Underreported. Underdiagnosed. Undertreated. When we are asked about military sexual trauma claims, those are the first three words that jump to mind. As frightening as those descriptors are, they are, unfortunately, accurate. For women particularly, the effects of MST can be pervasive in all aspects of their lives and can result in lasting disability and undeserved stigma, embarrassment, and humiliation. Winning a VA disability claim based on the physical or mental residuals of MST can be difficult, and the process can cause the victim to have to re-live very painful life events. But these claims can be won, and some form of justice can be had.

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Veterans sometimes come to us contemplating a divorce or in the midst of a divorce proceeding and have questions regarding how their VA disability compensation will be treated in the process. A federal law, the Uniformed Services Former Spouses’ Protection Act, specifically exempts VA disability payments from being divided in a divorce or treated as marital or community property. However, a veteran’s disability payment can, and probably will, be considered when a family court contemplates an award of alimony to the veteran’s spouse – even when the veteran must use the money he receives from his VA disability payment to pay the alimony. Continue reading

All too often a veteran will be unemployable due to his service connected disabilities but not meet the schedular requirements for a 100% rating. In this situation the Regional Office is required to consider a 100% rating under total disability based on individual unemployability or TDIU. Unfortunately veterans are frequently denied TDIU for improper reasons. In this series we will take a look at the most common mistakes the Regional Office makes when denying a veteran’s claim for TDIU.

Common mistakes include:

  • Failing to consider the combined effect of all the veteran’s service connected impairments.
  • Denying TDIU because a veteran is working.
  • Denying TDIU because a veteran is attending college.

Extra schedular ratings under 38 C.F.R. § 3.321(b)

When the VA grants a disability rating from zero to 100% for a veteran’s service connected disability it bases its determinations on a schedule of ratings written by Congress. The schedule of ratings lists most conceivable impairments and describes what the evidence must show to receive a specified rating. The schedule of ratings is fine if the veteran’s limitations match the requirements for a given rating but what happens when the veteran experiences symptoms and limitations and the schedule of ratings does not address? Continue reading

Pre-existing conditions

Before a veteran is medically discharged from service he or she will generally undergo an examination by a Medical Board. The Board will issue a report that determines whether the medical conditions for which the veteran is being discharged existed before the veteran entered service and, if so, whether they were aggravated by service. If the Medical Board determines that your medical conditions pre-existed service and were not aggravated by military service don’t get discouraged, you may still be entitled to service connected benefits. Continue reading