One thing you can always count on is running into someone you either know or have read about at NOVA conferences. I got a bang out of being introduced to Bart Stichman who said I didn’t “look” like asknod. Okay, I’ll bite. What’s an asknod look like? The other interesting situation I get a kick out of is folks coming up to me and saying Gordon! How are you? Remember me? We met in San Francisco in 2015 Spring NOVA. Not. I don’t go by my first name. I’ve never introduced myself as Gordon to anyone ever. Buckwheat, maybe. Alex almost always-but never Gordon.
This NOVA looks to be a wee short on presenters and choices compared to some in the past but learning about how to saddle a VA horse and ride it is always interesting. That’s the beauty of VA law. It constantly mutates with new legal breakthroughs and all those wonderful cutting edge programs like the new RAMP rocket docket appeals fiasco. Who in their right mind would sign up for one of these programs? The deck is already stacked against you. Why volunteer to have what’s left of rump denial perpetrated even sooner?
VA has long protested that the much-vaunted duty to assist Veterans is uppermost in their minds. How is it then that they have been trying their damnedest to eviscerate that duty with the Fully Developed Claims (FDC) program?
I fear the day when they will declare CUE a thing of the past and declare that Dead on Arrival. As it is, it’s one of the few tools at our disposal whereby we can attempt to right a wrong perpetrated on a Vet who was clueless in 1970. I have several of those in the oven right now and each is a veritable antique ratings error.
Ever since the Fugo decision, we are tasked with being anally attentive to detail in how we describe a CUE to ensure it is precise and not too ambiguous such as to fall flat like baking a soufflé at a daycare center. Additionally, one has to determine if it was a CUE at the BVA or the AOJ. Was it subsumed by a later BVA decision on the exact same grounds? The pitfalls that precede a CUE filing are numerous and exacting. One false step, one wrong assumption and your CUE is dead in the water. The fact is, winning a CUE is undoubtedly the hardest thing to accomplish even if you have all the ingredients. 95% of the time when I lay it out and submit it, I get a denial back in the next day’s mail. Hell, if it took me a month to unravel it after glossing over a c-file six times, how in Sam Hill can a VA Appeals Team GS-12 wünderkind determine it isn’t CUE in such short order.
My personal best was last November when I caught Phoenix out on NINE CUEs in one decision. Just for poops and grins, we decided to go back and roll them with a NOD for r(2).
I like to fight VA the way I fought the war. An offensive, aggressive stance is my signature trademark. Why be nice? They sure as hell aren’t going to reciprocate in kind so the pleasantries are wasted. Set up your M-60s on the flanks of your ambush and draw them into the middle. Keep hammering the evidence out in front of them until they run into it and “discover” it on their own. Let them think they are the Einsteins who discovered the miscarriage of justice.
As many times as I have been admonished not to resubmit old existing evidence, I ignore them. It might be old but if it’s material when taken in context with anything newer that unequivocally supports the claim, then it isn’t redundant in my book. Remember always, the last thing submitted will always be at the top of the .pdf file. If it’s the smoking gun, it doesn’t help if it was submitted in the last claim that was denied and it’s buried on page 492.
Cupcake has taught me from her real estate experiences that a human mind (let alone a VA rater’s) has an overload limit. Sometimes you have to do a powerpoint presentation for some of those VA gomers at the Puzzle Palace. After about 40 pages, their eyes glaze over. It’s not about making a good presentation. It’s about keeping the burning bush at the top of that claims file in the first ten pages when they’re formulating that defective denial. Better yet, explain it several times over. I try to use monosyllabic words that don’t go over their heads, too.
And that’s all I’m gonna say about that. Time for a Single-malt Scotch and some good VA war stories from the troops in the trenches. More anon