Great song. My pilot in charge (PIC) had a battery-powered GE tape recorder with the little 3-inch reels and a penchant to play songs while we were taxiing out to take off from Alternate in the mornings. He swore it calmed him down. After takeoff, the roar of that 331 turbo drowned out any hope of hearing the music. CCR was one of PIC Mulholland’s favorite groups along with the Moody Blues. Invariably, he’d crank up Ride My Seesaw or Going Up Around the Bend to 10 as we waited for the crew chief to pull the chocks and wheel the fire extinguisher out of the way. Winning my client’s claim for R1 this week made me think of him. They bear a vague resemblance to one another and both were pilots once so the song seems à propos.
David was one of those Vets who realized he made the wrong choice joining the Navy and opted into the Army as soon as he came home from ‘Nam and finished up his first enlistment. Say what you will about the Bounding Main but it was hard to get laid out there and if you were 19, boy howdy was that uppermost in your mind. Well, it was in my mind and I don’t have to get into my pronouns. Of course, the primary conundrum to me was, and always will be, why would anyone want to walk or paddle when you could fly wherever they wanted you to fight. And drop shit on the bad guys. In contrast to the Navy, the Air Force and AAm (Air America) always had good scotch and gin. Maybe not single malt but beggars can’t be too picky in a free-fire zone.
Somehow, David must have ingested too much Agent Orange during his tour there because he began to notice a problem forty two years later in 2012… as did the FAA. He couldn’t feel the rudders with his feet and was beginning to notice the tremors, muscle rigidity and “pill roll” effect of Parkinson’s Disease. That effectively put an end to his flying career-or any career- for that matter. I know the depression that can cause. I was bushwhacked back in 2007 when they hosed me with Interferon to kill my Hepatitis C and dang near killed me in the process. I lost my life-long joy of working framing houses. Sitting around in front of the boob tube watching The Price is Right with Drew Carrey doesn’t cut it. David tried to fight VA but we all know what you’re up against if you do it without a determined Sherpa. He was fighting for SMC S and should have been setting his sights far higher.
David came to me in 2020 or 2021 with the same complaint I hear from all my Vets in his predicament. What’s the secret password or handshake to get into the SMC club? I know it can be daunting to those of you who are unschooled in the art. Worse, few, if any, VSO service officers even know what it is-let alone how to win it. I’ve actually had them look me in the eye and tell me I’m lying; that there is no such thing as SMC. That shouldn’t come as any surprise to Veterans. Anything this lucrative is going to be a closely-held secret and VA is not known to be overly loquacious about the subject. Most Rating Decisions I’ve read patiently summarize the requirements (wrongly) and then follow up with the standard “Unfortunately, you don’t qualify for the entitlement but merci beaucoup for your service.” Here’s David’s. 612 days later after 30 c&ps.
Several years ago, I filed a FOIA with VA and asked for the numbers of Vets currently entitled to the various levels between L and T, excluding S and K. It took over a year for a response. They even threw in the S and K numbers. You’d think I was asking for a T/S Crypto clearance. I was dumbfounded to discover there were (and presumably still are) extremely few at the R1 and R2/T levels. About 3,800 R1s. Whether that low number is due to ignorance of the availability of the benefit or an entrenched proclivity to deny automatically is a good question. I do know that the level of knowledge of SMC at the Regional Offices could be hidden behind a Greek fig leaf with room to spare for the plumbing.
The last HLR I had (last week) I asked the gentleman if he was well-versed in SMC R 2 and understood the reason we were here HLRing this thing. He said “Well, no. I’m not red hot on R2 but I’ll figure it out.” I bit my tongue and proceeded with great trepidation to spread the trail of bread crumbs for him to follow. For all you agents and attorneys with VBMS access, I’ll let you in on a trick I use. Prebuild a HLR cheat sheet and locate all the places where the evidence is that supports your client’s case. We all know they separate the legal argument from the actual VA form but a review of the evidence listed in the Rating Decision often shows they never looked at the very evidence you sent them. Cheat sheet example:
So, I go through and locate the documents or IMOs and note the “receipt date” on the far-left column as the bookmark. Next, I expound on what’s in the document that’s exculpatory. In one case, I had to list 14 different documents scattered from 1976 to 2008 that VA said didn’t exist. After pointing them all out and even sending in the list to help them, I still lost. The chowderhead at St. Pete’s DROC said they couldn’t consider my 4138 listing all the locations of the documents they say don’t exist because it was not included in the evidence before the supplemental AMA decision was made. Welcome to AMA and insanity. Absent their insistence the evidence didn’t exist and a future denial, how was I to know I should submit the c- file Atlas map to the evidence that doesn’t exist? Buy a DeLorean with a 6 gigawatt flux capacitor and go back to November 10th, 2022? That one’s on appeal up to the BVA but it shouldn’t have to be.
When they denied David for loss of use of the upper and lower extremities due to Parkinson’s and recharacterized it as bodacious PN due to Diabetes Mellitus II, I blew an assgasket. I kited off an email to, well, let’s just say I sent it to a lot of folks in high places. Having access to VBMS comes with a rolodex of everyone who works there. All of a sudden, there was barbed wire around the old 3/06/2023 Rating Decision. I’ve never seen upside down yellow triangle emojis with an exclamation point on them. They look like Yield signs. Put your pipper on one of them and up sprouts ” Danger! Danger! Will Robinson. Do not promulgate. Decision is in error.” Totally awesome, guys. I didn’t know you had emojis in VBMS. Where are they? I want to begin using them. This is too cool for school.
For the first time in history, I got a call from not one, but two different RVSRs in Quality Control apologizing! Apologizing, I say. Did I mention they apologized? Jez, that’s more rare than finding petrified unicorn shit in your Breakfast Mac©. Miz RQSR blamed it on an overzealous VSR who thought he had the nod (pun intended) from the Coach to push print on the Adobe PRO 2.5 Denialbuilder™. Now, I can see everything they can in the client notes and I can see the RFD from the Booth Bitch telling him to launch. They must think I recently tied the Mayflower up to my front porch and disembarked late last night.
Anyway, here’s a copy of the “new and improved” replacement Rating Decision version of 3/29. I do not, for a minute suggest sending emails like this but emergent situations demand emergent measures to arrest a horrible mistake. To date, I haven’t been able to figure out how this went so far off the tracks unless, well, perhaps I shouldn’t go there and be content that someone fixed it. The idea of fiddling around with a pre-doomed Ex Writ as a hammer to coax them to fix it would take at least another 5 months of wrangling. My client might not have five more months.
In closing, I wish to welcome David to the ranks of the R1s and thank him for allowing me to represent him in his VA odyssey. Outside of being a man of the cloth, I don’t think there could be a more sacred, worthy job than helping Vets win their legal battles. What the hey? This might even get me off the hook with the Big Guy for nuking those
elephants “grey jeeps” on Route 7 east of Muong Soui back in August ’70… where, of course Togetherweneverserved®
And that’s all I’m gonna say about that.
Grey jeeps? LOL
P.S. What does R/T mean? I have tried to look it up. It’s something obvious, isn’t it.
R/T can be found in our resident dictionary library above… https://asknod.org/the-va-dictionary/. Civilians and cops say “Copy that” to sound more impressive.
Nice work Alex! See you in Orlando.
The redacted memo composed by you is a composition of genius… some things never change…keep up your honorable service to Veterans
Thank you for a valuable lesson.