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Posted 03 November 2008 - 06:55 AM
Posted 03 November 2008 - 07:17 AM
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Posted 03 November 2008 - 08:23 AM
I need some help! Here is a start to the problem I am having. I served from 02/1997 to 09/2005. I had my first surgery on my back in 12/2004 and then I was medically discharged in 09/2005 for my spine injury. I filed my initial claim in 12/2005 and received my first rating 06/2007, 10% for my neck and 10% for my lower back. I had two more surgeries in 06/2007 and 07/2007 and filed for an increase in 08/2007 and received a rating in 10/2007 (surprisingly quick)! I received an increase of 10% for my lumbar which brought now to 20% and my neck stayed at 10%. I then filed for another increase in 10/2007 stating that my condition deserved higher rating; I mean I could hardly move. I received an increase in 04/2008 for my lumbar, it was increased to 40%! I then filed for secondary conditions listed below in 04/2008. I thought they would rate the arthritis and most of the conditions listed below when I initially filed, but to no surprise they did not! I have done this all on my own and I have learned that I have been taking the long way around, but my vet rep was no help to me. He would not listen to what was wrong with saying just file for an increase and they will see the evidence, and obviously they did not! I am seeing a mental health doctor for my depression in dealing with my chronic pain and just everything else that I have to deal with in my back. I have been going to the VA regularly for my back at least 2-3 times a month for the past year. I am on Gabapentin, oxycodone, etolodac, and two medications for headaches and migraines that I can not remember the names. I recently filed for another increase for the conditions below and the VA denied all of them except that they deferred a rating for my scar from my microdiscectomy surgery. I have had 4 MRIís (3 on my Lumbar and 1 on my cervical) and they all showed my condition getting worse. On the first MRI on my lumbar it showed bulging discs and some mild stenosis that was about it. Then the next showed it getting worse and worse as listed in the conditions listed below. The VA said that it is not getting worse. I had a C&P in 03/2008 for my increase that I got in 04/2008 and I was measured at 5 degree forward flexion. Then when I got my letter for this increase they said I had 40 degree forward flexion, but the thing was I never had a C&P for my lower back on this one! There were notes from 2007 that said I had 40 degree forward flexion, but that was 2007 and I had the latest measurements in 2008! That tells you how close they really look at the documentation! Please help I have more info if someone can help!
Here is some of the issues that I haveÖÖ.
1.) Facet arthropathy (arthritis)
2.) Spinal Stenosis in my Cervical and Lumbar spine (Moderate to severe grade) spine
3.) Bulging discs in my Cervical and Lumbar spine
5.) Osteophytes and/or Bone-spurs in my Cervical and Lumbar spine (Moderate to severe grade) spine
6.) Scar from the microdiscectomy surgery approximately three inches in length. Two RFA (Radio Frequency Ablation) surgeries on my L3-L4, L4-L5, L5-S1.
7.) Spondylolisthesis in my Lumbar and Cervical (Moderate to severe grade) spine
8.) Migraines that occur at least one every seven days due to the chronic pain, medication and the difficulty to sleep.
9.) Degenerative Disc Disease (Moderate to severe grade) has developed in both my cervical and lumbar levels of spine.
10.) Nerve damage in my lower back caused chronic radiating pain down through my right leg and foot; as a result, the muscles in these locations have deteriorated somewhat. Occasionally, I get the same pain in my left leg.
Posted 03 November 2008 - 09:17 AM
No, the reason I asked was the VA can use the test during the C&P to imply a Veteran is "Malingering" and not grant an increase for that reason.. You would think that an X-ray/MRI or nerve conduction test would be enough to prove the problem is organic and not mental, but they use it.. I have seen them alot on increase for spine issue C&Ps, including mine..
SSGmajik, man I know how you feel, I had my first real hands on C&P for my foot in 16 years. According to the VA whom rated me at zero 3 times prior. After receiving my c-file and I never even knew it and the same would apply with my old ratings. I still have the same broken foot condition but until Friday they had never laid a hand on me or seen me for my foot I just assume back then I was stuck with it and zero means zero, i should have filed back then but I know more over the last year than I ever knew over last 16 years total. I know they used my old record to reevaluate because I had never had a C&P till I filed for an increase for it last month, the weired thing is I had a C&P weeks later. So I think this is just another thing you can add to the list of things the VARO does to get over and draw out a claim. try to hang in there I know how it feels maybe this time will be different.
Posted 03 November 2008 - 09:45 AM
Posted 03 November 2008 - 09:09 PM
All I can say is hang in there and hopefully one day at the Veterans court with a lawyer they will get it straight. If you can use a lawyer at the RO level I would. Here is my story to commiserate with you. Served in the Marines 91-95. Got out in 95 and was service connected for fractures of both feet 10% and 0%. Service connected for Asthma at 0% even though I used an abuteral inhaler, which is 10% min. They later in 2004 corrected that rating to 10% in 96 and 30% from 97 0n.
In 97 I started having problems with my back and legs. For the next three years my back and leg pain and symptoms became worse and worse. I had three MRI's and a disco-gram done. What came out was L-4 L-5 desiccated and severe degeneration and herniation to the right in the nerve root, L-3 L-4 severe degeneration and herniation to the left in the nerve root, L5 S1 moderate bulge pressing on the thecal sac. For the whole three years I just wanted to be fixed. I saw 4-6 neurosurgeons and orthopedic surgeons, neurologists, chiropractors, acupuncturists, holistic healers, yoga instructors, and massage therapists. No one wanted to touch me surgically. No fusions, no reconstruction no nothing. They said I had two many levels and too many different symptoms. So finally in 2000 a neurosurgeon at Yale said he would operate. Mind you the whole time I haven't gone after the VA yet.
He said he wanted fuse me at the top two levels. Then he changes his mind and does a hemi-laminectomy and discectomy at L3-4 and L4-5 and leaves L5-S1 alone. In the beginning it seemed like I got some relief. Must have been the six weeks in bed and the percs. Anyway once I went back to work things went right back to where I was prior to surgery except worse. The surgeon did another MRI and said well you are clear and have some scar tissue, nothing I can do.
So then I went after the VA. That was a long story but I got it connected directly and secondary to my feet. Initial rating back to July 2000 of 20% for lumbar strain. No intervertebral disc syndrome, no mention or MRIs or leg pain or anything else. I appealed of course. I couldn't do anything that I had done prior to 97. No physical activity without severe leg and back pain. So for the next three years I get denied again and then have a hearing and go to a DRO. In between I had another exam. Well sense I was taking Yoga I was able to bend to 70 degrees. I should have faked by I can't go back. So they take the bending into account and say I am better and actually rate 10% but we'll give you 20% for flare-ups. Said I had a mild back strain. I was diagnosed again with lumbar strain. No DDD no reference to MRI's, scar tissue, sharp shooting leg pain, no ref to the 10 plus drís that documented sciatica and positive straight leg raises, etc. Then it's on to the hearing and the DRO. She tells me that I got low balled for all my ratings. DAV is in there with me although I did most of the work on the case myself. I get my decision in Aug 2004 and it's denied again.
Something to keep in mind. In 2002 I lost it because I wasn't taking pain meds and got put on paxel, ativan, and buspar for anxiety and panic attacks do to the pain I had. In 2005 they service connected me secondary to the back 30%. So here I am secondary sc for mental at a higher rate than my primary aliment. They also secondary connected my high blood pressure at the same time for 0% of course. So I guess the mental and the blood pressure shows how mild my back was.
So it's on to the BVA. Well prior to the BVA I get Dr. Bash to write me an IME and he lines all my evidence up including tons of VA visits, MRI's, etc. and says change my diag code to intervertebral disc syndrome and rate 60%. The RO totally discredited his IME by saying we got but it doesn't hold enough weight. Yet they had no Dr dispute any of his findings.
So BVA here I come. I spend hours and hours reading cases on the BVA which rate people with conditions like yours and mine 50 and 60%. I figured even maybe a low ball of 40%. So as I am waiting for the year or two at the BVA I break down again and can't take the pain. I start seeing a pain center and get nerve blocks every couple of months for the next year and a half. I start on vicodan then move to precocet and finally your evil friend and mine oxycodone. While my case was down there I sent them all of this. Including the 15mg of oxycodone 4 times a day. The 4 or 5 panic attacks a day. A letter from my employer saying I missed 12 weeks out of eighteen months. Told them about the jobs I had been fired from. Had a letter from my Pain Dr. stating that the scar tissues at the two levels of surgery are entrapping the nerves. He also stated because they waited so long seven years it would be almost impossible to break it up. A letter from my chiropractor / physical therapists saying I had been seeing him three times a week for over a year and that I have severe orthopedic and neurologic deficit which was cited on four different full exams he had done on me over the year. A letter from a neurosurgeon stating I had severe DDD which was way out of proportion fro my age, that I had nerve entrapment at L4 including numbness. He also recommended getting a spinal stimulator but that I couldnít be helped with surgery. The kicker was another letter from Dr. Bash stating again I should be 60% under intervertabral syndrome and the fact that no one had disputed his first letter and I have gotten worse. He also wrote this piece about entrapped scar tissue etc.
So I think Iím sitting pretty and here comes the letter one day. Guess what? No increase. Back stays at 20% based on orthopedic conditions to include the bending. Although they admitted DDD and spinal stenosis for the first time. Oh wait they threw in 10% for my neurological symptoms based on a 2002 VA doctor note. Almost all the evidence they pointed to was from prior 2000. Everything else they said was a just pain note. They even cut out the letter stating I missed 12 weeks in 18 months yet used a statement within it that said I had to stand up in meetings LOL. No mention of the two IMEs from Dr. Bash, no mention of any other doctors letters.
So here I sit at the court hopefully waiting to get a remand back to the appeal management center in Washington and get a correct rating. I honestly believe because I fought these guys myself they screwed me. When they denied me I wouldnít have an NSO write them back I would and I would tell them exactly where they made a mistake. I was told by DAV stop sending stuff in because my C-file folder is too big and they wont look at it anymore. I dropped DAV after that. Sorry I went on for so long. Just wanted you to know my deal. I just had a spinal stimulator trail two weeks ago. Iím not sure if I want to move forward with the permanent solution yet. Until then I got bumped up to 30MG OXIs. Hopefully one day here at the court they will set me free.
Good luck in whatever way you move forward.
Posted 04 November 2008 - 07:00 AM
Thank you for your story. It sounds like we are going through very similar difficulties both physical and mentally, I'm just a few steps behind. I plan on getting a lawyer and going after the VA as you know that obviously do not care if you even have the evidence to support your claim, they just don't care. I am going to take time and try to build up a complete and thorough case to support my claim. I'm not sure who your VARO is, but I know Cleveland is one of the worse ones. I had multiple Doctors and friends write letters on my condition on how it affects me personally and medically and they did not even care, probably never even read them. I hope you have better luck this time around. Take care and thank you for shareing your experience, it was very helpful.
Posted 04 November 2008 - 08:15 AM
It may sound stupid but it is very helpful for me to tell my story and talk with other chronic pain suffers. I'm trying live life and to deal with a family that includes a wife who can't understand, a 2yr old, a 3 yr old, and a 10yr old who shouldn't have to understand. I can't stop working yet because of the daycare issue. If my wife went to work I couldn't watch the kids and we couldn't pay for daycare. So I take the cocktail and somehow get to work each day. Anyway talking with you has helped me so thanks. I think your right on track with stepping back and getting your case all together. Just don't do what I did and try and shove it down their throat. Let the lawyer handle it and pay them some money. Sucks but it saves you sanity. I'm at the Hartford CT VARO by the way. My asthma is the only rating they have gotten correct yet. Take care.