Will PTSD NEXUS letter, from VA Psychologist help my NOD-I already submitted a Nexus?

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 Question. Will submitting a NEXUS letter  for PTSD, from my VA Psychologist help my NOD if I have already submitted a Nexus from my Private Psychologist for PTSD?

PTSD RELATED TO FEAR OF HOSTILE MILITARY OR TERRORIST ACTIVITY

A veteran who is diagnosed with PTSD that is related to fear of hostile military or terrorist activity does not need to provide stressor corroboration evidence as long as a VA psychologist or psychiatrist has diagnosed the PTSD and says that the stressor is related to the veteran’s fear of hostile military or terrorist activity. If a veteran’s stressor is adequate to support a diagnosis of PTSD, that stressor is consistent with the circumstances of the veteran’s service, and there is no clear and convincing evidence to the contrary, the veteran’s own statements may be used to establish the occurrence of the claimed stressor.
PTSD FactsWhat is fear of hostile military or terrorist activity? The veteran must have experienced, witnessed, or been confronted with an event or circumstance that involved actual or threatened death or serious injury, or a threat to the physical integrity of the vet or others, such as from an actual or potential improvised explosive device; vehicle-embedded explosive device; incoming artillery, rocket, or mortar fire; grenade; small arms fire, including suspected sniper fire; or attack upon friendly military aircraft, and the veteran’s response to the event or circumstance must have involved a psychological or psycho-physiological state of fear, helplessness, or horror.
This lower burden of proof applies to all veterans, regardless of where they experience the fear of hostile military or terrorist activity, but it does not include sexual assault or hostile criminal actions of US military personnel directed against other US military personnel. It also only applies to claims received on or pending after July 13, 2010. If a veteran has a previously denied PTSD claim, in order to reopen the claim under this lower burden of proof standard, he or she would need a lay statement of his or her fear of hostile military or terrorist activity and service records that show service in an area involving exposure to hostile military or terrorist activity.
It is important to note that while this lower burden of proof requires a diagnosis by a VA psychologist or psychiatrist, a diagnosis by a non-VA practitioner and a veteran’s statement describing an in-service stressor relating to a fear of hostile military or terrorist activity should be enough to trigger the VA’s duty to assist by scheduling a VA PTSD exam.
Go to step 3.
NOTE: If a veteran is attempting to get service connection for PTSD under this lower burden of proof standard, but the VA psychologist or psychiatrist’s opinion states that the doctor does not believe that the veteran’s PTSD is related to a fear of hostile military or terrorist activity, the veteran should attempt to gather corroborating evidence of the stressor, which another doctor can use as a basis for a medical nexus opinion under step 3.

Did the claimed stressor occur during combat?

PTSD FOR COMBAT VETERANS

Similar to veterans who were diagnosed with PTSD during service, there is a lower burden of proof for combat veterans when it comes to stressor corroboration evidence. Essentially, the VA admits that when a veteran is engaged in combat, his or her primary focus is going to be carrying out the mission, not taking notes on any and all injuries. If a veteran’s stressor is related to combat, that stressor is consistent with the circumstances of the veteran’s service, and there is no clear and convincing evidence to the contrary, the veteran’s own statements may be used to establish the occurrence of the claimed stressor.
PTSD Facts Vietnam WarThe VA Adjudications Procedures Manual M21-1MR (available on the VA website) defines combat as “personal participation in events constituting an actual fight or encounter with a military foe or hostile unit or instrumentality. It includes presence during such events either as a combatant, or service member performing duty in support of combatants, such as providing medical care to the wounded.” Even a brief participation in combat triggers the lower burden of proof. But, depending on the circumstances, it is important to note that the veteran may have an additional hurdle in proving that he or she was in combat.
For some veterans, this is a simple task due to their military service records or military occupational specialty (MOS) and where or when they served. But for other veterans, it may not be obvious at first glance that they served in combat. For these veterans, the VA will look to not only military service records and MOS, but also certain military decorations, buddy statements, letters home to family or friends, copies of newspapers or regimental or divisional newsletters, photographs, or any other credible supporting evidence that can help to establish whether the veteran was in combat or not. If a veteran contends that he was in combat action that cannot be confirmed by his or her MOS or military service records, the VA must make a finding as to the credibility of his or her statement and provide reasons for its finding of whether the veteran engaged in combat, keeping in mind the benefit of the doubt rule.
At this stage, if a veteran states that he served in combat and identifies a stressor that is not impossible to believe, and has a current diagnosis of PTSD (see step 1), then the VA must take steps to develop evidence. The VA will look for evidence of both combat service and additional evidence that the combat stressor actually took place. It is usually a good idea for the veteran to request these records as well. Relevant service records may be found at the National Personnel Records Center, the US Army and Joint Services Records Research Center, the Marine Corps Archives and Special Collections, and the National Archives.
Once it is established that the veteran served in combat, the VA must also accept lay evidence as proof that the alleged stressor happened during combat even in the absence of official records or supporting clinical evidence. Even if the veteran does not have any other evidence that the stressor occurred other than his or her own statement, as long as there is not clear and convincing evidence to the contrary, the VA is obligated to apply the benefit of the doubt rule and accept the veteran’s own statement as proof that the stressor occurred. Go to step 3.

Is the stressor related to an in-service personal assault or trauma, including Military Sexual Trauma (MST)?

SPECIAL RULES FOR IN-SERVICE PERSONAL ASSAULT OR TRAUMA AS STRESSOR

If a veteran suffers from PTSD as a result of an in-service personal assault or trauma such as rape, physical assault, domestic battering, robbery, mugging, stalking, or harassment, the stressor can be corroborated through alternative evidence if military records do not document that a personal assault occurred. The VA has a special obligation to assist in these cases (commonly referred to as Military Sexual Trauma or MST) and must inform the veteran that evidence other than that found in service records may be submitted. PTSD Facts MSTAlternative sources for evidence may be things such as records from law enforcement, rape crisis centers, mental health counseling centers, hospitals, or physicians; pregnancy or STD tests; statements from family members, roommates, fellow service members, or clergy; a personal diary or journal; or evidence of behavior changes such as a request to transfer, deterioration in work performance, substance abuse, depression, panic attacks, or anxiety. Unfortunately, these cases are frequently denied, partly due to the fact that VA has difficulty compensating for disabilities that are less obvious than a physical disability, and because due to the nature of MST cases it is rare for there to be a formal report or complaint in the record. The VA often must rely on the alternative evidence listed above, and typically fails to give that evidence the weight that is required. PTSD claims in general are difficult to win, but MST claims are even tougher.
According to a June 2014 report from the Government Accountability Office, since 2008, there have been 29,000 veterans who have sought disability benefits for problems related to MST. PTSD is the most common disability claimed as a result of MST at 94 percent of claims, with major depressive disorder and anxiety disorder being the second and third most common. The overall approval rating for PTSD related to MST is up from 28 percent in 2010 to roughly 50 percent in 2013, but this is still lower than the 55 percent approval rating for other forms of PTSD (Note: According to a report by the ACLU and Service Women’s Action Network, between 2008 and 2012, the award of MST-related PTSD claims was lower than the rate of other PTSD claims by between 16.5 and 29.6 percent each year). Also of note is the wide disparity among regional offices: in some ROs as few as 14 percent of claims were approved, while other ROs approved as many as 88 percent of claims. The GAO report found that regional offices are having ongoing difficulty applying broadened MST standards and may differ wildly in their interpretations of the evidence in the claim file.
Another hurdle identified in the GAO report is the variation in the thoroughness of C&P examinations for MST claims. In fact, during the only formal training for VA examiners who are conducting MST exams, less than 5% of the one-hour certification course for PTSD examiners is devoted to MST. This goes to show that there is still a lot of work and training that needs to be done on the VA side in regards to MST claims, which can be discouraging for many veterans. But just remember that while MST claims take time, they are not impossible to win. The key is to get the VA to look at the stressor evidence in the right context in order to show, for example, a behavior change that corroborates the occurrence of the stressor. See Part Seven for a list of resources for survivors of MST.
Go to step 3.

IF NONE OF THE ABOVE APPLIES, STRESSOR CORROBORATION IS NEEDED

If a veteran’s claim for PTSD does not fit into one of the above categories, there must be evidence that corroborates the occurrence of the stressor, meaning credible supporting evidence that the claimed in-service stressor occurred. The supporting evidence must include more than the veteran’s own testimony. Unless there is no reasonable possibility that assistance by the VA would aid in substantiating the claim, the VA must assist the veteran in developing evidence that supports the existence of a stressor.
2.2 PTSD Facts Non-OEF or OIF vetsFor the veteran’s service records to corroborate the stressor, they do not need to include every detail of the event. If there is independent evidence of the occurrence of a stressful event and that evidence shows the veteran’s personal exposure to the event, that could be sufficient corroborative evidence. In addition, credible supporting evidence can come from lay sources such as buddy statements.
An example of a situation in which a veteran would need stressor corroboration evidence is if he or she was in a bad car accident during service, the car accident was not related to combat, and the veteran was not diagnosed with PTSD until after leaving service. In this situation, the veteran would need to be able to corroborate that the car accident happened. This may be through a police report, hospital records, statements of the other individuals involved in the accident, or other supporting evidence. Another situation in which corroboration evidence would be required is if a veteran was involved in an accident during a non-combat situation, such as an explosion or fire. Again, hospital records, notations in service records, and statements of other persons who witnessed the explosion would be helpful corroboration evidence.
It is important to note that if a veteran’s account of an event is contradicted by official records, the VA can reject the veteran’s account, but as long as the veteran produces evidence to back up his or her story, the benefit of the doubt rule still applies.
Go to step 3.
The final step of establishing service connection for PTSD is proving a causal nexus between the current symptomatology and the claimed in-service stressor. This step requires an opinion by a medical expert. The evidence must show that the stressor was at least a contributory basis for the current symptoms. As long as there is a clear relationship between the stressor encountered in service and the current diagnosis of PTSD, a veteran whose service medical records show no evidence of a mental disorder can be entitled to service connection for PTSD, even if the PTSD develops many years after service.
Note that this step can be more complicated if a veteran has more than one stressor. For example, say a veteran was in a car accident in service in which his best friend was killed, and there are service records and hospital records backing up this stressor.  The second stressor was when the vet was in his bunk and some fellow soldiers came in the room and threw a grenade at him.  The grenade was a dummy, but the veteran did not know that, and he still has nightmares about it.  There is no independent verification of this stressor.  For the veteran to receive service connected compensation for his PTSD, the doctor would have to relate his PTSD specifically to the car accident in service because that is the only stressor with independent verification, and the second stressor does not qualify under one of the lower burden of proof situations mentioned in step 2. And remember, the VA will always send the veteran to a Compensation and Pension exam to determine if the veteran is entitled service connected disability benefits for his PTSD.
Continue to Part Three to learn more about Compensation & Pension exams for PTSD.

