I received a new package of “Chalk talk” blogs from Eric Hughes several days ago. I apologize for taking so long to put them up. The fact is my email has been recently bombarded incessantly with all the news about another Veterans’ help site going down the tubes. I asked a computer whizbang Veteran what was up with their problems staying afloat. The answer absolutely floored me. Turns out the monthly cost was only $167/month ($2004/year) so that couldn’t be the problem with so much extraneous income from advertising and donations. T shirts and coffee mugs don’t help you get a nexus letter. The reason the SEO ranking was sinking was simple. The site didn’t offer anything concrete or meaningful anymore to help solve a claims problem. It merely regurgitated links to VA attorneys and Yourtube™ videos which apparently failed to hit the nail on the head as a viable solution.
As a comparison, my computer geek pointed me to a fairly new Faceplace™ site I know well with 52,600+ members (and growing daily) which requires no dues, no donations and has no advertisements. It probably costs $0 dollars to operate and gives out clear, concise advice/information by actual VA attorneys and agents like myself… for free. I joined it several months ago after being extended an invitation. It might seem crazy but they do it without even having to resort to hawking coffee mugs and t shirts either.
As an apples to apples comparison, the older site closing down has 23,588 members and has been in existence for over 25 years. So how does this pencil out? Veterans Claims Assistance Group (VCAG) is the proverbial new kid on the block but now seems to be the go-to site to get a useful answer to a specific question without a word salad from ten self-appointed “experts”. And boy howdy you should see their SEO rankings. Oddly, I’ve been approached over the last 14 years by many outfits promising to ‘fix’ my SEO problems and get me to the head of the class for a small sum. I never took them up on it. Google asknod and I come up so who cares? I don’t sell anything and I don’t allow advertising. I don’t write these articles to win friends or influence people. I speak truth which irritates some. Seems to me it’s harder to hide on the internet than to not get found.
I completely understand the frustration that ensues when you ask a simple question and get ten answers-none of which are congruent with one another. It creates confusion and uncertainty. That doesn’t seem to be the problem at VCAG. You get one answer and everyone concurs -assuming arguendo the advice is correct. No one looks down their nose and says ‘Go search the posts-we’ve already answered that one.’
Helping Veterans comes with a heapin’ helpin’ of a basic requirement of requisite knowledge of the subject based on a broad spectrum of personal experience. You can’t give helpful legal advice to another if the only experience you’ve had is your one claim/appeal in the subject area they seek. Each claim is unique as to circumstances, injury(ies), the era in which you served, the theatre in which you served et cetera. I find it amusing someone would give you the low down and follow it up with a disclaimer of “BTY, I’m not an expert in this and have no legal training so don’t blame me if it backfires on you.” WTF, over?
Worse, in this industry of self help, offering authoritative-sounding advice can more often than not harm the Veterans’ chances of prevailing if your grasp of VA law is slim or came off the back of a cereal box. That, in itself, to me is the reason for the death knell of the site I mention. Having a negative SEO is far different from having a dark, or black SEO attack. Ask yourself- who in God’s name would attack a Veterans help site? What could they possibly gain from it monetarily? More readership and potentially more advertising dollars by diverting them to your site? Higher Google rankings? We’re talking Veterans here. As a class of Americans, Vets are not exactly well-heeled. That’s precisely why they seek VA compensation for their ailments. Destroying a Vets claims help site would be about as lucrative as selling refrigerators to Eskimos. The trade in free ideas can’t be monetized.
A good example of a nasty negative SEO attack happened to my good friend and fellow VA agent Bethanie Spangenberg- the owner of Valor4Vet.com. She’s an ARNP and has a good IMO practice but doesn’t do claims even though she’s accredited. One day she woke up to the sounds of silence. Crickets. Everyone coming to Valor4Vet was being diverted to VAClaimsInsider.com. Ol’ Brian Reese had baldly hijacked her site traffic. My computer geek guru doesn’t see that phenomenon happening at the site I’m discussing. Their lack of traffic is entirely self-inflicted. Knowledge, in 2022, is the currency of trade. Everyone wants to know how to play VA poker. Oddly enough, VA agents have impressive win/loss rates in spite of the fact they never went to law school. Experiencia docet.
Back in the stone ages (about 2010), I found, or was pointed, to a site called Yuku or VBN. Regardless the name, they professed to be the dernier cri in Vet advice. Well, ‘not exactly’ as they say over at the rental car agency. Turns out they had a former VA DRO type who offered advice which was highly regarded. He had a problem with telling the truth. They also had a lifer medic whose advice on Hep C claims was “Don’t waste VA’s time. You probably got it from shooting up. And besides, if it isn’t in your STRs, you’ll never win.” This from a 20-year medical/claims guru. I explained that you could never hope to find a left front quarter panel for a ’68 Mustang in a junk yard in 1955. They hadn’t “invented” Hep C until 1989- and didn’t have a viable test for it until 1992 so it wasn’t going to be in 1968 STRs. Yep. I got 86’d for being obstreperous and disturbing the inpatients. My bad. Murphy’s First law is still applicable-No good deed goes unpunished.
Functionally, a good Vet help site should teach, not preach. If the Poohbahs don’t agree with your proffered advice, the repair order is to question why you hold your belief and what you use to support the hypothesis. Far too often, these older sites become cliquey over time and the hierarchy become infatuated with their moderator powers. The last thing you want to do is drive the customer away with ignorant advice or send them galleywest on a knowledge search somewhere else. Shoot. They might get the impression you don’t have what they seek.
I think VCAG will be the model for Vets’ help sites in the future. In googleland, you seek answers instantly. If you can’t find answers licketyspit, or feel you’re getting advice from the village idiot who can’t discern the difference between there, their and they’re, you’ll march smartly down the list of google choices until you find an outfit who can provide you with meaningful answers.
Veterans Help sites become passé when they have nothing left to offer but platitudes and pleasantries. They become an echo chamber of the 20 year-protected Moderators’ beliefs. Pro se Veterans, on the other hand, seek a simple explanation. Lord knows, the new AMA is akin to trying to learn a new language in a week. Congress attempted to make it more Vet friendly but the Big Six of VSOs ensured it became a morass of regulations which in many cases requires endless repair orders so as not to conflict with one another. But that’s a subject for another day. I digress. So, with that said, I move on to present Eric Hughes’ (VA Agent) latest presentations on the history of our not-so-illustrious VA and their shenanigans in depriving us of needed knowledge to win our claims.
Start by reading this daisy for a broader overview of the subject…
The Lost History of Veterans Due Process Rights
And then Chapter 1 Episode III which continues the saga begun several days ago in the earlier chalk talk article. https://youtu.be/w6yOOVFAj2M
Chapter 2 Episode I https://youtu.be/OPzmOKL1Mx4
Chapter 2 Episode II https://youtu.be/Dlq1pBOhzZU
Chapter 2 Episode III https://youtu.be/uqqOxr4xSsY
As a parting comment, while I may make jokes about different service groups and their foibles, I are not dissing them. We in the Air Force used to make fun of the other three main branches (Army, Navy, Marines) by razzing them with the “Who would want to walk or paddle when you can fly there?” Or, “Who’d want to sign up to live in a foxhole and eat cold food?” I’m sure they had names for us too. Those are just the musings of humorous interservice rivalry. I have never chosen my friends by their choice of which branch to serve in. I never got into knock-down, drag-out, drunken brawls in bars with Marines. Or Navy. Or Army. Fact is, for the most part of my brief four-year career, there weren’t any bars to go seek a fight in and darn few active duty Marines or Navy folk afoot up north in the land that rhymed with Mouse.
If you get a chance, I highly recommend VCAG as a reputable source to get your questions answered. Better yet, if someone gives you incomplete or confusing info, sixteen others are free to enter the fray and knowledgeably correct or clarify the misunderstanding. No one is going to look down on you for your ignorance. In the real world, you don’t get censored for telling the truth or asking awkward questions…well, unless you work for the government. But that’s a subject for another day and another website. Here at asknod, we simply report and let you draw your own conclusions. We sure don’t tell you what to think. As my daddy used to say “Son, every man [and woman] has the right to remain stupid. That right is inviolate and built into the Constitution. No one can take that away from you no matter how hard they try.”
And that’s all I’m gonna say about that.
Oh Lort….bringing back memories of that miserable VBN site. Cruiser, Vol, etc – what bullies! A shame they actually have some sphere of influence over those seeking legitimate help
Excellent. Much to say but can not. Nothing nefarious, mean, or disrespectful.
I was told by my VA shrink that I would never get more than 30% for PTSD years ago. A dumb lie. I have been told by many useless VSO’s not to appeal a rating so as not to piss off the VA. You know the VA has about 1000 programs for vets but accessing them is the problem. I got P&T 20 years ago and I have been filing new claims every since. VA has never taken anything back or tried to cut my ratings. I am really sorry Hadit is going down. I don’t understand it but so it goes.
I’ve been P&T since 2005, I’ve had 4 improper reductions. 2 I was able to work through with the Regional Office, one went to the BVA with a proper outcome, and one is before the BVA right now. None of the reductions would have resulted in going below 100%, but improper just the same.
Bethanie Spangenberg is a hack. She spit out the laziest record review and imo’s I’ve ever seen. And I’m not friend of Brian Reese either. That doofus would slit his own mother’s throat for a nickel.
The only “academic” literature she sited as evidence in her weak, unspellcheck’d IMO’s was UpToDate. Don’t waste a dime on valor4vets.
Well, Phil, here’s how I see it. I went to the Better Business Bureau (BBB) to look at the reviews. Here’s the link. https://www.bbb.org/us/oh/waverly/profile/compliance-consulting/valor-4-vet-0292-90037834/customer-reviews
Since I have never used them before, all I can do is compare their price to the outfit I use (who only works with attorneys/agents)-not with a Vet. Turns out they’ve been stiffed by a few.
Pricewise, they are comparable with other venues who offer a similar product. It’s a competitive market which dictates what can be charged or “what the market will bear.”
Obviously, if you read this site, you know there are some who charge five and a half times that for the “holistic” head to toe IMO. Some will hound you to ends of the earth to keep collecting their pound of new flesh long after you terminate the relationship.
Valor4Vet has this down to transactional analysis. You get A for $X. There are no surprises down the road. You pay in advance because there are some who will try to dine and dash. While there is no guarantee, I personally have never lost a claim using an IMO from the outfit I use. They, too, have a fixed schedule that is actually higher than V4V.
I find that if I discover an error with my folks’ IMO, I just email it back with the revised changes in red. They okay it and I print it up. They mail me a bill and I pay it.
Knowing Bethanie personally, I’d find it hard to believe she or her company could be so inept and stay in business. I suggest mediation rather than airing the dirty laundry on my site… or any site. To be truthful, the VA has a list of doctors, nurses etc. who are considered subpar. She is not on the list.
My website is here for all to benefit from. Any asset I can provide to Vets is my job-my obligation. If V4V will work directly with Veterans without requiring me as an intermediary, then that will save the Vet time and money. In addition, UptoDate is a well-respected medical source widely used by doctors. I don’t see the gripe holding water. Misspellings? Yes. But My IMO documents arrive as a MSWord Doc and a spelling error is easy to fix.
If the final work product is not up to your standards, then you and V4V sit down and discuss it to iron out the disparity. What the hey? Mail me a redacted copy of the MO and let me be the judge of the quality. I’m neutral. I owe V4V nothing. I don’t know you so that makes me an “independent” arbiter. Nobody can buy me off. I married a rich girl. I don’t need the money. Email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
What Santa Claus isn’t real?
Thanks again, for all you do you never fail to inform. Is there a search or single page that will show all your recommendations external to this website itself. I try not, but I sometime scan , happy this is not one of those times… Facebook Group heck of a tip…
Once upon a time in 1989, my DAV rep said “let’s let that 0% for tinnitus ride for a couple five years before we go for the 10%. We don’t want VA to think you’re greedy, hear? The fact is, they could come and take that away from you any time they like.” When I found out that was a lie, it felt worse than when I found out Santa Claus wasn’t real. Crushed. I was crushed, Gary.
Sorry, no single page but about 3000 articles full of recommendations to search through.