The Service Connection – Spring 2019
The Service Connection – Spring 2019
A Time of Rebirth
By John Stevens Berry, Sr.
We all know the quote “into each life a little rain must fall.” But this year Nebraska suffered terrible, destructive floods. As Veterans in recovery, we all sympathize with the farmers and their devastating loss. But Spring is a time of rebirth, and new beginnings. John Neihardt wrote “The giving earth remembers / And only men forget.” Let us not forget anyone, farmer or Veteran, on the road to recovery. A time for new beginnings!
Common Reasons Why the VA Denies Claims
Veterans are frequently denied disability benefits for injuries that occured in service. They earned these benefits. Still, the VA denies claims for a variety of reasons. One question we receive often is, “Why did the VA deny my claim?” The answer to this question varies, and as many people find when they ask an attorney a question, they usually get the same initial response: “Well, it depends…” The VA has standards that it’s employees must follow when considering whether to grant direct service connection, presumptive service connection, service connection secondary to another service connected condition, or an increase in disability ratings. Understanding why the VA has denied a claim is the first step in winning your appeal.
Common Reasons Why the VA Denies Claims
The VA can deny a claim for a litany of reasons. We have outlined some of the most common reasons why the VA denies claims below.
Your Disability is not Recurring
Sometimes the VA will deny service connection because a Veteran will have had an incident in service, documented in their Service Treatment Record, but not documented as a chronic or repeat issue. When this occurs, the VA will deny service connection as the condition was not “chronic,” meaning that it occurred only once, it was not recurring, and was therefore not “disabling.”
Lack of ‘Continuity of Symptomology’
Another reason the VA may deny that same condition is something referred to as a lack of “continuity of symptomology.” When denied for that reason, the VA is admitting that something did happen in service. However, if you do not provide evidence that it continued to bother you from your service until the present day, the VA will usually deny service connection because people with persistent disabilities would have it documented in their civilian medical records.
The Disability is Not in Your Service Treatment Record
When a Veteran makes a claim for a condition and the evidence is not in their Service Treatment Record, the VA usually denies service connection. However, buddy statements from people that you served with, a spouse, family, or friends that knew you when that event occurred during service (heard about and/or witnessed it contemporaneously when it occurred) can bolster your claim and may get your disability service connected.
Your Condition Doesn’t Have a Current Diagnosis
If you believe that you have a service connected condition but it is not currently diagnosed, the VA will deny your claim as the Veteran is a “lay person,” meaning that you are not medically trained (not a trained doctor) and therefore you cannot adequately report on the medical etiology of a disability.
You Don’t Have a Medical Opinion
Where you have a condition that you believe should be service connected because it is a result of another service connected condition, for example sleep apnea caused by PTSD. The VA tends to deny service connection for sleep apnea if you do not have a medical opinion stating that it is “at least as likely as not related to your service connected PTSD.”
Lack of Evidence of Increased Disability
When the VA denies claims, especially an increase in disability rating, it is usually due to a lack of evidence showing that your condition is worse than the VA is characterizing it and/or you do not have an exam showing that your condition has worsened.
Veteran Aid Spotlight
Dr. Craig A. Foss
In working with Veterans on disability claims, we frequently hear about or encounter members of the community who are also committed to assisting Veterans. Some of these professionals are Veterans themselves, while others support the Veterans community simply out of gratitude or a desire to help.
We have had multiple clients specifically mention Dr. Craig A. Foss for his dedicated work and how it helped them improve their lives. Dr. Foss is a Board Certified Doctor of Audiology at The Hearing Clinic in Grand Island, Nebraska, who specializes in adult hearing evaluations and hearing aid fittings. He works with Veterans and civilians with hearing issues and disabilities.
Dr. Foss is a Fellow of the American Academy of Audiology and has received the Scholar Award for outstanding commitment to continuing education. He was appointed to serve on the State Board of Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology with the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services. Since 2003, he has also been an Audiology State Leader representing Nebraska at national meetings.
Dr. Foss has helped many individuals, Veterans and non-Veterans alike. Notably, he has been a key factor in helping some of our clients with hearing problems receive favorable decisions from the VA. His expert medical opinions have proved beneficial for a large number of VA disability clients he has seen. An independent medical evaluation can be critical for many Veterans seeking disability compensation, and Dr. Foss’ evaluations have proven the benefits that seeking an expert opinion can have on a disability claim.
We recently had the opportunity to speak with Dr. Foss about his practice and why he is committed to helping Veterans with medical ailments. He appreciated the acknowledgment and said: “You know, I appreciate so much about the service. I think this is one opportunity to show Veterans the appreciation I have for them and the sacrifices they make. I am grateful for all they have done and all they continue to do.”
Often the battle for VA disability benefits can be a long, drawn-out process that leaves Veterans feeling like no one understands them. The support of dedicated medical professionals can make a difference in both the quality of VA decisions and the overall experience of the individual Veterans. Thank you for all your hard work, Dr. Foss, we salute you!
John S. Berry, Jr., and Berry Law Honored with “Pro Patria Award” from the ESGR
John S. Berry, Jr., and Berry Law were recently honored with the Pro Patria award from the ESGR (Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve) on April 26th, 2019.
