Tick tock

In 2016, Gulf-era veterans passed Vietnam-era veterans (and Korean/WWII) in the general population. Click the thumbnail below to see a big readable copy of the graphic below.

CAVC “wins” older veterans accomplish, pro se or with help, will eventually spare many younger veterans from the same misery dealing with the VA.  All the traps set out to foil vets from the beginning of the claims process have to go. The fake C & P exams etc. have to go.

Like it or not, this bizarre institution won’t change unless veterans get involved in politics because Congress passes laws which the Secretary then revises according to whatever he can get away with.

Political actions such as Letters to the Editor are more able to persuade readers than online petitions, polls, or tweets–unless you are a Very Very Very Important Person.  And some local Letters are published online and can be “shared.”

As the graphic shows, veterans and their families are more concentrated in some states; they have more political clout when they choose to exercise it.  In the future, active military and veterans of color should become more influential.  But everyone’s influence counts when used.

In the meantime, as the motto says, “Win or Die.” 

Kiedove

Posted in All about Veterans, C&P exams, CAVC Knowledge, CAVC ruling, Food for thought, Future Veterans, General Messages, Guest authors, Important CAVC/COVA Ruling, Lawyering Up, VA Secretaries, VA statistics | Tagged , , | 10 Comments

Medical enrollment dates

Just a few dates to note:

Photo by Jonathan Perez on Unsplash.

Medicare Part D (and other Medicare plans):  Open enrollment started on October 15 and runs until Dec. 7.  

Medicare says that very few people change their plans even if they will save money.  I didn’t change my Part D plan (Humana-Walmart) last year and it cost me over $600. Why?  Humana moved my generics into higher tiers so I had to pay a large deductible and they raised the co-pays and premium.  This year I used Medicare’s plan compare online tool (LINK) and ended up moving to EnvisionRX plus because it offered much better terms and a $12.40 monthly premium.  

If I need really expensive medications this year, I can switch to a 5-star plan at ANY time during the year if it offers a better price share than Envision.

 

Photo by Daniel Frank on Unsplash

The VA’s dental plan enrollment begins on November 15th.  

Metlife has not released their new plans details which is absurd (LINK) at this late date.

Delta has.  It’s not clear to me if dependents can get coverage outside of CHAMPA.  (LINK)

Screenshot from Kaiser–the best place for answers on Obamacare changes. https://www.kff.org/

Obamacare /Marketplace (LINK)

The 2018 Open Enrollment Period runs from November 1 to December 15, 2017.  Our patriotic private insurance companies are showing their care and concern for--their profits only.

Flu shots

Flu shots for VA-enrolled veterans at Walgreens (VA INFO LINK)

 The no-cost flu shot program starts August 15, 2017 and runs through March 31, 2018. Please note vaccine supply may be limited after March 1, 2018.

A time-saver!;  call first to make sure their employees are aware of the program.  Walgreen’s voucher and instructions (LINK to PDF).  If non-driving vets can’t easily get to a VA clinic, this retail program will help their friends get the veteran a flu shot easily.

Any more medi-dates we can be reminded of?

Kiedove

Posted in All about Veterans, Food for thought, General Messages, Guest authors, non-va care, Uncategorized | Tagged , | 7 Comments

POP SMOKE-HALLOWEEN HUMOR

Dennis “Pop” Steftenagel, whom I had the distinguished pleasure of meeting at the 2013 Hugfest in held in Magnet, Indiana, is a collector of fine art. Below, you will see his finesse and a small sampling of his wares. I do so wish I had the time to gallivant far and wide in search of these gems which abound in the social media. Absent that luxury, I depend on him -as well as all my readership- to ferret out the essentials we all need to survive in our new “post-progressive” society. Humor is one of the five major mental food groups essential for survival. It has been conclusively proven to build healthy brain boxes 13 different ways. Don’t ask for my cites or curriculum vitae.  Just trust me- or Dennis- in this matter. 

And this from Mike K. in Oregon, a founding member of HCVets/asknod support group. Rarely do I permit political humor to intrude here but I consider this to be a worthy exception to the rule. I profess neutrality, politically speaking, but no one can deny the humor Mike attempts to evince here. To the victors belong the spoils… for a polite, short time thereafter.

