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It's been about five years and a half years since I was discharged from the military for chronic muscle spasms in my back, which is just about the lamest reason anyone can have to get shown the door from the military. It's a "medical condition not considered a disability," so I was discharged without anything other than a statement from my commanding officer.

It was a pretty depressing thing to have happen to me since I had dedicated years of my life to joining the Marine Corps, but on the advice of trusted Marines 20 years my senior I went along with the discharge. I was told that if I fought it I could be stuck in the Corps for years waiting for a medical evaluation board, and that ultimately the VA would be responsible for determining whether I was eligible for any benefits.

So once I got out of the military I started trying to get help from the VA. After a year of back and forth paperwork I was given a "service-connected" rating at 40%. That should have been what I needed, right?

Of course those "senior Marines" were dead wrong. Since that time I've been trying to get the VA to pay for me to go to school, whether it be through the regular GI Bill, the post-9/11 benefit, or their Vocational Rehabilitation program, and no dice. Today I just got another letter in the mail explaining to me how screwed I am (only eligible for 6 more months of 60% of the GI bill) and I'm at my wits end. I'll definitely have to live in my parents basement. Probably take out some more loans.

Anyway, this letter is full of legalese and I don't think I can make an effective counterargument. I don't know how to take apart the US Code. They specifically state that "The disability separation must be established by the DoD" in their correspondence, but I can't find anything supporting that in the relevant law. It just says that in order to be eligible for full benefits you must serve at least 30 days and have a service-connected disability. That's me!

I've feel a little bit defeated by the system right now.  I sent a letter to my representative months ago explaining the issue, and the only thing I've heard back is this horrible news from the VA. I have 60 days to figure out how to appeal this. Do I need to get a lawyer? How do I do that when I'm unemployed and poor? Right now my plan is to get with the Disabled American Veterans in the area somehow. Here's hoping they know what to do.

Originally posted to Relentless on Thu Aug 19, 2010 at 12:30 PM PDT.

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