ESGR’s Pro Patria Award is presented annually by each ESGR State Committee to one small, one large, and one public sector employer in their state or territory. Recipients of the award must have demonstrated the greatest support to Guard and Reserve employees through their leadership and practices, including adopting personnel policies that make it easier for employees to participate in the National Guard and Reserve. This is the highest level award that may be bestowed by an ESGR State Committee.
Berry was honored to receive the award, noting how special it is to work with Veterans and Reservists: “To be able to work with Veterans— as well as current military members that are in the Guard and Reserves — it’s phenomenal,” he said. “These guys come motivated every day, they bring high standards and they do great things to improve our culture.”
The Firm currently employs active Navy and Marine Corps Reservists, and members of the Nebraska National Guard. Also on staff are Veterans from the Army, Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps, in addition to multiple military spouses, parents, and children. The Firm takes great pride in the service of its employees and actively supports them when mobilized or called to annual training and drill weekends.
John S. Berry, Jr., has continued to uphold the tradition of providing quality legal counsel to Veterans in need, and built a team dedicated to supporting America’s Veterans. Our team currently assists Veterans facing criminal charges in the Midwest, supports Veterans with business, civil, military, and injury law, and also assists Veterans nationwide who are appealing VA decisions.
Berry Law Releases VA Disability Calculator
Determining your total VA disability payment can be difficult. Not only must Veterans be proficient in “VA math,” they must also understand the how the bilateral factor works and how it may change their combined disability percentage.
This is only the case if you know the exact disabilities you have and what they are rated at. However, if you want to estimate what a future payment may be if you are awarded disability compensation for a current claim or appeal, then you have to determine the percentage and go through the entire mathematical process again to figure out what your payment will be.
Because of the difficulty our clients have expressed in understanding how to calculate their VA disability payments, our team has put together a VA disability calulator. The VA disability calculator allows individuals to enter all of their individual disabilities to determine both their combined disability percentage and an estimate of the monthly payment amount. To use our VA disability calculator, please visit the link below.
75th Anniversary of the Battle at St. Lo
From July 15-18, 1944, Nebraska National Guards’ 134th Infantry Regiment liberated St. Lo, France, during World War II. A pivotal event in the war, the 134th Infantry Regiment lost 52 men in the span of 3 miles. This year will mark the 75th anniversary of the battle, and a ceremony will take place in France to commemorate the 52 fallen soldiers.
In remembrance of the soldiers killed during the attack, the Nebraska National Guard Museum will host its annual 5k and 1 mile run/walk on June 8th in Seward, Nebraska. The run will cover approximately 3.1 miles, the same distance the soldiers traveled while liberating St. Lo, France. The 5k will also feature 52 sentinels placed throughout the race with signage and memorials for each of the soldiers who lost their lives during the battle. If you would like to register for the event, you can do so at:
By Doug Binks
We were loading surplus bombs to be dropped at the range. The bombs were probably 250 pounds each. The loading crew was six people, one officer, one ordnance man and four to lift. I was a flight engineer, in-training, at the time. My FE and I were standing about twenty feet from where a bomb was being loaded on a wing station.
The loading method was manual – brute force and awkwardness. We had two pipes about four feet long with what appeared to be the plug for a barrel bung welded to one end. The bombs had a threaded receptacle at the front and back that fit the plug. The method was to have two men front and back to lift the bomb from the cart that it was on. The initial lift was to waist level. The grip was changed to allow the remainder of the lift, up to the wing rack. The ordnance man secured it to the rack, and you were ready for the next one.
The bomb in this story was at waist level when the weld on the front pipe broke. The nose of the 250 pound bomb fell to the concrete. The two people in the back held tight. My FE, seeing what was happening, and possessing the fastest reflexes, closed his eyes and covered his ears! The bomb did not explode, until we dropped it at the range, later.
Short Round (Excerpt)
By Nolan Pepperdine
The screams were coming from off to my right. I ran in that direction. There was shouting and cursing and the acrid smell of gun powder. I slid to a stop as the screaming stopped. There was blood and shouts for a medic. Ford was looking up at me as he lay half way out of his night trench. His mouth was moving but no sound came out. A Dust Off was on its way and Ford was being medevac’d out.
We assumed Ford was dead, but he wasn’t. Someone said he was blown in two. Bob Ford died a few days later. I don’t know if he ever regained consciousness. The Professor was flown out with the investigators from HQ. Some said it was for his own protection, others said he had cracked up. I didn’t know, I never saw him again.
By Jimmie Smith
I tried all day to write a poem
But nothing came to mind
So I felt just like a big old diamond
That had suddenly lost its shine
But I could not stop or run amok
From my obvious loss of words
Cause a poem was in the making now
As I listened to the birds
So write you poet, I told myself
Be sure to put it all down
And never say you have nothing to say
Until they put you in the ground!
We love getting writing and art from our clients. If you would like to share some of your work or submit your dog for “Service Dog of the Quarter,” please send your pieces to your attorney or to email@example.com.
Established in 1965 by Vietnam War veteran and attorney John Stevens Berry Sr., Berry Law Firm is a team of veterans dedicated to defending, safeguarding, and fighting to protect the rights of veterans. Over the decades, thousands of veterans from across the country and all branches of the military have trusted our firm with their cases and, more importantly, their futures.