I received a NOVA update on how the Appeals backlog at the Board is faring. I’d give it (progress) a so-so on a scale of 1-10. Corovirus 20 aside, it seems the pesky backlog of Legacy Appeals continues to fester. I know it’s true in my case. I have a number of Travel Board hearings scheduled either at the ROs  or in DC to ensure we get a face-to-face hearing for my Vets. Call it what you will, it works for me. I like to have that VLJ lined up in my sights right across the table from me and pin him to his seat with my gaze. How in Sam Hill can you impress them with your earnestness otherwise? A video camera just doesn’t convey my emotion and contempt for the regional ignorance we suffer. 

Here’s the gist of the txmission from Ms. Diane Rauber:

Summary: Sharing information from recent BVA meeting:

  1. Important: The Chairman again noted that the only two ways to submit an AMA appeal to BVA is through fax or mail. There is no consistent way to capture 10182s through direct upload. They are working on this issue, so for now continue to fax and mail.
  2. If you are splitting issues, you need to use separate 10182s… can only choose one lane on each form.

Other information:

  1.  FY 2020 final number of decisions issued = 102,663. There were 15,600 hearings held.
  2.  There are less than 175k legacy appeals left in the system.
  3. Goals for FY 21 – issue 93,600 decisions and hold over 50k hearings. There are nearly 65k legacy hearing requests pending.
  4. AMA appeals – there are 53k appeals pending; 32k of which request hearings. According to the Chairman, the trend of requesting hearings in over 50 percent of cases will result in delays of more than a year to two.
  5. COVID coverage at BVA – they still have about 95% of work force working remotely, with about 20 people on site on any given day.
  6. Other hearing-related issues: There is no projected date for when TB hearings will return; there are approximately 14k remaining.

They are currently sending letters to veterans with scheduled TBs to provide an option to move to virtual hearings. (Note: we understand there has been a hitch with some letters going to veterans who have not requested such a hearing.)

They can hold up to 1k virtual hearings, but have only been holding about 250 per week. Video hearings are currently only be held in the following 10 ROs: Roanoke, New York, Boston, Denver, Fargo, Boise, Togus, Manchester, White River Junction, and Manila. They are scheduling approximately 6 hearings a day due to CDC cleaning guidelines.

I’ve had a TB hearing request in at Houston since 2017. I was on the cusp of being seated (May 7th) when the Pandemic hit. It still has not been rescheduled. I was looking forward to it because my old middle school buddy and neighbor is the Regional Office Director down there. Rob Worley got “promoted” following the  VA’s IT shitshow when the big new superduper computer melding of Military and VA computers for txmission of medrecs failure to launch. Actually, the pesky program still defies the programmers with little bugs. Imagine that. With all the computer whizbang outfits out there available, VA still thinks they can create this behemoth in-house. My opinion is they can’t light a fart without a  2 Billion dollar match but  I probably don’t have all the facts…

News and film at 6 tonight.

Check out the lid (overhead)

Corona lockdown: Day 189

Posted in BvA Decisions, Complaints Department, Corona pandemic, Corona virus, Food for thought, Tips and Tricks, VA Agents, vA news, VA statistics | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Adopting a Pet During COVID-19: Resources for Veterans


This article is one of the many you will see in which we provide as a public service to Veterans.  Ms. Aurora James is our newest contributor. As all of you know, Cupcake and I have quite a menagerie of pets so Ms. James’ submissions will be a welcome addition during these trying times.

As evidenced by emptying rescue shelters across the country, the COVID-19 pandemic has prompted many people to welcome furry friends into their homes. People are spending more time at home than ever before, so for many, this is a prime opportunity to adopt a pet and enjoy all of the wonderful benefits that accompany pet ownership. Veterans, in particular, have a lot to gain by bringing home a companion animal. Check out the following guide to learn more!

Why Adopt a Companion Animal?

For Veterans, adopting a pet can be a life-changing experience. Here are some ways a pet can improve your life and help you cope with mental health challenges. 

  • Dogs, cats, rabbits, hamsters, and even birds can help ward off loneliness during the coronavirus pandemic.
  • Pets offer unconditional love and support which can help reduce depression in Veterans.
  • Certain pets can also make you feel safe and help you cope with hypervigilance, nightmares, and other symptoms of PTSD.
  • Veterans who have recently retired from military life can benefit from the structure that a pet provides.
  • A pet that gets you out of the house, like a dog, can also help you rejoin society and make social connections.

How to Choose a Pet

Different species and breeds of pets have different needs. Make sure you choose an animal that will be a good fit for your household.

  • When choosing a pet type, remember to consider important factors like energy level, temperament, and common medical issues.
  • Inexpensive pets—like budgies, guinea pigs, and fish—may be better for people with limited financial means.
  • You also have to consider your ability to get out of the house and exercise your pet, especially if you have a disability.

Preparing Your Home

Before you bring your new pet home, make sure your home is set up with all the supplies you will need.

  • Be sure to pet-proof your home to protect your furry friend from household hazards.
  • You may have to replace some of your cleaning supplies with animal-friendly brands, like Dr. Bronner’s, Nature’s Miracle, and Simply Green.
  • Set up a quiet area of your home where your pet will feel safe and comfortable. 
  • To save money, steer clear of fancy pet-care gadgets and stick to the essentials.

Getting Settled

Whether you purchase a puppy from a breeder or adopt a cat from a shelter, your new animal will need some time to get settled into your home.

  • Try to limit the number of visitors for the first few days to avoid overwhelming your pet.
  • If your pet has anxiety, consider giving them calming snacks with CBD to reduce their stress.
  • Remember to make plans for pet care if you will have to return to work after the pandemic.

Giving a pet a home is a wonderful way to enrich your life with happiness and meaning. Whether you’re struggling to readjust to civilian life or just trying to get by during the coronavirus pandemic, a lovable animal can help. Start looking for your new furry friend today!

