21st Anniversary HadIt.com Veteran to Veteran Podcast

HadIt.com Veteran to Veteran 21st Anniversary. Tbird, founder of HadIt.com will be the guest and talk about the history of HadIt.com and will take calls from veterans.

A little history …
HadIt.com Veteran to Veteran the website domain registered Jan 20, 1997.  The domain is registered and paid for thru Jan 21, 2023 at which time I plan to register it for another 15 years, Lord willing and the creek don’t rise.
I guess the best place to start is Jan 1991; I had gotten out of the navy Dec 1990. At my separation seminar, there was a DAV rep Jim Milton who told us to bring our medical records in and he would look through them for us and let us know if we should file a claim with Veterans Affairs.
Well, bless his heart, he opened my medical file, read the first insert, looked me straight in the eye, and said, “You will be 50% for the rest of your life” and that he would file the claim for me. 50% was for surgery I had in the service. True to his word, he met with me and talked with me for a long time, filled out my paper work and urged me to file for PTSD. I would not file the PTSD claim, nor even discuss it. I didn’t even understand what PTSD was then.
By Feb 1991 I had moved to the San Francisco bay area and was staying at a friend’s apartment and pretty much was just a puddle. In desperation one night I called the suicide hotline. I had no job, no idea about going to the VA. They talked with me for a long time and explained to me that I could go to the local VA hospital even if I did not have insurance. Now I know what you are thinking, if I was 50% why didn’t I just go to the VA in the first place? Two reasons, 1st, this was Feb 1991 and the 50% didn’t come till May and secondly, even if it had come thru it is unlikely that I would have had the mental acuity at the time to put the two together.
I relay this here because it is where so many of our brothers and sisters are coming from, perhaps where you started. Fuzzy and unsure, in pain and sometimes homeless they come to the VA hospital for help. And that is where I ended up. Up to the pysch ward I went, blah, blah, blah, a few days later I was released with a promise of a call from the out-patient program, which I would soon be entering. Blah, blah, blah, after many miscommunications, and no call backs, I was at the Day Hospital everyday M-F. And this brothers and sisters is where I began to learn and formulate my plan for HadIt.com.
Veterans, veterans everywhere…I spent a year in the day hospital and about another year at a sheltered workshop before I got back on my feet. So I just talked to veterans everyday, waiting for appointments, waiting for prescriptions, waiting for a vet rep and I started to learn about the system.
While in the navy, I was a data analyst. I had to learn a 5 volume manual and just about anything you were suppose to do was in that manual. So I figured there must be a manual on how to do a VA claim or at the very least, regulations. So I found out about the Code of Federal Regulations, United States Code, Veterans Affairs Manuals and so on and so forth. Of course this was 1991/1992, I was living in a tiny studio apartment in a particularly bad neighborhood, working in a sheltered workshop where I earned a nickel per envelope I stuffed, throw in PTSD and you will see that it was a difficult task for me to get somewhere where they had copies of these, let alone that they would let me look at them. There was so much knowledge around me, it was
like the gold rush in those days. I could just sit on a bench where a veteran would sit down next to me, a little conversation later I had another nugget. I made copious notes. Phone numbers to call, ask for this guy or that guy, he’ll give you the straight scoop and they’d slip me a piece of paper with a number on it. You want to read this regulation or that one and another slip of paper into my hand. I spent a lot of time on those benches watching the squirrels as they gathered their nuts and I gathered mine 🙂
So I’m thinking I could put a little handbook together, print it out and hand it out at the VA. Or perhaps flyers. Still formulating, time goes by, 1994/1995 I am being treated for PTSD regularly and doing and feeling much better. I go to work for a company as a marketing systems analyst and I discover the internet. Well let me tell you, that was perhaps one of the most significant life changing events I have ever experienced. And I might add finally a positive one 🙂 It seemed only natural to me that surely there must be a website that contained all the knowledge I wanted. As it turned out,not so much. Lots of stuff, but I wanted to get straight to the claims information and there was a lot of stuff to wade through to get to it. So taking my lesson from the squirrels earlier I started to gather, gather, gather.  I learned html and worked as a marketing systems analyst and worked on my claim. 1996/1997 a major ptsd cork blows and unemployment follows. Working my claim, working the website. January 20th, 1997 I register the HadIt.com domain name right after getting off the phone with the Veterans Affairs and saying, “I’ve had it with this”.  As fate would have it, the old DAV board went down just as mine opened up and folks start to wander in.
So HadIt.com has two main components, the website and the the discussion board with links, articles, research resources etc. that support it.  The website starts to grow, I can’t tell you how many times I had to switch servers for space and features.  Emotionally I continue on a downward trend and in 1998 ended up back home in St Louis living in my sisters basement in therapy and working hard on pulling myself back up. The website continued to do great during this time, I just stayed in the basement, bought new software, new books, and learned how to make things work and I continued to use this knowledge to make HadIt.com better.
My 100% finally came through from the Veterans Affairs.  I have a friend Patrick Heavy who is an advocate who helped me thru my SSDI claim. He was literally at my side through the entire process. For him I am grateful. My therapist and sister continued to try to get me to leave the basement, but to no avail. At some point in 1998 or 1999 I put a counter on the website and was shocked to discover how many visitors we were getting. Time goes by, my sister gets married and I move from the basement to the upstairs. There is much celebration that Aunt T is living in the light again. More time goes by and I settle into my life in St Louis and spend more time on the site trying new things and finding more information. 2003 I bought my own home with my VA loan. For years now I have just considered HadIt.com my purpose in life. And so goes the story of the conception and birth of Hadit.com. At 21 years old, she is established and going strong, I couldn’t be more pleased or proud. Thank you to everyone who has supported her growth.
More:
https://hadit.com/hadit-com-20-years-9-va-secretaries-later/

DSM-5 or DSM IV For VA Mental Disorders Compensation and Pension Exam


dsm51Question presented since we went from version IV to DSM-5 of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders M21-1 MR Part III IV 3 Sec A-1 General Claims Process: Which version are being used in claims?
Click this link for the most recent version Section A. Examination Requests – Veterans Benefits – United States Department of Veterans Affairs

Effective August 4, 2014, 38 CFR 4.125 was amended to reflect that a diagnosis of a mental disorder must conform to the standards set in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5). Before that date, the regulation required diagnoses to conform to the DSM-IV.
For new examination requests on or after August 27, 2014, VHA examinations must be performed using DSM-5 criteria. No comment to that effect is required on requests for mental disorders or PTSD DBQs.


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VA Compensation and Pension Exam – Do’s and Don’ts – VA Compensation Pension Exam

A Guideline for your VA compensation and pension exam

A VA Compensation and Pension Examiners’ perspective relating to psychiatric exams. It is a good guideline for all exams, but they only did psych exams. 

The VA has examined me for multiple problems, and this is my format when I go to be examined. A little common sense and clarity of thinking will go a long way towards getting you what you are entitled to. Written by: Steve A. Neff MSW 

This person is going to judge you. It’s their job, and that is why you are there. To be adjudicated fairly. How would you like to be remembered? A skuzzy stereotypical veteran? Or a troubled one who is doing the best they can? – Steve A. Neff MSW 

Do not talk about alcohol or drug-related issues. You are not there to be assessed for those problems. You are there to be evaluated for your psychiatric functioning as today relates to your service history. If the examiner asks about alcohol or drugs, politely remind them that you are not there for those issues if you’ve ever had them, but for how impaired you are in your daily functioning. It’s best to avoid even talking about them. Got a VA horror story? I can tell you a worse one. Don’t waste your time with how badly you believe you’ve been mistreated. The examiner only has a short time to figure out how impaired you are, and they need the facts. Incoherent, concise sentences, and not rambling rants that lead nowhere

Answer the questions to the best of your ability. If you don’t know, say so. This is nearly a no-brainer but be honest. Don’t embellish your stories with fanciful tales. Just the facts, please.

Be able to document everything you tell the examiner. If possible, have letters from people you served with, unit diary copies of incidents during your time and space, and letters from family members. You may run into someone like me who checked stories out. 

Family member letters usually don’t add much weight to your case because families are there to support you, and examiners understand that.

If sleep is a problem, don’t sleep the night before. Go in on the ragged edge of tired out. But do your best not to be rude and insensitive. Payback in a VA C&P exam is you lose. Not all examiners are that way, but I have met a few that should not have been examiners.

When responding to examiners, you need to pick the worst moment relating to that question. You need to be rated for the worst times you have had. I always chose a really bad day and related all of my answers to that day. The day I could not sleep, was anxious and startled easily, was grouchy to my wife and friends, felt like my heart was coming out of my chest, and nothing went right for me. That day should have been in the last 30-90 days. If it was a year ago, you might not need to be having this exam. The questions you are being asked are on a script in front of the examiner. After examiners do this for a while, they get a sense of what is in front of them. It’s not too difficult to determine when someone is lying and struggling with memory. The above does not mean that examiners cannot be scammed because they can be.

What to Expect during the Medical Examination

You should expect the examiner performing your medical examination to evaluate the condition(s) listed on your claim for benefits. Depending on the number and type of disabilities claimed, the length of the examination will vary. Psychiatric examination or for multiple disabilities requires more time to evaluate. If necessary, the examiner may ask more questions about your disability history, review pertinent medical records, or order additional testing or examinations.

I discovered veterans lying and dealt with them by reporting this to the proper authorities at the VA. It’s a Federal criminal act to lie to gain monetary compensation. And the odds are you will be prosecuted. It simply isn’t worth it.

Examiners are generally good people trying to do a challenging job. Make it easy for them. I always advocated having the individual’s husband/wife in the room with me during the exam. As an examiner, I enjoyed having someone’s spouse with them. Husbands and wives can tell the truth much better than veterans. Ask your wife how well you’ve done in the past ten days versus your opinion of how you’ve been doing. Quite a dramatic difference if you are truthful!

Remember to report how you REALLY are doing and not how you’d like to be doing. One of the questions I always had a hard time asking was, “How are you doing today?” Most veterans want to be doing MUCH better than they really are. It’s like we know we can be doing better, and have done better, but our pride does not want to let anyone know how badly we really are doing. Veterans would answer the above question: “Well, I’m doing pretty good.” Should I write, “The veteran reports that he is doing pretty good?” Not if you want your claim adjudicated fairly.

  • Be on time or a little early
  • Be polite. Yelling at the examiner for the injustices you perceive will do nothing but alienate them.
  • Curse at your own risk. You can get your point across better with proper English.

The best answer I ever got from a veteran was from a former Marine Vietnam Veteran who said, 

If I’m here, I can’t be doing very well now, can I? I haven’t been able to sleep for the past ten days over worrying about this exam, and my wife says I’m really grumpy, and the bill collectors call all of the time.

This veteran just told me he couldn’t sleep due to anxiety, the heart of PTSD, was depressed (remember grumpy?), another critical facet of PTSD, and he’s had problems with his work history if he can’t pay his bills. He wasn’t angry about what he said. He was so matter of fact it took me a bit to realize what he had said. He could have been talking about having a cup of coffee for all of the emotions he expressed.

These are things I can explore further with the veteran. I don’t have to hunt or pull teeth for information. This veteran controlled the exam because he knew clearly about his problems and what he wanted to say. I spent some extra time with him. He ended up 100% service-connected for PTSD. He had his ducks in a row, paperwork all present, and had done enough clinical work before the exam that he knew his problems and, more importantly, how to express them to another person.

Steve A. Neff MSW