Patrick Jolly

Patrick Jolly

If you served in the military and you have a physical or psychological disability, you may be eligible to get treatment, and even compensation, from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

Some things are obvious. Perhaps you injured your shoulder while you were in the service, and you still have shoulder pain and limitation. That’s a pretty obvious claim for direct service connection.

If you have hearing loss, or ringing or other noises in your ears (tinnitus), that could be a consequence of the noises you were exposed to while you were serving.

These are simple issues, and with the help of a veteran’s advocate such as the Napa County Veterans Service Office you can get the VA to determine service connection, leading to free health care and possible compensation based on the severity of the condition.

The VA needs three things to grant service connection. First, there has to be evidence of a current condition. Treatment notes help, or even a statement describing the condition can get the claim started.

The second thing the VA looks for is evidence of something that happened on active duty that can cause your current condition. And finally for the third, the VA looks for a medical connection between military service and what you now experience.

There are other ways for the VA to grant service connection.

A vet with a condition that began in the military may have other conditions that were caused by the service- connected condition. For example, a bad knee injury can change the way a person walks, and that can put pressure on the back and other leg. If a doctor can determine that the service-connected condition likely caused the other condition, the VA can grant connection on a secondary basis.

If you had a condition before you enlisted, and that condition worsened, we can file for service connection on the basis of aggravation. In this case, it is up to the VA to prove that the military service did not aggravate it!

Veterans who served in-country Vietnam are presumed by the VA to have been exposed to the herbicide commonly referred to as Agent Orange. Vets in this category who later develop Diabetes Mellitus type 2, lung cancer, prostate cancer, ischemic heart disease, leukemia and Parkinson’s Disease are presumed by the VA to be service-connected for any of these conditions.

There are many conditions presumed to be service-connected for former prisoners of war and those who participated in atomic testings or were part of the occupation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

There is a complete listing of presumptive conditions at the VA’s website, www.va.gov.

I’ve seen several situations where a veteran develops a cancer or other disease that is not on the list of presumptives. The VA can still grant service connection, but will require a strong medical opinion explaining how the disease is related to the exposure’s mentioned above.

The process for getting the VA to grant service connection for a disability is fairly straightforward. The veteran files the appropriate forms with the VA to ask for service connection, telling them the specific condition and explaining the connection. Next, the VA schedules examinations to determine the existence, extent and origin of the condition. Then the VA determines if each condition claimed is “at least as likely as not” related to military service.

Of course, the VA is a huge bureaucracy, with a staggering list of rules and regulations. I urge all veterans who want to file a claim to do so with a veteran’s advocate. The Napa County Veterans Service Office does this for free.

The Napa County Veterans Service Office is located at 650 Imperial Way in Napa and can be reached by phone at 707-253-4558 or by email at vets@napavets.com.

We conduct an orientation to veterans at 1 p.m. on the second Tuesday of each month. We also host Vet Connect the second Thursday of each month, connecting veterans to many agencies that work with vets. Both of these are located at 650 Imperial Way in Napa.

Special note

Napa County will honor active military personnel deployed overseas by displaying a personalized street banner in recognition of their service in the armed forces. If you have a family member or close friend that is currently serving overseas, please call the Napa County Veterans Service Office at 707-565-4558 by Sept. 28, 2018 to have them honored in Veterans Memorial Park.

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Reach Patrick Jolly at the Napa County Veterans Service Office at 707-253-4558.