Two years to two days

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Marine Corps veteran asked one question about a claim, and received more than just an answer—all before departing the Winter Sports Clinic

Marine Corps veteran Josh Barron struggled to have a claim reconsidered for two years. He sought out insight from DAV benefits advocate Carmen McGinnis as a participant at the National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic and in two days had a favorable resolution.

This spring, Marine Corps veteran Josh Barron returned to Snowmass, Colo. for the National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic. Co-hosted by DAV and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, the clinic is an adaptive sports event where severely ill and injured veterans challenge themselves through skiing or sled hockey. Veterans rediscover abilities, regain strength and courage and test the limits of what they believe to be possible.

During the opening ceremony, Barron heard that Carmen McGinnis, a DAV benefits advocate and fellow Marine Corps veteran, would be available to assist with benefits. Between snowboarding sessions, the Iraq War veteran popped by to get insight on next steps with a claim he wanted to have reconsidered. Barron had been diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, and benefits are based on the presumption that the disability is service-connected. According to VA, veterans with symptoms of MS in the military or within seven years after honorable discharge may be eligible for service-connected disability. Worsening migraines and other MS-related symptoms prompted him to seek out McGinnis.

“Josh came by to see me because he had concerns with his claim not being developed quite right and felt that the VA wasn’t considering some of the evidence he presented,” explained McGinnis, who is based out of Denver. “He felt like he wasn’t being heard or evaluated correctly.”

“I felt like the doctor was not paying attention and did a quick assessment,” recalled Barron of his frustration with his claims process. “I wanted a reconsideration of my claim, but I was going to have to see the same doctor.”

“VA was still requesting an examination despite medical evidence,” said McGinnis. “I knew as a DAV service officer that shouldn’t be happening.

“I reached out to our DAV staff in Oakland, Calif. at the VA Regional Office and posed the question, ‘Why is this veteran being examined when he submitted all the appropriate evidence?’”

The DAV service team there worked closely with their VA contacts within the office and just two days after looking into the inquiry, McGinnis received the answer to her question. She was able to tell Barron in person a decision was made and that he obtained the benefits he was seeking. The new rating went back to 2016, when he first submitted the claim.

Barron, a Fresno, Calif. native, had been trying to fix his claim for two years. Two days after meeting McGinnis he had a favorable resolution. He said he was floored.

“When I got the message from her asking me to come by [with an update on the claim], I thought maybe she made it possible that I didn’t need an appointment anymore,” said Barron. “This is unheard of; I’m still processing it.”

McGinnis appreciated being able to share the good news is person.

“Josh came in and he wasn’t expecting much of a result beyond suggested follow up,” said McGinnis. “He definitely wasn’t expecting us to able to identify the issue and get full resolution within two days while he was still at the clinic.”

Barron agreed with McGinnis’ assessment. “I showed up and told her my situation and was hoping to get the appointment waived. One little question to this; now I’m fully rated. She went above and beyond.”

“It is stressful for veterans to get their ratings, and then still have to worry about future evaluations and exams,” said McGinnis. “To be able to remove that weight from his shoulders and give him good news is so rewarding.”

“The clinic is an awesome experience and we always talk about making the spirit and impact last beyond the event. In this case, we were able to help a veteran get justice and forever change his life,” said DAV National Service Director Jim Marszalek. “Carmen conducted three dozen interviews with veterans regarding claims in just three days. This illustrates a critical need and we are more than happy to fill that gap in services and support veterans like Josh.”

“I came in to get guidance on my situation but now it’s a thousand times better than what I had planned,” said Barron, who attributes much of his success to working with a fellow veteran. “Carmen understands and could relate. She knows what it’s like to be a Marine.”