Schmitt & Coletta, P.C.

Veteran Attorneys Fighting For Veterans and Their Families

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Ten U.S. MIAs Announced as Accounted for From the Vietnam War

Posted on March 22, 2015 at 2:44 PM Comments comments (244)
As reported March 12 by the National League of POW/MIA Families, since November 24, 2014, the following ten US personnel have been announced as accounted for: Capt. Richard D. Chorlins, USAF; LT Richard C. Clark, USNR; Col William E. Cooper, USAF; MSG James W. Holt,USA; CMSgt Edwin E. Morgan, USAF: SSG Warren E. Newton, USA: CW3 Larry Phipps, USA; SSG Bunyan D. Price, Jr., USA: CW3 Ranier S. Ramos, USA: and LTJG Neil B. Taylor, USNR.
The number of Americans now listed by DoD as returned and identified since the end of the Vietnam War in 1975 is 954. Another 63 US personnel, recovered by the US and identified before the end of the war, bring the total of US personnel accounted for from the Vietnam War to 1,017.

New Social Security Ruling on Interstitial Cystitis

Posted on March 22, 2015 at 2:35 PM Comments comments (50)
On March 18, the Social Security Administration published a ruling in the Federal Register for the evaluation of interstitial cystitis (IC) in adults and children. The new ruling, SSR 15-1p, rescinds and replaces prior SSR 02-2p for establishing IC as a medically determinable impairment (MDI) and determining disability. It takes into consideration descriptions of IC recently developed by the American Urological Association and the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. In the new SSR, the following evidence can establish the MDI of IC: a diagnosis of IC by an acceptable medical source who reviewed the claimant’s medical history and conducted a clinical examination; IC symptoms, as indicated in the AUA and NIDDK descriptions; and medical signs or laboratory findings.
The new SSR also provides guidance in the following areas of adjudication: obtaining medical and other evidence; arranging consultative examinations; resolving inconsistencies in the evidence; evaluating claimants’ statements about symptoms and functional limitations; and using the five-step sequential evaluation process for determining disability

The Problem with the VA Medical Centers

Posted on May 20, 2014 at 2:03 PM Comments comments (23)
The tragedy at Phoenix Medical Center is partly the result of the executive bonus system  This bonus system encourages conduct like secret waiting lists. By hiding the true wait-list, the Medical Center Director was able to qualify for a $9000 yearly bonus.

This is not isolated to Phoenix. It is pervasive around the country. There has been Congressional testimony about how mangers manipulate data to qualify for bonuses. This bonus system is used throughout the Federal Government.  Perhaps it is time for Congress to eliminates bonuses  entirely!

Win Your Case With Affidavits

Posted on April 27, 2014 at 5:59 PM Comments comments (32)
Many veterans   claims  are lost due to a lack of sufficient evidence to prove the effects their individual service connected disabilities impact their ability to perform work that produces wages above poverty wages.

Use affidavits from relatives and friends describing in detail the difficulty you have performing ANY activity. This puts the onus on the VA to show why these difficulties do not prevent substantial gainful employment. The submission of such lay evidence of the combined effects of multiple service connected disabilities provokes the VA to produce contrary evidence and without such evidence the Board of Veteran Appeals is unable to arbitrarily reject your lay evidence. To do so, is error by the Board.

Of course it is more persuasive to have a doctor review the affidavits and opine that you are unable to perform substantial gainful employment resulting in the earning of income in excess of poverty wages. 

It is best to have an experienced Veteran Disability Lawyer help you to provide and argue this evidence.


Phoenix VA Health Center

Posted on April 27, 2014 at 1:46 PM Comments comments (15)
 Another VA Outrage

The Phoenix VA Health Center has been accused of having a "secret" waiting list of veterans needing health care. Allegedly 1400 vets were on the list and 40 of them died before they could receive treatment!

Why the secret list? It created an illusion that vets were timely receiving needed treatment.

Who would benefit from this illusion? Why the Medical Center Director whose base salary is $196,000 received a $9000.00 performance bonus for meeting targets.

This not the first time executive bonuses have been incriminated in a VA scandal. In my humble opinion, this is criminal!

New York Guard Honors Decesed Veterans

Posted on January 10, 2014 at 5:14 PM Comments comments (23)
The New York Military Forces Honor Guard has provided over 10,000 funeral service for deceased veterans in 2013.  It has performed over 100,000 services since it was founded in 1999.
They have a fulltime staff of 35 soldiers and 135 part timers to perform these services..  Veteran's families should afford themselves of this opportunity to honor their loved one.

Being Sexually Assualted by Friendlies treated Differntly than Raped by Enemy

Posted on December 4, 2013 at 5:49 PM Comments comments (10)
If you are in a combat zone and later suffer from PTSD your statements do not need be verified under VA regulations. But if your are raped in a combat zone by a fellow soldier, you have a higher burden of proof. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit so held in a recent case Hall v. Shenseki.  According to the Court the term" hostile" refers to enemy activity an apparently not the hostile activities of one who wears the same uniform of one!
Perhaps Congress should address this issues as well as the procedures to investigate and prosecute sexual assaults in the military.

Vets forced into years of Appeals

Posted on November 20, 2013 at 1:21 PM Comments comments (13)
The VA is working to reduce the backlogs of initial claims but does speed sacrafice accuracy and fairness to the veterans?   More vets are filing appeals with the Board of Veteran Appeals and the appeals back log is climbing.
There are 264,000 cases on appeal. 13,000 appeals have been filed since mid-July 2013. According to a retired Lieutenant Colnel who was a an Army Jag officer and now a veteran advocate, " A VA employee makes a decision and the entire system just attempts to defend that position as opposed to going back in and seeing what's wrong with it."
A veteran who files an appeal will be n the syatem four or more years based on current wait times published by the VA.  There are many reasons for the long wait times, but one of them may be the culture of the VA itself.  The VA only hires from within and although a Veteran Service officer or other Veteran advocates are qualified to do the job of Rating Specialist they cannot even apply for the position.  Thus new Rating Specialist are trained by old Rating Specialists continuing the prevailing culture.
The Board of Veteran Appeals also hires from within the VA and so the cycle continues!

A Little raise for Disabled Veterans!

Posted on November 19, 2013 at 9:38 PM Comments comments (10)
Veteran benefits will increase 1.5% next year.  Something is better than nothing but it hardly offsets the everday cost of living!

New Legal Book on Veteran Affairs Law

Posted on November 1, 2013 at 6:30 PM Comments comments (23)
I am proud to announce that I co-authored a new book titled "NAVIGATING LEGAL ISSUES FOR MILITARY VETERANS" recently  published by Aspatore Books, a Thomson Reutuers Company.