CAVC–COOK v WILKIE-ADDITIONAL BVA HEARINGS

That which is not forbidden by law is permitted. Somebody at the Office of General Counsel is going to have to go back to the Drawing board and put out a new blurb in the Fed. Register to prevent this insanity. Can you imagine Veterans running back and forth willnilly to the Court and the BVA on numerous hamster wheel expeditions-all the while being granted a new hearing every time? Are you mad? Surely this path leads to madness.

It seems the Secretary’s argument against multiple hearings was nonadversarial treatment is all well and fine but let’s not take paternalistic to the extreme.  One hearing is probably one too many in the eyes of the VA hierarchy. In the olden days, it was form over substance. A Vet got his Dog and Pony Show Hearing before a Board of three JDs with one also possessing an M.D. The Standard Operating Procedure was long on words and short on ratings. Most of us lost-myself included in 1992. Were this 2018, I could make short work of this one and get myself a back disorder w/ radiculopathy. Unfortunately, I couldn’t pronounce radiculopathy let alone comprehend the medical implications. To me, it was pain shooting down my legs from my lower back. It actually felt like a bilateral hip problem. In 2018, I could win this hands down with an Independent Medical Opinion and Clemons v. Shinseki.

Here’s the case: Cook_17-2181

But that’s not why I called you here. Last night I had a London Broil barbecue anomaly that might have turned into a disaster. It closely resembled one that occurred in 1979 and bears repeating. This is a man thing-nothing misogynistic about it but its humor is ageless.

Several of my friends and I assembled one evening in 1979 after work  across the alley in my neighbor’s kitchen. We were having an impromptu Happy Hour with a few drinks and some cannabis. Roger, the friend, was home alone. His wife and kids were off to Thanksgiving in the hinterlands and Roger had to complete a job before departing. Being inlaws, I’m sure the job metastasized into  a nightmare that precluded departure until the last moment. Hence, Roger was putting a steak on in a frying pan to begin dinner as we Happy Hour’ed.

Unbeknownst to all of us, Safeway Grocery Stores, as had many others, began putting a “steak kotex” (for lack of a better name) under their steaks in the little saran-wrapped Styrofoam containers. They’re virtually invisible when you pick them up and they sizzle just like a steak when you toss them in the frying pan. This one had done its job admirably and there was little or no blood in the bottom of the container.

Roger took another hit off a joint and turned to the business of checking the progress of dinner. By now, we all could detect the unmistakable smell of burning plastic. A quick check of the trashcan confirmed no one had failed to extinguish a cigarette. One fellow went out to the living room and confirmed the stench was in the kitchen.We all looked at each other and had another toke. Much thought was given over to where this aroma could be emanating from until Roger flipped the steak.

This is where the misnomer  ‘steak kotex’ was born. To this day, spotting one brings back giggles. In a mixed group of these same friends years in the future, it’s been known to almost result in wetting your pants if you’ve had too many beers and neglected to relieve yourself. Roger, of course, was nonplussed. His mind could not grasp the burnt plastic firmly embedded in his meat nor how it arrived there. Little balls of melted white plastic were dancing around in the pan. By now, pandemonium and gales of laughter ruled. Someone choked while trying to hold in a hit of the joint. Unfair comments were made about Roger’s bizarre choices in steak seasoning. It was implied that his vision was defective and more. His parentage was called into question vis a vis wolves. And more.

A year later, Roger moved to Montana. We’re not sure if that was to escape the inlaws or the inability to live down the culinary moment.

Happy Thanksgiving to all and always check under the meat.

P.S. From Dennis:

 

Posted in CAVC Knowledge | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

FEDERAL CIRCUIT JUSTICE

Cupcake asked me to blog about this anomaly. Imagine filing your VA claim at the local Fort Fumble.  You wait 125 days (right!) for your denial. You are then in for a long wait for an appeal. We’re talking six years currently on a downhill claim that is sustainable. How is it that a CNN reporter who is disenfranchised from his job reporting the news (Mr. Jim Acosta) can obtain a court date before a Federal District Court Judge in Washington, D.C. a week later and have the case heard? I’ll wager they issue a decision within the month.  

Conservatively, it would take you or me eight years to get it docketed at the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims which, incidentally, is also a Federal Court of Appeals. Were it to go to up the CAFC (Court of Appeals for Federal Claims), it would take another year minimum for just a memorandum decision-perhaps longer for a panel.

