I was talking to one of my good friends from the Air Force about his transition into retirement from military service. He mentioned how he was bringing in more money retired than he did on active service. He noted how this was buoyed by a 60% disability rating he received from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. I’d be lying if I wrote I wasn’t a little bit envious. That brings me to this week’s moment in the Flashback Friday series: the VA compensation decision.
How I first came across this moment? It all started in March 2013. My time on the Air Force clock was expiring and I went through the process of filing my claims with the VA ahead of my July 2013 separation from service. I listed every injury I ever sustained during military service to include the ankle injuries and the constant stingers I got in my right shoulder that started when I attempted to draw a charging foul against Big Al Hughes during a Friday mandatory PT basketball session in 2006. I also included the droopiness of my left eyelid—the medical term is ptosis—that I suffered as a result of a vicious elbow in ultimate frisbee…again, during a mandatory PT session. I put all of that on the form. About a week after I was off the clock, I got an official letter from the VA informing me that all except for the ptosis of my left eye were not related to my military service and that the ptosis itself, while related to my service, was granted a 0% evaluation. In simple terms, it meant that I would receive no monetary compensation from the VA.
What it meant to me then? At that moment, I was furious. Save for an Achilles injury I suffered in my senior year of high school, I entered military service healthy. And I had documentation of every visit to Air Force Medical that clearly showed those injuries and their effects were certainly a product of military service. I was hurt by their decision and I appealed. My appeal was unsuccessful.
What it means to me now? The VA’s decision still irks me even today. It made the road to the Foreign Service dream a lot more difficult. I’m sure had I been able to apply for all of the vacancies on USAJOBS as a 10-point preference with a compensable service-connected disability, I would’ve probably been able to get some of the better positions I applied for as opposed to those that were more friendly to the 5-point preference afforded to me as a veteran. Moreover, I still have the ptosis in my left eyelid and it’s absolutely noticeable whenever I take pictures with flash. I hate it and the fact that I don’t get some kind of compensation from the Federal Government for what is likely to be a permanent condition sustained while on active military service straight up pisses me off.