I received a call from one of our members of the Mile High On Dope State. This in no way implies Hepper 74 is a doper nor was it meant to. I merely mention his geophysical location to point out which Regional Office he is forced to do business with. I wonder if they have to get a piss test for pot.
H74’s lament was that he had contacted VA by the most casual of methods-the dreaded 800-827-1000. He was disturbed by what he heard and the general tenor of the conversation. For some it is like a surreal experience. They feel they’ve made the Hadj to the Oracle at Delphi and kneel before the Phythia Six Actual. Sorry to pop the balloon, kids.
Let’s see what and/or who we’re dealing with here. To join the exalted ranks of the VA, you begin at the entry level assuming you do not have the new VA Academy Training from Baltimore and a pedigree. Entry level begins with manning the phone banks and being able to query various computer systems to glean information to give to the anxious caller. Many of us are not computer-literate or live in Dial Up/HughesNet country. Trying to make a connection with the internet that is fast enough is an incredible hurtle. Let’s face it,
is still slower than the seven year itch even with a good high-speed CATV internet connection. HughesNet must be like a wet blanket and green, smoky firewood.
Likewise, some do not choose to connect to this octopus. I don’t blame them. I snuggle up to a good newspaper every morning and rub the ink on me just to remember what analog really means. Thus, for those who, for whatever reason, remain aloof, they are essentially fenced out by technology through no fault of their own. To them, the written word is the common, preferred method. Failing that, the 800 number is employed to “correct” the record or to ask why you are at 400 days post-SOC, dying of HCV, and not getting your F9 certified and your hearing scheduled. And then you reach “Peggy”.
The Pythia, or, in the twenty first century what has segued into The Peggy, now greets you after waiting 45 minutes (before being given a choice of a callback at a less busy time-like next Thursday or Friday at 10 AM). Peggy would like to confirm your identity and will do so just in case some other irate Veteran with a similar name is imitating you. S/he immediately initiates a VA form 119 Report of Contact to be included in your C-file.
If you are rude and abusive, this will be noted. If you seem a little peeved and question your GS-3 VA Intake and Information Specialist’s mental and technical abilities, it will be noted. If you seem as though you are at your wit’s end due to VA’s mistakes, it will be noted and you will be offered the PTSD hotline. This is standard operating procedure. I know. I’ve read a bunch in my file.
Years ago, the 800 number was linked directly to your own Regional Office’s switchboard and it was a real Godsend. You could conduct business and get things fixed in a hurry compared to these days. Hell, guys like Lorenzo would give me their inside phone number and say to call them back if I didn’t get it straightened out. One day in 2008, we here in Seattle stated getting “Sean” in Salt Lick City. Sean was still knowledgeable back then and could actually access two useful computers to ascertain what in Sam Hill was really happening. That was before the backlog. People like Sean are raters now. The problem is that there aren’t enough Seans in the system. Enter Miss
Peggy is a FNG. S/he is a cherry. S/he’s so green they don’t dare trust them with a real VA computer. These are the types you would not let carry M-26s, gaily dangling off their Alice Packs like some John Wayne movie. Instead they get the dumbed down Sesame Street one-eBennies. I encountered this phenomenon on a 1- 800 Recon several weeks ago. I keep my hand in to see how bad it is. I’m explaining my query to GS-3 Shawandah (no last name) about an “administrative review” of claims which have not been adjudicated in the first instance yet. Shawandah proceeded to recite verbatim right off the eBennies screen until I interrupted to ask if that was what she was doing. Yes, indeed. No more Access to VACOLS or PIES for her. No back doors. In Lorenzo’s day back in 2007, he’d put me on hold and wander back into the rater’s den and get a read on what was up.
Hepper74 had the misfortune to stumble into one of the Cherry Peggys without this course knowledge. We often assume that when we call GEICO or Allstate, we are dealing with a person who either has the authority to kick ass and take names or will connect you to the one who does. Shit then happens and soon in most cases.
The VA is plagued by a vast horde of new-hires who lack training in the arts. Schooling is backlogged as well. Thus, like most big telephone companies of the 70s-80s, linemen turn into telephone operators for six months until they get the slot into the indoctrination and Human Resources Dog and Pony shows. From there on out, a career path is laid out and they can begin training in earnest for the mail room or the board room. H74 assumed he was dealing with the GEICO format. Unbeknownst to him, they’re hiring the subpar, reject applicants from Homeland Security in an attempt to lower the nationwide unemployment rate. Assuming they would be adept at anything other than nosepicking is ludicrous. Putting them up on the level of the Phythia of Delphi Fame is even more risible.
It’s time we realize this system is toast from stem to stern. Defibrillating it every couple of years with a VBMS, fully developed, no duty to assist claim path, or whatever pseudotrick name du jour they construct, the actual system of denial is broken. The finger in the dike method is too late. Choppering in the VA’s Air Cav to every new hamlet where a mammoth backlog occurs is not going to put out this fire. Brokering claims back and forth like a hot potato looks good on paper unless Baltimore is shipping it’s claims to Detroit who is already up to their ass in alligators.
With due respect to Hepper74’s long association with the VA (five years), I should not have to explain to him in great detail why they can’t just cite to the obvious on claims like putting on their underwear in the morning- Yellow in front Brown in Back. Good to Go. We’re dealing with the VA. They have their own rules for the universe and are rather complacent about it. I do not blame him for his despondent attitude.
When any of you feel that pent up rage and call me, I am fond of pointing out that it took me 20 years and I’m still not completely finished with some of their smaller potatoes. I will be happy to commiserate with any of you, however. Misery does so loooooove company.