I’m worried to death. My attorney just read about the VSO hierarchy’ extravagant wages. He informed me he is angry that he did NOT make $400,000.00 last year nor was he so blessed in 2011. Actually, Bob’s rather in the hole somewhat due to the intransigence of fighting City Hall for his EAJA fees and Vets who sometimes think they are free to skate on his bill.
What terrifies me is that he may wait until the eleventh hour or later and up the ante. Roger that. I know. He is limited to 20% of the Wishwampum. Apparently many of you are unacquainted with the nefarious ways of these evil money grubbers. They have been known to write subcontracts indenturing you and your loved ones to manual labor. Last year, in order to induce him into taking my claim, I was forced to toil in the fields and give him 20% of my strawberry and raspberry production. I was even dunned for the dry ice and overnight shipping back to Michigan. With my firstborn male child poised to graduate from Gonzaga Law School next summer, I can see the writing on the wall. But let us put the jokes aside and discuss something far more pressing.
In regards to VSOs’ recent collective disdain for law dogs on Capitol Hill, consider this. I listened to a former VA employee, now a VSO, discuss just how horrific rainmakers are. All the usual diatribes about how they try to make it a life project so they can live off the EAJA funds were mentioned. Were you to swallow this, you would rationalize a law dog could live high on the EAJA hog and drive a Lexus This advice was tempered by how benign and “free” VSOs were. The implication was a VSO would guard your six whereas a slippery attorney looked at you like a cash cow. The disdain he felt for attorneys was palpable.
What Veterans seem to overlook is that they are dealing with rank amateurs who, as often as not, trade away your claims like baseball cards with the RVSRs or DROs. Veterans lawyers would not even dream of overstepping that client/ attorney relationship. Yet it is not unique to discover a service rep. who will do it in a heartbeat and convince you of the necessity to be “flexible”. This is perhaps the make-or-break legal aspect of the relationship that separates the VSO ribbon clerks from the attorney poker players.
VSOs, and even VA , are fond of pointing out the statistical rate of wins at the BVA among VSOs versus lawyers. Viewing it myopically, one might think attorneys do not fare well there. The truth is that few are involved at this level coming fresh from the VARO. Most Veterans are loathe to cough up 20% until they have lost at both VA venues. Attorneys get the short end of the stick and are expected to spin gold out of straw.
What VSOs are not eager to discuss is their win/loss rate at the CAVC because-guess what- virtually none have law dogs in the fight there. That’s the ugly sister they keep upstairs out of sight. They have no record there. What’s more, most Veterans now have to step from one canoe into another right here in midstream. VSO’s aren’t fond of bringing up the subject of an appeal. As most know, they have the compensation tables right there at their desks and can easily compute your almost-guaranteed winnings just waiting to be claimed.
Imagine a court setup that only allowed you marginal, unskilled representation until your appeal reaches a Title I Appeals court. No more evidence may be admitted. No more lay statements to explain why you haven’t been accorded a voice. No one with a law degree within 10 miles permitted. Until you lose. A mad scramble then ensues to find a lawdog and get him briefed on the case in record time. Records Before the Agency have to be collected, dissected and forms filed. Motions for this and motions for that with deadlines. Pontius Pilate, your recent VSO, has now washed his hands of you. Most Vets are forced to scramble to NOVA or NVLSP like rats from a sinking ship. By now, your former friends have also inveigled you into joining their VSO and making generous contributions to the indigent CEO’s 401K.
The most interesting statistic now blooms. Fully 60% of all those claims by newly represented Vets with real lawyers see another day in Court-be it a remand to the BVA or the ” Go to Boardwalk”- back to the Agency of Original Jurisdiction. How do you think they do that? Fortunately for Veterans, the legal acumen of those folks fashioning the Texas Neckties for your denial is a little skinny. These new Best Faraway Friends (BFFs) you have just made at the CAVC can see through the VA’s subterfuge. A quick tug and the denial comes apart like a cheap Walmarket® sweater.
What is truly interesting is that VA knows knows this and programs it in. “Wild hare” claims by pro se Vets often founder here but some of the egregious ones get traction. The majority who are represented, however, live to either win, get their claim vacated and a new adjudication, or even reversal. You don’t get to read about these. What is also patently obvious is that this statistic (60% ) is static. It never changes. Extrapolating backwards on a grand scale, one would not be far off prognosticating that perhaps 60% of all decisions emanating from Veterans Service Center “fast claims outlets” are equally in error. Were you to set aside all the futile Extraordinary Writs that pro se Vets file, the statistic jumps even higher. Add in the fact that the Office of General Counsel often relents at the eleventh hour and advocates removing it before adjudication and the percentage takes another jump.
Sadly, we will never know that 60% statistic is truly valid unless and until the 80 % of claimants who walk away empty handed decide to stand and fight. Should they choose to appeal, the VA backlog is going to metastasize like a runaway cancer. 2015 will become a pipedream. The BVA would have to hire another 60 Veterans Law Judges-strike that- 1600 to even stay abreast. As for the CAVC, they might have to fill that one last slot they’ve been holding for a political payback to some Senator’s son. That and recall all the old retired ones-Alzheimer’s or not.
Were I Chinese and someone of renown, I would declare 2013 the Year of the Veteran. More has been said, focused on, and discussed regarding us in the period of a few short months in 2013 that shines a glaring spotlight on the disparity of what is being done for us and indeed , what VA insists is being done. The whole concept of VA ex parte justice is nothing more than Kangaroo Kourt justice. When Vets recognize this, there may be a riot that will make the Bonus Army‘s shenanigans look like child’s play.