April 18, 2024
Christopher Shaw Marine

Christopher Shaw a former Marine Judge Advocate Discusses Veterans Access to Benefits

Chris Shaw is a retired Marine colonel who served as a military lawyer, representing the Marines Corps and the individual rights of those who served. In the following article Christopher Shaw discusses post-service benefits and how veterans can gain greater access to them.

Americans serve in the Armed Forces to defend the United States and protect United States interest all of the globe. Beyond patriotism, servicemembers seek adventure, an opportunity to be on a team and access to military skills and education that may or may not transfer readily to civilian vocations. Service in the Army, Navy Marines, Coast Guard, Air Force, Space Force or National Guard provides incredible opportunities to lead, travel and learn but are also often coupled with separation from family, delayed college educations, mental and physical injuries and sometimes death.

The United States people show their gratitude for the sacrifices made by servicemembers through a plethora of post service benefits. These benefits are provided by the Veterans Administration at the Federal Level and by veteran departments at the State and local level. Benefits include VA-backed home loans, VA disability pay, VA tuition payment, free access to medical care, State tax exemptions, and State educational assistance. Accessing these benefits eases veterans’ transition back to civilian life and significantly helps maintain veterans’ lives and their family’s lives post service. Additionally, these programs strengthen veterans’ ability to become strong societal contributors in civilian life.

Christopher Shaw explains that although veteran benefits are significant, many eligible veterans never obtain full access to all their earned benefits. Navigating all the processes and paperwork to obtain veteran benefits can be arduous. Accessing these benefits require veterans to use focused time and resources to ensure he or she receives all the benefits they earned. For example, forwarding an incomplete or inarticulate injury claim may subject a veteran to not obtaining VA medical care for a service connected medical condition and a less than 100% disability rating even though their injuries should rate as much.

Chris Shaw Marine

All disability pay is a tax free benefit and if the veteran is classified at the 100% rate, most States then exempt his or her property tax and vehicle excise tax. In addition, a veteran classified as 100% permanently disabled has free access to health care and access to educational benefits for themselves and their family.

Barriers to veterans obtaining access to all their earned benefits are numerous. These barriers can be summed up in two ways (1) not taking the time to appropriately think through and fill out the claims paperwork properly and (2) not using all the resources available in assisting them to file appropriate claims. There are instances where a veteran has an injury that may seem insignificant at the time but then becomes more significant later in life. Perhaps the veteran forgets about the injury or believes it is inconsequential and fails to report the injury. Further the veterans fails to talk to peers who have made VA disability claims or veteran service organizations that can assist them with the claims. These failures may unnecessarily lower the veteran’s disability rating and possibly negates his or her ability to get care for the injury once it becomes more problematic.

Colonel Chris Shaw Marine

Reducing the barriers to obtaining an appropriate VA disability rating requires the veteran to follow these steps. The veterans should:

1) Discuss the VA disability compensation process with similar situated veterans who have successfully completed the process and use their peers’ experiences as lessons learned

2) Find and use a Veteran Service Organization representative to help them understand the claims process and submit an appropriate claim. Veteran Service Organization include the Veterans of Foreign Wars, the American Legion, and the Wounded Warrior Project to name a few. These organization have VA certified representatives that assist veterans in submitting disability claims

3) Be very comfortable with the actual VSO representative because the veteran may have to share very personal medical information with them. If the veteran does not feel comfortable with the representative they should find a new one

4) Take time during ones’ active service to ensure all injuries are properly documented in their medical record and take the time to think of all the medical injuries and issues that have affected them during their service and ensure they are documented in the disability claim

Following these steps will ensure Veterans obtain appropriate disability ratings and are granted the highest level of benefits they earned.

Our Veterans fought for our protection, were prepared to give their lives in our defense and should be granted all benefits they have earned.