by Ron Seabolt, Rattler/Firebird Association National Director
What follows is the reply given to a man who was becoming discouraged in his attempts to file a claim with the VA. Hopefully this will help you if you are trying to file a claim.
When you went to the VA, did you ever have a representative such as the DAV (Disabled American Veterans) or the VFW? These people have professionals to help you fight the VA. The first motto to remember is NEVER GIVE UP! The VA would totally deny to be true that a vast majority of their claims people are in place and have as their agenda to avoid recognizing your legitimate claim to compensation.
If you have all your records of past visits for your problems, this is a great start. The bureaucracy in place at the VA thrives on paperwork. The more you can throw at them concerning your claim, the better off you are.
NEVER give paperwork copies to ANYONE without keeping copies for yourself. You should consider anything not in your personal possession to be lost forever. This way you will always be prepared for the standard, "We can't find your paperwork!" reply when you try to follow-up on anything.
Is there anyway you could get a letter of support from someone you once served with who might have knowledge of what you did, saw or took part in? If you do not know where any of these people are now located and you have copies of your records from your old unit for anything such as awards, promotions, discipline or whatever it may be, the paperwork usually contains names of others who were in your unit.
If you get some names you wish to locate, you should select the more unusual names and avoid common names in which hundreds of matches would turn up. Go to www.whitepages.com and try their free people search. The only requirement is a last name. As you know, you should have all the blanks filled in as possible in order to narrow your search. On military orders in 1968 and later, the person's social security number will appear. The first three numbers of the SS number will tell you in which state the SS number was issued. For instance my SS number starts with 455 which was only issued in Texas. That way you can at least have a starting point to use in locating others from your old unit because in most cases they returned to their home state. On your computer, on a google search, enter this: social security number allocation table. When that opens up, click on the table to show what numbers came from what state. Then proceed with your whitepages search.
Along with the NEVER GIVE UP is the ALWAYS APPEAL A RULING you do not agree with within one year of the date of the ruling (which should be stamped at the top of the paper).
Keep fighting and Welcome Home!