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You may be entitled to thousands of dollars in back pay

You served your country, now honor is due.

It’s no secret that the VA Disability process is confusing. There isn’t a lot of information available, and much of the information that is available is outdated or incorrect. This becomes even more evident when our attorneys and staff discuss back pay with Veterans.

Many Veterans aren’t aware they can receive back pay for their claims. In most cases, a Veteran will receive back pay from the date their claim was originally filed. So, if you filed your claim in December of 2016, and you get approved in May 2018, you should receive back pay for those 17 months. If you filed as a single Veteran with no dependents, and you are approved in 2018, you should receive $1,365.48 per month for your disabilities. The VA pays you back pay because they should have been paying you that amount every month since you filed. In this case, they will compensate you for the 17 months you should have been paid at 70%. In this example, that equals $23,213.16. (The amount may vary based on cost of living adjustments and a few other adjustments, but this  amount is an accurate estimate.)

A situation involving one of our clients is a good example. This Veteran was attempting to pursue his benefits claim on his own. He filed early in 2011, then was denied later in the year. He filed an appeal through the mail and thought the VA had received it, but they hadn’t. A year passed after he received his initial decision. The VA didn’t receive an appeal, so they closed his case. This caused the Veteran to lose his original back pay date.

This is one of the many reasons we are adamant about Veterans filing appeals before they expire. This Veteran was service connected at 100%, and his back pay date reset to when we reopened his case. Because the VA did not receive his appeal, he possibly lost out on thousands of dollars in back pay. When our firm represents a Veteran, we obtain confirmation notices from the VA. These notices let us know that the VA received the appeal. If necessary, we can use a confirmation notice to argue and prove an effective date.

What happens with back pay when you’ve been granted a specific percentage for a claim, but want to appeal the decision to receive a higher rating? Many Veterans believe that they won’t get the back pay if they appeal, or that they will stop receiving their monthly benefit. That’s not true. For instance; if you filed a claim for PTSD and the VA rated you at 30%, but you think you should be rated at 70%, you can file an appeal and not lose your back pay or your monthly compensation. If the VA then finds that you should have been rated at 70% the whole time, they will pay you additional back pay and adjust your monthly compensation going forward. You won’t lose what the VA has already paid, and you will still receive your monthly compensation while they are processing your appeal.

VA Disability is confusing. It takes years to master, and it’s difficult to pursue alone. You have several options when it comes to VA Disability representation. However, thousands of Veterans have selected Jan Dils, Attorneys at Law to help them get the benefits they deserve. We’re not volunteers. We have a vested interested in your case. We’re passionate about helping Veterans, and we’d love the opportunity to discuss your case in detail. Call us today for a free consultation. Our toll-free number is 1-877-526-3457. If you’d rather talk at a later time, fill out this form so we can call you at a better time.

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The Best Kept Secret at the VA: The Debt Management Center

An overpayment may be a concern, but Veterans have options.

If you are a Veteran who has applied for VA disability compensation, you already know that few aspects of the process are pleasant. This is especially true if you’ve ever been involved in a situation that led to calling the VA’s 1-800 number. Some Veterans have shared stories in which they’ve been placed on hold for hours, or even been given false information. To say the least, most Veterans don’t enjoy calling the VA for help. But in some situations, calling is necessary—but it doesn’t have to be as unpleasant as you might think.

There are some cases in which a Veteran may receive an overpayment. One of the most common situations results when a Veteran receives severance pay from the military, and then later receives VA disability compensation. In some instances, the Veteran may have to pay back their severance pay in order to receive their monthly compensation. Another instance that is common involves dependents. For instance, if you were married when you were granted benefits, but failed to notify the VA of a divorce, the VA may have overpaid you. This can amount to thousands of dollars’ worth of overpayments. The VA will want that money back. So, what are you to do?

There is a helpline operated by the VA that is very helpful. It’s not a myth. It exists, and it may help you when you are in dire need of help. This helpful center within the VA is the Debt Management Center. It’s located in St. Paul Minnesota, and they have helped many of the Veterans our firm has referred to them.

We’ve dealt with the VA Debt Management Center directly many times since we started representing Veterans a decade ago. Also, several of our clients have had positive interactions with VA Debt Management. We’ve seen instances in which they’ve helped a Veteran in need who could not pay back an overpayment. They actually work with Veterans to help resolve the issue. So, instead of having to pay back a $1,000.00 overpayment with one month’s check, the VA may make arrangements for you to pay a smaller amount over several months.

