LZ CORK–GROUNDHOG DAY-CAVC # 17-3214

I apologize to my readership for being AWOL. I do have a pass from Teacher. Teacher being the VA. After a summer spent trying to inveigle the VA into completing his claims, Butch took matters into his own hands and decided to kite off a letter to the CAVC in a vain attempt to speed up the process. Face it, if you’ve spent two and a half years waiting for a C&P exam for your Ischemic Heart Disease, had your leg amputated above the knee and VA is insisting you need to “refile” the claim because it was denied in 2015 but they plumb forgot to tell you about it, it’s probably high time to consider an Ex Writ. 

One thing about an Extraordinary Writ of Mandamus is that it grabs the VA by the short hairs at your local VA. Butch’s love letter to the Court sure had a pretty dramatic result as well. Let me explain how this works in DickandJanespeak. VA goes from 0 to 60 in slightly under 4 seconds. That doesn’t mean they’ll get it right though, And in some cases, there is clear bias and yes, dare I say, adversarial retribution for having the gall not to discuss it with the local yokels beforehand or giving them the opportunity to shuck and jive you for another year or two.

As advocates, we are taught to advance in measured paces toward an Ex Writ. The Lexis Nexis Veterans Benefits Manual (VBM), our “Bible” on how to litigate, advises us to write a letter begging- begging, mind you- the RO bozos to get their defecation in an orderly pile and do us the favor of producing that which is overdue. If, after a month or two, it fails to jar them into some semblance of obeying our wishes, we are instructed to try, try again. A third (or fourth)entreaty after another polite 30-90 days is advised with the Ex Writ “carrot on the stick” now unveiled from out of the advocate’s bag of tricks as a threat. But just a threat, mind you. The object is to avoid being an asshat and politely try to convince them that your patience will be reaching its end in a year or two.

After this six to nine month “dance”, it is deemed permissible to finally send them the 30-day letter with the pin removed from the hand grenade and the promise that it will be tossed sans bail if no action is forthcoming. I don’t cotton to that technique. If VA knows they can blow smoke up the Advocate’s ass for six to seven months with no repercussions, it’s a good bet they’ll just delay  anyway to see what you’re made of.  I prefer the “Surprise, Surprise, Surprise, Sgt. Carter” method.  I call my technique Ex Parte Fait Accompli. There’s just nothing that says F*ck You like answering the VARO front door on Monday morning and finding that Ex Writ hand grenade on the doorstep with no bail. In Butch’s case, it’s 47 years overdue. Don’t forget they handed him a hat full of 0% ratings for his SFWs back in 1970.

VA Minders

I  discovered my readership had increased the last time I filed an Ex Writ. I had VA correspondence completing a few bitches in my mailbox before I even got my docket number back from the CAVC the last time. Obviously, the Seattle RO has assigned a “minder” to me and they caught it coming out of the chute. The standard practice in Ex Writs is a) you bitch to the Court; b)the Court gives the VA 30 days to report back to them and explain why Mr. Asknod is so upset; and c) in that thirty days, the shit contacts the rotary oscillator with gusto. Everything is “fixed” after a fashion and the VA reports back that they cannot, for the life of them, figure out what in Sam Hill that demented jackwad in Seattle is complaining about because they already did it (last week). They aren’t  apologetic about the fact that they finished it thirty minutes before they submitted their response to the Court. Jez, they don’t even blush or apologize. I don’t reckon I could pull that off without a big, shit-eatin’ grin from ear to ear.

In Butch’s  case, the repair order for this Ex Writ was a resounding bitchslap. Butch filed the Writ September 15th or so. The Court sent out the “whazzup?” 30-day letter on September 28th. VA denied the IHD on October 12th. Coincidence, you say? They declared it wasn’t on the list of presumptives for AO. I kid you not. They purposefully came up with some bogus diagnosis on his heart and ignored all the evidence we submitted clearly diagnosing it as atherosclerosis and ischemia. Butch even let them know his new moniker was  “Hopalong Long”. The problem with this type of 78 RPM justice is they  freely admitted they were in constructive possession of the evidence of the coronary artery disease. This wasn’t the run-of-the-mill “Wow, sorry Butch. We didn’t dial on that dx of CAD. We’ve been holding that in the evidence locker since March 2015 but somehow we disremembered the amputation. We’ll be getting back to you real soon, hear? And don’t forget to mail in another NOD on it so we can begin your substantive appeal in 2018.”

Aruuuuuuuuuuuuuuu?

These folks seem to forget what they’ve already said and done. When we went in for the DRO hearing in February this year, the DRO politely refused to discuss the IHD on appeal saying she couldn’t adjudicate a decision on a claim that had not been decided up or down yet. Three months later she was telling us we had to refile for it if we wanted VA to adjudicate it in this lifetime.  Can’t you just see Tim Allen saying “Aruuuu?” about now?

This explains my silence on the subject around here as well. I’m not admitted to practice at the CAVC yet so I walk softly and carry a big stick.  After he had filed pro se, I agreed to help Butch “revise and extend” his remarks on how VA has been treating him in more polished English. A day after I sent in an explanation of the 2.5 year delay, the October 12th denial showed up. To say I was flabbergasted is a masterpiece of understatement. I figured, at a bare minimum,  a 100% SMC M was going to be in the envelope. Hence my analogy to Groundhog Day (the movie). I should not have expected anything less than a denial. Doing VA claims is a classic study of repetitive error. They’re condemned to getting it wrong every time. But is it contrived error or simply innocent stupidity?

