3. VISIT THE DAV AND VA REPRESENTATIVES
Most bases have a Disabled American Veterans (DAV) office on or near them. Same goes Veterans Affairs (VA) offices. The employees at the DAV offices will sit down with you and review your entire medical record to pick out every single tiny medical issue you ever had that could be considered for a VA claim.
When I went to my appointment, there was a Chief waiting for his appointment, and his medical records were so big that he had them in a printer paper box. Yet, these employees were happy to sit and look at every sheet of paper he brought to make sure that he was going to be able to be taken care of once he was out of the military. For those wondering why to make an appointment with the DAV or attended a VA clinic prior to separation, it is all about time.
If you can get your claim filed BEFORE you actually separate, then your VA claim is supposed to be processed within 6 months of your separation. However, if you wait until after separation to attend these clinics or get in touch with the VA it could take as long as 2 years for your claim to be finished. That is a big difference in time when it comes to your potential disability rating. And even if you do not think that you have anything severe enough to warrant a look from the VA, still go through this process. That way should something come up later you have already started the claim and it will go much quicker.
I can tell you from experience, being able to attend the DAV clinic and talk to a VA representative prior to separation made the process seem so much less intimidating. The class I was in had a representative that walked us through each and every form we had to fill out and broke down information in a way that everyone understood.
They emphasized multiple times that there was no stupid question when it came to these documents because they were going to determine our benefits. And on top of getting my claim processed faster, I was also able to knock off my medical check-out required for the Navy at the same time! It meant standing by a copy machine and making duplicate copies of every document in my medical record, but now I have that whole file in my possession so should something come up in the future I do not have to rely on the VA to locate a copy of the records.
Even if your local medical office does not tell you that you have to copy your medical record, do it! Keep a copy for your records because you never know when you might need it again and you will not be able to call the last military medical facility you were at to get it. They have to ship it off to the VA office in your new home of record. So having to prepare it for the DAV clinic put me one step ahead when I was checking off my to-do list for medical.
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