After serving eight years in the military, I was elated to learn that I received a VA disability rating of 50%. It was a source of income that was needed after I transitioned from the military. At the time of my transition, I had not secured a job, so it was a relief to have a source of compensation coming in for my family. However, my disabilities worsened, and it took me 13 years to get to 100% disability. Here's how I did it, using Ree Medical to assist me throughout the process.
How REE Medical Guided Me Through the Disability Claims Process
Compensation and Pension Exam — What The VA Won't Tell You
After serving in the military and using the VA to deal with my disabilities for years, I received an appointment from the VA to be seen about my TMJ dental disability. At the time, I had no idea what a Compensation and Pension (C&P) evaluation was, so I went to the appointment with no expectations. While waiting for the doctor to examine me, they asked me to prepare for the exam. I opened my mouth, and suddenly, my jaw slipped out of the socket, which is common with TMJ. At that exact moment, the doctor slipped a measuring tool in my mouth, and the exam was over after he wrote down a few measurements.
A few months later, I received a notification from the VA that my disability rating dropped from 50% to 30%. This was over a $300 drop in compensation monthly. The problem was that I still had issues with my jaw, and it continued to be difficult for me to eat, yawn, and even sleep at night due to the pain. I later discovered that some disabilities are re-evaluated after three years because they tend to improve after military service.
After receiving the rating, I notified the VA that I disagreed with the rating and began my journey to provide evidence that supported my continued dental disability. Luckily, I worked at a medical university and could see the dentist for appointments for over a year, and I didn't miss too much work. After multiple appointments, I received a medical opinion from my dentist supporting that my disability still existed. Thankfully, the VA accepted the advice of my physician and reversed my rating decrease. I got back pay for the missed compensation, and my rating was returned to 50%.
See my feature in AARP 7 VA Benefits Often Overlooked by Veterans
Requesting a Disability Rating Increase
As mentioned, I attended medical appointments for years to minimize the pain caused by my disabilities. I visited numerous physicians, had many medical procedures to reduce nerve pain, attended physical therapy appointments, and took all the pain medication prescribed. In the years that passed, I missed a lot of work, resulting in missed compensation when I ran out of personal leave hours. Unfortunately, nothing helped, and after years of doctor's visits, I decided to submit a request for a disability rating increase.
I gathered my medical documentation and aligned my responses to the disability benefits questionnaires (DBQ). I even had my physician complete the DBQ because how could the VA refute that evidence? After months of waiting for each claim, the VA sent me for yet another C&P evaluation so that they could evaluate the validity of my disabilities. Well, this was more missed time for work and a loss of income because, at the time, I was an hourly employee. Yes, the VA reimbursed me for travel, but it didn't equate to what I earned daily. All of this only to find out that my request for an increase was denied, time and time again.
Using REE Medical to Assist with a Disability Compensation Increase
I finally gave up on receiving an increase after ten-plus years of trying. After connecting with other military veterans, they told me I didn't have to go at it alone. They recommended contacting the claims assistant to help me with my document submission. So, I searched Google, and I found REE Medical. They had good ratings on the Better Business Bureau website, and some people had good results on multiple chat forums, so I decided to try them.
REE Medical - Intake Session
The intake session was a free phone call with a representative who reviewed my disabilities and ratings. They asked if I had medical documentation to support my claims and the frequency of my doctor's visits. Before accepting you as a client, they ensured the potential success of my being eligible for an increase. After talking to the representative, they said that it was highly likely that I would succeed but that there were absolutely no guarantees. As mentioned, I had already done my research, so I accepted the possibility of not receiving an increase and paying the fee for them to assist me.
REE Medical - Disability Benefits Questionnaires and Medical Documentation
REE advised me that I should submit a claim for a compensation increase, as this would be the date my claim would be effective. The effective date of the claim is when you would be eligible for back pay if I were to receive the increase successfully. I submitted a claim only for the disabilities that may have been eligible for an increase and any supplemental increase requests. REE was also provided with my medical records. Finally, they sent me a link to complete DBQs wholly and honestly, which would help support my claim.
After REE reviewed all of the documentation and after even more doctor's visits, it was time for me to submit my claim for an increase. At that time, I thought, okay, here we go; maybe one or two of these claims would be successful. My goal was to get to at least 70%, and I would be satisfied.
VA Disability Compensation Increase - 100% Temporary Rating
Great news! After months of waiting, I received the VA packet informing me that my rating had been increased to 100%. Yes, I screamed, and my husband came running because he thought something was wrong. Well, it was finally right. Most of my claims were approved and exceeded what was needed for the 100% rating, but the VA combines your disability ratings.
See my feature in Military Families Magazine Veterans Build Debt-Free Life After the Military
Why did I receive a temporary VA disability rating?
As I mentioned, some disabilities improve, so the VA set me up for an evaluation two years out to determine if there was evidence of a potential change. I also worked with the Wounded Warriors Project on my rating, and when speaking to my case manager, he advised me that I should continue going to the doctor and being seen for my disabilities.
Of course, I would continue going to my physician because they don't just go away when you obtain a 100% rating. This resulted in my periodic check-ins with my VA and personal doctor as I received continued care. Missing work didn't affect my compensation at this time since I was a salaried employee, but it was a chore. As you may know, missing work for any reason is monitored, and my doctor's appointments were consistent, but luckily my employer understood.
100% Temporary Disability Rating to Permanent and Total Disability Rating
After waiting for my C&P evaluation for two years, I heard nothing from the VA. However, I received another packet from the VA about two months after the due date. I was nervous about opening the packet because I knew they had pulled my VA medical records and that this was the time of truth. I opened the packet and smiled. I was finally 100% P&T.
What's the benefit of receiving a Permanent and Total Disability Rating from the VA?
There are so many benefits to receiving a P&T disability rating. Since I live in the state of Florida, let's run down a few that apply to me:
⁃ My children could receive a bachelor's degree in the state of Florida for free
⁃ I was able to get a disabled veteran tag on my primary vehicle
⁃ My property taxes were eliminated for life
⁃ Previously, I received a $5,000 exemption on my property tax
⁃ I'm able to visit all of the state parks for free
⁃ I was able to get a free fishing license
⁃ I can park at airports and downtown for free without paying a meter
There are many other benefits in Florida, but these are the ones I use most often. To find the benefits for veterans available in your state, a comprehensive list can be found here.
Could I have received a 100% P&T rating without using REE Medical?
I could have, but I wasn't able to receive an increase after years of trying, even though I was able to fight for my increase in rating increase after it dropped to 30%. After using REE Medical, the process was completed in six months instead of 12-plus years of trying.
This resulted in missed compensation, time from work, and many sleepless nights. Now, do I endorse REE Medical? The answer is no, as this was my journey, and my journey alone on my experience using REE Medical. As I stated, I used the Wounded Warrior Project on two separate occasions, and they helped me throughout the process. It's essential to research and determine if you can go at it alone or use an advocate, agency, or attorney to help you throughout the process.
Want to find out more about the VA Disability Compensation process? Contact me for a one-on-one consultation to see how you can maximize your income and protect your wealth.
VA Disability Resources
File a VA Disability Claim: https://www.va.gov/disability/how-to-file-claim/
File for Veteran Reemployment Assistance: https://www.va.gov/careers-employment/vocational-rehabilitation/
State Benefits for Veterans: https://nvf.org/state-benefits-for-veterans/
Disabled American Veterans: https://www.dav.org/get-help-now/
Wounded Warrior Project: https://www.woundedwarriorproject.org/programs/benefits-services