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What Do I Do Now?


Matthew Sisk Flora, IL

I am a medically retired veteran with a disability rating of 40% from the VA. I transitioned from the Army in August of last year. I have been working in my father-in-laws business learning the ropes. However, I have hit a bump in the road.

I have back issues from the Army due to degenerative disc disease. Because of this my spine is, essentially, separating from my hip. The civilian doctors I go to, because the VA is to far away, tell me that I am going to be limited on what I can do from now on. I have started PT, but it doesn't help. I know I need to get to the VA, which I've been trying to get in touch with my representative for this area, but she will not return calls. I have been off work for over a month now due to the fact I can't lift anything over 10 pounds and can only stand for about 30 minutes before I have pain. Once that starts I am down for at least an hour.

A few questions now:
1) Should I just contact the VA Clinic located an hour away and schedule an appointment or go the opposite direction, one hour, and pay a visit to my representative?
2) Should I start looking for a job that better suits me, like an office job, or should I try to draw unemployment and disability?
3) Should I file a new claim with the VA or will the VA clinic decide this when I get an appointment with them?

The line of work my father-in-law is in I cannot do due to me not being able to lift or stand for long periods. There is no "office work" to be done because he does it all and refuses to let me. He has been keeping me on payroll since I am salary, but has mentioned that it is going on a month and I need to figure something out with the doctors on getting me back to work because he can't keep me on payroll if I'm not there. I understand that.

I'm new out of the Army last year and have no idea what to do and fill overwhelmed with all of this. I need some professional advice from people that may know what to do. Nobody around here seems to know.

27 March 2015 13 replies Military to Civilian Transition



Markee Cuevas Escalon, CA

It sounds to me like you need to seek a disability advocate. According to your rights, I believe you are entitled to an advocate to help access your situation and help you seek the proper information toward obtaining the results you wish to have take place in your future. An advocate is different than a lawyer but is much like a representative or spokesmen that is plugged in to the "know-it-all" regarding disabilities and assisting disabled persons.

Good luck!

Email me if you need more indepth advice with personal contact-referal to an advocate I believe may be able to assist you:


Erik Trimble San Francisco, CA

Matthew -

The other answers are excellent advice on how to deal with your injury. I won't presume to add anything there.

What I'd like to address is what your career can look like if you are partially disabled yet still wish (or need) to work. Looking at your background, I would suggest that computer technology is a good possibility. Frankly, it's a very low-impact non-physical career, where having a movement disability is not a significant barrier.

Most mid-sized or bigger companies are looking for Help Desk employees where you spend the vast majority of your time on the phone. The job itself isn't usually a career one, but it's an *excellent* foot in the door to other positions; anywhere from being the HD manager, to transitioning to a more involved technology career if you are so inclined. Alternately, you may be able to leverage your 25U knowledge into a network administrator's role; the problem there is that this often requires non-trivial movement (not really lifting, but lots of twisting and such to do wiring installs). But a more mid-level network admin role is eminently possible. There's a vast array of technology-related jobs that are hard to just list, but which require a smart mind. The field in general is quite accommodating of physical disabilities if you can demonstrate the intellectual prowess they demand.

Please feel free to contact me if you are thinking about a technology career, and I can help you narrow down some possibilities to explore, based on the your specific experience.


Matthew Sisk Flora, IL


I want to thank everyone for the answers. I read them as soon as I have the chance to. I would love to hear from you all that say you want to talk. My email is and am open to discussion there first before giving out my number.

As far as the VA is concerned, I have received paperwork from them that I am filling out so I can be seen at the VA clinic in a town about an hour from me. I still cannot get my VA rep to call me back so the next time we go that direction I am going to be stopping in.

I have been to Ortho a couple times now and I go to PT 3 times every week. My Orhto doc has requested a MRI to be done and I am waiting to hear back on that appointment. They said that depending on what they see there might be an option for injections, but they can't guarantee that injections will even help. If injections aren't an option then I will have to have surgery to correct my spine. We haven't discussed the percentages or anything yet of surgery as they are trying to keep that from happening. However, I have started showing weakness and numbness in my right leg. The left leg is starting to hurt like my right one did before it started going weak and numb. This is where the concern is. This is why I need the VA to do something.

I have only been working half-days when I can work and that has only been about 4 half-days in the past month and a half. PT wears me out. Standing on my feet for more than 10 minutes is painful. I can't pick up my 2 year old daughter and can barely pick up my 5 month old son as he is now getting to heavy and it hurts. Every day living is getting harder and harder as I am limited on what I can do because of pain. They have me on 4 different medications and they aren't doing any good. The only good thing is on some nights I can actually get a decent 2 or three hours of sleep.

We were told that if the VA disables me to where I can no longer work then compensation would be made. Also, that there is a program that would pay my wife to stay home to tend to my medical needs. If it comes to that we are discussing opening a Boutique to help with income. My wife makes that stuff and I am a bit crafty as well.

There are a lot of possibilities, but the problem I have now is work period. My father-in-law is working with me and I do what I can as best I can, but it isn't worthy of the pay he gives me. I feel as if I am taking advantage of his kindness and that's not me. I am a worker. Someone that provides for his family and that is the hardest thing for me to get a grasp of. That things will change, one way or another.

The biggest optical is getting that VA rep to do her job and contact me. We don't go that way much, but I guess we will have to make a reason now. Thank you again for all the advice and information. I read it all and look forward to hearing from you and reading more. It has really kept me going and my mind thinking.


Craig Hordlow Naples, FL

I know of something you might be able to do. Can we talk offline? I can call you if you want to suggestion a time when you have a few minutes.


Judy Tomlinson Richardson, TX

You have to be proactive...don't wait for anyone else to help....move forward with contacting the VA, file a new claim and send an email to your REP with the Claim information, date, etc.

If you like talking to people, a Customer Service Rep job would work for you. There isn't any lifting and all you need are computer skills to document the calls. There are Customer Service positions in retail, utilities, city offices, etc.

Thanks for your service. Keep pushing forward.


Roni Meikle New York, NY

First, thank you for your service. I'm sorry that you are having such a tough time. You don't mention what field of work you're interesed in, but if you are looking at financial services, you may want to look into Wall St. War Fighters. This group works with vets who have limitations due to service-related injuries. Check out this great organization at Hope this helps.


Roni Meikle New York, NY

First, thank you for your service. I'm sorry that you are having such a tough time. You don't mention what field of work you're interesed in, but if you are looking at financial services, you may want to look into Wall St. War Fighters. This group works with vets who have limitations due to service-related injuries. Check out this great organization at Hope this helps.


Barbara Stern Boulder, CO


Make an appointment with VA immediately. If you have the email address of your representative, write that person and let them know that they didn't return your calls and that's quite disappointing and you have it on record that you attempted and never heard back from the rep.
Let the VA determine if your present claim is adequate or do you need to refile it.
As for looking for another job, yes, it's definitely time. Your father-in-law has been generous in paying you this past month. Ask him if he has any business contacts that may have an office job for you. He can be a reference as well.
And also ask yourself, what do I enjoy? Do I want to be with a lot of people, do I want to work with computers, are there any classes I need to take to make myseslf more marketable?
I hope this helps you some and if you'd like more feedback, I'd be happy to help.
Best Regards,


Jim LeVan Port Monmouth, NJ

work from home? inside sales for a technology company can be quite lucrative - and usually they're open to entry level folks (or account development at least, to start) - happy to get you more info if you need - just shoot me an email -


Jennifer Youngblood Edmonds, WA

Hi Matthew,
I was a Navy Corpsman and have also been Career Counselor for many years. Listening with both 'hats' on it sounds like there are several issues you are working through. I agree with Christian that you might want to consider a multiple fronts approach to your situation. Feel free to contact me and we can discuss your challenges and opportunities.


Sherri Stone Claremore, OK

Matthew. You actually have several options. I know money is probably very tight right now, but I would strongly encourage you to look at both the long term as well as the short term. 1.) You could be eligible for a Social Security Disability benefit as well as a VA disability benefit increase. 2.) Both the Social Security Administration and the VA have Vocational Rehabilitation programs that should be available to you. 3.) Unemployment is also a good option for the short-term.
Most areas have several options for Service Officers to help vets file claims VA, State Officers, DAV, VFW & Legions generally have service officers that will meet you in a location that convenient for you. This link should help you find a service office much closer to you.
You are welcome to contact me privately if you would like to discuss more.
Sherri Stone


tamme tannehill Louisville, KY

Hi Matthew....I've been going through the exact same thing medically so I have some ideas. Let's speak on the phone so we can talk in more detail and I can share some things with you.

Send me a private message with a contact number, best time to call and email address.

Tamme Tannehill


Christian Grant Raleigh, NC


First and foremost, thanks for reaching out. Second, let's see what we can do.

Here is my answers to your questions:

1/ why not both. In the meantime I want to test my network to see if I can find better advice or resources for you.

2/ in the short term, due what you need to make ends meet. Its never too early to look for a job. What are you interested in, what do you want to do?

3/ I do not know the answer, but will look into it.

Let me start working on these items and get back to you.


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