Topics - Health Issues -
VA Claims

 
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Introduction

Too many Korean War veterans are unaware that they can file a claim with the federal government for Veteran's Assistance for service-related injuries. The filing process is time-consuming, slow, and often exasperating (to say the least), but the financial benefits to the veteran and his or her family can be well worth the misery involved in going through the claim process. The Korean War Educator is frequently contacted by veterans who want to establish VA claims or who are having trouble getting them to go through the system and/or be approved. Our visitors are welcome to send their queries/information on the subjects below to lynnita@koreanwar-educator.org for posting on the KWE.

The VA Watchdog is an excellent website for veterans: http://vawatchdog.org/.


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Filing a Claim - How To Material

VA HANDBOOK: The current edition of "Federal Benefits for Veterans and Dependents" is now available for reading or downloading on the VA web site at www1.va.gov/opa/publications/benefits_book/federal_benefits.pdf  (about 840kb). This 119 page booklet lists the variety of federal benefits available to military veterans and their dependents. Topics covered include health care enrollment, VA claim filing, burial and survivor benefits, and workplace benefits. It also contains contact information by state for all Regional Offices, VA Medical Centers, VA Clinics, Vet Centers, and National Cemeteries. Hard copies which should be available sometime in April can be ordered at the U.S. Government online Bookstore http://bookstore.gpo.gov/ for $7.00 each.


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VA Horror Stories

Has filing a VA claim been a nightmare for you?  Tell us about it.

Earl Kelling

My father, Earl Kelling, served in Guam during the late 1940s and the early 1950s.  He was at Marbo Base and he was with the 33rd Engineer Pipeline Company.  One of his main duties was to maintain a gas pipeline that ran from Marbo to Andersen Air Base.  Guam is a tropical climate and there is a lot of vegetation.  They used machetes and Sodium Arsenite to clear the growth around the pipeline.  He was also exposed to gasoline, which at that time was full of lead.  Sodium Arsenite is at least 3 times more deadly than Agent Orange.  This doesn't even bring in to account that latrines and sleeping quarters were sprayed with DDT and other pesticides.  Guam today has the world's highest population of people with Parkinson's Disease (or Parkinson's-like symptoms).

My Dad now has Parkinson's Disease and it seems he may have other health issues cropping up.  He has lost over 30 pounds.  He has filed medical claims with the V.A.  They keep denying and asking for more info.  To make matters worse, my Dad's service records were lost in a fire during the 1970s.  In his discharge papers he had itemized the chemicals he worked with.  He has some records, but not the ones he needs.  Now, of course, the burden of proof is on him.  Chemicals from the Vietnam era are all public records.  You can find what dioxins they used, where they used them, etc.  I want to find out where the info is from the Korean War era.  The Korean War vets (and World War II) used products that were much more toxic than Agent Orange, yet they have no rights to any medical care.  I think this is wrong.  I have posted on other web sites looking for vets with similar problems.

The V.A. also is asking for my Dad to get a "Buddy Affidavit" to get eye witness accounts of what his duties were.  He hasn't talked with some of these guys since the war.  How's a 72-year old guy supposed to track all these people down?  I've been searching for him with no results.  They also asked for photographic proof--yeah right, here's a picture of Dad sitting on top of a barrel of Sodium Arsenite--that's the first thing a young guy would take a picture of to send home.

Here are some of the names Dad remembers: Corp. Billy Choate, Lt. Edward Soniat, Don Jacques, Gary Nelson, and Andy Andrews from Bath, New York. [KWE found Lieutenant Soniat in Greenville, SC.]

Anyway, I'd appreciate any suggestions you may have.  I'd also like to help other veterans who are having the same types of problems.  It's time they are recognized.  Thank you for your time.

Contact: Carol Anderson pcserve@cheqnet.net.