Author: Aurora James

Posted in All about Veterans, Food for the soul, Guest authors | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

2020 Nobel Prize for the discovery of Hepatitis C virus

The 2020 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine has been awarded.

Youtube video–2:17

“This year’s Nobel Prize is awarded to three scientists who have made a decisive contribution to the fight against blood-borne hepatitis, a major global health problem that causes cirrhosis and liver cancer in people around the world.

Harvey J. Alter, Michael Houghton and Charles M. Rice made seminal discoveries that led to the identification of a novel virus, Hepatitis C virus. Prior to their work, the discovery of the Hepatitis A and B viruses had been critical steps forward, but the majority of blood-borne hepatitis cases remained unexplained. The discovery of Hepatitis C virus revealed the cause of the remaining cases of chronic hepatitis and made possible blood tests and new medicines that have saved millions of lives.’

Press release: The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 2020. Nobel Media AB 2020. Wed. 7 Oct 2020.

I wrote about Harvey J. Alter in 2015 on Asknod (Link) and (Link) and last year in 2019 (Link). In fact, he once answered a brief question I had in an email.

Image posted on Nature: “The hepatitis C virus, as seen by an electron microscope. Credit: Cavallini James/BSIP/SPL”

Good article in Nature (10/5/200): Virologists who discovered hepatitis C win medicine Nobel (Link).

The Nobel press release has graphics and an overview of the contributions by each prize winner.

The discovery was about thirty years ago; this prize, it is hoped, will remind people that HCV is still a problem and will speed up efforts to eradicate it globally in the near future.

For the tens of thousands of HCV-afflicted veterans (dead and alive), I hope this Nobel Prize will lead to unbiased public research (open access) about the likely service-connection transmissions routes of HCV.

Laura (Guest author)

Posted in Food for thought, General Messages, Guest authors, transfusions and hepatitis, Uncategorized, Vietnam Disease Issues | Tagged , | 1 Comment


Shut the front door. I thought I’d seen everything up to now. I’ve repped a 94 year old Marine and got him 100% for Bent Brain. I’ve done R2s and §1151s but this one is a daisy. Johnny Vet’s wife called me and asked if I would be interested in doing a Korean War claim. She said he was already at SMC S but he just got a remand. Well, you can imagine my confusion. What could this possibly entail? A&A or R1? Like a cat chasing a laser, I was hooked. They came over a week later and handed me the below BVA remand from Judge Mike Skaltsounis. Judge Mike is a stand up guy but he ain’t no pushover. For him to write seven and one half pages on just the history of Johnny’s claim let alone another five on Remand instructions is almost unheard of. Welcome to the “New” VA, folks. 

Johnny Vet remand 8-20-2020 BVA remand redact

I pride myself on forensic detection. VBMS is an excellent tool for determining  how a Vet got where he did with very little evidence to support it. One thing that always divulges volumes is an antique c- file number-the eight digit ones. The VA quit using these about 1971 and began using the SSN. I’m guessing they rue that decision in retrospect. So, when someone comes to you with a 17 prefix, it (and the Vet) are bona fide antiques. A c-file number is only issued once. This can occur if you put in for the GI bill or if you file a claim. With the VBMS, they scan everything they find up into the e-folder. If a claim was misplaced or ended up accidentally in the trashcan, the claim number, absent any VR&E or Montgomery GI Bill info, essentially proves you filed for something. Johnny Vet’s C 17 xxx xxx number proves what is missing-a 26-page VA Form 526. That’s how it got its name. Since he only had one major disease (encephalitis) in service, chances are that’s what he filed for. VA blew him off until he showed back up in 1965 with the same litany of ills. This was also the beginning of his membership in the Zero club.


Johnny Vet entered in 1950. His Squad, Platoon, Company and Battalion were made up solely of Black Americans as was the case in 1950. Ostensibly, segregation ended in 1950 on paper but the reality was black soldiers were used like disposable plastic cutlery for more than a decade after. With Korea in full swing, they were even employed as human minesweepers. Considering my Johnnie Vet was a truckdriver in a motor Company, the fact that he has a Combat Infantryman Badge (CIB) and is still alive speaks volumes. He also has bilateral frostbite residuals from too many cold months out in the field. Johnnie did two tours but had to be medivac’d during the first one. To give you an idea of what level of racism still prevailed in 1965, take a gander at the below.

11-1965 c&p redact

This typical VA “acute but resolved” misdiagnosis with racial overtones is what provoked the problem in 2009. And 2012. And 2016. And 2018. And now, finally, in 2020. Whoever said the third time is the charm never dealt with these Gomers.

The Friday the 13th, 1973 BBQ in St. Louis 

The NPRCmobile

Many a tale has been told of this inglorious event. In 2009, VA told Johnnie his records burnt up in 1973.  Fortunately, the only copies in existence were obtained in 1965 and reside to this day in his e-folder. VA never bothered to look. Hey, the standard boilerplate reply is unequivocal- if your service happened before 1973, your records are charcoal. Next? I had a friend I Sherpa’d through on his Hep C claims who served from 1979-1984. Yep. The STRs went up in smoke in ’73. When we called them on it, they had no explanation-  Not so much as a man named Jed -a poor mountaineer barely kept his family fed. Not even a tricked out DeLorean. Apparently this happens all the time.

The NPRC keeps records in three different buildings. Inpatient hospital records of bases that have closed are not located with the STRs. Military Personnel files are kept in yet another building. The infamous fire burned the following only…

  • U.S. Army personnel discharged November 1, 1912, to January 1, 1960. Estimated loss 80%;

  • U.S. Air Force personnel discharged September 25, 1947, to January 1, 1964, with names alphabetically after Hubbard, James E. Estimated loss 75%;

  • Some U.S. Army Reserve personnel who received final discharge as late as 1964;

  • A very small number of U.S. Navy, United States Coast Guard, and U.S. Marine Corps records which were out of file and were caught in the section of the building which experienced the most damage in the fire.

