Thom Stoddert 

Readers Write

Doctor’s Letter Needed?​​

I have a service connected lumbar strain that was granted at 10% from 7/30/1976. It was increased to 40% from 8/7/2015. On 11/25/2016, I received a statement from the VA that they will re-evaluate my lumbar strain in September 2017 because it has a chance to improve.

I am perplexed because I have had this disability for about 40 years and curious as to why this needs to be addressed. It seems kinda silly that after 40 years has passed and that they just granted an increase that this would get any better by 2017.

Anyway, I would like to avoid another C&P because I am just tired of going to the VA and answering the same questions. Following Afghanistan deployment,I had 75 appts the first year with 50-55 appointments since. By the way, I am 100% TDIU (adding the bilateral factor below) with the following:

70% PTSD
40% Radiculectomy of the right lower extremity associated with lumbar strain
40% Left leg Radiculectomy associated with lumbar strain
40% Lumbar Strain
10% Tinnitius
10% Right hip degenerative joint disease

It has been suggested that I secure a doctor to write a letter stating the following for the lumbar strain: "...not likely to improve." Trouble is, the VA Ortho doc is not very cooperative in this type of issue (this is my gut feeling).
How can I get someone to legitimately write a letter stating....I have all the medical backup to show someone? Is there someone you can recommend?

It is difficult to understand what the VA raters had in mind without your decision letters in front of me. The latest rater may have not had sufficient medical evidence to support a finding of a permanent condition that would warrant a 40% level of disability.

Concerning a letter from a physician. VA physicians are not allowed to write letters endorsing a veteran, however they can provide an opinion if requested by a rater. You may get around this by asking “What is the prognosis for me.”
Statements from personal physicians do not carry much weight in cases like this because doctors will often write to keep a patient happy. If the doctor can explain why it was their opinion that the condition would not likely to improve, that would be a different matter. A good letter explaining the pathophysiology should do the trick.

The best evidence is just the vet’s medical records showing chronicity of treatment and severity. The evidence to support a claim is either there or not. Submit the evidence you have before the decision has reached one year and request a reconsideration.

Also, keep in mind, many vets are looking to supplement their retirement, thus the VA will look at things a little more closely. So provide the best information possible.
Hope this helps, Best wishes.

Veterans Financial, INC?
I'm looking into getting benefits for my Korean Conflict Naval Pilot father. Based on the recommendation of a friend who had successfully used their services, I contacted Veterans Financial Inc. I've spoken with them at length, and have done many hours of research on them and other possible scams. My father doesn't have much, but they're wanting to put 1/2 of his money (about $60,000) into an income annuity account with 96 payments. Much of my research suggests that this may be dangerous.
The bottom line question is, is this company a scam?

I would stay away from these folks as FAR as you can for several reasons. Ninety six payments is eight years of investments. How healthy is your father? Annuities if broken in to early come with severe penalties. Chances are good your dad would lose money, but they will always gain.

Although a friend recommended their services, that friend most likely did not fully understand what this is all about. Your father may be eligible for other VA benefit programs such as “disability compensation” as very few vets ever get out the military without some sort of injury. Often it is hearing loss or some orthopedic problem. These so-called veteran advocacy groups know nothing about this area of the VA and could care less – they only want claims for pensions and/or the Aid & Attendance level. This, of course, will require your father to move/hide his assets which is against VA law (federal law) and he could lose all his federal benefits. The hiding is done through purchases of financial products.

It sounds like these people are looking to hide your father’s assets so to make him eligible for a VA pension program. If so they are breaking federal law by using veteran benefits as a marketing lure, just by their name.

I strongly recommend that you keep it simple. Keep financial issues with a reputable financial planner. Banks often provide these services for free to their customers and leave VA benefits to the volunteers who are true advocates whose services are free. A good volunteer-advocate will go over your father’s military history and medical history. They will look for eligibility for several possible benefits programs for your mother and your father.

