June is PTSD Awareness Month

Many active-duty members of the U.S. military and military Veterans deal with post-traumatic stress disorder, a mental health issue that stems from either witnessing or directly experiencing a traumatic, potentially life-threatening event. Such events may include everything from combat and natural disasters to sexual assault and car accidents. Roughly 8 million people in the United States suffer from PTSD.

Don’t miss out on a potential lifetime of VA disability benefits for which you medically, legally, and ethically qualify! Call us, 1-888-988-3837

PTSD has a long history of being misunderstood and misdiagnosed, especially among members of the military. It wasn’t until 1980 that PTSD was recognized as a distinct condition with specific symptoms.

In 2014, the U.S. began to observe PTSD Awareness Month each June to help raise awareness of this mental health condition and encourage people who struggle with it to seek help.

What Is PTSD Awareness Month?

Every June is PTSD Awareness Month. The goal is to help raise awareness of the existence and the symptoms of PTSD, reduce the stigma associated with the condition and encourage those who need it to seek help. While PTSD treatment is highly effective, many people suffering from PTSD don’t reach out to get the help they need.

Everyone is encouraged to participate. Activities throughout the month include taking the Raise PTSD Awareness Pledge, sharing information about PTSD and treatment resources via social media, checking on Veterans you know, hosting a PTSD awareness event, and learning more about trauma, PTSD, and available treatment options.

PTSD Awareness Day: June 27

In 2010, the U.S. Congress recognized June 27 as PTSD Awareness Day. This decision came in response to the death of a National Guard member who died by suicide after two tours in Iraq – June 27 was his birthday, and PTSD Awareness Day is observed on this day each year.

The purpose of PTSD Awareness Day is to have open and honest discussions about PTSD and to encourage those who need it to seek help. The U.S. Department of Defense provides free training materials to help educate U.S. military members and their families about the condition, and the resources and services available to them.

PTSD Services for Veterans

The National Center for PTSD is the world’s top research and educational center for PTSD. With appropriate treatment, those who battle PTSD can learn to feel safe in the world and lead productive lives.

The most highly recommended approach to treating PTSD is trauma-focused therapy. This treatment allows the patient to focus on the traumatic event and its meaning so that it can be processed in a healthier way.

Types of treatment may include everything from talking, visualizing, or thinking about a specific traumatic memory to processing and letting go of unhelpful beliefs about a particular trauma. The National Center for PTSD can help you find links and information, along with other mental health services in your area.

Our team at Trajector Medical is also here to help. If you are a Veteran suffering from PTSD, you may qualify for VA disability compensation. To learn more about PTSD VA claims, call us at 888-988-3837 or click here to get started.

Military Appreciation Month: Recognizing Important Holidays and Supporting Our Military

Military Appreciation Month

While most people look forward to Memorial Day as a way to honor and celebrate the sacrifice and service of our American armed forces, it’s important to remember that the entire month of May is dedicated to the members of our military.

May is Military Appreciation Month, officially designated by Congress in 1999. In addition to Memorial Day, the month of May includes several military holidays, such as Loyalty Day, Military Spouse Appreciation Day, VE Day, and Armed Forces Day.

Culminating on Memorial Day, the last Monday of May, Military Appreciation Month provides Americans with several opportunities to acknowledge the U.S. military’s historical sacrifices and efforts to protect democracy both at home and around the world.

Loyalty Day – May 1, 2021

Loyalty Day was first acknowledged in 1958 as a way to reaffirm loyalty to the United States and to recognize the heritage of American freedom. While a lesser-known military holiday, it has been acknowledged by every U.S. president since 1958 and typically includes an official presidential proclamation. For 2021, Loyalty Day falls on May 1.

Military Spouse Appreciation Day – May 7, 2021

Military service members aren’t the only ones who make sacrifices to serve our country. Military spouses play an integral role in our nation’s full military system.

Military Spouse Appreciation Day provides an opportunity to show our appreciation to all military spouses. The Friday before Mother’s Day was originally recognized by President Ronald Reagan in 1984 as a special day to honor military spouses. Each sitting president typically issues a proclamation honoring military spouses on this day, and celebrations of military spouses are held on military bases all over the globe. In 2021, Military Spouse Appreciation Day falls on May 7.

VE Day – May 8, 2021

Victory in Europe (VE) Day marks the end of World War II on the European front. Celebrated on May 8 every year, VE Day has become a momentous and often emotional remembrance of the worldwide price paid to stop Adolf Hitler’s agenda.

Armed Forces Day – May 15, 2021

Armed Forces Day is celebrated each year on the third Saturday in May – in 2021, it falls on May 15. The occasion marks the unification of all branches of the armed forces under the Department of Defense. In 1949, Armed Forces Day replaced previous individual Army, Navy, and Air Force appreciation days.

Military Appreciation Day

Though not a formally recognized holiday, many areas take advantage of Military Appreciation Month to host a Military Appreciation Day within their communities. Dates for these celebrations often vary. Local communities may host parades, picnics, and other celebrations to recognize their local active duty, National Guard, reserve, and military Veterans.

Memorial Day – May 31, 2021

Military Appreciation Month ends with Memorial Day on the last Monday of the month. For 2021, Memorial Day is on May 31. This is the day set aside for recognizing and mourning the military lives lost in service to the United States armed forces. Originally conceived after the American Civil War, Memorial Day became an official federal holiday in 1971.

Military Discounts Throughout May

In recognition of Military Appreciation Month, many retailers may offer special discounts to Veterans and active-duty members of the armed forces. From sporting goods and home improvement stores to entertainment venues like zoos and amusement parks, many national, regional, and local businesses use this month to show their appreciation for the service of our military.

May is a significant opportunity for American active-duty military members and Veterans. We hope you take advantage of all the benefits you deserve in recognition of your service. If you’d like to see what VA disability benefits you qualify for, call us at 888-988-3837 or click here to get started.

How Veterans Can Medically Support A Presumptive Disability Claim

What Is a “Presumptive” Service Connection? 

The VA presumes that certain disabilities were caused by military service. This is because of the unique circumstances of a specific Veteran’s military service. A Veteran who is diagnosed with a presumed condition may be awarded disability compensation.

What are “Presumptive” Conditions? If you are diagnosed with a chronic disease within one year of active duty release, you can apply for disability compensation. 

Gulf War Veterans 

You may be eligible for VA disability benefits if you served in the Gulf War and have medically unexplained chronic multi-symptom illnesses that exist for six months or more, such as:

  • Chronic fatigue syndrome 
  • Fibromyalgia 
  • Irritable bowel syndrome 
  • Any diagnosed or undiagnosed illness that warrants a presumption of service connection, as determined by the Secretary of Veterans Affairs. 

Signs or symptoms of an undiagnosed illness include: 

  • Fatigue 
  • Skin symptoms 
  • Headaches 
  • Muscle pain 
  • Joint pain 
  • Neurological symptoms 
  • Sleep disturbance 
  • GI symptoms  
  • Cardiovascular symptoms 
  • Weight loss 
  • Menstrual disorders

There are four main types of claims for establishing a service connection:

  1. Direct
  2. Secondary
  3. Presumptive
  4. Aggravation

Veterans have several ways to win service connection for a new disability. The medical condition must be directly related to your military service, or secondary to a current service-connected disability, or caused by exposure, or worsened beyond its natural progression by your active-duty service (or another disability). You could also file a new claim requesting an increased rating.

Include specifics with your claim.

You must be as specific as possible about what you are claiming and use the most specific medical terminology possible.

If you believe your condition was caused by exposure, clearly state this.

Presumptive claims must prove exposure and include a current medical diagnosis by a licensed provider. 

Many Veterans are focused on objective evidence, but subjective evidence can be just as important.

Many people emphasize the importance of getting medical documentation from any doctors that were seen outside the VA. This is obviously a huge factor in successful claims because proving service-connection is necessary in order to receive a disability rating from the VA. 

However, in many VA disability claims, especially presumptive claims, two Veterans suffering from the same condition may have completely different experiences. Bear in mind that your rating is determined by your symptoms and diagnosis, which are subjective. You are the only one who understands the severity of this disability, what it looks like on a day-to-day basis, and how it affects your functionality and your quality of life. A well-written lay statement should always be documented with the initiation of a presumptive claim.

If you develop symptoms of a chronic illness while in service and you continue to have those symptoms until you’re eventually diagnosed, a lay statement can be a piece of evidence to strongly support service-connection for that condition. 

Many presumptive disabilities are denied based on the lack of records showing exposure. If you know you were exposed, clearly state when, where, and how you were exposed. This information may prevent years of frustration in the disability claims process.

Most exposure can be established with evidence of your service location and dates. Pictures are powerful evidence can help win a case. Many Veterans exposed to Agent Orange during the Vietnam conflict have struggled to prove their exposure due to poor record-keeping at the time. Many of these claims have been won based on pictures, letters, and even memorabilia. 

Because of all these challenges in proving a presumptive claim, we highly recommend giving Trajector Medical a call today. Let us help you develop accurate medical evidence that can help support your VA disability claim. For answers to some commonly asked questions, please visit our FAQ page.

The Power of Including a Well-Written Lay Statement in Your Disability Benefit Claim

Most Veterans who apply for disability benefits do not include a VA lay statement to support their claim. Many people may not even know what a lay statement is. Lay statements are probably the most underrated and undervalued pieces of evidence by Veterans seeking disability benefits. This article is an overview of the power of lay statements and why they are a key component in successful disability claims. 

The first thing to understand is the distinction between subjective and objective evidence. Many Veterans are focused on objective evidence, but it is a combination of both that can get results. 

The primary goal is to establish a Nexus connection. Proving service connection is necessary to receive a disability rating from the VA. Along with your lay statement, objective evidence can help establish service connection by medically supporting a disability claim.

You are not a number 

Two Veterans suffering from the same condition may have completely different experiences. Bear in mind that your rating is determined by your symptoms and diagnosis, which are subjective. You are the only one who understands the severity of this disability, what it looks like on a day-to-day basis, and how it affects your functionality and your quality of life. A well-written lay statement should be considered with the initiation of a claim.

If you develop symptoms of chronic illness while in service, and you continue to have those symptoms until you’re eventually diagnosed, a lay statement provides a timeline, thus helping you support service-connection for that condition. 

If you receive a denial letter that says, “We see that you had symptoms of this condition in service; however, the evidence does not show that it was a chronic condition that led to your current condition,” you can appeal that decision using a subjective lay statement. 

At Trajector Medical, we know the value of lay statements because we see how they strongly support VA disability claims. We’ve seen many times that if a Veteran is service-connected for a condition, their rating usually depends on the symptoms documented on a lay statement. That is why it is important to understand the power of a well-written lay statement. By documenting your symptoms and diagnosis properly, a lay statement can be powerful supporting evidence.

What to keep in mind regarding lay statements

You don’t need to be a doctor to talk about your symptoms and describe how they negatively affect your life.

  • Don’t diagnose yourself – Diagnoses are objective and determined by a physician.
  • Keep a log – Logs are crucial because they document the current symptoms, the severity, the daily experience, and the chronology of your symptoms.

An example of lay evidence

Let’s say a married Veteran is filing a sleep apnea disability. His spouse is qualified to write a lay statement because she is in the room and can directly observe the symptoms of sleep apnea and the discomfort it causes.

According to the Mayo Clinic, primary symptoms of sleep apnea include:

  • Loud snoring
  • Excessive daytime sleepiness
  • Difficulty paying attention while awake
  • Episodes where you do not breathe when you are asleep
  • Gasping for air during sleep
  • Morning headaches
  • Difficulty staying asleep
  • Irritability

The VA rates sleep apnea from 0%, 30% 50%, and 100% after a medical diagnosis and service connection. The proper way for a spouse to attest to your symptoms is to have her clearly describe how she knows you, for how long, and when she noticed a change in you. These changes should include symptoms of sleep apnea. 

If the Veteran suffered a traumatic event while in service and then developed symptoms of sleep apnea, the Veteran’s spouse should detail this in a spousal statement. The letter must be dated and signed by the spouse writing it. 

At Trajector Medical, we want you to understand the power of a lay statement so you can give yourself the best chance of winning the VA disability benefits that you medically, legally and ethically qualify for. Call us today to find out how we can use our experience to help you compile the proper evidence to file and win your original claims and appeal claims.

Developing Supportive Evidence for a VA Claim

Your disability claim has a lot of moving parts. The process can seem overwhelming with the amount of paperwork and the various systems in place at the VA.

A Veteran’s best chance for success with a claim is to be prepared. Be thorough and gather all your supportive evidence so you can get the rating you medically, legally and ethically qualify for. This is not always easy, but it is well worth your while. Like with all of your claim paperwork, it requires you to be honest, organized, and follow the letter of the law. 

Here are some helpful tips for collecting all the right information and paperwork to support your disability claim. 

1. Know What Your Claim Is Proving 

The supportive evidence you gather will depend on the claim type. There are five different types of VA claims:

  • Rating Increase Claims
  • Direct Claims
  • Secondary Claims
  • Presumptive Claims
  • Aggravation Claims

Increases are the simplest type of claim. With a request for an increased rating, the evidence must pertain to your current disability level as defined in the 38CFR. It is important to include both subjective and objective evidence to support your claim. Subjective evidence is information that is given from your perspective. Objective evidence consists of medical facts and figures, such as an x-ray or medical diagnosis.

Your subjective symptoms and their frequency can be documented in your Lay Statement using VA Form 21-4138.

When gathering objective evidence for your claim, the strongest and most effective evidence will come from a comprehensive medical exam. The doctor should be a specialist in treating your condition or specialize in the field of medicine that covers your condition. Do not ask your VA-affiliated healthcare provider to help you with your disability claim. VA providers are prohibited from doing so since it is a conflict of interest. It is best to find a private specialist who can provide the proper diagnosis of your symptoms.  

2. Don’t Rely on Your Private Provider for Your DBQ

The VA no longer accepts DBQ forms filled out by private medical providers. It’s best to focus on a diagnosis from your private provider, who can document your symptoms, including your pain level, discomfort, and other health issues caused by your condition.

Private providers have been known to scoff or ridicule Veterans asking for a complete exam for disability rating purposes. It is an unfortunate reality that many providers are unaware of VA Disability laws and processes. The provider may mistakenly associate your pursuit of VA disability compensation with Social Security Disability, and might assume you are claiming you cannot work due to your condition to get a free payout – which is far from the truth. Many Veterans have reported harrowing experiences trying to get evidence for their claims with some providers stating, “You don’t need government welfare for this problem, just take the medicine I prescribe for it.” Trying to explain the complexities of the VA Disability system and VA math to a private general practitioner or specialist is likely a waste of your time unless you have a great rapport with your provider.

3. Focus on Getting Proof for Your Symptoms

Focus on the documented symptoms that determine your disability rating. Refer to the 38CFR Schedule of Ratings for your condition to determine which symptoms are important to document.

A simple example is a joint condition. Once you are paid the minimum compensation for a joint’s painful motion, the higher rating is always determined by limitation of range of motion. Ask your provider to document your range of motion without pain. If your movement is limited or restricted due to joint pain, the point you naturally limit your movement on your worst day should be documented. This should be noted as your maximum range of motion. This becomes precious objective evidence for a new claim for increased benefits. 

Be sure to get your provider to evaluate your chronic symptoms during your visit. This is the highest priority. Request the notes from the clinic visit and upload those with your claim. Sometimes, these exam notes will provide the VA raters with all the information they need to increase your rating, and you may even avoid a C&P exam.

If you are requested to attend a C&P exam after submitting this evidence, be sure to bring these exam notes with you to your C&P exam. You can explain to your examiner that you recently had an exam for your condition by your private provider, and you have brought a copy as a reference.

Include Any and All Private Health Care Visits or Information

Any records from non-VA medical providers should be included with your claim. The disability evaluator will have access to all of your VA records, but you must provide private records supporting your claim. These records should include clinic notes, copies of any diagnostic studies, and imaging reports like x-rays or sonograms. You do not need to send the actual images but you will need the imaging report written up by the radiologist. 

If there are multiple reports, be sure to send the one which shows the most degenerative changes. Reading X-ray films can be subjective. One radiologist may interpret an X-ray image as showing “no degenerative changes,” while another may report “mild degenerative changes.” A report of mild degenerative changes can support a diagnosis of arthritis, whereas the other would not. This is important because the VA requires proof of any deterioration, diagnosis, or difficulty.   

For an increased claim, it is best to provide the most recent evidence possible. It is not helpful to send medical reports that are more than a year old. The information should show your most recent health issues and how they have worsened.

After you submit your claim, you may receive a request to complete VA Forms 21-4142 and 21-4142A. These forms are used for the VA to request all the records from your private providers. Although it is fine to do this, you can ignore this request if you have already collected the relevant evidence from your private providers on your own and included the complete records with your claim submission. The VA must decide your case based on the evidence they have after a period of time, even if you do not complete the form. This may make your life easier and expedite the processing of your claim. Waiting for them to obtain your medical records can delay the resolution of your claim. 

4. Don’t Forget Your Conditions Must Be Connected to Active Duty Service

While there may be a few exceptions, your conditions must be service-connected to your time in duty. A new claim for service-connection must include evidence linking your condition to your active duty service. The focus of your supportive evidence will be very different if you are not yet service-connected. Your current disability level is not as important as evidence that connects the dots for the VA. Remember, you must first get the fish in the boat before worrying about its size! You have to connect your disability, or the deterioration of your health, to your active duty for the VA to deem it worthy of your claim.

If it is a direct claim for a condition that started in service and your service records do not contain much evidence, you should provide anything that shows the start of the problem. Proof of persistent chronic symptoms and the earliest treatment or diagnosis are helpful. If your disability resulted from an injury, be sure to include any evidence of the occurrence. This could consist of emails or letters to family or friends, buddy statements from Veterans who served with you, or even news reports of an accident. 

Evidence for service connection should be historical. Focus on the past instead of describing your current symptoms. Your wife, family, or friends can describe their observations while you were in service, which can be valuable evidence of an incident or onset of symptoms that occurred during active duty.

5. The Timeline and Connection of Conditions Is Important

Evidence for secondary claims should focus on the timeline and the link to your service. If your condition did not start in service but was caused by another service-connected disability, your evidence should highlight your new condition’s history. You should describe how the new condition has developed or worsened since you began experiencing the symptoms of your service-connected disability. In addition to your Lay Statement, which will describe the timeline of your new condition and your symptoms, you can provide medical research that supports the link. 

An example could be a secondary claim for erectile dysfunction in connection to PTSD. There are many research articles establishing the correlation between chronic mental health disorders and sexual dysfunction. Every secondary claim should include the most recent peer-reviewed medical literature available.  

Most medical conditions affect each other because the body is a complex organism with many inter-connected organ systems that all interact. Many medical studies prove these connections, and although everyone is different, predictable patterns exist and are highlighted in medical research studies. A little research can provide you with adequate support for the connection of certain symptoms. And given that your disability status is in question, it’s worth it to put in the extra effort. 

6. Presumptive Claims Require Proof of Exposure

Presumptive claims attempt to link your disability to prior exposure of harmful toxins or chemicals that occurred during service. For presumptive claims, your evidence should focus on proving exposure and establishing a current diagnosis. Most exposure can be established with evidence of your service location and dates. Pictures are powerful evidence and can help you win a case. Many Veterans exposed to Agent Orange during the Vietnam conflict have struggled to prove their exposure due to poor record-keeping at the time. Many of these claims have been won based on photos, letters, and even military memorabilia. 

You may not have access to confidential documents that prove your exposure, but any evidence you can provide can help connect your symptoms to your exposure.

7. Chart How Your Symptoms Get Worse

The escalation of any symptoms or diagnoses is the basis for an aggravation claim. Evidence should focus on the progressive worsening of your symptoms and the link to your service or service-connected prior claim. To prove an aggravation claim, you must not only show that your condition has worsened beyond its natural progression, but that your service or another disability caused the escalation. 

It can seem complicated, but all successful claims must somehow be tied to your service. An entrance physical that notes a condition as asymptomatic can be powerful evidence for your claim if it is followed by documentation of emerging symptoms, changing medications, or new treatments. You want to chart the escalation of the disease or disability. 

Medical literature that shows how certain physical or medical conditions are linked can help win a claim for aggravation. If your symptoms, disease, or condition has advanced more rapidly than normal, be sure to mention it. This aggravation could help you win your claim.

Hopefully, this review of supportive evidence and how it relates to your various claims can help you collect all the proper information, paperwork, and proof you need to get the highest rating that you medically, legally and ethically qualify for. The type of evidence you need depends on the type of claim you file. Stay focused on the relevant information, develop a full understanding of the claim process, and then secure any evidence that validates your claim.