Introduction – PTSD Guide

Post traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, is a very common mental health condition brought on by witnessing or experiencing a traumatic or terrifying event. The Mayo Clinic estimates that more than three million Americans are diagnosed with PTSD every year.


Here’s a good write up of the process flow for PTSD Claims from Hill and Ponton

Part 2 – PTSD Service Connection Flowchart

There are three elements needed to establish service connection for PTSD in order to receive VA benefits. First, you must have a current diagnosis of PTSD

2017 Top 10 Discussions on VA Disability Claims Forums

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100% Rating Reduced To 40%

I live here in Central Texas near Fort Hood and was talking with a Vietnam Vet a Marine veteran who told me he got a letter from the Waco TX VA regional office saying that they purpose to reduce his disability from 100% un employable to 40% I was under the impression that 100% was permanent and total and would never change

I myself am rated at 80% overall with my highest disability rating at 30% then others at 20% and 10% The DAV told me that I have to maintain that rating for 20 years before it becomes permanent and total according to 38 CFR they already tried to reduce one of my disabilities from 30% to 0% because they say during a recent exam the VA medical doctor an neurologist at the Temple TX VA hospital said tat me condition improved ?? I had to go back a submit civilian health report form my Tricare provider at Hillcrest Baptist medical center in Waco to overrule the incompetent C&P evaluator. Now it’s this kind red tape that needs to get to the Top people in Washington i.e. the President and the VA secretary and congress. But my primary question has to do with my Vietnam Vet friend that the VA is trying to screw. Thank You Jim Horak, TSgt USAF Chapter 61 Disability Retiree Belton Texas

 

Retroactive Back Pay

My claim is scheduled to close tomorrow for my back pay.

Does anyone know if it does close how long till the back-pay hits the bank?

Also does information only get updated on our claims whenever the site is down?

 

How Is Tinnitus Tested by The VA For Compensation Purposes?

I am trying to understand how I will be tested for tinnitus by the VA. I have a pending compensation claim for hearing loss and tinnitus (and a couple other things) that is in stage 5 (preparation for decision).

I am now awaiting a C&P exam (I believe). I am already S/C for shoulder and lower back (20% total). How is tinnitus tested by the VA to receive the 10% rating? I served in OEF and have a Combat Action Badge (all on my DD214).

I have hearing loss, but what happens if I pass as “normal” for hearing loss. I have occasional ringing in both ears from OEF (artillery/heavy machine guns/IED’s), and it has gotten worse over time. My tinnitus came later after I had separated from the US Army. I am trying to understand how I am tested for tinnitus to receive the 10%, even if I get 0% for hearing loss (which I have heard is very difficult to get above 0% for hearing loss). With my claim, I submitted my civilian primary care physician’s professional opinion that I could definitely have/probably do have hearing loss and tinnitus from combat.

I have read/heard differing opinions, and I am just trying to find a straight answer to how tinnitus is tested for by the VA (since I see that some vets get 0% for hearing loss, but 10% for tinnitus). And what are my chances of getting the 10% for tinnitus even if I get 0% for hearing loss? Great, good, not good, etc.? Please help. Thank you.

 

How Do I Prove Sleep Apnea Was Service Connected?

I am planning on writing a Notice of Disagreement on my sleep apnea decision. The VA in their decision letter, did acknowledged that I do have sleep apnea and currently on a CPAP machine issued by the VA’s sleep center.

So, all of the conditions and treatment are concrete. However, and as usual, ” No evidence to support that sleep apnea was service connected “.

I am burned out with paperwork but is currently satisfy with my rating.

Any suggestions on how I can respond and prove that it was service connected?

 

How Is Degenerative Disc Disease Rated?

Hello to everybody, I need to know how the Degenerative disc disease is rated and on my last C/P I was rated @ 10% My thoughts are if all they used were x-rays how accurate would the rating be?

I have some MRI of my spine from 2006 that I am going to present for evidence in a claim. The MRI was done at my local hospital I have had a discectomy where they cleaned out the disc that was falling apart. I am no neurologist but I have Disc Disease in L3, L4, L5 and L5 S1 I know that it hurts me every day. Any advice from those of you cursed as I am with a bad back let them know. Should I wait a period of time before putting this or right now since the claim just came back? I told the fellow I would post it and find out. I look forward to anyone one who has been down this road.
 

Surprise 70% PTSD Rating; Now What Can I Do………….?!

I hope you can help me; not sure what I should do.

I was rated Service Connected Disabled for PTSD on August 21, 2012 @ 70%. I didn’t expect this at all. If anything, I thought I would get a low rating for my physical aliments…………(neck, back head shoulder).

When I applied in 11/2011, I had been out of work for 3 yrs. and was totally distraught, confused and disoriented. Needless to say, I finally got a job in 02/12 and it is nowhere near what I use to do or the money I use to make.
I’d like to know what your advice would be for this:
I see where I do have serious social and economic problems and believe I am totally disabled & want to ask for 100% PTSD, Permanent and Total. I’m still on this job that wrecks my nerves, can’t stop the obsessive thoughts and wants to hurt people because I don’t work well with people at all. I took this week off because I couldn’t pull up the gumption to go back in there after the week, mentally.
What should I do; appeal my rating 1st and then apply for TDIU while working or do I go ahead and let the job go in order to apply for TDUI and then appeal the VA’s decision?
 

US Treasury 310 Direct Deposit Payment, What Is This?         

I have no idea what this is. I did a google search, I searched the forum, went to eBenefits and nothing. I did apply for Social Security. But hopefully it’s not. My back pay goes back to May 6, 2010. This would be a problem. I was granted a 100% disability with the VA but it’s the same story my back pay goes back so this amount would be incorrect. If anybody knows what this is please share your knowledge with the forum.

