One bad jump out of the plane as a paratrooper and it changed my life. I was out of the service when I started having some medical issues and my doctor noted the trauma to my spine and then the doctor suggested that I file a VA claim.
I didn’t want to file a disability claim because I was leery of the process and the VA administration. Once I learned it’s important to file a claim so the VA has a record of injuries and how they relate to trauma from military service I decided to file.
I was very aware from the news of the extended wait time for claims so I did some research by asking other veterans how to file a claim. What I learned is that only people recognized by the VA should be helping you to file a claim because the VA accredits people to help you with your claim. There are three types of people who the VA accredits; accredited attorneys, claims agents, and veteran Service organizations.
There are over 90 VA accredited veteran service organizations such as the VFW and the American Legion which have accredited representatives to help. Many states also have veterans departments with VA accredited representatives. I met with a VA accredited state veteran’s counselor and the process was explained clearly and concisely which took away a lot of the uncertainty surrounding the process. The counselor laid out the process and described how the development of a claim works. Understanding the process was a key to alleviating a lot of the stress surrounding filing a claim.
Be sure to check confirm that if someone is helping with your claim that they are accredited by the VA to do so. The website has a search function where you can check at http://www.va.gov/ogc/apps/accreditation/index.asp. While the process was by no means quick I had peace of mind because I had a better understanding of how it worked and I knew that my counselor was accredited through the VA.
Kevin K. Dean is the Veterans Certificate Coordinator of the Graduate Certificate in Veterans' Services at SUNY Empire State College.