They had proof

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The veteran…
Todd Erickson at Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan, in 2011. His claim for service-connected disability benefits was denied because his exams were not shared internally between the VA and a private contractor. DAV’s fight for justice on his behalf resulted in a determination that a clear and unmistakable error had been made, resulting in a significant retroactive payment.

DAV helps Air Force veteran right claims mistake, access overdue earned benefits

After serving six years in the Air Force with multiple deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan, Todd Erickson submitted a claim to the Department of Veterans Affairs in 2014 for service-connected ailments.

It came back denied. According to the VA, he never showed up to his medical exams. In reality, Erickson, 31, attended the exams, but somehow the results weren’t shared internally by the government. Puzzled and discouraged, he said he felt written off by the VA—a system charged with taking care of those returning from war.

“For the longest time, I didn’t have any faith in the VA,” he said.

He certainly never imagined that a chance encounter as a real estate agent would lead to correcting that five-year-old mistake, unlocking VA disability compensation and medical care.

He met Ashley Crance, a DAV national service officer with the Newington, Conn., office, in October 2018. Crance, a Marine Corps veteran, was looking to sell her house near Camp Lejeune, N.C., and a mutual friend recommended Erickson’s professional services.

Crance quickly found out that Erickson was also a veteran and offered her assistance with his claim. Erickson was planning to submit another VA claim but, based on his previous experience, was skeptical he would ever see any benefits.

“She broke down what DAV is and how she would be able to oversee the claim to make sure things are done correctly,” said Erickson. “And she told me to reach back out to the doctors who performed the exams.”

In December, Erickson filed the new claim and took Crance up on her offer. When she looked in his file, it was clear why his initial application was denied—he was a no-show to medical exams, at least according to the documents.

“Somehow my examination results fell through the cracks and were never processed,” Erickson said.

The benefits experts…
Ashley Crance, Marine Corps veteran and DAV national service officer, sits across from Miguel Cintron, DAV national service office supervisor. They were able to help Air Force veteran Todd Erickson receive the benefits he’d earned years after

After a series of phone calls with Veterans Evaluation Services, a company that contracts with the VA to provide exams for veterans, he was told there was clear evidence he went to the exams and that they had found all of the doctor’s original remarks.

Erickson felt disgruntled at first, but then relief set in after seeing the truth in plain black and white. “It goes to show that I wasn’t a liar, that they had proof and that I was there,” he said.

Seeing the glaring error was a first for Crance, who has been with DAV since March 2018.

“Normally, if you are denied because you didn’t attend an exam, nine times out of 10 it’s because you really didn’t go to the exam,” said Crance.

With the help of Miguel Cintron, the national service office supervisor, Crance submitted a clear and unmistakable error (CUE) claim on Erickson’s behalf.

“That’s different than a normal claim because with a CUE, you’re pointing out something wrong and we don’t want it to be overlooked,” added Crance. “It was already overlooked once.”

At the end of March, Erickson got the good news: his new claim came back favorably and, to his surprise, was backdated to 2014.

Erickson said he was thrilled. He became a DAV life member in part, he said, because Crance “was on top of it every single day.”

“I sold Ashley’s house, but she was ultimately a lifesaver for me,” he said. “If it wasn’t for her opening up my eyes and telling me that, as a veteran, I deserve this, I might not have gotten everything.”

For Crance, the reward is seeing a wrong being corrected and a favorable result for a deserving veteran.

“It just makes you feel like you are doing something right and you’re helping out,” she said.