Recently, a member arrived here with advice she had received on another Veteran’s help site. It was not encouraging news on her current claim for her husband who is severely disabled. While I strongly advocate Vet’s should seek the widest possible range of advice possible, I predicate that on premise that said advice is viable and well-reasoned. Without going into the particulars, the gist of the advice was to give up and go home. This from a man who claims to have worn many hats all the way from military service through VSO. I’m sure he thinks his advice is sage and germane but it is tainted by the union-mentality of “We do it this way and if you want to work here, you’ll do the same.”
As we all know, such a myopic and narrow brand of thinking results in what I can best describe as “railroad logic”. You’re stuck between two steel rails and cannot venture off them to sample other directions. This medical condition is incurable. The patient is forever condemned to think in one plane of existence and be ignorant of others’ opinions and advice. Consequently, when confronted with a situation where a Vet has been given contradictory advice prior to his/her query, he is forced by that union mentality to defend his advice and in the process, eviscerate the advice of the Vet who raised it. This would all be well and fine if the advice were sound.
Advice, when offered, should come with a few codicils rather than be fired from the hip. In particular, advice that suggests Vets should stick with VSOs rather than hire attorneys is poorly thought out if you plan to file a jetgun claim for HCV or bent brain box (3B)syndrome. [As an aside, doesn’t 3B sound better than PTSD?] If you have no legal acumen, you need help. Since VA prevents you from having an attorney at the most important phase, you need to rethink your legal strategies. A good self-help site like this one can guide even the most legally challenged through the process until they hit the concertina wire and can actually hire one.
One thing I’ll be writing extensively about here soon, is the Court Of Appeals For Veterans Claims (CAVC or Court) and how it pertains to you. Many of you will be denied initially simply because that is what the VA does. There is no balanced and thoughtful, insightful investigation of your claim. It’s torn into 6 different sub-parts and prosecuted piecemeal. When finally reassembled, the parts don’t fit together and bingo! The reject bin. The reject bin is fairly large. 85% of the claims large. Think PODS large, guys. Think Omaha Beach in the first wave large.
People seem to think that everyone appeals or that a large majority do. Think 5 percent. Why that happens is a constant source of amazement to me. “No” is not in my vocabulary. If only 50,000 appeal each year out of over one million claims filed, there must be somebody or something throwing a lot of water on the fire. I’m not going to cast stones but after three forays against Victor Alpha in the capable hands of VSOs, I am underwhelmed with their enthusiasm. This is the advice problem that the young spousal member approached me with. To appeal or not to appeal. Do we have to even ask this question? I trust each and every one of you who served America to come here in good faith with the honest belief that your ills are the product of your service. Some will be goldbricks but as a percentage, they are minute and statistically inconsequential. There may be an uptick during hard economic times such as these but no one can fairly legislate a law preventing a bum’s rush to the bar for a free drink. VA attempts to and politely removes any rugs you may trip on en route but it is lip service. The reality is Claymores w/ trip wires and well-disguised punji pits for the FNGs.
vA fortunately publishes much of the results of their adjudications, breaking it down by VSOs, attorneys, and self-represented Veterans. This advice reflects that on average, 22 percent of you somehow win at the BVA. This puts a fork in the notion that you got an 86% accuracy rate in the decisions at the RO. vA views it much differently. I guess they surmise that only the truly worthy cases were appealed in the first place so it’s no anomaly that 22 percent were successful. So, 50K appealed. 850K didn’t. What’s wrong with this picture? If the greatest majority are represented by VSOs, it’s assumed that the represented Vets acceded to the advice of their representative. That is disturbing news.
As published also, apparently only five thousand of you are brave enough to venture into the CAVC each year. Since VSOs only wear rubber boots just so tall, they are not allowed into the Court. Hip waders are in order there. Real law degrees are needed, not certificates of attendance to 38 CFR lectures or pictures from the trophy wall in the VSO’s bar. No one discusses this when you sit down and fill out the 21-22 shoveled under your nose at the beginning of your Odyssey. Why ask at this stage when they are twisting your arm for the POA? If you know full well that you are going to have to move your flag from one ship to another somewhere down the road, the smart money says to prepare well ahead for it. VSOs do not. They have an infrastructure that is heavily dependent on a Veterans pro bono consortium set up by several of the VSOs and a willing bunch of altruistic attorneys. I do not mean to denigrate them but they are well-meaning and new to the game. After gaining experience and schooling in the art, they are snapped up by other firms or go out on their own. Many are on loan from large firms that use them to satisfy the requirement of offering pro bono services as part of a neighborhood or national commitment to under-represented, indigent souls. Vets comprise a larger number of those and not just at this Court.
Back to the brave 5,000. Oddly, these souls walk away with a phenomenal 60 percent of wins in the form of remands, reversals and (hold your breath) admissions of misfeasance (no blame attached), stupidity on the part of VLJs( no names), and mutually agreed upon contracts where VA barters, grants or partially fulfills your claim with no admission of guilt. This is what you never hear. This is the dirty little secret in the closet that vA will never admit to. They screw up. A lot. And this is where It finally gets fixed.
Before I’d ever heard of the Veterans Benefits Manual (VBM), and even before I knew how the system worked, I noticed that remands from the Court seemed to disappear. It stands to reason that when the Court sends something down to BVA for a do over, it would resurface like a bobber after a bass strikes it. No bobber equals fish on. I surmised (rightly) that an accommodation had been made by the parties. If you had 5 years invested into an appeal and you got a remand back to the BVA (purgatory for a while), it’s not likely you’d throw in the towel this late. Of course there is the distinct possibility that you died, but we won’t discuss that today.
While studying up on why and how I’m going to kick ass and take names, I have been hitting the VBM heavily and now I see a chasm between what I hear at some of these other Veterans websites and what is written by the same pro bono attorneys who will be representing any of you who arrive there without one (and no desire to pay one the going rate of 20%). It is common knowledge at 625 Indian Ave. NW and down at 810 Vermin Ave. NW that the practice of horse-trading is alive and well in 2012. If this is so prevalent, why is it such a well-kept secret that it requires the secret handshake and a password to get in? We will be studying this phenomenon in next few weeks to acquaint you with it. We are going to reveal the password and handshake and expose the truth.
Unfortunately, I have to go to my grandson Conner’s soccer game right now or I would splash the exposé. I’m a closet soccer Granddad. News and film at Six.
Whoa! These just in from our cameraman on-scene at the game.