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Retired Veteran Successfully Navigated the VA Claims Process

Retirement from the military can be a challenging transition, especially for those who have dedicated decades of their lives to serving our country. For one retired Army First Sergeant, the journey was fraught with obstacles, from navigating the complexities of VA disability claims process to overcoming financial hardships. Despite his distinguished 25-year career, which included multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, he faced significant hurdles in receiving the medical and financial support he deserved. It wasn’t until he discovered Project One Vet @ A Time (POVAT) that his situation began to improve. Our organization provided the expertise, support, and determination needed to secure a 100% permanent and total compensation rating, ultimately transforming his life and allowing him to enjoy a well-deserved retirement. In this heartfelt testimonial, he shares his story of perseverance, the critical role POVAT played in his journey, and the profound impact its assistance has had on his post-service life.

I am a retired Army First Sergeant; a veteran of two tours in Iraq and one in Afghanistan along with several trips to various places around the world. During my 25-year military career, I was one of those leaders who didn’t pursue medical profiles because I felt it would limit my ability to perform my duties. I felt it was far more important to be “out front” leading Soldiers and doing what good leaders do which often led me to reduce my own care so I could take care of others.

When it came time for retirement, I went through all the required exit physical appointments and filled out my documentation, leaving no symptom unlisted. At that time, I utilized services from the Disabled American Veterans (DAV) to review my medical records and submit all my claims. I was amazed that only a couple of minor follow-up appointments were made, but nothing significant to identify underlying issues. I distinctly remember sitting in a doctor’s office explaining I was diagnosed with sleep apnea and that I had been using a CPAP machine for several years. I told the doctor I was still falling asleep during the day and always felt tired. Within five minutes he told me he was diagnosing me with “chronic fatigue syndrome”… and sent me on my way.

Ninety days after my official end of service, I began receiving VA disability checks into my bank account and also received my letter of explanation. Within the letter I was shocked to see multiple items rated at 0%, but also being identified as service-connected. Further explanation within the letter stated, “although there is evidence of treatment, there is no clear diagnosis”; therefore, nothing was awarded. Additionally, I saw the diagnosis of “chronic fatigue syndrome due to insomnia” which didn’t make sense because I felt I slept too much. Overall, my final rating landed me at 70%, and I was initially happy with that. At that time, I left well enough alone because I just simply didn’t know what to do or how to do anything about my disagreement with some of the ratings. I heard numerous times, “don’t rock the boat” or “don’t poke the bear” because everyone supposedly knew someone who had their rating lowered when they resubmitted.

Several years later and after many friends encouraged me to request a review of my case, I submitted an intent to file for re-evaluation on several conditions. I spent a year going to appointments and redoing everything that should have been done as part of exit physical. Once I had all my documentation where I thought I needed it to be, I went back to DAV where I was advised I should just leave everything as is; the guy at the desk actually said, “you already have a good rating, why poke the bear?” Basically, he was trying to talk me out of the submitting for a review.

That’s when I was introduced to Project One Vet @ A Time (POVAT) by a friend and I haven’t looked back since. POVAT put me in touch with the right people, and when I say that, I mean people who know exactly what to do and how to do it. They know how to read and understand medical files as well as fight for re-evaluations. I completely put my trust in this organization and am so happy that I did. It took time and effort on my part, and the POVAT team relentlessly checked-in, checked-up and were always available…even when I was ready to give up. Eventually, I obtained a 100% permanent and total compensation and pension rating. Financially, the extra money associated with the increase from 70% to 100% goes a long way. You see, while POVAT was fighting for my appropriate VA rating, I was struggling with chapter 13 bankruptcy. The correct VA rating provided enough funds for me to keep my house, and more importantly, my family safe and secure.

POVAT’s assistance changed my life; I now have a comfortable life in retirement. I currently am not working and just enjoying my family like I hadn’t during my time in service. This organization has changed the course of my after-Army life and I am forever thankful.

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