RI Veterans: Did you know? 22 July 21 – John A. Cianci

by John A Cianci, Department Veterans Service Officer,

                             Italian American War Veterans (ITAM)

Understanding the VA Claim Process – Never Too Late To File

Did you know it’s never too late to file a claim with the VA for an injury or an illness linked to your service?

Did you know a claim for service connected disability can be filed by any honorably discharged veteran who served on active duty?

For example, a Veteran A served during the Korea and Vietnam War and deals with constant ringing or buzzing noise in one or both ears that may be constant or come and go, often associated with hearing loss.

Veteran A is discharged in 1965, and never goes to the VA. However, over 55 years after being discharged he continues to have issues with hearing. He decides to enroll in the VA Healthcare system in 2019; one benefit of being eligible and enrolled in the VA healthcare is the estimated $200 co-pays a month savings Veteran A for his prescriptions by having the VA provide the prescriptions instead of Medicare and the private insurance he has.

In addition, the VA issued Veteran A no-cost hearing aids and batteries after the Veteran was diagnosed with a hearing loss and tinnitus.

Later, Veteran A is chatting with Veteran B at the VA. Veteran B tells him not only does the VA supply his hearing aids, he receives a monthly $144.14 service connected disability for tinnitus.

Why? Because Veteran B filed a claim for the hearing impairments, and was able to link that the hearing impairment was a result of his service; Veteran B military occupation specialty (MOS)  was 11B, infantryman on the MOS noise exposure as “highly probable”.  In addition, with the claim, Veteran B filed as evidence a lay statement; detailing his MOS and if a specific issue with a hearing and or ringing of the ears started as loud noise exposure while serving.

The combined aforementioned evidence, Veteran B MOS and his lay statement was compelling evidence to support hearing loss and tinnitus originated while on active service. Veteran was rated:

Hearing – 0% compensated – $0

Tinnitus – 10% compensated – $144.14

Service connection may be granted for chronic disability arising from disease or injury incurred in, or aggravated by active service. Service connection generally requires:

(1) medical evidence of a current disability;

(2) medical or, in certain circumstances, lay evidence of in-service incurrence or aggravation of a disease or injury; and

(3) medical evidence of a nexus between the claimed in-service disease or injury and the current disability. 

Service connection may be granted for any disease diagnosed after discharge, when all the evidence, including that pertinent to service, establishes that the disease was incurred in service.   

Tinnitus is not a “chronic disease” Lay assertions may serve to support a claim for service connection by establishing the occurrence of observable events or the presence of disability or symptoms of disability subject to lay observation. 

VA disability compensation is awarded to Veterans when currently diagnosed disabilities are linked to their service. When a disability is linked to service that disability is called “service-connected.”

If a Veteran believes a disability is linked to service, they can file a claim for VA disability compensation with the VBA (Benefits). A disability can be service connected on a direct basis, on a secondary basis, presumptive basis, aggravation or an injury by the VA. 

The requirements for direct service connection are straight forward: (1) a current diagnosis, (2) an event in service, and (3) a medical nexus (link) between the event in service and the current diagnosis.

A disability not related directly to service can be service-connected on a secondary basis when a service-connected disability is causing the secondary disability. A nexus is required. Nexus opinions can only be provided by medical professionals.

I’m going to talk about direct and secondary here. 

Too many Veterans fail to file claims for service-connected disabilities. Often, the Veteran feels he would be taking from a veteran in need. Just the opposite is true, since funding decisions are based on actual numbers. Simply put, the more veterans receiving service-connected disabilities, the more funds are allocated by congress.

Numerous organizations have trained Veteran Service Officers offering FREE assistance to Veterans and their dependents in preparing and filing a claim for a CA disability.   

VETTIP: If you need assistance filing a VA claim, call the State of Rhode Island Office of Veterans Services, (401) 921-2119, tell them you need assistance in filing a VA claim for service connected disabilities. According to the office of veterans services, you will be referred to a partner who can assist you. Moreover, the office of veterans services tracks your case to ensure the partnering office is able to assist you.

Any questions or help needed, contact the Italian American War Veteran Service Officer, John A Cianci,

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I file my claim?

File your claim by mail using an Application for Disability Compensation and Related Compensation Benefits (VA Form 21-526EZ).

Print the form, fill it out, and send it to this address:

Department of Veterans Affairs
Claims Intake Center
PO Box 4444
Janesville, WI 53547-4444

In person

Bring your application to a VA regional office near you:

VBA Providence, RI – 380 Westminster St., Providence, RI 02903

With the help of a trained professional

You can work with a trained professional called an accredited representative to get help filing a claim for disability compensation.


August 6, 2021 RING Summer Reunion, 11:00am Quonset Officer’s Club,  200 LT James Brown Rd. N, Kingston, RI. Cut-Off date is Aug 3, 2021. Early responses would be greatly appreciated. As always, spouses, friends, guest and significant others are always welcome. It’s an opportunity to reunite with friends whom we served with over the years.  A hot buffet will be included in $27.00 PP cost.  Make checks payable to mail to Bob Antonelli, 9 Hurlburt Ave, Johnston, RI 02919.

September 15-20, 2021, USMC Tankers Association Facility: Crown Plaza Providence-Warwick, 801 Greenwich Ave., Warwick RI 02886. Point of Contact Name: John Wear. Point of Contact Telephone: 719-495-5998. Point of Contact Email: johnwear2 @  Comments: The USMC Vietnam Tankers Association will be holding our 12th biennial reunion. Anyone who served with any of the Marine tank battalions or Ontos units in Vietnam . . . in any capacity is welcome!

John A. Cianci is a Veteran Service Officer. Retired, U.S. Army MSgt., Persian Gulf War and Iraq War combat theater.

Cianci, a combat disabled Veteran, served in Desert Shield/Storm and Operation Iraqi Freedom. His awards include Bronze Star, Combat Action Badge, Good Conduct, and others.

Cianci belongs to numerous veterans organizations – Italian American War Veterans, American Legion, Veterans of Foreign War, United Veterans Council of Rhode Island, and many more organizations. He is an active volunteer assisting veterans to navigate federal and state benefits they have earned. He is Department of Rhode Island Department Commander Italian American War Veterans and Veteran Service Officer.

He is a graduate of Roger Williams University (BS Finance), UCONN business school* (Entrepreneur Bootcamp For Veterans), Solar Energy International Residential, Commercial and Battery Based Photovoltaic Systems certificate programs, numerous certificates from the Department of Defense renewable energy programs, including graduate of the Solar Ready Vets Program.