Your legacy of valor does not end when you separate from the service. Where will you serve next?
Author: Wendy Leonard
I am the daughter of a U.S. Army veteran from WWII, stationed in Japan and The Phillipines during the post-war occupation, and a U.S. Marine Corps Drill Sergeant, stationed at Parris Island during the Korean War. Following that tradition, I married a U.S. Army Military Policeman, stationed in Baumholder Germany in the early '80s.
Maintaining the website and writing for Legacy Beyond Valor is my way of giving back to the men and women returning from U.S. military service with a need for help finding their way back into civilian society.
Ivanna Brown is one of 10 athletes selected for the Women Veteran Athletes Initiative. The participants represent all branches of the armed services and were selected by the VA and its partners — the Veterans Canteen Service, Team Red, White & Blue, the Semper Fi Fund and Comcast.
Ivanna, who is half-British and half-Jamaican, joined the U.S. Air Force on a green card even before she earned her U.S. citizenship. Her stepfather, who was an American citizen, was in the Air Force. Following his example, Ivanna joined the military following high school graduation in Germany at age 19.
At age 25 Ivanna Brown’s military career ended with a tragic car accident which left her a paraplegic. Ivanna chose to fight and find a new life, and she is proud to be a two-time participant in the National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic.
The clinic exposed Ivanna to many different athletic pursuits, and she has become an avid participant in dragon boat racing and rowing. Hand cycling has become a daily activity as well.
The clinic is hosted by the VA in partnership with the Disabled American Veterans (DAV) once a year. Participation is open to active-duty service members and Veterans with spinal cord injuries, orthopedic amputations, visual impairments, and certain neurological problems and disabilities. For more information about the winter sports clinic, visit www.wintersportsclinic.org.
Visit the Center for Women Veterans website to see photos of each athlete by Veterans Portrait Project photographer Stacy Pearsall. Find more on social media at @deptvetaffairs (Twitter, Instagram) and @VAWomenVets (Twitter, Facebook) and by following #WomenVetAthletes.
A website with a wealth of resources on family caregiving.
The Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers, a program specifically for eligible Post 9/11 Veterans and their caregivers, offers additional support and services, including access to health insurance and financial assistance. The primary family caregiver must meet certain criteria but is not required to be the Veteran’s spouse.
Click here to learn more about the Caregiver Support Program.
The 1/5 Vietnam Veterans Unit Chapter of the 1st Marine Division Association is a 501 (C) (19) not-for-profit corporation chartered in the state of North Carolina. The organization’s missions include supporting the 1st Marine Division Association and its Scholarship Programs; preserving incidents and memories of the Marines and Sailors who served with 1/5/1 during the Vietnam War; and fostering, encouraging, and perpetuating the memory and the spirit and comradeship in arms of the 1/5/1 Vietnam Veterans. For more information, visit 1-5vietnamveterans.org.
Pictured above: Patriot Guard Riders escorted three flatbed tractor-trailers hauling the 5th Marines Vietnam War Memorial from Rock of Ages to Camp Pendleton, California.
For the fifth time, the 1/5 Vietnam Veterans Association will be dedicating a Vietnam War Memorial.
The fifth memorial will be located in San Clemente, California, in honor of the 2,706 marines and sailors from the 5th Regiment who gave their lives in Vietnam.
For more information on the dedication and for a more complete description of the memorial, please visit Vantage blogs.
What types of claims can be made under the DRC program?
Certain claims related to direct service, presumptive service and secondary service connections,
Claims for increases,
Transitioning service members may file pre-discharge claims less than 90 days from departure from military service.
How to file a DRC Claim
If you wish to file a claim under the DRC program, you must work with an accredited Veteran Service Organization (VSO). The VSO representative will ensure all supporting evidence, such as military service records and medical exams, is attached; thus, allowing claims processors to make decisions within 30 days.
Yes, migraine headaches may be recognized by the VA as a service connected disability.
The Process of Determining Eligibility
The burden is on the patient to convince the VA they suffer from debilitating migraine headaches.
The more details the doctor writes in your medical record, the more likely the VA will be to accept a diagnosis of migraine headaches. VA specialists usually place more confidence in what is printed in a patient’s medical record than in what the patient may share in an application.
Before filing a claim with the VA, talk with your doctor about your migraines. Include the following details:
how often you experience migraines,
if the migraines cause you to feel weak, and/or
if the migraines force you to lie down in a dark, quiet room for hours or days on end,
how your life is impacted by your headaches.
It is important to tell your doctor every detail you can think of concerning both your symptoms and how they impact your day-to-day life (i.e., how often do headaches prevent you from going to work or school, or do headaches impact your ability to supervise and assist your children). A medical report that simply notes you have two migraines each month doesn’t tell the VA rating specialist much about your incapacity. If your records reflect you are having prostrating headaches that force you to recline in a dark, quiet room for multiple days, the rating specialist receives essential information about your condition.
Your Burden of Proof
To receive disability benefits for migraine headaches, you must prove that your headaches are caused or severely aggravated by your military service. In addition to proving you have debilitating migraine headaches, you must also be able to provide evidence of the following service-related conditions at the time you file a claim:
A specific event or incident occurred during your military service that caused your migraines;
Your migraines began during the period you were in service; or
Your migraines were caused by another condition that is service related.
Documents You Need to Provide
Migraines are not easy to diagnose, and you are going to have to provide documentation. This step is critical to qualify for VA benefits.
You must provide a diagnosis from a qualified medical professional (a neurologist, ophthalmologist, or migraine specialist) showing your headaches are migraines. In addition to the diagnosis, the records must show the following:
How often you have migraine headaches,
The severity of your migraines,
Whether migraines require you to leave work or school, and
If you must retire to a dark, quiet room to relieve the headache.
It is good to keep a journal of these four statistics and copies of documentation of time lost from work every time you experience a migraine headache.
The VA Rating System for Migraines
The VA rating system places migraine headaches somewhere between 0% to 50% disability.
First, a VA headache specialist determines whether your migraine is “prostrating.” This term is used to rate how serious a headache must be to qualify for disability. For a headache to qualify as “prostrating,” the patient must experience weakness which forces him/her to lie down during the occurrence of the migraine.
After reviewing your medical records, the VA employs four possible ratings to headache claims based on their frequency and severity.
Migraines are determined to be “not prostrating,” meaning they occur less than once every two months.
If the VA determines your migraines are infrequent and don’t force you to lie down, leave work, or otherwise incapacitate you, they will probably deny your application for disability.
A 10% rating means the veteran suffers from “prostrating” migraines at the moderate pace of one every two months.
A rating of 50% is the highest awarded for migraines and is defined as having “very frequent completely prostrating” prolonged migraines which result in severe economic hardship for the veteran.
Individual Unemployability (IU) Due to Migraines
The fourth option is not automatically awarded. However, if you believe your migraines are so frequent that you are completely unable to
hold a job, you may be eligible for Individual Unemployability (IU). IU is part of a VA disability compensation program that will award 100% compensation to a veteran even if his/her service-connected disability was not rated at 100%.
You must meet the following criteria to qualify for IU:
A veteran must be unable to maintain “substantially gainful employment” due to a service-related condition. Note that the VA does not consider minimal or minor odd jobs as “substantially gainful employment.”
The veteran must have a service-connected disability that was rated at 60% or higher.
The veteran must have two or more service-connected disabilities, and at least one of them must have been rated at 40% or higher. Their combined rating must be 70% or higher.
What if You Know You Don’t Meet the Criteria for Individual Unemployability
It’s possible that you may not meet any of the listed criteria for IU eligibility. If so, special consideration may still be given to your claim if you can show that your disability demonstrates unusual or exceptional circumstances that interfere with your earning ability. For example, if your condition requires frequent hospitalizations and you’re unable to consistently show up to your job, this might be considered an exceptional situation.
If you do receive IU compensation, be prepared to complete an annual employment questionnaire so the VA can determine your continued eligibility.