VA can do many things to us and get away with it. They have since the War of 1812 and I don’t see it changing any time soon. What they cannot do is act in a vindictive, adversarial manner. Now granted, Butch didn’t exactly played the Ex Writ game according to Hoyle in VA’s eyes. I admit he didn’t go through the hoopla of three or four 30-days letters with dire warnings that baaaaaaaad things were going to happen if they didn’t play nice.  He did what Veterans always do. He waited patiently for two and half years.  In CAVCland, they give you two years to git’rdone. After that, it’s considered “an arbitrary refusal to act”. And if VA comes back and tell you to refile a claim that has not been decided in the first instance, why,  that’s out and out error. A claim remains pending until there is some evidence a Veteran can see and understand something-preferably written- that would convince him the claim was dead, done and denied. It sure doesn’t require having to keep sending in requests begging for finality. But boy howdy if you kite off a letter to the Court begging them to fix it and VA comes back with a bogus denial like a quickie divorce in Reno, the Court views that as “adversarial” and not very “veteran friendly”. VA can punish us in a lot of different ways and they frequently do. They just can’t do it while the Court is watching. That’s a Bozo no-no at all our 56 VAROs across the fruited plain. Why, the Court might get the impression that the VA is mean-spirited and anti-Vet. Perish the thought, mon ami.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Hopalong Butch sent the Court this picture of his brand new Agent Orange present along with the Ex Writ. I wonder how the VA is going to to look  CAVC Judge Michael Allen straight in the face and say “Reasonable minds can agree that a diagnosis of cardiac diastolic dysfunction with mild left ventricular hypertrophy does not, in and of itself, occasion the amputation of a lower extremity above the knee, your honor. Personally, we think he’s bullshitting us. We sure hope you don’t fall for it, too.”

I expect that had Butch allowed me to give the readership a blow-by-blow description of this Ex Writ in a blog writeup a month ago, VA would have quickly counterpunched with gusto and headed us off at the pass. The last thing I figured was they’d screw this up and deny it. That’s why we waited and allowed them to clothesline themselves. That’s also why this Groundhog Day analogy is so à propos. A leopard simply cannot change his spots. This is vintage VA denial and par for the course.  My guess is they’ll claim it was accidentally dumped  into the National Work Queue and some FNG gomer GS-7 in Togus or Sioux Falls cranked out a denial 30 minutes before lunch hour on the 12th.  Ooops. Wrong End Product. Too bad (s)he didn’t actually read the evidence of record. You can’t just undo a denial.VA has to CUE themselves.

VA has some taaaaaaaaaaaall talking to do and their Respondent’s response is due on October 26th or they turn into a pumpkin and mice. For you numerically challenged VA minders, that works out to next Thursday by 1700 EDT. Stay tuned here for the next update. I’m sure it’s going to be a daisy. Same Vet time. Same Vet channel.

P.S. Here’s Butch’s 10/16/17 update to the Court. Incoming!

Long ExWrit with VA IHD denial filed 10-16-17

 

Posted in Extraordinary Writs of Mandamus, KP Veterans, VA Agents, VA Conspiracies, VA Medical Mysteries Explained | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

PHANTOM PIANO PLAYER

SquareBob Lawpants

As per all of your requests I share really good jokes, I hereby submit SquareBob Lawpants’ latest. I only got one ride in an F 4E in 1969 with my father flying GIF but I can tell you it will part your hair when you hit afterburner. The joke is risqué but manages to fall within our narrow parameters that it not be too explicit or obscene. Forthwith, I submit for your enjoyment

 

A gray-headed old man shuffled into a downtown bar holding his head up high.  His hands shook as he took the “piano player wanted” sign from the window and handed it to the bartender. “I’d like to apply for the job,” he said. “I was a navy f-4 pilot off the USS coral sea. I learned to play the piano at officers’ club happy hours while in port, so here I am.”

 

The barkeep wasn’t too sure about this doubtful looking old guy, but it had been quite a while since he had a piano player and business was falling off. So, why not give him a try.

 

The old pilot shuffled his way over to the piano while several patrons snickered. By the time he was into his third bar of music, every voice was silenced. What followed was a rhapsody of soaring music unlike anything heard in the bar before. When he finished there wasn’t a dry eye in the place.

 

The bartender took the old navy pilot a beer and asked him the name of the song he had just played.  It’s called “drop your skivvies, baby, I’m going balls to the wall for you” he said.  After a long pull from the beer, leaving it empty, he said “I wrote it myself.”

 

The bartender and the crowd winced at the title, but the piano player just went on into a knee-slapping, hand-clapping bit of ragtime that had the place jumping.  After he finished, the f-4 pilot acknowledged the applause, downed a second offered mug, and told the crowd the song was called, “big boobs make my afterburner light.”

 

He then launched into another mesmerizing song and everyone in the room was enthralled. He announced that it was the latest rendition of his song, “spread ’em baby, it’s foggy out tonight and I need to see the centreline”, excused himself and headed for the john.

 

When he came out the bartender went over to him and said, “hey, fly boy, the job is yours; but do you know your fly is open and your pecker is hanging out?”

 

“Know it?” the old fighter pilot replied, “hell, I wrote it!”

Posted in All about Veterans, Humor, KP Veterans, NOVA Attorneys, VA Agents, VA Attorneys, Vietnam War history | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

CUE–MALCOLM IN THE MIDDLE-§3.303(a) or §3.303(b)? WHICH ONE DO I USE?

They say some things just jump up and bite you on the butt -mentally, I mean. As I mentioned several weeks ago on a Hadit.com podcast, arguing with VA is a technique. VA is about as vague as a New England fog. And for goodness’ sake, make sure you’re arguing the right thing with them. As I’ve mentioned before, nothing gives you that sinking feeling in the gut when you discover VA has been alluding to your Hepatitis C claim and not your hepatitis B claim… or worse, your “infectious” Hepatitis A claim. Aaaaarhuuuuuuuu??? Hep A???

Malcolm spent an eternity trying to get VA just to acknowledge he still had active hepatitis of any kind 10 years after he got out. He filed and lost right out of the gate (but only for Hep B) which we’ll discuss below. He refiled and finally won- 0% in 2004 as he should have received in 1991-but for Hep C- not the Hep B in 1991. Another five years netted him a “sorta” win at the Fed. Circus and a new Texas Necktie Party. He got 10% for four years and then back to zilch. Those remands can come around full tilt and bite you in the ass too- and it isn’t exactly a mental feeling either when that happens.

After sifting through every last thing in Malcolm’s file, I began to examine the semantics of his CUE denial from the 1991 rating decision to the end (last week) of the third CUE claim denial. VA would still like to cling to the fig leaf of characterizing Malcolm’s bout with viral Hepatitis B as “acute” and/or “infectious hepatitis”-another name for Hepatitis A. Check out his latest denial. Houston, you have a problem.

As we all know in 38 CFR §3.303(a) as well as §3.1, the clear requirement for S/C for any disease or injury is that it simply must occur on active duty and you weren’t bungee jumping off bridges without a permit. Bungee jumping is covered by  §3.301 under willful misconduct.

So, assuming you incurred hepatitis, sinusitis, a broken left pinkie and a scratched eyeball in service, all of which were deemed in the Line of Duty and well-documented in the STRs, which of these would you ever guess would be denied by VA?

a) all

b)all but the eyeball

c)all but the pinkie

d)just the hep

e) none of the above

Check this out.

The pencil puke at the end is a post hoc CYA. The rater forgot to consider the application of §3.324:

§ 3.324 Multiple noncompensable service-connected disabilities.

Whenever a veteran is suffering from two or more separate permanent service-connected disabilities of such character as clearly to interfere with normal employability, even though none of the disabilities may be of compensable degree under the 1945 Schedule for Rating Disabilities the rating agency is authorized to apply a 10-percent rating, but not in combination with any other rating.

I’d love to meet this ratings board. In one paragraph, they deny hep for no residuals and then grant 0% SC for the pinkie …because there are no residuals.  Is that a speshull kind of dumb or do they teach that at VA Raters School? Can the M 21 be that discombobulated as to generate  two entirely diametrically opposed interpretations of law in one paragraph? Put on your helmets and take your protein pill, folks. Welcome to  38 CFR mysogination world. If the ultimate goal is denial of a claim, anything is fair game. I’ve seen this trick  frequently and it amazes me more of you don’t file a CUE and go after them on it. You will need a decision that explicitly describes why they denied for the “gottcha” which generally rules out the older ratings decisions before 1990.

Most of you remember Walker v. Shinseki (2013) where the OGC krewe finally decyphered the meaning of what they wrote in 1962 (38 CFR 38 CFR §3.303(b). God, that must have been embarrassing as hell to get to the Fed Circus and have them tell you it only applies to chronic problems on the 38 CFR §3.309 list. Fifty one years of brain fart.

And that’s what I found here on Malcolm. VA granted the left pinkie and the eyeball scratch -at zero percent of course-  under the auspices of  38 CFR §3.303(a) but turned around and denied the hep and the sinusitis under 38 CFR §3.303(b) because they weren’t chronic and compensably rateable at 10% or more. That’s a CUE of a different color and one that sticks out like a flat tire on old Mr. Pharaoh’s chariot. You can’t get away with granting two claims based on their incurrance in service and then deny the other two because they happened in service but were healed and asymptomatic at discharge and not rateable at 10% or more. Well, maybe you could get away with it in Tennessee or Kentucky if a fellow had one too many of them Oxycontin lolipops-but as a general rule, no you can’t.

So, how many of you have old, unappealed ratings denials that exhibit this ass-backwards approach to claims adjudication? Oddly enough, I got whacked with the exact same phrase for my back injury in 89- just two years earlier. It was acute and resolved before discharge.

