Three weeks ago, I had an opportunity to talk VocRehab shoptalk with fellow attorney Chris Attig while in San Antonio for a veterans advocacy law conference.

Chris Attig is a personal friend of mine and excellent attorney fighting for the rights of veterans nationwide. We met in 2011 while I was still a law student. We both shared a passion for vets and blogging, which led to both of us finding a kinship over WordPress and educating veterans using cyber technology in ways VA still fails to match.

Today, Attig sent me a link to the interview, and I wanted to forward that interview to my readers. Personally, I have hoped to start doing more video but time constraints have kept me in the shadows until right now.

RELATED: See Attig On Veterans Law Blog

So, while Veterans Benefits Administration employees are enjoying ice cream in honor of working for the federal government, maybe some of you would get some value out of this video and hearing a little bit about my advocacy story.

All my work exposing VA is funded by my legal clients and customers of this website, DisabledVeterans.org. And I appreciate all the support you have given me to this point by contributing your thoughts on VA through the comment section of each post.

Future Topics For Next Stage Guides Or Courses?

In the future, what would you like me to discuss on video?

Would you like to learn how to use VocRehab to increase your disability ratings?

How about using VocRehab to fund your start-up company?

What about effective ways of fighting an obstinate counselor?

These are platforms I have been working on behind the scenes for a while and hope to bring to the veterans community in the near future.

While I am always happy representing veterans in VocRehab for an hourly fee, I know a lot of vets just cannot afford that kind of solution. So, the much cheaper self-advocacy education platform seems to be the next best thing.

Here are a couple other things I’ve recently been working on behind the scenes regarding VocRehab.

No Insurance Coverage In College?

1) In 2012, I negotiated a policy change with VocRehab to start covering health insurance when it is required by a university. Previously, VocRehab thought VA health care was the same things as health insurance and told veterans to fraudulently place their Social Security Number in place of the insurance number on an insurance waiver form. This practice was stopped until some bean counter within VA reversed the position again in 2014. The matter was just brought to my attention, and we are working on straightening out the issue.

No Right To Personal / DRO Hearing?

2) The next issue is whether veterans are entitled to a personal hearing or decision review officer hearing after filing a notice of disagreement with the regional office VocRehab official responsible for their respective case. Presently, some VocRehab offices allow it while most do not. However, almost all regional offices provide a VA Form 4107 or VA Form 21-0958. Both of these forms indicate veterans are entitled to a local hearing before a VA official prior to the claim being certified to the Board of Veterans Appeals.

I have senior VA officials and Congressional staffers working the matters. Hopefully, they get it resolved before I file class action suits in the US Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims.

41 COMMENTS

  1. Good article Ben. There is nothing better than hard won experience by veterans passed on to other veterans that truly helps.

    I have been in the VA system for over 25 years and have never heard much detail about VocRehab. I was offered some years ago, but I never took advantage of it because I did not believe I needed it.

    One question you could answer about it is if there is an age limit or other similar limit on Voc Rehab. If a veteran was able to work for a number of years, but then can no longer work for whatever reason, are they still eligible for the program?

    As for the Youtube interview…what do you think about doing that on all topics? Not a lengthy interview, but a quick, 2 minute or less “Ben’s thoughts” on a topic? Keep the bad VA art, but embed the video within your article on the same topic?

  2. I remember back in early 70’s, laws were passed for Voc, Rehab., took about 15 years to work. Took another 5years or so to tear it down. Ben, I pray you can make it work. Rehab changes lives, families. I’m wishing you success. And, I hope you have a plan B in place. Those people are treacherous. God Bless you Ben, and the Veterans and their families.

  3. VA abuses continue, and the courts are making them harder to fix

    by David Freddoso | May 10, 2017

    [A] Peru clinic employee was scheduling appointments for veterans without their knowledge and canceling them on the day of the appointment. The employee allegedly was “padding her schedule with fake appointments to fill her clinic schedule,” the report said.
    A review of records from Oct. 1, 2014, through Dec. 21, 2016, uncovered 56 such “placeholder” appointments made by clinic staff, VA said. The practice could have denied veterans the opportunity to receive medical treatment, according to the report.

    “http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/va-abuses-continue-and-the-courts-are-making-them-harder-to-fix/article/2622743”

    • VA hearing postponed amid fallout from FBI director firing
      By NIKKI WENTLING | STARS AND STRIPES
      Published: May 10, 2017

      “WASHINGTON – A Senate hearing regarding the future of the Veterans Choice Program was postponed Wednesday after Senate Democrats invoked a rule to prevent committees from meeting – a decision made in protest of the firing of FBI Director James Comey.

      Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., objected to a routine request Wednesday morning from Republican leadership to allow 13 committee meetings – including the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee — to take place. The objection invoked a senate rule that prevents committee meetings from happening two hours after the Senate convenes.”

