Limboland – Day 351

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Looks like I goofed. Last week I wrote here that I had submitted my claim for VA benefits ten months ago. That’s not quite right. Mea culpa. To correct the record, I submitted my claim over eleven months ago, on July 21, 2010. My claim has languished in the VA’s Baltimore office for 351 days. I promised to keep readers updated on the progress of my efforts to get these benefits. Since nothing new has happened in the past week, I’ll explain what got me to this point.

In July of 2010, the VA changed its standard for validation for PTSD claims in an attempt to reduce adjudication time. This doesn’t mean that every soldier who deploys to Iraq or Afghanistan is automatically eligible for VA benefits for PTSD. It only opens the door a little wider for veterans to get a hearing – called a compensation and pension (C&P) examination – to demonstrate he or she has PTSD and that it is service connected.

When the application process changed, I decided to file. It took me about a week to put together the application and the required documentation. Someone who is better at record keeping and such could likely do it in half a day. Rather than trusting the mail, I used the VA’s electronic submission system, VONAPP, so my application was inserted directly into the system. Later that week, I went to the Washington VA medical center to meet with a representative of a veterans’ service organization to go over my application and get advice on follow-up. (Several VSOs post representatives at the hospital, among them the American Legion, the Veterans of Foreign Wars, and Disabled American Veterans) The representative who helped me had never seen a VONAPP application before, but agreed to help track my claim through the system.

My application contained verification I had served in Afghanistan and other war zones. I provided the names of doctors who had treated me and forms authorizing the VA to obtain any privileged information about those treatments. I also provided a long, written explanation of what I had gone through in the wars and afterwards. Since the idea of compensation is to provide the veteran with compensation unavailable or lost because of disability, I explained how I lost my security clearance because of PTSD and how that ended my career.

Then I waited.

Since, I’ve received a few letters saying, more or less, “we’re working on it.” A couple months ago my doctors received requests for information and at least two of them have complied. I’ve received nothing new from the VA in a while. I’ve applied for a number of jobs this year. If I had received my evaluation I might have been able to claim a ten-point veterans preference. But without the VA evaluation, I can’t.  So, like over 750,000 other veterans waiting for a C&P exam, I’m still waiting out here in Limboland.