Well, kids. It’s degenerated to that point in the twenty first century where the actual majority of all claims going to the BVA for adjudication are riddled with errors. Instead of just by Regional Office personnel, it’s clearly becoming apparent that Mario Caluza, Arthur Hickson and Jerry Shedden have not yet become household names around the VSO universe.
Ever since that dawn of the New Orleans defeat for the British in January 1815 ended the war of 1812, so too has it been a oxymoron that you had to have proof you were damaged in service for the claim to prevail. VA had done a pretty good job of hiding the requirements up until Mario Caluza tried to smoke the VA with a really lame claim. The difference this time was Westlaw. It got published. The new Veterans Reform of Justice Act of 1989 allowed any who wished to go up to a new Court a fairer shot than the judges on the VA Secretary’s payroll. Funny how once you get out from under that umbrella, the judicial weather improves vastly
Caluza finally vocalized what everyone knew but had never summarized in public. To Veterans, it was the Holy Grail. The Rosetta Stone. Like graduating cum laude from an EST retreat in the Nicaraguan jungle. Enlightenment. The secret password with magic handshake all in one. The “knock” on the door. Caluza made it common knowledge to all VSOs on April 12, 1995, just in case they hadn’t been getting the wire feed from the War Dept. who used to run this gig. In order to win a claim. it required three things. This is cast in stone and immutable. After 1995, it was called the Caluza Triangle. It’s so old, Abraham Lincoln was in diapers when it was invented.
- disease/injury/ risk in service
- disease/injury now.
- letter from doctor say the two are related and why.
When Arthur Hickson showed up pro se in August of 1998, the Court rightly tossed it because Art had no nexus- just bunches of hunches. Caluza was trotted out and cited as the controlling precedent. That was 15 years ago and if the VSOs had missed it before now, it was a clear shot across the bow to them. The Caluza triangle was rechristened The Hickson Elements. The VSOs never dialed in on it or never saw or heard it (again).
Jerry Shedden showed up in August of 2003, five years after Arthur. He was claiming CUE for a number of reasons why his PTSD was denied illegally. Unfortunately, he too fell victim to the desperate need for the IMO requirement. Ken Carpenter couldn’t even fix it. They gussied it up and added two more obvious elements and renamed them the Shedden requirements. Six of one and half a dozen of another. VSOs everywhere were holding annual conventions and getting extremely trashed or hammered but again. nary a Shedden requirement was shared.
Twenty years and some change later, 50,000 appeals are en route to the BVA sponsored and represented by the 96 VSO service officers. All these fine upstanding ladies and gentlemen are certified as trained professionals by their respective VA-chartered Veterans Service Organizations. All are presumed capable of their jobs. Yer more than half of the 50,000 claims lack that Caluza triangle. Qu’est-ce que c’est ?
Today we offer you, Johnny Vet, a “test quiz” you can download at the bottom of the article. It is a simple ten-question test that even the most claims-challenged service officer should be able to pass with flying colors. Remember, he can’t consult the VBM or 38 CFR. This is not an open book test. As usual, Cupcake suggested this.
Closed Book Test For Potential VSO Service Rep.
Q #1) What are the three ingredients for a successful VA claim?
Q#2) Would having VD in service be considered Willful Misconduct ?
Q#3) What is the maximum compensable VA rating for tinnitus? Is it for each ear or both?
Q#4) How many days are you permitted to file your VA Form 9 after receipt of the Statement of the Case?
Q#5) Does the clock run from the time you get the SOC or the date on the SOC document?
Q#6) Does VA guarantee they will get all my civilian records if I sign a VA Form 21-4142 requesting and authorizing them to do so? (assuming they are readily and locally available).
Q#7) What are my rough odds of winning here locally if I am right and can prove it?
Q#8) Have you ever heard of the VR&E’s IL Program? What does it stand for? Do you know what the IL program actually does under 38 CFR 21.160? Have you ever handled a VR&E claim for an IL Program? Has your VSO ever handled one?
Q#9) What is your win/ loss ratio on claims you have personally handled?
Q#10) What was your personal best biggest win on a compensation (not pension) claim based on rating percentage and effective date? This is a question for the representative, not the whole office. There’s no “we” in service representative.
Those are the bedrock questions. If the prospective representative still sounds intelligent, we’ll move to the bonus round. If s/he misses more than four, it is suggested you thank him/her very much and note you are late to pick up your Cupcake at work.
Here’s the download to print.
My guess is 50% of the service reps will throw it right back at you and make you sign a POA before they pick up their pen and look at it.