Locate the closest VA medical facility for any volunteer advocates, chartered organization like the VFW, or your state’s office of Veteran Affairs. Never allow payments to be in any part of the program, except what the VA sends out each month to your dad.

Remember these are trained salesmen and they are trained to control your thinking. They talk a good talk – your dad doesn’t need that.

Agent Orange Claim
Hi Thom,
I am in the first stage of putting in a claim for benefits relating to Agent Orange. I have been to the VA and am in their Agent Orange registry. That was done about three months ago.
I was diagnosed with high blood pressure about 30 years ago and have been on medication for hbp ever since. I also have been found to have partially blocked carotid artery. I have just (today) filed my "Intent to File".
I served in Vietnam in 1967 and 1968. I was there for one year. U S Navy in country. Not on a ship or boat.
I have VA Form 21-0960A-3 (Hypertension Disability Benefits Questionnaire) for my doctor to fill out and medical records are available.
What are my steps forward at this point?
Thank you for any advice you can send my way.

From what you described it sounds like everything is on course for you.
Thus, I have only two issues to bring up for you. First, caution about the Agent Orange registry, it is only a research project and has very little to offer the ordinary veteran. It allows them to track medical statistics. For you and I being on the registry or not will not matter one bit toward gaining service connection for any disease that is on the presumptive list for automatic granting of benefits.
Which brings us to the second issue. As of right now, only ischemic heart disease is on the presumptive list. There are lots of different heart diseases from many causes, but the VA only recognizes ischemic heart disease” as being linked to Agent Orange exposure.

So watch out for that particular diagnosis and make sure the evidence is very, very clear to them that you did have your boots on the ground in Nam. Don’t necessarily assume common sense on their part. The VA has hired some well-educated college graduates with IQs below the room temperature of an ice cave.

VA Fiduciary Problems

Our US government doesn't seem to care about our brothers and sisters once they no longer the ability to fight for our country. I have witnessed my baby brother be placed on the back burner for far too long.
Sgt. Roger Hunnicutt fought for our country and returned home with a purple heart to never be the same man he left as.

Roger began drinking regularly which led to the loss of his family and shortly after the loss of his business. Couple years into it he jumped on the back of a friend's motorcycle and again made more changes.

Roger ended up with serious head trauma to the point he's lucky to even be here. His friend died at the scene of the accident. Anyway our mom became Rogers payee. Mom passed away in 2013 and the US government appointed him a fiduciary in Louisville, where Roger was receiving assistance with learning how to live on his own again.

After a year of being in this rehabilitation home, Roger wanted to come home. He moved in with me until we got him in his own home. And this is where most of the trouble began. Roger’s payee refused to give him any type of money for furnishings and of course no money for Christmas for his children, family, and friends. I bought what I could afford for his house which took forever to even get that back from his payee. But Christmas never happened.

His payee finally had someone come down from Louisville after about six months and no couch to sit on and took him to purchase a living room suit.
Another Christmas came around for Roger and again no Christmas money allowed by his payee. Roger has just been surviving, not allowed to live nor enjoy life.

For three years now at least he's not been allowed to buy Christmas for his children nor has he even been allowed money for clothing expenses. Once again, I have been trying to make sure since August of this year to have his fiduciary changed.

October 31st we had a meeting with a field examiner who promised him he would make sure he got his Christmas money. Well we are just weeks away from Christmas and no money yet. According to him the fiduciary refused to allow and he must wait for the new fiduciary. It's looking like another Christmas with no gifts for his Children again.
A soldier’s sister looking for help.

Hi, All I can add is to get to a congressional rep or a senator. This kind of issue is not my subject matter expertise, but try this:
Have all the documentation ready.
Document how much money does your brother receive each month from all sources, especially from the VA.
Receipts for the purchases you made in his behalf, or at least a list.
Receipts for other purchases made by others in his behalf.
-Statements from his ex-wife as to what he has done as far parental responsibilities.
-Any documentation from the VA pertaining to this issue.
-Lastly, a document showing how much he has in his account left over each month.
Thom Stoddert
Thom Stoddert
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