So, it goes without saying that you might want to send in about 3 or four requests if you want to get it all. It’s there. If it isn’t, file a VAF 3288 and request a CD of your claims file.  The clerks are just incredibly lazy. In Johnnie’s case, the VA got the only copies and were supposed to copy them and send them back. They forgot. I found over 290 pages of STRs in living color buried in the file. Everything from the field hospital all the way to Tokyo and the U.S. is there. Hooo-doggies.

If you look in Johnnie’s efolder, they’re still kiting off EP 050 3101 PIES (Personnel Information Exchange System)  requests for what is already there. I just went through this for six months with my Blue Water Navy Vet. He filed in 1975 for some minor things and VA dutifully scooped all the STRs up. They archived them at the Records Management System and now know not they possess them. It took an email to Secretary Wilkie to get them to “see” them, get off the pot and rate him. Another example is my Vet Roberto down in Puerto Rico. VA can’t explain how he has a C 26 xxx xxx number (1970) because there is no 526 in the file prior to more than a year after he separated. VBMS is a treasure trove of information- if only you know how to interpret it.

The Zeroes For Heroes Club

Back to our boy Johnnie Vet. Johnnie filed again, I presume, in 1965 and they gave him the belated 0% for his disabilities without considering all the intercurrent residual symptoms of encephalitis. This is where the CUE began. It slept silently until 2016 when the BVA agreed it was CUE. Initially,  they agreed it was CUE back to 1965 (for 0%). They then must have spotted  that mysterious 17 prefix on the claims file and gave him an effective date of 1953 (again at 0%). On July 25th, 2016 the good ol’ boys back in Portland Oregon dutifully enforced his 0% back to 1953 and clean through his second enlistment from 1955 to 1956 (14 mos.) Ooops? The major problem no one addressed was the percentage due for all the residuals. That occurred five days later in July 30th, 2016. VA revised their rating and gave begrudgingly awarded him 10% from 1953 to his 100% total in 2009-mind you, with no legal authority from the BVA decision whatsoever. I’d call that going off the M 21 reservation but with VSCMs making up the rules as they go, just about anything can happen. 10% is the bare minimum VA grants for encephalitis in service. Following that, they have to add up all the other booboos and grant them under the §4.124a schedule…except the schedule has changed a bunch of times in 56 years. If VA can’t find their rear end with a methane detector, and they’ve been dogging him for 67 years, what gives us confidence they can adjudicate this with any degree of competency now?

Johnnie found this initial windfall delightful. He got a pocketful of cash for the CUE but the bozos still hadn’t done a true Fenderson staged rating from 1953. Then the non-neuropsychiatic doctor’s report popped up. This was alleged to have been rendered into charcoal in 1973; but here, like the mythical Phoenix, it rose from the ashes and reared its ugly head. This was just in 2016.  By now, the Board Chairman up in Washington DC must have been beginning to wonder what in Sam Hill this thing was turning into.  But Johnnie wasn’t finished. His gomer DAV chucklehead decided to enter him into the convoluted RAMP process. Johnnie’s DAVdude also tried to convert back to the Legacy process to file a NOD on this with a 958 after they lost. VA was having none of it (the NOD) even though they hadn’t begun printing 20-995s, 996s and 10182s yet. They actually tried to convince him he’d hit the end of the road. So much for antiquated concept of “one decision on appeal”.

Eventually, someone got it sorted and he arrived at the Board for a third time asking for what he’d asked for all along in the last two Board appeals- that elusive Fenderson staged rating that was never forthcoming. As the Board states on page 6 of this twisted tale of torture, the Secretary-not the BVA- was responsible for creating an appeal period from 1953 to 2009. Now, by law, they have to determine  what Johnnie Vet had and what he didn’t have –and most of all what periods of time he suffered X, Y and Z in the interim period...

This is just like Tinnitus. They don’t hold a Tinnometer up to your ear and say “Whoa, hoss. That’s some bodacious ear ring you got.” You tell them if it rings and how loud it is. Subjective symptoms are Layno/Jandreau/Davidson fodder. The Johnmeister is the only one who can report what he suffered subjectively from 1953 to 2009. VA will try to trot out their timeworn hack about, well, “Gee-there aren’t any doctor records showing treatment so he gets the zeroes for heroes treatment.” Wrong. Remember ol’ Larry Wilson back in 1991?

“The regulation, 38 CFR §3.303(b) requires continuity of symptomatology, not continuity of treatment. “Symptoms, not treatment, are the essence of any evidence of continuity of symptomatology.”  Savage v Gober, 10 Vet. App. at 496 (citing Wilson v. Derwinski, 2 Vet. App. 16, 19 (1991)).”

Note that our esteemed Veterans Law Judge Mike S. actually underlined a part of his decision. He also intoned the sacred words “emphasis added” just to make sure in case the local Yokels at the Seattle DROC disremember what the phrase “subjective symptoms” means. That’s pretty strong language in VAland with a strong undertone suggestive of “I better not see this sumbitch returned back here on my desk with a SSOC stapled to it. Hear?” So… if Johnnie says he’s had a monster migraine at a 7/10 on the Richter scale for 56 years, that is a fact Jack. If he says the front end of his face has been numb for 56 years and it makes him slur his speech, then yep- he’s got numb face syndrome. As for all them other symptoms like insomnia, narcolepsy, anxiety, anger, depression, fatigue ad nauseum, VA can really do nothing more than nod in agreement (no pun intended) and get out the calculator hidden behind Door #3 in Monty’s cookie jar and start adding it up.

This time, if they short-sheet him with another batch of zeroes, I’m prepared to resubmit all his allegedly “destroyed records” with a Houdini flourish and say “Yo! See my amazing asknod prestidigitation! I programmed my DeLorean back to 1953 and drove down to St. Louie to obtain these-even though I was only 2 years old. Relax. It’s just a time paradox.” Further, I’ll be whippin’ out my brand new retrospective IMO from Mednick including a true ‘to the best of my knowledge and belief ‘ VA Form 21-4138 with a year-over-year journal reconstructed by Johnnie Vet and his wife reciting all his subjective complaints.

