Bad Docs. Bad Docs. Bad Docs. Whacha gonna do when they screw with you? Love that show but it’s waaaaaaaay too politically incorrect to admit to watching now. What’s the opposite of woke? Asleep? It’s probably above my paygrade so I’m not gonna poke that sleeping dog. So here’s the gig. I have friends who send me things. I don’t need to go into exquisite detail about who. That’s where things like the Purple Book came from. Sometimes, VA employees see things that are over the top. Suffice it to say this dropped into my e-inbasket. I probably should make him/her a client so I can claim attorney-client privilege and protect us should a subpoena arrive demanding the identity of my Deep Throat.
See the attached. It’s a VA work product. and identified as such in the properties info. I find it interesting that it was distributed to the usual suspects (VES/QTC/LHI) and VHA/AFIP IME doctors used to rebut private IMOs. For the uninitiated, an IMO is an Independent Medical Opinion. Some call it an Independent Medical Evaluation or IME.
So, I noticed one of the offenders, Stephanie Procell, Ph.D was a neighbor (relatively speaking) to me. She was listed as being up in Oak Harbor which is just a hoot and a holler up the coast from me here in Gig Harbor. Puget Sound is huge and has a gazillion harbors. Captain Puget started running out of names on this expedition in 1792 and began naming harbors after boats (gig) and even their shipboard kitchen cat (Rainier). I called Dr. Procell up to tell her she’d been tarred and feathered by VA and got her recorder. Turns out it wasn’t Stephanie’s name, rank, airspeed and tail number at all but that of her boss Sarah (Sally) Sharp. Ph.D.-also listed on the bad boys list. She has an IMO practice but isn’t quite the bogus nexus letter gin mill she’s being touted as. Dr. Procelle works for her practice and is equally besmirched by VA by being included in this consortium of miscreants.
The fact is we’re beginning to see a cottage industry of genuine, legitimate doctors providing IMOs beginning to be overrun by a plethora of greedy internet outfits preying on unsuspecting Veterans. It began as a trickle but has since turned into a veritable gully washer. I’ve had guest authors write articles discussing this phenomenon over the last few years and their ranks have sadly only increased in number.
To begin with, being accredited by VA has some very strict rules. In most instances, we can only charge 20% in fees for our successful representation. Extremely complicated representation at a higher level can warrant up to 33 1/3% if all parties agree. That is a rarity. Most of us do it for 20% and some for nothing. In fact, if you win for your client right out of the gate, you get nothing. I don’t have a problem with that. Others are a wee bit more avaricious. Here’s an example.
Johnny Vet has been denied again and again. He never got the email on Caluza v Brown. He didn’t have a diagnosis of PTSD in 1968 when they extracted him from their forward LRRP position. Seems someone got the wrong coordinates and FB Bronco laid 35 rounds of 155 on top of their position and killed everyone in Johnny’s platoon except him. The PRC-25 on his back saved his ass. He spent a year in the psych ward on the sixth floor of the Seattle VAMC picking out little pieces of retained metal fragments and “calming down” while doing the Thorazine Shuffle.
So Johnny hears all about an outfit that guarantees you a VA win with most excellent compensation ratings and it’s free. No up-front down payment. Let’s call them GoodtogoVAclaimsguys.com for shits and grins. JohnnyVet shows up for their c&p workup and gets 6 IMOs for all his ailments-including the SFWs and the tinnitus. He seeks out an attorney or an agent and they refile the whole shiteree. Well, sure enough they win.
The attorney says 20%, Johnboy- as per our fee agreement. Johnny, being an honest Vet like all of us, says Roger That and coughs up the 20%. A day later, the folks at GoodtogoVAclaimsguys.com call up to remind him “Dude, you owe us 5 months worth of the increase from what you were rated at before you hired us. Soooo, if you were at 0% and all of a sudden you’re at 70%, that’s $1659.00 shekels times five months or $8295.00. Even more if you have some rugrats. But wait. The total went back to your filing in March 2020 and they paid you $1659 per month back to then. You got $19,908 from VA less the 20% for your law dog. That $3,980.00 reduced you down to $15, 928.00 before Goodtogovaclaimsguys.com came knocking. Their $8295.00 tithe knocks you down to $7,633.00. Pretty skanky, huh?
