If you are a US veteran with any kind of injury or traumatic stress and you’ve never heard of “service-connected,” then please read, as you owe this to yourself! You may be eligible for disability payments, free medical treatments, and your spouse may also become eligible for CHAMPVA (VA’s medical insurance for spouses who aren’t veterans). This process is lengthy and often a bit frustrating, but it is worth the effort.
Any kind of injury incurred during service, whether physical or emotional, implies you may be eligible for a “service-connected” status. Service-connected injuries must be diagnosed and rated by the VA, typically at a nearby Veteran’s Hospital. To be service-connected, you must provide some proof of a “stressor:” some incident, emotional or physical, that is documentable.
Documentation may include statements from witnesses, medical records from your place(s) of duty, and any other tangible evidence imaginable (including private medical records). The VA maintains all your medical records. They are there for review during the claims process, and you’ll be expected to go to a VA center for a “C & P” exam for each separate injury.
Based on several recent news articles, rape in the US armed services is apparently and unfortunately rather frequent, and it is reportedly poorly handled by the “Pentagon.” A class-action law suit has been recently filed on-behalf of impacted veterans to address the alleged problems. However, rape is a potential “stressor” and may qualify the veteran for consideration, apart from any current or pending litigation. Proof is needed, so written statements and medical evidence of trauma, etc., will be important.
To begin, find a VA representative in your area to handle your claim. That person will help you to file a claim with your nearest VA regional office; payments (if any) for disability must be retro-active to the month of the claim filing, even if the claim takes two years, as it has in some documented cases. A VA advocate or representative will be a valuable ally, as there are a myriad of catch-words and processes and procedures to follow. Without representation, it is akin to going to court as your own attorney! The rules are there to read, but without guidance, many veterans will find themselves taking less than they are entitled to take, or they may be denied for failure to follow some rule.
Our US veterans, our war heroes, deserve the best possible medical treatment, and they deserve the care and attention of those who promised them such. This is regardless of when served, or for how long or in what capacity they served. All our heroes are eligible. While the process of petitioning for a service-connected disability is often onerous and rather frustrating, you, our heroes, deserve to be cared-for properly, and the rules state you deserve care and/or compensation for service-connected injuries.
You’ll have to do your homework and be proactive. Some good places to begin are listed in the resources below. Please don’t be discouraged. Persist and you may well be rewarded. If you’re not aware of what is available, you won’t know how or where to seek help. It’s easy to give-up, and so many veterans feel slighted or betrayed, but often it’s more rewarding to fight and know for yourself that you are trying!
A member of my family is fighting for this now, and was not even aware of the program until almost two years ago. Most veterans we know ARE NOT aware of the program. It seems to be a fairly well-kept secret.
However, it has been a long fight for us, yet the fight is proving worthwhile. In this case, patience truly has been a virtue, and seeing the glass as “half-full,” rather than “half-empty” is critical. In our case, the state (Arizona) provides their own “Department of Veteran’s Services,” separate from the VA, but working in-cooperation with the VA, and this has made all the difference. A review of the web suggests many states have a “State Department of Veterans Services (used as the literal search term).”
VA Benefits/Service connected:
Review of benefits:
VA Regional Offices/Contacts:
Arizona Department of Veteran’s Services
VA Rape Problems article, Boston Globe, from Feb 15, 2011: