Jerrel and John have invited me to their Thursday evening soirée. Cool beans. The subject will be about the aftermath of the denial of your claims. You just got the wave off and the depression has begun to kick in. Been there and done that-only it was 33 years ago in 1989, then another wave of despair in ’94. Ditto 2006 and lastly in 2011 when I lost at the BVA for the second time. Thank goodness for the CAVC and heavy hand of truly independent federal justice. But, with the inception of the new AMA, going up to the Big House at 625 Native Americana Ave. NW in Judiciary Square is not always the best path anymore- or even necessary- for that matter.
We’ll talk about that new phenomenon and a few other things you padawans need to know to be agile Jedi Knights. VA Light sabers are neatsy keen but if you don’t know how to wield one-let alone build it, it’s dead weight.
So, what happens when they give you the Bum’s rush? Unlike the majority of agents and attorneys out there, I’m lucky enough to have taken the idiot, woke course on VBMS etiquette. This grants us access to just about everything there is to know about our clients. Better yet, we get to read those private notes that raters insert that reveals this is nothing more than an M 21-programmed denial factory.
Most Veterans are unaware that, on average, only 12% of live, actionable compensation claims- to be distinguished from dependency claims, DIC claims or VRE stuff- are actually granted on the first outing. VA “tests” you to see how savvy you are and also to see if you’ll just piss on the fire and call in the dogs. You’d be surprised at how many of you explode with the standard “How in the f— could they come up with that shit? This game is Catch 22-rigged. I give up.” That’s exactly what they want and count on. Fully 75% of all claims filed have merit statistically. But if you give up, VA gets to brag by saying their claims accuracy rate is 98% and the hard numbers prove it. Well, they do.
There is much discussion these days about the animosity between VSOs and the attorney/agent faction. VSOs foolishly say “Why pay? We do it for free.” Attorneys and this agent might say ” Yeah. But we win.” As with most disagreements, there’s truth and fiction to be had but a shit ton of truth exists on both sides. What’s true is VSOs do it for free. Anything free usually has some quality control strings attached. If your claim is shit simple, Homer Simpson’s monkey Mojo could win it for you. If you lose, you need to take stock of your position and figure out why. If you appeal and keep losing on- say, Obstructive Sleep Apnea secondary to PTSD- then you need to examine why you’re doing the déjà vu insanity imitation. You know. If you keep doing the same thing over and over expecting a different result, that’s the definition of insanity.
So, don’t lose heart. Everything I’ve ever done in life generally has a set of instructions and also the real-world reality of the necessity to have a Plan B. Like when they disremember the FRAG Order for air support and you have to depend on artillery? Plan B, in this case, is considering the possibility that you need to read up on why you keep augering in or decide on whether you need to hire somebody a couple notches higher than a VSO to be your Sherpa. Don’t get me wrong. The last thing I need is more business or clients. This is general advice.
Dang near everybody that shows up at my front door has played the VA’s three-card Monte game enough times to recognize something’s amiss. What the hey? What took you so long? Any game in town handing out Backsheesh to all who can type up a 526 and push send is going to have more fine print than you can read with a magnifying glass. It’s also going to look like Black Friday at Best Buy if VA doesn’t show they deny frequently. Don’t be surprised when you hit a dry hole and for goodness sake, don’t take it personally.
If you’re an FNG, you probably ought to do some reading over at the Face Place page called Veterans Claims Assistance Group. Ask some questions. Do your due diligence. Get off your derriere and be a proactive participant. Handing it off to a VSO who has no legal training is a beginner’s option. When it’s late in the 10th inning and you’re down by 6 runs, it’s piss poor technique to start asking what’s next or try to saddle someone else with your dilemma. Procrastination is prohibitively costly in this game.
Worse, until the VA OIG and the Dept. of Justice get off their asses, outfits like VA Claims Insiders and their ilk will continue to hornswoggle naïve Vets into coughing up 50% of their winnings… forever. That’s where hiring an attorney or agent will often be the better option. Now, I’m not saying every one of us (agents/attys) are the sharpest knives in the kitchen drawer. I just read a horrible decision up at the Court where an agent in DC has an RN or ARNP in his office who will write anything up- like “more likely than less likely due to the Veteran’s alien abduction while on active duty for training”. The jokers work for him. They may have a different telephone number and a different name but it’s all one carnival show under the same tent and when they see your doctor/nexus author just happens to have the same address and suite number, it begins to look a bit sketchy. Just sayin’. By the way, they lost. But then, Shit happens, too.
I won’t mention any other names in the business who write Independent Medical Opinions or promise a win for you. How in Sam Hill can anyone promise guaranteed wins in this game? You can’t. I had a Vet who professed to have clean hands who begged for my help. After I got into his VBMS file, I discovered the second DD 214 awarding the Big Chicken Dinner. I trusted him. In this business, it’s rare to have a mickey claim but it can happen.
Winning isn’t impossible. it’s 99% technique. It’s not the shitty VLJ who screwed you. S/he works from the 38 USC/38 CFR book. It wasn’t a greedy attorney trying to milk you out for 10 years. It wasn’t a lousy VSO with no smarts. It’s the way the system’s built. Heads I win. Tails you lose. You have to carefully examine a defeat. It’s kind of like reading the tea leaves or seeing how the chicken entrails fall out of the abdomen onto the dirt. You gotta read dem bones, Bubba. That or hire someone who can. It’s all there but it’s written in VA gibberish.
I walked the desert of defeat for almost 28 years before I figured it out in ’08. Nowadays, every Tom, Dick and Harry has a book out or a Combat Carl utube™ show that explains it in DIY (do it yourself) language. Some of these former “combat” commentators look like like they couldn’t jump out of bed but that could be said of me, too. Too bad you couldn’t just ask your VSO to watch it and learn from it. But that could also be said for some of us who do this 24/7/365. Just having a guide with a hunting license never guarantees a buck hanging in your garage. I’ve also met some dense attorneys who are convinced they’re God’s gift to Veterans.
I think this show might be a real eye opener for some of you frequent filer/losers. It’s cheap entertainment (free) and I’ll guarantee you’ll learn a few things that will roll your socks down about VA. I was crushed when I discovered VSOs work for VA in about ’06. Crushed. Did I mention I was devastated (just like finding out about Santa Claus and the Tooth Faery thing)? Didn’t you ever kind of wonder why some of the Big Six (VFW/DAV/AmVets/AmLeg/WWP/VVA) have offices in the VAROs and have the same desks, computers and phones as the VA folks? And low-grade access to the VBMS? Every VSO has a Congressional Charter extended to them by Uncle Sam. All 146 of them. And every man jack promises to help VA adjudicate your claim so help them God. I shit you not. Quite the opposite, a VA attorney or Agent is beholden to you-the Vet- not the VA. We have to ask you if it’s okay for us to cave in or stand fast. VSOs don’t. There’s a vast difference. Right off the bat, you ought to realize that’s FUBAR.
With VBMS, I can see why a denial occurs almost instantly in real time. I keep VBMS up on my left screen (out of three) all day while I work like a live tickertape. That’s a week before they sign off on it and another two weeks before you’ll even see the Dear John paper. I can see the reasoning and logic they employed behind it. I feel sorry that none of you litigants can get equal access to VBMS so you would have the same advantage I have. But I can and will show you the forensics to enable you to fix these errors when you finally get your hands on them. Better yet, you’ll learn the importance of how to keep your claim alive for years- if necessary- until you can figure out the reason for the denial(s) and the repair order. This preserves your date of entitlement on an original claim and the size of your retro.
I’m not Mensa material but I usually can pick up a RD (rating decision) and what we call the Code sheet, and determine what caused your denial in short order. In virtually every case, Vets get pissed off about the denial and fail to focus on the after-action report. That’s often where you find VA fibbing or misunderstanding their own law. Here’s a common example. You send in evidence and it’s separated from the 526/995 in VBMS when they upload it at the Evidence Intake Center (EIC) P.O. Box 4444 in Cheeseville, Wisconsin. The actual document submission is dutifully noted as “526 New Claim”. The evidence is immediately separated from the 526 and listed in a separate .pdf as “Third Party Correspondence” in the next VBMS entry. Roughly translated, that means a 3 month delay for an HLR and a new c&p to fix it-but only if you were lucky enough to have VBMS.
Personally, I think that’s on purpose but I’ll never prove it. Regardless, I work around it. I explain it to the Booth Bitch doing the HLR in DickandJanespeak and cite the reg supporting it. I don’t beg. It’s as simple as looking in the “Evidence Section” right after the denial announcement. Nowhere in the four corners of the evidence section will there be any listing for your IMO and the STRs proving your case. Mystery solved. Who woulda thunk it? VA “forgot” to look in your file and “see” it? These are the sharp GS 12 Dick Tracys working claims for VBA. Scary, huh? Makes you seriously wonder what they’re smoking or what kind of drugs VA is putting in the water cooler.
So, with all that said, I hope to solve all the problems of the world come Thursday evening. Because I’m not a parade kind of guy, I’m not going to part the Red Sea again when I come on. Been there. Done that. Boring. Showtime is 1900 on the East side and 1600 on the Left. The call in telephone number to listen in is
Dial 1 to actually talk to us or ask a question. For the more advanced computer-savvy Vets, go here:
We hope to see you there. Bring your pronouns if you feel comfortable sharing them. And be warned that there may be some baaaad words used. I spent two years in SEA once and people used mean, ugly, nasty, hateful words. It was worse than having to give up being a prince. I apologize in advance for my/our crude, boorish vocabulary and poor upbringing. John and Jerrel are prone to use expletive deleteds rarely used in polite society so beware.