Occasionally, one finds answers unexpectedly. This was our case today at the local VA clinic. Michael had the marathon VA intake appointments in March.
In mid-May we received notice of a disability rating. It only took 6 weeks from the appointment and we were amazed. It was lower than we'd been told to expect. It was still good - but there were several issues that impact Michael's daily life, which were not given any rating. Many listed with "further development" on them. Our VSO has not explained. We're in the process of finding a new VSO who is responsive to his "clients."
Last week we received notice of two appointments for today. We drove to Oregon. We were at the VA clinic at 0745. Michael asked me to come with him to these appointments. He told the docs I'm his memory. ::wink:: We knew one was for "ortho" and were told the other was a "go forward" appointment.
Ortho was "ok." We were constantly asked, "What happened 10 years ago?" as he traced the story of Mike's pain and joint issues. I suggested Stacia's birth - but that certainly wouldn't impact MICHAEL'S health. I told him numerous Air Force docs have told Michael he simply was "getting old." That didn't fly either. We didn't KNOW what happened to trigger the downward spiral of health. We left the first appointment wondering what the point of these appointments were. I asked the doctor that very question and he told us he wasn't an insurance man - he was a doctor. Hmph! ::snort::
Our second appointment began when we were greeted and told this was a "go forward" appointment and she was the "Gulf War Evaluator." I struggled with my attitude for a bit....we have not asked for anything related to the Gulf War, we've not claimed anything pertaining to the Gulf War....WHY are we here? This doctor, though not in insurance, DID answer my questions. She is the "further development" for the issues the doctor at Mather didn't rate. Seems they wanted to get some rating to us quickly and rated on the obvious......these next appointments are to get further information and then they'll adjust ratings as needed.
She'd read all 450 pages of Michael's medical records. She said, "You have a lot going on." ::snort:: Michael has consistently said Parkinsons is the biggest impact on daily life, but he is in constant pain, and I've mentioned there are days he can't move. Muscle pain. He told them this over and over. They basically said, "You're getting old." Well....when I mentioned that to the docs today they both said, aging wasn't a good answer. The one doc said, "No, this isn't aging. I'm 10 years older and I don't have to live with chronic pain." Gotta love seasoned civilian docs. She said she'd traced his pain, his extreme fatigue and a few other symptoms and it all began about 10 years ago. This time, instead of quizzing us about what we did 10 years ago...she told us what she'd unearthed in the medical records.
Ten years ago Michael filled out a form called a PDHA - Post Deployment Health Assessment. This was in his records. When troops return home they complete this form. She quoted from it and he mentioned the one thing bothering him was muscle pain and stiffness. She said this is a red flag. Less than 6 months later one can begin to trace various muscle issues being reported (pain, stiffness, weakness, chronic fatigue etc). She said it's common for vets returning from the Gulf War to have these symptoms. She also said it is classic Fibromyalgia - and she threw in a few more terms too. Of the 18 pain points, he had 17 today (and this was a pretty good day). This explains the bad days, the pain that really hasn't gotten better with Parkinson's meds. The VA doesn't require a vet to have medical documentation of service connection with Fibro IF they've been deployed to the Gulf War. She asked questions about some of the environmental things he was exposed to, and said it is impossible to know everything and so they don't require a documentation of exactly what you were exposed to. She said the fact that he has fibro, was deployed over to the area several times, has no family history, AND had mentioned it on the PDHA makes it a solid case. It also explains all the "inexplicable aging pains."
She suggested we get set up for a PCP (Primary Care Physician) so we can begin to discuss treatment options for the many things which have been "evaluated," but not treated. This sounds like a great idea. ::wink:: I knew something was missing from all these evaluations. LOL
Bottom line - we have some answers - and five new appointments and THEN they will make a final determination on the rating. Meanwhile, his current rating makes him priority 1 at the VA and he can get care and meds there for free (to include neurology for Parkinsons). The VA doc advised we not appeal until after they make a final determination. She said we may not need to appeal.
To be clear - they are NOT saying he doesn't have Parkinson's. They are saying that his time in the Gulf War can explain the inexplicable, for which we've been searching for answers for years. Michael found a doc who did not say, "You're aging."
Our third and fourth appointment went without excitement. Michael IS aging and has degenerative arthritis - not sure if they'll rate for this or not. We entered him into the system to begin health care at the VA . We are unsure if we will transfer neurologists, but we'll discuss options with the PCP (which is a PCM in the military) the end of June.