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. 

Veterans Lawyer

When you're preparing to file your claim it's likely to benefit you if you do a

little research to see what others have done before you in similar claims.

If you'll 

 use the BVA search engine...

it's simple...you'll learn just how others have managed their similar claims and appeals.

Double Dipping?

Question:
Jim, if your child is receiving chapter 35 benefits and still lives at home can I receive Dependents pay? I see if they leave home you can not, but can’t find anything about if they are still living at home. Thank you.

​​Jim's Reply:
No. Concurrent receipt of those benefits is seen as double dipping.
However, like everything else in our VA benefits, there are exceptions to every rule. Please click here to explore the intricacies of this benefit. Good luck sir.
​​

Veterans nexus letters IMO DBQ

Secondary Conditions are disabling injuries, illnesses or diseases that may be caused or aggravated by your existing service connected conditions. Nomenclature is very important when working with VA so it helps for you to understand  the language.

The term "condition" is used to describe any physical or mental health problem you may have.  A condition is an injury or an illness that occurred during your military service. The condition may be disabling or not. 

You may have had a condition like a fungal infection that was treated and cleared up with treatment. That isn't disabling but it may be rated as service connected at 0% disabling.

Or you may have had a significant injury such as a gunshot wound. Even though it was treated, that wound may have left you with only a partial use of the affected limb and a big scar.

That's a disabling condition and will likely be awarded an appropriate rating for purposes of compensation.

Hypertension?

​Question:
I am apparently going to have a C&P exam for my hypertension related to Agent Orange. That is according to heads up email I got from VA. I have been diagnosed with hypertension since around 1992 or 93. I take two different medications on a daily basis. I was told by a vet friend that if they examine me and my blood pressure is in the normal range, then I will not get service connected. Is that correct? I would be fine if they rated me at 0%. In that case it would be on my VA record.

​Jim's Reply:
High blood pressure is rated by what was recorded before you went on medication. That you are on 2 different types of medicine for your high blood pressure is all the evidence anyone needs to know that you are hypertensive. Why would you be on medication for hypertension otherwise? 
Tell your friend that he is spreading the old rumor that you shouldn't take your meds for days before the exam and he needs to cut that out...that's how veterans have strokes! Good luck sir.
​​

Service Connection

Service connection may be granted for a disability resulting from a disease or injury incurred in or aggravated by active service. See U.S.C. §§ 1110, 1131; 38 C.F.R. § 3.303(a). To establish a right to compensation for a present disability, a Veteran must show: (1) the existence of a present disability; (2) in-service occurrence or aggravation of a disease or injury; and (3) a causal relationship between the present disability and the disease or injury incurred or aggravated during service. Holton v. Shinseki, 557 F.3d 1362, 1366

Types of VA disability claims and when to file
Find out when you can first file a claim for service-connected benefits—and what to do if you

want to request more benefits or have new evidence to support a claim we denied in the past. 

You can file a secondary claim to get more disability benefits for a new disability

that’s linked to a service-connected disability you already have.

Diabetes Overview - Complications

​Diabetes increases your risk for many serious health problems. The conditions listed below may be caused or aggravated by your service connected diabetes and are thus disabling conditions that may be rated as secondary to diabetes.

​DKA (ketoacidosis) & ketones

Neuropathy

​Skin complications

​Eye complications

Foot complications

​​Kidney disease (nephropathy)

​​Cardiovascular disease (CVD)

High blood pressure

​Stroke

Vietnam Vet?

Question:
When a soldier considered a Vietnam Era Vet, is it correct in putting "Vietnam Veteran" on the grave marker? Or is it disrespectful to the "Vietnam Veteran" who actually fought?

​​Jim's Reply:
I personally draw a bright line between those who served in direct combat or in the combat zone as opposed to those like myself who never got close. I'm Vietnam era, it was only by the luck of the draw that I went to Germany, I was headed to Vietnam when my orders changed to Germany. I did what we all did, I went where I was told to go. For what it's worth I don't have any 'survivor's guilt' either. Part of doing a good job as a soldier is to go where you're told when you're told to go and to do an exemplary job of it when you arrive. 
I understand the difference and I have a deep respect for anyone who has served in a region where others are actively trying to kill him/her 24x7. Nobody fired a shot at me at my hospital in Germany. A drunk guy threw a beer bottle at me one evening at the local gasthaus but he missed. My service was different than my brothers and sisters who went to Vietnam.
Others like to embellish what they've done and act like they were tough guys back in the day so any association with Vietnam gives them some sort of legitimacy in their mind. I don't pay that much attention other than it's embarrassing. I've had the honor of meeting real heroes...WWII POWs and such. My father was a USMC gunny who earned his first Purple Heart landing on Iwo Jima....then came Korea.
The wannabes don't get on my radar often.
How your
VA National Cemetery Services sees it is here. Thanks for your interesting question.

Veterans Personal Injury Lawyer

The VAWatchdog Dot Org

Welcome Home

Department of Veterans Affairs Secondary Conditions

Conditions That May Be Caused, Contributed To Or Aggravated By Your Rated Disabilities

Hearing loss can affect more than just your hearing.

The mental and emotional effects of hearing loss include changes to your self-esteem and the way that you interact with others.

Hearing loss is a great example of how a rated condition can cause, contribute to or aggravate your mental health.

Talk with Dr. Valette today  to learn if you have a claim for conditions secondary to your hearing loss, tinnitus or other physically disabling conditions.​​

What is thyroid disease?

​Thyroid disease is a general term for a medical condition that keeps your thyroid from making the right amount of hormones.

Is there a higher risk of developing thyroid disease if I have diabetes?
If you have diabetes, you’re at a higher risk of developing a thyroid disease than people without diabetes. Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disorder. If you already have one autoimmune disorder, you are more likely to develop another one.
For people with type 2 diabetes, the risk is lower, but still there. If you have type 2 diabetes, you’re more likely to develop a thyroid disease later in life.

​Symptoms of an overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism) can include:
Experiencing anxiety, irritability and nervousness.
Having trouble sleeping.
Losing weight.

​More Symptoms

Symptoms of an underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism) can include:
Feeling tired (fatigue).
Gaining weight.
Experiencing forgetfulness.

More Symptoms

Closer?

​Question:
Hello Jim. I filed a claim 6 years ago for lung granulomas and severe obstructive air flow from the lungs due to asbestos. I use inhalers and have shortness of breath. The VA conceded asbestos exposure during yard periods on my old ship and on my last decision, but came back saying they couldn’t fully grant my claim. They are now sending it back to the BVA in D.C. Does this sound like I’m getting any closer to getting the granted decision I feel I’m due? Thank you for your time.

​​Jim's Reply:
I wish I had the power to tell you that you're getting closer to prevailing in your claim. Unfortunately, my crystal ball is out for repair. What I can tell you is that if you don't have a veterans law attorney representing you, your chances of winning are less than if you had professional representation.
It's proven year after year that 
attorney representation is the edge when it comes to your BVA appeal. Good luck!

Second Cancers After Prostate Cancer
Prostate cancer survivors can be affected by a number of health problems, but often a major concern is facing cancer again. Cancer that comes back after treatment is called a recurrence. But some cancer survivors may develop a new, unrelated cancer later. This is called a second cancer.

Secondary Conditions

Hearing loss can affect more than just your hearing.

The mental and emotional effects of hearing loss include changes to your self-esteem and the way that you interact with others.

Hearing loss is a great example of how a rated condition can cause, contribute to or aggravate your mental health.

Talk with Dr. Valette today  to learn if you have a claim for conditions secondary to your hearing loss, tinnitus or other physically disabling conditions.​​

C & P exam?

​Question:
I am a
Camp Lejeune contaminated water survivor. In Feb. 2022 I was diagnosed with bladder cancer, which is on the CLCW presumptive illness list for compensation. I meet the requirements as set forth by the VA. My VSO filed a claim in the middle of March. Now a week ago the VA notified me I will have to attend a C&P exam. My question is: since I qualify as a contaminated water survivor and have a diagnosis, which is the 2 requirements for this to be service connected, why is the VA requiring me to attend a C&P exam? Thank you for your time. 

Jim's Reply:
As you read through this keep in mind that I'm a professional cynic, a curmudgeon by nature.

I'm also a Lejeune survivor, I was a child when dad was stationed there...we lived at Tawara Terrace so we had the full benefit of the contamination. Both parents passed with bladder and kidney diseases, I'm being worked up for mine in the coming weeks.
There is no good reason for you to have a C & P exam. Nada, zip, zero...not a single good reason for you to show up for an exam, period.
However, the businesses that make up the providers for those exams are owned by retired VA executives. Their businesses are paid by the exam so if they can schedule you for 2 unnecessary exams, so much the better.
Believe it or not, VA even has thought this through and 
they have a process in place that will keep most of us from needing an exam. The ACE process makes a lot of sense and would reduce processing time and save a lot of taxpayer dollars so you can bet you'll never hear of it!
In the end there's not a thing you can do about it. If you fuss or choose to skip an exam, VA will default to denial and call you a no-show. Once that happens your records will forever reflect that you're a no-show and thus not profitable to the company.
Yes, you're correct, this is an outrage and shouldn't happen. However, it is what it is and the best I can tell you is that this time you embrace the suck and enjoy your visit with your examiner. Good luck sir.
​​

Veterans Lawyer

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!
​​