After 20 years of being separated from Active Duty, I decided in December (after years of friends telling me to just do it) I called the 1-800 number for the VA. After about an hour on the phone, with a few transfers for different things, I was enrolled in VA Healthcare, eBenefits, had a DS Login, an ID.me login, and my first appointment scheduled.
The last very helpful lady on the phone had me log into VA.gov and start a compensation claim. I had my first 2 appointments with LHI and a third with QTC for audiology. My first claim was for my left eye, which is pretty much just a novelty at this point, my right ankle and hip pain and tinnitus. They were all grouped together (I understand why), and I received a final decision letter today. They gave me 10% SC for diplopia of the left eye, and 10% SC for tinnitus with a total of 20% SC.
My left eye started giving me problems in 1998 or so, as well as headaches, shaking of my hands, and other small things. Long story short is that I fell about 30 feet off a cliff on Groton Naval Base riding my bike back to the barracks. I lost consciousness and went to the Groton Naval Hospital. The VA had that in their records. I can’t remember it happening, or much about that entire year, but that’s beside the fact. They connected my fall, landing on my head, and cracking some skull parts to the problem I have now.
For my ankle, I was a duty driver, on duty in San Diego, when I slipped on a shore power cable, rolled and dislocated my ankle, and was told to “Walk it off” so I did, causing a good loud pop, and subsequent swelling, and walking in a cast (from the San Diego Naval Hospital) with purple basketball on the bottom of my leg where my foot was. I know it sounds lame, but it hurt. 4 weeks underway on a submarine in a cast, climbing ladders sucks. Today I have problems walking, period. I developed a limp, and as the years have gone on, it has gotten worse. Around 2 years ago I was walking around a field site at work, and what started as an annoying pain in my hip quickly turned into me having to stop walking. I honestly sat in the South Texas sun in July for 30 minutes trying to catch my breath from Satan himself trying to rip my right from the hip socket. I could not make it 100 yards without having to stop and rest for 10-15 minutes, then continue.
When I saw the LHI doctor last month about this, she took me through the range of motion, poked and prodded, found a couple of things I didn’t even know hurt, and sent in the report. In my decision letter it says that the VA acknowledges I have a disability, and can see that I went to the San Diego Naval Hospital in December 2000 ( I didn’t even know when that happened, that whole year is not in my memory whatsoever), but they could not find a link between me hurting my ankle in December 2000, and the ongoing and new-found pain in my ankle, knee, and hip.
As for the Tinnitus, the QTC doctor was amazing (hats off to that doc, really cool dude). He said that the sounds are making it to my ears, but my brain is not sure how to process them. When I hear noises in both ears, they kind of blend together, or “blur”. I know you ALL know what I’m talking about. I get the high pitch screech, the moments of complete and total loss of all hearing, and pops when I sleep. After a lengthy conversation with the ear doc he explained he wasn’t just bullshitting with me, he was gauging my conversation and thought process when carrying out a conversation. He said that there is definitely a disconnect somewhere, but he isn’t a brain doctor, he just does ears. Then he asked me about the head injury I had in 1997, and if I started having headaches after that. Well damn, I never put those together. I never even considered one being related to the other.
Which brings up the question in the title of the post… Do I need a VSO? Do I request a higher-level review of the ankle? Do I submit a claim for TBI? I’m lost. I really do not know where to go from here., and I hope someone can give me some advice on next steps.