VA is an interesting outfit. They step on their neckties more frequently than most and their excuses are equally ludicrous. I have no idea what they’ll end up paying ol’ Johnnie and his wife. Whatever it is, it won’t nearly compensate them for all those years of denials, illegal adjudications and deprivation of his legal entitlements.

Try as I might, I couldn’t talk them out of letting this ride and scooping the initial settlement without me in between. You don’t need a PhD in mathematics to comprehend Mr. and Mrs. Johnnie Vet have decided they’re mad as hell and want real legal representation-not™. 20% of this settlement is unwarranted but I will try to earn it. Honestly, folks. At this point, nothing VA does shocks me anymore. The only thing that might would be the addition of a storyline including a millionaire- and his wife, a movie star, the professor and Maryanne. Well… maybe one of those fancy souped up DeLoreans with the flux capacitor doomoflotchie too.

Eventually, in this business, the Vet wins. It just so happens this one has occurred before he died- not after.

And that’s all I’m gonna say about that… for now.

Posted in All about Veterans, Appeals Modernization Act, Corona pandemic, CUE, Inferred claims, SOCs and SSOCs, TBI, Tips and Tricks, VA Agents, VARO Misfeasance, VBMS Tricks, Veterans Law | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment


Here’s a real eyeopener. Got this from a reader. Interesting. Statistically, I would expect attorneys would have the highest rate of success. As presented, I presume a 13.03% denial reflects the obverse-a 86.97% rate of success in either winning or getting a remand to repair it. 

PVA has some excellent attorneys on their legal staff like Jennifer Zajac who are gogetters. They do a lot of pickup work from the NVLSP, too.

VVA deals mostly with Vietnam Vets. Getting herbicide presumptives  is like shooting fish in a barrel. That would account for a large number there.

MOPH, now, is going to have a really low denial rate because they aren’t even in business. They were above average on wins when they were in business but as their Association suggests, they attracted a lot of easy musculoskeletal 0-10% SFW wounds and a few LOU/A&A/amputations from PH awardees, too.

Next, we have Agents. I’m glad to see us about here because it validates my suspicions that we were in the upper tier. Interestingly, a large number of combat Vets from RVN gravitated to VFW with documented injuries. They should, by rights, be up near the VVA stats. Personally, at this time my win/loss statistics at the BVA are 80-1. I lost Butch’s appeal for the EED of 1970 but I expected to. I’m rebuilding it now so I don’t consider it a loss yet.

I think it’s also sad to see such a marked disparity with AmVets below the rest.  State and County VSOs could really shine if they were allowed to have more training…like NOVA.


Lastly, it speaks volumes that 67.39% of pro se Vets can actually articulate their appeals coherently and succeed. What we cannot see is a statistical breakdown of claims by percentage. It’s one thing to win 0%-10% for tinnitus at the BVA. It’s quite another to get an R1 or R2. I would bet those would be very revealing statistics and skew this ranking entirely differently.

I suppose the glaring 800 lb. elephant here is that 67.39% of pro se Vets win which means that VA is in error 32.61% of the time just on these Vets alone. Considering the CAVC reverses, sets aside, vacates or reverses 74% of time is an indicator that the process is grossly flawed. But then we knew that.

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

Corona humor and then some…

Posted in BvA Decisions, Humor, NOVA Attorneys, VA Agents, VA Attorneys, Veterans Law, VSOs | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 14 Comments


Just pulled this off the TTY.  LHI, QTC and VES are allegedly open for business. Could be the VA are even hiring on some new outfits. Relax. It’s standard SOS-DD.    I’m sure we’d all like to believe the VA conducts fair, impartial examinations and gives us the hallowed benefit of the doubt. Of course, an equally large number of us have cancelled our subscriptions to the Flat Earth Society and Tooth Faery quarterly. Whether due to pragmatism or a rude awakening is immaterial. If the “cheat & prevent” exams were equitable, we wouldn’t have outfits like Mednick Associates doing a land office business.

Here’s the screen grab of the incoming on the headline subject.

Specialized contract examiners. Did you catch that? So who were they using pre-Corona Beer Virus? My wild-rearended guess is no more c&ps out of VAROs-period. They don’t have enough warm bodies to keep the places open as it is. Perhaps this will take the load off the shrinks VHA convinced to stay and keep working there.

Posted in C&P exams, Corona pandemic, Corona virus, Nexus Information | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Start Civilian Life as a Home-Based Entrepreneur

You’ve served your country well, and now you’re ready to begin a new venture. If you haven’t already contemplated it among your options, it might be the perfect time to start a business of your very own. Working from home is the new normal, and you have all the qualifications — leadership, drive, confidence, perseverance — to be a top-notch entrepreneur. What’s more, a work-from-home startup is a great way to decompress as you make the mental adjustment to life in the civilian world while establishing financial security for your future. 

The following resources can help you get started out on the right foot. 

Equal Opportunities

When considering timing, the current state of the world might give you cold feet. At first glance, waiting for a period of lush economic growth might sound wisest at first glance.  But where problems exist, so do plenty of opportunities. 

  • As Entrepreneur points out, when times are challenging, that means you can often purchase equipment, or even whole businesses, for a song.
  • You don’t need an amazing discovery or invention to dive in, just a good solution to an existing problem. If you see a product you think is overpriced, perhaps you should look for ways to produce it for less. 
  • Maybe you’ve spotted a trend you’re ready to capitalize on. 
  • For instance, many people have adopted animals during lockdown; when they return to work outside the home, perhaps you could fulfill their need for a pet sitter


Create a Space

Whatever you decide to do, you’re going to need a place to work. 

  • Design a space that will allow you to be focused and productive.
  • Think about budgeting for your startup costs and price things out.
  • Look into whether you need a license or permit to operate your business. You can also hire companies that will help you file the necessary paperwork.


