"I am indebted to the POVAT professionals for the service they provided to me and my family. The positive result was like a 2-ton weight had been lifted off me." - Bill T., USAF Veteran
"Brother, I am so very grateful to you and your pipe-hitting crew that my words will not adequately convey my appreciation.
I was blessed beyond measure to have a great career in service to my nation. I was surrounded by some of the greatest leaders ever to grace our United States military and our United States Air Force; brothers and sisters in arms that loved me and led me to be the best version of myself I could be. My retirement ceremony was May 13, 2016...it was mine and Stacey’s 10-year anniversary. I officially retired August 1, 2016, and I knew it was time to go...with no regrets. I felt strong spiritually, emotionally, and physically.
I had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s in January 2016, but my symptoms began in 2012 while TDY to Tampa for SOFIC. Being the AFSOC command chief was thrilling, and it was also very stressful. I was switched on all the time, traveling all over the world visiting with some amazing Air Commandos, giving it my all to knock down barriers to enable our war fighters to achieve success on the battlefield and while at home refitting, training, and reconnecting with their families. You know better than I about the profound losses AFSOC endured while I was in the seat. Extortion 17, Ratchet 33, Lt Col JD Loftis, and many others were killed in action and in training accidents; externally, I appeared fine, but internally, I was nearing a breaking point. I felt guilty for feeling that way, so I suppressed my emotions and the spiritual and physical toll that took on me were revealed in my diagnosis. I continued driving forward. I was managing everything well at work, but at home my son was in a bad place emotionally and behaviorally, and I felt he was slipping away from me.
When I retired from the Air Force, the only real Parkinson’s symptoms I had were not sleeping well, a touch of dystonia in my left arm, range of motion in my left arm and shoulder, and a few other “invisible” symptoms. But, overall, I was feeling great.
I worked for a defense contractor when I initially retired, and the job was exciting, and I was a one-person show running ops with AFSOC customers. I jumped in with both feet and helped my boss and the company grow into a solid program locally with a presence at Duke Field and downrange in Afghanistan. But I was soon no longer working at the much slower pace I had anticipated retirement life to be. I was right back to being switched on all the time and I was not sleeping well at all, and I felt my health sliding down. At around that time a new opportunity came my way, and I was asked to take a position as the Chief Operating Officer for the Air Force Enlisted Village. I resigned from the defense contracting business effective November 1, 2018, grateful for the opportunity and excited to begin a new chapter.
My first day as the AFEV COO was December 3, 2018, and I was on Cloud 9. I remember heading out for the evening on January 25, 2019, and feeling joy in my heart and thankful to God for the opportunity to help the AFEV residents and to be on a different track. I left AFEV’s campus and headed to the ACA HQ.
I had become heavily involved with the Air Commando Association and I loved being able to help Air Commandos and their families. I had been elected Vice President and it was the first meeting of the year. I was asked to say a prayer as we opened the meeting, and I felt a little off with my voice. I chalked it up to being tired. My health rapidly declined from that night and then stabilized about three months afterwards. Well, you know the rest of the story.
I had contemplated trying to get my rating changed, but I struggled with the decision to ask for the VA to review my case. There are so many others out there that are far worse off than me, and to be honest, the prospects of going through the VA system was overwhelming and daunting. I had entered a period of depression and I was seriously deflated. It has been a long, tough season for me. I went from being one of the top 15 enlisted leaders in the Department of Defense, the vice president of a small defense contracting business, and vice president of the Air Commando Association to someone who couldn’t communicate well, my physicality diminished, and my emotional state was simply not good. I was not doing well. If not for my faith and Stacey’s strong, patient love, I have no idea where I would be...I just know it would not be good.
I had talked with you, Brother, about POVAT’s mission, and I was honored and humbled when you referred me to your team to review and ultimately take on my case. You and your team treated me and Stacey like we were your #1 priority. To that point, I was sitting in my office the next business day after the intake session when Scott Zastrow came strolling into my office. He treated me like we were long-time, great friends...like family, really...as he laid out POVAT’s methodology in clear, easy to understand terms. He was a total blessing to me and Stacey. Two short meetings later and I had an evaluation appointment set.
The eval occurred on a Wednesday and two days later the following Friday, you called me with the VA’s decision to award me 100% T&P. My goodness, it was like a 2-ton weight had been lifted off me. I am indebted to the POVAT professionals for the service they provided me and my family. As I stated earlier in this long dissertation, this is not about the money, this is about the benefits this rating will provide my family now and into the future should something happen to me.
I am deeply proud, honored, and humbled that POVAT took on my case and prevailed to get me this award. Your mission and vision will continue to breathe faith into many veterans and their families for generations to come.
Please let me know if I can do anything to help POVAT and the incredible team who add their blood, sweat, and tears to the mix and help America’s veterans get the benefits they have earned and deserve.
KARLA P., USAF VETERAN
When I separated from the Air Force in 2008, I was told my exit physical was to capture any current medical issues and if none existed, compensation and pension was not an option.