This morning I saw the particular income in my bank statement “US TREASURY 310 by the sum of 4,780. Any insight would be great.

 

New Rulings on Hearing Loss & Tinnitus

I have heard that there is a new ruling out concerning presumption of service connection on hearing loss and tinnitus, can anyone provide info on this topic?

Thanks for any and all assistance.
 

Total and Permanent Disability

I am currently rated at 90% and have a question about the requirements for receiving total and permanent disability.

Do you have to not be working to receive it? Is there a limit on how much you can earn? Do you have to be rated 100% to be eligible if you are still working? How do you apply? Any other information would be greatly appreciated!!
 

When Should I Expect to Receive My Retroactive Pay

 I just received an increased percentage rate from 40% to 70% w/ spouse 1 child, due to a CUE claim. I am owed retroactive pay from Sep 2011-present. My questions are: What is the average time to receive this back pay & approx. how much should I be expecting or how do I figure it out?

I received a deposit for $88 from DFAS the other day, & the deposit comment says: RETSPCL. I have no idea what that means & why I’m getting a deposit. I read somewhere that military pay has to do an audit before the VA releases back pay. Could that deposit be something the military owed me from whatever audit they’re supposed to be doing? I just received my very first 70% monthly retirement & VA checks this month & those were correct. I just want to know if I’ll be waiting years for the back pay now.

Top 10 Discussions June 2017 – Veterans Compensation Claims

No surprise this month to see Tinnitus questions as one of the top discussions. Tinnitus is the most common service connected disability. In the military there’s a lot of boom boom and jet engines, while hearing protection has improved it’s not always practical in real life situations. All related Tinnitus Information Click Here

How is tinnitus tested by VA for compensation purposes?

I am trying to understand how I will be tested for tinnitus by the VA. I have a pending compensation claim for hearing loss and tinnitus (and a couple other things) that is in stage 5 (preparation for decision). I am now awaiting a C&P exam (I believe). I am already S/C for shoulder and lower back (20% total). How is tinnitus tested by the VA to receive the 10% rating? I served in OEF and have a Combat Action Badge (all on my DD214). I have hearing loss, but what happens if I pass as “normal” for hearing loss. I have occasional ringing in both ears from OEF (artillery/heavy machine guns/IED’s), and it has gotten worse over time. My tinnitus came later after I had separated from the US Army. I am trying to understand how I am tested for tinnitus to received the 10%, even if I get 0% for hearing loss (which I have heard is very difficult to get above 0% for hearing loss). With my claim I submitted my civilian primary care physician’s professional opinion that I could definitely have/probably do have hearing loss and tinnitus from combat. I have read/heard differing opinions, and I am just trying to find a straight answer to how tinnitus is tested for by the VA (since I see that some vets get 0% for hearing loss, but 10% for tinnitus). And what are my chances of getting the 10% for tinnitus even if I get 0% for hearing loss? Great, good, not good, etc? Please help. Thank you.

Received direct deposit – what is this?

I have no idea what this is. I did a google search, I searched the forum, went to eBenefits and nothing. I did apply for Social Security. But hopefully its not. My back pay goes back to May 6, 2010. This would be a problem. I was granted a 100% disability with the VA but its the same story my back pay goes back so this amount would be incorrect. If anybody knows what this is please share your knowledge with the forum. This morning I saw the particular income in my bank statement “US TREASURY 310 by the sum of 4,780. Any insight would be great, thank you in advanced.

Surprise 70 PTSD rating, now what can I do?

I hope you can help me; not sure what I should do. I was rated Service Connected Disable for PTSD on August 21, 2012 @ 70%. I didn’t expect this at all. If anything, I thought I would get a low rating for my physical aliments…………(neck, back head shoulder).
When I applied in 11/2011, I had been out of work for 3 yrs and was totally distraught,confused and disoriented. Needless to say, I finally got a job in 02/12 and it is no where near what I use to do or the money I use to make.
I’d like to know what your advice would be for this:
I see where I do have serious social and economic problems and believe I am totally diasable & want to ask for 100% PTSD, Permanent and Total. I’m still on this job that wrecks my nerves, can’t stop the obsessive thoughts and wants to hurt people because I don’t work well with people at all. I took this week off because I couldn’t pull up the gumption to go back in there after the week, mentally.
What should I do; appeal my rating 1st and then apply for TDIU while working or do I go ahead and let the job go in order to apply for TDUI and then appeal the VA’s decision?

How is degenerative disc disease rated?

Hello to everybody, I need to know how the Degenerative disc disease is rated and on my last C/P I was rated @ 10% My thoughts are if all they used were x-rays how acurate would the rating be? I have some mri of my spine from 2006 that I am going to present for evidence in a claim. The MRI was doen at my local hospital I have had a dsicectomy where they cleaned out the disc that was falling apart. I am no nuerologist but I have Disc Disease in L3, L4, L5 and L5 S1 I knwo that it hurts me everyday. Any advice from those of you cursed as I am with a bad back let em know. Should I wait a period of time before putting this or right now since the claim just came back? I told the fellow I woud post it and find out. I look forward to anyone one who has been down this road. Thanks again….

Questions on retroactive back pay?

My claim is scheduled to close tomorrow for my backpay. Does anyone know if it does close how long till the backpay hits the bank Also does information only get updated on our claims whenever the site is down?

100% rating reduced to 40% – what now?

