For at least the next few years there is going to be a VA Regional Office in Manila, and THAT is a good thing for anyone considering retiring here. Originally, my intention was to file for my disability compensation BEFORE coming over, but I changed my mind after sending an email to a Mr. McQuown at the Manila VA back in early 2002 just months before I retired. He assured me that it would be no problem to file my disability claims in the Philippines, so I took the plunge.
Its four years later – was it a smart move, or would I have been better off filing in the USA before coming over? Actually, it turned out to be a great move to file here instead of the United States, and for a couple of different reasons. The primary one – medical evidence! To ensure you maximize your claim results, you’ll need medical evidence, and it’s easier to get plenty of it fast and cheap right here in the Phils. I will probably provide more on the necessity for medical evidence in a later post, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org for my current treatise on what a veteran needs to know to file for VA disability.
Another reason to file in the Philippines: access to information. When you retire here, especially to areas such as Angeles City, Olangapo, and Baguio where hundreds of American military retirees currently live, with very little effort you will make contact with kindred spirits like yourself, people who are either going through the VA application process, or who have already gone through it. These folks will be a great help in steering you in the right direction for advice, and warning you of the pitfalls that await you once you enter the VA lair. Better yet, the REALLY smart ones will advise you to acquire the services of a veteran service officer like me. Do not try to do it by yourself – the VA will eat you alive if you do.
Right up until about a year ago, I would have said that another motive to file at the VA Regional Office in Manila was that a veteran would have a better chance for a quick and accurate adjudication of his claim. I WON’T say that anymore. I don’t know if its just here, or if its happening at all the VA regional offices, but decisions out of Manila have been taking longer, and they have more often than not been going AGAINST veterans, and that’s in spite of medical evidence that used to mean automatic approval. My opinion – there is a drive in the “VA institution” to reduce claim amounts to save bucks, and to do what I call “kick the can.” That is, the VA raters seem to be simply denying what I think are “good claims,” which then forces veterans to go through the lengthy appeal process. I know I sound libelous, but THAT is exactly what SEEMS to be happening. Hey, I call ‘em as I see ‘em.
And finally, a very valid basis to come here and file is the low cost of living in this country. Why? Because being able to concentrate ALL your efforts and energy on pursuing your VA compensation gives you a decided advantage over those who do so in the States. Veterans in the U.S.A. usually MUST worry about making money, and that means finding a job, so they are usually unable to do the things and acquire the evidence they need to maximize their claims. Living here, you will be able to make your VA pursuits your job. My experience: a half-hearted attempt will give you feeble results.
And consider this, if you expect the VA to do the right the thing by you, by conducting a thorough medical examination and then to use the exam results to properly rate your service-connected conditions, forget about it! My experience is that VA doctors habitually trivialize veteran’s conditions, and usually, if a vet overlooks an ailment on the initial claim form, the VA will NOT normally consider it, no matter how obvious it is. Shameful? You bet it is! So, to overcome this VA tendency to mess over veterans during the compensation application process, veterans MUST concentrate their personal efforts to ensure best results, and that is BEST done here, where making a living is NOT the primary order of things.
Hence, all you veterans contemplating retiring here, come on over and come see me, or someone like me. Filing for VA disability compensation? The Phils is the place to be.