Deciding if I should bother with a VA claim (Long)

Hoping to get some advice on where to start with a VA disability claim, I separated in 2017 and have filed several “intent to file” processes since separating but have let them all lapse as I’ve struggled so much with PTSD since getting out and have been in such a pit I’m only now trying to pull myself out of it and try and move forward with treatment and tying up all the loose ends I have.

Like a fool I spent so long suffering and not talking about my issues I’ve not only made them far worse but made any paths I have forward far more difficult, and was hoping that others that have had similar experiences can help me create a path forward somehow.

I originally joined the Air Force in 2001 and within my first year witnessed a fellow airman have a medical emergency during training and despite me and several others efforts to perform CPR we weren’t able to save him. Thinking back I’m realizing I should have been more in tune with how it effected me, immediately after the incident I had lost all memory of the following two weeks, essentially a month after the incident I could remember the incident in every detail but the two weeks directly after were a complete blank spot in my memory just days after those two weeks passed. I couldn’t remember people I had met or things that had happened, it’s like I was teleported forward nd dumped there immediately after the incident. Over the years this started effecting me more and more and started to include other signs of trouble, I started having waking nightmares where I would sleepwalk and hallucinate the event unfolding all over again which still occurs almost nightly almost 20 years later.

The most debilitating aspect of it has become a slow descent into a deep fear and anxiety for death and medical events that causes daily panic attacks and daily uncontrollably unhinged sobbing, sometimes lasting as much as six hours a day. Starting ten years ago while I was still in the service I started seeing a private doctor and getting medication and treatment for PTSD and anxiety which I understand now incorrectly did everything I could to hide from the military. I spent the next seven years trying every medication under sun with sometimes three times per week therapy which has largely been unsuccessful with things getting especially worse since leaving the service three years ago.

Moronically I now realize, I kept everything from the military and pretended everything was fine, I pretended more than that, that I was thriving. It was only at the very end that I opened up to some about my struggles but honestly don’t believe they ever made it into my military medical records, while my private medical records show diagnosis of PTSD, major anxiety disorder and depression along with a multitude of symptoms and other things effecting me like GERD and IBS (I take prescribed anti acid daily, as well as about half a bottle of tums daily and its still not uncommon for me to have to run to the bathroom several times in the night with bright orange lava coming out of my rear end), insomnia, hypertension, memory loss (it takes me probably an hour a day to find simple things such as my keys and wallet, and that’s with systems being put in place to assist me with this) as well as the still nightly hallucinating waking nightmares and night sweats to the point where I need to keep towels next to the bed to wring myself off several times through the night.

With all of the struggles I’ve had I’ve lost three jobs in the past three years directly related and documented from the struggles I have had and still currently have and have decided to try and apply for VA disability for some of these issues if I have a path forward. The most important thing is probably the healthcare which I’m understanding without I have no hope. Being in and out of jobs and having healthcare come and go has made life the past three years impossible and while I filed an intent to file almost immediately after separating, that one lapsed, another I filed after has lapsed and now my third is lapsing December 28th with me only now just starting to try and gather my records and documents to support my claim.

After all of this I’m hoping to find advice as to if I have any path forward and what that may look like. With nothing but documented hearing loss and some foot issues while deployed ( I now have horrible bunions but that’s a whole separate thing I’ll worry about some other day), My military medical records are empty and its been longer than the year after separating that I’m realizing is the time I really should have done this.

Should I bother with any of it or have I waited to long to try and pull myself out of this pit?

Also is there any benefit to quickly getting it in before the 28th to make the window for the intent to file, even If I don’t have everything together yet? Or should I just wait until I’m better prepared and file a new intent?

Also does someone know of a good resource explaining the difference between symptoms and secondary conditions? I cant quite wrap my mind around it, like GERD is a symptom on PTSD as well as a secondary condition, while insomnia is also a symptom but not usually a secondary condition.

Sorry so long and thanks for any advice anyone may have.