The Three Stooges

 

Posted in 2013 Hugfest Magnet Indiana, All about Veterans, Humor, KP Veterans, VA Agents | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

LZ CORK–GROUNDHOG DAY-CAVC # 17-3214

I apologize to my readership for being AWOL. I do have a pass from Teacher. Teacher being the VA. After a summer spent trying to inveigle the VA into completing his claims, Butch took matters into his own hands and decided to kite off a letter to the CAVC in a vain attempt to speed up the process. Face it, if you’ve spent two and a half years waiting for a C&P exam for your Ischemic Heart Disease, had your leg amputated above the knee and VA is insisting you need to “refile” the claim because it was denied in 2015 but they plumb forgot to tell you about it, it’s probably high time to consider an Ex Writ. 

One thing about an Extraordinary Writ of Mandamus is that it grabs the VA by the short hairs at your local VA. Butch’s love letter to the Court sure had a pretty dramatic result as well. Let me explain how this works in DickandJanespeak. VA goes from 0 to 60 in slightly under 4 seconds. That doesn’t mean they’ll get it right though, And in some cases, there is clear bias and yes, dare I say, adversarial retribution for having the gall not to discuss it with the local yokels beforehand or giving them the opportunity to shuck and jive you for another year or two.

As advocates, we are taught to advance in measured paces toward an Ex Writ. The Lexis Nexis Veterans Benefits Manual (VBM), our “Bible” on how to litigate, advises us to write a letter begging- begging, mind you- the RO bozos to get their defecation in an orderly pile and do us the favor of producing that which is overdue. If, after a month or two, it fails to jar them into some semblance of obeying our wishes, we are instructed to try, try again. A third (or fourth)entreaty after another polite 30-90 days is advised with the Ex Writ “carrot on the stick” now unveiled from out of the advocate’s bag of tricks as a threat. But just a threat, mind you. The object is to avoid being an asshat and politely try to convince them that your patience will be reaching its end in a year or two.

After this six to nine month “dance”, it is deemed permissible to finally send them the 30-day letter with the pin removed from the hand grenade and the promise that it will be tossed sans bail if no action is forthcoming. I don’t cotton to that technique. If VA knows they can blow smoke up the Advocate’s ass for six to seven months with no repercussions, it’s a good bet they’ll just delay  anyway to see what you’re made of.  I prefer the “Surprise, Surprise, Surprise, Sgt. Carter” method.  I call my technique Ex Parte Fait Accompli. There’s just nothing that says F*ck You like answering the VARO front door on Monday morning and finding that Ex Writ hand grenade on the doorstep with no bail. In Butch’s case, it’s 47 years overdue. Don’t forget they handed him a hat full of 0% ratings for his SFWs back in 1970.

VA Minders

I  discovered my readership had increased the last time I filed an Ex Writ. I had VA correspondence completing a few bitches in my mailbox before I even got my docket number back from the CAVC the last time. Obviously, the Seattle RO has assigned a “minder” to me and they caught it coming out of the chute. The standard practice in Ex Writs is a) you bitch to the Court; b)the Court gives the VA 30 days to report back to them and explain why Mr. Asknod is so upset; and c) in that thirty days, the shit contacts the rotary oscillator with gusto. Everything is “fixed” after a fashion and the VA reports back that they cannot, for the life of them, figure out what in Sam Hill that demented jackwad in Seattle is complaining about because they already did it (last week). They aren’t  apologetic about the fact that they finished it thirty minutes before they submitted their response to the Court. Jez, they don’t even blush or apologize. I don’t reckon I could pull that off without a big, shit-eatin’ grin from ear to ear.

In Butch’s  case, the repair order for this Ex Writ was a resounding bitchslap. Butch filed the Writ September 15th or so. The Court sent out the “whazzup?” 30-day letter on September 28th. VA denied the IHD on October 12th. Coincidence, you say? They declared it wasn’t on the list of presumptives for AO. I kid you not. They purposefully came up with some bogus diagnosis on his heart and ignored all the evidence we submitted clearly diagnosing it as atherosclerosis and ischemia. Butch even let them know his new moniker was  “Hopalong Long”. The problem with this type of 78 RPM justice is they  freely admitted they were in constructive possession of the evidence of the coronary artery disease. This wasn’t the run-of-the-mill “Wow, sorry Butch. We didn’t dial on that dx of CAD. We’ve been holding that in the evidence locker since March 2015 but somehow we disremembered the amputation. We’ll be getting back to you real soon, hear? And don’t forget to mail in another NOD on it so we can begin your substantive appeal in 2018.”