This probably won’t surprise any Veteran, but the VA makes mistakes. Sometimes they will say that you owe them money even though you don’t. In this circumstance, the VA Debt Management Center will do what they can to fix the issue.

One of the best things is that the VA Debt Management Center has a direct line. You may still have to wait when you call them, but it shouldn’t be as long a wait as if you called the main 1-800 number. They even outline on their website the best time to call, and explain that the first Monday of every month is their highest day for call volume. They are even open on Saturdays to take calls. If you need to call them, their number is 1-800-827-0648.

If you do find that you have an overpayment, do not ignore the issue. The Debt Management Center will work with you. There are options. We discussed making payments earlier, but there are some situations in which they will waive an overpayment. This doesn’t always occur, but it is a possibility. In some situations, you may even be able to request a hearing.

Overpayments can be frustrating, but the VA is usually accommodating. If you would like to know more about this subject, or if you would like to know more about the services we offer, call us today. Our toll-free number is 1-877-526-3457. If you can’t talk now, fill out this form so that a member of our team can call you at a later time.

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Rural Veterans Face High Suicide Risk

Veterans living in rural areas face a higher suicide risk than their urban counterparts.

Most national reports state that, on average, 22 Veterans take their lives every day. Obviously, this is an alarming rate, and that number may actually be on the rise. However, many people don’t realize which Veterans are at risk. Some suggest that Veterans with depression and/or PTSD are more at risk, but simply saying that Veterans with mental health issues are at risk for suicide is too broad. There are a lot of Veterans who suffer from PTSD and depression, and there are varying degrees of severity for both conditions. Many Vets are able to manage the symptoms of their mental health conditions with medication or other alternative treatments. Simply stated, a diagnosis of either condition or both does not mean a Vet is at risk for suicide. Instead, there needs to be more data to show other factors. Recently, the Department of Veterans Affairs released data to show geographic factors that can contribute to higher suicide rates among the Veterans community. The news is dire for Veterans who live in rural areas.

Recently the VA released data on suicide rates by state for the first time. The study found the following states are among the highest for Veteran suicides: Montana, Utah, Nevada and New Mexico. The four states mentioned averaged 60 per 100,000 individuals or higher, which is far above the national Veteran suicide rate of 38.4. In other words, the rates in those four states are nearly twice that of the rest of the country. The VA found that other states with high suicide rates, including West Virginia, Kentucky, and Oklahoma, also have the highest rates of opioid use.

When compared to their civilian counterparts, female Vets are two and a half times more likely to commit suicide, and male Veterans are at an even higher risk. The suicide rate among male Veterans is 19% higher than in civilian males. Age is also a contributing factor for many Veterans, with VA reporting that 65% of Veterans who commit suicide are 65 or older.

Suicide rates for individuals who live in rural areas aren’t just an issue for Veterans. As a whole, people living in rural areas are more likely to commit suicide than those who live in urban areas. One main reason is a lack of access to medical care. Some reports state that there is also more of a stigma attached to mental health conditions in rural areas.

In addition to a lack of medical care and the stigma associated mental health issues in rural areas, there are other reasons that Veterans in rural areas are more likely to commit suicide. One such reason pertains to the isolation Veterans may experience in rural areas. Many Veterans struggle to find other individuals with shared similar experiences, especially for those Vets who served in combat. There are fewer social organizations, like the VFW, for Veterans to find companionship.

While this news is disturbing, the fact that VA is doing research and producing reports means that they are trying to identify problems and create solutions. If you are struggling with PTSD, depression, or a TBI, you may be able to get compensation for your disabilities. Pursuing a claim can be very frustrating. If you’d like to learn what an attorney can do for you, give Jan Dils, Attorneys at Law a call today for a Free consultation. The toll-free number is 1-877-526-3457. If you can’t talk now, fill out this form so that a representative can contact you at a better time.

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How a Prehearing Helps Your VA Disability Claim

VA Attorney Heather Vanhoose discusses VA Law with a Veteran of the USMC

When individuals are asked to recall the last time they felt really nervous, many situations come to mind. Perhaps it was a wedding or joining the military, or even buying a home for the first time. What do all of these situations have in common, besides their ability to induce a case of nerves? They happen with the help of others. Weddings include a new spouse. Many who join the military joined with a friend or quickly got to know individuals while they were in boot camp. Those buying their first home likely turned to their family and friends for help. While scholars like Robert D. Putnam assert that our society is becoming more isolated, most still tend to approach uncertain situations with others.

In a VA Disability claim, Veterans can feel isolated and alone. This is especially true for those who attempt to pursue claims on their own. The complexity of the VA disability process can often spell failure for those trying to navigate the process on their own. But many Veterans turn to the legal team at Jan Dils Attorneys at Law for guidance. Our attorneys and staff pride themselves on customer service and the ability to help Veterans at every stage of their claim, including attending a hearing for the first time.

One way in which the Jan Dils Legal Team helps Veterans alleviate the stress of a hearing is by holding a prehearing. Think of a prehearing like a practice test or a wedding rehearsal. In its simplest form, a prehearing is a structured conversation with an attorney to prepare the Veteran for his or her hearing. It’s like getting tips from Tom Brady prior to starting the Super Bowl, or Gordon Ramsey working as your sous chef. During a prehearing, the attorney advises the Veteran on everything from the temperament of a judge or decision review officer to how to dress. It may seem silly to advise someone on how to dress, but it can help alleviate a lot of stress if you know what to wear in advance. Since 1994 this team has represented thousands of individuals in cases, and they know what questions come up most often.

Speaking of questions, the attorneys also use this time to answer any questions the Veteran has prior to the hearing. For instance, attorney Heather Vanhoose may be asked about specific questions to expect during the hearing. Attorney Angie Lowe is often asked how to navigate the VA Reginal Office during her prehearings. They also use this time to answer questions about how the hearing will take place. A lot of Vets have more concerns if the hearing takes place via video as opposed to in person. So they address this as well.

It’s normal for a Veteran to be nervous before a hearing. In all honesty, most attorneys were nervous before their first hearing, too. It helps to meet with someone who has been through the process before. These attorneys aren’t volunteers. They have a vested interest in the cases they argue. They are also passionate about law. A Veteran interested in learning more about the services available at Jan Dils, Attorneys at Law should call 1-877-526-3457 for a Free Consultation. If this isn’t a convenient time to talk on the phone, fill out this form and someone will reach you at a better time.

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What Does Evidence Mean In A VA Disability Claim?

The Greek philosopher Socrates once stated, “The beginning of wisdom is a definition of terms.” While some detractors state that this quote is ubiquitous, others call it timeless. Regardless of how you interpret the quote, you’ll likely agree that conflict and confusion can result from failure to understand and define terms. And one term that is often misunderstood when it comes to VA disability is “evidence”.

Due in large part to the emergence of legal dramas in pop culture, the noun “evidence” is omnipresent. When most think of the term, they think of a blood-splattered glove or “exhibit B” on the latest episode of Law and Order. When applied to Veterans disability, evidence is not as complicated. The following examples will help clarify how evidence is incorporated in a VA disability claim.

The first, and arguably most important, example of evidence is that of medical records. A Veteran’s medical records paint a picture of his or her time in service and provide a roadmap of their medical journey since discharge. Medical records are forms of evidence that prove a Veteran has been diagnosed with a specific condition, has been treated for that condition, and can also prove the extent of an injury or medical condition. Medical records can also confirm the date in which a condition was diagnosed.

While medical records are an important form of evidence for a VA disability claim, they aren’t the only type of evidence that can be submitted for a claim. Administration records are another form of evidence. Most Veterans who served will confirm that the military keeps track of their every move. Some will say, in a hyperbolic fashion, that the military even keeps track of their sneezes. While this sentiment is meant to be humorous, it shows how aware military personnel are of their administrative records. The military keeping such a watchful eye on individuals can help establish where they were when a condition occurred. This, too, is evidence, and can help prove that a Veteran was in an area in which Agent Orange was sprayed, for example. The legal team at Jan Dils, Attorneys at Law has used this type of evidence in countless cases to verify an individual’s location during the Vietnam War and succeeded in getting them the benefits they deserve. The use of administrative records as evidence does not stop there. Sometimes the VA will argue that an injury is not related to a Veteran’s time in service. If this occurs, a Veteran’s administrative records may verify that an injury occurred while serving. Also, if he or she has military medical records to confirm this claim, they too can be used as evidence.

Statements in support of the claim are a final example of evidence. The layman may refer to this type of evidence as a “buddy statement.” Essentially, a buddy statement is simply a witness statement claiming that a Veteran had an injury in service, or that someone witnessed the injury occur. For example, the Veteran who is filing the claim states that he or she was injured due to a rocket-propelled grenade attack. He or she states that their head injuries are a direct result of this blast. However, his or her administrative records are not able to confirm this claim because it happened in the middle of combat. This Veteran can turn to his or her fellow Veterans who served alongside for a statement. Their statement can be used as evidence to prove that the blast occurred, and possibly caused the head injury. These statements may also be provided by non-Veterans, too.

There are other types of evidence that can be used for a VA Disability Claim, but the examples covered here are the most common. Veterans reading this post need not fear the terminology used by the VA. They likely have more than enough evidence to prove their claims. Sometimes they just need a little help to find it. For this reason and more, many Veterans turn to the team at Jan Dils, Attorneys at Law. Since 2008, we’ve helped thousands of Veterans get the disability benefits they deserve.

Socrates also said, “Every action has its pleasures and its prices.” This can apply to calling Jan Dils, Attorneys at Law for a VA Disability Claim Consultation. The pleasure involves learning about the services they provide and possibly gaining peace of mind for your case. The price, though, is free. Just call 1-877-526-3457. If you don’t have time to talk currently, fill out this form and a member of the team can contact you at a better time.

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5 Things All Vets Can Do To Benefit Their VA Disability Claim In 2018

Your VA Claim can be frustrating, but having an understanding of the process can relieve a lot of stress.

Now that 2018 is underway, it’s time to get your VA Disability Claim into shape. But, where do you start? You probably feel like a lot of what happens with your claim is out of your control. While some things are beyond your control,  there are still some steps you can take to keep your case on track for the New Year. Use this list as a guide to help you get the benefits you deserve:

  1. Seek treatment. This should be at the top of your list every year. In fact, if you read much of the content on this site, or from the VA, you’ll see that medical treatment is the most important aspect of any case. Maybe you are already being treated. But do you continue to treat your conditions after they are approved? Too often Veterans quit treating after they receive a favorable decision. This can cause a problem if the VA attempts to reduce your benefits down the road. If you’re facing a reduction, and the VA finds that you haven’t treated for your service connected condition in years, it will be difficult to argue against the reduction.
  2. Ask questions. Our firm has been practicing VA Disability Law for more than a decade. We know that the process can be frustrating. We get frustrated, too. But, if you ask questions, you’ll almost always find the answer. For instance, the VA sends paperwork to our clients at the same time they send it to the firm. We both get copies of everything. If you’ve never filed for benefits before, this paperwork can be daunting. We often find that our clients become concerned when they get some documents. However, once they call us and we explain what the forms mean, they relax. A VCAA is a good example of this. This is a long letter that lists a lot of additional forms that need to be completed. It also claims that it must be submitted within a very short period of time. This can cause a lot of our clients to worry, but our case managers put them at ease once they explain that the latter is nothing to worry about, and we’re on top of it. If you have concerns, ask questions. We are happy to explain the process and let you know what you can expect every step of the way.
  3. Go to your C&P exams. A Compensation and Pension exam may seem the same as seeking treatment, but it’s very different. Remember that a C&P exam must be performed by the VA (sometimes they contract them out) while traditional treatment can be performed at any medical facility. If you don’t usually treat at the VA, this can be difficult or frustrating. You’re seeing an unfamiliar doctor who is likely asking you a lot of personal questions. It’s important to remember that a C&P Examiner is evaluating your case to determine service connection. His or her report will help the VA determine if your conditions warrant service connection and to what degree. Also, you may have more than one C&P exam. This is especially true if you have multiple conditions. Sometimes Veterans think they only need to go to one exam because they don’t realize that the others are for different conditions.
  4. Appeal your denials. Getting rejected hurts. When it comes to a VA disability, a denial can feel personal. The VA is claiming that a condition isn’t related to your time in service when you know for a fact that your condition is related to your service in the military. We understand that it’s upsetting, and we see it far too often. But it’s important not to let that stop you from appealing the decision. We’ve seen Veterans who have fought for more than 10 years eventually get their benefits. So, if you are denied, file the appeal.
  5. Consider getting help with your case. Just over a year from now, in 2019, some major changes will be taking place with VA Disability claims. They will make an already complicated process more complex than ever before. Some of those changes are rolling out early. If a Veteran makes the wrong move now, his or her claim may be delayed even longer. With uncertain times ahead, 2018 may be the best time for you to consider hiring an attorney. There is a lot an attorney can do for your claim besides represent you at a hearing. Attorneys can review your records, check for mistakes made by the VA, submit evidence, help obtain secondary opinions, and so much more. The right attorney can guide you through the process and make you feel at ease. And our firm goes even further. We have case managers to help answer questions, and a dedicated team trained in claims file review. They check for evidence as well as mistakes made by the VA. We also have professionals specializing in appeals, intake, and even hearings. An attorney may not be able to make your case go faster, but they can help you get approved.

To learn more about our services, call today for a free consultation. Our toll-free number is 1-877-526-3457. If you would rather be contacted at a later time, fill out this form now so that a member of our team can reach out to you later.

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What Are The Basic Requirements to Receive VA Disability Benefits?

It’s hard to believe, but this blog is about to turn 6 years old! Thousands of people now read our content every month, and we’ve covered hundreds of topics. But,  with new readers joining us each month, we thought it would be a good idea to review some of the basics.

With that in mind,  what are some of the minimum requirements for a Veteran to receive VA Disability Compensation?

In order to receive VA Disability Compensation, the person applying must be a Veteran. That may seem obvious to most, but it’s not as black and white as it may seem. The reason? Not everyone who served in the military can be considered a Veteran. So who exactly is a Veteran? VA’s website offers the following explanation:

A Veteran is a person who served in active military, naval, or air service, and did not receive a dishonorable discharge. The latter part of this condition is met if you received a general, medical, or entry-level discharge. If you received any other type of discharge, the VA must determine that your discharge was other than dishonorable.

One situation that can cause confusion pertains to individuals who receive an Other Than Honorable discharge. VA states the following about OTH discharges:

Generally, in order to receive VA benefits and services, the Veteran’s character of discharge or service must be under other than dishonorable conditions (e.g., honorable, under honorable conditions, general).  However, individuals receiving undesirable, bad conduct, and other types of dishonorable discharges may qualify for VA benefits depending on a determination made by VA.

So, a person has to be a Veteran to get VA Disability. But that is not the only requirement. A person pursuing a VA Disability claim must also have a disability, and that disability must be the result of time served in the military. The VA makes this point a little clearer:

Disability compensation is a monthly tax-free benefit paid to Veterans who are at least 10% disabled because of injuries or diseases that were incurred in or aggravated during active duty, active duty for training, or inactive duty training. A disability can apply to physical conditions, such as a chronic knee condition, as well as mental health conditions, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Besides Veteran status and a disability related to military service, a VA disability claim must be for a chronic condition. For instance, a knee condition can only be pursued if the condition is currently an issue. So, if a Veteran had a condition for his or her knee in service, but ten years later he or she does not have residual issues because of that condition, their claim will not be approved.

If one meets these basic requirements, they are then eligible for VA Disability Compensation. However, getting to that point can be a long road filled with a lot of confusing detours. For help navigating that road, call the VA Disability team from Jan Dils, Attorneys at Law at 1-877-526-3457 for a Free Consultation. If you’d like to be called at a later time, fill out this form now and a member of our team can call you at a better time.

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My Sleep Apnea Journey (Part 2) 8 Things I Wish I Knew About a CPAP Machine

Earlier this year I wrote a blog profiling my sleep study and sleep apnea diagnosis. Unfortunately, it took nearly two months for me to receive my follow up appointment and then an additional two weeks to receive my CPAP machine. I want to write a quick follow up as to what it’s like to live with a CPAP machine. I’ve had mine for nearly two weeks. I can honestly say that I feel like a different person with this device. It’s magical. However, there are a few things that you need to know about the device and what to expect. So, since so many Veterans have this condition, I thought this list would help. I’m sharing this because I want Veterans to understand that it’s not too bad. I hesitated to get treatment because I was worried about how I’d live with a CPAP. It’s already made my life better. So here are 8 things I wish I knew about using a CPAP machine.

  1. They are not as a big as you’d believe. Though I used a CPAP machine while at my sleep study, I didn’t get a good look at it. I do remember that it was bulky. The only other exposure I had to a machine was by way of the show Orange is the New Black. On the show, one of the characters has a CPAP machine and it is very big and bulky. I was afraid that I’d also have to use something that resembled an Iron Lung. In all reality, what I received was quite small. Please note that CPAP machines are as diverse as cars or boats. What I received may be much different than what you received. My employer offers us good insurance and I was able to get a nice modem machine. I’ve been told that some Vets who receive machines from the VA aren’t like what I have. But they aren’t gigantic either. My CPAP looks like an iPod docking station.
  2. It’s simple to use. One of the things that impressed me about the CPAP machine was the ease of use. You essentially have to try to mess it up. There are many buttons to use. It has a rotary dial, a home button, and an on/off switch. Most of the functions are controlled through the rotary dial by way of the onscreen options. With the rotary dial, I’m able to access my sleep reports (read more about that below) and I can change some options too. The CPAP even can detect if my mask is fitting properly. I’m a big fan of the built-in Wi-Fi capability.
  3. It’s not too noisy either. All I hear at night is a gentle humming. Honestly, the sound my air conditioning is more intrusive than my CPAP machine. However, I prefer noises at night anyway, so the noise is fine. I am not an expert, but I think this sound would help Veterans with tinnitus.
  4. Bane would be jealous of the mask I use. It’s not cumbersome in any way. There are three options with the CPAP I use. The first option is a full-face mask. There are also two versions that only fit over the user’s nose. What I use is referred to as “pillow.” I think they call it this because it’s the softest mask you can use. I was told to use a nose only mask because I’m a nose breather, not a mouth breather. The sales rep informed me that this is the most popular mask. There is a strap on the back of my head to keep it on. The top of my head is where the hose from the CPAP attached to the mask. Overall the mask is very comfortable.
  5. The future is now. Like I mentioned above, I get reports each day to let me know how I slept. It pretty much just lets me know how long I slept and how well the mask fit. I thought this was cool but then I found out that there is an online program that I can access on my iPad. It gives me info on my sleep disturbances too. In my sleep study, I had 70 instances in an hour. In my most recent sleep, I only had .04. The program gives a score based on several factors. Last night my score was 95 out of 100. I lost points because I took my mask off at one point.
  6. Not waking up in Vegas. One thing I wasn’t prepared for was how quickly my sleep habits would change. Before I had my CPAP machine, I was a very light sleeper. Dust falling on my night stand would wake me up. Now that I have the CPAP, I am sleeping heavier. For the first week, I was sleeping through my alarm. To alleviate this problem have continued to use my current phone’s alarm, my old cell phone’s alarm and the alarm on my iPad. They are all placed around my bedroom so that I have a surround sound alarm. You may not have the same issue, but it really caught me off guard. So, if you are a light sleeper, you may want to plan an alarm strategy.
  7. Water, water, everywhere. The type of CPAP machine I use has a humidifier. That’s no big deal. I’ve been using a humidifier for years. However, on a CPAP machine, you must use distilled water. It’s not a big deal for most people, but it was something I didn’t know about before. I bought a gallon of distilled water at my local supermarket for $1. It’s been two weeks and I haven’t quite used half of the jug yet.
  8. Traveling concerns alleviated. I travel a lot for work and for fun. One of the things that I was concerned about with the CPAP machine was traveling with the device. I wondered how I would pack it and not damage anything, especially the hose. My device came with a carrying case. It looks like a big lunch bag. This case is specially made for the machine. Inside it has compartments for every piece of the CPAP. It will be easy to take it with me.

I am so glad that I got my CPAP machine. I feel so much different now. I went from nodding off at work and stopping on road trips to nap to having energy I haven’t had in years. While I didn’t serve in the military, and my sleep apnea is not a result of time in service, but I know a lot of the concerns I had are like what a lot of Veterans have concerns with when they talk to us.

If you’re a Veteran with sleep apnea and would like to know more about what our firm can do for you, give us a call today for a free consultation. Our toll-free number is 1-877-526-3457. If you can’t call now, fill out this form.

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My Sleep Apnea Journey (Part 1)

From time to time I like to share my personal experiences in this blog. It’s rare for me to relate to my clients often, mainly because I’ve never served in the military. However, on occasion, there are some experiences in which we have common ground. Before I’ve written about the negative side effects of taking anti-depressants and experiencing what a lot of Veterans have described to me. In all honesty, I know my conversations with Vets helped me to realize the issues I was having with the medication I was prescribed. Just like that instance, I felt similarly when I started to have problems with my sleep. I wrote about sleep apnea before. This blog turns six in November. Our firm has a lot of VA clients with Sleep Apnea, so I knew early on it was a topic I needed to cover. When I wrote about this topic in the past I wasn’t having the issues that I have now. I simply couldn’t sleep. It was more like I had insomnia. Fast forward a few years, and things have changed. So, I want to use my experience to hopefully shed some light on this issue that thousands of Veterans are currently suffering from. Join me on this journey.

First Signs

I’ve had a pretty rough couple of years involving a sick parent, and a substantial weight gain. I am single and sleep alone. However, about two years ago I had to share a hotel room with my sister while my mother was in a hospital out of town. She stated that I snored quite a bit, and it lasted nearly all night. For the most part, I ignored it. Honestly, there were more important things going on, and I wasn’t too concerned about my own health. Eventually, mom was released from the hospital. I went back to work like normal and didn’t think about the snoring problem much. That was until last summer when my friend Shawn and I took a trip to Philadelphia to participate in their Comic-Con. Once again, I was sharing a hotel with someone. I fell asleep first. Shawn stated that he noticed my snoring and thought I quit breathing a few times. Once again I brushed it off.

Symptoms Getting Worse

As summer became fall, and fall became winter, there were a few more personal setbacks in my life. I noticed that I would often wake up with a dry mouth, which never occurred before in my life. I also started to notice headaches occurring often in the morning. Further, I was getting tired easily and electing not to associate with people outside of work. I really just wanted to go home and be by myself. Once again, I ignored all of the signs and just went on about my work.
Nine months ago is when I noticed that things were getting severe. I started getting very tired at work, almost to the point of falling asleep at my desk. I had no energy at all d uring the day. I would also pass out in a recliner when I got home. I didn’t want to do much. As I travel for work and pleasure often, I knew it would only be a matter of time before my driving would be impacted. For some reason, I often fell asleep sitting up in my bed. On more than one occasion I woke up because I fell out of bed. Once I actually hit my head on a dresser. I had to stop ignoring this problem and talk to a medical professional.

It’s Obvious

I made an appointment to see my doctor. She agreed that it sounded as if I had Sleep Apnea, but I had to see a specialist first. It took more than a month for me to see the specialist. I must admit that this was a little annoying because the problem kept getting worse. The specialist asked me a lot of questions about my symptoms and my sleep habits. She also believed that I had sleep apnea, but she then had to determine how severe it was. I was then told that I’d be scheduled for a sleep study at a later time.

Watching me sleep

It was nearly another month before I was able to actually have a sleep study. So, at that point, it had been nearly three months since I talked to my medical

Preparing for the sleep study with sensors.

professional about this issue. So, the wait has been a big issue. The problem had gotten worse. I was hoping to have some answers by then. Regardless though, I wanted to share my experience with the sleep study.
I will admit that I was extremely nervous before going to the sleep study. I was to arrive at a local medical facility at 8:00 pm. I recall being really on edge on the drive to the office that evening. Upon arriving at the medical complex, I was asked to sit in a waiting room with several other people waiting for their sleep studies. There were 5 other people there that evening other than myself. I was easily the youngest person there, and everyone else was talking as if they had been friends for years. I’m an extroverted introvert. This means I can be the life of the party when I want to be, and a shut-in when I don’t. This evening I preferred the latter. I didn’t feel like sharing my life story with this group. I am lucky because I have an expressive face. This evening my face told the world not to talk to me. Luckily everyone left me alone. I scrolled through my Twitter feed and Snapchat Stories so that no one would bother me. I am not normally like this, but once again, I was nervous.
Around 8:15 the team of doctors and nurses met us for the study. They brought all of us back together. As I was nervous, I was not thinking straight. Thoughts crossed my mind that a normal person wouldn’t think of. The most prevalent intrusive thought was: “Are we all sleeping in the same room?” The answer to that was no. Everyone would have their own rooms. I then thought

The bed I slept in for the sleep study.

I’d be in a hospital bed. That too was not true. We were given very comfortable Full-Size beds. I normally sleep alone in a King size bed, so this was a big change for me, but it was not bad. As I was placed in my room I was told that I had some paperwork to fill out, and then I’d be hooked up. By this time my nerves began to settle, and I gave myself a pep talk. (The actual pep talk included many swears, so this has been edited for a family audience.) I said: “Darn it, Jon, you will get through this sleep study just fine. You invented Snapchat (inside joke) and this will not break you. Now get off your butt and take some selfies.” It was at this point that I decided to document my experience for this blog. So, as you can tell, I took a lot of photos. The room was quite nice. It had its own en suite bathroom and was very clean. There was a TV and the bed was comfortable. It was just like being at a hotel. Well, a hotel that had a camera on the wall to watch you sleep.
It was approaching 9:00 when my nurse returned. She stated that it was time to hook me up. This part was a little more intense

All of these wires were plugged into sensors or me.

than I expected. They applied sensors to my legs, stomach, chest, and a bunch on my head. The head is the 2nd worst part. In order to get the sensors to stick to my head, they used some sort of gel. It was not super easy to get out of my hair the next day when I showered. I mentioned the head/hair sensors were the 2md worst. The goo in hair my paled in comparison to electrodes that were attached to my chest. I wish I would have known ahead of time to shave my chest. The pain was extremely intense when the nurses ripped off most of the hair from my chest. Honestly, though, this was the worst part of the night. Most of the evening was pretty laid back. Yes, I had sensors all of my body, but other than my chest hair being removed, the rest of the night was pretty simple.
It was a little odd to know that there was a camera watching me the whole time. However, the staff brought me a fan to block out the noise. There was a PA system in the room. The staff went through a few procedures with me, they informed me to clap if I needed to go to the bathroom, and then I was left alone. I had trouble falling asleep, but I eventually did.
A few hours into the evening the nurse entered the room and said that I sleep apnea. I asked her how bad it was and she couldn’t say an exact number. I was made to believe that it was pretty bad. They fitted me with a mask. I was given a choice between a full-face mask and the nose mask. Since I am a nose breather, I was told to try a nose mask. It took me a few minutes to adjust to the mask. It was odd to breathe through this because when I would open my mouth it would choke me. But after a few minutes, I adjusted, and created a rhythm, and quickly fell asleep. When I woke up in the morning I felt good. I unhooked from the monitors and went home.

