I found this comment on my How Low is Low? post and felt we should all analyze each and every point Mr. Kenneth Aune brings up. So, forewith, I transplant his complaint and query here and my rejoinder.
Mr. Aune opines:
I’d like to know WHO has compiled this article and what credentials he or she has. I am a retired Accredited Service Officer, and I question much of and [sic] the precedence of your article. The Organization I worked for and the names you named, they represent veterans at the VA’s Central Office and the Board of Veterans Appeals and also on Capitol Hill addressing both houses for veteran rights. They go up against the legal minds of the VA. The couple [sic] names I recognized, they are highly knowledgeable in VA law, and some are retired from the VA (30 years plus) BVA. Lawyers? I would put my knowledge of VA law up against them any day. The difference being, these VSO Service Officers deal with VA only, the lawyers have other interest to generate income. They review claims and reject those that are not slam dunk claims. They do not want to do much investigating. You claim the VSO’s dislike [sic] the lawyers make too much money. The amount they receive is determined by the VA, and there is a cap on there [sic] reward. We have a problem with the veteran paying someone when it’s un-necessary. VSO do it at no cost to the veteran.
And my rejoinder to Mr. Aune:
Dear Mr. Aune,
I’m the author of the article. My name is Alex Graham. I’ve been actively engaged doing claims since 1989. I have been through the process-each and every one of them- numerous times. I have won every one of my claims when the VSOs who swore to help me either couldn’t or wouldn’t.
All the wages paid via dues to the VSOs’ officers mentioned in the article are taken directly from what is called an IRS Form 990. IRS stand for Internal Revenue Service, Mr. Aune. They are not prone to lying or publishing lies of others. Unless these folks are lying, I assume the grossly inflated stated wages are correct. I did make an apology to another service officer from Virginia who pointed out that only the actual member’s dues support these highly overpaid guys in funny hats. Local donations to the Service organizations go directly to Vets fortunately. Apparently the local organizations are wise to the Nationals and keep their donations to help physically disabled Vets rather than give it to the financially challenged ones who get $350 K a year for going up to Congress to get drunk and bitch. Personally, in all the HVAC hearings I’ve watched, I have yet to see Art Wilson, Larry Maher or Danny Wheeler show up.
As for being “highly knowledgeable in VA law”, why is it the VSOs have such a miserable track record versus attorneys? Or, if you will permit me to observe, why is it I haven’t seen any of these whizbang VSO legal beagles you swear by up at the CAVC ? It’s because they are not lawyers, Mr. Aune. They are not permitted to represent Vets because they have no legal training recognized by judges. Why do you think VA employs 500 lawyers at the BVA to process our appeals? If they were nonadversarial, the natural path would be to hire folks who have the same legal training as you-albeit hopefully with a better command of the English language. As for putting your own legal acumen up against the likes of Kenneth Carpenter or Bob Chislholm, I fear it would be a slaughter like something right out of the Roman coliseum days- Lions -5, Christians-0.
VSOs on average, win 20% of the 50,000 or so cases they take to the BVA. Attorneys win 28%. At the Court of Veterans Appeals, where you actually do have to have a law degree that didn’t come out of a Crackerjacks box, 65% of the lawyers prevail against the VA. This means a lot of VSOs lost a lot of cases that they should have won if they ever had the legal talent to do so in the first place. Either that or they have incredibly bad luck at this business.
Perhaps you do not get outside and visit the real legal world much, but during your watch, while you were busy looking out for Veterans’ rights all these years, your VSOs have allowed VA to amass a huge backlog that is off the charts. Where, exactly, were all the VSOs who were being paid vast quantities of cash to defend our rights? Out on the golf courses around DC “bonding” with their VA counterparts? Your arguments are hollow,sir. Try as I might, none of what you say agrees with anything I see in the real world.
Mr. Wilson of DAV complained recently that attorneys should be 86’d out of the arena or reduced to a $200 pittance for repping a Vet. By that metric, why does Art Wilson need a $353 K salary? We’re here to help Vets. Remember?
Let’s put legal binoculars on and see what we see. If a Veterans Attorney sees a claim that is defective, unwinnable, or in some way fraudulent, as an officer of the Court, he is precluded from accepting it. Frivolous lawsuits by attorneys are forbidden. Fortunately for you VSOs, your ignorance legally protects you from the wrath of the Court when you arrive with a bogus claim for Hepatitis C due to Agent Orange. That’s one of DAV’s specialties. Think about this further. Why does DAV hire a legal firm (CCK) to handle all their appeals to the CAVC?
