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Casey Brandson
06/20/2014 11:25 AM

I learned a couple of things during the long process of working on my Veterans Administration claim for medical benefits that might be helpful to other Amador County vets struggling to make progress with the VA. This information came to me from Terry Sanders, our local Amador County Veterans Service officer. The basis of my claim was presumed exposure to Agent Orange in Vietnam and subsequent heart disease decades later.

1. I’m pretty good at paperwork, so I filed my VA claim myself. Terry Sanders said that is a mistake. Vets should ask a Veterans Service Officer to file their claim because that can cut months off the processing time.

2. After absolutely no action on my claim for about a year, I made an appointment with Terry. He asked me where I sent my claim. I told him I faxed it to the VA “Fast Track” number that came with my VA materials. My fax machine confirmed transmission. I waited a few weeks then called the Fast Track phone number to confirm receipt of my claim. I was told my claim had not been received and I should try faxing it again. I repeated this process two more times, with the same result.

When I told this story to Terry, he said he would fully develop my claim and send it directly to the Mather VA medical facility. He said I should receive a packet from Mather in about two months. I received the packet in about two weeks. On December 26, 2013 I went out to Mather to be “authenticated.” On January 14, I had my first medical appointment at Mather. There have been no charges for the services I have received there since. That is a very good feeling.

The bottom line for me is that Amador vets who have a claim to file should start with their local Veterans Service Officer or local veterans service organizations. Do not go at this alone.

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