From the humor mill in Battle Creek comes Law Bob ‘Squarepants’  Walsh’s inciteful insight. Why Bob focuses myopically on the Marine Corps and their roughshod military bearing when made the brunt of jokes escapes me but we all benefit from his humor-not to mention his vast accumulation of VA law.

Here’s his latest entry, presumably attributable to one Robert Warren from the great state of Florida.

Years ago, a young Navy Pilot was injured while ejecting from his A-4 Skyhawk due to flameout during a catapult shot from his carrier, but due to the heroics of  the rescue chopper crew and the ship’s hospital staff, the only permanent injury was the loss of one ear. Since he wasn’t physically impaired, he remained on flight status and years later attained the rank of Admiral. However, during his career he was always sensitive about his appearance. 

One day the Admiral was interviewing two Navy Master Chiefs and a Marine Sergeant Major for his personal staff. The first Master Chief was a Surface Navy type and it was a great interview. At the end of the interview the Admiral asked him, “Do you notice anything different about me?” The Master Chief answered, “Why, yes, Admiral. I couldn’t help but notice that you are missing your starboard ear.  I certainly hope this doesn’t impact your hearing on that side.” 

The Admiral got very angry at this lack of tact and threw him out of his office. 

The next candidate, an Aviation Master Chief, when asked this same question, answered, “Well yes, Sir, you seem to be short one ear.” The Admiral 86’d him as well. 

The third interview was with the Marine Sergeant Major He was articulate, extremely sharp, and seemed to know more than the two Master Chiefs put together. The Admiral wanted this guy, but went ahead with the same question. “Do you notice anything different about me?” 

To his surprise, the Sergeant Major said, “Yes Sir. I’m virtually certain you wear contact lenses.”

The Admiral was impressed with such tact emanating from a Marine. ” You’re extremely astute, soldier. And just how did you arrive at that conclusion?” the Admiral asked. 

The Sergeant Major replied: “Well, sir, it’s pretty hard to wear glasses with only one f*ckin’ ear.”

Sadly, Bob  deprived us of the eventual outcome of the Admiral’s choice for his enlisted aide d’ camp.

Posted in Humor | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

VA Emergency Care good news: Staab v Sec. Shulkin

Thanks to Frank’s helpful eyeballs, I have some good news to report about the veteran emergency care benefit that has been withheld since 2010. Sec. Shulkin has had a change of heart.  Last week he held that the Staab case was wrongly decided by the


Image: PD William Denslow, 1900 Me! Mean! Oh no. I’m a good guy.

CAVC.  On June 22, he announced that he was withdrawing his appeal (LINK).

Shulkin told Rounds that VA has completed draft regulations to implement the new emergency care benefit, sending them to the Office of Management and Budget. Draft regulations must clear OMB and be published in the Federal Register for comment before VA can begin reimbursements. That process could take nine months or more, Shulkin advised the committee last week.

Mr. Staab and his legal team deserve a big thank you.  Press release (June 16, 2017):  NVLSP Wins $2 Billion in Medical Care Benefits for Hundreds of Thousands of Veterans (LINK).  It’s hard to know if the VA will throw vets a curve ball, but NVLSP writes:

“The announcement by Secretary Shulkin indicating the VA will “voluntarily withdraw” its appeal means that the 2016 court ruling will stand.”

Stichman believes that the veteran would have to take action to file a new claim and argue that the past denial was based on “clear and unmistakable error.” Stichman believes that cases currently pending before the VA will directly benefit from the Court’s decision.

6/14/17 Veterans Affair Committee, Video–starts after 20 minutes:

I’ve been watching the appeal move through the dockets with disgust so this seems like a remarkable turn of events.  We’ll see if there are any famous VA gotcha’s after the commenting period.  Links to my older posts on Staab are below.


Posted in All about Veterans, CAVC Knowledge, CAVC ruling, General Messages, Guest authors, Important CAVC/COVA Ruling, Inspirational Veterans, Lawyering Up, non-va care, Uncategorized, VA BACKLOG, VA Secretaries | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments


With all the fur flying over TDIU and possibly underutilized VA  medical facilities closing, Jerrel called me today and asked me to inveigh on dem changes. So, once again Thursday afternoon at 1600 Local on the sunny Left  Coast of our Fruited plains, I will discuss the inequality of TDIU and the need for reform to put it in equipoise. 

