Appeal

Almost fifteen years ago now, I went in for my first appointment with VocRehab. I was super excited and looking forward to setting off on my new training path to become a lawyer.

But that was not what the counselor had in store for me. After I told him what I wanted to do, he immediately responded with, “VocRehab won’t do that.” And by “that” he meant will not pay for law school.

I am sure many of you have been there right?

Whether it’s your VocRehab claim or some procedure a doctor will not do, or some decision a Veterans Claim Representative says they cannot justify.

At some point in our life, we always come up against decision makers who control a significant outcome for us without disclosing all the facts.

My Outcome Then

At the time, I did not have an undergrad and the counselor basically pointed out that the program would only take me through a four-year education.

Imagine my surprise, four years later, that had I pushed for the goal of becoming a lawyer, that the counselor may have approved a uniquely structured track to make it happen.

Here is what happened.

After I moved to Portland, some time after graduating from my undergrad, another VocRehab counselor told me the program DOES pay for law school. Incredulous, I decided to request a copy of my file.

In that file, I found a four-year-old email transcript between my initial counselor and some of his peers that discussed my different options. Sadly, those options were never relayed to me at the time, and I lost three years off my career as a lawyer now because I was not informed of my options then.

While that is bummer, sometimes these hardships come with an upside later; because had I not felt lied to, I likely would have taken my benefits and quietly gone away without helping keeping vets informed on this website.

I wouldn’t have exposed the TBI scandal last year and I wouldn’t keep kicking down doors for disadvantaged veterans at the agency.

What To Do For Your Appeal / Or Just To Double Check

Many veterans give up their claims without reviewing their claims file first, which is the most expensive mistake a person can make.

Whether you are fighting a 20-year disability compensation battle, being represented bay a VSO, or pushing for VocRehab benefits, you really need to request a copy of your file.

As an example, VocRehab counselors may load your file with various internal memos that are not discussed in the final decision letter. The same is true for a disability claim.

So what do you do?

The answer depends on the brand of VA you are dealing with.

For VocRehab, you need to send your counselor a Freedom of Information Act / Privacy Act request. This request dovetails 5 USC § 552 and 5 USC § 552a. The agency has 20 business days to get back to you with the records. If they do not, you can appeal it to VA OGC FOIA.

Wondering what a FOIA could look like?

I have a couple examples here in case you want to see some older versions I wrote up while in law school. I also recently created a free mini guide on the subject that you can grab a copy of on that same post. An opt-in should come up when you go there.

Luckily, if you get wrapped up into a denial or appeal, you can head over to our friends at the Reporters Committee to get solid information on how to fight for your records after a denial. That is where the rubber hits the road.

The guide I’m talking about above covers different scenarios where a veteran needs different forms depending on whether they want the records from a hospital or from VA benefits. If you seek VA benefits, I always suggest you get both just in case something in the hospital record is omitted from your claims file by accident.

Anyway, that is all for today. I had a long day working on a long brief. Watching the confirmation hearing was depressing.

My Two Cents On Shulkin Confirmation

I am absolutely shocked at the statement coming from Sen. Johnny Isakson and many of the other Senators who seemed more concerned with government contracts in their state being completed than the real impact of Veterans Choice.

Nonetheless, it looks clear that President Trump will not deliver the Choice veterans want under David Shulkin. In fact, it sounds like he intends to roll it back with his answers to Sen. Tester at the onset of the process.

Veterans needing urgent care will get diverted to another facility. Well hell, that is the minimum requirement of practically any medical facility now lest they risk malpractice if a person dies.

I still need a few hours to think about it before really diving into what Shulkin said.

82 COMMENTS

  1. Benjamin — Lovely “Bad VA Art” today…actually, lovely surreal image there with contrast of Technicolor or stark Black & White. The Tale of Two Truths as told by the VA. All good stuff and info for Vets navigating this whacko system.

    Back to Shulkin nomination confirmation hearing: I am still rather stunned by everything they did NOT talk about and skillfully talked around any damning info…anyone else get the distinct impression that was entirely rehearsed yesterday?
    How about the Hungry Hungry Hippos sitting all around and behind Shulkin at hearing? It concerns me that the VSO’s are all so fired-up about Shulkin as that means they have been thrown a boatload of bones already by Shulkin…when the VSO’s seem happy Veterans generally are not so happy…the confirmation hearing yesterday left me enraged and depressed at same time.
    Why?
    Because Shulkin demonstrated he is a very smooth talking bureaucrat with a placating answer for everything while ignoring the glaring problems….and the lack of talk about Veteran Suicide and the VA following the LAW on presumptive exposures, et al, left me with a terrible sinking feeling in my gut then my chronic diarrhea kicked-in for rest of evening…these symptoms of PTSD and Anxiety are still things the VA cannot grasp or empathize with and the VA wonders why some Veterans just choose to not use the VA and Medicare instead…it’s for our sanity.
    So in closing, yesterday’s initial confirmation hearing of Shulkin did not fill me with newfound confidence in the direction of the VA, instead it filled me with that usual feeling of having to explosively defecate in their general direction. Rant Out.
    (I still cannot get the imagery of Isaacson exercising in morning out of my stained brain)

  2. Maybe you hit the head of the nail squarely without realizing it Ben.

    In your article you briefly reflected on a notion that I have seen you echo before. I infer that you believe that if you personally had not been jacked around then you might not have chosen the career path you did. The career path substantially has exposed the “jacking around” of now tens of thousands of vets who also felt jacked around. Your career path put you at odds now with some of the most powerful brokers of VA power the nation has seen to date, and you have my thanks.