      “https://www.stripes.com/news/veterans/va-hearing-postponed-amid-fallout-from-fbi-director-firing-1.467781”

      ~~~~~~~~~~~~

      The Dems are going to pull the slow walking of any changes to the Government.

    • Walgreens to team with VA, VFW to provide veteran assistance

      May 10, 2017 | By Brian Berk

      “WASHINGTON — Walgreens, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S. jointly announced a collaborative agreement that will help improve mental health care for veterans via enhanced education, access to resources and outreach.

      Walgreens, VA and VFW will work together to reach veterans in communities across the country with targeted initiatives to address mental health awareness and treatment, veteran suicide prevention and opioid overdose education.

      “We’re proud of the collaborations we’ve developed to provide greater access to pharmacy and health-care services for current and former members of the armed services, including retirees and their families,” said Brad Fluegel, Walgreens chief healthcare commercial market development officer. “We look forward to working closely with VA and VFW to help heighten mental-health awareness and hope to improve the health and well-being of more Veterans by connecting them with VA, VFW and other resources that can help.”

      As part of the collaboration, Walgreens, VA and VFW and Walgreens will:

      Educate VFW members to help reduce the stigma associated with mental health conditions, as well as encourage seeking help through VA. The outreach effort includes Walgreens and VA programming at several upcoming state VFW meetings.

      Jointly promote and coordinate with VA’s Make the Connection campaign with the goal of helping to fundamentally change how people think and talk about mental health. Through veterans’ own stories of treatment and recovery, Make the Connection shows the many benefits of opening up about mental health concerns and making mental health awareness and treatment part of a healthy lifestyle.

      Share patient education materials to help build awareness of both Walgreens and VA initiatives to prevent opioid overdose through education, proper disposal of unused medication and access to naloxone, a lifesaving medication that is an antidote to opioids that can prevent fatal opioid overdose.

      Explore training programs and opportunities for Walgreens pharmacists and Healthcare Clinic nurse practitioners, to enhance providers’ ability to recognize Veteran-specific needs, and to better understand the military culture, which may influence veterans’ willingness to seek help.

      “Our work is driven by our commitment to encourage veterans to get the care and services they need and integrate mental health care as part of their overall wellness and healthy lifestyle,” said VA Secretary Dr. David J. Shulkin. “Joining forces with VFW and Walgreens provides VA an opportunity to further expand our reach and connect with Veterans, their families and the community to raise mental health awareness.””

      “http://www.drugstorenews.com/article/walgreens-team-va-vfw-provide-veteran-assistance”

      ~~~~~~~~~~~~~

      I wonder how much money the VFW will get from the VA for this propaganda stunt.

      • Reminds me of those preventative medical services that are low cost or FREE! They try to make you think your getting a great deal, when in reality your getting practically nothing except jerked around. Sign me up!!!

      • wow. who would trust any of these poisoners and deceivers?

        there is not such thing as mental illness.
        it’s brain damage and they know it.
        if there was an uncorrupted court of law anywhere in corporate US, I could prove it.

      • Seymore, this is disgusting. I get so damn tired of reading about various VA programs, often costing money or money going to some bullshit collaborating contractor, and all it results in is a public PR effort to make it look like something is being done.

        Veterans really need some kind of mental health awareness campaign? To reduce the stigma? Why not address the real issue of actually getting access to mental health care?

        They can have all the fucking awareness campaigns they want on any subject they want, but what the hell will that do to fix the access problem?

        I see nothing here that benefits veterans, but everything that benefits contractors and worthless VSOs.

    • Lawmakers Demand More Info on VA Dog Experiments Letter cites experiment breeding dogs with narcolepsy and treating them with drugs before killing them
      Eric Garcia, roll call, May 9, 2017

      “The letter cites a research application that was approved in October that entailed breeding Doberman dogs with narcolepsy, injecting them with methamphetamines or antidepressants, and then killing them.

      “We are also concerned that without access to FOIA documents, we would not have known the VA was providing misleading information or that dogs were even used in these experiments at the Greater LA VA,” the letter stated.

      “http://www.rollcall.com/news/politics/lawmakers-veterans-affairs-experiements-dogs”

      ~~~~~~~~~~~~~

      Guess all the other non-human subjects, “Veterans”, were to hard to work with.

    • Veterans Administration puts off decision to close Hot Springs facilities

      “RAPID CITY, S.D. (KOTA TV) – The Veterans Administration has put off the decision to close most of its Hot Springs facilities. This doesn’t mean the plan won’t be revisited in the future and the VA is still committed to expanding the Rapid City services.

      Following is the VA’s statment on the Hot Springs campus:

      Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary David J. Shulkin, M.D., announced today that he has deferred the decision to reconfigure the VA Black Hills Health Care System in South Dakota, including the Hot Springs campus.