Finances and Foundations

A new business venture requires money, whether to build your dream office or invest in new gear. You might even need to establish a more stable position before going too far. Getting your money in order will pave the way for your business to blossom. 

  • If you’ve made financial mistakes, you may need to take steps to repair your credit.
  • In the course of making calculations and plans, you might decide to apply for a loan.
  • Inc. explains you should draw up a formal business plan to help with applications, formalize your ideas, and to give validity to your venture. 
  • If you need time to repair your credit or build a safety net, there are many part-time jobs available that you can perform remotely while you formulate your plan. 

Just for You

There are a number of services and special offers available just for veterans.

  • There are attorneys and other legal resources that can help you.
  • Going from military life to civilian life is a big adjustment. If you need mental health support services, be sure to reach out. 
  • Whether it’s for your business, education, or something else, there are many grants out there specifically designed for veterans. 

You’re in an exciting but challenging phase of life. Be sure to connect with whatever help you need, and you’ll see victory in your new venture.

Author’s note: Ms. Brewer is our latest new contributor. She searches out new ideas and concepts which may help with the Kung Flu doldrums. Telecommuting is undoubtedly the wave of the future. I’ve been running my blog and my legal practice for Veterans from home for over a decade. It’s like kids’ fireworks-safe and sane.

Posted in All about Veterans, Food for thought, Future Veterans, Tips and Tricks, VR&E | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment


Sol 1700 Hrs Western Washington. Orange sherbet-colored

Today marks the first time I’ve woken up to a yellowish, smoky overcast with no sun since Vietnam. It finally made an anemic showing this PM. The only thing missing was the oily petroleum-like aroma of burnt nape, CS and some cordite. Of more import this morning was discovering the wholesale evisceration of the English language and the ‘woke’ reinvention of timeworn analogies while I slept.

ox·y·mo·ron /ˌäksəˈmôrˌän/  n.  A moron wasting valuable oxygen to make a vapid argument he can’t possibly substantiate?

No shit. I read a comment made by someone that concluded with ” God. What an oxymoron. He doesn’t even know what he’s talking about..” Hmmm. I never thought about using oxy as an intensifier…

And the analogy that raped my eyeballs…

He treated me like a piece of cattle.

Singular? Plural? No. I won’t go there.

But I digress from my title. I almost always defer to Cupcake on who we accept as clients. We have a coffee klatch every morning with Widget, Pickles and my wingman/parrot (Buddy) and make these life-changing decisions together. She’d probably invite the horses in, too if she thought the floor could support their weight. After much discussion, she informs us (dogs, parrot et moi) why one particular case is more deserving of our efforts than another. As I/we fund most all of our independent medical opinions out of our own pocket, this can be a mighty weighty decision if it is unwinnable. I have observed, over the years, the proclivity of some litigators to cherry pick their claims to fight based on how much they stand to gain. I suspect that extends to the claim’s viability and whether it can be substantiated. I have never been forced to make that unpleasant choice to date. The metric is more often one of who’s going to die the soonest. I’ll admit repping Steve for Hep C with self-admitted cocaine use was the longest shot yet but MST with nothing to ante with was going to be a challenge. Or was it?

I enjoy working with my local neighbors and shirttail relatives for many reasons. I like to take a man’s (or woman’s) measure of personality face to face. Obviously that isn’t possible in all cases but I find it a valuable tool to gauge the intensity of his/her mettle- the Veteran’s speech and mannerisms foremost. These affectations often speak volumes about the person. And then along comes Mary (not her real name).

Mary lives near us (20 miles as the F-15 flies) and, like a lot of you, needed help. As most know, Bent Brain claims are  my least- favorite venue. By extension, PTSD with a side of Major Sexual Trauma (MST) is also  emotionally difficult for me as a male to discuss with a female Veteran. I’m learning.  I find any man who would abuse a lady to be somewhere lower than whale shit and it’s pretty hard to get any lower than the bottom of the ocean.

Mary has been through the mental wringer on this. She was drugged and gang-raped shortly after AIT in the summer of 1986 following arrival at her new duty assignment in Germany. Like many, she was embarrassed to be so naively taken in by a fellow soldier she trusted. She didn’t report it and let it slide. Two missed periods later, she was still in denial about it but did report to Sick Call. She opted to have the baby after she discovered she was preggers. If I were a psychiatrist, my hair would already be standing on end thinking about the downstream consequences of all this decades later. Well, perhaps everyone but a VA psych.

Finally, thirty one years later in 2017, Mary found me via Cupcake and we decided to file for it with the newer, relaxed requirements in §3.304(f)(5) and that missing IMO.

(f) Posttraumatic stress disorder. Service connection for posttraumatic stress disorder requires medical evidence diagnosing the condition in accordance with § 4.125(a) of this chapter; a link, established by medical evidence, between current symptoms and an in-service stressor; and credible supporting evidence that the claimed in-service stressor occurred. The following provisions apply to claims for service connection of posttraumatic stress disorder diagnosed during service or based on the specified type of claimed stressor:

(5) If a posttraumatic stress disorder claim is based on in-service personal assault, evidence from sources other than the veteran‘s service records may corroborate the veteran‘s account of the stressor incident. Examples of such evidence include, but are not limited to: records from law enforcement authorities, rape crisis centers, mental health counseling centers, hospitals, or physicians; pregnancy tests or tests for sexually transmitted diseases; and statements from family members, roommates, fellow service members, or clergy. Evidence of behavior changes following the claimed assault is one type of relevant evidence that may be found in these sources. Examples of behavior changes that may constitute credible evidence of the stressor include, but are not limited to: a request for a transfer to another military duty assignment; deterioration in work performance; substance abuse; episodes of depression, panic attacks, or anxiety without an identifiable cause; or unexplained economic or social behavior changes. VA will not deny a posttraumatic stress disorder claim that is based on in-service personal assault without first advising the claimant that evidence from sources other than the veteran‘s service records or evidence of behavior changes may constitute credible supporting evidence of the stressor and allowing him or her the opportunity to furnish this type of evidence or advise VA of potential sources of such evidence. VA may submit any evidence that it receives to an appropriate medical or mental health professional for an opinion as to whether it indicates that a personal assault occurred.