    But my point is this; if the folks at VA had made the exact same judgement error, but had instead apologized for it, would things still be this way?

    I can tell you from personal experience that if VA had simply apologized to me personally for being exposed in the news media at levelling false charges against me, that I too would likely not post the same sort of VA loathing rhetoric that I post now on a continual basis. As God is my witness if they had apologized after the first three appeals for sanity, I never would in my dreams have imagined going to the press in the first place.

    The common thread of course is about the capability of being self honest enough to identify those that we have harmed, and make ammends. This is called integrity. Isn’t “integrity”, or the lack of it, the true motivation for each of us in these matters? I guess it’s because we all got spanked as kids and naturally expect that others will get the same treatment. Early programming is hard to shake, right?

    Let me define here for you some hyper-rural, High Desert, behind-the-tavern, night time wisdom that I learned as a kid. “Accountability” among all of the cowboys and indians has much less to do with the words, Nez Pierce or otherwise, that the individual is speaking than it has to do about who has his hand firmly around the other man’s nuts and who does not. At that precious moment in time, one man is clearly holding another “accountable”.

    Ben, on behalf of the thousands of vets who have benefitted from your justified outrage at VA, thank you for holding them “accountable”.

  3. I sent in a claim with Only medical documentation from VA doctors with diagnosis of TBI and a few other things. Over a year goes by and I get a Denial letter stating the I did not provide Any medical documentation to substantiate the tbi claim…it’s back in appeal pergitory.

    • @Peterson,
      This is how VA reduced the incoming claims.
      Shuffle veterans claims from one stack, (your first original claim) to another, (the “appeals” stack)!
      They, the VBA, can now lie and say they have reduced the claims process by tens of thousands.

    • Same here, and I filed an FOI request, at least 6 month later i get a letter stating they received my FOI. Only problem is the letter was from the National Archives, and not the Regional V.A. that is handling my case. So what will I likely receive? You watch, I will get another copy of my military records, and NOT my case file, like I asked. Delay deny and wait for them to die……..

    • This is routine and not just tbi. The VA admitted that they deny claims and that 90 percent of those veterans will not refile. So with this in mind why should they approve any claim.

      Next if they should have a veteran appeal, no problem deny again and again and if the veteran won’t take no for an answer. !

      Throw him a bone and give him his disability at 0 percent and if he appeals denials start over and after awhile they will raise it to 10 percent and so forth.

      If the veterans should live long enough may get 100 percent and then it starts all over again. This time backwards until they make you 0 percent.

  4. As namnibor and Dennis have pointed out, “accountability” and “trust” is a “learned experience”! One has to “earn respect”, it is never given freely. Especially to those who show disrespect in such large quantities.
    The “confirmation hearing” yesterday, shows exactly how much disregard and disrespect these representatives, and VSO’s, have for the veterans that served this country with distinction.
    That said, I believe “Shitty Shulkin” will be confirmed in short order. His inability to serve veterans over VA’s reprehensible acts, will be seen in the light of day!
    __________________

    Here’s a video I received late last night. It’s from: “Infinite Flames 2”
    It’s from many actors and actresses. Who were the most important and powerful leaders in Hollywood at the time.
    Titled:

    “A 45-yr-old John Wayne Video is going viral… Hollywood is PISSED!!”

    If y’all haven’t seen it, especially the younger veterans, you may not remember a lot of the faces. Let’s just say, they “WERE THE POWER BROKERS” at one time in Hollywood.

    “GOD BLESS AMERICA!”

    • Notice in news this morning on the RIOTS (not peaceful demonstrating) at UC Berkley Campus and the destruction and violence…the University and Police are saying the majority of the protesters were imported into protest and rile-up the campus population at same time…SOROS and Friends. These snowflakes are melting down yellow snowballs.

      Have heard rumors that super bowl Sunday will now have the protection of Blackhawk Helicopters. 🙂

      I think it’s time for Lockheed to develop the Snowflake Drone. All it does is air-drop job applications onto the snowflakes and it magically makes them go back to mommy’s basement. The Snowflake Drone then air-drops a trail of Hot Pockets to lead them away from conflict zone and back to safety of mommy’s trust fund.

      • From yesterday’s post – The MSM referred to the actions as being violent protests and chaos instead of calling it what it is: rioting [a combination of destroying property, setting fires, violent language, and hurting people]. The unlawful actions that occurred at Berkeley wasn’t even close to being peaceful. And, the liberal media plays down the definition of rioting by calling it other names. Another form of Fake News.

        Therefore, trying to define rioting as peaceful acts of protesting. Changing the definition of what words mean. We’ve seen this type of manipulation of lexical semantics before, even by a certain few individuals on Ben’s blog. Eyes are on you for those that try to pervert the meaning of words. We will give up no ground to your reprobated pure form and way of thinking and behavior.

      • However, the Prison RIOT and Prison takeover still ongoing with hostages in a Delaware Federal Prison…those prisoners…criminal thugs…are inciting Pres. Trump for WHY they are protesting…WTF? I think it’s time to dust-off old sparky and instill some motivation that actions have consequences, do the crime, well, you are doing the time.
        Snowflakes in prison are even whacko with Trumphobia. WTF?!

      • No, namnibor,
        It’s time to bring back “…those 13 steps to the short drop on the hangman’s gallows!”
        Can you imagine, all the thugs, thuglets and “Soros paid Terrorists” watching a few of their friends “dangling helplessly” on the many MSM stations!

        I read this morning, President Trump has threatened Burkley with something. Gotta go back and reread the article.

      • From what I see on the Berkeley protestors signs Refuse Fascism is behind all this violence. Their agenda is on their website: First, massive protest & resistance… creating “a crisis of rule”; Second, coupled with this, attempts by different factions in the established power structure which have real differences with Trump-Pence to solve the crisis by preventing them from taking the reins of power.
        Good thing is the group is keeping a list: The first name on the Call to Action would be Imam Aiyub Abdul-Baki, Justice Committee, Islamic Leadership Council of NY & a list of donor names @ crowdfunding that so far raised $127,761. All accessible to law enforcement. Never hurts to be prepared so their strategy is on the website refusefascismdotorg. Apparently the masks they wear are soaked in milk – to protect against tear gas.

        This is what happens & is only the beginning. Now that the state of CA is attempting to pass legislation making the state a sanctuary state, many have been empowered – undocumented, unafraid they chant.

        You can check out your states best guesstimate of unauthorized peoples here:
        “http://www.migrationpolicy.org/programs/us-immigration-policy-program-data-hub/unauthorized-immigrant-population-profiles”

      • @ NiteWish: It would seem that you have just layed the foundation as to WhY these groups should be Prevented from entering the country in the first place. Militants, make no mistake about it…………great work you did here.

      • @cj or anyone who is up and wants to chat a bit – When the first news reports were broadcasted, these so called non-Fake News conglomerates, don’t even know when to call a riot a riot. It doesn’t matter who brought who in or who they are; this is a secondary point or problem. The main point is that there has been rioting in the Berkeley area. Calling it violence or any other word, is FAKE NEWS! So what are ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, MSNBC, or other left wing news media talking about? Better yet, what are their intentions.

        A pure example of untruthfulness, even though their viewing audience could view the MSM’s [Main Stream Media] broadcasting of the incidences at Berkeley. Plus, it is another method of calling something that it is not. But taking it a step deeper, they had a viewing audience that could see for themselves and they still lied. They [MSM] twisted the definition of a riot to fit their own incompetent agenda in reporting.

        And, by using their own definitions, this has a major impact on those who think that the MSM doesn’t lie. Therefore, using their power and influence in reinforcing the dumbing down of America, which has been going on for decades, and taking advantage of the trust that some Americans have of the reporting done by the MSM. A form of audio-video lexical semantics.

        No wonder the US’s college student, professors, and administrators have drifted so far from the original reason why many colleges were established in the first place.

      • @ANutterVet: The MSM will never call riots by minorities or disadvantaged, or womans groups riots. They only save that for right wing groups. Why? It’s all this political correctness, and SJW’s. They are tearing this country apart at the seams. I wish there was a way to hold them accountable for the damage they do. They do not report the facts, they report the party line. Facts don’t mean anything to these people. All they understand is power, and eliteism. I am not telling anyone anything new, I like to know what is going on around the word. and what kind of movements are trying to get off the ground. I find that kind of information much more interesting than local, or ap news. I like alot of the sources that elf posts, it is always good to look at all sides, and from all countries, and then also read between the lines. Because often it is what is NOT stated, that speaks volumes. All this research is diffacult for me these days, it’s why I joke around so much. I do read everything everyone posts, the people here, like I have stated often, are smart, eloquent, and know their stuff. I try to wait till the end of the day to add my sillyness, not to get in the way of the topic. Rant out.

      • @cj – Ranting in. I hear you load and clear. Crazy elf, Seymore Klearly usually post many articles that are not with the MSM. I get tired of watching them. I would say that my attitude really started to change about 4 years ago. Then when I focused more on their reporting, and read other stories, then I knew these people were twisting the truth for their own agenda. My turn to Rant out.

      • @ANutterVet: Sometimes things sure get messed up, I have a good friend, nam vet, they are constantly giving him trouble with his meds, He tells me a lot of the same things you are mentioning. I don’t understand how so many facilities are run in so many different ways. You would think that since all are run by the same secretary, they would be like, let’s say……….Burger King………………you know when you go to a Burger King exactly what to expect. It is a franchise. Why the hell is the va not run in similar fashion? In the Chicago area, we go to Milwaukee for heart stuff, we go to Hines for orthopedics, and N. Chicago for testing. I don’t know shit about Jessie Brown, down town. Why is it that all of these facilities are not run the same? I can understand heart centers and cancer treatment centers being different, but the rest?

      • @cj – I know, the facilities should have a lot more in common with the ailments that they treat. Although in the Tri State area of PA, DE, and NJ, these facilities claim to be a full service medical facility, but in reality they aren’t. For me, as I think with many other Veterans, its dang nam confusing to most.

        Every time I do additional research and then ask questions, I can’t get straight answers. One more thing. I heard that many VAMC Pharmacy’s have their own formulary list, that it is different compared to what is on line at the VA site.

      • @ ANutterVet, the fake news wants to sugar coat everything now in our society, you are right the untruthfulness of it all. Denying real problems that happen everyday to our citizens, it is strange they do not care. I think the problems going on in the va they do not want to tell the truth about. What goes on in our public school systems. There is so much going on they do not report ten percent of it.