      The Department is undertaking a system-wide look at how to ensure Veterans are receiving the best care, where and when they need it. As we design and implement an integrated healthcare system, ensuring Veterans receive the best of VA and the best of the community, the Black Hills Healthcare System (HCS) will be part of the review of that design.

      This will allow Veterans to continue to receive high quality care that they have been receiving to date at Hot Springs, delivered with a holistic approach. This decision also will include allowing Veterans a choice of where they receive their health care.

      The current Veterans Choice Program will expire in December and we are working with Congress to pass the needed legislation to modernize how Veterans receive their care. In the meantime, we are moving forward with expanding the Rapid City Community-based Outpatient Clinic (CBOC) and activation of the Members Services National Call Center, as planned.”

      “http://www.kotatv.com/content/news/Veterans-Administration-puts-off-decision-to-close-Hot-Springs-facilities-421383593.html”

      ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

      They have needed to shut that hell hole down since 1993.

      • Of course the day before shulkin was saying he would like to shut 1100 VA properties down. What a lying piece of $*^$.

      • Between 2009 and 2015 the population of adults over the age of 18 in Hot Springs South Dakota has changed from 3,413 in 2009 to 2,795 in 2015. The total loses in population of persons over the age of 18 is 618 adults.

        In 2009, the total Veterans population in Hot Springs was 1,146 and in 2015 the total Veteran population was 520 Veterans. That puts the total loses to the Veterans population a total of 626 Veterans.

        That is while the total Non-Veteran population has grown from 2,267 in 2009 to 2,275 in 2015.

        Current estimates of the Veterans population in and around the Hot Springs area covering 40 miles by car are between 200 to 300 Veterans.

        Sources US Census Bureau / American Fact Finder Us Census 2009 -2015
        “https://factfinder.census.gov/faces/nav/jsf/pages/searchresults.xhtml?refresh=t#”

        Just to show how insane it is to keep this place open for a possible 200 to 300 veterans. Most likely still alive because they have other insurance and receive health care else where.
        “https://www.panhandlepost.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/Hot-Springs-VA-aerial-wsj.jpg”

  4. When Walgreen or VFW’S recommend Psychiatric help at the VA; Who they gonna see? In my experience, the treatment is minimal to useless. The medications merry-go-round is time wasted, and they really don’t care if it helps. It’s all about politics. Have I mentioned, we really need a lot of Doctors. Legal and qualified Doctors. One’s who don’t hide where they graduated from. English speaking is nice. The VA isn’t going to live up to their part of the contract. Recommend all day long, what’s changed? Another kiss ass smokescreen. Fix the real problems. Why isn’t Dr. Shulkin all over the SES’s? Until Dr. Shulkin addresses the root problems, taxpayers, Veterans, and the VA are spinning wheels. There are many criminals in SES positions. Root them out. Don’t move them around. They erase their own crimes and punishment, legally. By SES directives. So what if it’s against the law. No optometrist, no hearing aid, choice is dependent upon which states you live in. You can’t fire embedded thieves. You give our blood and it’s DNA away, or sell it. Use us as guinea pigs. Mal practice every where. And this week it’s ice cream and Walgreen. Dr. Shulkin’s priorities are screwed up; OR, that’s his plan. Whatever, none of his plan works for me yet.

    • treatment is minimal to useless because mental illness is another fraud. outright fraud. fake.

      it’s brain damage. something caused brain damage and these deceivers who make ((($$$))) from deceiving will keep doing this fraud until people just say no to drugs and deceit.

      they don’t really care if the meds help?
      they know it doesn’t help. it’s poison of the most insidious kind.

      many people are realizing this fact, and are pulling away, that’s why these idiotic efforts to expand influence of this mental illness lie.

  5. A simple question for the attorney crowd Ben; Do you see a time coming in America that the abuses and corruption at VA will cease?

    If so, what path specifically will correct this abomonation of government?
    If not, do you believe America is better of with, or without VA?

    • my 2 cents THE VA DC HQ IS THE TITANIC IT HIT THE ICEBERG ALL WE ARE DOING IS ARGUE THE COLOR OF THE CURTAINS VA IS BEYOND REPAIR NEED TO BE JUNKED ASAP ONLY ANSWER FOR VETS VA BUDGET 2017 182 BILLION $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$ VA DC HQ ARE DOGS IN HEAT FOR THE @$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$ VA DC HQ @ AFGE UNUION CONTRACTS DONT GIVE RATS REAR FOR VETS THATS A LEGAL FACT

  6. Seymour,
    How would one know if physicians, clerks or anyone else was “cooking the books” to show physicians NOT seeing patients like they claim?

