It’s not often when Veterans humor, driven by long waits and endless appeals, drives us to hypothesize on what (or how) a possible “rocket docket ” appeals system might coalesce in the minds of the Grand Poobahs. Veterans of all stripes, as we all too painfully know now, have once again been asked to move to the back of the New bus. Those three year adjudications at the Regional Offices now seem like lightspeed next to the new and improved VBMS BVA appeals system which somebody forgot to order. This unexpected phenomenon is the face of “the recent reinvention of how we do claims at the New VA”.
Notice the date/time stamp on my humor was April 22, 2015- over nine months previous. “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery imaginable.” my mother once said. “Let them entertain the idea they birthed it. We know differently.” Simple as that.
In order to eliminate the backlog for certification and appeal permanently, however, Ms. Eskinazi proposes the new Fully Developed Appeal or FDA for short. FDAs can also be decided within 125 days with 98% accuracy as soon as the VBA can run it up the flagpole in the Federal Register. VA will propose that Veterans, through their VSOs, summarize, in 300 words or less, why they think they should prevail. Their lay testimony will be accepted without regard to credibility, they are free to opine medically on their symptoms and in all cases the benefit of the doubt will be employed assiduously as it always has in the past. Since most Veterans and their representatives are functionally illiterate, most will not need all three hundred words to communicate their desires. In fact, few, if any VSOs, will actually see any change in the process except for the accelerated time to a decision. This is a win-win for all.
Nine months ago that was tongue-in-cheek humor but trust your VA to cut the Gordian Knot of interminable delay. This is something everyone can get behind, right? It’s like a Veterans Charity. All the money goes to the Vets, right? Here, we have a problem and the solution is simple. Let the Vet have his say, regardless of how outlandish the story and keep it simple stupid for everyone. File a Notice of Disagreement at the BVA, maybe get a BVA video hearing to make it look like a genuine dog and pony show, 125 Days. 98% accuracy. Bring in the guys with the funny hats from the VSOs. What could possible go wrong? Nonadversarial. Veteran-friendly. Benefit of the doubt. It’s like a full-meal-deal piping hot in just minutes at the drive thru window. Everyone gets closure, right?
HOW WOULD THEY DO THAT?
Well, gee I don’t reckon there’s a big problem if you get a couple of them signature stamps so’s the staff attorneys and the judges can all be stamping denials at the same time. Anyone can see this little efficiency alone could cut months or even years off the delay. If you could teach them to insert the paper and mail the Big Brown Envelope, or BBE as we Vets know it, there’d be another month or more. Kinda reminds me of Homer Simpson’s monkey Mojo. You could teach him anything.
I guess the boundary where dismay turns to ironic humor is where you find it. We’ve been insulted, guaranteed relief down to the year, promised three-month decisions with almost flawless accuracy, and none of these pipe dreams have come to fruition. In fact, the same exact system which presently is denying 85% of claims eerily resembles the same pre-2014 15-month wait for the very same 85% denial statistic. Develop to Deny is the wormdrive gear of the VBMS. The old one to two-year process with in-depth VA hands-on duty to assist in obtaining evidence is gone. Vets are instructed to obtain it all themselves for the Fully Developed Claim or FDC. Disability Benefits Questionnaires are crunched down to a “yes” or “no” where a “because” or “due to” is needed. And lastly, the most egregious. VSOs are letting the VA make the nexus link and failing to inform the Veteran of the need for a truly independent one.
Telegraph that from the Regional Office level as a confirmed denial and send it up to the new, improved VBMS BVA site. With no further development (read IMO), a new denial is inevitable and fully expected by VA. Bingo. No more backlog. Except….
Again, Occam’s Razor posits the simplest explanation is invariably the correct one. Given the proclivity of Veterans to appeal to the BVA currently, what could possibly dissuade them from going on to the Court of Veterans Appeals? Outside those hallowed gates at 625 Native American Avenue NW are members of the storied National Veterans Legal Services Program (NVLSP). These Law dogs are just standing around waiting for you to ask them to represent you absolutely free. How long do you think that knowledge is is going to go unnoticed?
Last year, the CAVC’s caseload expanded yet again. Last month and again several days ago, the CAVC recalled two of their retired judges to deal with the tsunami of claims arriving daily. The volume of Extraordinary Writs is continuing right through the roof. 4,888 claims arrived in all of 2015. One of them, #15-112 was mine. Using the monthly volume already for January 2016, as of tonight, 400 cases are already docketed at the CAVC. I’d guess in reality there are 25-30 more awaiting their anointment with a number as we speak. Multiply that times 12 and you get into a skinny 5,000. I don’t see how Moorman and Greene are going to be enough. That’s eleven judges total.
All Veterans really want or strive for is to gain what they bargained and signed for on Induction Day [__/__/____.]