Disabled Military Retiree Needs A Helping Hand While Waiting for Disability Appeal

by Tom
(Virginia Beach, Va)

Tom writes:


I feel totally powerless, worthless, and am almost to the point of running away from everyone and everything!!!! Desperate isn't even a comparable word!

I just retired, as a below-the-knee amputee, with PTSD, insomnia, sleep apnea, bruxism, and other ortho-related injuries.

I went through the ENTIRE medical board PEB process and was still discharged presumed fit for full duty with no related disability pay!

Now I have to go to the bottom of the list of those who are submitting a disability claim for the 1st time, while this will essentially be my second submission, AND, it's going to take between 14 to 22 months before I receive my disability rating, or am able to use the specific benefits for veterans with over 80% disability ratings.

Here I am though, unemployed, having a very difficult time finding a job, INCLUDING a job through one of our big affiliates of Wounded Warriors. "Sorry, sir, we have nothing to help you with."

Can't get a GS paying job … after over 82 applications being sent in with no calls for interviews.

We are now falling behind on Mortgage, vehicle payments, utilities, gas and creditors are like wolves at our doors!!!

  • First name? Thomas

  • Service status? Now, retired

  • Current rank/rate? E-6

  • Branch of service? Navy

  • Married or single? Married

  • How many children live in your home? 3

  • Are you providing child support for children who do not live with you? No

  • Do you have other family members living with you? If so, do they contribute income towards living expenses, and if so, how much? N/A

  • What city do you currently live in? Virginia Beach

  • What is the money problem you would like help with? Please give us enough detail that we will be able to understand the problem and offer useful suggestions to help you with your money problems.

I feel totally powerless, worthless, and am almost to the point of running away from everyone and everything!!!! Desperate isn't even a comparable word!

My mortgage company will not help. They also denied our request for a home equity line of credit due to the $140k in equity I have in the house. Car dealers won't assist, either.

I'm just waiting for the floor to open up and swallow me whole!!!

HELP PLEASE!!!!!!!!




Janet's Response:

Tom,

First, thank you for your service to our country. We appreciate the sacrifices you and your family have made to help preserve our freedom.

I'm so sorry to hear of the difficulties you're having. Unfortunately, they're not uncommon. The VA disability system is overwhelmed with claims, and they're struggling to keep up with the demand.

Disability Appeal


I'll address your disability appeal issues first. At this point, you will need an experienced attorney in your corner to help you with your appeal. He or she will know how the system works, and will be best able to help with the appeal.

There are several programs that offer this assistance for free, or for very little cost. Check into these programs, call and ask to speak with one of their attorneys, and ask how they can help you:

When Duty Calls, a pro bono program of law firm Womble, Carlyle, Sandridge & Rice

The National Veterans Legal Service Project - Click on the tab that says "Veteran" or "What We Do" for more information

National Organization of Veterans' Advocates - Explains why legal representation is important. Click the "Attorneys & Agents" link to find attorneys in your area who participate. If there's not one near you, that's OK. Call one that's listed, see if they'll help you, and if not, ask if they know of someone in your area who will.

If you have not already, contact the US Navy Safe Harbor program and see if you are eligible for their services. They have a number of programs and resources to help wounded warriors navigate the process and will assign a mentor to assist you.

You will probably get some useful tips from the folks at the local DAV. They help veterans with the claims process, and their members will have plenty of experience with how the process works.

You might also get helpful information by contacting the IAVA - Iraq & Afghanistan Veterans of America. They may know of available resources in your area.

Financial Issues


I understand how desperate you must feel about your financial situation, and why you feel hopeless after so many job applications. But it's not the end of the world, even though it looks like you can see it from here.

The first places I'm going to suggest you go to are all on base, and free to you as a military retiree.

1. Legal Assistance Office - Talk with a legal assistance attorney, explain your situation, and ask for recommendations for places and people who might be able to help.

2. Family Service Center - They should have some financial advisers available who should be able to sit down with you and help you work out a specific budget to help you make maximum use of the funds you do have available. They may also be able to help you request a grant or loan from Navy-Marine Corps Relief.

3. Chaplain's Office - Even if you're not a church-goer and don't consider yourself a "religious" person, GO SEE THE CHAPLAIN. Not only are chaplains trained in counseling to help you through just such crises, they also usually know where emergency help is available in the local area. They can help you get back on an even keel and see that your situation is not hopeless.

Here are some additional resources and programs to check out:

Navy-Marine Corps Relief

Operation Homefront

Semper Fi Injured Marine Fund - Because your email indicates you served with FMF, you may be eligible for this program.

Sentinels of Freedom

Operation Once in a Lifetime

Salute Inc.

American Legion Family Support

Armed Forces Foundation

Operation First Response

UnMet Needs Program from the VFW

USA Cares

Wish For Our Heroes

Please report back to us on your results with these organizations, so we'll know whether to continue recommending them.

It is my understanding that unless you are rated more than 50% disabled, you would not be eligible for concurrent receipt (that is, disability pay in addition to retired pay).

So unless your disability rating is greater than 50%, disability pay would not result in an increase in the amount of retired pay you receive. It would merely make the part designated as disability payments non-taxable (or tax-free) income. So, while it wouldn't contribute directly to your bottom line, it would give you a nice tax break.

I just mention that so you won't be surprised to see that a disability rating less than 50% doesn't increase your income, and you can plan accordingly.

You mentioned that your mortgage lender wouldn't help. Unfortunately, that is true - until you miss three payments, most lenders don't have a program to help people struggling to stay current. So the sad part is, until you've negatively affected your credit, they won't help. It just doesn't seem fair.

I don't know what your credit score looks like, but if it's good, you might try a different bank from the one that holds your current mortgage for a home equity loan.

Are you a member of USAA? If not, we encourage you to become a member ASAP. They have some of the best financial products for military members, and may have a program that can offer you assistance.

Also, I just want to plant a seed here. If push comes to shove, you may have to think about selling your house in order to preserve your equity. With that kind of equity, you certainly don't want to get into a foreclosure situation. But we can discuss that later.

OK, that's quite a bit of homework for you to do. Please come back and let me know what results you get as you check out each of these options. At that time, I may have found some additional information for you.

Janet




Comments for Disabled Military Retiree Needs A Helping Hand While Waiting for Disability Appeal

Click here to add your own comments

Taking Care of our Vets
by: Ana warner

I'm sorry, Thomas, that you and so many other vets have to suffer and feel overwhelmed after having given so much for us.

I wish that there was something I could do to help my fellow vets. I am a single mother on disability and am not in a position to help you.

I will hold you up in prayer..May God bless you...And I ask that you don't give up, one day at a time..

Janet, thank you for sharing that information.


Offer of Financial Assistance
by: Janet, Editor

Tom, as you know I've been doing some work behind the scenes, and have introduced you to a local veteran business owner, who is trying to locate some additional resources to assist you. He's doing this as a personal favor to me, so please don't take advantage of him. Help him help you.

I've also added a couple of additional resources to the list above.

I'd really like to hear from you, to see how many of the listed resources you've contacted, and what kind of responses you get from them. Your answers will help me know which groups to recommend to the next person who asks for help.

I recommend you start with the Navy Safe Harbor program. Let me know what they say.

Also, I'd like to offer some assistance with your financial situation. If you're willing to provide me with complete financial information (income and expenses, no account numbers), I would like to help you explore your options and set up a budget to help you get your financial situation back on track.

I understand how difficult it is to keep up with your existing financial obligations when you suddenly lose income (been there, done that), and just how helpless that can sometimes feel. If you're willing to work with me, I'd like to offer some free financial coaching to you and your wife to help you get over this hump.

I'm concerned that you may be on the road to jeopardizing the large amount of equity you have in your home, and I'd like to see what I can do to help prevent that. But in order to do that, I need a complete financial picture.

How about it? If you agree, I'll send you a worksheet to complete and send back to me, and we can get to work.


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