Proving CUE is about like riding a tricycle in this instance. But wait for the punchline on this one. Malcolm must have Deja vu disease or God is watching over this boy. When he actually got to the BVA with his CUE for an earlier effective date and a CUE on the 1991 decision, he was conned into dropping any claims for Hepatitis B and focusing strictly on Hepatitis C to the exclusion of all other flavors of hepatitis. I guess that would confer the semantic “infectious” on Hep C too now.

What you are seeing now is CUE compounding itself with more CUE. VA is so confused, they’re making errors as to what disease was subsumed in a prior BVA decision.

 

 HOW MANY TIMES CAN I FILE CUE?

Legally, we can file any number of Motions to Revise (a CUE filing) and get a decision. Each succeeding theory has to be different from the last to be entertained by VA though. However, if you take one of these CUE claims to appeal and are denied at the BVA, that’s the end of that CUE claim theory-forever and ever. While the VLJ (Keith Allen) might have denied an EED in 2009 and declared no CUE error in the 1991 decision, it only applied to Hepatitis C because Malcolm had unwittingly chosen to withdraw any 1991 CUE claim theory for Hepatitis B several months prior to his BVA decision. Malcolm ought to seriously consider buying Lotto tickets with that kind of prescience.

Confused yet? Don’t be. Malcolm will win the 1991 CUE claim-probably in a panel at the CAVC. VA is already trotting out the mention that the HEP B claim was subsumed forever in 2009 by the BVA decision. I guess they should have read page two (above). In the Conclusions of Law on page three, VLJ Allen was very circumspect about which “hepatitis”  he characterized as “hepatitis”. This preserved Malcolm’s right to request a new Motion for Revision at some future date… like this year. It’s almost eerie how Allen was anally precise in putting a corral around 1991 with respect to Hep C  only and leaving Hep B  for another day.  Jez, you don’t suppose he did it on purpose, do you?

Can you see why VA law is so much fun now? You get to make VLJs,  VA raters and DROs look like complete boobs. Of course, you can’t be obnoxious and drag their noses through it. Think of it like Fox News… We Report. You Decide.™ If the VA “examiner” is dense, he won’t get it. It took me a few passes for a good BDA before the §3.303(a) and (b) dichotomy sank in. I’m hoping Malcolm’s DRO review Coach will finally “get” it. Just in case, I drew a really good stick map in the dirt for them.

Melancon 0958 11 extra pages 10-11-17

Now, I guess we have to assess whether this was purposeful or an unfortunate ratings mishap. And that’s all I’m gonna say about that. Happy CUEs to you until we meet again.

Posted in CUE, KP Veterans, Tips and Tricks, VA Agents | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Hepatitis A: severe illness and deaths hit San Diego homeless population

Over the last few months, Frank, an avid reader about all things “US Vet,” has emailed several articles to me about the hepatitis A (HAV) outbreak in San Diego (SD) to share with Asknod’s folk.  The ongoing story has many aspects that deserve our attention.

Home to 60 Naval ships, (LINK) homeless SD Veterans are among those who have to live in the unbearable conditions that have led to the spread of this highly contagious form of hepatitis. 

Statistics, according to one article, suggest that perhaps 10-15% of the SD homeless population are veterans. (LINK)

The annual count of homeless people taken in January found 1,054 homeless veterans in the county. Of those, 600 were sheltered and 454 were unsheltered. In all, the county had 9,116 homeless people, with 5,619 in San Diego.

Click image to go to San Diego Health Dept.

A 9/19/17 Huffingtonpost article (LINK) has revealed in common terms some of the realistic strategies SD is taking.

An outbreak of hepatitis A, a dangerous but preventable disease that is spread through fecal contamination and attacks the liver, has gotten so out of hand in San Diego that the county government is handing out plastic poop bags and washing the streets with bleach.

Why? Because there aren’t enough public bathrooms for people to use to evacuate and wash their hands.  HAV may also be an unintended consequence of a recent single-use plastic bag ban, according to some (LINK):

Homeless people learned long ago that pooping in plastic-bag-lined containers meant you could wrap the session up and dispose of all the stuff without touching it,… So when it got harder to get the bags after the ban went into effect late last year, it became harder to find the bags…

Plenty of people discounted the plastic-bag theory but San Diego County Public Health Officer Wilma Wooten was not one of them.

“Yes, absolutely, we know people use the bags for that,” she said. “We know people don’t have bathrooms and they can put bags in cans and buckets and maintain good hygiene. That’s why we put plastic bags in the hygiene kits we’re handing out. That’s what we expect people will use them for.”

Note, the article from which the above quote is taken (and comments by locals) are worth a read.

Only 2,400 kits distributed in mid-September? Each person would need several kits per day!

What else is SD doing?  Portable hand-washing stations, opened a tent city (LINK), more toilets, lots of free vaccinations.  More on sanitation efforts:  (LINK)

On SD homeless Veterans (LINK)

Class-action lawsuit against SD by those who must sleep in their cars (LINK)

Timelines (LINK);   (LINK)

VA 

Couldn’t find much more from the SD VA but I expect they are doing outreach.

The SD strain has spread to other towns, including one in Arizona.  Know anything more about this?  We tend to think HAV isn’t such a big deal.