What’s wrong with this picture? First, I am not viewing this through the lens of politics. I personally find it abhorrent that anyone, press corps or otherwise, would be so rude, crude, socially unacceptable or boorish as to treat another (let alone a sitting President) in such an abusive manner. In the same vein, I find it equally abhorrent that the President can be so intractable and socially inept in these situations. Ignoring bad behaviour is far superior to drawing attention to it- or worse- holding the individual up for a lip-whipping.

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

Thank you Dennis for the humor. Man cannot live without it. Vets certainly cannot.

Posted in BvA Decisions, CAVC ruling, CAVC/COVA Decision, Complaints Department, DRO and BVA Hearings, Humor, KP Veterans, VA Agents | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 13 Comments

HADIT.COM RADIO SHOW FOR 11/15/2018

I just received a request for my appearance on the Hadit.com podcast two days hence. We’ll be discussing an SMC client of mine with an interesting fact scenario. We’ll also be discussing an interesting precedential decision from the CAVC promulgated waaaaaay back in 1991. I attach it below so all of you can digest prior to Thursday afternoon.

We need every tool we can assemble in our “toolbox” of cites to win our claims. I guarantee you’re going to like this one (MacWhorter).

Same Bat time. Same Bat channel. Thursday the 15th at 1600 Hours on the Left Coast and of course 1900 on the (l)east coast.

Call in to listen and push 1 if you desire to ask us a question during the show. I am personally look forward to this one. Hadit.com and asknod.org  are like peas and carrots.

347-237-4819

Attached here are the discussion items:

MacWhorter_90-935a

Breniser_09-728_published_opinion_September_19

MARLOW v Brown 90-956

As a postscript to the show last night, thank you- all of you- for calling in. I know that VA law, and the all the terms and abbreviations we use, can be confusing. I try to reduce it to DickandJanespeak when possible. The subject of attaining service connection is more than I can summarize in any one radio show. I try to show you techniques and strategies to employ that VA cannot defeat. I hope all of you benefit from these. John and Jerrell are a gold nugget in Veterans claims and the radio show gives me an opportunity to share what other VA attorneys would consider valuable secret methods they would rather not share. What the hey? I sure don’t mind sharing my tricks with all of you. I’ll probably have Vets lining up for claims representation at my funeral on the off chance I may rise from the dead.

Posted in ASKNOD BOOK, CAVC Knowledge, CAVC ruling, CAVC/COVA Decision, Earlier Effective dates, KP Veterans, SMC, SVR Radio on hadit.com, VA Agents, VA Medical Mysteries Explained | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Veterans Day 2018

By some miracle, I’m still alive to celebrate again this year. Thank you Gilead Sciences. With Hepatitis C, that which doesn’t kill you nevertheless kicks the shit out of you forever. I think the same applies to VA health care but that is the subject of another blog on another day. Today is a celebration of being alive. Many who served are not. Today is a day for the living and to honor their faithful service. Europeans are free to mope around and put wreaths on graves. That isn’t what this is about. It’s a celebration of the end of a period of man fighting man over politics and religion. Those two subjects are the third rail of civility. 

My joy, as it should be, is devoted today to celebrating being alive with all my Veteran friends who are also as lucky. Far too many confuse Memorial Day as part and parcel of this gig. Today, we celebrate the end of a war and, by extension, all Veterans who have served to preserve America and its sovereignty. Some who served in peace feel their service is not as glorious. Hogwash. How many of you signed up on September 1st, 2011 only to shit your pants on the 12th? None, I venture.

Being a Veteran nowadays is becoming more the rare exception rather than the rule. No longer do we have cattle drives to the AFEES station a la draft or due to an attack on us. With the exception of 9/11/2001, things have calmed down somewhat. According to the poohbahs at the VA, there are 20.4 million of us. Given the VA’s inflated self-worth of themselves and their statistical veracity on any subject Veteran, I don’t buy it. Here’s Pew Research’s take on it. I would prefer a Remington Rand Think Tank statistic. They are always willing to spill the beans. Here’s one about AO from the Chinese. They have an excellent field laboratory next door in the DRV. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5126552/pdf/srep38012.pdf

I suppose it’s accurate but the fact remains we are becoming more exclusive than the fabled “Entitled White Misogynist Male” club. In point of fact, the numbers of my fellow Vietnam Veterans-those who actually served on the land mass of the Republic of South Vietnam- continue to decline in astonishing numbers. I personally watch in sorrow as the numbers of those who served there decline. Incredibly, every year I google this question and the number seems stuck at 850,000. Notwithstanding that, I know for a fact 28 of my Brothers-in-arms have departed since 2010. Seems they’d revise the list downward to 849,778 to comprehend the loss. Therein lies the problem. What good are stale statistics? How do you adjust the needs or finances of the VA’s medical system if the number of patients remains static in spite of their known demise? Seems similar to Chicago’s voter rolls last week. I do so wish  Roseanne Roseannadanna were still alive to opine on this phenomenon. She always brought an open mind to the table.

Fortunately for us “real” Vietnam Veterans, there are a new cohort of stolen valor pseudovets willing to step in and restore equilibrium. About the only place you don’t see them is at Veterans Day parades.  Perhaps that’s why the percieved numbers remain static. The 2010 census was a hoot. The DoD insists to this day that our numbers never exceeded 2.7-3.0 million. In spite of that, the 2010 census declared 9-12 million were absolutely sure they set foot on the easterly portion of the Indochinese peninsula fronting the South China Sea. That’s a extremely large number of delusional thinkers disremembering where they served-assuming, arguendo, that they served at all. The most fascinating thing about this is its recentness. Most of my fellow Vets who served in-country (including me) didn’t come out of the closet until after 2001. It wasn’t fashionable yet. It sure wasn’t something we bragged about or regaled our civilian counterparts with tales of when we arrived home.

I lucked out and arrived at SF International in camo fatigues fresh out of the jungle at 0200 on May 17th, 1972 after two tours back to back. I was greeted warmly by the Hare Krishna swing shift. Who would have thought they man the tambourines 24/7? Many of my friends, like Butch Long, Bob Lockett and Chris Dellinges, were deprived and came in on Medivac flights foregoing any warm welcome from their fellow citizens. I certainly don’t feel slighted in the least for missing out on my Flying Spit Medal with two Oak Leaf Clusters. I also don’t hold a grudge towards these folks. Everyone is entitled to an opinion in America. From what I can gather, most have issued their politically correct, obligatory mea culpas and now circulate at Veterans Day parades and utter inane phrases like “Welcome Home, sir!” or “May I shake your hand? I’d like to honor you today personally.” Thank you for your service grates on my ears worse than fingernails on a chalkboard now. Somebody ought to point out that’s passé.

Congressman Derek Kilmer

To my way of thinking, real Veterans don’t need to seek accolades. We don’t need to wear hats proclaiming our affiliation or bravery. We don’t need free dinners at Applebee’s. We’re smug in that inner satisfaction that we kicked ass and took names when other wimps chose to be all they could be in Canada. We bask in the warmth of a fellow Veteran’s handshake and genuine feelings of camaraderie. We don’t need “stand downs” and handouts. We don’t need quotas or special dispensations for our service. From what I can gather, real combat Vets are not “parade” kinds of guys. We mostly shun being dragged on stages for political purposes by eager politicians wanting to be perceived as “Veterancentric”. Fortunately, I have a great Congressman (Derek Kilmer) who is pro-Vet 24/7/365 rather than motivated on a specific day. His crew is always ready to step in if a problem arises in our district. He is an anomaly in this regard and revels in it. Look at all the congressmen who seek out your votes only to evaporate into thin air a week after an election to become rarer than hen’s teeth. I’m blessed in my little pied-a-terre here at the ass end of Washington (state).

Veterans are the 3%er crowd. We know how rare we are. We don’t need to put on our old uniforms and hang out in airports hoping for praise.  We understand the concept of Keeping America Free. We are not inherently racist as we all served in a post-segregation military. We are not weirdo White Supremacist wannabes. We got our yah yahs out in a real military setting-not in psuedo-military organizations that profess hatred.

In a word, we are the perfect, quintessential American. The Citizen Soldier who returns to his plowshare after bearing arms for his Country is one who basks in his mental self-sufficiency and needs no attaboys for his former one-time profession.

Ronald Reagan, a Veteran himself, summed it up best in my mind.

Some people live an entire lifetime and wonder

if they have made a difference in the world.

A Veteran doesn’t have that problem.

Happy Veterans Day to you my Brothers. Live long and prosper.

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

Posted in KP Veterans, Veterans Day | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Veterans’ Day, Centenary of WWI 1918-2018

U. S Embassy Twitter -Click

Image: Vimy Foundation, Canada Click image to go to their Twitter

BBC article-Click

A melange of resources:

UK Royal British Legion–Poppy Legion Twitter (Link)–They went all out. 

White House Twitter (Link)

Battle of Belleau Wood Wikipedia (1–26 June 1918) (Link)

White House Flickr photos (Link)

VA Twitter (Link)

It’s a big weekend in France and while mainstream journalists are busy putting their tedious political spins on the events, we think about other things.

From U.S. Embassy French Twitter

” …Over 68,000 U.S. service members are buried or memorialized at American cemeteries in France.

Aujourd’hui au Cimetière américain de Suresnes, le président Trump a rendu hommage au sacrifice accompli par nos militaires. Les cimetières américains en France conservent les tombes ou la mémoire de plus de 68 000 militaires américains.

From BBC

“…Armistice Day takes place on 11 November each year and marks the end of the First World War. It is a day of commemoration, an occasion to remember the some 8.5 million soldiers who died across the world during the 1914–18 war – as well as those lost in the conflicts that followed.”

Younger Veterans, welcome home and enjoy your day.

Kiedove

Posted in All about Veterans, Food for the soul, Food for thought, General Messages, Guest authors, Inspirational Veterans, Uncategorized, Veterans Day | Tagged , | 2 Comments

VBMS–EVERYTHING YOU EVER WANTED TO KNOW

VBMSmobile

Those of us who have made the jump into the VA’s computer system known as the Veterans Benefits Management System (VBMS)  have many things to say about it. Paleolithic, Neanderthalic, slower than the seven year itch and more are just a drip in a deluge of negative aspersions. I can walk out to the kitchen and scramble four eggs-and walk back to the office- in the time it takes to be allowed into the entrance to VBMS. 

I write this for all of you-attorneys, agents and Veterans. I want you to get a glimpse into what we can see-and what we cannot. I continue to roam around and discover I can go places my Change Management Agent (CMA) insists I cannot. For instance, I was told I was not allowed to have access to VA’s Oracle System known as VACOLS. That is the black hole our appeals descend into for years and years until we get our BVA decision. By rights, I need to view my Vet’s appeals in real time and not have to call up the 800-923-8387 BVA Dial-A-Prayer. Well, surprise , surprise surprise. We can view VACOLS! I will grant that the booth bitch (yes, that’s a politically incorrect, nongender specific acronym for the folks tasked with answering our calls) often knows far more than the chowderheads they hire to talk to you at the VARO-level (800-827-1000).  Those are new hires and don’t even have a GS 1 rating yet. Even the VA poohbahs have relented and updated recently and now permit their phone bank technicians to look at the VBMS in read-only mode.

A fond reminder of a time long ago was when we could call our VA Puzzle Palaces directly. An 800 call went to the regional office nearest you as it was presumed that’s where your c-file was.  Along about 2009, some efficiency expert decided to use the India call center model and all of a sudden your VA technician on the other end was in Pittsburgh instead of Seattle. Or Atlanta. S/he could not give you real-time information on your claim progress.

My CMA also avers that we are not allowed to view our own claims files. Aruuuu? Just for shits and grins, I filed a VAF 21-22a to represent myself and three weeks later I can see my 14,000+ page Gutenberg Bible cum claims file in all its shining splendor on VBMS. I do know that VA employees and VSOs certainly aren’t permitted to but we agents/attorneys respect no such constrictions on our access. We get Level 6 with printing capabilities which is higher than my CMA’s. That bugs her.

I love to wander around in there and see where the roadblocks are. But back to the VBMS lesson. Check this out. To begin with, you have to get a card reader for your brand new VA ID card. These PIV (Personal Identification Verification)cards are a Godsend too. I no longer have to take off my belt and shoes and empty my pockets for the metal detector. Since I’ve now been criminally background checked, my Government photo ID permits me entry with just a wave of the card-at any government building. Cool beans.

You begin this Odyssey by going to the Citrix VA Gateway at  https://citrixaccess.va.gov/vpn/index_citrix_splash.html and come out here.

You then insert your smart card mentioned above into the SCR 3310 card reader and it asks for your six-digit PIV code. Hey, half of this rigmarole is remembering what all those acronyms stand for. VA pukes live for this. I found out DRO is a word-not a D-R-O. I wonder if that makes a CMA a See-má or a RVSR a Riv-sir. I’m sure there’s a method to this language. Onward. After being waved through, we then enter the Citrix library of endless confirmations

 

 

Click OK and the below opens

This is the first PIV Card entry point.