        There isn’t much of any honest investigative reporting left, with the exception of internet blogs such as this one. It angers me. Everything’s so washed out. If they called it rioting then someone would ask why are they rioting? Violence is just crime and the motives are rarely asked. I read somewhere that we use 75% less vocabulary than we did a hundred years ago. We are getting dumber for sure. That is what they want us to be.

      • @Ex va, @cj – That is why I use a bodacious dictionary when dealing with difficult people. It contains words that were used a couple of hundred years ago. And, many times the word is not in the common dictionaries like Webster.

        Now the MSM gets upset if people use online news sources. They realize that they are losing viewers, forcing them to be more competitive. But they knock down the other news as being alt right wing. They most likely got the middle word correct.

      • @Ex va: You are sure on the money with that. To prove your point about the vocabulary thing. Remember the 1938 A Christmas Carol? Watch that movie again sometime and pay attention to the way they talk. Clear, precise, no mistaken on what anyone means, even the childeren in that movie. Fast forward to any sitcom, or any so called movie made today. Reeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee diculous

      • @ANutterVet, your intelligence probably scares them. They are not use to anyone questioning their decisions. And that is the way it should be Veterans should question everything, but a lot of people don’t understand pharmaceuticals or what they are suppose to do. I wish you could go to someplace better than this what your dealing with. Unreal, when i use to go i had to wait all day to get meds. It was eight hours for waiting for an appointment then meds. It was nuts.

      • @Ex va – When I question them and they seem to either not no, disillusioned, or what, they get very offensive. My father taught me that this is when to take clear mental and written notes, then sit back for a bit to find the loopholes, then go in again with more questioning for clarification. With one word of caution, always have someone with you so they can back up your story. I know they see me as not being a regular Veteran walking into their office. And, with no disrespect to anyone, I want them to feel that way. Their dam diplomas on the wall tells me only one things, did time at one school. That’s all it means to me.

      • @ANutterVet, @Ex va: So last weekend I went hunting with a friend. He brought his dog with, and as soon as we got to our spot, he sent the dog out. Maybe 15 minutes later this dog came back with a stick in it’s mouth, shaking it back and fourth, and started to hump his leg. I was in complete shock when he took out his pistol and shot the dog. I said “WTF is wrong with you?” “Why in the hell would you do such a thing” he looks at me and says “I had no choice the dog went crazy I had to do it” I says back “Mannnn that dog wasn’t crazy, he was just trying to tell you there are more fucking ducks out on the pond than you can shake a stick at”

      • @cj, @Ex va – Its a good thing you weren’t shaking when you told him what his dog was saying before he shot him, or he would’ve probably shot you too. Dumb dog owner.

      • @ cj, that is true the earlier movies and books are more sophisticated. We are all getting stupid. LOL! I like older movies these ones now is all about being as disgusting as one can possibly be. Strange.

      • @Ex va: And when they try to be funny? Every single sitcom, the actors act the exact same way. What the hell is that all about? I just don’t get it, so I watch very little tv. I am like you, I love the old stuff.

      • @Ex va, @ANutterVet: There is a program, it is free, it is called Kodi. you can google it. you can install it as per the instructions provided for your system. With it you can stream just about any movie you want. I see stuff that is still in theaters, and can look up just about any old movie. Even has series like Justified, or Sons of Anarchy etc. Just an FYI.

      • @cj, @Ex va – I check out Kodi probably tomorrow. May be I can find some good movies that distract me from my pain and my running mind. Which reminds me. CJ you not able to physically give me any of your medicine, but can you send me some digitally? Its time for me to Rant out.

        Had a long day today. I sometimes find its taking me a little more time to recover after escapades with PCP. Its hard to focus on building a website, social media strategy, etc. With that my Brothers, I’m going to try to get some sleep. Ex va and CH, you all have a good night. God Bless. Oh and CJ, find another friend that will listen to his dog. Rant out. Peace! ROFL

      • OK, guys and gals of Bens blog, Hope you all sleep well tonight, and wake energiezed. God Bless everyone of you, and your families. Good night.

  5. Bottom Line…
    BULLDOZE the DVA and rebuild EVERYTHING from scratch!
    This dysfunctional agency is NOT working in all aspects then originally intended! In a vast number of respects, it is AGAINST the Veteran, rather than FOR THEM!

  6. @Nambibor, @Seymore Klearly, @Crazy elf, @cj, @Ex va, @91Veteran, @Disgruntled Veteran, @Dennis [add your unique input], @Benjamin Krause, JD – So much for the surprises that will effect Veterans when President Trump gave his Press Conference. I’m on the edge of the fence here, and don’t know what to expect pertaining the fair, ethical, and justified treatment of Veterans medical care and the ease of process pertaining to Veterans claims.

    And, I’m not looking for any political ranting. Keep that shit to yourself. No offense, but our current situation is confusing enough.

    I have a feeling that these are strategies to get Veterans frustrated and not to challenge any healthcare issues or the denial of any claims submitted. We’re talking about the lives of our Brothers and Sisters, their love ones, and their service, therapy, emotional, and psychiatric service dogs. Veterans are crying out to get their lives back as much as possible. Political figures have no heart when they turn their backs on Veterans.

    Help me out senior Veterans, retirees, and others. Am I the only one who feels this way?

    • I still give Pres. Trump and his team a bit of time…the disinfecting qualities of sunlight of truth will hold whatever/whomever accountable going forward and Hold Pres. Trump to his word to help Veterans and the VA. I would not lose all hope…but nothing wrong with expressing frustration. I am with you there but not willing to give-in to frustration. In fact, it only riles my ambition even more to advocate for my fellow Veterans and Survivors and future Vets.
      Pres. Trump has walked-into a huge mess and they are positioning the swamp wranglers as the Dems and McCain and Graham push back against Trump and Veterans.
      Keep-up the good fight. Others cannot or just do not have the will any longer to. We owe it to them and ourselves to retain tenacity in pushing for positive change. We are that catalyst for change.

      • @Namnibor – Thanks Brother for the encouraging words. My wife and I had a wrenching experience at my VA appointment.

      • @ANutterVet: I have been going, as I have said for over 40 years, when it comes to the va, I have a take no prisoners attitude. If I am given any shit whatsoever, I call the top dog administrator, and in this case it’s a her, and I let her know what happened, and if she does not take care of the situation, that I have my senators on speed dial. YOU have the right to request another pcp if your current one is not a good match for you. Once they know you don’t take shit, and you WILL report them. Just file an OIG report. It won’t solve your issue at hand. But they will now know you are the type of veteran that will report their sorry asses to different authorites. Since they don’t like the though, especially these days. of being reported for anything. Chances are they will start to handle you with special care.

      • @cj – Thanks for the advice Brother. Been recouping. Its so hard to gather the dam energy when you condition constantly drains the energy out of you. I think they play on this. I’ve been really thinking about contacting an attorney. I truly believe that my life is in jeopardy.

      • P.S. I learned this from a very large ex Marine. Some idiot non-english speaking contractor parked his work truck in the handicap parking space. When he went in and complained at the front desk, they made the mistake of demanding he lower his tone. The Marine then demanded the presence of the hospital administrator ASAP. and reminded them that they are there to work for him, not the other way around. That truck was moved instantly…………….

      • @ANutterVet: You explaing that to the hospital administrator, head honcho, and that you are thinking about contacting an attourney. I bet anything you will see action in your favor. You will probably get a new doctor next visit,, in fact while you have the administrator on the phone request a new doctor that listens.

      • @cj – I’m still digesting what is currently going on. Although, this could be my next move. But, I get tired of telling my story over, and over, and over. Then I really start to get pissed off and flippant.

    • @ ANutterVet, i try to check in my political hat at the door when i come in here, politics tend to divide so i try not to offend. Time will tell what we are going to have to deal with in this new leadership in government. I try to stay positive it seems to make life easier and less stressful. I am with any Veteran who fights for their earned rights to receive excellent medical care or any program they want to use to improve their lives.

      I am extremely sympathetic to Veterans who are denied their benefits. I do not have a lot of patience for that nonsense of denial of benefits that are earned. Sometimes i have to admit it does catapults me to try harder, at other times i am too physically sick to keep this going. I will not give up, i cannot i may have to take a break from it but i will continue.

      This group of Veterans here help keep me inspired to keep trying. Like the Veterans who fought the system before us we need to do the same if not for ourselves for our brothers and sisters in the present and in the future. We are in debt to all of them.

      Just think if FDR lived long enough this country would have had free medical care for everyone. I wonder what that would have looked like. Maybe something like Ben’s art today. Why is it in other wealthy countries and not ours? People exploiting the sick and diseased and dying. They are the real monsters. Looking to steal billions from an agency such as the va who just opens their wallet to these mega monsters. I think most people do not expect the government to be perfect, but they expect some accountability and with the va agency it seems to be above reproach. How did this happen?

      • @Ex va – A good post Brother. The main points are good enough to send into the Letter to the Editor. That’s if they are willing to publish it due to be controlled by mostly the left, and they don’t keep the VA in the limelight in the first place.

  7. I have been waiting for 7 months for a determination of my NOD. I was a combat Vietnam veteran with a CIB, Bronze Star and an Air Medal. I understand the South Georgia – North Florida C&P uses their own policies instead of following guide lines and hires college student to process paperwork. There are not pre-med students and they get little training about how to review. I understand, if any piece of evidence (like a letter from my wife who said I have insomnia) that has a diagnosis and the person is not a MD, the letter is thrown in the garbage. In my letter I said I was being treated for PTSD by the VA and prescribed 4 medicines for it. Since I am not a MD, my entire letter was thrown out. The VA nurse I used to meet with every month gave me a letter saying I had military related PTSD. Since I am not a MD, my letter was thrown out too. Therefore, there was nothing in the file that went to final ratings, just the request with no evidence because it was all thrown out.

    I have been asked if I would be a witness at the upcoming congressional hearings regarding the VA to tell my story. I am hopeful I will be joined by my Veterans Service Officer who will talk about all the problems at the VA with my regional C&P. My step daughter was President Donald Trump’s first Miss USA in 1998. I got to meet him several times. For over a year I kept hearing from her that Donald was a fine man and very respectful. The man who is in touch with congress to set this up is a good friend of VP Mike Pence. Hope I am asked to go to the White House to meet with Mike, Donald and the new VA Secretary.

    Ben, will you be testifying also? If so I hope I can shake your hand. Wolfie

    • @John Wolf – John, I hope that you’ll focus on how the VA’s problems is affecting-effecting the lives of their love ones and service animals. And, to challenge the Main Stream Media to do their job by keeping the issues of the VA on the front page.

      The American public needs to be wakened up to how Veterans are really suffering. As you’re aware, Veterans have had enough of the band aiding to a circumstance that is in dire need of being reviewed, evaluated, and new changes implemented to make the VA a place were Veterans can truly have their medical needs attended too.

      If you can, can you please post another comment that highlights the particular issues that you plan on bringing to the attention of those at the hearing. In this way, Veterans on this blog may be able to add to your list. The reason I say this, is because it’s not only a waiting time issue.

      When you post, make sure you check on the box that states ‘Notify me of follow-up comments by email.” Thank you Brother for taking the extra time in helping Veterans.

    • @John Wolf,
      Sounds like you might have an ear with President Trump. This is what veterans need. Someone who has been screwed by VA.
      I believe you should contact Ben immediately. Express your concerns.
      Someone who has had a positive past relationship with POTUS, is what we need.
      This way that committee might just get caught with their pants in a wad.

    • I heard this year before the testimony that the same little ponies dressed up in frills with the hella cute poodles riding their backs are gonna open for that show. It isn’t like the days when Elvis was the opening act but damn close. Watch out though, congressman have been seen giving even the littlest kids an elbow in the face while scrambling for candy the clowns toss out.

      • Put a red nose on Shulkin and I swear he looks just like the clown at Ericksons Market in Bend on Saturday mornings when I was a child! That clown always gave me the creeps…

  8. I was watching the beginning of the hearings with the intros and some of the questioning but got distracted. I did record the hearing and will be watching today.

    From what I did see it was nothing more than a dog and pony show. With none of the dogs and ponys actually know anything about what the problems with the VA are.

    What clear message I kept hearing was more money, more money, more money, …

    Of course that message was all the while the acrobatics of the photo ops were being played out in the background as if the congress and the senate cared. But clearly this seems like little more than bullshit.

    Clearly the Congressional Reporting Service failed and needs to be staffed by real people not just snowflakes.

    • @Seymore Klearly – Good post Brother. That’s why I commented to John’s post pertaining to the items he will be bringing to the attention of those at the hearing. Like they don’t already know what is going on. No dah.

    • Seymore, that committee was more worried about the Super Bowl than getting to the bottom of all the bullshit committed against veterans!
      It was worse than a dog and pony show! It shows the Representatives don’t give a rats ass about veterans!
      Like you said, it’s all about more & more money going into their pockets!!!!!!!

  9. Hey, y’all, it’s now time to order your next pizza from “Papa John’s”! Why? Watch this video from “The Next News Network” for the details.

    “What Papa John Just Came Out & Said to Trump Will Make Everyone in America Gasp!”

    Feb. 2, 2017 (3:37 minutes long)

    • A pizza delivery in some parts of my city often has the added little pleasure of a home invasion right when you open door for a pizza or if they are creative, come back later if the delivery person noticed anything of value when you opened the door…I buy frozen pizzas, less chance of my own oven attacking me…same goes for UBER….my own car has zero chance of robbing me when I get into the car…UBER now has MANY “refugees” working UBER…it’s crazy out there now, but both scenarios of ordering a pizza or ordering an UBER Driver is significantly safer than your own local VA Medical Center. RAND also concurs.

  10. I have to admit i did not watch all of the shulkins conformation because it sounded so much like business as usual with the va. It angered me. Shulkin made statements such as the suicide incidents as having improvement with a predictive analysis tool? Disgusting. His smug look acting like he was taking credit with improvements. What improvements that were sweeping to create changes needed in the va system??? No one want to do the dirty work of terminations needed across all va medical center clinics on doctors and providers who do not have adequate clinical performance on treating disabled veterans.

    • @Ex va – I agree with your statement. Those either in the VA system or that will be put up for a open position in the VA, will already know what is going on inside the VA medical system. And, as far as I’m concerned, if they don’t have the dam balls to say what needs to be changed, no matter who they are talking too, that gives me a good clue that there will be a high probability of the same old shit.

      In other words, ass kissing, brown nosing administrators that are afraid to really get their hands dirty in order to truly reform and reorganize the VA system. The VA’s Secretary position is for no one that is a wimpy, wimpy, wimpy. Don’t be fooled. Give it a month after confirmation, and see what happens. With all the documented problems that are occurring in the VA, only 30 days is needed to see what the new head recognizes, and recommends for changes.

      It’s that simple. And, we Veterans have been putting up with bullshit for way to long. Do you really have the time, faculties, and the mental capacity to be screwed over, again?

      • @Ex va, @cj, and others – I’m kinda, sorta, back in the saddle again. A long night, planning another type of fight, in order to try to get my life right. VA is pulling the worst out of me, but you can’t play ball on a different field if you expect to gain ground, win, or just plain kick ass. Looking for reinforcements.

        They wouldn’t prescribe me a Schedule 4 muscle relaxer, but instead prescribed me more addictive Schedule 2 opiates. Dumb fucks. I pleaded with them that I didn’t want any more opiates. I shared with my PCP that why am I presenting a stronger case for not prescribing pain medication, compared to the policy that is acceptable in this VA Medical Center? I never got an answer.

        Stay tuned for more about backing up Veterans, who verbally express their concerns pertaining to the medications that they VA is willing to poison them with. They actually encourage you to chase the dragon. Stupid shits.

      • I am glad you are doing better ANutterVet. If you are going to go and get a script from a private pcp. Remember, you need to be on a strict schedule to get off of the opiates. It is pretty easy to follow, so you don’t have to suffer withdrawls.