I live here in Central Texas near Fort Hood and was talking with a Vietnam Vet a Marine veteran who told me he got a letter from the Waco TX VA regional office saying that they purpose to reduce his disability from 100% un employable to 40% I was under the impression that 100% was permanent and total and would never change I myself am rated at 80% overall with my highest disability rating at 30% then others at 20% and 10% The DAV told me that I have to maintain that rating for 20 years before it becomes permanent and total according to 38 CFR they already tried to reduce one of my disabilities from 30% to 0% because they say during a recent exam the VA medical doctor an neurologist at the Temple TX VA hospital said tat me condition improved ?? I had to go back a submit civilian health report form my Tricare provider at Hillcrest Baptist medical center in Waco to overrule the incompetent C&P evaluator. Now its this kind red tape that needs to get to the Top people in Washington i.e. the President and the VA secretary and congress. But my primary question has to do with my Vietnam Vet friend that the VA is trying to screw.

What does development letter sent mean?

My claim was closed yesterday and in eBenefits in updates it says: Appeal is Possible. Decision Notification Sent.  Development Letter Sent<—— Does anyone know what this letter is included for? What it may say, or it’s purpose? I’ve done some searching on HADIT but every mention is just text copy pasted into a paragraph not Germaine to asking what the letter means/says. So, if anyone has one, or has recently seen one I’d be greatful if you could post a small brief explanation. I went from 50% to 100% P&T.

What does Development Letter Sent mean on Ebenefits?

Development letters are sent in the early stages of your claim. It acknowledges your claim and asks for additional evidence if you have any. The VA is legally required to send this letter to you. The letter may ask for things that aren’t applicable to your case, like buddy statements, or it may ask for things you’ve already submitted, like medical records. The development letter will also contain blank forms. Most likely, you filled out all the required forms already. The blank forms are only attached if you have additional evidence you want to submit. You do not have to send in everything the VA asks for; you only have to send in anything you haven’t already submitted. 

What is a normal percentage for major depression?

Looking for a ballpark idea of compensation rating for major depression and/or MST.

How do I prove Sleep Apnea is service connected?

I am planning on writing a Notice of Disagreement on my sleep apnea decision. The VA in their decision letter, did acknowledged that I do have sleep apnea and currently on a CPAP machine issued by the VA’s sleep center. So all of the conditions and treatment are concrete. However, and as usual, ” No evidence to support that sleep apnea was service connected “.
I am burned out with paperwork but is currently satisfy with my rating. Any suggestions on how I can respond and prove that it was service connected?

This video should help answer some questions:

[embedyt] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dN7huF_NYGU[/embedyt]

vlb-sleep-apena-packageIncludes 8 Things Veterans Should Know Before Hiring an AttorneyPut It To Rest – Your VA Sleep Apnea Claim5 Reasons the VA Keeps Screwing Up Your Claim, and More Check It Out!

Service connected for migraine, what constitutes going from 30% to 50%?

Got the white envelope in the mail today. The good news is that the VA rated me 30% for migraines, which put me in bed flat between 2.25 and 2.5 days per month, with migraines running for up to 5 days. Looking at the decision package, they rated me at 30% based on having, on average, one prostrating migraine per month over the last several months. The trip wire for 50% is defined by 38 CFR 4.120 is “With very frequent completely prostrating and prolonged attacks productive of severe economic inadaptability.” The raters did not find that my claim met that threshold, despite the outside doctor stating that I cannot work and my migraines are twice the 30% rating threshold. Do I have an argument for a 50% rating?

Battle of Ia Drang Valley [IDV] by LTC Kenneth R Pierce from “Military Review [MR]”, Vol LXIX, 1-89

The Battle of Ia Drang Valley, 1965

ARC Identifier 653177 / Local Identifier 263.2408. This film is about the First Cavalry Division in Vietnam. National Security Council. Central Intelligence …

Military Review is published monthly by the US Army Command and Gen'l Staff College. For subscription info contact MR, USACGSC, Ft Leavenworth KS 60627
The battle of the Ia Drang Valley [IDV] was actually of series of engagements between the US 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile) and the B-3 Front, North Vietnamese Army (NVA) from 10-18 to 11-24-65, Many considered it to be the US Army's 1st battle in Vietnam. It was certainly the 1st battle between of US division operating under of field force headquarters and 3 NVA regiments operating under a front headquarters. It may also have been the last battle between NVA and US forces of equivalent size.
The objective of this article is not to rehash all the details of the battle of the IDV but to conduct of battle analysis using the historic methodology. The battle analysis methodology is a systemic approach to research that uses of format which includes: defining the subject; reviewing the setting; examining the tactical situation; and assessing the significance of the action. It is ultimately in the assessment phase that the analysis takes place, and the analysis is expected to answer specific questions. In this particular analysis the questions center on the tenets of Air land Battle doctrine as defined in the 1986 edition of US Army Field Manual (FM) 100-5, "Operations". Based on the tenets of Air land Battle, I will teach some conclusions about the battle of the IDV and provide some lessons learned.
Having defined the subject, the Battle of the IDV, the analysis must next examine the battlefield itself and also develop some description or comparison of opposing forces.
Starting with the battlefield, the IDV is the valley through which the river (Ia) Drang flows and is drained by the Ia Drang, Ia Puck and an extensive network of small streams flowing west and southwest across the Cambodian border into the Mekong River. The battlefield area covered 1,500 square miles of what appeared to be flat rolling terrain dominated by the Chu Pong Masaif, of rugged mountain 730 meters above sea level, in the southwestern corner of the area of ops (TO), straddling the Cambodian-Vietnamese border. The only passable roads traversed the eastern and northern fringes of the TO. Much of the valley was covered with thick jungle vegetation and trees as high as 100 feet. Even the "open" areas had shrubs and trees over 6 feet high. The sudden mists offered of sinister aura, where daily heat and nighttime cold kept you perpetually and increasingly on edge. The area was eerie - imagine the "Valley of Death," and you picture the Ia Drang.
In this area, particularly at the base of the Chu Pong Masaif, the NVA had built a base camp sanctuary that was unknown to US forces and untouched by Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN ) forces. The primary NVA forces operating in this area were the B-3 Front commanded by Gen'l Chu Huy Man, with 3 regular regiments (the 32d, 33d and 66th) supported by local VC battalions as well as front-level mortar and anti-aircraft units. Each maneuver regiment numbered about 2,200 frontline infantrymen and sappers. Their primary weapon was the Soviet AK47 assault rifle.
The 32d and 33d regiments were vet fighters against the ARVN and Man was of vet of the 1st Indochinese War against the French. These units had been in the valley since early September, rehearsing, developing ambush sites, and pre-positioning and stockpiling ammunition, medical supplies and food. Their tactics were quite simple, Their 1st ploy was to "lute and ambush." They would attack of small outpost or ARVN force and maintain pressure on it with one unit, while another unit waited in well-prepared positions to ambush the relieving force. Their other tactic was called "hugging"; that was to get as close to the opposing force as possible and rely on close-in, almost hand-to-hand fighting to negate their opposing force's firepower advantage. They generally liked to fight at night and rehearsed at night before conducting ops. They always planned and rehearsed an organized withdrawal and would counterattack or leave stay-behind forces to permit an orderly withdrawal. The troops were highly disciplined, with excellent morale and esprit de corps, well fed, well supplied, and in excellent physical condition. Although Man expected to fight tanks with his light infantry, his forces had not fought Americans.
The Americans they would soon meet were in the US 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile), commanded by Major Gen'l Harry Kinnard. The 1st Cavalry Division had been training for 2 years as the 11th Air Assault Division at Fort Benning under Kinnard's direction. This new Army division was well trained and equipped upon activation as the 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile) on 7-1-65. it arrived in Vietnam in increments during August and September 1965. The division had 3 brigade headquarters, 8 infantry battalions, an air cavalry squadron, an aerial rocket artillery battery, 3 direct support artillery battalions, an aviation company and the normal combat support and combat service support associated with the Reorganization Objective Army div'n. The division was authorized 10,000 troops, 435 helicopters, basic infantry weapons (M-16 rifle, M60 machinegun and M79 grenade launcher) and state-of-the-art communications equipment. This was clearly the US Army's "high tech" division of the 60s.
The 1st Cavalry had some problems when ordered to deploy; it had 2,700 men not eligible for deployment, The division lost hundreds of pilots, crew chief and mechanics who could not easily be replaced in 1965. Additionally, the troops were issued the M-16 rifle only 10 days prior to departure and had a hurried familiarization with this new weapon. After arriving in country, the division was struck with of peculiar strain of malaria for which there was no known treatment at the time, costing 1,000 additional losses. And although well trained in airmobile tactics, the division had not trained for jungle-type warfare. However, by 9-28-65, the division was in its base camp at An Khe, less than 90 days after activation.
The initial mission of B-3 Front at the operational level was to cut South Vietnam in half. Operationally, it would defeat South Vietnamese and US forces that were in the way. The 1st please of the plan was to put pressure on of Special Forces camp with 1 regiment; then to defeat the anticipated relief forces in detail, expecting them to be employed piecemeal. This 1st phase failed miserably when an ARVN relief column was employed in force with tanks and armored personnel carriers, fully supported by US air and artillery, the "luring" force (33d Regiment) was seriously reduced by tenacious fighting on the part of the dependents coupled with American close air support. The "ambushing" force (32d Regiment) was also defeated by the strong relief column. Man was forced to withdraw and to determine how to reap some success (at least psychologically) from this initial failure.
Since there were insufficient ARVN forces to exploit their success, General William Westmoreland made the extremely risky decision to employ the 1st Cavalry Division on of classic exploitation and pursuit mission against what appeared to be 2 battered NVA regiments withdrawing to Cambodia. The 1st Cavalry's mission was to search and destroy - find the 32d and 33d regiment and kill or capture as many as possible before they reached any sanctuary. The stage was set for the US Army's first battle of the Vietnam War. It is also here that we can begin the analysis.
Man withdrew to his well-developed sanctuary in the Chu Pong Masaif. Here he regrouped, reorganized, reequipped and rested his troops, while he waited for the arrival of the fresh 66th Regiment and additional artillery and anti-aircraft units, Later assessment indicated that his new mission was relatively simple. 1st he was to destroy the much more lucrative Plei Me camp - now reinforced with more than 1,000 ARVN troops and many US advisers. Then he could return to North Vietnam a victor, with a better feel for how the Americans would support his war. In this planning phase, Man's thought process can be examined in relation to the tenets of Air land Battle.
initiate. "Setting or changing the terms of battle by action." Certainly, Man still had offensive spirit - he would attack. He was setting the terms of the battle and was not going to allow the defenders of Plei Me the opportunity to recover. He knew he was taking great risk to learn more about how Americans would fight in future ops. He was also considering the political and psychological implications requiring some type of victory - no matter how limited. He knew that he was capable of exploiting any breakthrough at the camp and was confident that his subordinate regimental commanders clearly understood his intent.
Agility. "The ability to act faster than the enemy." It too the ARVN 4 days to relieve Plei Me in the earlier engagement. Man felt he could strike and withdraw much faster than any sizeable relief force could be mounted. He was now concentrating 3 regiments against a very vulnerable and isolated camp. By training and disposition, his forces were extremely agile, and he felt he could "read" the battlefield and exploit success quickly.
Depth. "Extension of ops in space, time, and resources." Clearly, Man had pre pared his battleground. He knew how to maneuver to Plei Me and his withdrawal routes were well established. He had effectively cached his resources and he had more arriving with the 66th Regiment. His forces and resources were concentrating to sustain the momentum he needed to wipe out Plei Me. He would provide for air protection with additional anti-aircraft units and by his "hugging" tactical. He viewed his rear area in the Chu Pong Masaif as well concealed and well protected. Additionally, well-established sanctuaries were available in Cambodia and his lines of communication were generally safe.
Synchronization. "The arrangement of battlefield activities in time, space, and purpose to produce maximum relative combat power at the decisive point." NVA tactical doctrine in the attack of fortified position lent itself ideally to synchronization. [Man's] felt that he could determine the time of attack. He would begin with probing tactics, then increase the pressure until he found of weak link in the defense. He would then pour through that weak point, overrun the camp and kill or capture everyone in it. He was prepared to combat air power with the arrival of additional front-level assets under his operational control. His intent was absolutely clear to his subordinate commanders, and his units had carefully rehearsed such operations. Clearly, there was unambiguous unity of purpose throughout his force. Unfortunately, Man made 1 critical error - he did not know the capabilities or intention of his enemy. In fact he did not know that his opponent would be Kinnard, who had an entirely different mission than defense.
After searching due west of the Plei Me camp and not finding the elusive NVA forces, Kinnard decided to shift his ops to the southwest - right into the Chu Pong Masaif. He had replaced his 3d Brigade with the 1st Brigade and was hoping to find the battered remnants of the 2 NVA regiments, licking their wounds and withdrawing into Cambodia. In this initial phase, we can examine Kinnard's thought process in relation to the tenets of Air land Battle.
Initiate. Clearly, Kinnard intended to set the terms of the battle, He was on the offensive and felt he could destroy the enemy with his superb division. lf he could find the enemy forces, he had the mobility and firepower to fix and destroy them, He was taking great risk and knew that the unit which made initial contact would be seriously outnumbered, but felt he could reinforce with fire almost immediately and then pile on troops before the enemy could react.
Agility. The helicopter gave Kinnard the ability to act faster than the enemy. He could shift forces and combat power at almost mind-boggling speed. He could put both field artillery and aerial rocket artillery with great accuracy anywhere on almost of moment's notice. He could reinforce with troops faster than anyone ever experienced in the history of modern warfare. He had the communication capability and the troops trained in calls for fire. He could quickly concentrate on this weak and battered enemy and exploit his vulnerabilities. Cavalry tactics were such that they considered "friction'! the accumulation of chance errors, unexpected difficulties and the confusion of battle. Kinnard, by nature, disposition and training, knew that he had to continuously "read the battlefield," decide quickly and act without hesitation.
Depth. Here again the helicopter and the cavalry's training in its use naturally extended ops in space, time and resources. The helicopter gave him extended range of vision for reconnaissance, allowed him to provide accurate aerial rocket artillery, adjust fire from the air, reposition his field artillery, re-supply his troops and reinforce with maneuver forces almost anywhere on the battlefield. His plan called for fixing the enemy and forcing of commitment, as well as interdicting uncommitted forces en-route to Cambodia. His rear areas were relatively safe, but he still provided an infantry battalion to secure his artillery and his forward command post. He had airstrips built so that he could be re-supplied from Saigon by the Air Force to his base at An Khe, and he also maintained sufficient helicopter lift assigned to move those supplies to the frontline troops. He was mentally prepared for bold and decisive action, and he had personally trained his handpicked brigade and battalion commanders with these same qualities.
Synchronization. 2 years of training together with all the modern technology had taught the cavalry how to arrange activities in time, space and purpose. Kinnard had the forces and combat power to produce maximum results at the decisive point. Synchronization for the cavalry did not depend on explicit coordination. Their training and communications capability were such that synchronization could take place during heavy conflict. Additionally, the commander's intent was clear - find the NVA regiments and destroy them. Clearly, the concept itself of searching with a battalion - piling on of brigade and supporting at the decisive time and place with the entire division, field force and Army fire support was an economy-of-force type operation.
It can be argued that in planning, each opposing commander was well within the umbrella of the tenets of Air land Battle. There was no apparent violation or misuse of initiative, agility, depth and synchronization. However, as the battle develops, some things become very evident. Man did not expect to fight the battle in his own sanctuary - nor did he expect to fight an American division. Additionally, he knew nothing of how the of Americans would fight. On Kinnard's part, he expected to be facing two beaten-up NVA regiments conducting a withdrawal. He did not expect to face more than 4,200 frontline troops, supported by mortars and anti-aircraft batteries, well supplied and not withdrawing but moving to attack. It is at this stage that the "fog of war" reigns supreme. Here the commander with the best agility gains the initiative. It is the commander who can fight his fight - that is, setting the terms of battle and not allowing the enemy to recover - who will be the winner. Both Man and Kinnard exercised great mental agility as they attempted to gain the initiative. As the battle unfolded, the unexpected took over.
1st, 1 battalion-size unit of the division, 1st Squadron, 7th Cavalry (17) airlifted in landing zone (LZ) X-Ray and made almost immediate contact with advance elements of the NVA force moving on Plei Me. Lt Col Harold G. Moore (the squadron commander) at 1st thought this was of stay-behind force of about 1 battalion, covering the enemy withdrawal. Man immediately saw an opportunity to gain an immense victory by quickly annihilating an American unit that he significantly outnumbered, with the additional possibility of defeating in detail any relieving forces that would have to arrive piecemeal. In this he exercised great agility and took the initiative by accepting risk, the risk due to the fact that his entire force, especially his front-level mortar and anti-aircraft units, were not in of position to support the attack on X-Ray.
The brigade commander, Col Thomas Brown, and Kinnard quickly sensed that this was much more than a battered stay-behind force and recognized that the enemy intent was not to delay but to annihilate the 1-7th Cavalry. All available firepower was quickly reoriented to X-Ray and available forces began moving air and ground assets to support that fight. The ability of this small force to hold, and the tremendous and immediate firepower brought to beat was of shock to Man. The agility of Kinnard's thought process and the agility of the cavalry organization itself quickly gave him the initiative. He reinforced 1-7 Cavalry with 2-7 Cavalry and elements of 1-5 Cavalry. The enemy had seen enough, and began relocating. Kinnard ordered 2-7 Cavalry to pursue. The pursuing unit fought another battle that took place at LZ Albany as Man was attempting to cover his withdrawal. The fight at LZ Albany was bloody, as the United States suffered 151 dead and 121 wounded, while the enemy lost about 450 killed. Kinnard then ordered the 2d Brigade to relieve the 3d Brigade and to continue to pursue. Over the next few days the 3d Brigade mopped up of few battered remnants of the 32d, 33d and 66th regiments as they were withdrawing into Cambodia Although Kinnard wished to continue the pursuit, he was ordered to hold. By 11-24 -65, the battles of the Ia Drang were over. The 1st Cavalry killed as many as 3,000 NVA regulars, with an unknown number of wounded, and, in fact, decimated the NVA force.
Clearly, Kinnard used the agility of the cavalry and his own ability to synchronize both combat power and logistic support (550 tons of supply of day and 50,000 gallons of aviation fuel) to seize and maintain the initiative on the battlefield. Additionally, he never had to commit more than 1 brigade at a time, thus exercising wisely the economy of his force. The agility of his forces and his ability to synchronize combat power allowed his units to fight outnumbered at least 7-to-1 overall and much greater at both X-Ray and Albany and win.
Green, untested American soldiers fought outnumbered against what Bernard Fall called "the best light infantry in the world," and won. The mental agility of Kinnard, the ability to synchronize combat power, and the agility in organization of the cavalry gave him the initiative, allowed him to fight his battle on his terms and win. He searched and he destroyed - and that was his mission. The training, discipline and leadership of both the 1st Cavalry Division under Kinnard and NVA forces under Man had been outstanding. But in the final analysis, organization and air mobility gave Kinnard the agility necessary to wrest the initiative from Man. And it was the initiative that ultimately made the difference.
What then do we learn from this 1st battle in Vietnam 1st and foremost, of commander must be capable of gaining and maintaining the initiative, for without it he cannot win. To gain the initiative, the commander must have both the mental and organizational agility to gain an advantage in relative combat power in depth, (time, space and resources), at the decisive point. In the battle of the Ia Drang, it was the great agility provided by the 1st Cavalry's organization that gave them the edge Kinnard needed.
It is also evident from of study of this battle that the tenets of Air land Battle doctrine are clearly interdependent, with gaining and maintaining the initiative clearly the most important tenet. An edge or advantage in 1 or all of the other tenets may give you that initiative as did the 1st Cavalry's agility and ability to synchronize its actions. Man had the ability to synchronize his combat power and he had great depth in time, space and resources. He was willing to take risks and had great mental agility. The physical agility advantage, however, went to the cavalry and that was enough to gain the initiative.
We also learned that technology can provide just the edge in agility that is needed. However, technology is not enough. Commanders at ever level must be confident and trained to know how and when to apply that technology. If Kinnard had not been absolutely confident in his ability to rapidly reinforce with both firepower and troops, his actions would have been closer to stupidity than acceptable risk. Such was the case with Man, who was ignorant of the capabilities of the American forces. His willingness to take risks without knowing those capabilities was, in fact, foolish and cost him 3 1st-rate regiments. Thus, 1 suggest that while initiative, agility, depth and synchronization characterize successful ops, there are other key operations requirements. FM 100-5 calls them "Air Land Battle Imperatives." The imperative that seriously affected Man is stated as "Concentrate combat power against enemy vulnerabilities."
FM 100-5 further explains, "to know what his vulnerabilities are, the commanders must study the enemy, know and take into account his strengths, find his inherent vulnerabilities, and know how to create vulnerabilities which can be exploited to decisive effect." This was Man's great failure and can be considered the cause of his defeat.
This article illustrates the analysis of a battle within the framework of the tenets of Air land Battle. Of series of facts such as composition of opposing force, geography and environment, missions of each force, dates and times, were examined using the FM 101-5 definitions of the tenets of Air Land Battle. This method then allowed for some conclusions to be drawn. Ultimately, the question of why the US forces won and NVA forces lost was answered to of certain degree. Such analyses, done in even greater depth, offer the potential to answer many more questions. The point here is that the professional soldier can conduct continuous study of current doctrine by reading and analyzing battles of the past, thus continuously reinforcing the understanding of current doctrine. My conclusions from the study of this battle find that initiative is the critical tenet of Air Land Battle, and that agility, depth and synchronization are the means of gaining the initiative. It is my opinion that the study of other battles, using the analysis method, will also point to initiative as the most vital tenet of Air land Battle.