As Alex has noted, only a few staffers in any particular VSO office are accredited representatives. This has been a surprising revelation. The information is included in two recent CRS reports.
Veterans Accredited Representatives: Frequently Asked Questions June 25, 2020 R46428 (Link) or
Veterans Service Organizations (VSOs): Frequently Asked Questions, Updated June 26, 2020 R46412 (Link) or
R46412 PDF-8 pages
Note: CRS reports are prepared at the behest of congressional members and can be accessed via this search engine: https://crsreports.congress.gov/
or, “For an index of CRS products, click the SEARCH button without entering a search term.” These summary reports contain “breadcrumbs” to other places to look for in- depth reports.
Oddities include statements like this footnote: “8 CRS has a nondistributable, archived report on congressionally chartered organizations, RL30340…” however this report is archived by North Texas University library and probably others (LINK). Or the actual pdf: years old RL30340_2011Jun17 ,
A few quotes to ponder:
“…Not all recognized VSOs provide accredited representatives to represent claimants. The recognized VSOs that do not represent claimants must illustrate how they will inform veterans of the limited services they can provide, as well as how they will advise veterans on how to find accredited representation….Accredited representatives who work for VSOs may not charge their clients fees. ” p. 3
“…VSOs may receive funding from state, county, or private funding sources. They may also receive federal grants to support specific activities…” p. 4
“…there is no uniform requirement for all VSOs or all congressionally chartered VSOs to submit reports.” (To the federal government) p. 4
“All accredited representatives … are accredited through VA’s Office of General Counsel (OGC), have completed specific, VA-approved training, have access to claimants’ records, are authorized to upload relevant documentation into VA databases….”
In contrast, congressional staff are not authorized to access VA claims files or upload documents into VA databases on behalf of claimants. 4 In addition, congressional staff are not subject to OGC oversight. … but they may not represent claimants before VA.
Congress wants to change this.
“Legislation in the 116th Congress has been introduced to allow nonaccredited representatives , such as congressional staff, access to veterans’ records (H.R. 628).
In addition, in response to a proposed rule to rescind the 48 hours currently
given to accredited representatives to review claims determinations (85 Federal Register 9435, February 19, 2020), legislation has been introduced to require this access (S. 3761).”
How many veterans think that going to their senator’s staffers is going to solve their claim problems, only to have the VA write a letter to the senator stating they, the VA, is correct in their determination regarding said veteran? Even experienced staffers with good intentions spin their wheels as they encounter VA’s many schemes and mazes.
However, it would be better if they turned over tough cases to those trained to give the VA the evidence it needs and have access to the system. And politics and privacy–should not become entangled in benefit claims.
What about the free rent some VSOs receive? It is mentioned but not explained.
Alex has explained that it is now much harder for a veteran to navigate the system alone. Trying to figure out the correct forms to use alone is difficult. And an IMO is now essential putting ill veterans, short of funds, in a terrible position. The questionnaires vets could give a private doctor, have been removed. However, there existed a deceptive double standard with regard to the questionnaires anyway. Contracted C & P examiners were given longer, more comprehensive questionnaires for the same conditions. (Alex Graham Hadit.com podcast, 1/20). Those in-house questionnaires are the forms veterans must be given if they cannot afford thousands of dollars on professional, detailed, IMOs.
So we still must clamor for reforms and transparency, not only for the oldies, but for younger veterans who should be spared further injustice as well.
Laura (Guest author)
By entangling politics and privacy they make it almost impossible to receive rational decisions on claims! But, that’s exactly where the V.A. is heading! Away from medicine and education to political nonsense and non accredited employees making irrational baseless decisions… if not for Alex I would have departed this dysfunctional system long ago, as it’s a crap shoot at best!! He is a ray of light in a dismal dark journey called the disability zone…
Agree. I found ASKNOD about six years ago, completely clueless about how to file a claim. Had one brief encounter with a VSO and never heard from him again. A MN state veteran officer was more helpful but I was more involved.
The thing is, they keep changing–giving something, then taking away–but one thing has not changed–the lack of transparency.
My husband has been lucky in that he has had good smart VA doctors, in Texas, MN, and now VT but they are constrained by “the rules” and over-worked. They same with his private doctors. We all have to become our own case managers.
I have read that during COVID, have hired hundreds of healthcare workers in record speed–a few weeks, in stead of months. So they can do better when motivated. There are still thousands of unfilled positions in the VHA.
And who would have guessed voting in a dimwit would make dealing with the VA more difficult. Our VSO in our little town just placed an article in the paper stating how VA will not cover emergencies at your local hospital if approval is not in advance. Do I have to spell out what the word EMERGENCY means?, my gosh it’s like the blind leading the blind. One thing they never address is yes, once you receive the approval it never covers the other departments involved in the EMERGENCY or the ambulance for that matter. Yeah, let’s vote in a dimwit and hope it gets better, right!
He should have mentioned the new urgent care benefit. The staff there could call an ambulance if needed. https://www.va.gov/communitycare/programs/veterans/Urgent_Care.asp
Another strategy is to call the VA nurse line for advice. That starts a case & tracking. If told to go to ER, within 24 hours, send secure message to VA PCP notifying them Tell the ER room that the patient is a vet; they will contact VA. Patient could end up transferred to a VA hospital if not too far away and patient is stable.
Maybe you can write up a fact sheet and email with links and ask the paper to do an article about these topics. Might save someone’s life.
My husband has used the urgent care benefit for a bad cut and tetanus shot. No bill. VA bills medicare. Fast service.
Should be able to find VA-networked urgent care providers here. If your regional hospital isn’t listed, them the CEO to sign up. They should receive the same fees as Medicare payments.
Having only used/employed/ appointed for/as representation; A/Any VSO, I may not be the best judge of them albeit the One time I did use one; during my first journey through the CAVC, I found it/them/him to be absolutely mindless, impulsive and plagiaristic as well; using my own previously Filed but Denied appeal for 11 new physical disabilities, to File His post into their newly developing system ; va.gov. Never, I say Never would I use one/VSO again; for anything…
Alex has said that going pro se is more difficult now, but at the moment, I don’t remember why! Even the fully developed claim route has been tinkered with against the vet. Filing for 11 new disabilities seems like too many for most ROs to cope with at one time.
Right On, Sister, I agree with you!
IMO: the VA disability claim procedure(s) has gotten more difficult to maneuver through the clouded maze Up to the Board and VLJ’s.
Even when the VLJ remands the previous VARO inept decisions, no GS-7 disability claims agent or their (more experienced?) GS-9 Veterans disability claims supervisor is willing to provide any large number retroactive disability grants.
God forbid the VA raters lose out on their year end bonus.