Travel Pay

​Question:
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. 

How To File A Claim For Veterans Disability Benefits

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A & A

​Question:
I was told my father could qualify for aid and attendance. Which form needs filled out, the 21-526ez or the 21P-527EZ and how do you let them know that is what you are filing for? Or is there an entirely different one that needs to be sent in for aid and attendance? If so which form number is it?

​Jim's Reply:
Thank you for helping your father in his time of need. Detailed instructions about how to apply for the A & A benefit are here 
https://www.va.gov/pension/aid-attendance-housebound/ 
Good luck.

The process begins the moment you file your Intent To File A Claim Form. This is the first step and it will set the effective date of your claim. The effective date is the date that you'll earn monetary and other benefits from when you win your claim. When you submit the claim itself along with any regulatory paperwork and evidence you may have (like medical records from your civilian doctor, statements in support of claim, etc.), your VA will get busy performing a first level review, scheduling the required C & P exams and taking care of preparing your file for a comprehensive review by a VBA rater once the file is complete.

​Be prepared for the C & P exam and don't miss it! I suggest that you never try to reschedule the exam no matter how busy you are.

Filing a claim is easy if you have the right tools. Don't try to do it all from your phone, you'll need a real computer...a desktop or a laptop will save you a ton of frustration. You can file online from your eBenefits account if you're prepared with a computer. You can also download the forms and submit those via the USPS. You can get some  legit help from state and county veterans service officers 

as well.

No matter what you do, the idea is for you to file your claim even though there is bureaucracy and paperwork involved.

Yes, this can be annoying but the rewards are well worth your time and trouble. Just do it.

How To File A VA Disability Claim | The United States Department of Veterans Affairs

Evidence Requirements    

Eligibility 

​​Types Of VA Disability Claims​​

VA Tech Approach Cutting Benefit Wait

Times From Months to Minutes

​The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is harnessing technology that has succeeded in cutting the time veterans need to wait to receive disability benefits from months to minutes, according to Zach Goldfine, deputy chief technology officer at the VA.

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How To File A Department of Veterans Affairs Disability Claim

Welcome Home

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Medicare

​Question:
Hello Jim, I'm a 100% disabled Veteran and on Medicare part A. I stopped part B around 6 years ago because I never used it for medical reasons. I'm turning 65 soon and am getting correspondence from Medicare to pick up part B again but pay late penalties. What's your take on getting Medicare parts A and B? I appreciate your guidance and help with this matter. They want me to sign the notice card to opt out of Medicare part B by July. If I don't sign the card and mail it in they'll make the penalty adjustments and place me on Medicare A and B again.

​Jim's Reply:
Medicare A is required when you begin taking your SSA retirement or SSDI, opting out is very difficult. Medicare B is optional but as you've learned, if you don't take it when first offered the penalty for that can be brutal depending on how many years you delayed.
Health insurance is a very personal decision. If you live within easy reach of a VA medical center, that's likely all you need. If you aren't within an easy drive to your clinic, you may want Part B so you can visit civilian physicians at very low cost.
I have it all...VA care, Medicare A & B because I'm 3 hours away from my VA hospital and I'm 1 1/2 hours away from my VA primary care clinic. My small community has a very nice and highly rated hospital and a bunch of doctors offices that are less than 10 minutes from my house.
You see where I'm going with this. It's a lot more convenient for me to use my Medicare even if it costs me a little more. I do stay connected to VA health care because I like my VA primary care guy a lot and I have all prescriptions filled through VA
You'll have to decide for yourself how much money you want to spend protecting your health and how comfortable you are relying on VA if you do without the extra insurance. Good luck sir.

Retroactive pay?

​Question:
Hello Jim, I had originally submitted a claim in 2013 and it was denied. In 2020 my claim was resubmitted and approved. Does the time frame from when my claim was submitted and denied to the time it was approve qualify for retroactive pay? Thank you for your service.

​Jim's Reply:
The effective date of a disability claim is the date you first file it. If your claim is denied, you have one year from the date of denial to file an appeal. If you file an appeal within the one year time period, the original effective date remains that and any further awards or actions will date to the original effective date.
If you didn't appeal within that one year period, the denial is considered to be permanent and the file and claim is closed. If you then reopen the claim in the future, a new effective date is set upon that reopening. 
Reading your message it sounds as if you were denied a benefit in or around 2013. You make no mention of an appeal so I assume you lost that earlier effective date. Your new effective date will be to the date of filing in 2020.

Filing a claim for VA disability benefits is easy. You  fill out some forms and get those submitted to the correct place and you're on your way. Once you have verification that your claim is in process, all you need to do is show up for whatever C & P exams your VBA may have in store for you. 

Filing any sort of claim with your VA is a process that has a beginning, a period of adjudication and decision making and an end with proper notification directly to you by VA via USPS and your eBenefits account. Understanding the process and sticking with it is the simplest way to ensure a happy ending to your well grounded claim.

P & T

​Question:
My husband is rated 100% permanent and total from PTSD . We are thinking if he did some kind of work, it would help him. Sitting around is not good. Can he do this and still keep the 100%?

​​Jim's Reply:
If he is rated as 100% disabled by the schedule, he is allowed to work as much as he is able to with no restrictions. If he is rated as 100% TDIU he is limited to earning no more than the amount of the federal poverty wage.
Pro tip: If he isn't able to find a suitable job, he should consider volunteer work. Volunteers can work as much as they want to and it won't interfere with VA disability payments. The next time you go to a VA health care facility and see a volunteer, that may well be a totally disabled veteran who was bored at home but couldn't retain gainful employment. I volunteered at my VA clinic and hospital for years when I lived close enough to do so. It was one of the more rewarding experiences of my life.
There are many volunteer opportunities in your community too. Just look around and he'll find something that fits. I also advise that when anyone asks, "So, what do you do for a living?" the answer is always the same, "I spent some time in the military and I'm retired now with a little pension." That's all the info anyone needs to hear, you shouldn't bother explaining any further than that. If someone presses for a conversation it's acceptable to politely decline and walk away.
A lot of VA counselors in the mental health arena advise their clients to try volunteering. Returning to meaningful work (and volunteering) in the right environment can't be beat. Give him a salute for me. Good luck.

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