      • @cj – Yeah I know. I’ve been trying to take less of this as much as possible. The weather is a big factor here in N. East. Humidity makes my dam muscles spasms to remind me that they are still there and doing well. I wish I never got caught up with the VA and their untrained medical staff. It’s so weird, the Pain Management Physician is not the one who prescribes meds.

        And, if there are any questions, then they shoot it to the Clinical Pharmacologist. In which I reminded them, that I was very upset that this person comes to a conclusion only by reviewing your jacket. But yet, I received a letter from my PCP [Nurse Practitioner], who is not trained in Pain Management, that she needs to see me for the sake of my health because I’m on pain medications. The whole Pain Management system is screwed up.

        As a matter of fact, my PCP called me about 3 hours ago, and said that I wasn’t taking my medication as prescribed. PCP can’t even count. Its a one way street with these people. I see no future in my health getting better. Shootz, at one time, they were even talking about tapering down w/o a plan of what to do about my pain that I’m originally being treated for.

        And yesterday, I was told that they want me to take more opiates. Wife picked them up today. My next step, may possibly be something legal. I have a Nurse, in which the VA use to contract to visit me, she agrees with everything that I presented to her. She is very upset, and keeps saying “what is wrong with those people.” The whole thing sometimes makes my stomach upset to the point of nausea.

      • @ANutterVet: Man, I do not know what kind of facility you are attending or if that is the norm for most facilities. I have noticed a few new things that have been changed. For instance, if I needed a toradol injection, all I needed to do was ask for one. Now if I don’t claim my pain level is a 10, then they won’t give it. Siilly crap like that, so now I just go to my private pcp because she keeps it in her office for her patients that need it. I don’t think the va has ever given me problems about getting me scripts once the pcp entered it into the system. The exception being Morphine, it would seem you have to jump through hoops both at the va, and outside pain management doctors. I got tired of the outside ones constantly messing up my script, so I went bact to the va for that………but only that, the rest I get on my own at a much greater discount than the va gives it to me…………Did I really just say “the va gives it to me”? lol

      • @ch j – They give it to me all the time. I received a call from my PCP earlier. She informed me that I tested positive for Clonazepam and CBD [cannabis]. I told her that I forgot that I had put a few tabs in our car, my wife found them. No slack with my answer about the Clonazepam. Onto the next, . . .

        She then said what about the cannabis? I said what about it, I haven’t smoked that for a long time. Then I said, what type of cannabinoid are you talking about? Silence, . . . then “my system will not let me look up the what CBD is. Do you have a Medical Marijuana Card? I answered, “No, and I don’t need one. Anyone can buy CBD in the US. Its sold all over without a Medical Card. I said the compound is CO2 extract from stems and not buds or leaves.

        She did balk at my answer. I then asked her if my scripts [plural] would be ready to be picked up at the window because my wife is on the road to pick them up. Her answer, “they’ll be ready in an hour.”

        I then told her, “you know, I’ve been straight forward with you, and asking for help. You offer me services, then you renege on them. You are willing to give me more opiates but no a muscle relaxer that relieves many of my symptoms. You give me no choice but to seek other legal means of bio hacking and taking other nootropics for pain.”

        I guess she is still doing research on what bio hacking and nootropics are. I’m expecting another phone call, even though it was not mentioned to me.

  11. Does anyone have anyavise for me on vr&e as pertaining to hobbies?

    Couselor told me no way. Is this correct?

    I wiild also like to take classes for this hobby “painting”.

    Any advise either way would be greatly appreciated.

    • @ Bill, did they tell you that you had to take classes that leads to a degree? There is fine arts degree that involves painting. There are art therapist and teachers. Need to look at a college syllabus of classes. Some colleges will let you take free adult education classes if you are over 60.

    • @Bill — Also, might want to check both your local community high school and also community libraries, as depending on where you live and the interest, like my own local library always has various painting, photography, even rowing classes on the river…these usually involve a small fee for the classes and any supply list you would need to acquire.
      If the VA is giving you the run around and if you have not already Bill, pick-up Benjamin’s VR&E Guide to navigate it with the rules wielded and do not let the counselors try to bully you by saying an art degree is not on the “list”…esp. if you suffer from PTSD and all the other things similar, I know from my own life, it’s music and visual art that’s kept me *somewhat* sane. 🙂
      I also highly recommend a book for all types of creative types and more that helps you see things visually different called “Drawing On The Right Side Of The Brain”, written by Betty Edwards and co-written by a Brain Surgeon dealing with injuries and such…this book I have gone through several times and even took a college level Creativity Workshop based upon this book.
      Creativity helps put that pain, whatever kind of pain, in another place, allowing you to focus on something else. Hope this helps but one person by writing this.

      • @Bill — Since we are talking about the VA, if and when you get VR&E to allow you to take art classes/degree, make sure to always get a copy of the class’s official description and requirements…why? Because with art classes in particular, you have class supply lists that are often close to price of a credit hour or two and in my experience was always more expensive than the expensive regular class textbooks…even used, if lucky.
        Just wanted to add that I could see the VA leaving a Veteran Student out on a limb with that supply list, when that’s not included in your tuition costs for the class…always look for Material Fees/Requirements so you do not get screwed. (did college advising as my work study job when I took classes)

      • I was actually hoping to in get in under the Ilp progrogram.
        If not for painting and woodworking my ptsd would of been the clear winner over me. I am finding it hard tho afford materials and told on my 100% disabilty.

        I know we all have that problem but I was under the understanding that is what vr&e and Ilp was for

  12. Thanks Ben. I’m curious though. When you requested your record for VocRehab, exactly what file did you request? Medical record? C-file? Some other record?

    How did you request it? I ask because I wonder how they provided copies of internal emails. I can’t see them providing those from a regular FOIA request.

    As for Shulkin and the hearing. I hope you have the time to review the complete transcript if you can get it. I couldn’t watch it and I look forward to hearing what you find.

    If Shulkin said he wants to roll back Choice, then he said it in agreement to the assholes asking and listening to his answer….like a pre-arranged trial balloon.

    They want that money going for things other than vets health care.

    If he said that and the worthless VSOs stayed silent, and I can bet they did since there is no outcry in the media from them, then they too want that money to go somewhere other than vets getting health care.

    It is Trump that will take the hit for the bad press, and deservedly so if he lets it happen.

  13. Off topic comment before I read the rest of the comments.

    For those that still call your VA hospital, do you receive spam phone calls on the same number you called the VA from? Usually within an hour of making the call?

    I very carefully never use my cell phone when leaving a contact number on web sites because I don’t want it sold and don’t want the spam calls.

    In December, earlier in January, and again yesterday, within an hour of calling the VA, I get spam phone calls on my cell phone. I look the number up, and they almost always are some credit card scamming company that is spoofing another number.

    I’m starting to wonder if the VA is selling certain contact information, or whether their phone system has been hacked and scammers are collecting phone numbers.

    Or, the other option is some VA hack thinks it’s funny to post my phone number where scammers can find it.

  14. I can attest to fighting Voc Rehab, first i was told that since I needed a special chair I should be in the part of Voc Rehab that deals with living situations and not in school. then I was told I don’t have a computer then I should not be in an online school.

    Each time I cited from Ben’s program on voc rehab and went to the mr28’s or whatever they are and won. they will beat you down no matter what. Fight it, you will win in the end.

    • I also plan on fighting going to law school just like Ben, just to fight the VA, it is what I want to do. when I finish this degree.

      • @nicky w savage – Good Nick. Stand strong and find those loop holes so that Veterans can give the VA a dam good licking. Its well overdue. Good luck. And, don’t be a brown nosing follower. Like Ben, set the standard high.

  15. For the past year I have been fortunate enough to have a VR&E counselor who is concerned with the Vets education and life goals. She was supportive, response and actively engaged. For personal reason she moved to another VA in another state. A sad loss for all of us working with her in San Antonio.

    While under her we had established an education plan focusing on a Bachelor’s degree with notes that I had a desire and plan to attend law school after my under grad degree was complete. She was supportive of the plan.

    After her departure I received a letter that I had been assigned a new counselor. It took multiple email and phone calls over a six week period to schedule an appointment. When I went to the appointment she was 25 minutes late, treated me as I was an inconvenience and thoroughly condescending. I put it all aside and attempted the honey attracts more flies approach.

    She was quick to inform me the VA would NOT pay for a law degree and that once my under grad was complete in August 2017 they would be done with me. I got up, shook her hand and thanked her for her time.

    Before I got home, an hours drive, she had sent an email saying she was “sorry” I left her office upset and that I would be receiving an adverse action letter. All this occurred a Friday.

    I assumed she was going to deny me any future VR&E benefits, as I had secured employment during my time working on my under grad. The letter arrived and stated that VR&E would not pay for a law degree. Interesting how things can change from one counselor to another, but that seems to be the game the VA plays.

    Any guidance anyone can give me for the appeal. I will go down fighting for my rights and entitlements for which I served.

    • I cannot give you guidance but I can assume how you feel. The part I wrote was my first counselor, which switched to my second counselor days later. This one is very supportive than the first. I will just say do fight it. Remember if you to a hearing and win, they have to pay you for lost time and wages, or what i have read in the 38s they have too.

    • Your story sounds like it partly mirrors Benjamin’s and if you have not already done so, pick-up a copy of his VR&E Guide and also contact him at link. You are being given the run around by those unfortunate VA employees that do not know the very regs and guidelines for the job they are doing…no, a SERVICE for Vets…so definitely fight tooth and nail…it’s what Benjamin had to do and the VA hates it when you place their very own rules in their faces…but do it ~~nicely~~ unless you do not mind the Disruptive Behavior Committee and all the dram that would entail…be good to yourself and be safe.

    • Oh…the part with her being 25 mins late burns my ass because many Veteran plan their entire day around say a public transportation schedule or what have you and if it were the Veteran late even 13 mins they would look at you with a jelly donut smile and tell you to call and make an appointment. I have a pet peeve with late people. Do not get me started…

  16. @Ben & All, this was an excellent news article or blog put out by you. Thanks for your experience and insight. Ben, I will be somehow contacting you personally again if I can.

  17. Ben, thank you for being a true a Veterans Advocate. I am a life member for the VFW, member for the DAV, life member for MOAA, and a retired County Veterans Representative for San Diego and yes retired from the Marine Corps. I started this business of getting to know my benefits since 1994. I’ve had spent my time learning from the best of advocates/attorney on 38 USC and Title 38 CFR. I’m now simply retired since 2010, but is still amazed to read the same BS that I had to deal with back in 1994. Yes, the Department of Veterans Affairs have a huge problem and it doesn’t help with someone who is in the inside of the VA’s Department being held accountable. Because you and I know that’s not the way our system of government works. Is it!

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