Yesterday morning, a Saturday, I was greeted by an email from my Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor (VRC) assigned to me regarding my ILPs (plural). Remember, VR&E asshats will try desperately to convince us that we are entitled to one (1) ILP intercession in our lifetimes. Hogwash. I’m deep into my second one and adding on frivolous requests as I go. My latest was a request for two years of the NVLSP Veterans Benefits Manual valued at $350-ish per year. I know. It’s peanuts financially but it keeps those VR&E chuckleheads in paroxysms of depression. The kicker is that they agreed to it! Gee. Maybe I should ask for a ’67 GTO with a blower and N2O for Veterans Day parades.
Observing them trying to figure out how to deny each new item is almost as entertaining as the look on their faces when you keep adding to the list. The best denial yet was saying I cannot be given Veterans Benefits Manuals because they are a “vocational need” rather than an “avocational pursuit”. I demolished that with the observation that I can always aspire to work even if the unvarnished reality is that I am incapable of work. I’m sure the conundrum of my being a newly minted VA nonattorney practitioner while being found incapable of employment escaped their minds up to now. Which is why I write this article today.
Apparently, it just dawned on VR&E that I actually am gainfully employed. WTF, over? This revelation provoked an interesting response I’ve never encountered before from VA. Keep in mind that when (or if) you ever apply for pension based on non-service connected (NSC) ailments or injuries, you undergo a “means test” of your assets. The burning question is ‘how much do you earn from SSI/SSDI, own or control in liquid assets or possess in negotiable stocks and bonds, real estate holdings and the whole panoply of goodies like dirt bikes, boats, jet skis et cetera. If this means test reveals you are a fat cat, you will never be approved for a VA pension until you divest or bequeath these assets to heirs. Poverty is the operable phrase in pensions.
The value of a pension, if there is one, is to a destitute Veteran with a meagre income from his SSI monthly stipend. Often, a 100% pension for NSC disabilities ($3078.11 per month) is far higher than that vaunted SSI “dividend”. This has created a large business opportunity for VA attorneys to help Veterans obtain same. Nevertheless, the codicils to qualify for a nonservice connected pension do not apply to the Veteran who receives VA compensation. There is no offset or deduction for other earnings such as a state pension for a twenty-year career as a teacher. Quite simply, you can collect VA compensation, social security payments and a teacher’s pension- all concurrently. In fact, if you were a lifer in the Army and did your 20 years, you would be entitled to concurrent receipt of your Army pension as well if you had a 100% schedular-rated disability. We won’t discuss double dipping here as it is inapplicable to my dissertation today.
As I mentioned, I received an epistle from my VRC , Kris Holloway that shocked me. Did I mention I was shocked? Mr. Holloway was asking for a complete financial accounting of not only myself but my wife, our mutual extensive holdings corporations, mortgage balances and anything else that would shed light on my/our net worth. Ruh-oh Rorge… a means test for my greenhouse? With the incipient settlement of Butch Long’s claims from LZ Cork that have festered for 47 years comes the dawning revelation that VR&E may want to make me go out and buy my own damn greenhouse. In their tortured minds, anyone who is unemployable (but actually is) and in receipt of an ILP must be doing something verboten. The obvious repair order is to throw a financial disclosure request at them, unmask the truth and eighty six the ILP- or so the thinking goes. Here’s what I got…
Hello Alex, I am working on your report for the Director(s). In the report, it asks for several elements, one being a financial component. It is asking for household income, (i.e. VA disability, pension, employment, income contribution, spouse income, SSD, SSDI, grants etc.…) The report is also requesting [sic] for information on monthly expenses, reoccurring debt, mortgage, etc…. I don’t need a W-2 but if later it is an issue for some reason or another or something comes up, you would have to provide documented evidence to collaborate your figures. I will leave this component out until I hear back from your on this. Thanks.
This is, in a nutshell, the very same or a similar form a Veteran seeking a pension would be required to fill out. As ILP is neither a pension nor a means-based entitlement requiring financial disclosures, it’s easy to see it for what it is-another desperate ploy to find a reason to deny the greenhouse. On what grounds this time I’m unsure, but trust VA to give the VR&E officer who succeeds a humongous
bonus – er, performance award for actions above and beyond the call of duty.
I quickly searched Chapter 31, 38 USCS and the pertinent regulations in Chapter 21, 38 Code of Federal regulations and the silence surrounding this purported financial disclosure requirement is deafening. So, being a helpful fellow, I wrote back this morning thusly…
I talked with several VA attorneys and there is consensual agreement that this is inapplicable to an Independent Living Program. What you are describing is a “means test” for a pension, grant or perhaps a true VR&E Vocational grant. There is no means test for an IILP. The [greenhouse] grant has been awarded. The CAVC has further spoken and will brook no more delay. If you wish, you can include my current entitlement of SMC (s) which is $3435.99 per month. My SSI is $1,528.00 per month after required Medicare deductions. I have no grants active or pending otherwise with the exception of the IILP. Currently, I have no income from helping Veterans. In fact, I’m running in the red but that is what I choose. If you require any more information, I’d have to see the pertinent VA regulation or Congressional statute that permits harvesting that information and what bearing it might have on a grant based on 38 USC 3120.
Please feel free to consult with VR&E Services for more guidance on how this works if it presents a problem. I can understand it’s difficult administering a real IILP of this magnitude if you’ve never done it before. Let’s all just consider it a learning experience. I’m sure I’ll be coaching other Veterans on how to enjoy this valuable benefit in the future.
Gordon A. Graham
Oh, bother. I always leave him the Tommy Two-Tones “Jenny” telephone number above but he calls on the landline every time. Looks like another trip to the CAVC. I wonder if I can recall mandate on the last ILP Extraordinary Writ (CAVC #16-2098) from last summer or if I have to begin anew? One small step for a Veteran. One giant leap for Veterankind.
I expect this also confirms my suspicion that Butch has already won his earlier effective date of 1970. Hi-ho, hi-ho, it’s off to San Antonio we go.