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Veterans Legal Help Navigator
Welcome to the Veterans Legal Help Navigator. This online tool helps veterans' caseworkers and advocates across the country find the right fit legal help for veterans.
Since 2005 This Is The Site VA Reads
When They Want To Learn What They've Been Doing
I want my burger NOW! Veteran Anger and Violence in Civilian Life
Brett Valette, Ph.D.
A recent soldier from Afghanistan told me, “I can’t wait in lines. No way. In Afghanistan we did what we wanted. We owned the place. If I wanted bread, or something at the market, I went to the front of the line and got it. Waiting in line here? I go crazy. I want my burger NOW, I’m not waiting for anyone else.”
My question to him was: “And if you don’t get your burger immediately?”
He responded, “I want to punch the guy right in the face.”
Another Veteran who was a gunner and a platoon leader in Iraq told me, “I controlled a platoon of 50 guys. I told them what to do, we cleared the most dangerous roads in Iraq. I was responsible for 50 soldiers and their safety. I get back here and some pimply faced high school kid is telling me how to do my job. I want to just smash him!”
Anger, impatience, frustration and sometimes violence is the dark robe that many Veterans wear when they return to civilian life.
In combat the dark robe is a symbol of strength, unnerved attitude, defiance and authority. In a war zone the robe protects you. In civilian life the robe destroys you. But once these young soldiers wear the robe, it’s like velcro, it’s stuck on you. You can’t peel it off, it’s fibers of arrogance, intensity, fortitude and control weave themselves, grow and entangle, into your identity. It’s a robe of protection and a robe of isolation.
Intermittent explosive disorder is a psychological condition that involves behavioral outbursts representing a failure to control aggressive impulses (DSM-5). It can involve verbal outbursts, physical aggression, inciting fights, destruction of property or physical violence on people or animals. Intermittent explosive disorder is common in returning veterans.
When you’re driving and the guy next to you wants to cut in without his blinker on. Your first response may be: ‘No F**king way!’
You pull up close to the car in front of you. The guy veers in close, right on your front fender. You instantly snap, slam on your horn, cuss at him and reach for your gun in the center console. In your mind, suddenly, it’s war. And you are not going to lose. The guy swerves off and hits the next exit...and you are right on his tail. You’re thinking, when he pulls over he’s dead!
Vietnam veterans abandoned with no service connected PTSD
Brett Valette, Ph.D.
Every month I get an email from a Vietnam Vet that reads something like this:
“I was in combat in Vietnam, exposed to Agent Orange, I still have nightmares and
I trust no one. I haven’t lived a normal life since the 70’s. And the VA denies me of PTSD disability because there is nothing in my service records. I’m basically screwed out of my disability benefits.”
My response: “No. You are not screwed out of your benefits. You only need to be evaluated properly AND you or your doctor need to know about Delayed Expression PTSD.’”
There are many reasons why your PTSD symptoms are not in your service record:
You didn’t want to tell anyone out of fear or humiliation.
You didn’t have any symptoms right after the war. You felt fine.
You told the VA doctor, but they didn’t write it in your file.
No one really cared back then and you were just sent back home...to an unwelcoming America.
For many Vietnam Vets the pain of the war shows up as little shards of glass in their soul, irritants, that slowly, over years, cut deeper, and grow more painful. That occasional temper outburst. One, or two or three too many swigs of Jack. A single bad dream.
PTSD Evaluations and Independent Medical Opinions - Mental Health DBQs
If you have served in any war from Viet Nam to Iraq and Afghanistan, and if you’ve had any traumatic experience that is affecting you today, then you need to talk to me as I can do a compassionate record review and Independent Veteran Medical Opinion (IMO) based on your psychiatric issues.
I’m Dr. Brett Valette, a clinical psychologist and I’ve specialized in PTSD and trauma evaluations for over 15 years. If it’s a combat trauma, or if you were non-combat but experienced traumatic events, or if you were a victim of sexual trauma, I want to help you because VA often mis-categorizes these serious PTSD related issues as personality disorders.
If you were previously denied benefits, or you were labeled as “not fitting criteria” or if you have not had a service connected condition, I can help you as I have 15 years worth of experience with these types of veteran medical opinion related benefits.
Maybe you felt pressured upon your return to fill out your forms stating “I’m fine,” and now your wife is going to leave you because you’re ‘acting crazy’ and your parents say, “You aren’t the same person anymore.” So, in your records you have denied any problems and there is no paper trail of treatment or symptoms. You now feel you are ‘left out to dry’, abandoned by the military. I can help you.
Some Vets have worsening of their condition after they’re home for a few years. Suddenly they find themselves living in isolation, sleeping with their gun, having angry outbursts at their partners and even their children. The people who are important to you are now afraid of you. When you leave your house you scan for danger, you plan escape routes (even in McDonalds), ‘stupid drivers’ should be run off the road, and disrespect for you is all around. You need to talk to me.
Maybe your service connected disability rating is too low. Things change. Symptoms change. Stress and life pressure changes. Let me help you.
Some Vets have waited for months or years to get an evaluation. Then the doctor they see is pressured and gets them “in and out.’ The interview was short and shallow, the final report was incomplete and inadequate. And who has to live with the outcome? You do. This will never happen if you want an evaluation with me.
I have been providing Independent Medical Opinions and Evaluations for over 15 years. I specialize in PTSD, TBI, Post Concussive Disorder, Cognitive Impairments, and Mood Disorders (depression, suicidal ideation, anxiety; many of these symptoms are part of PTSD).
Call or email me and let’s talk. I want to help, and I can help. An effective, specialized evaluation with a complete, compassionate, compelling, and clinically supported report will absolutely positively impact your claim. I charge one flat fee for my evaluation (phone, or computer), full review of your medical records, and a VA compliant report that identifies the issues correctly so that the VA can rate your benefits appropriately in the most advantageous way for you. ( n.b. The VA rules state that the most advantageous rating is supposed to be assigned for each patient based on the patient’s records and a veteran medical opinion.)
Thank you for your time and your trust in me,
Brett Valette, Ph.D. ClinicalPsychologist
My email: firstname.lastname@example.org
office: 303 465-3147
Why Our Veterans Donʼt Fit In
Brett Valette, Ph.D.
The dark green SUV rolled toward the overpass. Inside were three people, dressed casually, inconspicuous.
The driver was hyper-alert; the result of years of training. He had spotted them a ways back, but now the two cars dogged the SUV as it began to slow. The SUV driver’s eyes were wide, searching; his fingers tightened on the steering wheel. The path looked clear up ahead, but there was the bridge.
He entered the danger zone. The car behind suddenly floored the gas and sped up along side the SUV. “Get down!” the driver screamed. “Down.” The SUV lurched forward, speeding now toward the opposite side of the bridge leaving the other car behind. With his right hand, the driver forced the two people down in the back seat, pushing their heads below the seat. “Stay low!”
With pin-point laser intensity he sped toward safety...off the bridge. His hand frantically searched the center console - his .45, where was it? Out the corner of his eye he spied the car now gaining on him. With practiced speed and aggression the driver of the SUV jerked the wheel to the left cutting off the car and successfully thwarting any close attack. The end of the bridge was near. The driver was blaring his horn.
Where was back-up? He was close to panic with the realization that he was over the bridge! Finally. No IEDʼs, no bombs, no mortar attacks. He had made it. The violent surge of of adrenaline had saved him, again.
Sweat trickled down his neck and he allowed himself a breath. Whimpering floated into his ears from the back seat, and the battle scene before him vanished. The whimpering turned to crying: “Take us home, Daddy.”
Sergeant Steven Swift pulled the SUV onto the shoulder of the parkway next to the sign that read 'Bass Pro Shop-Next Right'. He was breathing hard, the adrenaline now turning to fear. He turned around and
spied his two scared kids huddled on the floor.
This is a true story. It was told to me in a session with a recent Iraq War Vet. And this story is not rare. The situations may change. The people are different. But the frightening experiences stay the same. The soldier may have left the war, but the war has not left the soldier.
The common message: “I want to go back to Iraq.”
I was hearing a message on the TV news. It was the same message I was hearing from recent war vets who were home. It didn’t matter if they were wounded. They wanted to go back to Iraq. It didn’t matter that they had finished three tours, they wanted to go back. It didn’t matter that their family was splintering apart and their marriage was failing. They wanted to go back.
Traumatic Brain Injury Disability Claims & Subsequent Denials
Brett Valette, Ph.D.
Independent Psychological Medical Opinions
There are endless discussions and debates regarding the VA TBI Exam and a subsequent VA disability rating. This isn't a surprise nor a new development, the human brain isn't easy to understand. Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) is a complex neurological and psychological condition.
To correctly diagnose brain impairment in terms the VA will comprehend and rate correctly is also a very complex process. Neuropsychological testing is the key that opens the door to your TBI claim being
approved. A thorough TBI exam should be a coordinated effort between the MD and the psychologist.
It's unfortunate that good communication between the clinical psychologist and the physician doesn't always occur. There are any number of reasons for this. Any time we deal with VA C&P exams we
anticipate roadblocks and confusion and VA is sure to provide all that.
Here are the facts:
VA will accept a simple TBI DBQ without any cognitive or memory testing.
The VA C&P examiner can recommend to deny your TBI claim without any cognitive or memory testing.
The VA examiner may use a simple, 10 minute, cognitive screening test to determine if you have brain damage.
Does this sound right to you?
This is the standard practice at the VA and in TBI C&P exams. We aren't surprised that the standard practice for diagnosing complex TBI at VA is as low as it can be.
I write these information pieces to help you understand what is wrong with the ‘standard practice’ and how you can disagree with VA and appeal to get your denied TBI claim reversed.
An entire specialty of brain injury assessment is called Neuropsychology. These psychologists use specialized tests to pinpoint cognitive and memory impairment. It takes hours, not 10 minutes. But
many VA examiners (MD's) feel they can diagnose and rate a brain injury from a simple interview.
Does this sound right to you?
Why don’t more VA C&P examiners request cognitive and memory testing when a veteran has a documented brain injury? The answer is always the same; money, time and ignorance. VA doesn't want the expense or the time in correctly assessing and rating your disabling TBI symptoms.
The VA doesn't want to pay for memory or cognitive testing because it takes an expert to do it and it takes time, and time is money. That’s why many VA examiners will use the simple screening tool called the MoCA (Montreal Cognitive Assessment) which takes 10 minutes to administer. The problem with this approach (although it is much cheaper) is that that the MoCA is only a screening tool. It is not a
full test! Many vets with mild brain injury will be found ‘normal’ after they take this test. Those claims will more likely than not be denied.
What can you do right now about your denied TBI claim?
1. Review your TBI C&P exam. See if any neuropsych testing was done. Most likely it wasn’t.
2. Look through your records to learn if your MoCA screening test was "normal.”
3. Get proper cognitive and memory testing with an IMO to document and validate for the VA your true impairments.
An unjustified denied TBI claim denies you of your deserved benefits.
Does this sound right to you?
/s/ Brett Valette, Ph.D.
This guide provides information on locating
military unit histories and individual service
records of discharged, retired, and deceased
military personnel. It also provides information
on locating and replacing military awards and medals. Included is contact information for
military history centers, websites for additional sources of research, and a bibliography of other publications, including related CRS reports.
You have the right to appeal any benefits decision made by the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA). The VA appeals process is set in law and is different from other judicial appeals processes.
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