[Posted 8/27/05]


Edward P. Daviss

My name is Ernestine Daviss, and I am trying to get my DIC compensation through the Dept. of Veterans Affairs. My husband had 100% disability about half of which was from cold weather injuries.  My husband was to have had an angio embolization at another hospital because the VA Hospital in Dallas, TX did not perform this particular procedure. Instead, he was mistakenly given a chemo embolization for a carcinoid tumor on his liver. This happened in January, and he died March 17, 2004, having never recovered from the complications of the procedure. The VA is claiming that he died of natural causes, but of course, he did not.

I believe that the internal damage he developed over the years was due to the cold weather trauma he suffered during his service at the Chosen Reservoir in Korea. It is a documented fact that these men suffered extreme cold weather conditions with no relief for an extended period of time.

In your studies of cold weather treatment do you know of any doctor who might be willing to write something similar to: "It is my medical opinion that this veteran’s carcinoid tumor is at least as likely as not to be due to cold weather……."  I need a statement from a doctor similar to this to further my case with the VA. I would appreciate any effort that you would make in assisting me with this DIC claim.

Thank you,
Ernestine V. Daviss evdaviss@flash.net. Ph. 817-274-5839
Widow of Edward P. Daviss
United States Marines


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VA Success Stories

Have you successfully made it through the claims process and are now enjoying government VA benefits?  Sharing your success story will be an encouragement to others who so far can't see the light at the end of the tunnel as they await notification that their claim has gone through.


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Queries

Do you have questions about filing a VA claim?  Send them to the Korean War Educator.  Our viewers who have been through the VA claims process might be able to answer them.

Query 1 - Assistance for mother needed

My father Frank Beckendorf died almost two years ago this November.  I helped him get his 100% disability which he received eight months before his death.  My mother is almost 75 years old and is receiving 0 amount.  The Purple Heart Association is helping me, thank God.  I need help.  My mother will never outlive the paperwork.  My father had his original claim in 1950.  Thank you for any assistance you can give.

Contact: Pat Newman.  E-mail thenewmans@bellsouth.net.

[Posted 4/30/05]


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Legal Assistance

The information below is provided as a courtesy to Korean War veterans and a free service to members of the legal profession. By posting it, the KWE is not advocating that veterans use the services of any of the attorneys whose names and credentials are listed. The information is supplied to the KWE by the attorney him or herself, and posted as a service to Korean War veterans and their dependents. The attorneys listed below are lawyers whose practice is limited to U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Claims. Prior to posting, the Korean War Educator must receive the following:

  • letters of recommendation from veterans who have used a particular attorney's services
  • background information/resume of the attorney
  • specific fees that veterans will be charged for services rendered
  • contact information

Marshall O. Potter Jr., Attorney-at-Law

Background:

"My practice is limited to representing veterans in their claims against the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).  I am a graduate of Boston University School of Management (formerly the College of Business Administration) and Loyola School of Law in New Orleans, LA.  I am admitted to practice in Louisiana, the District of Columbia.  I am also admitted to practice at the United States Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims and at the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.  I have practiced before this court for 10 years.  The latter court is where appeals are made from adverse decision from the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims.

Prior to practicing at the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims, I worked for several years at the VA's Board of Veterans Appeals.  My experience relative to veterans' claims is extensive.  I am familiar with the practices and procedures of the BVA and the VA Regional Offices (RO).  I have handled cases on appeal at the Court.  I can furnish references upon request.

The law relative to securing VA benefits is involved and complex.  As I said, my only area of practice is in veteran's benefits law.  Since I worked for several years at the BVA, I am familiar with BVA and Court practices and procedures.  I am well aware of the ways of how and why the VA may have violated the veteran's or dependent's rights with regard to the claim.  I thoroughly analyze the case and will develop medical evidence that is often needed to win it.  I keep current with the Court's decisions and any changes in the VA laws and regulations that may occur.  In short, my experience and expertise increased the chances of the veteran or his/her dependent winning the claim against the VA.