In sum, Mr. Aune, what you do not know about the process is appalling. Since you are not required to read law and pass the bar, you are allowed to act like a pro se Vet. In fact, the Court of Appeals has granted Vets that dispensation such that if they are under the wing of a VSO, they are permitted the Presumption of Stupidity and given even more leeway to account for the frightful legal advice given them. (See Comer v. Peake) A lawyer is held to a much higher standard and fined for his stupidity. We never read about law dogs filing appeals for a 10% rating for tinnitus for each ear.
Lastly, I would point out a glaring inequity. Why would any attorney worth his salt take on VA claims? The return is 20% on the venture versus an easy 40% were he to choose chasing ambulances. Additionally, he would have a much faster path to riches if he steered clear of the VA arena altogether. Real Courts pay the attorneys promptly without grousing. Can it be some are attracted to this because they see a disservice to Vets being perpetrated by unschooled VSOs? You have admitted their altruism is AWOL.
And one final observation. VA lawyers usually are asked to intercede only after a VSO has hopelessly hamburgered a Vet’s chances of winning. This is why we have the phalanx of pro bono lawyers (Pro bono, Mr. Aune, is Lawyerspeak for “free representation” versus paid) such as the NOVA group or the NVLSP. If you are familiar at all with your Veterans Benefits Manual put out by Lexis Nexis, you would know that one our most esteemed new judges in years at the CAVC is Meg Bartley. She wrote the book you supposedly used to help Vets-that is- assuming you called what you did “helping”. Do tell, Mr. Aune. What is your win/loss ratio?
I neither champion lawyers or badmouth them. Universally, they have been proven an advantage at the VA. I am open-minded enough to counsel Vets to do as they so choose. We call that free will in America. VSOs do not have the same cachet. They are hat in hand with the VA’s employees and the symbiosis is far too congenial for my tastes. Anyone who gets paid (by VA) for each POA he turns in cannot be an objective force in helping a Vet to win. That’s like putting a $250.00 bounty on every Veteran’s head.
VSOs represent the largest majority of Veterans claims help yet they only have a 15% win rate at the Regional Offices. Do you see the problem? No, I suppose you don’t. Vets don’t need lawyers. They need someone like you, right? God help us.
I note you have studiously omitted the name of the outfit you work for yet you imply you are on a first name basis or recognize many names mentioned here. Can it be you are too embarrassed to mention your own VSO ? Is it one of the highly-paid outfits I mentioned in my article? It’s okay. I understand.
I was a DAV member in Houston. The DAV repeatedly tried to wipe out my claims by lying to me about my rights. DAV would do nothing to get me a Formal Hearing as I languished for years. I wrote a complaint to President Obama’s website and they got me a Formal Hearing. Next, I tried the Texas Veterans Commission. They told me drop my claims and I would get TDIU. I had a Formal Hearing and TVC made no attempt to prepare for it. However, I did prepare. I tried to sign an Attorney (Former VA) to help me. He called me at home and cussed me out demanding I drop my claims and Remand. i fired him thru his organization. I then signed up an Attorney who was not a former VA Attorney. His paralegal (Former VA employee) tried to wipe out my 20+ claims in one swoop. She filled out a VA-9 and said I did not want to see a Judge. (That was a lie) Next, she only placed 8 claims on the VA-9 and left off almost 20 other claims. She put my name on the VA-9 and a different Vets SSN. (Wiping out everything) So she tried to assassinate all claims. I caught it and forced that firm to resign. I had phone calls with many different Law Firms claiming to represent Vets. But, they all demanded that I drop my claims before they can help me. If you drop your claims then they are dead. These big firms are assassinating Veterans claims everywhere. I got to BVA in 2015 and won many of my claims. However, VA retaliated by tampering with my medical records to try to wipe out all my claims.
In response to Mr. Aune’s vehement response to Mr. Graham’s article, it reminds me of two historical persons, Mr. Benjamin Franklin and Mr. William Shakespere who said as follows:
“The bluntest force of all is truth. Attributed to Ben Franklin.
“Me thinketh he protests too much.” Attributed to Will Shakespere.
It took me over thirteen years of appeals to a misguided and frought with complexities rating board in 1996 to finally receive a 100 percent rating. Many of the replies to my appeals were outright stupid and many of the comments were nonsensical. They actually went to more labor and effort to deny the claims than to grant them. Not to mention the expense that these “Individuals” on the ratings board went through to avoid my claims. My big question with each of these banal responses was, “How did the VA come up with such clowns?” Likewise, I had run in’s with the DAV reps that were handling my claims. Then I got a copy of title 37 of the US Code on Veterans ratings and found that these people at the VA regional office likely was not familiar with it.
To top it all off a certain DAV Service Officer, who shall remain unnamed, told me something that was rather poignant. What he said was as follows:
“There is a point’s for promotion system in the VA that gives promotion points to the clerk and the ratings board personnel. They get the following points for promotion if the do the following:
Prevent the veteran from getting to the rating board to be rated–five points for promotion.
Once the vet is rated if he gets through all of the hurdles that they throw in front of him and he appeals and is refused the increase–five points for promotion.
IF they can get the vets rating reduced for example from one hundred to to sixty percent, ten points for promotion.”
I did not question his knowledge after reading in the Veteran’s Today web site an article to the same information. It seems that Mr. Aune is a bit defensive to me. Perhaps:
“Me thinketh he protests too much.”
Mr. Smith brings up the most obvious point. VA will spend years and an ungodly amount of money in the form of VA salaries to deny us. If I added up all the money they spent over the 25 years I fought, I expect it would meet or exceed what I would collect in my lifetime. That is what amazes me. An agency named after us, that was created for us and one that spends its every waking moment denying us what is rightfully ours. Then they charter VSOs to help them screw us and pay them $250 a head for the POAs. Mr. Smith is lucky. It only took him 13 years to prevail. Some do it until they die and never succeeed.
Ya BUT We SEE THEM and Know WHO THEY are.
To belabor the point that I made above, I have to agree with both Ask Nod and with Mark.
I was fortunate. I had been a medical boards counselor in the Navy and Marine Corps. I saw plenty of first hand attempts to cheat the enlisted community when a valid medical board was sent to the Central Physical Evaluation Board in Arlington Virginia. I witnessed what the gentleman with asknod stated. Some fight for life and never get anywhere.
To those fighting the good fight to get rated properly, don’t give up. That is what they (the VA) wants you to do. They know that you have a valid claim and they know that you deserve it. But if they can prevent you from being rated they win. Remember the promotions points that the VA employees receive as was reported on the Veterans Today web page?
David Frost (if his name comes properly to mind now) on PBS back in 1978 did an expose on the VA system. One of the things that he brought out was that the rating boards did not, and likely today will not, allow veterans to serve on those boards. Reason stated by Mister Frost was that the veteran would be sympathetic to the veterans and those that I term functional sociopaths didn’t want that.
Also, one last item and I shall remain silent forever on this subject, I have personally encountered a number of men that served in the military, that risked life and limb, that were courageous on the battle field that submitted a request for rating that when told the first no by some pencil necked dwebe at the VA just roll over and play dead. That is what they want you to do.
Or when I tell them that they need to appeal the rating board’s decision they reply with:
“Will you do that for me?” they plead. I tell them that if they have a pair of balls that they fight for their own rating. Then that is where many give up and play the “Oh well, I guess that I won’t get that one,” or similar whining surrender.
One last comment, though–I can’t recommend Ken Carpenter anymore. He took our case and dropped it without explanation, not even a phone call. Great way to treat vets. Watch out for that one and move on to another attorney. There are plenty of them out there.
The snake oil road show of VSO s is coming to an end. They need to find a new hustle, because the word is getting around.
I wonder if he likes fruit. How do you like those apples.
My VSO was a joke……he was damn good at delievering mail……but nothing else…….you can bet your ass I hired a lawyer for my BVA appeal. Why would I let my claim be handled by someone who rubs elbows and swaps warm kisses in the shower with the VBA?
This should be interesting. I’ll bet he is wrapped up in a tight little ball wanting to explode. Those of his ilk usually cannot take ant type of criticism without blowing their tops. I wonder what they had to do to get him to comment at all; Me thinks there is a skunk in the henhouse.
We first had DAV helping , at RO , the VA told us we should be taking the DAV out to dinner every Sat night , that tells me the fix is in
Kick his ASS ALEX, its guys like HIM BOB PENNY that cost me 15 years and 60K, I only won 100 % when YOU and MISS EAGLE WON IT. What a JOKE, You are Hitting THEM where it Hurts, and your on Target.
Speak not in the ears of a fool: for he will despise the wisdom of thy words.
That’s what you call a sack lunch. Be on your way now, VSO.
For shits and giggles, here’s another (unrelated) article about Wittiest Comments Ever To End An Argument, courtesy Cracked: http://www.cracked.com/photoplasty_825_the-21-wittiest-comebacks-ever-to-end-argument/?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=fanpage&utm_campaign=new+article&wa_ibsrc=fanpage
Call the fireman to put this guy out. This clown reminds me of (certified) national review officer I had to deal with in san antonio who looked me in the eye and said(you are unemployable what else do you want) Classic VA