Kiedove

Posted in All about Veterans, Food for thought, General Messages, Guest authors, hepatitis, hepatitis A (HAV), VA Health Care, VA statistics | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

VIETNAM–1970-1973

In one of the Vietnam era’s most enduring images, Mary Ann Vecchio kneels over the body of Kent State student Jeffrey Miller in a parking lot at Taylor Hall. (Copyright John Filo photo)

I watched with more than normal avidness the 1970-73 Ken Burns installment of the “Undeclared War” (as the Veterans of Foreign Wars characterized it) several days ago. Unlike the newer generation of Video game players, I choose not to digest such a vast quantity of death and mayhem on a nightly basis. 

The Kent State massacre-and let’s be frank in calling it a massacre- occurred May 4th. That was eleven days before I boarded my Pan Am World Airways flight for points west from Travis Air Force Base. It was the sole source of discussion among us as we wended our way to Hawaii, Guam and finally Saigon. The tenor of our conversations was varied from rednecks saying they had it coming to pacifists asking who, in their right minds, would open fire on unarmed students.

As a FNG, my sentiments were pro-American in my assessment of why I was doing this. Hell, yes I was patriotic. Hell, yes I was doing it to combat communism. And most assuredly I was gung ho but a niggling doubt had begun to fester about five minutes after I heard about the “four dead in Ohio”. It would be a while before Neil Young penned his famous song but the sentiment and the seeds of doubt were planted and germinating as I flew over the Pacific.

I spent two years over there voluntarily. I could have signed up for a third without even thinking about it but something inside me had begun to rot. It was evident materiel  support was drying up. The seeds of hope for my making a difference had withered and died in the first year. The second was filled with the dread of eventually having to return to the World and the anger afoot there. Most of us in-theatre had come to the rude conclusion that if this “conflict” was destined for failure, dying for it was an equal waste of time.

WHO WANTED TO BE THE LAST TO DIE?

I am no fan of John Kerry but his congressional speech asked a blunt question-who wanted to be remembered as the last one to die for a cause few in America believed in? In spite of the fact that none of us heard that contemporary testimony, our sentiments were virtually identical. It was not for lack of patriotism but that our beliefs mimicked that of the majority of Americans (or so said Kerry). In reality, our fervor for warfare had not abated one bit. We just chose to be more careful and less assuming that we were bulletproof. I’m sure the level of Medal of Honor winners took a nosedive about that time. Valor in combat unsupported by public opinion generally garners few takers.

Does anyone notice the absolute dearth of research and discussion of the CIA, USAID, or my alma mater Air America so far? Seems like a pretty significant oversight until you realize a lot of them have 50 or 70-year Nondisclosure agreements.

Jumping ahead to 1972- I apologize- and my return home, I have to admit I wasn’t spit on. I arrived at 0200 at Travis dressed in camo fatigues, jungle boots and a boony hat to an empty terminal and no customs agents. I took the bus to SF International and a flight back to DC for 30 days leave. The only demonstrators were the Hari Krishna folks who desired money and no fealty to a cause.  I was certainly not anti-war but neither was I anti-American or anti-military. My belief system in what I had done for the last two years was shaken but not eviscerated.

Over the next eight months I discovered the depth of the hatred for the military, its members and any who wore the uniform publicly. Several friends who came home behind me told tales of being awarded the Saliva medal with several oak leaf clusters at the Frisco Airpatch. Truthfully, I’m glad I missed that. In retrospect, it is immaterial as a defining moment. The next twenty years or so were a constant daily reminder that what I (we) had done was evil and we’d burn in a special kind of Hell reserved for people like us who had fallen under the spell of the Military Industrial complex. Then America forgot. Few of us, myself included, would even admit to military service let alone service in country to our kids. It was not a conversation starter in polite circles. An example…eleven years later

In 1987, I remodeled a house in an upscale, tony part of Bellevue, Washington for some friends. My clients asked me to attend the housewarming to meet possible clients. Virtually everyone in Meydenbauer Bay was well-heeled. Many were decidedly progressive thinkers with a strong liberal tilt. About halfway through the evening, a well-oiled doyen rolled up in front of me with a martini and rudely insinuated herself between me and the folks I was talking to. Mrs. Vermouth loudly announced

Doyen: “Our host informs me you are a Vietnam Veteran and fought in that war. ”

Me: “Well, yessss. I rarely discuss that now. It brings back bad memories.”

Doyen: (Smiling to her left and right) “So tell me- how could you kill all those poor women and children? Did it give you great pleasure? Exactly how mentally deranged are you?”

Having watch Full Metal Jacket recently, and being fairly well lubricated myself, the only thought  that came to mind was to bogart the similar rejoinder I heard in the movie:

“Why, actually, it’s quite easy ma’m. Allow me to explain. First, we use tracers to see where we’re shooting. and secondly, it’s speed.  You don’t have to lead them as much because they can’t run as fast with the kids in tow.”

Wrooooooooong answer. I was asked politely by the hostess to decamp immediately. I’m sure some one cleaned up the martini spill before it damaged the newly refinished hardwood floor. That, folks, was eleven years after the war. There weren’t a bunch of us running around wearing Vietnam Veteran hats with unit insignia. We didn’t have VIETNAM- I SERVED  bumper stickers on our cars or Disabled Veteran license plates.

And then one day, we went back to war in Iraq, ditto Afstan. Suddenly, being in the military was cool beans again. Americans once more stood as one behind us. The yellow ribbon fever went up on the rocks ever so slightly when our citizens looked over their shoulder and viewed  their parents’ actions re Vietnam in retrospect. Ne problemo. The Millennial repair order was simple. Welcome them home belatedly and give them a few attaboys. Have a big VA-sponored Stand Down for those less fortunate plus a couple new pairs of socks and a toothbrush. How about a job fair? Mental Health counseling, anyone?  Sales of yellow ribbon and American Flags went through the roof. All of a sudden everyone was your #1 Huckleberry. You served? Why, thank yew f’ryer’ service, Bubba from the bottom of my most newly found heart. I call it wounded warrior syndrome after soooo many years of war.

Public opinion, like my daddy used to say, is like riding the 16- hand thoroughbred in a parade – Every one can see you. Everyone remembers you and what you stand for. That little Vietnam bitchslap caused four decades of America disremembering Vietnam Veterans.  Far too many of “us” were divorced from America too- afraid to even discuss the subject.  I guess you could say we’re riding high again. Our opinion counts for something apparently or else America isn’t as jaded as I thought (yet).

As most Americans  are aware, National Football League players decided that disrespecting Trump, BLM, the symbol of our Service to our Country, the National Anthem, disrespect for folks of color by cops or (insert complaint here __________) needed to be protested now… on the job… in uniform… during the playing of the National Anthem… Okay. I get that. It’s protected by the First Amendment. I would sign up again;  yea serve again to protect that right. Even though, collectively speaking as a Veteran, it feels strangely reminiscent of a bitchslap aeons ago in 1972.  Age has a wonderful habit of rounding the edges off of distasteful memories. Sadly, it doesn’t erase them.

The recent Come to Jesus Meeting that occurred yesterday across the NFL Nation speaks volumes. While we and the MSM slept through the news cycle, Trump belatedly apologized to NFL players for his offensive tweets and recent, desultory comments in Alabama.  In the same vein, white, racist Cops across the fruited plain mutually concurred and agreed to start “respecting” black people and other minorities from here on out. In fact, all matters of any kind in dispute were met. That having been settled, it is now once again de rigeur  for NFL Players to stand and optionally permissible to cover your heart with your right hand during the playing of the National Anthem. I’d say it takes a speschull kind of stupid to buy into that. Occam’s Razor suggests it’s our old friend money. The Come to Jesus Meeting was about nothing more than $. Revenues and America on the 16 hand horse named Public Opinion reveal a decline of 9% in viewership and projected revenue from advertising. Ruh-oh, Rorge. Regardless the reason, all is well again.

And speaking of parades, throwing one specifically to honor Vietnam Vets (to the exclusion of others), is like stale champagne with a cigarette butt floating it. It’s decades way past time, too. No Vet wants to attend a Pity Party in his or her honor. I mean, how to you couch that invitation? Yo, Dude. You’ll, like, never believe this but somehow we were, like, all in the dark about this Vietnam thing. Totally, dude. It’s our parent’s fault. Nobody told us, dude. So we’d like to have this, this ya know parade kind of thing to honor you…  like now, ya know, in 2017… like better late than never, huh? Get it? After that, we can all go over to the VFW bar for a few brewskis and we can sign you up for a Lifetime Membership. You get the senior discount, ya know, if you’re over 65. Cool beans huh?

Anne’s Last Chance 15 15/16 H   Win 6 Place 8 Show 4

At this late date, I don’t think I could be enticed into a parade… well, unless it was a local one right here on the Key Peninsula… and if they let me drive my rare ’73 TR-6 with touring bars… and if they let me put the most hugest bodacious Tactical Air Command patch you ever saw on the hood…well, then… maybe I’d agree to do it… but only once. I’m just not much of a parade kind of guy. Jez, what am I thinking? I have a magnificent 16 hand Thoroughbred named Anne’s Last Chance…

 

 

Happy Football Season and the consequential return to sanity, folks. We, collectively, as Veterans of some war- declared or undeclared- thank everyone for this finding of fact and conclusion by the NFL players.

Posted in All about Veterans, polls, Vietnam War history | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Catch up on episodes of The Vietnam War

Episodes of this important series are available to freely watch on PBS online if you’ve missed any on TV.  You may have to register with PBS. If you have a laptop, you can pick closed captions, HD settings and screen sizes.   The first episode is called Deja Vu (1858-1961).

The program is not a strictly chronological accounting of the history leading up to American involvement but that’s okay. The narrative flows.  There are viewer warnings due to graphic violence, language, and content.  

CLICK IMAGE TO GO TO SITE.

In addition to the disturbing scenes you expect to see, are very brief glimpses of a decapitated head –the French used guillotines on the Vietnamese resisters–and other horrors like Buddhist self-immolation, famine in the North, napalm, interspersed with interviews of Vietnamese on both sides and Americans.  Particularly difficult to stomach are the political clips of the five US presidents who picked war, beginning with Truman who supported French colonialism with massive American tax dollars and led to 58,000 known deaths and countless post-war deaths and injuries.

So far, I think this is a worthwhile attempt to raise consciousness about the Vietnam War even though it jumps around a bit.  As we all review more episodes, information could be presented that may be useful in certain claims.  I strongly believe in the power of factual images and words to drive points home versus with words alone.  This is a potential quality resource.

Kiedove

Posted in Food for thought, General Messages, Guest authors, History, Uncategorized, Vietnam War history | Tagged , | 7 Comments

VIETNAM-THE VISION THAT WAS PLANTED IN MY BRAIN

One glaring similarity I share with all those who served in SEA  is the inability to this day to discuss it with those who weren’t there. It’s not for lack of finding the right words.  To this day, few ever vocalize what we endured or sum it up in descriptive adjectives. Simply put, I doubt there are enough adjectives adequate to describe even one tenth of it. Worse- no one seriously has a hankering to know the depraved depths of war at its most elementary level.

With the new Ken Burns Vietnam series comes a panoply of visual insults that can only attempt to presage what our mental fate would be forty or fifty years hence. As I’ve pointed out in a few articles I’ve written over the last eight years, not everyone’s brain is prepared to handle what we mentally inhaled on the Indochinese peninsula. I’ve been permitted to help a few of you attain what the Government and the VA have held just out of reach in those intervening years. I would never be so presumptive as to think another agent or attorney couldn’t accomplish what I’ve done, but then I can virtually count those who served over there and came home to practice VA law on my fingers. Some names you will easily recognize like Bob Walsh. Others, perhaps like Charlie Brown out of Florida, who earned the Navy Cross, may be strangers to your lips.  These men have an advantage few others do. They walked in those boots.

I’ve watched interviews of some of those affected by their 13 months in country (Marines). I’ve listened to Senator John McCain bloviate on his travails. Yes, he was recently maligned by the President but cry me a river and paddle to the other side. What does this have to do with the series? He managed to survive, become a congressman and marry into the Budweiser beer fortune so he wasn’t that damaged. Few of you know he collects a 100% compensation check monthly from VA, too.  In fact, I’ve listened to many stories but the whopper was Ken Burns himself explaining last week he was draft-age himself and “almost had to go”. That ‘s akin to serving in Saudi Arabia during the Afstan conflict and saying you feared for your life. From what? Lack of Scotch?

Talking with other combat Veterans here in my cocoon on the Key Peninsula, one ringing truth stands out. We survived. Bullets or B40s aimed at us either missed or failed to kill us. It wasn’t luck. I don’t believe in that. If it were luck, we’d all have cheated death. I met a few guys in my two years there who constantly insisted they were lucky right up to the moment they were not.

Revisiting Vietnam in a new television series will never bring peace to those of us who came home to screaming, insane crowds with a superior entitlement mentality who considered us untermenschen and irredeemable. Mr. Burns’ cinematic attempt to recast Vietnam as a study in what went wrong is misguided. That’s yesterday’s news. It doesn’t bring closure. We should throw a big, Nationwide block party and truly embrace our Sons of War to our collective bosoms. Hey. We took third place in Vietnam. Why can’t we be proud to settle for a Bronze medal in those Olympics?

All those Queshuns

Some of the things I heard or was asked during the ten years after coming home that make me smile to this day:

“So what did you do on weekends? Get drunk and party?”

“I almost went but I felt I had a greater obligation to America to finish college. Ya know?”

” I went to Canada but it was too cold in winter so I came back after it was over.”

“How could you kill all those women and children?”

“I protested that war. Somebody had to. I felt it was my duty to America.”

“You must really like violence to want to do that shit.”

“Is Napalm hot?’

Now, fifty years later, I hear equally inane comments from the very same group of fellow non-participants:

“Wow, that was a rough time, huh? I have a lot of life experiences almost identical to it.”

“How did you ever survive it? Did you smoke pot and shoot up junk?”

“Does it still affect you today?”

” I feel your pain. I had that very same feeling when my dog died.”

“Did you lose any friends?”

“Why did you stay two years if you didn’t have to? Did you have a death wish?”

And of course, the worst one of all-about 50 years overdue:

“Welcome home, Bro.”

Cupcake #1 became aware of my “history” in 1973- a mere 14 months after I returned. I managed to burn through that relationship in less than five years. I was ‘too warped’ and dwelled in the past in her words. Cupcake #2 has  always wondered how two short years in a foreign country could cast such an enduring pall on me considering I’ve lived to the ripe old age of 66. Last night, watching footage of Tet 1968, she said she finally “got it”. Few of those who were never there ever will. It wasn’t survival of the fittest. It was survival-period- for many.

Mr. Burns cannot capture the essence of calling in a CBU 26 hailstorm in words; the roar and whoosh of nape when it  sucks all the oxygen out of the air. You can hear it equally well flying overhead at 250 feet above the engine noise. Contrary to popular misconception, you can’t hear the screams of agony for several seconds over that deafening whoosh. But why revisit a discussion of something so revolting no one has been willing to talk about it for five decades? Why poke and prod at those of us who survived with foolish questions meant to pretend you share our angst? What is gained by reliving it? Let it be.

Having talked with many folks whose brains are not able to assimilate what they endured over there to this day, I gained one insight that didn’t need vocalizing. It was a no-brainer. No one who endures combat wants to relive the thrill of victory or the agony of defeat. VA is fond of Kumbaya group encounters where you stand up and say to your fellow bent brain compadres “Hi, My name is Bob. I did a year up in I Corps and I lost my entire platoon in less than two minutes west of Quang Tri. I haven’t been too tightly wrapped ever since. I just thought I’d share and relive that experience with y’all a few more times for its power to heal.  Oh yeah. And pass the Sertraline down this way, please.”

Many know of my disdain for Veterans Service Organizations and their insane desire to be nothing  more than an extension of the military mentality. I get a bang out of calling them up and asking if they have any of the records for a Veteran who has finally come to me for “real” representation. If you’ve ever seen a pit bull physically stretch a stout 1/4″ chain several inches and clothesline himself on his choke collar when you approach, I’m guessing you can visualize the analogy. To a man (or woman), the response is uniform- “Wait a minute, buddy. Just who in the hell are you? What organization do you work for?” That defensive mindset of someone entering into the bailiwick of Veterans Advocacy who is not accredited by a VSO raises the hackles on their neck. Few, if any, of these folks are real combat Veterans in spite of the tall tales you hear at their VSO bars. They have no conception of what we witnessed. Sadly, neither does the Veterans Administration. It’s one of those ‘walking in the the valley of the shadow of death’  things.

 I remember my post-Vietnam years and the early movie fare the public viewed that formed the basis of their misconceptions. Remember Apocalypse Now ? I couldn’t get a handle on that one. It didn’t jive with anything I ever experienced or heard of.

 

How about The Deer Hunter?   Here again, I guess I didn’t hang out in bars where Russian Roulette was in style like pool tables. Quite possibly more authentic than most was Stanley Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket. That at least had some remote cachet of reality like Platoon and both had excellent special effects.

 

 

 

Oliver Stone didn’t seem too awfully concerned with continuity in Born on the Fourth of July. If you want to engross and entertain the viewer, the very least you can do is adhere to reality. Look at Mr. Cruise’s medals and ribbons and you see the incongruity of a Marine combat Vet with a Purple Nurple and a BS but no Combat Action Ribbon. And why is the NDSM in the bottom row? Some will think I’m anally retentive but if you were there, you want to see reality as you remember it. If the film was just made of fluff to sell tickets with no basis in reality, I expect that’s fine. Why not insert a disclaimer? Ditto Good Morning Vietnam.

Charlie Sheen in Platoon looks too cool for school in this picture but who in their right mind would be running around with a finger on the trigger of an AK on ‘safe’ with dinks inside the wire. Sorry. Reality is AWOL.

The war I remember was filled with emotional highs and lows. It wasn’t a doom and gloom gig 24/7. There were moments of high humor. How many of you can remember taking the plastique propellant off a 60 mm mortar round and folding a c ration can lid around it with a protruding wire to make an impromptu bottle rocket?  The SFs up in Laos liked to take apart those small Swedish hand grenades and reduce the fuse to about 2 seconds. They’d leave them out on the  trail for the gooks to pick up and use. Now that’s my kind of humor. They also would leave 7.62mm ammo in cases with a round or two filled to the top with powder to demoralize the zipperheads. It’s a bitch to shoot when you’re shaking like a leaf on a tree wondering if your SKS is going to explode in your face when you pull the trigger.

Kubrick and Stone, in their wildest dreams, can never conceive of the the hi-jinks that went on in RVN, Cambodia and Laos. We lived each day as if we were bulletproof. We had to assume that or turn into morose, depressed troops. The thrill of Victory wasn’t the medals but the camaraderie of your fellow companions. The close bonds that many develop in this new Snowflake world we inhabit today can never approximate what went through your noggin when you and your buds were being shot at. The only other group I can see relating to this warped view are the guys who served, or are currently serving in Iraqistan or Afstan.

As they say, War is Hell but combat is a horse of a different color. If you got your ass kicked, you armored up philosophically and stoically proceeded to kill them right back. There was no rule book in this game from what I could gather. Animosity was a product of seeing your friends killed- not some story line about how your best friend back in Nebraska was having an affair with your girlfriend. And frankly, a point was reached after a few encounters that there was very little ‘against the law’. When the shit hits the fan, the   ROEs fly out the window.

I won’t go into semantic gerrymandering on whether it was right or wrong to fly over to a foreign country and take out a one-year hunting license for humans with a bonus for being good at it. I don’t need to. And most especially, I don’t need someone to moralize all over again about the legitimacy of it. We came. We saw. We got our ass handed to us on fine china by a superior force-one driven by an urge to be free- much like America in 1776.

If Mr. Burns and Miss Novik’s series does nothing else, it will provoke much thought that may give pause to doing this again sometime in the future. Unfortunately, George Santayana’s admonition and axiom that we have to revisit history about every fifty years to “relearn” it still holds true.  One look at Southwest Asia is all you need for confirmation.

Welcome home, Gentlemen. As you were.

And that’s all I’m going to say about that.

 

 

 

 

Posted in Agent Orange, All about Veterans, From the footlocker, History, KP Veterans, Military Madness, VA Agents, VA Attorneys, Vietnam Disease Issues, Vietnam War history | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments