Old growth spinach. You know you have old growth spinach if you have to use climbing spikes, a belt and a small chainsaw to cut it. I planted this stuff in November and all it did was fester. Now its producing but I’ve never seen stalks like this.
Thought I was funnin’ you? Notice that horse apple in front of it? It’s what makes the stuff grow.
What this has to do with the AMC escapes me. Before I went out to chop down spinach, I noticed one of you who comes here is always running the search engine for AMC or Appeals Management Center.
I’ll bet you all thought there were only 56 vA Regional Offices. Boy, would you lose on Jeopardy bigtime. Most Vets don’t realize that the BvA decided one day back in 2005 that they needed their very own, on site Regional Office power complete with Senior Raters and DROs. For you guys from St. Petersburg, Senior Raters is not a man. Its the plural of an older rater. Just wanted to clear that up.
Back to the AMC. This newly inaugurated body was designed to speed up the process when a minor glitch in a claim caused a remand. The road to denial is paved with vA intentions. The concept was poorly conceived and the execution was a fiasco. Where a remand might have been an 8 month round trip outing, it now became an 18 month ordeal. Adding to the comedy is the fact that the new “RO” manages to lose and misplace things much like it’s siblings. It has now become synonymous with watching grass grow. The error rate there is just as egregious as the AOJ process, too. At least they didn’t lie and name it the Appeals Mediation Center. Some who work there think that is what they do. Not.
What happened? Think this process through. What, exactly, is broken? I submit it is the inflexible reading of the M-21. Computerizing it with extremely narrow perimeters is like a funnel with one exit. There is no dissection and nuanced reading for details. Everything is a 0 or a 1 digitally. If the default setting is deny-or 0000- a 1 will never filter into the formula. It might be if it is manually entered. I think this happens 12% of the time. Exporting this mode d’emploi to the AMC is not a recipe for improvement. The basic concept is faulty regardless of where it occurs.
Let’s follow Imaginary Joe Vet’s claim to D.C.
Joe decides to follow his wife’s suggestion for a New Year’s resolution to do something about his HCV. He starts out in Whacko, Texas RO in January 2007. He goes belly up there in June 2008. His gung ho VSO says “Go for the DRO review”. Joe, being a trusting guy, says “Roger that”. A year goes by and he motors on down to 701 Clay Ave.,Whacko 76799 and gets his DRO hearing. He brings in new stuff and is pumped. It’s Summertime in 2009 and he’s too cool for school. This is in the bag-until it isn’t.
Joester has struck out again and now its almost Christmas 09. He follows the “new” VSO advice and belatedly files the Form 9. VA goes into high gear and starts prepping the file for transport to D.C. Joe decides on another stab in the dark when his SO says “Go for the video teleconference, dude”. This is finally the beginning of a sensible offense.
Joe does the V/C in front of the camera even though he wanted to meet the Judge face to face. It’s July of 2010 and Joe is getting sick. Sick of diddling around waiting for justice. Sick with nausea and RUQP. Sick with near constant debilitating symptoms. And sick of the guy who’s “helping” him with his claim.The lady at the R.O asks if he would like to sign a waiver allowing the BvA to adjudicate the claim without a bunch of remands. Joe thinks this is pretty smart and will get this ball rolling. The VSO guy is shaking his head “NO!” but Joe wants this game done. Off goes the claim about a year later all wrapped up with vA’s Form 8 on top certifying it to the BvA. Yep. A YEAR later, pilgrims unless its up for a 20.900(c) advancement on the docket.. Most people don’t know it sits there that long. The waiver form is on top too.
First thing after they open it is to discover that his SSD records aren’t there. The RO forgot to send out for them. They knew the BvA was going to want to see them, but they mailed it off incomplete. Here’s the catch now. The vLJ has to remand it back but it now goes through the AMC to get them. Joe gave them the waiver, remember? They in turn remand it back to the RO. The RO plays Rover and fetches. They send it back to the AMC who fiddle around for a while, readjudicate it themselves and and finally send it back to the Judge for the BIG appeal. Add eighteen months to the July 2010 and it’s now January 2012. The claim is in the docket lineup and all’s ready for a decision. This can happen several times if the RO in Whacko is having a bad hair year. Add 18 months to each occurrence.
You see what’s wrong with this picture? If your claim is somehow incomplete and you turn it loose to them with a waiver, you may be awaiting justice for quite some time.
There is a time or place for a waiver. If your record is complete in every respect and you submit the last of your evidence at your Board hearing, there ostensibly will be no reason for a remand. This allows them to proceed to make a hangman’s noose sooner if that is their intent. Conversely it may speed up your appeal dramatically. Without a waiver, the vLJ can elect to remand due to a procedural flaw or a failure to assist. This may entail a long R/T to Whacko for a redo adjudication by a DRO and another denial/delay. The delay at the RO is nothing compared to allowing the chowderheads at the AMC to tamper with it. That’s what makes no sense. How can it be faster to send it to Whacko for a do over than to have an in-house procedure? Apparently you don’t file very frequently with vA. It’s ugly, bubba.
One place a waiver is almost a prerequisite is a CUE motion. As CUE is based strictly on the record as it was in the year you lost, there will be no remands for IME’s, or developing new evidence.
Most Vets are unsure which path to follow. Many VSOs are caught up in the old school theory that Joe Vet’s chances of winning increase with the number of iterations before a DRO. Wrong. If you get the wave off and the Red Light on approach #1, chances are you’re gonna splash that bird before you ever get her down on the RO deck. Making ten passes doesn’t increase the odds when the Green Light has been disconnected.
I have a process I swear by after having done this a few times. When you get the denial from the initial claim, file a NOD and submit your argument as to why they are retarded. If they deny again, it will come in the form of a Statement of the Case (SOC). Since it takes them a year to get one of these puppies out to you, you have time to amass new evidence. As soon as you get the SOC, file the Form 9 and ask for a Board hearing face to face at your local Puzzle Palace.
Go to the Board hearing and submit new evidence if you have it. Do not grant a waiver unless you are sure you have all the bases covered and the SSI/SSD info on board.
The vLJ can cart all this back to D.C. and put it together in about a year from the time they get it if there isn’t a remand. Speed is of the essence in most cases. VSOs seem to overlook the fact that when you get sick, several things happen. One is that you can’t work and the other is that the bills don’t get paid. You don’t have time, as the VSO measures it, to wait for this ping pong remand game to conclude. You most certainly don’t have time for the AMC’s version of it. Without a waiver, the claim can come back to Whackoland as many times as is needed to give you a fair shake and yet another bite of the apple. The problem is the DRO is not going to have a change of heart. I doubt they even read the things before they stamp out a new SSOC on it. It may be the same at the AMC but they take a lot longer.
The above illustration is a rapid one with one remand. Several can stretch this into a decade. vA likes to be cheerful and tell you that Justice delayed is not Justice denied. Its a pithy comment to make and unnecessary. There is no cheer in these things. Few Vets relish the idea of losing their health and ability to work. The remuneration (without interest) is minuscule and the intervening poverty often destroys his or her family.
That is what the AMC is all about. The 57th RO is unbending and measurably the slowest. Avoid it at all costs when possible. J1Vo. Scylla and Charybdis have nothing on these AMC guys.