Hi, my name is Robert. I am neither a Veteran nor an employee of the VA. I am just an “average Joe” who works in medical research. So how did I come to write this book? Well my father was a disabled Vet (WWII), my wife is a disabled Vet (Gulf War), many of my friends are Veterans (GWOT, Gulf War, Vietnam) (some disabled and some perfectly healthy), and I have several friends and acquaintances who work for the VA – mostly for the benefits division of the VA (VBA). So I have great appreciation and respect for what US Veterans have done and what they have been through. In addition, I’ve seen first hand the challenges that disabled Veterans have had to go through when dealing with the VA, particularly when it comes to benefit claims.
On the other side of the fence, I’ve heard a lot of inside information and stories during b–ch sessions from my friends who work for the VBA, some of whom are Veterans themselves. They truly do their best to help Veterans but are sometimes stifled by bureaucracy. Other times Veterans make mistakes in how they file their claims, and because “the law is the law”, there is nothing VA employees can do to help them. There are a lot of things everyday grunt VBA employees would like Veterans to know or be aware of to help them, but VBA personnel don’t necessarily have outlets outside of “official VA communication channels” to get that information out to Veterans. Since I am not a VA employee, I am not limited by the risk of losing my VA job. I can tell Veterans things that VA employees cannot.
Since I know both Veterans and people who work at the VBA (Raters, VSRs, etc.), I ended up becoming an unintentional “middle man” for Veterans with questions. Whenever a “friend of a friend” Veteran had a question about a claim and found out I knew people who worked at VBA, I would inevitable hear “can you ask so and so about xyz claim situation?” As a result I ended up volunteering my time helping many Veterans with their disability claims. By the time I had assisted upwards of two dozen Veterans, I finally had the epiphany in 2014 that I ought to write a book about the topic. I like to write, so why not share what I had learned about navigating the VA claim process? Veterans clearly wanted help with their claims, and for whatever reasons weren’t satisfied with the help available elsewhere. Since my time to help Veterans was limited, and I make my living doing something else entirely, I decided I could help a lot more Veterans (and save myself some time) by providing a book that answers common VBA questions and explains complex VBA topics. After all, many of the same issues and questions kept coming up repeatedly.
Since this information is not officially endorsed by the VA, I would like to briefly explain where this information comes from. I utilized a variety of sources as follows:
First, I extensively researched publicly available information from VBA publications and VBA websites (some of which I have included in the Appendix). I took this information and either deciphered it and re-wrote it using (non-lawyer speak) everyday language, or asked various VBA employees for help with deciphering it.
Next, I have numerous friends and acquaintances who work for the VBA. Some of those acquaintances I interviewed extensively for this book. Others I merely listened to intently while taking good notes during our “complain about your work beer night”. Rather than include their names, I’ve chosen to list the positions in which they work. These VBA employees include two Veterans Service Representatives (VSRs) who work in very different positions at the VBA. A Rating VSR (RVSR) whose information has been invaluable in providing the perspective of how someone on the rating board decides a claim, and a former retired RVSR who helped me distinguish new laws from old ones.
Finally, I have personally assisted many Veterans with their claims since my original publication of the first edition of this book. Most of these Veterans happily offered me both their horror and success stories.
Full disclosure: I have priced this book so that I make no more (and sometimes less) than $0.99 per copy, regardless of whether you purchase the Kindle or the paperback version. More of the proceeds from the book go to Amazon or other production costs than to me, despite the fact that if I were to total the amount of time I have spent researching and writing this book it would likely exceed one year of full time employment. In other words, charging for this book is not a plan to get rich, but rather to help Veterans in a sustainable way. In reality I am legally prohibited from charging anything for helping individual Veterans with their claims on a one on one basis. (This is true unless I wanted to take a percentage of Veterans’ back pay, which I do not, but is how attorneys and other firms charge.) I use the proceeds of that $0.99 (or less) per copy to pay for the maintenance of this website (and for ratemyvadoc.com), which I plan to use as an outlet for essential VA and Veteran related news. You might occasionally find Veterans benefits news here first, or possibly get news not published anywhere else. So I hope you find the book and the website useful. And thank you for your service.