For those who have read Animal Farm by George Orwell, the phrase “Some pigs are more equal than other pigs” is amply borne out in 38 CFR. As I like to point out, the first two letters of TDIU are Total Disability. Everything after is superfluous, redundant and repetitive. As I can only be called (and rated) 100% disabled by VA, then how to explain SMC S and my 290% rating? How can Johnny Vet in Muskogee be TDIU with a 60% back disability, when Johnny Vet in Fort Harrison Montana has a 70% rating for bent brain and is not? Call up and tell us your thoughts on this.

How about them VA pharmacists? Two for you and one for me… Two for you and one for me… Ooops. I spilled some on the floor, too.

What we have here is an endless number of VA subjects to talk about. Wait ’till you hear of my bait and switch –asked for IU and then bartered up for 100% P&T and then set the hook– an EED back to 2005. VA says I’m not playing fair. What the hey? They taught me this poker game.

Remember, the magic number is

347-237-4819 (push #1 to talk)

Blog talk babe in London


Posted in All about Veterans, ASKNOD BOOK, KP Veterans, Medical News, SVR Radio on, TDIU, VA Agents, VA Medical Mysteries Explained | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments


President Trump is faced with a conundrum firmly ensconced in an enigma. This one is worse than Br’er Bear and Br’er Fox’ tar baby. To put it in its simplest terms, what do you do with a VA schedule for rating disabilities (VASRD) that contains a chutes and ladders clause? Introducing Total Disability due to Individual Unemployment (TDIU) is typical, vintage VA. Give it some arcane name virtually disconnected from what it implies to begin with. That fakes out a vast majority of VSOs right off the bat. The VA then made it an extraschedular rating that has to be shipped off to DC for the Director of Compensation and Pension to take a swing at it. Finally, having qualified, the disabled Veteran has to eschew any jobs, no matter how mundane and financially fruitless, to keep this rating for life. You’re walking a tightrope for 20 years in order to attain a pseudo-protected rating.

But that’s not all. In order to keep TDIU, you have to submit a financial disclosure form annually to confirm your continued eligibility – even if you are granted your permanent and total rating. I’d say there’s a major truth in advertising flaw here that doesn’t pass the smell test. Welcome to the VA version of enforced unemployability.

The conundrum we Veterans face is the VASRD. Let’s take a back injury. You jump out of perfectly good airplanes that are still capable of flight  with a flimsy piece of silk to cushion your landing. It looks good on paper. Shaved Mohawk haircuts and  warpaint aside, when you strap on another 90 pounds of gear and a rifle, your landing is going to be magnified by the gravitational pull of those extra pounds. Skydiving as a sport is not even in the same league. So, you land again and again and after 25 jumps you get your wings. Newsflash. The damage is done. Adding another hundred or two jumps, some into a combat arena or sylvan setting can add to the structural damage tenfold. And remember, we have not even discussed the rest of the supporting musculoskeletal architecture such as the hips, knees and ankles.

Eventually, you retire and file for these injuries. Surprise, surprise surprise, Sergeant. The VASRD doesn’t have a rating above 60% for your now DDD’d L5-S1 juncture. Both legs are hors d’combat as well but the max you can squeeze out of them is 40% each. You begin searching for pain on excursion and discover you are similarly limited by how much you can attain for these DeLuca ratings. The sum total ends up being about 80%, possibly 90. You do the math and turn to the combined ratings table in 38 CFR §4.25. Ruh-oh, Rorge. No help there. With an 80% rating, it will take another 80% rating or a combination of disabilities combined to 80% to attain a combined 100%. You haven’t even touched the P&T merrygoround yet. Welcome to VA math.

Now we examine the TDIU system’s rationale. At present, looking at the current statistics from 2014 on just 100% schedular (one single rating for 100%) versus TDIU, I see 439,459 Vets with a 100% schedular rating (or more). TDIU recipients are listed as 326,687 souls. Since there seems to be a bump clause-i.e. somebody has to die for another Vet to “graduate” up to TDIU or a 100% schedular -the numbers remain static. That is, over the last twenty or so years, the numbers have remained relatively the same. VA has X dollars for this game so it makes sense. Yes, I know they keep raising the VA’s budget but high quality employees talented at counting beans are a commodity in short supply if you listen to the AFGE. Thus, bonuses and other inducements like Human Resource getaways to Tahiti for “All-hands-on-deck” meetings and conferences are in order annually. Firing the miscreants isn’t an option. VA needs every one of them and, if you listen to the poohbahs, they need exponentially more in spite of the decreasing numbers of Veterans. Aruuu????

So… how do you give this behemoth a haircut without upsetting the applecart? President Trump and (Don’t call me- call the White House) Dave Shulkin are now studying this TDIU enigma and trying to discern a way to trim it (and VA) back. Again, the VASRD is the impediment to realistic ratings such as that described above for Johnny Airborne Vet. If you are totally disabled, why not just call in the dogs and piss on the fire? Why this pseudo-disability dance and Torquemada tribunal to diagnose the inevitable? Well, ladies and gentlemen Veterans, there is more at play here. Some Vets are truly disabled above and beyond even 100%. Some, like me, are still walking and have 290% in ratings. I even have two 100% schedulars  protected by 20 years no less. I can still walk-albeit like a drunken sailor- but I haven’t lost my ability to ambulate. By rights, carrying that pile of disabilities should make me totally disabled . But here’s the dichotomy. Much like the Energizer Bunny, I just keep going. Some of us have a mental  granny gear and 4WD that is immune to the concept of unemployability.

Since I have become an accredited VA advocate, I have met a lot of interesting, disabled Veterans. Some, but not all, insist they are totally disabled by virtue of their personal subset of disabilities. You can see where I’m heading. Not all Veterans are as motivated to stay employed or are seeking the TDIU golden apple by virtue of what they personally perceive as “total” disability. VA, through the inept application and failure to revise the VASRD over the intervening decades since 1945, has created a financial Frankenstein that continues to metastasize in numbers and applications never foreseen. You can attribute our NOVA attorneys’ good works and the CAVC for the expansion of IU or you can blame it on the inane propensity of our Government to endlessly wander the earth in search of places to try out brand new military technology.

Regardless the cause of these new, exponentially increasing numbers of disabled Veterans, their numbers and their cost are becoming problematic. What is proposed (dinking you at 62 and putting SSA in place of IU) is not as dismal as it sounds. Well, actually it is but the predicate for their rationale is impeccable. I can hear the incoming already. Think it through, folks. What was the predicate for the IU in the first place? You described yourself as “totally disabled “- totally. The program you applied for is predicated on “employability”. What do able-bodied American citizens who have never been Veterans do between the ages of 62-67 these days? Yep. They retire and are no longer employed. They have earned their promised pittance mismanaged by the SSA and Congress. It remunerates them for- hold on to your hats- retirement from employment. Most Americans do not get concurrent receipt of pensions and SSA and all the extra golden parachutes available to them. They look to 401 Ks.  Some yes. Some no. The hue and cry thus is a plaint for concurrent receipt by Veterans of compounded earnings from post-Veteran wages as well as a total unemployment check-for life.

Truth in advertising is what is at fault here. VA should never have couched IU as an employment issue. It is a disability assessment- in this case 100% or its equivalent. Add up 50% for PTSD, 40% for DM 2 from Agent Orange, throw in  several low percentages for hemorrhoids, tinnitus and pes planus and voilà- TDIU. But ask yourself- am I “totally” disabled? Do I meet the high bar of being unable to obtain (or create) employment? I’ve even heard the inane argument ” I could go back to work but then I’d lose my TDIU. I need the money though.”

This is where I part company with many of you. Remuneration for disabilities must be commensurate with the number and degree. Simply having a combined rating of 70% with one anchor rating of 40% is considered viable for TDIU. Similarly, one single disability of 60% qualifies you to stay in the IU poker game. It’s a lot like Jacks or better to open. But ask yourself this burning question. Am I “totally” disabled? Am I incapable of ever learning a new tradecraft or seeking educational opportunities that will lift me out of the “total” disability morass? I look at myself as the sum of my parts. If my back goes south, it doesn’t screw up my brain unless I keep eating Dilaudid like candy. Hey. If I’m your Agent- relax. I gave up pain meds for Lent (back in 2011).

The arguments put forth by all the major VSOs are heartrending. Vets are going to be homeless. They’ll be eating out of dumpsters.  Vets have come to depend on 100% TDIU funds because, well,  because frankly, they like the money. Duh? Let’s examine this another way. You are 23 and the economy crashes. You file for unemployment and get $250 bucks a week and crash on your parents’ sofa. You do this for 99 weeks and then they kick you off. Congress passes a bill continuing the benefit and you get another 52 weeks of chump change. Finally, the economy improves and jobs become fashionable again but you have now taken a hankering to Drew Carrey and enjoy the The Price is Right every morning with your parent’s free Frosted Flakes. You’re loath to go back to work because you like this new unemployed lifestyle. The government takes a dim view of this and cuts you off. Back to work, José.  Eventually you get a beer belly and gray hair. At some point between 62 and 67, you retire and step into your meagre SSI check. You’re now totally and individually unemployed but you have your SSI check that is designed to reimburse you for this turn of events. Or… you can choose to continue being employed. There’s no law preventing you from working until you hit room temperature. Medically, you may not be up to framing houses or long-haul trucking but you are still capable of some form of gainful employment. I studied long and hard while helping Vets over the last 20 years and sat for the VA test to help other Vets legally. It may not be the most lucrative endeavour but it is employment-at 66 no less.

Helen Keller TDIU?

The teaching moment I set out to illuminate is simple. Your concept of being “unemployable” is a fig newton of your imagination. Granted, there are a vast number of Veterans with disabilities, both mental and physical, who are no longer qualified to work gainfully. Some wave the flag of stupidity-i.e. they claim they are akin to an old dog and incapable of learning new tricks. Hogwash. I had envisioned myself in my old age constructing kids’ toy guns out of wood scraps and selling them at Farmer’s markets. I made them for all the neighborhood kids when I was in my 40s. They were a big hit then and would still be so now. Political correctness vis-a-vis guns aside, there are thousands of make-work projects that await those with some imagination. Disability is a mental construct. Think of Helen Keller as an extreme example. She even managed to write a book.

Any argument in favor of keeping TDIU past 62 is going to require redesignating IU with a different moniker and increasing the admission requirements. I say this not from the viewpoint of being anti- Vet or anti-entitlement. I say it not from the standpoint of smugness-that my disabilities entitle me to far more than a Vet with a 70% rating for PTSD. My argument merely provokes the matter of proper, descriptive English and semantics. If you call it an entitlement due to unemployability, then by rights it must end when you choose to exit the field of employability- ostensibly when your entitlement to SSA begins in your golden years. Why is that such an insurmountable mental concept?

Money is fun. More money is even more fun. Getting the highest and best rating is what we all seek. The VA poker game is set up to make it nigh on impossible to use VA compensation as welfare. The price of admission, besides being a disabled Veteran, is steep. No one disputes that. Look at the VASRD and notice the Special Monthly Compensation (SMC) rates that go far beyond the $3,078.00 for 100% ratings. A severely disabled single Vet on R(2) is entitled to $8,348.00 per month. Veterans from the post-2001 era with TBI attempt to get this rating and are disappointed to learn they can rarely get it indefinitely. VA compensation is not perfect. It was designed by a sadistic soul with limited financial assets to supervise and award to needy Vets. VA is crashing their own system due to their munificence. I’m sure they don’t want to but wars create collateral damage, missing limbs and bent brains. This isn’t a chicken or the egg came first enigma. The cause and effect are predictable. VA’s problem is the inability, due to a stingy Congress, to remunerate us for our injuries.

I admire President Trump’s desire to tune up the VA disability engine and search for disparities in outcomes. I welcome Dr. Shulkin with a lukewarm endorsement if he really fixes VA. So many VASECs have come before with wild promises to “repair” it and promptly do a faceplant. TDIU as we know it is doomed- if not for its misnomer in the first instance. I don’t relish this. I don’t approve of it but I do see it as inevitable simply because it was designed as a temporary panacea that became an entrenched idea to remunerate Veterans far past the point of viable employability. Who can look me in the face and say “Well, I’m sure entitled to IU because I’ve had it since I ate the B-40 in ’68 at Qui Nhon. I’m 72 and I can’t live without it.” The truth is not that you can’t live without it. The truth is that you have been lulled into thinking you are 100% disabled. In fact, you at one point or another, filed a VAF 21-8940 declaring yourself unemployable in 68. No one in their right mind can ideologically cling to the idea that they are still entitled to an unemployment check at 72. If you want to use that logic engine, then you would have to agree to relinquish your Social Security because you’re still collecting the unemployment benefit (IU).

I always like to take the Devil’s Advocate’s stance and analyze all the possible permutations of an argument solely  for argument’s sake. Some fervently wish I”d keep my pie hole shut and not let Pandora out. This a viable national argument. Words have meaning and this is one of those times where emotions have to take a back seat to the poor choice of Congressional semantics. Either change the name and/or the rules for this entitlement or do away with it entirely and begin anew. There are legitimate cases for TDIU and there are those who would game the system to attain an IU rating when they could still find or even invent a new job for themselves that encompasses their subset of disabilities. No one can tell me I am an anomaly or an outlier. I don’t buy it. I’ve been a construction worker, a lifeguard, a telephone installer/repairman, an interpreter, an electrician, a builder and now a psuedo-law dog. Each new iteration was born of financial necessity. I attribute my last and most recent avocational calling as a finger in VA’s eye.

And that’s all I’m going to say about that.

Posted in KP Veterans, TDIU, VA Agents, vA news, VA Secretaries, VA statistics | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments


It’s a good thing President Trump instituted the new Vet hotline when he did. I got to use it this morning for the first time. I was on hold for all of 31 seconds. As most of you know who have followed Butch and Barb Long’s travails with the VA, they just don’t seem motivated to settle this antique claim. The DRO returned my call a month ago and said she needed to “confirm the authenticity” of the 167-pages of STRs I dumped in their lap at the DRO hearing. Aruuuu? I forged them?

It seems I gave them more records than what the NPRC sent them and they want to know why. Who cares? They had 46 years to go back and get these new and  material service department records that have never been associated with his claims file. They  have an immense bearing on what was filed for in 1970 and explain why he got the short, shitty end of the VA’s punji stick. One would think they can hardly come back and complain 47 years later when we finally do their job for them and fetch them ourselves.

The Decision Review Officer also stated she had only now (May 10th) finished reading the transcript of the hearing. If so, what was the point of the hearing if she simply sat there looking at her nails and thinking of what to have for lunch? The volume and content of what we presented at the hearing was not overwhelming in the least. Well, to the average person with a modicum of intelligence, anyway.

Sadly, Agent Orange and life are overwhelming Butch faster than VA can adjudicate his claims. Each time they ask for a new c&p exam we discover more and more wrong. On his second eye exam, the ophtalmologist found 9 (nine) embedded foreign objects in the eye hit by the mortar. He also filed for Ischemic Heart Disease in his reopening in March 2015. In addition, due to the neuropathy from the atherosclerosis, he was using a wheelchair to ambulate. VA turned him down for the SMC (l) for the Aid and Attendance/loss of use of lower extremities but never touched on the underlying IHD claim. Remember Vets, a formal claim remains pending until there is incontrovertible proof it has been adjudicated. In Butch’s case, sadly, complications from the disease became overwhelming over this last week. This morning, the surgeon had to amputate his right leg above the knee to save his life.

I suppose amputation is one technique for getting VA’s attention on an unadjudicated claim but it’s a drastic maneuvre. All my emails and calls to the Seattle Regional Office for some resolution of the underlying 1970 claim for the thousands of retained metal objects in 12 different muscle groups  also seem to fall on deaf ears. Let’s hope and pray the Trumpline raises a clarion call and elicits a timely response.

Butch is rapidly becoming the poster child for “Delay, deny-until we die”. He also might be the oldest claim in the VA’s inventory at 47 years, two months and some change. You’d think that might be enough to shame them into prompt action. You would be wrong.

