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Get a free medical marijuana card !
Tell the doctor you saw it on VAWatchdog

and ask about veterans discounts!​

VA Form 21-526EZ 
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Disability Service Connection
Secondary Service Connection

Disability Compensation
Temporary Total Disability Rating
 Individual Unemployability
Compensation under  38 U.S.C. 1151
 Special Monthly Compensation
Special Home Adaptation 
Automobile Allowance
/Adaptive Equipment
Benefits Based on a Veteran's
Seriously Disabled Child

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Veterans Benefits on Reddit

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Life in the Military​   

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You've Arrived at the VAWatchdog Dot Org!  

Welcome Aboard!

We've been keeping veterans informed of news and events important to them since 2005.
You'll find all you need to file your claim and referrals to professionals who can help you when things don't go well. 

What you won't find here is unending chat or opinions from strangers who like to think of themselves as experts.

Our goal is to ensure that you are awarded the benefits you earned with your service to our country.

We're here to help you take charge of your benefits, and that is all.

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Wounded Warrior Project Veterans Benefits

"Well, it looks like you'll need an IMO"

You're going to get really tired of hearing me say that this year. And next year. Ad nauseum.
We have determined that getting an IMO done as you file your claim is the single most efficient way
there is of ensuring that you will prevail. How do we know this? Because when your claim is denied,
we always turn to the  
Independent Medical Opinion  for the appeal process 
and the IMO does the trick almost every time.
So why wait until you're denied the benefit you earned because of a faulty C & P exam?
The C & P examiner is not your friend, they're employed by the VA one way or another.
What's the downside? You have to pay for the IMO out of your own pocket, in advance,
and if you lose your case...there's no refund. The upside is that you aren't very likely to lose your claim
with the IMO and you'll be able to catch up any debt with the retro payments you'll receive.
Don't wait to fall into the appeals trap where you'll spend years of your life waiting for something, anything
to happen. Find your doctor here and get busy with the nexus letter, IMO, DBQs you need
written by an expert you can trust.  It's time...go for it.

Can medical marijuana users have firearms? Police say no

States That Allow Both A Medical Marijuana And Gun License
Ever wonder which are the states that allow both a medical marijuana
and gun license? Us too. Take a look at what we found.

Got a medical marijuana card? You can’t own a gun 

Federal law prohibits selling firearms to marijuana users​

KC homicide detective investigating why veteran died after VA police confrontation

The VA has said the incident has already been investigated by federal law enforcement, and its officers have been cleared of wrongdoing.​​​

Marijuana, Drug Testing and VA

Lawsuit: SC VA hospital flubs urine sample; tells sick man he’s cocaine addict

Help Needed to Prevent Veterans’ Suicides
22 veterans commit suicide every day in U.S. Proposed state program addresses issue.

Drug Screening & Your VA - Have You Been "Drug Screened" By Your VA Clinic?

Veterans Health Administration (VHA) has a little known (and apparently unenforced) policy that requires practitioners who are authorized to order laboratory tests to give you informed consent prior to a drug screen. VHA HANDBOOK 1004.01  Page 7; "(b) Information about certain tests must be considered “information that a patient in similar circumstances would reasonably
want to know” because these tests are particularly sensitive and may have consequences that the patient might reasonably want to avoid.
These tests include, but are not limited to, specific tests to identify illicit drug use...

In April 2017 VAWatchdog asked the Secretary to explain the VHA policy for screening veterans for illicit drug use. Read the reply as a web page here.   Note that the VHA Handbook has been updated for distribution after we inquired.
Bottom line: You have a right to be fully informed  before any drug screen. The ordering practitioner must document that you were given informed consent for a drug screen.
If you have been drug screened and not fully informed as to the reasons for the drug screen, you can have that removed from your medical record.

Read all of this as a full web page.​

Department of Veterans Affairs Veterans Health Administration Washington, DC 20420
VHA DIRECTIVE 1315 Transmittal Sheet    December 8, 2017

Jim's Mailbag
Jim Strickland is a Vietnam era Army veteran and nationally recognized expert on VA disability benefits 
and a member of the Stateside Legal Website Advisory Board. ​Jim's Mailbag, is a regular column where veterans, 
servicemembers, and family members can  ask Jim their questions about VA and Social Security disability benefits.  
You can browse all of these Q&As here, and search the Jim's Mailbag archives for helpful answers.
Email Jim your question for a quick and confidential reply. 

​Create or update your will today – fast and 100% free
Make your will with FreeWill today
Does FreeWill offer other end-of-life planning documents?
Yes! We have advance healthcare directives (also known as healthcare proxies or living wills), 
and durable financial power of attorneys as well. All are free to use.

Guns 'n Weed - Can you own guns & smoke medical marijuana?

January 2018

Probably not. At the time this is being written, it's becoming apparent that the current administration plans to vigorously police federal marijuana laws. This means that if you apply for a medical marijuana license, your data will be shared with NICS.

NICS is the FBI database for gun ownership/registration. Smoking weed is against federal law. Even if you have a state issued medical marijuana license, the FBI will have you entered into their database.

You get to choose, guns or medicine?

For the first time, U.S. panel recommends screening adults for illicit drug use
“We have a pretty high prevalence of adults using illicit drugs and we’re seeing harms every day from that. This is a big change that we’re really excited about. Effective treatment is where we will finally begin to move the needle on the epidemic.”

Screen All Adult Patients for Drug Abuse, National Panel Urges
With 1 in 10 Americans saying they misuse drugs, doctors should ask everyone about both illegal and prescription use, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force said.

Drug Testing and Your VA The Policy
"Informed Consent" are the words you need to know. Any time a health care provider does something that may cause you pain, injury or any sort of awkward social embarrassment or employment problems, you have the right to be fully informed up front as well as the right to refuse treatments or tests. In the 
VHA HANDBOOK 1004.01 Page 7  
we read that Information about certain tests must be considered 'information that a patient in similar circumstances would reasonably want to know'. Tests include, but are not limited to, specific tests to identify illicit drug use.
This policy is never enforced at VHA

Do You Take Opoid Pain Medicine?

​Listen up!
​Have you had prescriptions for Codeine, Fentanyl, Hydrocodone, Hydromorphone, Meperidine, Morphine, Oxycodone or Tramadol to treat your pain? Have you been notified that your doctor isn't going to refill your prescription?
We are being inundated with emails and messages from you about how VA won't refill your pain medicine prescriptions. Most of you are very angry. Some of you have already started calling your Congressperson or a local VSO for help getting a refill on your Vicodin. Quite a few want me to tell you who you can complain to at VA to ensure that your refills of narcotics continue uninterrupted, just like always. You all blame this on the damned VA.
The facts aren't all that elusive. This is happening to you because the law has changed. The VA didn't change the law, the push for the change happened at the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA).
The DEA decided the potential for abuse and risks required tighter restrictions than in the past. This affects every doctor across America, not only VA doctors. When you tell me that your civilian doctor always refills your narcotic prescriptions, that lets us know you haven't been to a civilian doctor lately. The DEA controls their license to prescribe. If the doctor doesn't follow the new rules, he or she may quickly lose that privilege. Many doctors have decided they will no longer write any narcotic prescriptions. The narcotics prescriptions of the future will be written mostly by surgeons for short term treatment of pain caused by operative procedures.

Chronic and long term pain relief won't generally be treated with narcotics.
One problem you're confronting is that the more you ask for your narcotic prescription to be refilled, the more you appear to fit the profile of "drug seeking behavior". Once you display anger because you ran out of Vicodin, you get that label and you're even more unlikely to get any sympathy. Our advice? Talk with your primary care doctor. Be open about it if you may be dependent on narcotics and you need some help to leave them behind. Don't get angry.
The VA isn't putting up with your anger these days. Before you raise your voice, look around. The VA police are serious in their work and will have you on the ground before you can say much.
If you want to complain, give the DEA a call. Tell them that you have the right to get narcotics free from VA. Get really pissed with the agent you speak to.

They'll be happy to hear from you.

Drug Tests


Much of the testing in both civilian and VA and military settings is done with a standardized 4 drug detection kit. The test of your urine would show the presence of narcotics (Vicodin, Oxycontin, morphine, etc.). marijuana, cocaine (or crack) and amphetamines. In some tests benzodiazepines (Valium and similar) may be detected.

Therefore, if you are tested to ensure that you are taking your prescribed medication and you have been smoking marijuana, you'll likely get a call from your doctor.  Some VA doctors won't tolerate your marijuana use at all. Others don't pay it any attention.

The Department of Veterans Affairs doesn't care much about you smoking marijuana

You won't lose disability benefits if you're smoking marijuana.

The only people who are concerned are in the health care arena of the VA...your doctors. Most enlightened physicians recognize that marijuana has some medicinal benefit and that there is no evidence of harmful side effects other than the obvious...inhaling hot smoke.

Most agree that the single most devastating side effect of recreational marijuana use is that it remains illegal and you may be arrested for it.

Having said that, your doctor may feel differently. If your doctor makes a decision that you shouldn't be smoking, he or she has the right to ask you to stop. Few people will try to help you with that sort of problem as the doctor is the clinical authority and makes those decisions.

Most mental health providers will ask that you refrain from all recreational substance use. If you are diagnosed with any mental health problems, your doctor will want your head to be as clear as possible during treatment. You should comply.

Doctors who treat your chronic pain with narcotics may also tell you to lay off the recreational marijuana. They want to be able to judge the effects of the treatments they offer you without any other substances interfering.

Orthopedic doctors today are often refusing such surgery as hip and knee replacement unless the patient gives up tobacco and marijuana. They believe that smoking anything will displace vital oxygen and interfere with the critical healing process.

Doctors who do transplants like kidneys or other organs also frequently tell the patient to quit smoking marijuana. This is as much a matter of discipline as anything else. They know that if you refuse to follow their orders, you may not do as well with your transplant and they can offer the organ to another patient who will be more compliant.

Although society is undergoing some positive changes in how we view recreational substance use, marijuana remains an illegal drug. Federal laws are strict and in some states, even a small amount can earn you jail time. You do not have any "rights" to smoke pot. If you're smart, and you want to keep your health care provider happy, you'll pay close attention to what the provider tells you.

There is no substitute

for the veteran claimant who is involved and informed. Once you've learned how the system really works, filing correctly...getting it right the first time...isn't that hard to do. Educate yourself  by reading what the experts have to say.

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