So, uneducated about VA and thinking because my symptoms had not surfaced, I wouldn’t be eligible for a rating. However, while in the military I suffered terrible migraines, knee and shoulder injuries and being around aircraft engines I had hearing loss and ear pain. It was approximately 2 years after separating that my symptoms surfaced and I began experiencing excruciating pain with no relief. I tried chiropractic care to no avail, sought orthopedic surgeon opinion only to be told I was not fixable and no migraine relief in sight. Someone recommended I reach out to the VA and file a claim for my hearing loss and after a year of filing and receiving a decision, I was granted 10% for tinnitus; the typical rating for most all service members. Again, not knowing how to advocate for myself with the particular language needed to navigate the VA claim process, I was frustrated and I almost gave up. It wasn’t until I was introduced to Project OVAT that my hope was restored. They took so much time and care to get to know me, do the research on my medical history and put a plan in place to get me the disability I deserve.
Working with Will, Scott Zastrow and team, I quickly went from 10% to 50% within months and am currently on the VA waiting list to have my final appeal heard in front of a judge. I’m now able to see VA specialist’s for my many injuries and now have a much better quality of life. Not only is Project OVAT a top notch team of individuals but they are compassionate. They still check in on me to see how I’m doing even though their “work” for me is complete".
ADAM F., USAF VETERAN
Honestly, Tracie and I are kind of at a loss for words. We have been riding the high ever since we got the news the disability claim was granted, and now we are blessed in a way we hadn’t even considered a real possibility. The disability rating award was a huge victory for us all, and something that will benefit my family for the rest of our lives. This new blessing of getting the back pay from the start of my claim is incredible. The best Christmas gift we could have received. Thank you all so much for the hard work. I know we still have a way to go, but winning this first battle will give us some momentum. I cannot say thank you enough or truly express my gratitude as effectively as I would like. And thank you POVAT for taking me on and covering the expenses to make this happen. You guys are the best, and I am humbled.
JOHN H., USA VETERAN
Retirement crept on me pretty quickly and I did not provide myself enough time to take care of my health nor properly document my various injuries throughout my active-duty years. As soon as I was on transition leave, I started looking for a completely new career and took the approach that my medical conditions will work themselves out and the VA will assist me through recovery and its disability process. As I started the new civilian career, my health conditions continued to take a back seat to the new challenges ahead. By the time I was introduced to the Project OVAT team, some of my conditions worsened and I continued to not address them. The Project OVAT team provided me the courage to not let the process hinder my well-being and required treatment. They guided me in getting the help I needed, as well as navigate the process. Their professionalism, responsiveness, compassion and passion were evident in every interaction. My family and I are so thankful and humbled by their generosity and caring.
SCOTT D., USN VETERAN
Over the past last 17 and a half years of military service I have noticed some shifts in my behavior that I wished to share. These changes are not just noticeable by me, but my wife and children are affected as well.
Since joining the military in 2002, graduating from SEAL Training, and deploying three times I find that I have slowly withdrawn from interaction with groups of people and even with neighbors and some family. Prior to joining I was somewhat of an extrovert that was very engaged with those around me. The development over time is that I don’t feel that I have as much in common with those people around me and that I must be guarded in what I say and how I say it. My military experience is misunderstood and when I feel like people are going to ask questions my anxiety elevates. This has caused me to withdraw from any crowds or groups of people as it causes me high stress levels on a regular basis. The effect of that on my wife and family is that I hold them back at times from going to what they say are normal activities. The worst of this is that I believe one of my sons is starting to show the same behavior of disinterest in social activities. Where I was once excited for events or spending time with people, I am just uninterested.
With my work and sometimes social interaction, I find myself watching my language and thoughts as they may be abrasive or overly military. This tends to make me frustrated, and I bury the aggravation as best I can. It is a feeling that I can’t be me around others. Sometimes I may struggle to get along with coworkers as I feel like they are either going to take advantage of me or that they are simply incompetent. To be candid, I think I can become divisive amongst groups because if I feel like you’re on my side I defend you vehemently, but if I think you are a threat I can tend to undermine.
It was always a skill of mine to manage multiple things in my life from travel, relationships, clients, vacations, family, home things, and kids. I find myself confused now more than ever. Once I told a colleague that I was overwhelmed, and it was then held against me for two years and now I just hide when I am confused or lost. I get complex work projects and I struggle to figure out what is the priority, and it irritates me regularly. I tend to forget some of the details and only remember the big picture which doesn’t help when I am trying to manage client and internal projects.
One of the things that is not easy to deal with is that I am forgetting things that I would never have forgotten before. SEAL training made me very focused on attention to detail and situational awareness. I am struggling to stay on the little details. I have fought the idea that I have any issues for over 10 years, and I am starting to feel like the varying issues are starting to mount into an effect on my day to day, the relationship with my family, and the development of my children. Project OVAT is here for me and my disability that was originally denied by the VA. They are fighting for me, and many like me. There is no payment or fee for this. Project OVAT ensures that nothing will be paid out of my pocket and have found the right people to diagnose not only my psychological issues, but the physical punishment my body has taken over the years. I can’t thank the team enough for doing all this for me.