I am also well qualified to effectively represent the veteran or his dependent at the BVA and RO where I have had considerable success in representing veterans and their dependents at those levels.

At the Court I do expect to get attorney fees, which are known as Equal Access to Justice Act (EAJA) fees if I am successful in having the decision that was denied at the BVA either remanded back to the BVA for further consideration or reversed.  The VA and not the veteran or dependent pays these fees.  They do not adversely affect any monetary benefits received by the veteran or dependent.

In the event that the claim is remanded back to the BVA then I would charge a fee in the form of a percentage share of any past due benefits that you may receive for representing you at the BVA and/or RO.  This means that if the veteran or dependent receive no benefits, then I am paid nothing.

My fee for representation of a client in these matters is limited to thirty percent (30%) of all past due benefits received as a result of my efforts.  As I said, if I do not recover any past-due benefits for you then there is no charge.  I receive no share of future benefits.  The 30% fee has been deemed by the BVA to be a reasonable charge for representation at RO and BVA.  Any attorney fee that I receive from the VA in the form of EAJA fees for representing the veteran or his dependent at the Court will be deducted from my share of any past due benefits that may be due me if successful.  For example, if I receive $1,000.00 in EAJA fees from the VA and subsequently become entitled to $2000.00 fee as a result of my share of the past due benefits received, then the veteran or his dependent will receive a credit of $1,000.00 and I will receive only $1,000.00.  In the event that my share of the past due benefits was less than $1,000.00, then I would receive nothing in past due benefits.  I would, of course, keep the EAJA fees.

I also charge for any expenses I incur in pursuing the claim.  These include long-distance phone calls, messenger or delivery fees, postage, in-office photocopying at $0.07 a page, mileage at $0.30 per mile, investigative expenses and consultant's expenses.  These charges are the veteran's or dependent's responsibility irrespective of whether I win or lose.  However, before incurring any expense over one hundred twenty five dollars ($125.00), I will consult with the veteran or dependent.

Before I take a case, I review the claims file so that I can realistically assess the chances of winning at the Court, BVA, and Regional Office levels.  I do not have the VA claims file but will request the VA send it to the Board of Veterans Appeals in Washington for my review.  When the file is received, I will review your claims file and advise the veteran or his dependent if such representation is feasible.  If so, I will send a contract of employment along the lines I have outlined.

All of these conditions are included in the contract of employment that I file with the Court, BVA and RO.  For me to collect my fee it has to be deemed reasonable by the appropriate authority.  If it is not deemed reasonable, then a fee will be set that is considered reasonable.  This is for the protection of the veteran or dependent.

I offer a service that is unique and beneficial to veterans or their dependents in attempting to file claims against the VA."

References:

On file with Lynnita Brown of the KWE.  Contact lynnita@koreanwar-educator.org and she will forward the references to veterans and dependents seeking legal assistance for VA claims.

Contact:

Marshall O. Potter, Jr.
Attorney-at-Law
912 Cottage St.
Vienna, VA 22180
Ph. 703-938-3220 (office)
703-939-3680 (fax)
1-866-516-5779
email: mpotterjr@cox.net


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Robert E. Wallace Letter (PTSD Claims)

TO: All Concerned Veterans' Advocates
FROM: Robert E. Wallace, Executive Director
DATE: November 7, 2005
SUBJ: PTSD Review

The attached letter was broadcast faxed to every member of the House and Senate on Monday, November 7, 2005.  I cannot stress enough the importance of this issue. Please contact your legislators and let them know that we will not tolerate this assault on America’s disabled veterans.  We need to overwhelm their district offices with phone calls. When calling, identify yourself as a voter, constituent and concerned veteran. Tell them that this is a critical issue for all who have or will wear the uniform. The time to do the right thing by our nations veterans is now!

Thank you for your continuous support of our VFW Legislative Priority Goals.