So, with that in mind, after listening to Mary’s spiel, we (Cupcake) decided we had to take this claim regardless of the outcome. In retrospect, the dogs, parrot and I all agreed. It will always be the right thing to do regardless of the outcome. Win or Die. Mind you, this was before I even got access to her VBMS efile. After reading it, Mary’s predicament merely resembled all of the others I’ve ever done. The absence of an IMO was the primary defect. However, VA had previously strongly discounted the pregnancy test as any kind of MST “marker”. Baaaaaaaad idea.

§3.304(f)(5) is explicit. It’s a nonexclusive list of possible markers but the mere presence of a pregnancy test gives the claim the cachet of truth. You can’t climb into the old DeLorean with one of them ginormous flux capacitors, set the time for Fall 1986 and go back to insert the pregnancy test on November 4th. This is what gives a claim legs. VA can pop smoke and obscure the claim with the old boilerplate lack of diagnosis of MST but they cannot ignore or recharacterize the demise of that rabbit. That’s what will win this case.

Right.  I went out and obtained a killer IMO from a noted Psychologist who specializes in bent brains. Here’s where the claim went sideways. The 2017 denial discussed the pregnancy test in brief detail and discounted it because Mary said the Sick Call on November 4th was for diarrhea and stomach upset related to her “as-yet undisclosed pregnancy”. Ah how soon we forget Layno v. Brown and Clemons v Shinseki and the holding that a Veteran cannot diagnose themselves with complex medical issues- most especially mental ones. You can see this denial disintegrating before your eyes on appeal.

I didn’t feel I needed to point bright red arrows at the STR showing the dead rabbit and VA studiously avoided any mention in this newest rating. Poof. There went any discussion of a positive finding of an MST stressor. Most of you might not know it legally, but VA is not permitted to go on a safari and search for negative evidence with which to deny your claim. The whole proposition about the much vaunted Benefit of the Doubt in §3.102 is inviolate. Once the evidence is in equipoise, the claim is granted. Moreover, if you present a proper IMO to rebut a prior denial, it puts the claim in equipoise assuming the IMO doesn’t involve alien abduction and the implantation of an alien embryo.

§3.304(c) is also implicated. Remember our old friend Mr. Caluza whose CAVC decision revealed the three magic beans needed to grow the claim beanstalk? In the instant case here,  you need a stressor in service precipitating the bent brain and some evidence it happened; the mental condition now, and; medical diagnosis tying the two together which rebuts the VA’s examiner.

§3.304(c) Development. The development of evidence in connection with claims for service connection will be accomplished when deemed necessary but it should not be undertaken when evidence present is sufficient for this determination. In initially rating disability of record at the time of discharge, the records of the service department, including the reports of examination at enlistment and the clinical records during service, will ordinarily suffice. Rating of combat injuries or other conditions which obviously had their inception in service may be accomplished pending receipt of copy of the examination at enlistment and all other service records.

In 2017, Mary had presented with a recognized stressor of a pregnancy test relatively recently after the alleged rape stressor. The missing link was a diagnosis of PTSD/MST. This we provided in our most recent VAF 20-0995 supplemental filing with our IMO. Essentially, at this point, VA would be forced to concede service connection. The next step would have been to send it out for a ratings percentage c&p. VA decided to send her out for an entirely new c&p to “redecide” whether she had PTSD. This is forbidden at  56 regional offices scattered across our fruited plains. The concept was first addressed in Mariano v Principi and then pounded home even more forcefully in Kahana v Shinseki.

Undoubtedly, further medical inquiry can be undertaken with a view towards further developing the claim.  However, in this regard, the Court has cautioned VA against seeking an additional medical opinion where favorable evidence in the record is unrefuted, and indicated that it would not be permissible to undertake further development if the sole purpose was to obtain evidence against an appellant’s claim.  See Mariano v. Principi, 17 Vet. App. 305, 312 (2003).   See also Kahana v. Shinseki, 24 Vet. App. 428 (2011); McLendon v. Nicholson, 20 Vet.App. 79, 85 (2006) (In any event, the lack of medical evidence in service does not constitute substantive negative evidence).

Imagine, if you will…

During this Kung Flu season, we have been treated to some of the most horrendous miscarriages of VA justice conceivable. Imagine, if you will, an optometrist overruling a ophthalmologist with surgical credentials. Imagine denying HCV with cirrhosis because you didn’t manifest the cirrhosis within one year of separation under §3.309(a). I could go on but the dye is cast on the water. Telecommuting for VA raters is going to create an indigestible lump in the BVA python for years to come.

Here’s the 2017 rating denial.  redact Mary 10-2017

Now, here’s the new denial.  redact 8-31-2020 RD

Amazing. Evaporation of evidence favorable to the Veteran under the new AMA is only mentioned at the end. Poof. Benefit of the Doubt? We don’t need no stinkin’ benefit of the doubt to deny.

Last but not least, and on another subject entirely, I mention this in passing. There has been much said in the news that we need to service connect the troops on Anderson AFB (Guam), larger swaths of the Korean DMZ and Okinawa in the presumptive for herbicides. Nowhere to be found in these discussions is there any mention of granting this presumption to the brave men and women who served with me in Thailand and points north. The VA currently grants exposure in Thailand to military policemen with appropriate MOS/AFSC  who served on the perimeter unless you can prove you, too, served on this magic strip of infested land. Obviously, these VA poohbahs are unaware that we all had to do 30 days of “Augmentation Duty” in full battle rattle. There weren’t enough MPs to cover the perimeter.

This is insane on another level as well. Udorn RTAFB, like all the other bases we were assigned to, is a representative example of the size of a base over there. The main concern was to appropriate enough land for a 10,000 ft. runway and revetments for the fighters. Space above and beyond that was minimal. Your hootch was often within 50 feet of the perimeter. VA has conceded “tactical herbicides” were used and grants SC for this but you still need the magic IMO. This concession is far more than what they’ll even concede on Anderson or Okinawa but if you still need an IMO, then it isn’t a presumptive grant. I’ve won two for two on this subject and both required an IMO -or the threat of obtaining one- to obtain the concession of exposure. With the grant to the Blue Water Navy folks, it would seem all the more obvious that this presumptive herbicide exposure  granted to all these folks should extend without restrictions to MOS for all of us-period. This is insane- not to mention illogical and grossly unfair. But then, when did VA ever use logic to decide anything?

I have my work cut out for me on Mary. Sadly, it will require a trip to the BVA to argue this on direct review. I do hope that jackwagon GS -11 had the time of his life writing Mary’s denial.  He’ll be in good company with the rest of the GS-14s in the third ring of Hell some day. And don’t even go there on an HLR. I was schooled early-on to relieve myself downwind rather than up. I wouldn’t even trust an HLR rater to recognize the import of Mariano/ Kahana on this matter-let alone the illegality of fetching endless c&ps to keep denying the claim. As for the M 21 cites? They’re immaterial when argued at the BVA. As to whether you can provide your own IMO for a psychiatric condition to rebut a VA examiner’s-why, of course you can. What have they been smoking whilst telecommuting? Mantanuska Funderthuck?

Here’s why getting old is fun

And the inevitable blonde joke.

And Karma (or lack thereof)




Posted in 2015 NOVA Conference, Agent Orange, All about Veterans, AO, Appeals Modernization Act, Blue Water Navy, C&P exams, Corona virus, KP Veterans, MST, Nexus Information, PTSD, Thailand AO presumptive path, Tips and Tricks, VA Agents, VBMS, VBMS Tricks, Veterans Law, Women Vets | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Here’s the Advice You Need on Returning to College as a Veteran

Going back to school at any point in life can be a challenge. But making the jump when you’re a veteran returning to civilian life can involve additional obstacles. Here’s the information you need to know before heading back to college post-enlistment.

Know Your Benefits (and Rights)

All veterans can receive specific benefits from the U.S. government. And most vets are aware of the GI Bill and how it ensures their educational benefit after discharge from the military.

But beyond the basics, many service members don’t know much about their rights or benefits when re-entering civilian society. If you’re unsure what your next steps should be or need advice on any legal aspect of veteran-hood, visit the Ask Nod website for free advice. You may find the answers you’re looking for – for free.

Choose an Educational Path

Before you enroll in college, it’s vital that you have an end goal in mind. Maybe you’re hoping to brush up on your skills with a few classes. Even enrolling in a psychology class can provide insights you can use in the workplace. Or maybe you want to earn an associate or bachelor’s degree that can help you pave a new career path. Those interested in pursuing a career working with businesses, for instance, could benefit from earning an accounting degree.

Whatever type of education you decide to pursue, you can choose to head to campus or attend online. Earning a degree online is an easy way to boost your education while still making time for personal and professional responsibilities. From classes in business to a certification in healthcare, you can find a degree option no matter your interests.

Take It Easy (At Least At First)

You might expect that after your time in the military, college will be an easy and even rewarding experience. But many vets find that navigating college is particularly difficult, notes The transition to an educational focus requires effort – and an entirely new set of parameters.

Easing into classes – and campus life, if applicable – can help maintain your confidence in pursuing your education. You can also investigate programs to support your college applications and overall experience, notes U.S. Veterans Magazine.

Build a Support Network

Building a support network during your college attendance is essential for maintaining a social life. But it’s also important for your educational performance. Think about it: connecting with fellow students can enable you to develop a new perspective and experience new things.

Culture shock is also real when re-entering the community, so AAC&U explains veteran students often require more support than their civilian counterparts in order to succeed. Don’t feel intimidated by the transition – instead, seek support to help you thrive.

Be Proud of Your Hard Work

Fewer veterans earn degrees than nonveterans, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. However, veterans are only slightly less likely to possess a bachelor’s degree – and they are more likely to have an associate’s degree. By attending college – and earning a degree – you’re creating a positive effect on how the statistics fall.

Don’t Pursue (Only) a Passion

When it comes to exploring a career (or planning for one) after your education, many experts caution against pursuing passion alone. Doing some soul searching or taking a quiz can tell you a lot about what will make you happy, but it should be backed up with knowledge and skill. Hone in on an industry or niche you’re interested that also helps you make the most of your degree.

Other strategies include paying attention to the market and seeing what’s happening around you. Monster suggests that working with your strengths might mean skipping a specific type of degree in favor of something that comes easier to you. But balancing your passion with what you’re good at is a great way to make the most of your degree.

Heading to college when getting home from your military service may not be a priority. But if you’re considering diving into higher education, it’s important to know what you’re up against. The good news is that many veterans successfully earn degrees – and propel their civilian careers to new heights, too. All it takes is a bit of know-how, and the motivation to make it happen.


Posted in All about Veterans, Guest authors, Inspirational Veterans, Tips and Tricks, Veterans Law | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment


The author-as he sees himself- Jedi Master

While this isn’t my largest number of Clear and Unmistakable Error (CUE) busts on one decision in my career, it’s certainly a butt load of errors to make-not once but thrice. This was clearly a “Mission from God” assignment. Chase died the 10th-the very day this came out. I had received several earlier ones-on 3/26 (denial), 4/01 (grant) and 4/08(EED). All three were consistent with VA’s purported 98% accuracy statistic-all three were 98% incorrect. The last two only got the effective date wrong. The 4/01 decision granted on the day of the filing of the 995 and submission of an IMO. The 4/08  rating decision (RD) moved the effective date back to, of all things, the date of the filing of the NOD. Shut the front door, GI. 

Since the inception of the Kung Flu quarantine, VA raters have been making errors faster than a 16 on rock-and-roll. The repair rate is just about as rapid fire but unfortunately equally error-prone. I had to harp and carry on like a shrew three times just to get it to a 10182 and we now have to take it to someone with a JD after their name to get this back on track  for Chase’ accrued total disability entitlement. Elementary logic would posit that if a Veteran is so ill during the pendency of his claim/appeal that he passes away from the disease or injury, chances are an appropriate rating would be 100% schedular. Well, maybe everywhere but the VA.

Here was the first stab at screwing it up. Remember, this was an easy slam dunk with a top notch IMO.

3-26-2020 denial Narrative redact

Here’s the second shot at it with an admission that it was in error.

4-01-2020 rating redact

And the third maladroit attempt…

redact 4-8-2020 Narrative

Finally, after the ‘I’m not going away briefing’ email to the booth bitch at Fort Pea Gravel, Arkansas, they almost got it right. The third time was the charm. The effective date is finally correct but the actual ratings are unequivocally parsimonious and bear no resemblance to the fact that Chase was in a coma during his last week on earth.

4-10-2020 RD redact

I love to read the mea culpa on the Code sheet. It was authored by their VA “Quality Control Officer, Timothy Harrell RQRS (Ratings Quality Review Squad). It did require the signature of the Assistant Veterans Service Center Manager (AVSCM) Laura Jones, which is only appropriate after you’ve hamburgered it three times in succession.

redact code sheet

The Magic Incantation of CUE

CUE is only a true CUE when your decision is final and unappealable. The legal repair order is called a Motion to Revise. We are seeing this phenomenon (calling a stupid non-final,  VA ratings mistake on yourself a CUE) because VA so dislikes this whole mea culpa enchilada thing. VA raters think of themselves as Jedi Knights. They don’t do sackcloth and ashes. Read §3.105 closely instead of doing a flyover at 25,000 ASL and you see…


(1) Error in final decisions. Decisions are final when the underlying claim is finally adjudicated as provided in § 3.160(d). Final decisions will be accepted by VA as correct with respect to the evidentiary record and the law that existed at the time of the decision, in the absence of clear and unmistakable error. At any time after a decision is final, the claimant may request, or VA may initiate, review of the decision to determine if there was a clear and unmistakable error in the decision. Where evidence establishes such error, the prior decision will be reversed or amended. 38 CFR §3.105 (2020)

Now, legally speaking, the above fustercluck Chase went through was a compendium of stupid errors committed by  VA telecommuting raters left unsupervised. The Courts, however,  call live controversy an” erroneous error”. That’s a far cry from the term CUE.  CUE implies finality-always has and always will.  Worse, the assigned supervisor who would normally have to sign off on this erroneous decision was AWOL. VA’s attitude on this is they can come back and fix it as they did here surreptitiously. If I’d never pitched a bitch, it would have stood forever… or until someone came along and recognized it as CUE over a year later. In this case the idiots kept coming back in the dead of the night and changing it. I’d wake up and the prior decisions were nary to be found- just the latest iteration of what they felt it should be. Like a good neighbor, I always print these before they evaporate with the morning’s dew.

The actual way you go after these gomers is to cite their bullcrap right back at them. Here’s how the VA Secretary looks at this:

The M21-1 is an internal manual used to guide VA adjudicators at the RO level. DAV v. Sec’y of Veterans Affairs, 859 F.3d 1072, 1077 (Fed. Cir. 2017 ) The Secretary responds that the Board is not bound by the M21-1, DAV, 859 F.3d at 1077, and that it would therefore be improper to find the Board decision erroneous simply because it did not comply with its provisions.

But… their holy Book of M 21 verse has this to say…

M21-1, pt. III, subpt. iv, ch. 7, sec. B(3)(a); see also id., sec. B(3)(b) (requiring correction of errors on the rating codesheet, including disability evaluations, effective dates, and diagnostic codes); id., sec. B(3)(c) (requiring referral of an erroneous decision “to a decision maker to issue a new decision” once an error has been identified).

Again, this (fixing an error immediately after it occurs) is what VA law calls “live controversy” or the fact that you have one year from the date of any denial to pull your bacon out of the fire and fix it. This is true in the AMA context. If you are still in the Legacy system, you are bound by the 60-day hand grenade to file your VA Form 9. Our new AMA allows you to keep it alive like a volley ball passed innumerable times back and forth among the same team preparing for the inevitable spike. CUE, as I pointed out, is a dead controversy. It is a claim or appeal that has now died for lack of a substantive appeal to keep it alive. It is these claims which for which §3.105(a) is the proper vehicle to revise.

As surely as the sun comes up tomorrow, VA will reinvent the meaning of words and try to gaslight us into believing this has been the status quo all along since the War of 1812. Right. And they even had DBQs way back then in them olden days, too- but unfortunately they were not “forward facing ” to the Veteran population.

The teaching moment is simple. Win or Die. Never surrender. Never take a Faustian bargain. Fight like you’re the third monkey in line for Noah’s Ark and it just began raining. I spend more time on the phone fixing the VA’s ineptitude  by leading a “technician” through VBMS and showing them the errors. They only see it when they finally believe it.  Trust me. The default setting with VA is automatic-the Vet is wrong. The representative is an arrogant uncouth son of a bitch and doesn’t understand M21. Once you make them count to 53 and explain how that is less than 60 days and nights and the SOC was timely filed, they relax and allow as a CUE has been perpetrated. But it isn’t a CUE.

Today’s blog is brought to you by C, U and E.


As a postscript, I would never condone someone altering the meaning of a graffiti artist’s work but the below was submitted to me by a patron. I merely publish it to show how heartless the world has become. It is apolitical in its current, sanitized form and thus passes the smell test.

and it makes a nice bookmark with these…

Bunny Lives Matter Protesters blocking traffic

More anon.

Posted in CUE, Earlier Effective dates, HCV Epidemiology, HCV Risks (documented), KP Veterans, Nexus Information, Tips and Tricks, VA Agents, VBMS Tricks, Veterans Law | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment