Episode 385 Monica Sanford Navigating VA Disability Claims Transcript

This transcript is from episode 385 with guest Monica Sanford.

Scott DeLuzio: [00:00:00] Thanks for tuning in to the Drive On Podcast where we are focused on giving hope and strength to the entire military community. Whether you’re a veteran, active duty, guard, reserve, or a family member, this podcast will share inspirational stories and resources that are useful to you. I’m your host, Scott DeLuzio, and now let’s get on with the show.

Hey, everybody. Welcome back to Drive On. I’m your host, Scott DeLuzio. And today, my guest is Monica Sanford, who is a Doctor of Nursing Practice and VA Disability Claims Examiner. Uh, she brings invaluable insights into the VA disability claims process. And today, She’ll be sharing some advice for veterans who are preparing for their VA disability exams and navigating the complexities of the claim process.

But first, before we get into all of that, I want to welcome you to the show, Monica. I’m really glad to have you here.

Monica Sanford: Thank you. It’s a pleasure to be here. This is great.

Scott DeLuzio: I, yeah, we were talking before, uh, we started [00:01:00] recording here and, uh, you know, I always, I always appreciate people coming on and sharing their expertise and their knowledge about. Uh, you know, whatever it is that, that they have to bring to the table and taking time out of their day. So I really am appreciative of you coming on.

Um, so can you just kind of give us an overview of, um, kind of a benefits process, like who can apply for VA disability benefits and what type of disabilities are eligible for compensation?

Monica Sanford: Yeah. So, first, I am a doctor of nursing practice, like you said. I’m an acute care nurse practitioner, mainly in cardiology and admitting hospitalists for about 25 years. Been married to a Marine for 34 years. Mom, dad, sister, all Army, big military family, nieces, nephews, all in the military. But, um, so I see patients for the VA for veteran disability claims.

So, to answer your question, If you are in any service, go apply. Go to VA. gov, see what you qualify for, see if you can apply. The only thing that may, um, slow you [00:02:00] down a bit is if you, uh, were dishonorably discharged or, you know, some, something to that effect, and even then you can appeal that process, and, uh, then you can probably still apply, especially if you had an in service event.

But, um, so, anybody can apply to answer your question.

Scott DeLuzio: Yeah, no, and that’s, that’s great to know too, because, um, you know, even, um, you know, a lot of times there’s, I, I’ve. Hear from people and they say, well, I, I never deployed, so I, I don’t qualify or something. Like they get that idea in their head. And, um, it’s like, that, that’s not true. There’s, there’s things that happen in training or, you know, just, you know, stuff that you might be doing here at home that, that would qualify for a VA disability.

Monica Sanford: Right. And a lot of people think just if it doesn’t fall under the PACT Act, like if it doesn’t fall under, uh, deployment, like you said, in Iraq or Afghanistan or Vietnam or things like that, that they can’t apply. That is totally not true. We have all [00:03:00] kinds of applications that we can go into. Um, but yeah, definitely go apply.

Scott DeLuzio: yeah, for sure. Um, and. You know, I always kind of think of it this way is like, what’s the worst that they can do is just say no. And so you’re kind of in the same position that you were in to begin with, but, um, on the flip side, if you do apply for the benefits and you get approved and, um, you get what, um, you know, whatever it is that you applied for, um, now you have, you know, monthly, uh, income coming

Monica Sanford: Even at least 10%, you know,

Scott DeLuzio: Yeah, exactly.

Monica Sanford: and any type of claim and you know, the types of claims are so wide ranging and I mean I can go into a few real quick the types Right now with the PACT Act, of course, it is a lot of respiratory issues a lot of sickness Sinus. If you have sinus rhinitis issues, uh, just from inhalation type things and exposures, any type of cancer, skin cancers, any type of cancers [00:04:00] definitely apply.

Mainly though, we get a ton of musculoskeletal, orthopedic type, uh, neck, Back, shoulders, knees, ankles, wrists. I mean, I had a mechanic come in, a Marine, and uh, he said for years all he did was crank on a wrench and now his wrist is kind of, uh, arthritic, you know, has arthritis changes. So we had a lot of different, uh, and if you don’t have a diagnosis and if you don’t know your diagnosis, that’s totally an appropriate answer, just so you don’t know.

And, uh, that’s what we’re there for is a medical opinion.

Scott DeLuzio: Right. And for, for folks who are like that, where, um, it, it’s possible that they never, uh, you know, saw a doctor while they were in service, because, uh, maybe the issue didn’t necessarily, you know, uh, present itself, uh, during the service. But, you know, over time, you know, they, it, it wore down on, on them. Like that, that mechanic who was cranking on a wrench.

Right. Um, and so. There are some conditions that, you know, kind of based on the job that [00:05:00] you had. Um, it’s kind of like, well, yeah, okay. That makes sense. You

Monica Sanford: Yeah, let me tell

Scott DeLuzio: like the mechanic, right.

Monica Sanford: It is actually the one of the first questions I always ask and it is on your paperwork is what’s your MOS? So we say what was your MOS? Deployable or not deployable? I just want to know what you did. So it’s in your MOS and then questions are gonna be just like this. It’s like if you have a diagnosis let me know if you don’t know just say you don’t know but the date, the if you went to be seen, if you didn’t go to be seen, and you can tell me why you didn’t go be seen.

Some people don’t you You know, they, the military member will not go to be seen if they’re afraid they’re going to lose flight status or deployment status or, um, you know, their hazard pay, anything like that, that may prevent them from going to be seen. I will put that in my note and say, you know, they were not seen in service for whatever reason.

And, um, but the. Uh, claim is, you know, still the claim. I want to know everything about that claim that you can remember. [00:06:00] So my advice would be to sit down before you do your claim and mentally prepare yourself to think about everything, uh, around that situation. around that claim. What happened? Was it just in boot camp?

Repetitive use, overuse, too many push ups and pull ups, and now your wrists hurt, your shoulders hurt, you, you know, ran too much on your ankles, you know, things like that. Uh, and a lot of them is just repetitive overuse of carrying heavy stuff. Stuff, you know, and it is you’re carrying your rifle and your rucksack, and then you have to carry your buddy’s stuff too, you know, whatever it is that, you know, can, um, add up.

And I want all my 20 year old Marines and any Army and, you know, any service out there, I want them to, that 20 year old, to think like a 60 year old, you know, it may not hurt now, but when

Scott DeLuzio: It will.

Monica Sanford: it will, it will definitely, you know, so keep that in mind. It’s like, I gotta, you know, wrench in my back every time.

I had somebody that, He kept, uh, jumping. He worked on a [00:07:00] flight line, kept jumping from the wing down to this hard cement, you know, the flight line, and now, you know, 30 years later, his back is just jacked up. So, you know, keep, keep all that in mind.

Scott DeLuzio: yeah, exactly. Um, and so, um, You know, folks who are, uh, you know, starting their, the, the process to apply for the benefits, um, you, you mentioned, uh, you know, maybe having a diagnosis, but, you know, sometimes they don’t have a diagnosis. Um, where can they start as far as like evidence, uh, collection? Like what, what type of information should they be considering, uh, putting together for, uh, their, their claim, uh,

Monica Sanford: And, The main thing is your story. That your story is going to be golden to me. I’m going to paint that picture. I’m going to tell that story. So that’s why I’m saying sit down and think about the whole situation. When it started, how it started. Did you go to physical therapy for it? Or? You’re, uh, just take over the counter ibuprofen or Tylenol or whatever.

[00:08:00] Do you do a lidocaine patch over the counter? Whatever it is, how you treated it then and then how you treat it now because that is going to be the next questions are going to be how does it affect you then? How does it affect you now? Your functional ability, your daily life, you know, I have veterans that And if you have a neck, back, hip injury, things like that, then be prepared to, or if If it worsens, meaning all of a sudden you have radiculopathy, a radiating nerve pain from that area, that’s a different claim.

So go back and claim it, you know, things like that. So, uh, be prepared. I, I totally got off, uh, from your question, I think, but,

Scott DeLuzio: No, that’s okay.

Monica Sanford: we, well, we have veterans that, you know, now it hurts them to drive, hurts them to climb a ladder, hurts them to do just gripping things, you know, yard work, housework, you know, things like that.

So keep all of that in mind.[00:09:00]

Scott DeLuzio: Yeah. And, and so, uh, basically documenting all the things that whatever the condition is, is, is preventing you from doing, um, you know, uh, like you said earlier, uh, coming up with, uh, what was it in, in service? What was it that caused this, you know, the mechanic who is, you know, uh, kind of wrenching, uh, you

Monica Sanford: And it doesn’t have to be an injury or a trauma or something. It can be overuse, repetitive use, heavy things like that. But you said about the, uh, the documentation. It’s, you know, some, we have so many that come in, they don’t have records. They, and that’s totally fine. So, but the documentation can be a lay statement from your buddy, from your, you know, sergeant, whoever said, you know, he was running, we had to pull him out.

He, she was, you know, he or she was running and we had to pull him out of, uh, You know, the run or whatever, you know, things like that because their ankles were hurting or their back was hurting, you know, whatever it was, get a [00:10:00] lay statement. I have so many lay statements from, for sleep apnea from the wife or significant other that says they just snore all night and they stop breathing.

You know, things like that, uh, need to be investigated, need to be addressed. And so, it can be lay statements. Definitely, if you see somebody outside of the VA system, have those records either sent in to the VA or hand carry them. I have people hand carry me or email me. I always give my email address to my veterans.

And say, if you remember something when we leave here, just email it to me. And, uh, they email me pictures of them in cast and their uniform and say, this was, you know, 20 years ago, whatever. Um, but yeah, just document as much as you can.

Scott DeLuzio: yeah, and when, when you, when you, uh, document all of this stuff, like you said, even pictures or videos that if, uh, you know, with, with the, the helmet cams that people have now, and even cell phones and videos and stuff that people are, are using, [00:11:00] um, it’s very likely that someone is, you know, Recording as, uh, whatever incident takes place.

And, and, uh, you know, and it could be, like you said, not a, like a significant traumatic effect, um, but it could show you doing that thing that, um, you know, working as a mechanic and, and, um, doing that repetitive motion is like, okay, like this is me doing it. Like here it is and you can see it. Right. And so that, that’s, um, you know, just one piece of evidence to support that, that claim.

Right. Um, now when. This is kind of just like evidence gathering, but when they actually get to, um, the exam, uh, the, the compensation pension, pension exam, um, uh, what can they do to best prepare for that? Yeah,

Monica Sanford: get, wear something comfortable, wear comfortable shoes, wear something comfortable. Excuse me, and I’m saying that because we’re going to, and get comfortable with answering a lot of questions. So [00:12:00] it is, uh, Expect to, a lot of it is interview. We’re talking to you, I’m asking you a bunch of questions about, uh, you know, your service, uh, or any service treatments, things like that.

So be comfortable with that, but be ready to move. I have to measure your range of motion on your shoulder, your neck, your back. I am going to be moving you in positions that you may not think of, but you know, if, you know, if I move your shoulder up and say, you know, this is how I reach up to get, you know, dishes out of the cabinet.

And there’s like, yeah, I can’t go past that, you know, 90 degrees or whatever it is. So I measure everything, uh, any kind of joint movements, things like that. Any kind of, be prepared for me to take photos. If you have scars, I need to take photos of them. And those scars, I need to measure them. So when you come in to see me, I’m going to be, uh, kind of head to toe talking, depending on what the claim is.

Um, we’re going to be very focused on that claim. If it is just a right shoulder, I am measuring your [00:13:00] right shoulder, you know, things like that. But if it’s your feet, ankles, stuff like that, I’m gonna, you’re gonna have to take socks and shoes off and let me do some measurements and if there’s any scars, take pictures of your feet and your scars and, you know, things like that.

So, so dress comfortable, be comfortable and I ask, uh, the VA to give me one hour with each veteran so I have plenty of time to get the entire story.

Scott DeLuzio: sure. Sure. Yeah. And so, you know, from what you’re saying, there’s, there’s an interview type questions. So you want to find out. In their own words, what, what happened, what’s going on? What, what is it preventing you from doing? And also, you know, on the physical side is, you know, how, how far can you actually, I want to see how far you can actually reach or, you know, whatever the, the condition is.


Monica Sanford: Andy, you have flares. Like, does it flare up during the week, during the month, one time a month, one time, you know, things like that. And what happens during those flares? Like, I literally have got to sit on my couch all day because I can’t move because my back is out, you know, and I take lidocaine and, you [00:14:00] know, when’s the last time you went to the ER for it?

Imaging is big. If you have any, anybody out there listening right now, if you have a back problem, ask your provider.

And, um, so it just helps the process if you already have it done.

Scott DeLuzio: yeah, absolutely. And, um, you, You can, uh, if it’s done through the VA, that, that stuff is automatically, you know, provided to the, uh, the, the provider who’s, uh, uh, doing the exam. So you’ll have that information right in front of you. And, and you’ll kind of have an idea, a little heads up beforehand, uh, you know, what, what’s going on with this person.

Um, you also mentioned the, the pack deck, uh, earlier. Um, can you talk about a little bit more about How this impacts the veteran benefits and, uh, the, the claims process and, and how it also, how it affected the pace of processing the claims and, uh, the resources [00:15:00] there.

Monica Sanford: good and bad on the paste thing. I’ll get to that. But, uh, the legislation actually, um. It was just all about health care expansion, expanding, you know, expansion and just the getting, getting the veterans into the VA. I know the undersecretary of the VA, I met him recently, but their, um, their whole goal right now is to get the veterans back into the VA for their health care.

So the PACT Act, what it did was, They put a big, huge spotlight on veterans and the VA, which is great, but it is, uh, was all about extending that eligibility and mainly for toxic exposure. So if you go to the va. gov, if you go into your VA, ask them to do a toxic exposure memo or toxic exposure screening, it’s really quick, but that just tells them the verification of your service.

And what you could potentially have been exposed to. I want to say it doesn’t matter [00:16:00] if you were, um, uh, deployed or not, that it was very geared toward exposure. The sand pit or the burn pits, the sand, the dust, things like that, they were very, um, specific to deploy to Iraq and Afghanistan. However, we are getting, I tell, you know, if you worked on.

vehicles worked on, if you were maintenance, if you worked on the flight line, no matter what your MOS was, you were exposed to fumes and gases and toxic things. And I put anything I put down is occupational exposure and environmental exposure. Whatever exposure you had in the service, we will put that down.

But the PACT Act mainly, um, is a big push to expand the healthcare, expand the eligibility and get the veterans back into the VA for healthcare. And you can enroll anytime, so go to VA. gov.

Scott DeLuzio: Yeah. So that’s, that’s great. Uh, you know, information to, to have there, um, because I know a lot of [00:17:00] people, especially the Iraq and Afghanistan, uh, era, uh, veterans that have, have served over there. They’ve been. Exposed pretty much everyone. I’ve talked to who’ve been over that. They’ve been exposed to the burn pits and You know the toxic fumes even if you weren’t You know on a flight line or a mechanic or whatever You still wrote in the trucks and you still had to fuel the trucks and you’d still had to do all that kind of stuff You’re still exposed to some of that

Monica Sanford: 100%. And it was in just everywhere it was, excuse me, environmental, but it was, what it does to that PACT Act is, uh, increase the presumptive exposure. So they are adding the presumptive service, if you were, if it’s service related, it’s automatically service related, service connected, uh, conditions, if you were in Iraq and Afghanistan, or Vietnam, or Camp Lejeune, you know, things like that.

Scott DeLuzio: Right. And, and so, uh, you mentioned a key word there and I want to just touch on that, uh, is, [00:18:00] uh, presumptive. And so for the, the listeners, um, the presumptive conditions are things that basically the VA is just assuming that because you have this condition and you were in, you know, maybe a certain area or did a certain job or something, they just assume that, yes, that’s connected to your service.

And so, so there’s. You know, part of the, the claims process is, is connecting whatever the condition is to your service. And in cases like this, like what you’re, you’re describing, um, it’s, it’s just automatically assumed. There’s no additional documentation or, you know, paperwork or whatever that’s necessarily required.

It just, because you served, uh, In maybe a certain area, you know, like you said, Camp Lejeune, or, uh, you know, during a certain time period, maybe, or, you know, whatever the cases may be. Um, and it’s different for, there’s a lot of other things

Monica Sanford: Yeah, there’s a whole list of, uh, areas, you know, [00:19:00] uh, the UAE, anywhere that you’d served and even if you weren’t directly in Iraq and Afghanistan, definitely they, there’s a whole list that they concede, they have conceded that, you know, you were exposed to particulate matter of some sort, uh, that could affect this.

That’s why we’re seeing a lot of respiratory stuff, a lot of sinus stuff, issues, things like that. So.

Scott DeLuzio: Sure. Sure. Now I know a lot of folks out there, they. Put off seeking the benefits that they have, uh, you know, I guess earned for lack of better words. Um, uh, they, they, they put it off, um, for one reason or other, maybe they, they feel like they don’t deserve it or they feel like, you know, Oh, I’m taking away from somebody else, which is not true.

I think we’ve covered that on the show before. Right. But, um, is it ever too late to apply for benefits?

Monica Sanford: No, apply now and apply often. Apply, when I say that, it’s like apply now, you can reapply for some instances, it’s, you have to wait a year to reapply, but definitely [00:20:00] apply. Um, and my husband was a, a prime example when he, I mean, he’s almost 60 now. It’s going to kill me for saying that, but, uh, you know, when he was 20 something and doing, uh, high speed, low drag type stuff and jumping out of helicopters, he broke his foot.

You know, and when you’re 20, you heal fast and you just move on, right? And now he’s like, okay, now my ankle. So the, so reapply. If you didn’t apply before, I’ve had Vietnam vets come in and never claimed anything. Uh, and they have never applied for disability. And now they’re presumptive, uh, for Vietnam for Agent Orange.

So. Yes, apply anytime and sometimes you have to reapply. I had a vet that literally, he was on my podcast a few weeks ago, but he had to apply 19 times for the same before he got the claim. A

Scott DeLuzio: You know, that’s, that’s a little, uh, kind of like kills my soul a little, you

Monica Sanford: I know, I know.

Scott DeLuzio: got to go through that much to get the benefits that they deserve. But, [00:21:00] um, I guess the point is, you know, it’s never too late, uh, apply for it. Uh, if, if it gets kicked back and gets denied, either you can appeal that or, you know, you can reapply later on.

Um, you know, is there, there a benefit to, uh, Waiting a year and reapplying versus appealing the decision. Got it. Sure. Sure.

Monica Sanford: Um, I am not an appeals attorney or anything like that for, I’m not sure exactly what they look at. I just know if you reapply or appeal, they send you right back to me. So, or the AVA provider, and I will, I always, If I don’t have an x ray, an MRI, a sleep study, a pulmonary function testing, things like that, I always recommend and request that the vet be sent for that.

Um, so I have additional information. If you have additional documentation that changes that claim, definitely reapply. If you [00:22:00] have additional documentation that comes, uh, and says, you know, this, you know, is showing arthritis changes now, and it, um, I can tie it directly back to my service type thing. Um, you know, just reapply and it doesn’t, like you said at the beginning, it doesn’t hurt to reapply.

It doesn’t hurt to apply early and often, definitely.

Scott DeLuzio: and for folks who have, uh, you mentioned this a little bit earlier, uh, if they have medical records that are outside of the VA, um, it’s important to get those records to the VA. Um, In the application process itself on the website, there is a place for you to upload supporting information. So that could be, you know, a place that you could do that.

Or like you said, you can hand deliver, uh, the, the

Monica Sanford: I have a ton, send it to me, email it to me, bring it in to me. I will take a picture of it and upload it to their chart right then. So, different ways that it can be handled. Some of these guys and ladies, um, you know, all the service members, they’re [00:23:00] They may not have, they have zero records. They were out in the field or they were out in combat and they just kind of got, you know, duct taped together and sent back out.

You know, it’s not like, yeah, I mean, it’s not like they came in and said, okay, sign here and wait for your appointment. Yeah, no, it’s, you know, it was real combat stuff or real in the field stuff, or, you know, we just don’t have the records, but. Tell me the story. I want every bit of information because some of these, some of the people that are looking through records may not be medical.

They may not be, you know, things to that effect. They’re looking to make sure boxes are checked or things, you know, things to that effect. Um, so it is up to me to tell your story. So, uh, make sure you’re, whoever you see for the VA, for the claim, you tell them, you know, every little detail you can.

Scott DeLuzio: Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. And, um, Yeah, don’t, don’t hold back on those details. Like that, that’s, I mean, they, [00:24:00] if you have an hour and you’re, you’re with the person for an hour and, uh, or, or you have that time available and you’re only in there for 15 minutes, there’s probably more of the story that you could probably have told them, uh, that you, you could have, uh, you know, kind of used it during that time.

So, so you use the time, you know, get the, the, uh, information to them. And, and that can only be in your benefit, uh,

Monica Sanford: And this, uh, this is not the time to stay strong or stay humble or, you know, embrace the suck as, you know, my husband says. Uh, you know, this is not the time to keep sucking it up. I want to hear everything. You’re not complaining. Uh, I need, don’t leave anything out, you know, things like that. So tell, tell every, tell me what we need to hear to help you.

Uh, and it just makes my process easier. Uh, now if in the process itself, you know, the veteran may be a little, I don’t want to say discouraged or frustrated with the timeline sometimes, because if you come to me and I don’t have. Uh, documentation, x rays, things like that. We have to kind of piece it together.[00:25:00]

And I have to ask the VA to order things. Or I will tell my veteran, ask your primary care to order you a, uh, a pulmonary testing. Ask them to order you an x ray. Ask them to order you things like that. Um, so that kind of delays it a little bit because I have to order it or I don’t order it. I ask the VA to order it.

Um, and then they send me those results. So, um, so a little frustrating sometimes on the timeline.

Scott DeLuzio: yeah, yeah, and I, I know the timeline has actually gotten better, uh, over the years I I’ve had, uh, personally, I had a claim, you know, years ago that I, I filed and it took close to a year, I think, uh, for, for it to, to go through and then I had another claim a little while later and it was, uh, I mean, within a month, uh, it was decided on and, and so like it got, it got so much better.

Um, you know, in, in, as far as those go. Uh,

Monica Sanford: just keep in mind, keep in mind that from the PACT Act from last year, when it passed, [00:26:00] thousands of veterans now are flooding the system, which I love, and we will get them taken care of, but it may be from a few weeks, a few months, you know, but still better than it had been.

Scott DeLuzio: Right. And, and the,

Monica Sanford: and technology and, you know, just modernization of charts and stuff, the EHRs and stuff.

Scott DeLuzio: sure. Yeah, absolutely. And, and, um, yeah, definitely don’t, this is not to discourage anybody from applying, especially if they, they have some of these types of conditions. Um, so yeah, maybe it will take a little bit longer now than what I, my experience from a couple of years ago, but, um, yeah. And, but that’s fine because if you, uh, uh, from the date that you, you, uh, submit that intent to file, um, you’ll get the back pay for that.

So even if it does take a couple of months, you’ll get the back pay, um, you know, from that, uh, that, that time period there. So, um, and, and basically in one lump sum. So, um, you know, yeah, maybe it’s a little frustrating cause you don’t [00:27:00] know. Um, but if once when it’s approved, uh, you still get the money, um, as if.

As if it had been paid out all along. So, uh, you just get it all kind of in one lump sum. So, so definitely apply, uh, for, for the listeners, you know, don’t, don’t

Monica Sanford: And, but I want to stress though that me as a provider, I have nothing to do with your rating itself. So,

Scott DeLuzio: sure. Sure.

Monica Sanford: put in every kind of tiny little detail I can, but, um, I have nothing to do with the rating. And like I said, some of these people that read it are not military or, um, you know, prior military or they’re not even medical or prior medical things, some of them.

Um, Majority are, and, uh, makes it a lot easier when I talk to a military medical person.

Scott DeLuzio: Right. Right. Um, yeah. And, and when. When you’re looking at it, you’re, you’re just looking to gather the facts and collect the information to send it over to the person who’s now, uh, like you said, checking [00:28:00] the boxes, making sure everything’s filled out correctly and, and that everything matches to whatever the, um, uh, the criteria is for what, whatever the rating is, um, you know, and so they, they’re the ones who decide it.

Monica Sanford: yeah, exactly. And when you come to see me for an exam, it is just that, it is a medical exam. I am not, I cannot do your treatment plan, I cannot write prescriptions, I cannot change any treatment plan, I can ask you to request something from your primary care or the VA, things like that. I can recommend stuff, I can request stuff from the VA.

But I cannot do any kind of treatments. So that, that’s a big, uh, kind of misconception when people come to see me is that it’s kind of like a regular doctor visit. This is completely different, um, you know, completely different. I am not, you know, I don’t have my prescription pad there.

Scott DeLuzio: Right. Exactly. And that was actually going to be one of the questions that I had was, you know, any misconceptions that people have when they come in for these exams. And, um, you’re, you’re absolutely right. That’s [00:29:00] it’s not, you’re, you’re not their regular doctor. Um, you don’t, you’re not the one who is, uh, you know, deciding the treatment plan or writing prescriptions or changing prescriptions or, or changing anything about that.

Um, you’re, you’re just, you’re, They’re strictly for gathering evidence, uh, for the purpose of, of this claim.

Monica Sanford: right. And if I don’t have that data or evidence, I’m going to request it. So again, I may send you, um, somewhere else or uh tell but to me i i literally on almost every chart i do i request an updated something an updated x ray x ray mri testing of some sort um because i’m all about kind of data and evidence finding and

Scott DeLuzio: for the veterans out there who maybe like the guy that you, you mentioned that had the file 19 times. I know that’s kind of an extreme case, but, uh, for the folks that are out there, maybe [00:30:00] feeling overwhelmed or discouraged by the process, are there any things that you would offer as far as advice, uh, to staying resilient and advocating for themselves throughout this whole journey?

Monica Sanford: is to definitely uh, keep track of your claim. Like I said, the modernization and the computer innovations and stuff now makes it a lot easier for you just to go on VA. gov and see where your process is or where your claim is in the process. Because again, you know, I have a couple of vets I saw last week that I, they are sending them for the testing that I requested.

But it’s not till another couple of weeks. So then they have to send it back to me and I add it back to the chart, you know, things like that. So it, it can take weeks to months. It’s a process. The, um, and it’s, it’s depends on any additional testing, what all your claims are. I have some come in with just two or three claims.

I’ve had some come in with one claim, but then some come in with a list of claims. So it, if [00:31:00] you have a list of claims, it’s gonna probably take, you know, some may take longer than others to get that rating. Um, so just be patient. It’s worth it. Still file. Um, still go see the examiner and see what they say.

Uh, talk to your VA, see what they say either. If you’re not close to a VA, Go to the VA. gov site, but, uh, yeah, just keep, keep track of your, uh, all your resubmissions and your, uh, claim, where it is in the process and if the diagnosis or the, uh, diagnostics like the imaging, things like that are complete and if they’ve been uploaded to your chart.

Scott DeLuzio: Right. Exactly. And, and it’s really easy to go onto the website, um, and, and just keep track of all of that, that stuff, cause it’s, it’s right there. It’s in, in the, um, portal for lack of better words. Uh, you know, it’s, it’s, it’s right there and you can kind of see where, where it is in the process. And I, I, I forgot how many steps there are in the process, but there’s, [00:32:00] there’s even like, uh, kind of like a timeline that just like tells you this is where it’s at in the, in the process.

And, uh, you know, we’re waiting for, uh, Um, you know, the reviewers to, you know, take a look at it or whatever, wherever it is in the process, it gives you kind of that update. So,

Monica Sanford: Yeah, and I think a lot of, uh, a lot of young, uh, service members may not realize that if you have a hurt knee now or a thin, you know, back, whatever it is, shoulder, and then, you know, you get rated for that claim because it, you know, we can put it in your service record, um, then down the road if you need it.

Surgery on it, the VA will take care of it. If you need prescriptions for it, if you need, uh, medical devices for whatever claim, you know, things like that, it will be much easier in the long run if you claim now and, you know, keep every documentation you can.

Scott DeLuzio: right. And, and for those service members, like if, if you can, you know, obviously I, I know I’ve, I’ve been in combat. I know where, what it’s like being overseas. [00:33:00] Um, it’s not always the easiest to get stuff documented and, you know, see a doctor and things like that. But. Um, like you said, they, they might duct tape you together and send you back out.

And you know, it is what it is. Um, but if, if you can, if you can get stuff documented, um, and, and have that information, it makes the process so much easier because then there’s, there’s something connecting that problem to your military service. And that’s, to me, I think that that’s one of the, the biggest hurdles that a lot of people have to get over, maybe I’m wrong, um, you know, based on your experience, but,

Monica Sanford: Well, it just helps expedite the process. It makes my process flow so much easier, things like that. And I don’t want to discourage people from. You know, one, you have to embrace the suck sometimes. You have to just suck it up because we don’t want you to go into war not ready. That type of thing. So, but I just saw, I want to say, I just saw this morning and I sent it to my husband.

Uh, on YouTube, a little short video of a [00:34:00] drill instructor just yelling at this Marine. You know, he’s a Marine, yelling at it, you know, or he was, he was very calm actually, but he was, you know, talking to this Marine and then the first comment on there was like, and the VA wonders why we don’t report more things, you know, it’s like, so I want it to be both.

I want you to be, you know, be strong when you have to, be ready for war when you have to, uh, be that fighter when you have to, but you can also go to the clinic and say I hurt my ankle to have it documented. One sentence. You know, my claim today is I hurt my ankle. That literally that claim can go on your chart.

Scott DeLuzio: Exactly. Exactly. And when, when you do that now that there’s that, that record and that, that kind of paper trail, I guess, if you will, and that, that can then be used to help, uh, you know, a claim somewhere down the line. And.

Monica Sanford: is your STR, your surface treatment record that they will send me.

Scott DeLuzio: Right. Exactly. So, well, this has [00:35:00] been, uh, like a, just a, a great kind of insight into the, the kind of the claims process and the, the exam process itself. Cause, uh, it’s, it’s, that’s sort of like a black box. Like, I think a lot of people can kind of figure out the, the, before the claim, like the gathering evidence, like that kind of stuff makes sense.

But when you walk into that room with, with the, the examiner, um, it, yeah. It almost is a little bit scary because you’re like, I don’t, I don’t like there, if I say the wrong thing, is this whole claim going to be denied or, you know, whatever, and, and it’s not that, you know, like, I think, I think people like yourself, you’re, you’re on the side of, of the veteran, like you want them, uh, you want to get the right information and document it so that if they’re eligible for this claim, uh, for this disability, um, then they get it.

Monica Sanford: Yes, they earned it. They

Scott DeLuzio: there,

Monica Sanford: it.

Scott DeLuzio: You know, trying to, you know, find holes in their story and, and like totally blow everything up. You’re just, you’re just trying to document the facts [00:36:00] and like, as long as you’re, you’re being truthful and giving the correct information, then, um, you know, that, that’s your job, uh, is, is to gather that stuff.

And, um, you know, then, then it’s, you know, obviously it’s out of your hands. It’s in the, the reviewers and everyone who does it. Uh, you know, kind of makes those decisions, but basically just, just give the information, give, give the facts. There’s, there’s nothing really, it’s not scary. There’s nothing to be, you know, you know, worried about or, you know, anxious about before going into it.

It’s, it’s just a routine kind of exam, almost, uh,

Monica Sanford: No, I love you saying that, you know. I love you saying that because it is. A lot of people are scared when they walk in. I’m like, I try to put them at ease. Telling them my military family and I say, I’m on your side. I’m trying to hear the story.

Scott DeLuzio: exactly. And that’s all it is. Just hearing, hearing a story and, and telling it, uh, you know, with as much detail as you can to, uh, try to help yourself out. And that’s, that’s really, I think, where, where people need to get their head, uh, [00:37:00] at to, to be able to go through these, uh, exams. So, um, So that’s great. Um, now I don’t want to wrap up this show before giving you a chance to, uh, plug your podcast.

You mentioned it a little bit earlier. Um, the podcast, the Monica, the Monica Stanford show, and, uh, tell us a little bit about it, uh, what listeners can expect from it when they tune in.

Monica Sanford: so much. It is called the Monica Sanford Show. I know I had it called something else before and I got shut down. So, um, anyway, it was, uh, Monica Sanford Show. It’s on Spotify and iHeartRadio. I talk to, I teach health policy at University of West Florida. So it’s, uh, some health policy related, meaning I talk to representatives, senators, county, Commissioners, things like that, that have to do with health care policy usually, or veterans.

A lot, I’ve had maybe five shows that have to do with veterans. I just had somebody on from the VA. Uh, so I talk to, my tagline is kind of, I talk to anybody I want to about whatever we want to talk about. So, cause I [00:38:00] find so many different things interesting. I just talk to everybody. I’ve had chefs and pastors and, um, you know, the president of, uh, Waffle House was on.

So, um, yeah, so I talk to business people, leaders, veterans, you name it.

Scott DeLuzio: Uh, that’s, that’s pretty cool. So, uh, again, uh, you said Spotify and I Heart Radio, go, go check out the Monica Sanford show. Um, I’ll have a link to that in the show notes as well for folks who want to, uh, take a look at that. Um, but before we wrap up, uh, I, I always like to end the episode with a little bit of humor, um, just to, uh, put a smile on some people’s faces.

I, I know, um, You know, laughter can be the best medicine. That’s what they say. I don’t know if that’s true or not. I’m not a doctor, but I’m going to go with it. Um, and so, um, typically I’ll, I’ll, uh, you know, either tell a joke or watch a funny video or something stupid to, uh, just get people to laugh. And if the joke sucks and I, I can’t deliver it well, you can at least laugh at me and I’m fine with that.

So, um, so

Monica Sanford: used to my husband’s dad jokes, so.

Scott DeLuzio: Well, this is probably going to be on par [00:39:00] with that. Uh, anyways, so you can, you can get your eye rolls. And if you need to, uh, with that, so, um, so a veteran walks into a bar, grabs a drink and the man next to him, uh, starts up a conversation with him. And after a little bit, they, uh, find out that they’re both veterans of the Vietnam war.

And the first guy says, uh, I was only a helicopter mechanic, but I I’ve seen all the horrors that war has to bring. And the other guy says, Oh, I still have nightmares of all the people that I’ve killed. It’s horrible. And the mechanic says, well, I totally understand you. I’ve killed 15 men. The other guy goes, wait, but you’re just a helicopter mechanic.

How did you kill 15 men? And the mechanic says, I never said I was a good mechanic.

Monica Sanford: Oh my god. Oh wow. I’m like, where is this going? Yeah, not a good mechanic.

Scott DeLuzio: Not a good mechanic. So anyways, um, thank you again for taking the time to join us [00:40:00] and, uh, and sharing, you know, information, a little bit of insight on, uh, Uh, the, the disability exams, the compensation and pension exams for, uh, you know, veterans and their disability benefits. Um, I think it’s, uh, good information and also good to kind of ease, ease the minds of some of the folks who are maybe about to go head into their exams and, uh, you know, find out, uh, you know, what that whole process is all about.

Monica Sanford: Yes. And if they’re still in service, go get, uh, go get it documented.

Scott DeLuzio: Exactly. Yes. Get it documented. I, I mean, uh, and especially like if, if you’re like, On your way out. And you know, that’s like, okay, I got six months left. Go to the freaking clinic and like get stuff documented. Like just get it. If it hasn’t been done before, just get it documented and be like, Hey, this hurts.

That hurts. Uh, this is what happened. All this stuff, just get it in, in your record. So that way now it’s connected to your service and it just makes the process so much easier. So again for coming

Monica Sanford: Thank you. This was fun. I appreciate [00:41:00] it.

Scott DeLuzio: Thanks for listening to the Drive On Podcast. If you want to support the show, please check out Scott’s book, Surviving Son on Amazon. All of the sales from that book go directly back into this podcast and work to help veterans in need. You can also follow the Drive On Podcast on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, and wherever you listen to podcasts.

Leave a Comment