldier will be medically discharged and receive a disability rating by VA as having aggravated a known preexisting condition.
Then we consider the soldier who has an unknown intracranial aneurysm. An aneurysm (a swollen artery) in the brain is very rarely identified before it bursts and causes a significant hemorrhagic stroke or often enough, death. In this case the soldier entered active duty after college and was fast tracked to OCS and a bright military future as an officer. She was in outstanding health and had completed Airborne training before going to a more permanent station in remote Alaska. After arrival at her duty station she served 13 months before she had a sudden severe headache, collapsing to the floor. She was evacuated to the closest facility that could manage a brain injury where the diagnosis was grim and the long term prognosis was poor. This soldier will be medically discharged because of a preexisting condition and she will receive a VA disability rating for aggravation of the unknown preexisting condition.
The rules and regs regarding presumption of soundness are flexible in many ways, particularly with recent advances in genetic sciences. There are few absolutes in these adjudications.

The laws that govern the sales and purchases of weapons and ordnance very wildly across America with the federal government, each state, every municipality and some private communities each developing their own laws, rules and regulations.

The Mother Ship for all enforcement is National Instant Criminal Background Check System or NICSIn addition to federally prohibitive criteria, the NICS must delay or deny firearm transfers based on applicable state law.

A delayed transaction will be purged from the NICS within 88 days from creation. The NICS Section recommends that you wait 30 days from the date initiating the check prior to filing an appeal on a delay to give the NICS Section’s staff time to complete the initial transaction. If your original background check is completed, the Federal Firearm Licensee ​will be notified with a final status.

If you're denied for any reason, you'll have to appeal.

Read Firearm-Related Challenge (Appeal) and Voluntary Appeal File (VAF) and the Federal Categories of Persons Prohibited from Receiving Firearms ​​

Veterans Guns and Weapons   Concealed Carry Permits   

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!