The flavours of Fall are subtle but welcome. A slight chill in the air or the new-found fog are just the hallmark of a September morning. I think the sun has rose-tinted goggles on that cast a glow on everything in the late afternoon. The urge to grab the camping gear, load up the rig and grab a .270 Mag out of the cabinet is equally strong. The end of the outdoor growing season is always cemented with the harvesting of the last of the corn, pumpkins and Butternuts. Tomatoes will fester on until it rains and then be lost but the Silver Queen is the true harbinger of the impending winter. I always feel like Squirrel Nutkin about now.
Of equal interest is the Seattle VA VR&E’s sudden interest in “reaching closure” with me on the greenhouse-something that that has eluded them up to now. If you will recall, on August 25th, 2016, Judge Margaret Bartley of the CAVC instructed the VR&E to push ‘print’ on the greenhouse RFN and she did not want-nor expect-to ever hear about it again or have it darken her front stoop. It was pointed out that I had not exhausted all my judicial remedies inasmuch as the July 13th, 2016 Meet and Greet at the “Area soon to be known as the greenhouse” had resulted in a stalemate. This provokes an automatic 90-day review (38 CFR § 21.98 (b)) where the VR&E counselor ostensibly goes back to the Ouija board to reconfigure the plan. 90 days runs out on October 13th, 2016. In VAspeak, that’s a year off in a warm, fuzzy unicorn-infested future. In CAVCspeak, it’s 13 more days. Boy howdy does thirteen days go by like a Don Garlitts AA/Gas dragster.
When apprised of the necessity to make haste, Mr. Holloway hasn’t made great inroads. He did call Farmtek last Monday at my suggestion and discuss “Independence in the activities of everyday living as it relates to a greenhouse metric.” He started asking Miz Karen what size she thought a “normal’ greenhouse should be and other nonsensical questions. The whole gist of his conversation was one of “How much can we de-supersize Mr. Graham’s and still make it workable?” Since the Farmtek rep doesn’t speak M 28ese, she was slightly put off at the line of questioning. We talked this morning and she wanted to know which psychotropic family of drugs he was on. Cannabis, being legal in our Soviet Socialist-styled Evergreen State, comes to mind. Wait a minute. Evergreen State. There’s a lot of Marijuana PR built into that one. Name recognition it has. Yesssssssssssssss.
An Independent Living coordinator like Farmtek’s Karen Meister is in the business of providing avocational solutions to medical disabilities and creating a seamless product ready for use. A Vocational Rehabilitation Specialist from VR&E is in the business of arriving with a list of all the things proscribed and a menu of Dollar Store solutions for personal hygiene or simple food preparation. If you say what about an avocational videography work studio, they will be laughing at you, not with you. Get it?
Those of you who aspire to a big ticket ILP such as a greenhouse or woodworking shop should study these techniques. Mr. Boyd and Mr. Holloway, who now belatedly admit they have no training or expertise in horticulture, have spent the last six years denying me based on their own unsupported horticultural conclusions. Once a BVA judge ruled in my favor, they spent six more months ignoring me (and him) until I went to the CAVC. Only now do they see the need for urgency. Suddenly the phone is ringing and Mr. Boyd is distraught at my unwillingness to sit down and mutually come to a consensus on a “reasonable” size request. In his own words “Mr. Holloway and I are going through a lot of stress and anxiety over this.”
The ILP teaching moments are many here. I’ll try to go over the salient ones for Veterans to put in the tool pouch.
- VA never built the ILP with me (the Vet) as a stakeholder. Violation. They are now begging to. Hole card-Use it to advantage.
- VA has yet to provide their own Horticultural Disability Specialist with a competing ILP plan to contradict Farmtek ILP. In VAland, that is a VA Examiner with no opinion whatsoever- and most certainly not a negative one. No ammo. He’s bluffing.
- VA refused to look at the current total disability picture and tried to focus narrowly on the original 2011 request. No HE grenades left. Just smokies.
- VA is ignoring OGC Precedents 34-97 and 6-2001 and attempting to fashion a plan that won’t exceed X dollars and can be administered locally without VA Central Office oversight. VA Central office has told him he’s on his own and to fix it. Air support just got scrubbed. No performance bonus for 2016.
- Mr. Boyd doesn’t seem to be aware I can view his Declaration made under penalty of perjury and see exactly what his game plan is(n’t). ComSec breakdown. We’re reading his commo in real time.
- If VA doesn’t have their own ILP game plan in place and signed by me on October 13th, 2016 at sundown, they are “arbitrarily refusing to act” and subject to an Extraordinary Writ of Mandamus to enforce compliance (again). Expiration of Truce means hostilities will commence again in earnest.
- The 90-day reset of the clock for a new ILP under 38 CFR § 21.98 is not open-ended. Remember, this was already approved on appeal. The grant of ILP services has already been determined as a statutory entitlement and is no longer pending. We’re just arguing about the electric ass scratcher wattage and the location the Martini bar will be facing.
Once it has been determined you need an ILP and an Individualized Independent Living Plan (IILP) is drawn up, the dog and pony show begins in earnest. You have to have a physical and a Vocational workup to see how strong/weak you are. Determination of weight-lifting capabilities, activities that involve reaching over your head, et cetera are all examined to see if you can be flunked out or restricted in some way. Boy howdy does that come into play when you’re talkin’ greenhouses. Smart money is to go get your own Voc Rehab workup from a private outfit and file for ILP with that in your hand. Nothing like showing up with a Nexus letter in one hand and a picture of that herking new Binford™ 5550 Rotomaster HD built up with oversize brushes on the hi-rise 120-Volt turned and balanced commutator in the other, right? The shit-eaten grin from ear-to-ear ought to clue them in that you know what you’re doing.
I read a lot of letters, emails and bottles in the Hadit.com ocean on ILP and no one even seems to realize the wealth at hand if you just say “No!”. You cite the broken rule(s) and you file the NOD even if they won’t give you a denial. Ask for an Admin Review. File it on paper early. Think of Donald Sutherland’s Oddball in Kelly’s Hero’s with his perennial outburst “What’s with those negative ways all the time?”.
This must be your ever-present command thought in your noggin. You are going to win. That much is inevitable. Just exactly when is the question. I took six years so far but what is time? In that time I’ve grown a lot of veggies and watched my kids and grand kids grow up. I have a feral kitty named Ambush I’ve watched grow from barely weaned at my 2011 NOD to a 2016 Mouser supreme. When you engage the VA, it is a slow, balanced dance like unto that between cobra and mongoose. Realize yourself as the mongoose and relax. Instant gratification is a nonstarter at the VA so erase that philosophy. Think of it like growing corn. It just takes longer than 90 days. A win at the VA is a win for all of us. Asknod what your country can do for you.
Each action VA takes can be used to defeat them down the road. Emails are particularly damning. Do not use IRIS towards this end. Most VR&E employees have telephone numbers that don’t end in 827-1000 so this is actually easier than it looks. Persistence is what will win. Each denial is a block you use to build your win. Remember also, that a liberal reading of 38 CFR §3.103(c) on “hearings” could be stretched to mean a sit down meeting at your hacienda when you are first interviewed about an ILP. Why not ask them outright what evidence is necessary to win for that metal detector or woodworking shop? What the hey? That ought to roll their socks down. By law, the outcome of any decision is not that the Government shall win but that the Veteran shall be awarded any grant he is entitled to by law. Newsflash- 38 USC §3120 is law. So is VA Office of General Counsel Precedent. The M28 R Manual is an adjudications “guide” that tells them how to say no. That doesn’t make it legal. You have to do that by proving they are breaking the law and regulation. That’s all I’ve done here for the last five years. The BVA judge agreed with me. St. Meg seconded it last month. Next Tuesday, VA will be gently reminded they have nine days left to Bingo fuel.
A VA VR&E Officer in a certain southern state just north of Florida stated the reason the VR&E had gotten all sour on ILP greenhouses and lawnmowers was because a certain RO in America had a very liberal policy on handing them out willy nilly. Soon every 100% disabled Vet in Bugtustle County was driving theirs to lawnmower races and even to their local VFW Bars to avoid getting a DUI. Ungrateful bastards. Probably growing dope in them greenhouses, too. Well, faster than you can say Deep Water Horizon, that program dried up and the VRC found himself writing IILPs in Fort Harrison for ” selfie anal wiping aids”- after appropriate retraining at the Baltimore ASPIRE Academy, of course. Getting a win since has been like gambling at a Native American Casino- lottsa lights and action but no chingaling.
As I said, the big day is Tuesday next-Bat time will be 1000 hrs San Francisco Local. Cupcake is going to stay home from work and personally
greet insult Mr. Boyd at the front door. I’m locking up her .38 just in case. My good friend and neighbor Mark Tolomei will be there to witness it again as well. For some reason, Mr. Boyd and company are looking at me to come up with my own IILP. What I know about hydroponics you could hide under a mosquito’s jock strap. David and Kris know that. They, too, admit they are totally clueless about gardening yet ask me to propose a solution somewhere between an empty 15′ X 20′ structure and a 24′ X 48′ one full of “lights and hydrophonics”[sic]. Ah, what comes out of the mouths of babes and VRCs. And no. I did not say I was hooked on hydrophonics although the Tourette’s moment was one of the hardest I ever suppressed in memory. I will be at extreme risk of Post Tourette’s Distress Order for quite some time. I can feel it coming on.
If any of you keen-eyed prognosticators can tell me- to the ear -how many ears of Silver Queen you see here in this wheelbarrow, I’ll throw another $100 dollars into the Thanksgiving Turkey buy for our food bank in your name. Hell, that ain’t much of a bet. Cupcake will do that anyway. I’ll make it two yards.
Happy Flavours of Fall to all of you. May your cornucopias all overflow this season. And don’t worry about that election. If you honestly think things will change for the better if your candidate wins, then you still believe in the tooth faery and the Santa Clause. And that’s all I’m gonna say about that.