I’ve been promised  “resolution” of one sort or another for Butch within three calendar days of my call-perhaps a free meal come Veterans Day at Appleby’s on the Veterans Administration’s dime (if Appleby’s doesn’t pick up the tab as promised). I  did worry the new Trumpaphone might not accept calls from VA attorneys or nonattorney practitioners and restrict calls to only (under)represented VSO claimants. I enjoyed being point man on this. It sure appears I am no longer on the Seattle Director’s Christmas card list so what the hey?

Sometimes you just have to piss on the fire and call in the dogs. Could be there’s gonna be a lot of pissing and moaning directly northeast of me in a short-short. Maybe some day in retrospect we can look back and call it the Miracle on 2nd Avenue. Daddy often said ‘Be an optimist, son. The Scotch will always taste better- even if you don’t have ice.’


Posted in KP Veterans, VA Agents, Veterans Law, Vietnam War history | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments


Finally, a few months late but nothing like better than never, the President’s IT gurus have declared the Vets’ ” Call me Donald” phone line open for business.

Here it is folks and guaranteed to be a busy tone for quite some time. The President might have thought he was joking when he said it would take up all his Twitter time. He has no idea how many disgruntled Veterans he has across our fruited plain.


This is going to be hotter than a Black Friday threefer blue light special on 158 gr, JHP .357 ammo at K Martket. Gentlemen, start your engines. 

Posted in Call Bob, Complaints Department, VA Agents, vA news, VA Secretaries, Veterans Law | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Memorial Day 2017

When I think of Memorial Day as a holiday now, from the attenuated viewpoint of a Veterans Advocate, my memories drift back to my first few months in country in Thailand. Some one lied and said I spoke French and the jig was up. Off to Saigon I went, TDY for the Great Big Interview. I reported as ordered to the 7th TACC ( Tactical Air Combat Control) Center. This was the nerve center for anything having to do with dropping ordnance or marking the drop zone.

After the dog and pony show TACC  briefing and the $2 dollar tour, I sat down with a Major and began discussion on why I was there. Every question was followed by “Just sign here and I’ll brief you in”. When you’re volunteering for something, it’s always nice to know where your new APO address is going to be. Regardless of what I asked, I was met with the “I can’t tell you until you volunteer”. My last question was the kicker. “So what are the odds? What’s the casualty rate?” Major Whatshisbutt’s rejoinder will always echo in my head to this day. “Well, to be truthful, 40% so far but we’re hoping to improve on that. Don’t let that figure fool you. That includes being wounded too.”

To this day, I will always think of those 40%, some of whom remain nameless because they departed for the next plane of existence before I arrived and some after I left. Back in 1970, I focused on the rather narrow obverse equation-that 60% survived and went home more or less intact. Testosterone is a powerful aphrodisiac in war and causes you to do many things that, in retrospect, you would never contemplate ordinarily. No 19 year-old, including me could resist that secretive kind of Terry and the Pirates briefing. To this day, I will never regret exclaiming “Where do I sign?” regardless of the ensuing medical and financial travails in the last 20 years.

This Memorial Day keep those 40% close to you in your memories. One of them might have been a parent or relative. They may have been a brief acquaintance who failed to complete their tour. Vietnam was a study in anonymity. We did not arrive together as a trained, cohesive unit nor did we depart en masse when our tour was completed. We were assigned on an as-needed basis and we rarely knew the folks we were assigned to work with. Some of the guys I served with up north also had pseudo-names like Benjamin Franklin or Jack Smith.  Knowing we might lose this tenuous bond abruptly, very few of us were outgoing enough to make lasting friendships. This saved us from the hurt and anguish of that inevitable loss just over the horizon. Now, in retrospect, I regret that. The anguish might have been unbearable and painful then but the remembered friendship would be welcome in my waning years.

Perhaps that is the reason I tear up at the sight of a flag-draped coffin being unloaded from aircraft at Dover AFB in times of war. The anonymity is still there but the camaraderie and the tightly knit bond of a fellow serviceman’s passing-one of those legendary 40%- is still omnipresent.

Capt. (posthumous) Chuck Engle, 2/22/71 KHA

And that’s all I’m going to say about that. Happy Memorial Day and enjoy the freedom others gladly bought and paid for you this weekend.

Posted in KP Veterans, Memorial Day, Vietnam War history | Tagged , , , , | 7 Comments