Military/VA VETERANS Benefits

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Stu Steinberg, NATEODA benefits coordinator and a service office with the Vietnam Veterans of America since 1978, talks about helping veterans with their VA disability rating and compensation. (Aug. 18, 2015)

The work of Explosive Ordnance Disposal technicians brings a tremendous feeling of accomplishment to them against the dangers in the profession. It also brings the lifelong challenges of living with injuries and chronic illnesses that come with the profession. The NATEODA may be able to help you file initial application for disability compensation or reevaluate your disability rating for increased compensation.

Stu Steinberg is our advocate for military and Department of Veterans Affairs benefits. He has an impressive record of helping active-duty members, approximately 300 former and active-duty EOD personnel, with disability ratings before separation or medical retirement, providing valuable assistance with medical boards and corrections petitions, and helping them transition into the DVA system.

He has an equally impressive record helping retired and former service members with their initial rating for DVA disability compensation and increased compensation for health conditions.

These cases have included claims for post-traumatic stress disorder, tinnitus and hearing loss (which most EOD personnel have), injuries from combat wounds, orthopedic issues and claims related to exposure to herbicides in South Vietnam, South Korea, Thailand and for personnel aboard Navy ships that were inside the 12-mile limit of South Vietnam.

Case Notes from Stu Steinberg

I am currently handling a case for one of my best friends. I have been handling his DVA claims since 2013. He is now rated at 90%.

Recently, due to having to work from home and being relatively isolated, his PTSD symptoms have gotten worse. I reopened his PTSD claim seeking an increase from 50% to 70%. I was able to obtain his mental health records from the past year which document the increasing severity of his symptoms. I also got a statement from his spouse that documented his worsening symptoms at home. Remember, if you’re making a claim for PTSD and you’re married, make sure you get a statement from your spouse or partner that helps document your symptoms. If I am successful with this claim, my client will be at 100% and can retire from his job if he wants to.

In another case, my client is currently rated for Type II Diabetes due to exposure to Agent Orange during his tour in South Vietnam. I got him rated at 10% for this illness because he was able to control it with watching his diet and losing weight. However, in the last year, his glucose readings increased and he was started on Metformin, a drug that helps the pancreas release insulin. I have filed a reopened claim to increase his rating to 20% because of having to take medication to help control the diabetes. This should automatically get this rating increased to 20%. Since he is retired military, part of his Combat Related Special Compensation—a percentage of his retired pay equal to the DVA rating percentage—will be tax exempt.

The Department of Veterans Affairs

Almost everything you need to know about the VA can be found on their website, https://www.va.gov.

Many people are looking for forms on their first visit to va.gov. The link for forms is in the blue section at the bottom of the page. Click on Find a VA Form and a new page opens. Type in the form number, such as VA Form 21-526EZ (the form to apply for a service-connected disability compensation), or type in a descriptive phrase, such as “claim for disability compensation.”

If you need the VA Form 21-526EZ, you might feel the 12-page form with eight pages of instructions is not EZ. Contact us to send us a message for help with your application.

The VA website also connects you with frequently used services such as renewing prescriptions and tracking them, sending a secure message to your primary care team, scheduling and renewing appointments, and viewing your VA medical records.

The white boxes on the page give you quick access links to topics. The links in the Disability box, lets you check on the status of your claim or appeal, upload evidence to support your claim, file a claim for compensation, and file for an increase in an existing service-connected disability.

Finding the link on the VA website can be frustrating. If you need help, send a message (‘message’ linked to contact us page), to our benefits coordinator.

Getting a VA.Gov Online Account

You need an account to see your personal information in VA.gov. If you do not have one, click the Sign In button at the top left corner of the page and follow the instructions.

Anyone in the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System, or DEERS, can easily establish a login and password for an account. That includes active-duty members, reservists, and retirees. Recently separately service members may also be in DEERS.

If you are a veteran who left the service many years ago, the process needs more information from you. It may help you to watch this video, Create a VA Ebenefits Premium account, before you set up your account.