I wish to apologize to my readership for my absence. It’s springtime and things grow that need to be mowed. I can’t depend on the horses to do all the weed-eating. That aside, I’ve watched with building interest the Big Six VSOs walk back all their strident objections to VA Choice if only the HVAC and SCVA were willing to throw in SMC T for all Vets. Aruuuuu? How about the Remington Rand Corp. finding that VHA is the derniere cri in medicine? And last but not least, when are the Big Six going to throw a party for Shinseki and McDonald?
VSO Sincerity ?
One subject at a time. The major VSOs sold us pre-2001 Vets down the Caregiver River to get the young Vet millennials’ vote back in 2010 and now they see the backlash from my generation of Vietnam. Worse, our purported alma mater, the VVA, signed on-or at least held their water -and willingly allowed it to transpire on their watch without a whimper. Why is an 11 Bravo who had the misfortune to eat a Bouncing Betty (before September 11th, 2001) no less entitled to a caregiver than the Vet after 9/11? He’s probably missing a few of those 2,000 body parts, too. This intriguing conundrum seems to only now rear its ugly head in VSO
bars Boardrooms across the Fruited Plain when the urgent need arises to lasso all those “conservative” Veterans (read potential members with $$$) from our era. They lost me in ’73 when the VFW told me I hadn’t actually been in a ‘war’. Boy howdy. It sure felt like one. Try telling that to the sons and daughters of those 58,318 friends of mine on the Wall. Recognize that when I say ‘our’ I obviously mean us old Parkinsonian fogies from the Vietnam stone age. Oddly enough, our ‘opt-out’ generation has come back to the polls with a passion and are surprisingly vocal and strident in their demands. Sometime during the last 50 or so years, the VSOs finally noticed that their bar buddies were thinning faster than the hair on their heads. They need our participation to stay vibrant, alive and meaningful in a Facebook™ world. Gee, what better way than to proffer another dead olive branch?
Nothing irks me more than a nonsensical argument. Either you (VSOs) are for us and our strongest advocates or… you are not. Let’s get out the scales. VSOs are bound by Congress, written right there in their clear , concise -yep- Congressional charters, that their duty as Veterans Service Officers is to “help the VA in the adjudication of VA claims for Veterans.” Reread that again and you realize your VSO is not your service rep. S/he works for the VA indirectly. Your dues support his/her wages. In essence, you are paying that jackwad to help screw you out of your benefits. Every signed VAF 21-22 POA each Veterans Service Organization submits to the VA is remunerated by the VA. Granted, $250 is a pretty small tithe to pay for buying off your client’s legal help but Courts don’t consider VSOs to be much more than loud-mouthed mailmen.
I have occasion to rub shoulders with some of them when my Congressman invites me over to VSO coffee Klatches to represent the NOVA side of things. Most come over and ask me who I represent. When I say I’m a nonattorney practitioner/Agent, I get the “What are you doing here, then? This is for Veterans’ Representatives!” Rodney Dangerfield summed it up. We don’t get no respect.
On the other hand, we agents/attorneys are held to the highest legal standard and may be censured or lose our VA accreditation for the simplest violation of our client’s due process rights. It’s against the law for me to file for tinnitus @ 10% for each ear. VSOs do it all the time. VSOs are rife with conundrums and paradoxes. How about this one.
VSOs insist we are getting cutting edge medical treatment and have no right to go outside of the system and seek private care. The argument being there are scarce VHA resources available as it is and any diversion of funds to VA Choice would reduce the quality of care of the remaining Vets who do use VAMCs and CBOHs. WTF, over? Now, suddenly, those same VSOs are amenable to this diversion to the private sector but we’ll have to ding Vets who use the VA Mortgage option when buying houses. The idea is to tack on a ‘user fee’ to a VA Mortgage Loan and artificially create $4.2 billion to fund VA Choice and all of us pre-2001 Vets who need SMC T/Caregiver $. Somehow, they also want to shovel in SC for AO benefits for the 90,000 Blue Water Navy Vets on top of it. Guess who ends up sucking that hind tit? Yeppers, folks. All those newly-minted millennial Vets who thought they were going to get a VA mortgage benefit. Welcome to politics and politicians. We screwed the old guys back in 2010 so its only fair to screw the young ‘uns this time around. I’m sure they’ll understand and feel our pain. It brings back memories of Roseanne Roseannadanna saying “It always goes to show it’s something.
As for nonsensical, in 2014 45 Vets in the sunny southwest state of Arizona had the misfortune of becoming room temperature while waiting (futilely) for VA to schedule a new exam to replace the one surreptitiously 86’d. Turned out that was just the tip of the iceberg. So when did they decide VA medical care is the finest in America? Before or after that fustercluck? That sure pokes a hole in the Obamacare argument. Were VAMCs so cutting edge, why didn’t they pattern the ACA after the VHA? What does that say about a future single payer model? Worse, how could our 146 VSOs, chartered by Congress, with that knowledge continue to summarily advocate we all stay in such a flawed system that was, and is, deleterious to our medical health? I’m gonna go out on a limb and guess these old boys don’t use the VA for their medical needs or they might be dead by now themselves. Just for shits and grins, it would be interesting to take a gander at FTCA/§1151 claims and see if they comport with a National norm for medical misadventure. But that’s a story for another day. I rely on you, my info point men/women to find these nefarious statistics and report back. So far, you’re batting a .1000.
While we’re on the subject of VSOs, I find it rather comical that some Vets come to me for advice on how to get started. Which VSO do I recommend? Who’s the best? Friends, they are all birds of a feather. When your claim arrives at the BVA, assuming you had the misfortune to travel that far with a genuine VSO, they have teams of homogenized triumvirates handling this. Each team might consist of a VFW rep, a DAV rep and an AmLeg rep. It’s whoever is available to take it on. Their specialty is begging for the Benefit of the Doubt. It really makes no difference who represents you until you get that first denial. After that, it’s a conscious choice to keep using valeaglebeaglezoom.com.
Face it. Politics corrupts the soul. Vets, as a closed mathematical set, are considered as barter regardless of which VSO “represents” them. While I might have respected the Vietnam Veterans of America when they began, they quickly succumbed to the allure of the money. What is it about VSO advocacy that brings out the scalawags? In truth, the only way to obtain allegiance is to buy it outright. I guess that’s akin to what you get when you hire a VA agent. We’ll be your Huckleberry with a capital H for 20% with no annual dues! Money does talk. As I like to point out, 100% of nothing from free legal assistance is $0.00. At least we Shylocks are up front about it.
One last thing that really sticks in my craw. Imagine paying annual dues to a fraternal outfit like DAV so they can pay their top dogs hundreds of thousands of dollars each to sell your best interests-not to mention your VA claims- down the river. That takes a speschull kind of stupid, I guess. But they all do have those neatsy keen campaign hats going for them.
The Typewriter folks at Remington Rand
RemRand has come a long way since the Pentagon Papers. I see they’re back in the news.
Holy typewriters, Batman. What have they been smoking? How can you state in unqualified terms that everything is hunky dory at most VAMCs but in the same article contradict yourself and say there are some that are “underperformers”? Here’s one of the highly-paid-for zingers that VA purchased…
“The variation among VA health facilities shows that veterans in some areas are not receiving the same high-quality care that other VA facilities are able to provide,” said Carrie Farmer, a study co-author and a senior policy researcher at RAND.
From the mouths of babes. RemRand says this is an “independent study”. My guess is the VA diverted some of those scarce bucks for VA choice to buy a reputable cheerleader. Here’s another chicken dinner winner quote:
“Congress and veterans’ groups have expressed concerns that access to care and quality of care in the VA system are inferior to the access and quality in non-VA settings.”
Ya think? I remember accompanying a group of my Vet buds visiting a few of their friends who ended up in West LA VAMC back during the war, excuse me, conflict. We almost threw up from the stench of feces and urine on their paraplegic ward. We had to go buy towels at K Market, come back to give them all showers and change their sheets. I’m sorry to admit it depressed me so badly I could never go back.
Certainly, we could say our valiant VSOs who insist we utilize this modern medical miracle, are aware of the situation you and I actually face. That very same cutting edge VA medical care almost killed me in 2009-2010. In truth, I wonder how many of them use it? It’s certainly one thing to blindly advocate for it but another to walk the walk.
BLUE WATER VETS
This is one controversial subject at best. I might not be in the mainstream on this among my peers at NOVA but here goes. I am very familiar with AO and more especially A Blue. I might have encountered some of the other four flavors during my two years over there but I disremember it.
First the chemical discussion. All herbicides basically consist of heavy metals. They sink into the soil after use and percolate into the water table. In soils with poor induration, they tend to collect at the surface. Think rice paddies and red clay. With torrential rains during monsoon, new soil migrates. Old soil generally follows gravity and ends up in the South China Sea. Any AO that accretes in migratory soils is naturally flushed (eventually) unless it permeates the water supply. This is what has happened in Laos. If one didn’t know any better, they would think the world shipped its entire supply of Thalidomide there. The number of children with birth defects is uncountable. Worse, it continues. We sprayed every different flavor in our inventory there from 65-71. In fact, we sprayed more there than any other locale in Southeast Asia.
Back to AO. If it’s a heavy metal, it sinks. If it runs off into the South China Sea which was easy to see with all the plumes of muddy water where creeks and rivers disgorged into the sea, it still sinks. It might screw up the fishing along the shoreline but the fish would exhibit the same disfigurements. This would ostensibly discourage eating them. The important thing to understand is that many US Naval Vessels had reverse osmosis filters for fresh water needs on board ships. If you were foolish enough to troll too close to shore in a Destroyer while sucking up water for filtration and conversion, the water would have that signature reddish-pink tint. No one in their right minds would suck this in for conversion-not with the entire South China Sea to draw from. Thus I take exception to the idea that the USS Kitty Hawk ‘s water filtration system managed to pick up any picloram or dioxins at the Yankee Station racetrack. To date, no one can explain how Blue Water folks could get AO exposure at sea. No one. Congress and VSOs just want to give it to them. Period. No science. No investigation. Hell, you couldn’t even see Vietnam from Yankee Station. Explain that…
I had a Vet come to me and ask to file for AO exposure. He’s Blue Water so I asked if he had any paper showing R&R at Vung Tau-or Sydney Australia for that matter. I could win without it if he had buddy letters. How many kept their R&R TDY orders? Why would they? Face it, They didn’t fly from the Kitty Hawk to Sydney. They had to go through Tan Son Nhut which means a boot or two on the ground. Why this escapes VA is another one of those VA paradoxes no one can unravel. Back to the Kitty Hawk.
My Vet worked the flight deck and complained of working on A-4Js who returned with oily residue that “he was told was AO by the pilots.” Let’s analyze this. A-4s were busy destroying downtown Hanoi and the Paul Doumer Bridge for the most part. We were not running Ranchhand spray ops over downtown Hanoi. Having worked in FAC, I personally know we controlled every aircraft in our area of operations. We didn’t have C-123s at 2,500 feet spraying AO while we were clearing in A-1s hot with ordnance free below 1,500 feet underneath them. What the Vet saw and probably smelled was jettisoned JP-4 (130 AVGAS w/ Kerosene). We often added kerosene, or, for that matter, any contaminated petroleum distillate, in a one-to-one mixture to AO. That was the prescribed recipe. To this day, we know categorically that no AO spray operations were conducted from carriers or any other naval vessels in the So. China Sea. Sorry, sailors. No sail.
This is why I cannot agree to granting a blanket presumption to all U.S. Navy personnel who served out there on the bounding main. I do agree it would have to be on a case by case basis as a great number undoubtedly went ashore for R&R. But simply granting them a blanket AO presumptive “because it’s the right thing to do” doesn’t cut it. There are far too many who are truly disenfranchised with documented exposure in Thailand. They will never get that presumption while alive so why should it be a gimme to Blue Water Vets? Hell, some of the Air Force guys like me lived in barracks 50 feet away from where “tactical herbicides” were sprayed on the perimeter at Udorn. Where, pray tell, is the justice? I might buy this if they had weeds growing up out of the flight deck on the Forrestal.
The problem once again boils down to money. VA is broke. They spend money like drunken sailors (no pun intended in the instant case). Why would you pay a high-level GS 14 employee a bonus for simply doing his or her job? Aren’t they already suitably remunerated? I made the mistake of using ‘bonus’ to a VA rater several years ago. I got a magnanimous five-minute lecture on how that went out with Shinseki. The operable phrase now is “incentive pay”. Gee, I’d think working at the VA would be incentive enough. Imagine helping your fellow Veterans. Wait… I already do. So does that mean I’m eligible?
And that’s all I’m gonna say about that.
P.S. I updated this @ 1800 PST