by Robert O’Dowd, Staff Writer
(SOMERDALE, N.J.) – Dr. Craig Bash, a 1979 Air Force Academy graduate, disabled veteran and Bethesda, Maryland resident, is an expert at conducting Independent Medical Evaluations (IMEs), allowing the veteran to meet the VA’s well-grounded claim requirements. Over the past 22 years, he has conducted hundreds of IMEs.
Medically retired from the Air Force, Dr. Bash is the Director of four medical consulting practices; two in Maryland and the other two in Lake Almanor, California.
Dr. Bash, age 52, was seriously injured in 1984 while playing for a high caliber rugby team from the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences (USUHS).
USUHS is the only Federal service postgraduate academy. Medical students are members of the uniformed services and are provided a free education in exchange for a service commitment after graduation.
The spinal cord injury left Dr. Bash a quadriplegic. Despite this very serious injury, Dr. Bash received his MD degree in 1986, completed a Radiology internship and residency at The George Washington University Hospital, followed by two clinical fellowships at the University of Maryland and the National Institute of Health and serves as a physician-scientist in Neuro-Radiology at the National Institute of Health. In addition to private practice, he is currently Associate Professor Radiology, USUHS, Bethesda, MD.
Raised in Chester, CA, a logging town of less than 2,000 people in Northern California, Dr. Bash’s high school class had only 35 students. Dr. Bash’s father owned the local airport so it was a relatively simple step for all three of the Bash boys to learn to fly. Dr. Bash’s father flew P-51 Mustangs in WW II in the Army Air Corps and three boys followed in their father’s footsteps. All attended the Air Force Academy and served on active duty in the U.S. Air Force.
Since 1986, Dr. Bash has specialized in neuroimaging medical diagnosis through radiological imaging, second opinions, and independent medical evaluations (IMEs) for disabled veterans. (See: veteransmedadvisor.com/ and http://www.craigbashmd.com/)
Dr. Bash says that: “In almost two decades, he has seldom told a veteran he could not help with a claim or an appeal. With those he has assisted, he has an 80–90% success rate in helping establish or increase disability compensation and other benefits.” That’s not a bad batting average.
Medical Nexus Opinion Critical
Clark Evans, an Arkansas attorney, who handles veterans’ disability and pension claims, says there are three steps that must be met for a veteran to satisfy the VA’s requirements for a “well-grounded” disability compensation claim: “The first is medical evidence of a current health problem. Secondly, you must prove that an injury or disease occurred or was aggravated while in active military service. The third is proving a nexus or link between one and two. VA turns down thousands of claims each year by saying "no nexus".”
The need for a doctor’s opinion linking the veteran’s disability to military service is critical. Evans noted that: “Only the opinion of a doctor or other medical expert will establish that needed medical link. That’s the rule–it’s been upheld in court–like it or not that is the way it works.”
To illustrate the point, Evans provided the following example: “Joe pulled a tour in Nam in 1969. While loading boxes of ammo into a jeep, he threw his back out and was laid up in a hospital for four weeks in traction where x-rays showed a fractured disc. With pain medication and rest he was able to avoid surgery, return to duty, finish his hitch, get a job back in the world and start raising a family. The back never got any better. He couldn’t afford medical care so with heat pads at night and aspirin during the day he worked for another 12 years. When the back got so bad that he couldn’t go anymore, he filed for social security disability and got it. He filed for VA disability (you can draw both) and was denied because no doctor had stated in writing that his present bad back was related to the back injury in-service. Joe testified under oath that his military back problem never improved and that the injury then was the problem now. VA wouldn’t accept this as proof of nexus because Joe is not a doctor and no doctor had given a medical opinion that today’s back disability was related to the military injury. In short, no nexus.” (See: usvetinfo.com/claims/two.htm)
The VA’s Compensation & Pension (C&P) examination is not designed in the veteran’s favor. According to Dr. Bash, “The C & P examiners are supposed to decide whether you are disabled. Further, they decide just how severe the disability is in your case. The problem is, the C&P doctors usually must see several veterans in one day and do not have time to completely review medical records and do a proper exam. A VA-ordered exam that disproves your claim means it is even more important to have an Independent Medical Examination (IME) that could offset that opinion. If the veteran presents evidence that raises an element of doubt, then, by law, the VA must rule in the veteran’s favor.”
Veterans’ advocate John D. Roche’s Survival Guide: How to File and Collect on VA Claims, confirms Dr. Bash’s assessment of C&P examinations, “Medical examiners assigned to the C&P unit are notorious for spending only five to twenty minutes with a patient. The evaluation may be flawed because the examination was all or in most part performed by a physician’s assistant, nurse practioner, or resident student doctor.”
Roche’s conclusion on the C&P examination is if your claim is denied “do not accept the results of the VA examination as conclusive and absolute.” If the claim is denied because of a C&P examination, Roche recommended that “the services of a private specialist be obtained to refute the findings of any VA physician.”
Dr. Bash said that: “He will analyze your medical record and prepare a written statement presenting all medically sound evidence that can help ensure a positive decision. While he will not present anything that is not true, he can and will use the right language and procedures to build the facts in a professional way. (VA doctors rarely do this for a veteran.) Your IME will present solid evidence of your level of disability, as supported by your medical record and substantiated, as he deems necessary, in light of relevant medical research, protocol, and expected standard of care.”
If you are a disabled veteran and can afford the fee, these are a few of the compelling reasons to obtain an independent medical evaluation. Dr. Bash’s education and 22 years of experience in preparing independent medical evaluations (IMEs) and success rate has got to get your attention. There is no fee for a consultation. If there no medical basis for a VA claim, Dr. Bash will not sign off on an IME or charge the veteran for his review.