Military Veterans Survivor Guilt and Winning an Appeal

veterans-survivor-guiltMilitary veterans survivor guilt is real.  If you are a vet or a concerned family member, you are not alone.   As a veteran myself, I believe I have encouraging feedback for those seeking an increased disability rating.  Thus, please stick with me.

First, survivors guilt comes in all kinds of shapes and sizes.  As of the date of this article, the Veteran’s Court of Appeals has published 21 cases that highlight PTSD and survivor’s guilt.

Second, the gist of these cases can be narrowed down to one phrase:  functional impairment,  Unfortunately, military veterans are losing more appeals than they are winning because most vets fail to meet this critical threshold.

Luckily, you can start moving in the right direction starting now.

Veterans Survivor Guilt and Functional Impairment

What is functional impairment?  I prefer a simple answer.  For the Veterans requiring a stronger answer, I referenced the federal law below.

Functional impairment for veterans survivor guilt is the combination of three areas impacting a vet’s personal, social and professional life.   When a veteran calls me for the first time, I encourage them to make three lists:

  • Physical problems,
  • Emotional problems, and
  • Mental health problems.

Because the idea is to keep this simple, a veteran’s functional impairment is a list of problems.  What makes a list more credible is affirming this list through professionals and family members. This means seeking a formal opinion from your doctors, accountant, dentist, friends, spouse, parents, ex-spouse, ex-partner, siblings, neighbors, etc.

In my experience, the best opinions utilize the federal rule.

Veterans Need Support

Recovering or managing survivor’s guilt is extremely hard.  So you know, when a Veteran starts with their list, this can inspire emotion, anger, conflict, and memories.  For this reason, making a list alongside a mental health professional makes sense.

Some of the best lists make reference to ailments.  When a veteran doesn’t know (which is often the case), ask a close personal friend or family member.  Very likely, they can confirm the lack of sleep, nightmares, poor eating and drinking habits, spaced out look, or whatever the ailment might be.  Again, asking for help from those around a veteran can improve their opportunity for an increased VA disability rating.

For example, does the veteran in your life check the back door over and over again?  Although not a physical problem, having compulsive tendencies is an impairment.  Having nightmares or experiencing a panic attack every time a Veteran hears sirens is an example of an impairment.

Again, sometimes we as veterans misjudge our own impairments because we are to busy trying to maintain find our own path.  Instead, consider making a simple phone call.  Doing so can make a difference.

Veterans Survivor Guilt: Rule on Functional Impairments

Thank you for sticking with me.  Now, let us introduce the source of truth:  rule 38 CFR 4.10, which is our guidance for a diagnosis and proving PTSD or Veterans survivor guilt.military-survivor-guilt

The rule reads like this:

the ability of the body as a whole, or of the psyche, or of a system or organ of the body to function under the ordinary conditions of daily life including employment. Whether the upper or lower extremities, the back or abdominal wall, the eyes or ears, or the cardiovascular, digestive, or other system, or psyche are affected, evaluations are based upon lack of usefulness, of these parts or systems, especially in self-support.

Again, military veterans seeking disability benefits should be very descriptive with their impairments, even on a body part by body part basis.  Because this process is hard, seeking help from professionals is a strong response to the VA.

Veterans Survivor Guilt: My Diagnosis

I am not a doctor.  Likely, you are not a doctor either.  Having a diagnosis is not good enough.  A winning case includes impairments, ailments, and anecdotes on physical, emotional and mental health issues.

In my experience, doctor shopping or using a doctor that has helped a veteran in the past is a great starting point.   On the other hand, not every doctor or psychologist understands a military battlefield or even the military life in general.  Assign elements required with a VA appeal, and you have yourself a mess.

It does not matter if you think your claim is small or large, it is worth pursuing.  If you need more ideas or support, please ask me for my thoughts.

I wish you the very best.