Nothing tickles me better than to get a mess of wins in one week. You folks who allow me to represent you have no idea how much pleasure I get when I slay the proverbial Goliath. It’s certainly not like winning the lotto but the joy is also derived from VA’s hanging me out to dry from 1989 to 2016. Every one of you I put in the driver’s seat is equally long overdue in most cases and in some, an important adjunct to your financial ability to survive. And every one is one more dagger in their back for what they did to me.
Bob showed up on my door in early 2017 and wanted to get 100% for DM II. Well, that wasn’t going to happen but I said I’d do my best. Being a Vietnam Vet like myself, I naturally agreed to take him on. He already had a handful of this’s and that’s for Bent Brain, PN in all four quadrants, the usual tinnitus from too many hand grenades and not enough OSHA earplug protection etc. His biggest complaint? Why, VA wouldn’t pay for his Trulicity® for his DM II and it was kicking him in the ass. He also had a brand new Weatherby .338 and a killer 3×9 scope he wanted to show me and was eager to try it out on an elk that fall. He would never get the chance.
Bob was on a combat sweep up in the Central Highlands of I Corps one sunny July afternoon just before Monsoon. They were traversing an area that had recently been sprayed and the Air Force was still running Ranchhand ops in his AO. He described what I had happen to me one day up in that country north of Thailand that rhymes with mouse. After the 123 makes its pass, you feel that oily film and a fine mist descend on you. It makes your hair and skin sticky from the oil but the mosquitoes quit bugging you. In fact, there were no mosquitoes after one of these events. Or spiders. Or snakes. Or monkeys. Or jingjokes. I think to us that was a good thing then…If there was a mud puddle or a rice paddy nearby, you’d see the rainbow colors on the surface of the water indicating a petroleum product like gas had been spilled. Agent Tang was always mixed 1:1 with anything they had lying around like kerosene, JP-4, contaminated AVGAS-hell, even motor oil or transmission fluid worked. It made the AO stick to the vegetation better and longer.
Bob described it almost the same way. Worse, it irritated his sinuses. Permanently. Forever after, he’d have a chronic clogged sinus passage with occasional infections requiring a course of antibiotics. Like all of us, I reckon he figured it was just the cost of playing soldier. I got it too and had two operations to open up the passages several years after I got out. No cancer yet. Knock on wood. I can live with the Porphyria. For that sweep, he, a military policeman, had been repurposed as an 11 Bravo 10 and was awarded both a Purple Heart and a Combat Infantry Badge afterwards. He told me it was ‘ugly’ was all. The Army is not in the habit of awarding CIBs to guys with a 95B40 MOS. They ran into a battalion-sized NVA outfit and got into a nasty scrum for several days. As usual, the gooks cut and ran after the Bigwigs began choppering divisions in from Camp Radcliffe and whaling on them from the surrounding Firebases. Liberal applications of Napalm further convinced them it was time to beat feet. And so Bob returned to being a cop for the rest of his tour. Not. But he couldn’t stay away. He signed up again after a two year civilian vacation and took a second tour. A lot of my friends said I was insane to sign up for another year in May ’71. I reckon that makes me and Bob weird or something. Didn’t seem like it back then. Doesn’t now.
Come early November of 2017, just before elk season began, he got the cancer diagnosis. It was bad and metastasizing faster than they could treat it. By March they gave up on chemo and went to morphine and Fentanyl patches as the drugs of choice. Hospice began about May 10th. He passed July 1 and I’m glad. It was ugly and painful. Best of all, VA owed him for all of July, too. Cupcake and I attended his funeral a week later. He got a big send off with military honors. The burial detail was a little green on folding the flag but they gave it their best. Can’t say I could have done any better.
To add insult to injury, VA granted 100% for PTSD and a few other nitnoy items on June 19th-eleven days before he passed- but denied the cancer. Ergo, no DIC for you, Señora. What made it even uglier was the VES c&p gal, an ARPN, who my VA Change Management Agent Tina convinced to come to Bob’s house on the same day they did the rating, gave a positive nexus for the cancer being due to AO. I called the RO two days later and asked WTF? We have an IMO. Hellooooooo? Why even have a c&p if you’re going to deny before you even read the report? Crickets. Lots of crickets in Seattle there are. Yessssss.
Long before he became incoherent and comatose, he looked in my eyes and begged me to promise him I’d take care of the outstanding claims and make sure his wife got DIC. His fingernails put dents in the back of my hand he was so serious. I promised him I would. I grabbed every medical record I could lay hands on and shipped them all off to my BFFs at Mednick Associates. To their credit, they provided an excellent Independent Medical Opinion for me. I filed the BVA appeal in August and we started cutting bait while we waited. This was under the new AMA appeals process and I was a little gun shy about how it would play out. I didn’t ask for a hearing because there wasn’t much I could present and Bob was now in a Heavenly zip code.
I always take a spin through CASEFLOW every several days on the off chance something will transpire- even if it’s so nondescript that you can’t tell what happened. It showed a decision but it was vague. As this was the first of my Vets in CASEFLOW to get a decision since they instituted it and got rid of VACOLS, I held my breath. I wasn’t going to call up his daughter and say “I think we won”. I waited to see it populate in VBMS. Sure enough the next afternoon it surfaced. Hallelujah.
Winning claims for widows is a sacred trust to me. I was glad I could do this one. It still makes my eyes wet writing about it.
Here’s the BVA decision. Livingstone BVA win 2-20-2020 redacted
John the Marine
I have a thing about Marines. I count one of my closest friends as one. I met John while changing out a dishwasher in one of my rentals. John”s daughter was renting from us and he came down to open up the house and watch. We got to talking and next thing you know, I was repping him for PTSD. We won without so much as a NOD. VA caved in after the c&p. John had been PCS in the Philippines and got TDY orders to Chu Lai in late spring 1968 after the New Year’s celebrations. They were running convoy protection from there down to Bien Hoa and had so many casualties they were grabbing transportation dudes and shoving 16s and Alice pacs into their hands and baptizing them as infantrymen.
As with all of us who have gone TDY, nary a speck of military evidence could be found to prove boots on the ground and VA had made a pseudopolite point of telling him he must have dreamed it all. By now, a lot of you know me and my proclivity to never give up. I’m worse than Double Bubble gum on your shoe in July. He’d tossed his old yellow shot book decades ago but his parents had kept all the letters he’d sent home with the “Free” franking stamp up in the right corner showing the 96219 zip code… which happens to be… yep. Chu Lai. Bingo. Instant chicken dinner winner. VA gave that envelope the hairy eyeball for a month trying to figure out how they could call it a forgery. So I sent them five more and said we had a shit ton more of them if they were still having any doubts. That did it. Remember, this is VA poker. See and always raise.
Along about September last, I called him up just to check on him. We hadn’t talked in two years. Seems the Parkinson’s was getting bad and I offered to begin again and go for loss of use of the lower extremities and Aid and Attendance. VA began all over again and wanted proof of boots on the Indochinese red clay. I sent them a copy of his 2015 PTSD rating decision for combat. I guessed they disremembered it. It still wasn’t good enough. They decided to go all the way back to the NPRC just to be mighty sure he was a Nehmer Member. I don’t know what they hoped to find this time around because they came up with a dry hole back in 2015-16. I begged them to pick up the pace because John was going downhill faster than the doctors could type it into the medical records.
On Saturday the 8th of this month, his daughter called to tell me he’d just been diagnosed with mega-advanced b cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia. His wonder docs down at the local VAMC had been telling him the reason he felt run down was due to all that Parkinson’s. That failed to explain away the plummeting white blood cell count. The QTC doctor had called me after the c&p and told me to get him to a doctor like yesterday. VA docs finally decided to run some blood tests after initially telling him to hold his water. They misplaced the results and then found them on Wednesday the 5th of February. The asshats called him in for the shit show briefing on Friday. I’m surprised they didn’t take 3 weeks to schedule an appointment and then surreptitiously cancel it when he had his back turned. Delay and deny until we die. Literally.
I filed for the Leukemia that same Saturday and was on the horn Monday to Fort Fumble in Salt Lick City who was handling the claim. By now, I had Sonja the RVSR on speed dial. I got her on the horn and asked her to include the leukemia in the current claim. Wonder of wonders, she didn’t give me some bogus “I’ll have to get three signatures for a medical flash, Mr. Graham. It doesn’t work like that.” She flashed him as terminal while we were talking and immediately got to work checking with the American Lake VAMC just to make sure I wasn’t funning her about his leukemia. Trust… but verify. You folks know how we VA ambulance chasers like to lie and cheat about our malingering clients, right?
Sure enough, she was true to her word-sort of. The rating came out but no R1 or R2. Why shoot. He only had lost 20% of his left and right feets and could probably still put in a credible performance if he decided to run the Boston Marathon this spring according to them. Mind you, we showed up at the 11/26/2019 c&p driving a wheelchair. I guess they thought that was just a bunch of VA Agent Kabuki theatre shit. VA probably calls that a “staged rating attempt”.
I called up the Coach and pitched a bitch about no R1/R2 but they refused to budge. What a lot of you wanna be adjudicators and DIY claims Vets don’t realize is there is more than one way to skin this SMC cat. Ever hear of two ratings for A&A? Remember, both his Parkinson’s and his Leukemia are 100%. Either disease is a full-blown candidate for A&A. I explained that to them in an email yesterday afternoon. Breniser v Shinseki (2011) is unequivocal. No condition counted twice. Last time I checked, Parkinson’s and Leukemia were not related but the M 21 may say different. I cc;’d it to our good friend VA Secretary Bob Wilkie just in case they forgot to consult with him or the Director, Comp. and Pen. We’ll see how this ammo pile cooks off come Monday. If they decide to make me appeal, this one’s going to hit CBS Channel 7 KIRO on the 6 o’clock news with one of those “Can you believe this shit?” intros.
Here’s John’s not quite R1 rating. It’s like someone handing you fifty one-dollar bills and telling you you’re a millionaire. In this case, it’s fifty 20% ratings when you’re already at SMC S. It’s about as useful as nursing utensils on a boar hog for VA compensation purposes.
Compensation Pension Claim/Appeal
Last, but not least, is the third story which occurred about 0534 Hrs this morning. I’m lying in bed fighting with Pickles over who gets to put their head on my pillow when my cell phone pings on my nightstand. It’s my clients in Houston emailing to say we’ve won. GTF outta here! They call about three times a week with new horror stories, all truthful, about how Andrew is getting worse and more than in need of A&A. I was in Nashville for spring NOVA last year when this got denied. Some Coach up in Newark, NJ-scratch that, New Yawk-was doing the rating and called to say “they’d” reviewed it a second time per my personal request and try as they might, dadgummit, they still couldn’t bring themselves to grant. Mind you, if was him alone. Not some mythological band of RVSRs riding Unicorns. I asked what the impediment was and they said he just wasn’t quite there yet. It came out more like ‘quaaaat’. Andrew has two 100% ratings for some serious shit on his plate- COPD and OSA. What’s more, the laundry list goes on and on for three more pages in the Confirmed Ratings sheet. Andrew’s got more ratings than me and I’m 290%. He’s a total insomniac and falls asleep in mid-sentence in the middle of the day. He forgets to turn off the stove and dang near burned the house down last fall. No sirree, Bob. He was not anywhere’s near A&A material in VA’s book. I sent them down to the Houston VAMC about once a month to get his shrinks and the rest of the crew to write one 2680 after another saying he was a prime candidate. His wife was appointed his fiduciary over almost two years ago. No dice. I’ve dutifully mailed every 2680 in to the BVA while we waited and waited for them to cut some paper. Crickets. BVA even refused to advance him on the docket when I told them the kids had to refi to avoid losing the house.
Andrew’s last 2680 hit the VBMS about 20 days ago and some rocketman in Houston took it for an inferred claim. The same dingbat also glommed onto the fact that Andrew’s VA Shrink had accidentally checked off on the Pension box instead of the Compensation box and this bozo was giddy about the prospect of denying (with prejudice). Andrew served in time of peace so he’d never be eligible. What’s more, they know it. We often talk about the technique of developing claims to deny. Well, this time I have incontrovertible proof they are in the process of a flagrant Texas Necktie Party. I screenshot the comment of the RVSR shit-for-brains who stupidly left the damning evidence right there in VBMS in the deferrals section. I quickly sent him an email explaining the concept of the nonadversarial, Veterans friendly regulation that says a claim for pension is a claim for compensation and a claim for compensation is a claim for pension and VA is obligated to grant the higher award if possible. What do they teach these guys in VA rating school? All I got back was the sound of more crickets. They haven’t even slowed down in their headlong rush to deny… yet.
Check it out…
Fortunately, the BVA came to our rescue… or will on Monday. The BVA decision will be posted on 2/24-two days hence- saying he’s been granted SMC P (M+K) for A&A of another. It’s showing in CASEFLOW as a grant but it isn’t posted yet in VBMS. I do so hope they post the denial for the Pension A&A about 30 minutes before the BVA decision propagates. I’d give a hundred bucks to see the look on that prick RVSR’s face when he realizes his smarmy little vindictive denial is going to flop like an almost-done cheese souffle in Kindergarten at recess.
Here’ the way CASEFLOW shows us we won. Pretty primitive for a brand new product.
Here’s Andrew’s BVA decision Andrew redact BVA decision 2-24-20
All in all, it’s been an outstanding week. I’m still alive. Cupcake’s cancer appears to be in remission and Pickles seems to have quit growing. She turned 1 on 2/05/20 and is all you could ask for in a dog. If I can get her to quit eating my bedroom slippers, I won’t have to remember to put them up on my dresser at night before I go to sleep. I’m on my third pair. She lunched the ones I got for Christmas a week after. Life is good at LZ Grambo.
Again, thank you- all of you who entrust your VA fate to me. It’s quite an honor really. On behalf of myself and the rest of the asknod menagerie, I hope I pass the audition.