The Brain Trust is an annual event bringing the top minds in treatment of traumatic brain injury (TBI) and head trauma together with collaborators from professional sports, private industry, innovators, scientists, caregivers and Veterans.
The areas of focus this year include collaborative research, technological and sports innovations. The group’s aim is to identify solutions in prevention, diagnosis, treatment, rehabilitation, and reintegration of victims of head trauma. The VA and Warrior Care Network will both participate in the 2017 Brain Trust in Boston.
Warrior Care Network and VA Collaboration
The Wounded Warrior Project and the VA have been successfully collaborating on programs, policies, and benefits since WWP began 14 years ago. Their most recent collaboration is designed to enhance a wounded warrior’s journey through the Warrior Care Network and has been much more successful than originally expected.
The VA refers warriors needing treatment to the Warrior Care Network. One of the four participating care facilities listed above accepts the warrior for care. When the AMC believes the warrior is ready to cope on his/her own, they are transitioned back to the VA for continuing care. There is no charge to the warrior for any treatment by the Warrior Care Network.
The big elephant in the room is why should we need a Warrior Care Network at all? Why isn’t the VA taking care of our wounded warriors? The answer to that question comes down to sheer numbers.
It is estimated that 500,000 Veterans are currently struggling with PTSD and another 300,000 have suffered at least one traumatic brain injury. Numbers like this add up to a national healthcare crisis that will take cooperation between the VA, DoD, for-profit and nonprofit groups, and philanthropists all working together to heal those affected by war.
Status of the Public-Private Collaboration
Over 15 months, the Warrior Care Network has treated over 1,000 wounded veterans and members of their families.
In addition to treatment at one of the four AMCs, the Warrior Care Network established two- and three-week residential Intensive Outpatient Programs (IOPs) using a cohort structure. During an IOP, warriors are given an average of 77 hours of therapy. They are taught skills for coping at home. The secondary benefit of the cohort format is warriors form bonds with other veterans in their cohort that last beyond the IOP.
Do you know someone you think could benefit from this program? Contact the VA or the Wounded Warrior Project for additional information.
The end of March 2017 marked one more community that has announced the end of Veteran homelessness in their community. The City of Nashua, New Hampshire joined 40+ communities and three states (Connecticut, Delaware, and Virginia) that have reached the goal of finding permanent housing for all of their homeless veterans.
The VA launched an initiative to end Veteran homelessness in 2010, and to date 480,000+ homeless veterans across the country have been housed under that initiative.
Local Veterans Administration Medical Centers do more than medical care in their communities. They also serve as hubs for the homelessness initiative in their communities. If you know of a veteran who needs assistance with housing, please put them in contact with the local VA center.
In the last six years, the number of homeless veterans across the country has been cut almost in half.
Here are some contacts for people who want to help and people who need help:
Individuals and Businesses wishing to help eradicate homeless veterans in their city can visit: va.gov/homeless.
Refer homeless Veterans to their local VA Medical Center or urge them to call 1-877-4AID-VET (1-877-424-3838).
To learn about employment initiatives for Veterans exiting homelessness, visit: http://www.va.gov/homeless/
While female Veterans have access to all of the benefits male Veterans enjoy, including Veterans health care and pharmacy programs, educational benefits, compensation for disabilities, VA home loans, and job assistance.
“Some women Veterans may not know about high-quality VA care and services available to them,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki. “The hotline will allow us to field their questions and provide critical information about the latest enhancements in VA services.”
The hotline for women Veterans (1-855-VA-WOMEN) is the latest in a growing suite of hotlines the VA is hosting to make sure critical information regarding available assistance is quickly available to Veterans. Female Veterans may also visit the Center for Women Veterans for additional information and programs available specifically for women.
Other Available Hotlines
Other hotlines available to both male and female Veterans include a hotline for Veterans in crisis (considering suicide) and another for Veterans facing the possibility or reality of homelessness. Veterans can receive information and apply for benefits online at VA’s www.eBenefits.va.gov and manage their health care at MyHealtheVet.va.gov.