In this blog, we are going to discuss why it is crucial to be able to explain to the VA how your disability impacts your life. It is not enough to have a disability; the VA needs to know specifically how it affects your life. Proving the life impact of your disability is incredibility important to get the compensation you deserve.
Let’s start this discussion off honestly; the VA does not care that you have a disability. There, I said it. Now that that is out in the open, we can move forward. Many veterans believe that because they have a disability that they will be automatically compensated for it. Life impact, that is what the VA looks for when they decide on your compensation.
What is life impact?
I am going to use PTSD as an example of disability and explain the importance of that life impact. We see this a lot with veterans, they have served one or more combat tours, and after submitting their claim for PTSD, they are denied by the VA. Well if you have followed us here at VA Claims Insider for any length of time, you will know there are several things the VA looks for before they award compensation for a claim.
The first thing the VA must-see is the service connection. Your DD214, any medals or awards you have, your military evaluations are all documents that support your service connection. That is evidence you were there so to speak. That is not enough, though! Many veterans stop there and assume at that point, they will be awarded PTSD.
The second thing the VA needs to see is life impact. How does your PTSD affect your life today? There are two ways you as a veteran can prove that. Join our Elite Membership here with VA Claims Insider and invest in a mental health assessment. This provides you with a disability questionnaire and Nexus letter based on your military experience and medical history. Number two, know your story. This is all you.
Mental Health Rating table out of the CFR-38.
What do I need to file
If you are submitting a PTSD claim, you need to understand where you fit into the above table. There are two areas of life impact the VA considers when deciding on a PTSD claim, Social and Occupational impairment.
Social impairment refers to areas in your personal life that are impacted because of your experiences and your PTSD today. Maybe before your combat tour, you enjoyed going to big family functions and events. Now, after returning home, you find yourself avoiding such activities. Perhaps they make you irritable or uncomfortable after a while.
Functional impairment refers to areas in your professional or work life that are now impacted because of your experiences and PTSD. Maybe you used to enjoy weekly brainstorm sessions with your co-workers. Now, you find yourself getting angry when you listen to your co-workers talk about their lives, or perhaps you find yourself just yelling at the people you work with.
Veterans might have one or both areas of impairment due to PTSD. Either way, if you are filing for a PTSD claim, you need to know your story. You need to be able to convey how PTSD impacts your life today. If you are not sure, ask your spouse or a family member. Ask them if you seem different, no one will know you better than your spouse!
A spousal letter or buddy letter. Two more great tools to correctly explain the life impact of a disability. These supporting documents go a long way to helping you explain to the VA the life impact. These documents should go hand in hand with your statement.
We often have the veterans we work with, ask for templates for explaining the life impact of their disability. What I tell the clients I work with, I will help you with grammar and spelling, but this must be your story. Think about it, someone gives you a great write up, and you upload it with your claim in ebenefits. Then, fast forward two or three weeks later to your compensation and pension (C&P) exam. You are sitting there, and the examiner is reading through your documents, they ask you about your disability and how it impacts your life. How are you going to answer? You already know your own story, do not use someone else’s story.
While we do have a personal statement generator, you still need to know your story cold.
There should be a flow to your story. This is what happened, I hurt my knee, this is what I used to be able to do. I used to run, hike, go with my family and spend the day at Disney World, etc. Now because of my disability, this is what I can no longer do; run, hike, walk for more than an hour with my family at Disney World, etc. Be specific! You can mention your pain, but that is not enough. Pain is subjective. Not being able to walk for more than an hour at a time, that is specific.
Remember how to explain the life impact of your disability, and your next claim will be in the winning category!
Stewart Simons is apart of the VA Claims Insider Team and a Navy disabled Veteran. You can contact him at [email protected]