Limboland – Day 378

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Just an update as promised to my quest for benefits from the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) related to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. On July 21, I had my Compensation and Pension(C&P) examination at my local VA medical center. That was exactly 366 days after I had first filed for benefits.

Let me explain what has happened to get to this point: I filed for benefits on July 21, 2010; the VBA began considering my file and collecting information from doctors and Army medical records; once the VBA had compiled all of the information they needed (51 weeks later), my file moved to the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) for completion of an exam to determine if I qualified.

It’s important to add here that during the period that the VBA was processing my claim, the VHA was treating me for PTSD and that treatment was delivered promptly and with as few bureaucratic hurdles as possible.

On the morning of my exam, I was seen by a Ph.D psychologist. We sat in a quiet office and talked for about 90 minutes. He explained to me what was going on and began asking questions. There are, at the core of this exam, three big questions: did I have PTSD? (diagnosis); was I present in a combat zone or somewhere else that I could have developed PTSD? (service stressor); and are those two facts related?(nexus).

I began answering his questions and then pulled out the file I had submitted to the VA a year prior and asked, “Would it be helpful to go over this with you?” He nodded and we went through the file in detail, with me laying out my experiences in the wars and on the peacekeeping missions I took part in, and what has happened since; both parts of that story include some pretty grim times.

After about 90 minutes, as someone was screaming and cursing his way up and down the hallway outside the office, he said he had enough. When I left, I left him with a complete copy of my claim, and asked, “What next?”

He told me that the review process from that point forward, “used to take a very long time, but has been moving more quickly recently.”  He added that if I hadn’t heard anything from the VBA in a few weeks, to start looking into why.  Don’t worry, I thought.

What I found out is that the file, once it’s back with the VBA, will be screened by a benefits administrator who will decide, based on what I have presented and the information provided by the VHA examiner, just how badly messed up I am. It will be defined as a percentage between 0% (which would indicate that no nexus was clear or that my diagnosis wasn’t for PTSD) to 100% disabled.

If I am considered disabled to a sufficient degree I can claim veterans preference (see my thinking on this here) on job applications. I might even get a small pension. But more importantly, finally, I’ll have a piece of paper from the United States government recognizing my claim that my service damaged me permanently.

I’m not sure why, but that’s important to me.

Like so many other American veterans, I came home from the war changed. I’ve worked hard to get my life back under control. I’m not fully there yet, and frankly, I don’t think I or any of the millions of other combat veterans will ever be fully home safe. Still, I work on it every day.

And now, once again, I’m waiting to hear from the VBA.

Regards from Limboland.