Attached, please find a wonderful BVA present for the weekend. It isn’t very often that you find a fellow Vietnam Vet living 5 miles away from you who needed a lot of help-help his good ol’ VFW post service officer said couldn’t be had. The officer also told him there was no such thing as SMC and his chances of getting A&A (via pension, not compensation) were between slim and none. I reckon John didn’t even bothering arguing for two A&As.
In that certain country north of Thailand that rhymed with mouse, we often found ourselves tasked with swooping in and picking up a downed USAF, Squid or Gyrine pilot who had the misfortune to have his chariot shot out from under him by a 30 Mike Mike or a lucky .50 cal round. Waiting for the 38th ARRS Jolly Greens to show up from 20 Alternate with suitable air cover from NKP to suppress the PL around the pilot would be too little too late.
We drove those old ungainly H 34s left over from Korea but they were remarkable for being able to withstand small arms fire. Well, the aircraft, not the PIC way up there in the driver’s seat anyway. The point being that sometimes you just had to ignore OSHA shit and go in or lose him. There’s nothing more forlorn than to hear the FAC declare “Negative Objective.” It still gives me the willies to this day. We didn’t have the luxury of surrendering up there. If the PL got to you first, they executed you right there on the spot. Period. Game. Set. Match.
Thus, John couldn’t dawdle and wait for suitable help on this one. He knew things were going south in 2018 and asked me to perhaps consider taking him on. So, when the Parkinson’s got bad in September 2019, I filed him for the A&A. VA couldn’t very well argue he didn’t have it. His hands were shaking like a leaf on a tree and you had to get way up close to hear what he was saying. He’d already fallen and broken his back. VA said he was fine. A month or two later it turned into a shit show. Before you could say Jack Robinson, he got hit with the b cell hairy leukemia.
He and I both knew he wouldn’t be around for Act III so I filed him for A&A and/or loss of use of bilateral lower extremities- trying to at least get a deathbed R1 for his wife. I know it pisses the VA raters off. Vets should toodle along and die and not be heard from when they get that ill. VA went so far as to avoid conceding loss of use of the lower extremities by noting in his VAMC txment notes “Well, shucks. He can’t be that screwed up. He drove hisself down here.” Somebody might have overlooked that his alternatives were between slim and none unless he used his walker to perambulate that 40 miles. His wife was the Peter pilot- she’d had a horrendous auto accident a decade earlier and wasn’t going to be in the command seat again in this lifetime.
B cell hairy leukemia is another story. You can’t ignore something metastasizing faster than popcorn in a popper. The Raters did actually grant the Leukemia at 100% and the second A&A for about 24 hours… until the Senior DRO added it up and discovered this would result in a SMC O and R1. The speed brakes popped out and the rating evaporated into thin air from VBMS. In its stead was one of those ‘everything but the kitchen sink’ A&A ratings. All of a sudden he was SMC M because he had another 100% rating for the cancer. I pointed that change order out in an email to the DRO and never heard back. Crickets. I asked my CMA and she, a former SVSR no less, politely informed me that the rating was correct because she knows this shit. Two SMC Ls for A&A? Are you mad? It’s forbidden. That’s like M 21 Introductory Knowledge. Why, that would be pyramiding to grant two A&As. What have you been smoking? I thought you knew how to do this, Alex.
Kudos to Robert Chisholm of CCK for teaching me how to win this victory. I spotted it in the BVA decisions site from about 20 years ago. You just need a perfect candidate for it. So, being a thorn in VA’s side, I filed a 10182 asking them to restore the imaginary rating shortly after they cut the paper. I argued they had already rated him for it just before they didn’t. Evidence is not a luxury in this business. It’s a necessity. If it isn’t in VBMS, your arguments are a nonstarter. Unlike VACOLs, where it’s sealed up like a deposit box in a bank vault, VBMS is rather porous and things come and go like bumps in the night. I like to print them when I see them so I can spring them on the raters later and say “But you said right here in the Code rating sheet dated February 25, he’s been granted 2 SMC Ls. What gives? Where did the second one go? ” Well, Mr. Graham, it metamorphosed into SMC M which is the higher award. You just don’t bother your pretty head, son. We used the official VBMS SMC Calculator. It’s foolproof.”
Acting VLJ Martin Peters seems to be on my dance card a lot lately, too. Or vice versa. I did a videoconference with him for my Multiple Sclerosis Vet Lori on May 4th for R1. No decision yet but he as much as said ‘you understand I can’t make a decision today on this’ which to me implies he would if he could.
Anyway, raise you glasses in a toast to a valiant Marine that didn’t have the right calibre bullets to kill cancer. His wife can sure use the bucks and I can put his folder in the done files. As I’m fond of saying, “If the shoe was on the other foot, John would have done it for me. Oorah. Win or Die never had so much meaning as it does in this adventure.