The next step after you gain entry to Citrix is to choose the Citrix VBMS entry gate:

You click on  the desktop…

and choose the RO5 VBApp:

If you’re lucky and haven’t screwed up on your typing yet, you’re only into this about 3 minutes. And then… Bingo, you’re in the foyer.

Now you begin to segue into the outer hallways of VBMS. It’s now time to promise (again) not to divulge all the deep dark secrets you’re about to gain access to.

 

 

Having promised, you wait for another PIV card check:

Hum a few bars of Jeopardy music and bingo…

Click on your smart card symbol and voilà… another PIV card confirmation code

Here you get to memorize how to spell welcome for a minute or two.

After a while you move to a minute or two of this one. Apparently, they have a booth bitch who checks everyone in manually. For the next minute or three they will confirm you are allowed to do certain things and determine which level of entry you possess, whether you have permission to print, etc. etc.

Finally, you go through the last metal detectors and are deemed permitted to enter.

And now, the last magic button that opens VBMS. Misty 21 is cleared in hot, bubba.

You click on start and it opens the VBMS window

then click VBMS and it opens to the second level entry…

And then another click on VBMS #2:

And last but not least, the actual VBMS claims file queue

You’re finally in… sort of. But wait. Just one more profession of honesty and a guarantee not to share it with your Russian handler.

On this screen you enter in your 3-digit VBA regional office number and hit okay. Seattle is 346.

IMG_0649.JPG

One last check to make sure you is you:

You’re found and you click okay.

Now, if you somehow arrived here after the above 25 steps, and the VBMS is not feeling well or the servers have a hangover, you get this

Yeppers. You claims queue is a dry hole. You can wait patiently for 15 minutes in hopes it will populate. If it doesn’t, you time out and it’s back to the beginning at Citrix again. On the other hand, if you have Jesus in your heart and are pure as the driven snow, a miracle happens. It populates and you actually get to see your client’s files. Elapsed time? about 12 minutes on a good day. I go in after 1500 hrs (left coast time). By then all the Fort Fumbles back east have gone home for supper. It really starts humming to about dial up speed then.

If it won’t populate, you can go to the top and hit search and look each of your clients up manually by entering their claims file number or SSN. You can find your clients in the claims queue and jump back and forth between them with multiple tabs open. The left side looks like this on an individual file.

We representatives always cry when we get a claims file from St. Louis. It looks like someone played 52-card pick up with it. Stuff from 1968 is right next to something that was inserted last month. There is no rhyme or reason to how it could be assembled helter skelter. But look above at VA’s nice, tidy file. Everything is chronologically arranged with subject and date. You can find a SOC from 2013 right after the denial and the Confirmed rating sheet. This is where VBMS is a Godsend. You can find things you are not supposed to-such as §3.156(c) Service treatment records introduced last week for the first time.

The claims queue can be changed to show the most recent activity first by clicking on the last changed date arrow several times.

By going up to the top right near your name, you’ll find the Veteran’s profile widget. Clicking it divulges a wealth of info about your client and you can check the profile for flashes to keep VA honest. If your Vet is dying, you’ll be wanting to flash him for terminally ill. Or homeless. Or financially in jeopardy. Or whatever it is that deserves an advance on the docket. Look in the “Go to work” column on the claims profile. I find my DRO hearing transcripts hidden in there all the time. Always look in the raters’ Notes section to see if it’s ready for decision.

And a lot more. I have only begun to reveal the mysteries of the VBSM here today. And speaking of widgets, here’s Cooper and Widget this morning at breakfast. It’s amazing how much you can cram into that tiny skull and it still only works as well as the 1480 lb. horse’s brain next to him. God works in strange ways and colors.

And that’s all I’m gonna say about that.

The Fourth Caravan

Posted in VA Agents, VA Attorneys, vA news, VBMS Tricks, Veterans Law | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

THE HALLOWEEN POST-GAME WRAP

Pop Smoke

As most  know, my April Fool’s gene always comes out around Halloween. To say I’m addicted to humor is a masterpiece of understatement. This is a product of being told I’m going to die. Well, duh. The only problem with that diagnosis is that it’s been delayed a few years. I did read somewhere this week that people who embrace humor live longer. I owe all these latest cartoons to Dennis Stenftenagel, a fellow Hepatitis C survivor of our unofficial group HCVets. Enjoy.

 

To all my readership, I wish you a happy Halloween and a Happy Veterans Day.

Posted in Humor, KP Veterans | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments