The White Coat Investor

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The military/VA disability system is something that is hard for me to understand, but also something that seems ripe for cherry-picking. For example, I understand if you develop sleep apnea on active duty (which seems more and more common these days as people get fatter and more sleep centers open up) you get an automatic 50% disability. As I understand it, that means when you leave active duty you get 50% of your 0-4 pay every month for the rest of your life, essentially the equivalent of putting in 20 years and getting a standard retirement pension.

I have also been told that nearly everything gets something (low back pain, headaches, asthma often cited) as long as the total disability is at least 20-30%.

While I sometimes wonder about the ethics of going on disability when I'm perfectly able to work, I see maximizing my military pay/benefits as akin to minimizing my taxes in every legal way possible. The only moral requirement I have to pay taxes is to comply with what is legally specified. Likewise, I intend to collect every military pay/benefit to which I am legally due.

I recently began wheezing when I get URIs, and after having this happen several times, I'm wondering if this might become a more chronic issue. I also get shoulder pain from working out (required PT you know.) I get a little GERD from time to time too.

Has anyone bothered looking into this stuff? Is it worth it for most of us to get evaluated for disabilities before separating? All of us surely develop some piddly little medical problem in the 15 years between our MEPS physical and our DD214 date. Are we really entitled to some monthly payment because of it? What's the deal?
 

scottyT

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The military/VA disability system is something that is hard for me to understand, but also something that seems ripe for cherry-picking. For example, I understand if you develop sleep apnea on active duty (which seems more and more common these days as people get fatter and more sleep centers open up) you get an automatic 50% disability. As I understand it, that means when you leave active duty you get 50% of your 0-4 pay every month for the rest of your life, essentially the equivalent of putting in 20 years and getting a standard retirement pension.

I have also been told that nearly everything gets something (low back pain, headaches, asthma often cited) as long as the total disability is at least 20-30%.

While I sometimes wonder about the ethics of going on disability when I'm perfectly able to work, I see maximizing my military pay/benefits as akin to minimizing my taxes in every legal way possible. The only moral requirement I have to pay taxes is to comply with what is legally specified. Likewise, I intend to collect every military pay/benefit to which I am legally due.

I recently began wheezing when I get URIs, and after having this happen several times, I'm wondering if this might become a more chronic issue. I also get shoulder pain from working out (required PT you know.) I get a little GERD from time to time too.

Has anyone bothered looking into this stuff? Is it worth it for most of us to get evaluated for disabilities before separating? All of us surely develop some piddly little medical problem in the 15 years between our MEPS physical and our DD214 date. Are we really entitled to some monthly payment because of it? What's the deal?
The system is ripe for cherry picking, but nothing in it is automatic ... except for claims rejections. The VA will pay for any disability you accrue while on active duty, regardless of if it is related to your service. Once rated for a disability, that rating stays with you for life. The pay, however, isn't exactly like retiring. They have a pay scale (link) that is independent of years served, rank, etc... In order to qualify for anything you must be evaluated by a VA doctor or have substantiating evidence in your military medical record (or both, as is usually the case). They get so many disability claims that they tend to offer blanket rejections and let you appeal their decision.

Many disabilities get something (even 0%, which counts for free service related care in the VA system). Disabilities are additive, so 10% for a knee and 20% for carpal tunnel will be 30% cumulative.

The VA will not evaluate you for a disability before you leave the service. The best thing you can possibly do is get your medical record and Xerox everything. Make sure your doctor documents everything when you see him. Talk with the DAV and they can tell you what you may qualify for based on your record. They also screen for membership and will offer it if you qualify (membership is good because they have claims representation and they handle quite a few claims). This will be an uphill battle for you if you don't get a copy of everything in your record before you leave. The DoD has been known to lose records in transit and to fires.
 
OP
The White Coat Investor

The White Coat Investor

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Obviously it'll be a painful process, and may only be worth it for "real" disabilities. My question is whether it is worth it for the little ditzel stuff. For example, I would never think of myself as disabled just because I had OSA, abut apparently the military thinks its worth 50%.

According to your scale though, even 50% with a spouse and kids only pays $850/month. Not exactly big pay for a doc. And it doesn't look like you get much at all unless you get at least 30%. Not sure that's worth having the "disabled label" stuck on everything you do for the rest of your life (insurance, employment apps, medical licensing stuff etc.)
 

HackFuJones

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yah be careful with disability... I had an attending whos best friend got out after his commitment with 5% disability for something fairly minor, it gets him like $50 a month, HOWEVER, because of it he has trouble getting health insurance and pays through the roof on premiums and the VA refuses to take it off his medical record even though he tells them he no longer has the condition. So just think twice before you decide to try and get disability cause that **** sticks with you forever.
 

AF_PedsBoy

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Yeah I just had that come up today when this spouse came in and it came up that she had a mother and grandmother with ovarian cancer, diagnosed in their 30's - I was all set to go gung ho and order the BRCA testing until the Ob said hold up, you should refer them to genetic counseling because A) You'll only freak them out; and, B) They are going to have a hell of a time getting insurance on the civilian side if they get saddled with a diagnosis - he said but if her mother got diagnosed with it all she has is a family history and we can watch her, but it won't kill her insurance! Of course I find it sad that we are reduced to playing games like it but I have to admire his way of getting around it...
 

Gastrapathy

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Yeah I just had that come up today when this spouse came in and it came up that she had a mother and grandmother with ovarian cancer, diagnosed in their 30's - I was all set to go gung ho and order the BRCA testing until the Ob said hold up, you should refer them to genetic counseling because A) You'll only freak them out; and, B) They are going to have a hell of a time getting insurance on the civilian side if they get saddled with a diagnosis - he said but if her mother got diagnosed with it all she has is a family history and we can watch her, but it won't kill her insurance! Of course I find it sad that we are reduced to playing games like it but I have to admire his way of getting around it...
Its now against federal law to base insurance decisions on genetic diagnoses. You should still refer to genetic counselling if they are around, but if not, I'd offer the test.
 

scottyT

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Kinda sorta. It has be judged "service caused or aggrevated" in order to qualify. Also, while the will provide the care for any such condition, you must be at least 30% disabled before there is a direct payout.
They generally approve anything as long as you can show that you aren't making the disability up and it happened during service. They have a pretty liberal definition as to what is caused by the service ... quite a few vets get decent compensation for personal MVA's and sports injuries.

I don't think you have to be 30% disabled for a payout. I have at least 2 friends who are 10% connected and they get checks each month. 30% is the cutoff where they will start paying extra for a family.

You can do your intake physical up to 60 days prior to your EAS. Some centers will tell you they won't do it until after you're out, but this is untrue.
Good to hear. This is different from when I got out in 2003. I'm glad that they have taken steps to help ease the transition.
 

Perrotfish

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Interesting. We still throw around the 30% number, but I've never seen a source on it, so pretty much just go along with what the older guys say. Good info, thanks
I think I've read that 30% is the minimum you need to retain you medical insurance through the military, which is why that's the important number to hit. Anyone who is seriously hurt and ends up with less than 30% is pretty screwed, since the VA only gives out checks and not health insurance

Also any payouts for under 30% disability is pretty pointless, since the VA will probably pay more and you have to pay back any disability payments from your service before you can start accepting VA payments.

Correct me if I'm wrong. I'm remembering this from a Washington Post article.