Surely over these last five years or so, you have heard me opine on members Leigh and Paul. They feel like family now to Cupcake and me. So it is with great pleasure that I finally induct them into the HCVets Winner’s circle. This has been a long, long battle and I feel it needs telling.
Leigh served in the Navy during the period before latex gloves and sanitary precautions. She had a double whammy of jetguns and very invasive oral dental surgery in the 80s. She met the love of her life Paul, an ex Marine, as she was leaving the service and they have been together ever since. When she finally became ill, she and Paul started scouting for what could possibly have infected her. They filed for VA comp. and promptly got a vicious slap in the face.
VA stated that her pelvic inflammatory disease was an indicator of promiscuous behavior. The VA examiner further opined it was not incurred in service. Alternately, a small India ink tattoo applied when she was 12 with a sewing needle was undoubtedly the cause of the HCV. Basically it was anything but a jetgun or having molars excavated with a dentist’s jackhammer.
About that time they found me. We set out to build the perfect case. We had her John Hopkins liver transplant doctors write several nexus letters. Wait. I forgot to mention her liver crapped out in 2011. The Hep C promptly infected her new one. Imagine having to eat immune suppression drugs to keep her body from rejecting the new liverbox while it allowed the Hep to run rampant unchecked destroying it. It was a vicious circle.
The tale of woe began to go downhill when they tried to get their c-file to defend themselves and help win it. Baltimore’s RO ignored her repeatedly. After a year or two, I suggested a Writ. I finally suggested they go the attorney route because VA was laughing at her- not with her. They armored up with none other than Keith Snyder, the mild-mannered Clark Kent type of guy who always gits ‘er done. Sure enough, just like my writ for justice, this produced quick results but they were still dogging her with an incomplete file. The story sped up when they filed for §20.900(c) to advance her on the docket.
Mr. Snyder did an admirable job as did Dr. Ben Cecil again. Armed with three good nexus letters, VA rightly caved in with their weak VA examiner nexus that wasn’t even plausible. I’ve held their hands in times of despair and setback. I’ve given them every piece of knowledge we have amassed over the last fifteen years of fighting these things. Rarely did three days go by without a pow wow. Last week the hard work culminated in Leigh’s win. I had far more confidence in this than they did. I told them and I’ll tell anyone that will listen. This is a recipe just like baking cookies. There are no shortcuts from the batter to the cooling rack. In Leigh’s case, the VA did a magnificent job of keepaway with her benefits for almost six years. Six long and painful years, I might add.
Leigh and Paul filed back in 2009 and got the first wave off in 2010. A DRO denial decision in January 2011 sent this to DC. Unfortunately, as most know, the VA seems to be using UPS Underground which digs a tunnel there. Then the c-file was unavailable. Baltimore’s RO was so booked out on backlog, they sent it to Providence Rhode Island for a DRo review and then to Detroit. Go figure. Detroit was shipping their stuff to Fort Harrison by then. About the time she asked for a copy of her c-file, Detroit claims it sent it to Cheeseville. Everybody shrugged and acted like there were no flies on them. Fingers pointed everywhere but to Detroit.
Here’s the OGC’s Monday Morning Quarterback report. No EAJA for Keith either. After two years she got the files so what’s the beef? It’s not like they told her to get lost permanently. This jurisprudence casts a pall over Vet’s access to justice via qualified legal help. Why would an attorney even want to help a Vet like Leigh file a Writ if they can’t recoup the EAJA? It’s not like the Vet wins any money in a writ. In most cases, it’s a last ditch attempt to get what you need to prove your case.
VA skated on this right up to Paul and Leigh’s ultimate win. They’ve been through a few boxes of kleenex and some long nights. I expect she’ll get a 100% P&T for the Hep alone. Being post-transplant, I can also see she’ll probably (or should) get SMC S for being substantially housebound. When you eat immune suppressors to prevent rejection of an organ, it leaves you open to every bug coming down the pike. Going out in public is taking a risk few would consider prudent.
We’ll naturally keep you posted as to the Big Brown Envelope from the Baltimore Prize Redemption Center. I think Paul and Leigh will be pleasantly surprised. You can’t get a transplant without losing one of your original 2,000 body parts. That’s pretty much 100% all by itself. Since they’ve waited for over six years for this, I think VA will want to be rid of them. Having Keith was their ace in the hole. Otherwise I could see VA stonewalling all the way to the court as they did me before granting.
Here’s the BBE from the BVA:
I call this a jetgun win. VA can say what they will, but our acting VLJ in tennis shoes has said it in no uncertain terms. Gene Groves filed a number of BVA decisions showing precedence and VA’s normal operating procedures to illustrate VA’s intransigence. We can certainly say this isn’t legal precedence but it clearly shows a unique style of argument to arrive at a win. That’s all that counts. It’s like Napalm or a Claymore. You simply have to get close.
As most know, Leigh and Paul own stock in Burpee’s seeds and have been drowning me in them. I just checked the freezer and I have about 40 quarts of Silver Queen left just in case they drop by for dinner. This is one of those wet eye posts for me. Leigh and Paul also were very generous for Butch Long’s false teeth funding drive. Rarely have I gone through this almost from start to finish with very many of you. Rob, Mark, Randy, Squidly, WGM- the list is growing ever longer than my memory. I can’t express the joy I feel when it happens. Sadly, for each of you we lead to a win, there are 30 who lose and never find this site.
Some say it’s futile to even try to conquer the behemoth VA. For them, I point to all the Leighs and Pauls that come back to share their wins with us. I leave you with this hope. I live by it,