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Sticking with veterans for claims no matter where or how long

A Vietnam War era Army veteran in the Paris, Texas area just wanted health care when he first visited Veteran County Service Officer (VCSO) and Army veteran Laura Bivens, until Bivens convinced him to file a claim.

photo of Laura Bivens

“I graduated high school with his daughter. She saw what I did in the newspaper and told her Dad to ‘Go see Laura Bivens.’ When he came in; he was just looking for VA health care. So many veterans are just looking for health care, they don’t know about filing a claim.”

It all began in 2018. The veteran had multiple conditions including lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, melanoma, hearing loss/tinnitus, diabetes and neuropathy.

“I filed his Claim in February 2018, but it was denied in May 2018. I appealed it with a Notice of Disagreement in July 2018,” said Bivens.

In September 2018, when Bivens left her Lamar County VCSO position to join the Texas Veterans Commission’s Claims team, she took the veteran’s case with her.

“He said he did not want to bother me since I was no longer in the VCSO position and that if I just told him someone’s name he would go to them to fight for the Claim; if I felt it was worth it. I told him giving up on his Claim was not an option and I will fight it with him until Washington tells us we have no fight left.   I told him that the sacrifice he made in Vietnam outweighed any job I could ever have in life and I would work on his claim after work if I needed to and we would get it done.”

The Claim was again denied. The VA issued its Statement of the Case providing an explanation for the denial in October 2019.

“I requested the appeal be adjudicated before the Board of Veteran’s Appeals (BVA) in December 2019,” said Bivens.

The BVA remanded the case for further documentation and development. After new medical exams and a review of the medical records, the decision was made on September 8, 2023 to grant the back pay to 2018. This resulted in a retro payment award of $206,673 and a disability rating at 80%. “He is also getting Aid and Attendance due to his health now that the cancer treatments have left him a lot weaker and unable to care for himself completely,” said Bivens. “We are now working on compensation for Individual Unemployability due to the Lung Cancer not allowing him to do anything.  He was very mobile and a good craftsman until the cancer slowed him down so he couldn’t work at all.”

Bivens encourages all veterans to visit with their VCSOs or connect with a TVC Claims Benefits Advisor to find out about compensation they have earned. Their services come at no cost to the veteran, their spouses or dependents. “I’ll do the research. If you’ll just let me say what is needed to be said, I’ll write it up and all you have to do is sign” said Bivens.

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