This article was taken, with permission, from the VFW Post 604 Feb. 2013 newsletter.
"Fully Developed Claims" versus "Slow Boat to China Claims"
I was educated during the two weeks I was sitting in for the Monroe County Veterans Service Officer, Larry Catt. I’d read about, and passed along to you in this column a few months ago, one of the VA’s means of speeding up the processing of the more routine disability and pension claims. You may recall the VA used the word "triage" for the decision upon receipt of claims as to which path they would be assigned, the simple/fast or complex/slow. Here’s what I discovered after discussions with Vicky St. Myer (Larry’s main veterans assistant), Larry, two VA regional office employees, and Tom Applegate, Director of the Indiana Department of Veterans Affairs: First the term "triage" is misleading. You and I know medics apply the real triage process to treating combat wounded. In that situation the "tri-" prefix makes sense. There are three categories: 1) must be treated as soon as possible to save their lives, 2) will live with minimal treatment and can wait while category 1) patients are treated, and 3) are going to die no matter what the medic does, so just make them as comfortable as possible. VA use of the triage term makes me think whomever came up with it was never in combat. The VA disability claims categorization process only has two choices, "Fully Developed Claims" versus "Slow Boat to China Claims". (Well, maybe they don’t actually call the second-class claims "Slow Boat To China Claims" but they might as well.) To pass the stringent criteria for selection into the Fully Developed Claim (FDC) expedited adjudication process, the FDC Package must have a special FDC orange colored cover sheet signed by the claimant. The last page must be a special FDC check list form signed by the claimant certifying all the required documents are included. There are special FDC claim forms which must be used, such as the VA 21-526EZ for service connected disability claims. Absolutely no VA 21-4142 release forms can be used. ( - Even though the VA remains bound by "duty to assist" requirements to accept and use this form to help claimants obtain medical information from third parties such as local hospitals or doctors. Evidently, it takes too long for the VA to help the vets to allow time for such assistance in the speed ball process.) There are several other picky absolute requirements, but you get the idea. If the VA receives an attempt at an FDC package but one of their mandatory T’s are not crossed or I’s are not dotted, the package is disqualified and put in the second category. Vicky has gotten FDC claims through in weeks. Non-FDC claims are taking between 18 and 24 months. The VA is obviously trying to play catch up with their 900,000+ backlog of pending claims. If they can get the claimants and those helping the claimants to do most of the work for them, fine. Crank those simple claims through quickly. But VA disqualifying packages for the FDC expedited process just because of an arbitrary technicality, such as missing the orange cover sheet, is inappropriate. The VA announced the expedited process concept more than a year ago as simple, straight forward claims being assigned to new, trainee employees under close supervision. The slower, traditional claims adjudication process was to be for more complex claims requiring further development and assigned to senior, experienced employees. However, the VA screeners are not, in fact, categorizing the incoming claims according to simple or complex. That would require actually reading the claims and thinking. They are using a clerical FDC check list: "Aha! He’s missing such-and-such form! Into the slow stack!" I verified (can’t say with who) that a veteran who filed his or her own VA claim would probably never be able to put together an FDC package which would be accepted into the fully developed claim fast track. The actual answer I received was, "I can’t imagine that a veteran, acting on his own, would be able to assemble an FDC package that the VA would accept." Most of the FDC administrative requirements are not published. You may also recall how critical it has always been for the VA to receive partial or informal claims – especially near the end of the month – to get a claimant-signed piece of paper date stamped in order to protect the earliest possible effective date. Awards are usually retroactive to the first day of the month following the month of receipt of the claim. Depending on what is quickly available, the time required even by Vicky to help a veteran assemble a fully developed claim can easily be weeks if not months. There is a VA specified way to file an informal claim early to protect the ultimate effective date while not kicking the claim into the Slow Boat process, but the magic "FDC informal claim" paragraph (which must be used verbatim) is not available to regular, unassisted claimants. Here it is: "I intend to apply for compensation/pension [select which] benefits under the FDC Program. This statement is to preserve my effective date for entitlement to benefits. I am in the process of assembling my claim package for submission." The FDC package must be submitted within one year of the VA receipt of the FDC informal claim. The informal claim must be signed and include enough information to identify the claimant, such as claim number, Social Security number, military service number, date of birth, telephone number, and address. By the way, once a fully developed claim has been accepted by the VA into the expedited FDC process, any subsequent information or evidence submitted to the VA about that claim will probably cause the claim to be dropped from the FDC Program and categorized into the traditional (estimated 18 to 24 months) Slow Boat to China processing. John Tilford – Service Officer
Veterans: You owe it to yourself
By Larry CattVeterans officer, Monroe County
January 19, 2013
There are still many veterans suffering with service-connected physical or mental disabilities who have not filed a claim for compensation. It is not uncommon for some veterans to believe there are others who deserve compensation more than they do, and if they file a claim, it may keep someone more deserving from getting compensation. That isn’t the way it works. In fact, the greater the need for helping former service members with compensation the more likely resources, both money and manpower, will be increased to meet these needs. If a veteran has grounds for filing for compensation, then a claim should be filed. Compensation payments are not gifts and for many soldiers the disabilities resulting from service can’t be compensated with any amount of money. For some, their service-connected disability is a death sentence and, for others, it has altered their life for the worse. Veterans are not the only ones affected by a disability. In many cases, the family also pays a price. Disabilities can limit the kinds of work that can be performed, resulting in less income to support the family. Some disabled veterans may require extensive help from their families just to perform basic living functions. This also takes a toll on the family. As a veteran, you owe it to yourself and family to seek disability compensation. Our office will help you file a claim and advise you if it is a valid claim. Some claims are considered frivolous if there is not evidence that the disability is service-connected. These claims should not be filed. We hear stories that someone knows a veteran who receives compensation and has nothing wrong. I’m not saying someone not deserving compensation can’t slip through the cracks, but the proof required to receive compensation would be extremely difficult to fake. Don’t let these stories keep you from filing. Don’t be too quick to judge a disabled veteran. You should know the facts. There are people who enjoy passing on unsubstantiated rumors picked up from unreliable sources. Soldiers with PTSD or cancers caused by carcinogenic material encountered in the service often appear to have nothing wrong. In Bloomington, the Veterans Affairs Office is in the Curry Building, 214 W. Seventh Street, Suite 100. We work by appointment and can be reached at 349-2568. If you have medical issues, the VA Outpatient clinic is at 455 S. Landmark Ave. Their phone number is 336-5723.
‘As veterans, we’re all in this together’
By Larry Catt349-2568 | firstname.lastname@example.org
August 4, 2012
I have received requests for an article about a meeting for veterans dealing with issues resulting from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Traumatic Brain Injury. The following article was submitted by Terri Lynn Languell, a facilitator for Vet to Vet meetings. Any errors or omissions are mine.
Vet to Vet Indiana
Vet to Vet Indiana is a nonprofit organization that focuses on PTSD, TBI and other adjustment problems veterans face. All veterans are included and can attend the weekly meeting in Bloomington free of charge. We help each other learn to live life to its fullest without the use of drugs, alcohol or any other means of self medication. Vet to Vet meetings include all veterans, whether their service was during war or peace. We have a common bond, and, together, we learn how to cope with some of the feelings we have through education and sharing. We do not focus on the events that led us to where we are today. We focus on the symptoms we share.There are no doctors, psychiatrists or VA employees involved at our meetings. We have had some training as peer facilitators through the Veterans Administration, but we remain separate from the VA. The VA does refer veterans to come to Vet to Vet, but we will never tell them you were there unless you want them to know.
A few years back, at a seminar in Brown County, some Monroe County probation officers agreed that a Vet to Vet meeting could replace one AA/NA meeting a week that a veteran on probation may be required to attend. In that case, we will sign a slip for you to confirm you attended Vet to Vet.
For more, see vettovetbloomington.com. You can contact us through the “contact us” page. We make an effort to respond within 24 hours.
As veterans, we are all in this together, and we deserve and can feel better so come join us in our journey toward that goal.
We meet at 7 p.m. Monday nights at Ivy Tech, Main Building, 200 Daniels Way, Room A-118.
When Ivy Tech is closed, we use our alternative location in Ellettsville: TPAC, 210 W. Vine St., west door.
The facilitators for Vet to Vet meetings are Cathi Johnson, John Martin, Peter Garretson and Terri Lynn Languell, who is also the Vet to Vet south west representative.
Vet-to-Vet allows veterans to help each other
By Larry Catt
June 20, 2009
In August 2008, The Herald-Times ran an article about the Vet-to-Vet program. There have been some changes since then. Originally, the Vet-to-Vet program focused on veterans with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, but now, all veterans are welcome. This change recognizes that many veterans have problems other than PTSD. Some of these problems are unique to veterans and it may be difficult to discuss them with others, especially with people who have not experienced the same kind of events. Vet-to-Vet is unique in that no social workers or doctors attend the veteran-run meetings. Vet-to-Vet is endorsed by the Veterans Administration, but is not part of the VA.
The advantage of peer support, such as the Vet-to-Vet program, has been shown to be a valuable part of the healing process.
Meetings are overseen by two Vet-to-Vet peer facilitators who have been trained at Roudebush Hospital and, more important, are veterans themselves. Terri Languell shares a veteran background and has been facilitating meetings for a couple of years. Cathi Johnson, VFW post commander and Operation Enduring Freedom veteran, is the new Vet-to-Vet peer facilitator. I suspect Johnson was instrumental in securing a new location for Vet-to-Vet meetings. Effective immediately, the meeting will be 7 p.m. on Mondays at VFW Post 604. This is a new location for the post. It is not open for business and will not be for a few months; however, the meeting space is available for Vet-to-Vet meetings. VFW Post 604 is at 204 Industrial Park Drive, Bloomington, although the sign in front of the building still reads Mohney Homes. Industrial Park Drive is just west of the Vernal Pike / Ind. 37 intersection. At the intersection take Vernal Pike west and then take an almost immediate left onto Industrial Park Drive.
The Ladies Auxiliary will provide cookies for each meeting.
When asking Languell about the meetings, she said, “If you are a veteran you belong at Vet-to-Vet. We encourage all veterans, and it does not matter what war you were in or not in. All that matters is that you served your country in one way or another. Veterans need veterans for mere survival in the civilian world. We need each other to unlearn what the military has taught us that prevent us from getting better, so we can get along with and have better relationships with the other people in our lives.”
Vet-to-Vet is not trying to replace professionals, such as doctors and social workers. It does provide a nonjudgmental and supportive environment for veterans. Group meetings are egalitarian and the facilitators are veterans, are not employees of the VA. It is a low key environment. You are encouraged to give it a try.
Van coordinator soughtOn another subject, Monroe County Veterans Service Organizations is looking for a coordinator to oversee the operation of the Disabled American Veterans van and for drivers to take patients to Roudebush Hospital. Phil Deckard’s last day as van coordinator will be June 30. He came to the rescue when no one else would, and he has kept the van running for several years. Deckard volunteers with many service organizations, where he works to support veterans and their families. We appreciate all he has done. If the van is to continue to carry disabled veterans to Roudebush Hospital, we need to have a coordinator. Most of the veterans using the van have no other way to get to Roudebush for treatment. Please call the Veterans Service Office at 812-349-2568 if you want to learn more about the position of van coordinator You can reach the Veterans Affairs office at 349-2568, or the veteran’s out patient clinic at 812-336-5723.