Aruuuuuuuuuuuuuuu?

These folks seem to forget what they’ve already said and done. When we went in for the DRO hearing in February this year, the DRO politely refused to discuss the IHD on appeal saying she couldn’t adjudicate a decision on a claim that had not been decided up or down yet. Three months later she was telling us we had to refile for it if we wanted VA to adjudicate it in this lifetime.  Can’t you just see Tim Allen saying “Aruuuu?” about now?

This explains my silence on the subject around here as well. I’m not admitted to practice at the CAVC yet so I walk softly and carry a big stick.  After he had filed pro se, I agreed to help Butch “revise and extend” his remarks on how VA has been treating him in more polished English. A day after I sent in an explanation of the 2.5 year delay, the October 12th denial showed up. To say I was flabbergasted is a masterpiece of understatement. I figured, at a bare minimum,  a 100% SMC M was going to be in the envelope. Hence my analogy to Groundhog Day (the movie). I should not have expected anything less than a denial. Doing VA claims is a classic study of repetitive error. They’re condemned to getting it wrong every time. But is it contrived error or simply innocent stupidity?

VA can do many things to us and get away with it. They have since the War of 1812 and I don’t see it changing any time soon. What they cannot do is act in a vindictive, adversarial manner. Now granted, Butch didn’t exactly played the Ex Writ game according to Hoyle in VA’s eyes. I admit he didn’t go through the hoopla of three or four 30-days letters with dire warnings that baaaaaaaad things were going to happen if they didn’t play nice.  He did what Veterans always do. He waited patiently for two and half years.  In CAVCland, they give you two years to git’rdone. After that, it’s considered “an arbitrary refusal to act”. And if VA comes back and tell you to refile a claim that has not been decided in the first instance, why,  that’s out and out error. A claim remains pending until there is some evidence a Veteran can see and understand something-preferably written- that would convince him the claim was dead, done and denied. It sure doesn’t require having to keep sending in requests begging for finality. But boy howdy if you kite off a letter to the Court begging them to fix it and VA comes back with a bogus denial like a quickie divorce in Reno, the Court views that as “adversarial” and not very “veteran friendly”. VA can punish us in a lot of different ways and they frequently do. They just can’t do it while the Court is watching. That’s a Bozo no-no at all our 56 VAROs across the fruited plain. Why, the Court might get the impression that the VA is mean-spirited and anti-Vet. Perish the thought, mon ami.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Hopalong Butch sent the Court this picture of his brand new Agent Orange present along with the Ex Writ. I wonder how the VA is going to to look  CAVC Judge Michael Allen straight in the face and say “Reasonable minds can agree that a diagnosis of cardiac diastolic dysfunction with mild left ventricular hypertrophy does not, in and of itself, occasion the amputation of a lower extremity above the knee, your honor. Personally, we think he’s bullshitting us. We sure hope you don’t fall for it, too.”

I expect that had Butch allowed me to give the readership a blow-by-blow description of this Ex Writ in a blog writeup a month ago, VA would have quickly counterpunched with gusto and headed us off at the pass. The last thing I figured was they’d screw this up and deny it. That’s why we waited and allowed them to clothesline themselves. That’s also why this Groundhog Day analogy is so à propos. A leopard simply cannot change his spots. This is vintage VA denial and par for the course.  My guess is they’ll claim it was accidentally dumped  into the National Work Queue and some FNG gomer GS-7 in Togus or Sioux Falls cranked out a denial 30 minutes before lunch hour on the 12th.  Ooops. Wrong End Product. Too bad (s)he didn’t actually read the evidence of record. You can’t just undo a denial.VA has to CUE themselves.

VA has some taaaaaaaaaaaall talking to do and their Respondent’s response is due on October 26th or they turn into a pumpkin and mice. For you numerically challenged VA minders, that works out to next Friday night by 2359 hrs EDT. Stay tuned here for the next update. I’m sure it’s going to be a daisy. Same Vet time. Same Vet channel.

P.S. Here’s Butch’s 10/16/17 update to the Court. Incoming!

Long ExWrit with VA IHD denial filed 10-16-17

 

Posted in Extraordinary Writs of Mandamus, KP Veterans, VA Agents, VA Conspiracies, VA Medical Mysteries Explained | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 14 Comments

PHANTOM PIANO PLAYER

SquareBob Lawpants

As per all of your requests I share really good jokes, I hereby submit SquareBob Lawpants’ latest. I only got one ride in an F 4E in 1969 with my father flying GIF but I can tell you it will part your hair when you hit afterburner. The joke is risqué but manages to fall within our narrow parameters that it not be too explicit or obscene. Forthwith, I submit for your enjoyment

 

A gray-headed old man shuffled into a downtown bar holding his head up high.  His hands shook as he took the “piano player wanted” sign from the window and handed it to the bartender. “I’d like to apply for the job,” he said. “I was a navy f-4 pilot off the USS coral sea. I learned to play the piano at officers’ club happy hours while in port, so here I am.”

 

The barkeep wasn’t too sure about this doubtful looking old guy, but it had been quite a while since he had a piano player and business was falling off. So, why not give him a try.

 

The old pilot shuffled his way over to the piano while several patrons snickered. By the time he was into his third bar of music, every voice was silenced. What followed was a rhapsody of soaring music unlike anything heard in the bar before. When he finished there wasn’t a dry eye in the place.

 

The bartender took the old navy pilot a beer and asked him the name of the song he had just played.  It’s called “drop your skivvies, baby, I’m going balls to the wall for you” he said.  After a long pull from the beer, leaving it empty, he said “I wrote it myself.”

 

The bartender and the crowd winced at the title, but the piano player just went on into a knee-slapping, hand-clapping bit of ragtime that had the place jumping.  After he finished, the f-4 pilot acknowledged the applause, downed a second offered mug, and told the crowd the song was called, “big boobs make my afterburner light.”

 

He then launched into another mesmerizing song and everyone in the room was enthralled. He announced that it was the latest rendition of his song, “spread ’em baby, it’s foggy out tonight and I need to see the centreline”, excused himself and headed for the john.

 

When he came out the bartender went over to him and said, “hey, fly boy, the job is yours; but do you know your fly is open and your pecker is hanging out?”

 

“Know it?” the old fighter pilot replied, “hell, I wrote it!”

Posted in All about Veterans, Humor, KP Veterans, NOVA Attorneys, VA Agents, VA Attorneys, Vietnam War history | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

CUE–MALCOLM IN THE MIDDLE-§3.303(a) or §3.303(b)? WHICH ONE DO I USE?

They say some things just jump up and bite you on the butt -mentally, I mean. As I mentioned several weeks ago on a Hadit.com podcast, arguing with VA is a technique. VA is about as vague as a New England fog. And for goodness’ sake, make sure you’re arguing the right thing with them. As I’ve mentioned before, nothing gives you that sinking feeling in the gut when you discover VA has been alluding to your Hepatitis C claim and not your hepatitis B claim… or worse, your “infectious” Hepatitis A claim. Aaaaarhuuuuuuuu??? Hep A???

Malcolm spent an eternity trying to get VA just to acknowledge he still had active hepatitis of any kind 10 years after he got out. He filed and lost right out of the gate (but only for Hep B) which we’ll discuss below. He refiled and finally won- 0% in 2004 as he should have received in 1991-but for Hep C- not the Hep B in 1991. Another five years netted him a “sorta” win at the Fed. Circus and a new Texas Necktie Party. He got 10% for four years and then back to zilch. Those remands can come around full tilt and bite you in the ass too- and it isn’t exactly a mental feeling either when that happens.

After sifting through every last thing in Malcolm’s file, I began to examine the semantics of his CUE denial from the 1991 rating decision to the end (last week) of the third CUE claim denial. VA would still like to cling to the fig leaf of characterizing Malcolm’s bout with viral Hepatitis B as “acute” and/or “infectious hepatitis”-another name for Hepatitis A. Check out his latest denial. Houston, you have a problem.

As we all know in 38 CFR §3.303(a) as well as §3.1, the clear requirement for S/C for any disease or injury is that it simply must occur on active duty and you weren’t bungee jumping off bridges without a permit. Bungee jumping is covered by  §3.301 under willful misconduct.

So, assuming you incurred hepatitis, sinusitis, a broken left pinkie and a scratched eyeball in service, all of which were deemed in the Line of Duty and well-documented in the STRs, which of these would you ever guess would be denied by VA?

a) all

b)all but the eyeball

c)all but the pinkie

d)just the hep

e) none of the above

Check this out.

The pencil puke at the end is a post hoc CYA. The rater forgot to consider the application of §3.324:

§ 3.324 Multiple noncompensable service-connected disabilities.

Whenever a veteran is suffering from two or more separate permanent service-connected disabilities of such character as clearly to interfere with normal employability, even though none of the disabilities may be of compensable degree under the 1945 Schedule for Rating Disabilities the rating agency is authorized to apply a 10-percent rating, but not in combination with any other rating.

I’d love to meet this ratings board. In one paragraph, they deny hep for no residuals and then grant 0% SC for the pinkie …because there are no residuals.  Is that a speshull kind of dumb or do they teach that at VA Raters School? Can the M 21 be that discombobulated as to generate  two entirely diametrically opposed interpretations of law in one paragraph? Put on your helmets and take your protein pill, folks. Welcome to  38 CFR mysogination world. If the ultimate goal is denial of a claim, anything is fair game. I’ve seen this trick  frequently and it amazes me more of you don’t file a CUE and go after them on it. You will need a decision that explicitly describes why they denied for the “gottcha” which generally rules out the older ratings decisions before 1990.

Most of you remember Walker v. Shinseki (2013) where the OGC krewe finally decyphered the meaning of what they wrote in 1962 (38 CFR 38 CFR §3.303(b). God, that must have been embarrassing as hell to get to the Fed Circus and have them tell you it only applies to chronic problems on the 38 CFR §3.309 list. Fifty one years of brain fart.

And that’s what I found here on Malcolm. VA granted the left pinkie and the eyeball scratch -at zero percent of course-  under the auspices of  38 CFR §3.303(a) but turned around and denied the hep and the sinusitis under 38 CFR §3.303(b) because they weren’t chronic and compensably rateable at 10% or more. That’s a CUE of a different color and one that sticks out like a flat tire on old Mr. Pharaoh’s chariot. You can’t get away with granting two claims based on their incurrance in service and then deny the other two because they happened in service but were healed and asymptomatic at discharge and not rateable at 10% or more. Well, maybe you could get away with it in Tennessee or Kentucky if a fellow had one too many of them Oxycontin lolipops-but as a general rule, no you can’t.

So, how many of you have old, unappealed ratings denials that exhibit this ass-backwards approach to claims adjudication? Oddly enough, I got whacked with the exact same phrase for my back injury in 89- just two years earlier. It was acute and resolved before discharge.

Proving CUE is about like riding a tricycle in this instance. But wait for the punchline on this one. Malcolm must have Deja vu disease or God is watching over this boy. When he actually got to the BVA with his CUE for an earlier effective date and a CUE on the 1991 decision, he was conned into dropping any claims for Hepatitis B and focusing strictly on Hepatitis C to the exclusion of all other flavors of hepatitis. I guess that would confer the semantic “infectious” on Hep C too now.

What you are seeing now is CUE compounding itself with more CUE. VA is so confused, they’re making errors as to what disease was subsumed in a prior BVA decision.

 

 HOW MANY TIMES CAN I FILE CUE?

Legally, we can file any number of Motions to Revise (a CUE filing) and get a decision. Each succeeding theory has to be different from the last to be entertained by VA though. However, if you take one of these CUE claims to appeal and are denied at the BVA, that’s the end of that CUE claim theory-forever and ever. While the VLJ (Keith Allen) might have denied an EED in 2009 and declared no CUE error in the 1991 decision, it only applied to Hepatitis C because Malcolm had unwittingly chosen to withdraw any 1991 CUE claim theory for Hepatitis B several months prior to his BVA decision. Malcolm ought to seriously consider buying Lotto tickets with that kind of prescience.

Confused yet? Don’t be. Malcolm will win the 1991 CUE claim-probably in a panel at the CAVC. VA is already trotting out the mention that the HEP B claim was subsumed forever in 2009 by the BVA decision. I guess they should have read page two (above). In the Conclusions of Law on page three, VLJ Allen was very circumspect about which “hepatitis”  he characterized as “hepatitis”. This preserved Malcolm’s right to request a new Motion for Revision at some future date… like this year. It’s almost eerie how Allen was anally precise in putting a corral around 1991 with respect to Hep C  only and leaving Hep B  for another day.  Jez, you don’t suppose he did it on purpose, do you?

Can you see why VA law is so much fun now? You get to make VLJs,  VA raters and DROs look like complete boobs. Of course, you can’t be obnoxious and drag their noses through it. Think of it like Fox News… We Report. You Decide.™ If the VA “examiner” is dense, he won’t get it. It took me a few passes for a good BDA before the §3.303(a) and (b) dichotomy sank in. I’m hoping Malcolm’s DRO review Coach will finally “get” it. Just in case, I drew a really good stick map in the dirt for them.

Melancon 0958 11 extra pages 10-11-17

Now, I guess we have to assess whether this was purposeful or an unfortunate ratings mishap. And that’s all I’m gonna say about that. Happy CUEs to you until we meet again.

Posted in CUE, KP Veterans, Tips and Tricks, VA Agents | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Hepatitis A: severe illness and deaths hit San Diego homeless population

Over the last few months, Frank, an avid reader about all things “US Vet,” has emailed several articles to me about the hepatitis A (HAV) outbreak in San Diego (SD) to share with Asknod’s folk.  The ongoing story has many aspects that deserve our attention.

Home to 60 Naval ships, (LINK) homeless SD Veterans are among those who have to live in the unbearable conditions that have led to the spread of this highly contagious form of hepatitis. 

Statistics, according to one article, suggest that perhaps 10-15% of the SD homeless population are veterans. (LINK)

The annual count of homeless people taken in January found 1,054 homeless veterans in the county. Of those, 600 were sheltered and 454 were unsheltered. In all, the county had 9,116 homeless people, with 5,619 in San Diego.

Click image to go to San Diego Health Dept.

A 9/19/17 Huffingtonpost article (LINK) has revealed in common terms some of the realistic strategies SD is taking.

An outbreak of hepatitis A, a dangerous but preventable disease that is spread through fecal contamination and attacks the liver, has gotten so out of hand in San Diego that the county government is handing out plastic poop bags and washing the streets with bleach.

Why? Because there aren’t enough public bathrooms for people to use to evacuate and wash their hands.  HAV may also be an unintended consequence of a recent single-use plastic bag ban, according to some (LINK):

Homeless people learned long ago that pooping in plastic-bag-lined containers meant you could wrap the session up and dispose of all the stuff without touching it,… So when it got harder to get the bags after the ban went into effect late last year, it became harder to find the bags…

Plenty of people discounted the plastic-bag theory but San Diego County Public Health Officer Wilma Wooten was not one of them.

“Yes, absolutely, we know people use the bags for that,” she said. “We know people don’t have bathrooms and they can put bags in cans and buckets and maintain good hygiene. That’s why we put plastic bags in the hygiene kits we’re handing out. That’s what we expect people will use them for.”

Note, the article from which the above quote is taken (and comments by locals) are worth a read.

Only 2,400 kits distributed in mid-September? Each person would need several kits per day!

What else is SD doing?  Portable hand-washing stations, opened a tent city (LINK), more toilets, lots of free vaccinations.  More on sanitation efforts:  (LINK)

On SD homeless Veterans (LINK)

Class-action lawsuit against SD by those who must sleep in their cars (LINK)

Timelines (LINK);   (LINK)

VA 

Couldn’t find much more from the SD VA but I expect they are doing outreach.

The SD strain has spread to other towns, including one in Arizona.  Know anything more about this?  We tend to think HAV isn’t such a big deal.

Kiedove

Posted in All about Veterans, Food for thought, General Messages, Guest authors, hepatitis, hepatitis A (HAV), VA Health Care, VA statistics | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments