If a service member is injured on active duty and the injury or illness is to the extent that he or she can no longer perform active military service as determined by military medical evaluation, the service member is normally discharged under regulatory guidelines of a Medical Discharge and left to their own means or dropped into the Veterans Administration (VA) maze; however, the practice has changed over the past decade. Ever since the Persian Gulf War the military and the VA have been more proactive with veterans’ requests for medical assistance following the end of their military service. It is still a slow process, especially with ever increasing numbers of veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.
As a result of all the publicity and visibility of injured or wounded veterans resulting form post 1992 operations (examples: Iraq, Afghanistan, and Kosovo-Bosnia) many service members with major injuries are being retained on active duty for the full extent of their medical treatment, with some exceptions such as the service member’s request to be nearer to home. Whether discharged from the service or not, often these service members continue getting care from the closest military medical facility. In rarer cases when it has been determined that a service member with combat relate injuries should return home and no military or VA care facility is within a practical distance from the service member’s home of residence, the military or the VA have made arrangements for medical care through the closest civilian medical care facilities. This special arrangement has happened at least once that I’m aware of though it took a member of congress to make it come to fruition.
First, let me recommend that a service member file for VA benefits at the earliest possible moment, usually before or on the date of military discharge. It can be done online or as paper form i.e. snail-mail. I highly recommend filing VA Claim Forms for medical injury(s) and illness(s) through the Disabled American Veteran’s (DAV) Organization, Veteran’s Of Foreign Wars (VFW), or the American Legion. They can forward your claim to the VA and acted as your legal representative dealing directly with the VA Regional Office (the folks that make the final determination). This is often the key to early success. You can contact these veteran organizations directly.
VA Claim Forms to file online:
Disabled American Veteran’s (DAV) Organization
Veterans of Foreign Wars
Before leaving active-duty, he or she must make sure to get medically evaluated and documented for every single injury, pain, mental or emotional stress (don’t be afraid to talk with the mental health folks), tooth ache, itch and cough. The VA relies more on the active duty medical evaluations above that of any civilian medical evaluation you might pursue after the end of military service.
As a note, in some cases the “Wounded-Warriors” are returned to Active Duty upon request, even those service members with missing or limited use of limbs.
Again, don’t get too frustrated with the process, but do get assistance from veterans organizations if you want the extra help maneuvering through the system’s maze.