First and foremost, supporting the claim means supporting the Veteran. Veterans experiences, hopes, trust and livelihood are often deeply invested in their service connected disability claims and appeals. This is a perspective you’re likely to hear me say over and over again. I believe this to be true beyond questioning.

Supporting the claim might also mean, what do I need as a Veterans advocate from you, the Veteran being supported? Here are a couple thoughts:

Be up front about your history, your claim to the best of your knowledge, and your expectations. Since we’re likely to be working towards the same goal for the next year or two, let’s start it out on the right path.

I need you to be comfortable sending me an email in the middle of the night when you remember your Doctor’s name, or shooting me a text message letting me know you’re concerned about your claim – or that you haven’t heard anything in a while. In fact, I’m one of the advocates, that wants you to feel comfortable in the fact that it’s YOUR claim. Check it once a week, if necessary.

Tell me your story, so that I can understand why your claim makes sense – to YOU. In successful appeals – most of the time, the initial claim was denied because your story was not told well. A claims adjudicator had 30 minutes (external link) to review the mountain of evidence you provided and the story of your service connected condition was not clear or well supported. I’m not hear to cast fault, my goal is to learn your story and re-tell it in a manner, and perhaps with additional evidence, that demonstrates why the initial denial was erroneous in the first place.

Tell me if what we’re doing is not working for you. We need to know what your needs are, and should we not be able to meet them, we need to go back to the three items I just mentioned to discover if we failed somewhere. I’m committed to working with you on your claim and providing the best, most supporting advocacy in appealing your service connected VA disability claim (and Social Security). Sometimes this means taking a hard moment of self-reflection to assess how well we/I’ve worked for you on this claim. I often mention that you should work with the advocate who works the best for and with you (link). Hold us to that standard.

Lastly, tell me your needs. If you’re having financial problems because of the long timeline of your appeal, perhaps you’re worried about losing housing, healthcare, benefits, car payments, rent, education, anything – let me know. Many of these things can be addressed, there are incredible resources and benefits geared directly to Veterans, and many of these are not part of the VA at all, so you may not have heard about them. We work with organizations every day that support Veterans in all stages of life and circumstance. You’re working with us and we’re taking a fee from the awards we intend to bring your way (link to fee agreement), we should at least be able to connect you to our network of resource and benefits providers (link to Facebook group/resource list). As mentioned before, hold us to the standard we set out to hold ourselves to.

Has your advocate ever had this conversation with you?

What should we add to the list? Call me and let me know:

Direct Line: 253-987-6655 (Josh Penner)