The Follow Up

One of the worst parts of this entire experience involved waiting. I had my sleep study in May. I wasn’t able to do my follow up with the doctor until mid-July. That eventually got bumped up to late June. Then it was two weeks to get my CPAP machine from the medical supply store. From the time I went to my doctor for the first time to the time that I received my CPAP machine, it was nearly six months. The follow up with the Sleep Specialist was short. She essentially said “Well, you have Sleep Apnea,” and then she mentioned that I would need a CPAP machine. I could have told her that. One thing of interest pertained to my results. I had 70 instances per hour during the night. That’s bad. Essentially, I quit breathing at more than once a minute.

(Read my follow up to this blog here.)

I wanted to share my experience because so many Veterans I speak to have sleep apnea or other disorders. I couldn’t find much info about what a sleep study is, or what to expect online. I believe that most Vets have the same questions I do. I wanted to shed some light on what it’s like. I think that this can make a lot more people at ease going into a sleep study.
If you’re a Veteran with sleep apnea, give us a call to discuss your claim. Our toll-free number is 1-877-526-3457. If you can’t talk now, fill out this form so that we may call you at a better time.

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Coast Guard Veterans and PTSD

Anyone who has read this blog before knows that I am a huge fan of the US Coast Guard. Just last week I returned to Cleveland, Ohio and took just as many pics of the ships at the Coast Guard base as I did at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. My friends who served in other branches of the military give me a hard time for being such a Coast Guard fan. At the end of the day, the Coast Guard is a branch of the military and Coast Guard Veterans are entitled to VA disability compensation just like someone who served in the Navy, Army, Air Force, or the Marines. However, I still hear from Coast Guard Veterans who aren’t aware that they can service connect for PTSD. Today, we will discuss how Coast Guard Veterans can service connect for PTSD in more detail.

As you may already know, the Coast Guard is not a part of the Department of Defense like the other branches. Instead, the Coast Guard is a part of the Department of Homeland Security. Further, except for rare instances, the Coast Guard isn’t deployed into combat zones. Because most Coast Guard Veterans aren’t combat Veterans, many don’t believe they are eligible to service connect for PTSD. It’s not true, though. We actually see this problem across the board. Veterans from every branch feel the same way. Regardless if you served in the Coast Guard, Marines etc., serving in combat is not required pursue a claim for PTSD. The biggest difference for Veterans who served in combat versus those who haven’t involves proving a stressor. For combat Veterans, simply being in combat will serve as the stressor. However, all non-combat Veterans must prove their stressor.

What are some stressors for Coast Guard Veterans? One of the first instances I think of pertains to any Coast Guard Vet who worked in search and rescue. Often time these individuals are exposed to a lot of death and tragedy. The Coast Guard is often dispatched in cases of missing persons or when ships and boats go missing near our shores or rivers. These search and rescue missions happen quite often, and they don’t always end well. Repeated exposure to the death of civilians can lead to PTSD.

One area that must be considered also is any type of severe physical injury. With the type of work that the Coast Guard does, injuries can occur quite often. A few Coast Guard Veterans I’ve spoken to have described near drowning events in their stressors. Any situation in which you are fearful of your life can result in a traumatic experience.

Another area in which a stressor can exist would be if a member of the Coast Guard was physically or sexually assaulted. This occurs often in all branches of the military, and the Coast Guard is no different. It’s quite common for this type of experience to lead to PTSD symptoms, especially if the Veteran fails to report the assault.

Some individuals in the Coast Guard have to enforce maritime law. They are essentially performing the same duties as police officers, only in a different capacity. These Vets are often exposed to a lot of criminals and can be involved in physical altercations, just like police officers. However, unlike typical police officers, these Veterans often encounter many foreign and domestic terrorists, drug dealers, and criminals.

 

If you are a Coast Guard Vet and are curious about your PTSD claim, call us today for a free consultation. We’d be happy to talk to you about the services we offer. Our toll-free number is 1-877-526-3457! If you can’t talk now, fill out this form so that we may call you at a better time.

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