FILING A CLAIM FOR DISABILITY COMPENSION

When Veterans are injured or develop disabilities related to injury or disease incurred during active service, they may be eligible to receive Disability Compensation. Disability Compensation is a monthly, tax free benefit paid to Veterans with disabilities resulting from a disease or injury acquired or aggravated during active military service.

Disability Compensation is a monthly payment made to the Veteran or family member because of a service-related disability. The injury or disease must have been sustained in the line of military duty or be a pre-existing injury or disease aggravated by military duty.

You may file for Disability Compensation on-line by going to www.ebenefits.va.gov. By submitting all the evidence you have in support of your claim, you shorten the time it usually takes for the VA to process the claim.

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COPING WITH PTSD

There are some things we can do to help cope with the symptoms of PTSD:

  • Live in the present moment. This is a way of counteracting hypervigilance. It involves being aware of what you’re feeling at the moment and recognizing the validity of those feelings. For example, if you are highly anxious when you go outside of the home, try to determine realistically what dangers are valid and which are heightened by your state of hyperarousal.
  • Reduce stress. Stress seems to make everything worse! There are many different ways to combat stress. You may want to try Yoga, meditation, diversion, or stress-reduction techniques such as focused breathing or music therapy. Whatever method you use, find one that means the most to you – that way you’ll tend to stick with it more.
  • Become more aware of your thoughts and feelings. Thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are all connected. If you can change your thoughts, you might be able to change your feelings and then your behaviors.
  • In becoming more aware of your thoughts, you’ll first want to identify what you’re thinking (not what you’re feeling). Try to identify which of the 4 feeling states you’re experiencing:
  • Fear
  • Sadness
  • Guilt and shame
  • Anger

Our self-talk can be either negative or positive, but we are often unaware of it altogether.  Following a trauma, you may develop thoughts that, while accurate at the time the trauma took place, are no longer valid.

With the four feeling states come specific ways of thinking:

  • Fear – thinking something bad will happen
  • Sadness — thinking about losses and what you think is missing in life
  • Guilt & Shame – thinking about what you should have done differently or what you think is wrong with you
  • Anger – thinking things are unfair

 

Try thinking about how you’re feeling.  Write down your specific thoughts related to those feelings.  Now, write down some other thoughts you might have that are more positive.

For example, I’ve been feeling quite sad over the recent, unexpected loss of my sister.  The thoughts I’ve had are how helpless I felt in finding ways to manage her pain, and how a major part of my support system is gone now that she is no longer here.

Changing my thoughts can directly affect my feelings. This can result in a more positive way of behaving. Is there another way I can think about this situation that is not so negative?

Perhaps a way of directing my thoughts in a more positive direction are focusing on the amount of happiness my sister had during her last days while staying at my house, enjoying the puppies she loved so much. If I focus on that, I don’t feel so helpless and guilty. Instead, I feel like I contributed to making her final days worthwhile. That decreases the guilt and anger I feel at the situation.

 

MENTAL HEALTH STIGMA

Unfortunately, people won’t go for help with mental health issues for fear they will be labeled “crazy.”  That’s unfortunate because there are times all of us can use a bit of support.  If you had cancer, you’d go for treatment, wouldn’t you?  Then, if you’re depressed, or suffering from PTSD, or if you’re trying to deal with what you think might be a mental illness, why wouldn’t you go see a mental health specialist?  If you don’t, you’re only letting the problem continue untreated, and that label isn’t any better!

When we identify labels and hang them on ourselves, it’s the worst!  When you label yourself with a negative label, then you fear others will also begin to see you in that light.  Your shame increases and it makes it all the more difficult for you to get the treatment you need.

Fear of being labeled means you try to hide your symptoms.  Because you refuse to talk about them, they go untreated and you have no hope of healing.  Unfortunately, you may begin to feel trapped and limited by the label and that only intensifies your problems.  Actually, it’s wiser to self-refer than to let someone else refer you for treatment.

If you are struggling with PTSD, it’s so much more difficult to heal on your own.  There are some wonderful resources out there to help; some of them you can access without anyone else knowing about it.  Visit www.ptsd.vagov/apps/PTSDcoachonline for more information.

MONEY MATTERS

It seems like most of us are struggling financially these days; there just simply isn’t enough income to outweigh the outgo.  In addition, many people are deathly afraid to create a budget because they think that it means they won’t have anything left over for the extras when the budget is in place.  That’s simply not true.

Creating a budget does not mean you swear on a stack of Bibles that you’ll never spend an unaccounted dollar again.  It simply means you know how much money you are bringing in each month and how much you’re spending.  That’s all a budget is.

To determine what your income is, grab a piece of paper and start a list of where your money comes from.  For instance, you’ll want to count your wages, any financial assistance from Social Security or alimony payments, and any other source of money you’re taking in each month.  Next, in another column, list all your expenses.  This should include rent, food, utilities, transportation, taxes, etc.  Again, the list should include monthly amounts so you’ll know what you’re taking in and what you’re paying out.  Now, subtract all of your expenses from your income.  The amount left over is what you’ll have for doing extra activities during the month.  If there is nothing left over, then your only choice is to look at how you can reduce your expenses.  This may mean finding an apartment that costs less, not paying for cable tv until you’re out of debt, or other debt-reducing moves.  While this may seem to be an extreme measure to you, believe me, it’s worth it when you’re able to get out from under all the pressure and stress of having creditors call and knowing you can’t meet your financial obligations.

When you get things under control enough that you’re meeting your expenses with money left over at the end of the month, then start a savings account.  Putting a little away for emergencies is a wise move that can be a major move toward reducing stress in your life.  It’s recommended that you have an emergency fund in the bank that would cover your costs of living for at least 2 to 3 months.

SURVIVING HOLIDAY STRESS

The holidays are here; parties coming up, relatives arriving, presents to buy and wrap.  There is always a lot going on in December, and for someone with PTSD, it can ramp up the stress to breaking level.  Don’t let the holidays get the best of you.  This holiday season take the time to take care of yourself!

  • Slow down! Go on some light rides and enjoy the sights and sounds of the season.
  • Learn to say no; then don’t feel guilty for doing just that! Sometimes we know it’s best to not go along with everything that’s coming up. Maybe you want to go to the party your family is throwing, but you know it’s going to increase your stress levels big time. It’s ok to say, “No, thank you, I can’t make it.” And then don’t feel guilty for taking care of yourself.
  • Be gentle with yourself. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, do something just for you. Set aside half an hour to read that book you love. Take a long, hot bath. Watch a comedy show that makes you laugh.
  • Don’t over spend. I think one of the most stress-inducing acts we do is thinking we have to spend a lot of money showing people we love them by buying presents. Show those you mean the most your love by telling them how important they are to you. It saves a lot of money and means more to them in the end.

These are only a few tricks you can use to survive the holidays.  Good luck and enjoy the season!