Right. The Who dialed it. So, as most of you know, I’m a “hearing” kind of litigator. Have Jetgun. Will travel. Wire asknod Seattle. The full panoply and all that. All kidding aside, I strongly believe in the hearing process. Once, before VLJ Matt Blackwelder, my theory was pivotal in winning. If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a face-to-face hearing is worth a thousand pictures. Judge Blackwelder essentially was prepared to grant after learning you could “date” a Hepatitis C infection using the Metavir scale. If you have cirrhosis in 2018, it took you 40+ years to get there notwithstanding you snorted some toot in 1988. Subtract 48 years and you’re back in the Air Force in Udorn in 1970.
But first, the Pickle gun…
I had a good, old fashioned Travel Board Hearing scheduled for May 8th this spring in Houston right up until I didn’t. The Kung Flu made sure that didn’t happen. No word on rescheduling yet. Oddly, I have numerous fossils in my family, including my siblings, that, by rights, should have fallen afoul of this insidious disease. In fact, I have yet to claim knowledge of any in my memory who have either contracted it or died from it so far. That, in and of itself, doesn’t mean anything statistically. By the same token, none of us are demented or debilitated enough to warrant being relegated (incarcerated) in the euthanasia chambers (state old folks homes) nor I am naive enough to suggest this is a blatant politivirus designed to winnow the objectionable voting population down. I don’t do conspiracy stuff. New Yorkers are weird in their own right. They wouldn’t know fresh air if it bit them on the butt-tocks.
Where were we? Ah, hearings. I received a NOVA flyer telling us Attorneys/Agents all the expected bad news on hearings this week. It’s far more bleak than I expected. We’re going from TBs to video hearings to- gasp- virtual hearings. I’d say ‘virtual’ is very aptly named. I decline to jump in just yet. I didn’t do RAMP in 2018 when VA touted it as all the rage. I kept a lot of my stuff in Legacy because, well, to be perfectly Alex, I don’t trust the VA. The HLR path is classic bait and switch. Butch Long’s LZ Cork saga is also a classic example of my well-founded distrust. They screwed him even though I was extraordinarily careful to avoid what happened. Fortunately, I kept a few §3.156(c) hand grenades in my cargo pocket. It was a habit I picked up from others I flew with up in Laos. It was rumored the cyanide pills we were issued tasted like shit. We all knew the Pathet Lao didn’t take prisoners either. Two hand grenades meant you could have the last laugh and still have one left for yourself. Bad habits die hard.
Attached here are the briefing statistics. Sorry- it’s Powerpoint without the audio.
Hidden amongst the plethora of pathetic platitudes in the New AMA was a ominous change that went unnoticed similar to some of the regs in Obamacare (nee ACA). Gone was the right to a Travel Board hearing at your local VARO unless you are still Legacy with a shiny VA 9. Now, all they offer locally is videoconferences… or did before the onset of COVID 20. I confess my guilt. I went along with the “We have to pass it to find out what’s in it” VFW/AmVets crowd. If you want a real sit down, face-to-face with the Trier of Fact, you have to fly to DC and attend one at the BVA down on 1425 I Street. Hey, it’s not bad. They have really good coffee and the folks don’t treat you like untermenschen or the unwashed homeless.
I tried my first videoconferencing hearing on a three-way link between San Juan, Puerto Rico, DC and Seattle VARO. It was a disaster. We lost commo 20 minutes in and didn’t get it back for another 20. The VLJ had lost his train of thought by then and we never regained traction. That doesn’t happen when you can swat a fly off that ol’ boy’s nose across from you. I like them to really see my Vets-the damage done, the suffering. The earnest expressions of truth. No camera can capture that. It’s the difference between black and white and color.
Moving along, I find myself at a loss for words with our revised litigation regulations during this time. Where else can VA raters ignore the equipoise regulation in §3.102-one of the most holiest of due process- and say an optometrist’s considered opinion is far more probative than an ophthalmological surgical specialist’s? These are piling up day after day. Each denial has to go to the BVA for direct review causing an interminable 6 month delay in an otherwise obvious grant. The latest is now denying widows their right to be substituted in their deceased husband’s stead for outstanding appeals. You almost expect the next edict will be “Due to the COVID 19, all claims will be denied until further notice.”
I hear the VVA and their ilk continue to harp and demand the new presumptives for Agent Orange to include hypothyroidism, bladder cancer, Parkinson’s-like disease and hypertension. Where in Sam Hill is the hue and cry for presumptive service connection for my Thailand/Laos brothers? We continue to hear them clamor for inclusion for Anderson Island, greater areas than the small patch at the Korean DMZ and Okinawa -but nothing beyond the sound of crickets for Ubon, Udorn, Takhli, Korat, NKP and Don Muang. But what about Tango 11? Phitsanolok? Or Det. B, 7th RRFS? Ko Kha Air Station? The military may never recognize us-ever. That sucks.
Ko Kha Air Station, Thailand with clear field of fire
But then, if you think we Veterans have problems, think about how shit happens anyway. This is why I avoided rotary wing aircraft like the plague in my military years and after…
or when you lose a wheel…
or when your impromptu rocket fuze is too short…
or why they put cow catchers on the front of buses. Seems you’d learn this after about 6 years riding the yellow loser cruiser.
This reminds me of an incident at LS 22 where a $123’s wingtip just barely touched the rotors of an AirAm Bell Jet Ranger spooling up. The 123 took off 10 minutes later. The chopper didn’t. We airevac’d it back to 20 A with an H 34.
Everyone be careful and be socially distant. Well, maybe that’s not what I meant to say. Seems politics has everyone in that state. Wear your masks regardless of how you feel about the efficacy of same. Be especially considerate of the youth who don’t have a clue what’s afoot. Youth, by definition of course, doesn’t extend to those over 18. Think positive thoughts and curb your tongues. Things will return to normalcy and we’ll all sigh in relief. Well, maybe everywhere but Portland. I think there’s something down there in the water.
The Loach Coach gotta have for rotorheads
P.S. I can’t resist. No names. The SDNY, in their indictment Thursday, said some of the $350,000 spent on the gentleman’s lavish lifestyle was for “cosmetic surgery”.
We Report. You decide.