Vallarta Living | Veteran Affairs | April 2008
|VA Fails to Seek Alternative Sources for Records Missing or Destroyed|
David Lord - PVNN
There has always been confusion when Veterans have had their service records destroyed, as in the 1973 fire at the National Personnel Records center (NPRC). Many Veterans are at a huge disadvantage in trying to prove entitlement to VA benefits because their records, entrusted to the custody of a federal record repository, where lost, damaged or destroyed.
|File photo shows US soldiers carrying a comrade, wounded during fighting in Vietnam. A far-away war, two assassinations on home soil, bitter racial tensions and riots in the streets marked 1968 as one of the most turbulent years in US history. (AFP/National Archives)|
As an advocate, I am aware of thousands of lost Army records (eighty percent of all G.I.s who served between November 1, 1912 and January 1, 1960 have no records of military service.) Also destroyed were seventy five percent of Air Force personnel records for veterans with surnames "Hubbard" through "Z" who were discharged between September 25, 1947 and January 1, 1964 and were neither retired or in the reserves.
In addition to records destroyed by the 1973 fire, there are many other cases in which records entrusted to the federal government may be unavailable - through no fault of the veterans.
VA Rules Concerning Obtaining Records
The following is a brief summary of the statutes and regulations that apply to VA's record development and evidence-development.
The VA must make a reasonable and continuing efforts to obtain all relevant Federal records until it is reasonably certain that the records do not exist or that further efforts to obtain the records would be futile.
38 U.S.C. #5103A(b)(3)
The statute requires that the VA receive a response from the custodian of the records that indicates that the custodian cannot provide the records. If VA is unable to obtain certain federal records, it must post in the claims file either:
1) a letter from the reported custodian, or
2)a VA form 119, Report of Contact form, or memo for record with the name, phone number, and work site of the official with whom the Regional Office employee discussed the record(s) in question.
If you have records that are needed to be a part of your claim outside of federal agencies contact me, I know how to include them into the VA file along with your medical service record, email; david.lord(at)yahoo.com.
P.T.S.D. Claims, a Problem Facing Iraqi/Afghan Veterans
The Department of Veterans Affairs has scrapped a policy requiring combat veterans to verify in writing that they have witnessed or experienced a traumatic event before they can file a claim for post-traumatic stress disorder but only if the military has already diagnosed them with PTSD.
The change was made after Senator Akaka put in a request with VA Secretary Dr.James Peake, who agreed to the suggestion. VA spokesman confirmed that the department has agreed with the request, but said officials are still working out the details of the new policy.
In the past, a veteran has needed written verification - a statement from a commander or doctor, or testimony from co-workers - that he was involved in a traumatic situation in order to receive disability compensation from VA, even if he had already been diagnosed by the military during a disability retirement process.
PTSD is the only condition that a veteran must 're-prove' in order to receive VA disability benefits. "They don't have to re-prove diabetes, they don't have to re-prove a leg injury," said Mary Ellen McCarthy, Special Projects Counsel for the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee. "I have never seen any other condition diagnosed in service [for which] people had to reprove their injury to qualify for VA compensation."
"The VA regulation was written at a time when the military was not diagnosing PTSD among troops," she added.
McCarthy travels to VA regional offices to check the progress of Veterans going through the disability claims system.
According to McCarthy, "Even though many veterans prove that they witnessed a traumatic event in writing when they go through the military disability retirement system, that paperwork is often lost by the time they reach VA. It could take months to get that paperwork. In addition to the delay, the veteran has to go through the stressful process of reproving that he really did live through a roadside bomb explosion, or witness a friend's death, or kill an insurgent. Revisiting those stressors in a non-therapeutic environment can make the diagnosis worse."
According to Chairman of the Veterans’ Affairs Committee U.S. Senator Daniel K. Akaka, he asked Secretary of Veterans Affairs James Peake if the rule was necessary and requested that it be removed, and that Peake agreed.
"I am pleased that the secretary took quick action to reverse this requirement after it was brought to his attention. Peake has already informed VA regional offices of the decision," he said.
David Lord served in Vietnam as combat Marine for 1st Battalion 26th Marines, during which time he was severely wounded. He received the Purple Heart and the Presidential Unit Citation for his actions during the war in Vietnam. In Mexico, David now represents all veterans south of the U.S. border all the way to Panama, before the V.A. and the Board of Veterans Appeals. David Lord provides service to veterans at no fee. Veterans are welcome to drop in and discuss claims/benefits to which they are entitled by law at his office located at Bayside Properties, 160 Francisca Rodriguez, call him on his cell: 044 (322) 205-1323, or email him at david.lord(at)yahoo.com.
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