ADVOCATING FOR YOUR MILITARY VETERAN:

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1 ADVOCATING FOR YOUR MILITARY VETERAN: What You Should Know and How to Get Services Linda Mintle, Ph.D. Chair, Behavioral Health Liberty University College of Osteopathic Medicine

2

3 WHY SHOULD WE ADVOCATE? George Washington The willingness with which our young people are likely to serve in any war, no matter how justified, shall be directly proportional to how they perceive the veterans of earlier wars were treated and appreciated by their nation.

4 TODAY S VETERANS Volunteers, self-selected More educated than the typical American Physically and mentally healthier than population at large Record levels of Reserve and National Guard forces (older and more educated than active duty)

5 TODAY S VETERANS Conflicts characterized by chronic, low-tomoderate levels of violence vs dramatic, high intensity battles of the past. Civilians mixed in with combatants and no front lines.

6 THUS More exposure to civilian suffering Less sure of adversaries Both lead to more psychological effects

7 STATS 45% of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans are currently seeking compensation for service-connected disabilities, and about one-third of all new veterans are being granted some level of disability benefits.

8 MOST COMMON Tinnitus, or ringing in the ears The second most prevalent is partial hearing loss Other common conditions include afflictions like arthritis and lower-back strain.

9 PTSD Must experience some level of social or occupational impairment (the most serious disability rating, of 100%, is reserved for total occupational and social impairment, persistent delusions, and symptoms of comparable severity)

10 US DEPARTMENT OF VETERAN AFFAIRS BENEFITS Disability compensation Pension Education Home loans Life insurance

11 MORE BENEFITS Vocational rehabilitation Survivors' benefits Medical benefits Burial benefits.

12 VA HEALTH BENEFITS Inpatient hospital care Outpatient services to promote, preserve, or restore health Traditional hospital services-surgery, critical care, orthopedics, pharmacy, radiology, and physical therapy Mental health-e.g., Bereavement Counseling, etc. Programs-e.g., Healthy living, quit smoking, etc. Groups-Homeless, rural veterans, women, combat vets and families, etc.

13 FOCUS ON 2 MAIN BENEFITS Compensation: Benefit paid on the basis of the kind and severity of a disability that happened as a result of the veteran s active duty in military service. Pension: Benefit paid on the basis of a disability that was not a result of active service in the military, or because of age. Pension is also based on income.

14 GET STARTED Enroll in the VA Benefits Obtain an E Benefits account and apply for your claims on-line

15 YOU WILL NEED Discharge or separation papers Dependency records Private medical records Service treatment records and supporting statements

16 THEN Get all the information together and make a copy for yourself Submit it all at once in what is called a Fully Developed Claim Track the status of the claim on ebenefits.va.gov

17 CLAIMS Go to a Claims staff at a VA processing center Rated in increments of 10% from 0% to 100% Benefit awarded usually within 9 months

18 ! PENSION 65 or older, or permanently and totally disabled Served on active duty with at least one day during a period of war Income and net worth don t exceed certain limitations Special: Due to a mental or physical disability that requires assistance of another person

19 COMPENSATION Benefits due if veteran has a disability that is the result of an injury, disease, or an event in military service. Needs to be at least 10% disabling.

20 FRUSTRATING: SERVICE-CONNECTED COMPENSATION Wait 6 months before receiving a decision from a VA Regional Office (VARO) If denied, the appeal process can take another 6 months to 2 years at local level and then is forwarded to next level in DC Then 2 years for decision by the Board of Veteran Affairs If denied, can take 10 or more years waiting for another decision

21 WHY? VA laws and regulations are complex, convoluted and under constant change. Easy to overlook a piece of needed information. Forms are confusing.

22 WHAT HELPS? Vets represented by attorneys have the lowest denial rate. Veterans who are represented by claim agents have an even higher success rate.

23 WHAT IS ADVOCACY? Basic communication skills Listening to what other people have to say Talking about what the veteran needs that is important

24 3 TYPES OF ADVOCACY Self-advocacy: Understand and communicate your own needs to others. The veteran tries to navigate the system on his/her own. Individual advocacy: Speaking out on behalf of the veteran. Family members can do this. Systems advocacy: Attempting to change policy, government, rules, regulations, etc.

25 COMMUNITY ADVOCACY Share your experiences with others. EX: Work with the local chapter of the Brain Injury Association of America, Wounded Warrior Project Raise awareness for specific issues like TBI

26 WHEN TO ADVOCATE Problems or concerns with the veterans care; identify what you think the vet needs Be specific: Talk to the health team directly. Doctors make rounds early am so may be best time to reach them or the team. Be firm, but cooperative No response, keep asking

27 STRATEGIES Not getting results: Contact the Ombudsman or Patient Advocate at the service facility Bring questions when attending care conferences Take notes during meetings for the vet Explain your concerns but do not tell the worker how to do their jobs

28 MORE STRATEGIES Be kind and build a relationship with the health care workers. Work cooperatively, they don t always know the need. Give workers reasons why your loved one needs great care. Tell stories so they get to know the veteran well.

29 KEEP UP WITH CHANGES December 2014: Expanded eligibility for Veterans in need of mental health care due to sexual assault or sexual harassment that occur during military service (military sexual trauma MST) Now includes Reservists and National Guard members participating in weekend drill Don t need a service-connected disability or compensation or be enrolled in VA s health care system for treatment.

30 PATIENT ADVOCACY PROGRAM For all veterans and their families who receive care at the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) facilities and clinics. Treatment team: Doctor, nurse, social worker, dietitian, pharmacist, chaplain, therapist and other professionals Contact a PA if your concerns are not being addressed by your treatment team

31 TIPS Be proactive; Don t wait for feedback Research and know the laws, e.g., Americans with Disabilities Act, the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act. Family Medical Leave Act.

32 MORE TIPS Seek out resources Be familiar with the signs and symptoms of PTSD and TBI (1/3 of the military population is working through challenges related to stress, depression and head injury) About Face: Resource from National Center on PTSD

33 MORE TIPS Write to Congress people Know where to find the resources you need. Keep a log of people, places resources and share with others.

34 RESOURCES National Organization of Veterans Advocates, Inc. (NOVA) The Patient Advocacy Program National Coalition for Homeless Veterans National Veterans Legal Services Program Veterans Benefits Center-The American Legion Disabled American Vets (DAV)

35 SUM The work is time consuming, complicated and laborious, but in the end you can really help a veteran by getting the benefits needed.

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