Veteran Truth #12: The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Wants to Assist You, Even When You Don’t Think You Deserve It by Lance Orndorff, USN 1984

Veteran Truth #12: The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Wants to Assist You, Even When You Don’t Think You Deserve It

by Lance Orndorff, USN 1984

Overview

After twenty years of working with my fellow military veterans, assisting them in getting access to VA medical services, submitting successful disability claims, career restarts, and other transitional services, what is clear to me is that far too many veterans see the VA as an adversarial bad guy in a competition of wills. Nothing could be further from the truth.

There are two groups of veterans, among all military veteran groups, that interest me the most in their views of the Department of Veteran Affairs. Some have some idea that they are entitled to services and payments but think the VA is actively working to deny the veteran’s benefits, and the group that by all external assessment, looks highly qualified for services and benefits but does not believe they “need” them or that others “need the help worse than me.” Let’s explore both and see where we come out in the end.

I Don’t Need No-One’s Help!

Taking the second group first, the ”I don’t need the help” or “others need it more than me” group are typically not aware of their service-connected mental or physical issues, and any discussion of these issues and help they can receive it met with a strong personal stand against getting assistance. They tend to see the VA as a big agency that only is there to help those missing arms, legs, eyes, etc. That the VA is for the urgently ill or those who just can’t take care of themselves. What they miss is the nuance that lies somewhere in between these ideas.

Veterans who are reticent to receiving or even exploring assistance of any kind from the VA display a deep-seated idea that receiving assistance indicates in some way that they are weak or unable to handle their affairs. Of course, this is far from the truth. Nevertheless, this is where they seem to be coming from. Meanwhile, they often are displaying all the typical signs of PTSD in their personal relationships, employment, self-care, etc., and they often are riddled with symptoms of illnesses likely originating from their military service. But breaking through to them is hard business. But I have discovered a golden carrot that will make even the most adamant denier of needing help to fold – cash.

When a veteran who is too strong and too independent to need anyone’s help or thinks they don’t need help as much as the next vet is informed of the potential for a paycheck each month, they slow down, quiet down, and seriously begin to listen. Frankly, I don’t care what it takes to get them to talk more about what they do want than what they don’t want, and if the issue of a disability payment gets them there, fantastic! And it does. If I start the conversation with the cash as the end game, and that getting evaluated physically and mentally is just a formality, then off to the VA hospital they go and we have succeeded in beginning their care.

So the next time you can’t seem to get through to a military veteran who is displaying many of the characteristics of needing physical and mental assistance, especially combat veterans, they talk money. You just might get their attention!

The VA as Adversary

Next, I will speak to the issue of military veterans who see the Department of Veterans Affairs as a giant who is working again them to deny care and benefits. This is a very popular notion among some vets and it is one that is tough to break through. Either they have made a failed attempt to gain access for physical, psychological, career training, or other care, and painted the entire notion of the VA as a David and Goliath no-win proposition or have not made any attempt for the same reason.

For those who have made their first or second run at getting access to the VA for care or benefits and hit a brick wall, it is nearly always an issue of poor approach. The fact is that the VA is ready and willing to provide care, services, and benefit payments to all veterans who quality and submit the necessary evidence for an affirmative decision to be made. But many vets attempt to apply on their own, are misguided by poor open-source web information or just go with what they know. This leaves the VA with an application that is incomplete, riddled with unnecessary data, and often overreach beyond description.

The veteran goes online to YouTube and sees some videos saying the same thing over and over again – sleep apnea, hearing loss, etc., etc. They find themselves guided by popular talk instead of personal experience and evaluation. The good news is that once we work with these veterans and take them through a self-assessment, identify their actual issues, explain the approach, and apply in a narrowly targeted fashion, the VA THEN has the data they need to make decisions based on facts and awarded benefits based on need, not popular talk.

The VA has proven to me and those around me that they are ready and willing to award benefits and care to those of us who are fortunate enough to have had the guidance and care of a VA rep, friend, counselor, etc., to read our needs first, apply second. Once we know what the issues are in our lives, get professional assessments, and submit a slice of a claim – not the whole house with a laundry list of issues – then the VA’s job of being good shepherds of the American taxpayers’ money is made much, much easier. The VA relationship may be adversarial in structure, but not in intent.

The bottom line with this group of veterans is that we need to counsel, counsel, counsel. Ask, ask, ask. Get them to tell their story, during services and post-service, then assist them in identifying the issues and needs, then walking with them through their claims experience to that they are served and the VA is served by delivering a claim that is easy to understand, fully supported, and makes sense for both the veteran and the VA.

Conclusion

Those of us that have made assisting veterans our work for the remainder of our lives work with these military veterans discussed above. And we are so committed to them getting the psychological, physical, career, and other care they need and have earned. And as always it begins with relationship and understanding. The next time you come across a veteran that fits the profile of what you have read in this article, and you want nothing less than for them to get the care they need, reach out to a veteran benefits counselor. Together, we can lead our heroes to the care and benefits they deserve. It is how we show our love and respect for their sacrifices. Let’s do it together!

Lance Orndorff is a US Navy cold-war veteran working with veterans, vet families, employers, and other military veteran support professionals since 2003 to enhance their access to VA medical care and benefits.