November 7, 2005

TO: ALL MEMBERS OF CONGRESS

Dear Senator or Representative:

We have, at the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States (VFW), observed for the past several months, astonishing efforts to cast veterans who have been found to be severely disabled, by the Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) own determinations, as undeserving of the veterans’ benefits that a grateful nation has provided for them in the law.

This assault on the most vulnerable members of the veteran community, disabled in service to this country, and suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is broad in its scope and execution. At a time when the VA should be preparing to serve combat veterans returning from the war on terrorism being fought in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere, they are expending their limited resources planning a systematic effort to reduce or remove benefits earned by the parents and older siblings of the troops fighting in the field today.

The VA, in an extraordinary reversal of their expressed priorities, has apparently decided to ignore the intolerable backlogs of more than 700,000 claims and appeals that they have created, in order to devote their resources to a massive review of 72,000 cases, with the intent of denying the future payments necessary for subsistence to severely mentally disabled combat veterans and their families. This review has nothing to do with VA’s acknowledged error rate of about 15%. If that were the case, they would review all the cases, including the many cases of veterans whom the VA has erroneously denied or under paid

Instead, the VA is looking only at cases in which the veterans are totally dependent on the VA to survive, and that the VA has already found eligible for compensation. Remarkably, the VA plans to reduce or cut off mentally disabled veterans if they cannot recall the specific details of stressful events that occurred three or more decades ago.

The absolute folly and moral bankruptcy of this plan is apparent to the United States Senate, who voted to bar funding for it from the appropriation bill now in conference. We have heard, however, that the House Leadership fully intends to strip this provision from the bill, and require the VA to execute this witch-hunt of a review.

The VFW urges the Congress to put a stop to this wartime assault on past and present warriors who have fought for, and continue to defend our country. Understand that this situation is totally unacceptable to the VFW, and its 2.4 million members and auxiliaries. We will do what is necessary to protect, in Lincoln’s words, "He who bore the battle, and his widow, and his orphan." These words are marked on the front of the VA headquarters building. I urge you to take them to heart.

Sincerely,

ROBERT E. WALLACE
Executive Director
VFW Washington Office

cc: VFW National Officers
VFW Posts and Departments
VFW Auxiliary Leadership


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2nd Robert E. Wallace Letter (Also Re: PSTD Claims)

TO: All Veterans Advocates
FROM: Robert E. Wallace
DATE: November 10, 2005
SUBJ: VA Calls Off PTSD Review

Earlier today, the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (VA) announced that they will no longer pursue the review of some 72,000 files of veterans currently receiving disability compensation for post-traumatic stress disorder. This is a giant victory for veterans and veteran advocates. The VFW would like to thank all of you who made phone calls, sent faxes, letters and emails demanding that the review be stopped. The recent action by VA would not have taken place without your efforts.

Please know that our fight is not over – we must keep the pressure on for adequate VA funding. Over the Veterans Day weekend please contact your legislators in their district offices to let them know that we expect them to do the right thing by America’s veterans. Urge them to vote for the Senate prescribed funding level for VA.

Again, thank you for your continued support of America’s Veterans.


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Korean War Veterans & the VA

[Taken from the Department of Veterans Affairs website.]

The Korean War was fought from 1950 until 1953 and pitted the United States, South Korea and their UN allies against North Korea and the Chinese Communists. Cold injuries including frostbite and immersion (trench) foot constituted a major medical problem for U.S. service personnel during the Korean War. Veterans of the Battle of the Chosin Reservoir are recognized as having suffered especially high rates of severe cold injuries. Cold accounted for 16% of Army non-battle injuries requiring admission and over 5000 U.S. casualties of cold injury required evacuation from Korea during the winter of 1950-1951.

In many instances U.S. Service members did not seek or were unable to obtain medical care after cold injuries because of battlefield conditions. Documentation of such injuries may never have been made in their service medical records or may no longer be available.