Now do not get me wrong. There are those among you who are very busy people who work for a living. You don’t have time or the legal acumen to win your claim. You purposefully made a decision to farm it out. I’m sure you didn’t quite see this scenario unfold that would divest you of more than half of your winnings. Neither did Congress when they wrote the regulations. So, in essence, what we have here are a group of quasi-legal, greedy scalawags who have no qualms taking you to the cleaners for their services. The problem is the legality of the business. Technically, if you are not accredited, you can’t sit in on this poker game. Goodtogovaclaimguys and all their like-companies would insist they are merely “facilitators” or mayhap Sherpas whom you hire to take you up the claims mountain. Congress did not authorize this technique. VSOs do it for free (no comments from the Peanut Gallery). It now falls to the DOJ to prosecute these carpetbaggers. As with most government entities, justice moves at a snail’s pace. I’m sure somewhere they’re holding a hearing on it and maybe have even empaneled a Grand Jury. By 2033, we should have the authority to lock ’em up.
More interesting is that these rapscallions are starting to pair off with attorneys and pliant doctors and form loose consortiums of Veteran-scalping raiding parties. It’s rumored some are trying to interconnect a nationwide, fruited plains group from sea to shining sea with some fancy brand. Google Trajector Legal LLC to name one may be one of these. It’s even possible they used to have another moniker. No aspersions intended. This is a knowledge expedition-not a name-calling one.
But wait, Roberto has been a busy little beaver…
So, if the Bobmeister above is charging (or even a party helping to charge) Vets 5 friggin’ times the amount he won for them, as an agent that’s a violation of his accreditation agreement. By rights, if this is true, he should be reported to the VA’s Office of General Counsel (022D) for being out of compliance with 38 CFR §14.636(f)(1). And, as an aside, I’m sorry Robert. I sure don’t mean to endanger you or make you feel uncomfortable but you are aware of the regulations -anything over 33 1/3% is considered unreasonable and unlawful.
Which brings us to poor Doctors Procelle and Sharp. They tell me they were inveigled into this web of greed by one or another of these avaricious outfits and sold a bill of goods. Once they grasped the concept of what they were being asked to do, they beat feet and divorced themselves from these 5/50 guarantee ( five months of the increase or $50,000.00 dollars-whichever comes first) companies that practice the technique. Again, let me be clear. I’m unsure of the legality but something grossly unfair to Veterans like this should be declared illegal if it hasn’t been already. No Veteran should be subjected to this level of greedy insanity. We deserved more than a saliva medal w/ 2 OLCs at San Francisco Airpatch in ’68 or that stale “Welcome home” shit they began regurgitating about ’91 when the guilt and angst for all Veterans began to surface. Yellow ribbons on trees don’t pay mortgages. But that’s a story for another day.
Aside from Drs. Procelle and Sharp, I note the inclusion of some well-known names of some of the old hands in this business. I’ve only hired one of those on the list (and lost); I have no knowledge firsthand of the others’ track records. I’m old fashioned. I rely on Court (CAVC) records to gauge a fellow’s prowess. Go to the CAVC site yourself and pull up a few cases to see what you think. I’ll throw out a few for your perusal. CAVC # 02-2195; #06-0451; #09-0260; #09-1349; #17-3556; #16-1515; #14-0437; #19-0709. Obviously, some of the medical doctors and nurses on the list have earned an undesirable cachet that precedes them in this business. Some, however, do carry some baggage (see entry @ 3/10/2020)-https://www.mbp.state.md.us/sanctions_2020.aspx). I feel sorry for anyone who has their professional qualifications besmirched by anyone-including VA. However, the IMO field is an exacting science. We Vets have to play by the rules. So do the medical professionals. That VA doesn’t should come as no surprise.
Doctors have specialties for the most part. In the IMO business, it behooves a Vet to choose the board certified neurologist over the jack-of-all-trades podiatrist who just happens to opine on matters neurological for a small fee. If you have a cross pedigree such as a Juris Doctorate and a Doctor of Medicine, it’s advisable to wear only one hat at a time. When you get to Court, you can get in a real pickle when the Judges have a hard time discerning which hat you’re wearing- the one with the white wig attached or the one with the caduceus. I’m really not sure how I feel about this truthfully. I find it abhorrent to think a Veteran’s choice of his IMO doctor might exert a negative influence on the probity of the IMO or its author’s bona fides. As you can see from the list, VA doesn’t hold some physicians with a JD in very high regard. That is a horrible stain on a Professional’s reputation. I do not condone it. Each IMO should be given a fair hearing. Why they keep the list hidden and unpublished does Veterans a great disservice. Sunshine is the best disinfectant. But what is equally unfair-far worse in my mind- is putting innocent physicians on the list . It was Jonathon Swift who opined “A lie travels around the globe while the truth is putting on its shoes”.
P.S. I just got an email from a Vet disgruntled with the outfit formerly known as Vetcompandpen.com. He says he decided to fight and blew them off for the money they claim he owed them(which he contends he did not). They sued and the Judge dismissed it. Turns out the contract was, and is, unenforceable and defective. My guess is they should have hired an attorney to write it.