It is important for VA staff examining and caring for veterans who have experienced cold injuries to be familiar with the recognized long-term and delayed sequelae. These include peripheral neuropathy, skin cancer in frostbite scars (including in such locations as the heels and earlobes), arthritis in involved areas, chronic tinea pedis, fallen arches and stiff toes, nocturnal pain, and cold sensitization. These cold-related problems may worsen as veterans grow older and develop complicating conditions such as diabetes and peripheral vascular disease, which place them at higher risk for late amputations.

VA staff is encouraged to utilize the following sources of additional information on examination and treatment of cold-injured veterans:

Questions relating to examination and treatment of cold-injured veterans may be referred to the Office of Public Health and Environmental Hazards (13), VA Central Office, telephone 202-273-8452, fax 202-273-9080.

Veterans' questions regarding cold injury compensation claims should be addressed to the appropriate VA Regional Office, telephone 800-827-1000.


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Records Stolen from VA

Our nation's veterans may be at risk for identity theft--including Korean War and DMZ veterans.  According to the Department of Veterans Affairs website, this is what happened:

  • In May 2006, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) learned that an employee, a data analyst, took home electronic data from the VA, which he was not authorized to do. This behavior was in violation of VA policies. This data contained identifying information including names, social security numbers, and dates of birth for up to 26.5 million veterans and some spouses, as well as some disability ratings. Importantly, the affected data did not include any of VA's electronic health records nor any financial information. The employee's home was burglarized and this data was stolen. The employee was initially placed on administrative leave, and VA is now implementing procedures necessary to dismiss the employee.
     

  • On June 6, 2006, the Department of Veterans Affairs announced that active-duty service members and members of the National Guard and Reserves may be affected by the personal data loss. As the two agencies compared electronic files, VA and DoD learned that personal information on as many as 1.1 million active-duty service members, 430,000 National Guardsmen, and 645,000 members of the Reserves may have been included in the data theft.
     

  • It potentially affects all veterans who were discharged after 1975, which is when VA automated its records systems and began regular input of information received from the Department of Defense on all separating veterans. When VA automated its records systems, VA also input data from all historical claimant records that had been manually maintained by the agency. This data loss therefore also potentially affects all veterans who have ever filed a claim for VA disability compensation, pension, or education benefits, or who have (or had) a VA insurance policy – no matter when the claim was filed or when they were discharged. These veterans would be included even if their claim was denied or they are not currently receiving benefits.
     

  • Appropriate law enforcement agencies, including the FBI and the VA Inspector General's office, have launched full-scale investigations into this matter. Authorities believe it is unlikely the perpetrators targeted the items because of any knowledge of the data contents. It is possible that they remain unaware of the information which they possess or of how to make use of it. However, out of an abundance of caution, the VA is taking all possible steps to protect and inform our veterans.
     

  • The VA is working with members of Congress, the news media, veterans service organizations, and other government agencies to help ensure that veterans and their families are aware of the situation and of the steps they may take to protect themselves from misuse of their personal information. The VA will send out individual notification letters to veterans. Additionally, working with other government agencies, the VA has set up a manned call center that veterans may call to get information about this situation and learn more about consumer identity protections.
     

  • Recommendations: The V.A. recommends that all veterans carefully monitor bank and credit card statements and report any unusual activity to the institution involved and contact the Federal Trade Commission.  Anyone detecting any suspicious financial activity should: (1) Contact the fraud department of one of the three major credit bureaus: Equifax at 800-525-6285, Experian at 800-397-3742 or TransUnion at 800-680-7289. (2) Close any accounts that have been tampered with, or opened fraudulently. (3) File a report with your local police departments or with the police department in the community where the identity theft took place. (Where the account was opened). (4) File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission by using the identity theft hot line at (877) 433-4338.  (5) For more information contact the Department of Veterans Affairs special website at www.firstgov.gov or call 800-333-4636. The call center will operate from 8 am to 9 pm (EDT), Monday-Saturday as long as it is needed.

 

[KWE Note: This page opened on the KWE on March 25, 2005.]

 

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