    Does Walgreens have “mental health professionals”? Never heard of that before!
    What kind of advice would/could a Walgreens employee give about mental health issues?
    Sounds fishy to me!

    When the wife and I went through South Dakota 2 years ago, not one veteran we met was happy with the medical side of the Veterans Administration!
    Hell, they weren’t happy with the VA at all!

    I agree with your assessment of the reprobate Democrats and some of the (RINO) Republicans!
    They’ve been exposed, (ie: corruption) and can’t seem to make up their minds on any issue! They’re “flip-flopping on issues” is really getting full disclosure on all of the “right wing news sources!”
    On the “Still Report”, out of Washington D.C., last night – he read the important part of the letter sent to POTUS over “WHY” Comey’s tenure as FBI Director should be terminated!
    Something, the MSM’s won’t disclose!
    The letter, by the “Assistant Attorneys General” was “specific” over what Comey
    did, and didn’t do, over the handling of Hillary’s “EMAILGATE”!
    There’s going to be more on this! It’s just a matter of when the shit will hit the proverbial fan!!!

    • Here’s an interesting article out today, 11 May 2017, from:
      “military.com/daily news”
      via: the Associated Press
      By; Jennifer McDermott
      Titled:

      “VA Aims to End Veteran Homelessness, Says It’ll Take Years!”

      I read some pretty good b/s before. Only, this is real Bull Shit from “Shithead Shulkin!”

      Do y’all have your “thigh high boots” on this morning?

    • Hey Elf,

      You asked several questions I would like to answer:

      1. “How would one know if physicians, clerks or anyone else was “cooking the books” to show physicians NOT seeing patients like they claim?”

      Answer: If they are employed by the Veterans Administration they are cooking the books.

      2. “Does Walgreens have “mental health professionals”?”

      Answer: No they are a pharmacy and not a mental health service.

      3. “What kind of advice would/could a Walgreens employee give about mental health issues?”

      Answer: None it would be practicing medicine without a license. Although they can provide information about the medication they are selling you.

  7. Al the DRO did for me was remove evidence and not advance my claim. Just delay. I would recommend everyone skip the DRO. It was extremely difficult for me to get the DRO’s hands off my file. I had to move to a different Regional Office.

    What is happening with the remanded TBI examinations. Mine was remanded on 5/8, just 3 days ago, after an almost 3 year delay. What is the new examination delay going to look like?

    Being over 75 Rehab has no interest for me. Wish I had used it better when I had the chance but I had shit for a counselor. I didn’t have an answer for, “What would you like to do?” The answer should have been, “Something that I can do and I don’t know what that is.” instead of a blank. The counselor didn’t consider that I was no longer fully functional, especially on demand.

  8. @Lem – – – If only the VA would work, “On Demand.” The VA can spend million$ on advertising, and it still would be the same.

    Reminds me of the VA: “https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jfoufXs01KU”

  9. You all might find this of interest: The U.S. military has revealed their plans to hack the brains of their soldiers to enhance their cognitive abilities, meaning what they could normally learn in weeks, they could learn in a matter of hours. DARPA has awarded a team of researchers $5.8 billion for ~~
    Breeding Superhumans: US Military Reveals Plans to Hack Human Brains
    “http://www.natureworldnews.com/articles/37736/20170501/breeding-superhumans-us-military-plans-to-hack-human-brains.htm”
    They will also conduct studies on animals that don’t have the option to volunteer.

  10. Newsflash; from 96.5 fm, WDBO,——–

    Corrine Brown, the disgraced congresswoman of Florida, “…was just found guilty of 18 of the 22 federal felony charges!”

    Some of which includes: Wire Fraud, Tax evasion, Filing false tax returns, etc., etc., etc.!
    Y’all remember her, she’s the bimbo representative, who always took the side of the Veterans Administration, Never the Veterans!

    • She was also the senior Democrat on the House Veterans Affairs Committee. That was until she stepped down in July of 2016 following her indictment.

  11. The VA is the equivelent of my Grandpas “Smarter Pills” and frankly they do indeed have that effect, so maybe they arent all bad? (note: Grandpa was right about everything)

    Grandpa told me how it works; A man walks into the doc and complains of being too stupid. The doctor quickly produces a pill and tells the patient it is a “Smarter Pill”. Go ahead, he says, take it…

    The patient pops the pill into his mouth and quickly spits it out, exclaiming, “That tastes like rabbit shit!”

    “You see?”, says the doctor, “You are smarter already.”

  12. How can they just do that? Honestly, I feel like I’m back in the war. 5,0000 troops to Afghanistan, to me, is criminal. Why not use lobbyist for their experiments? I’m praying this is fake news. This administration is pushing me to my limit. I haven’t reached my limit, but once. In ‘ Nam. Where in the hell do these people get that close to know what they know? Where and who have they been practicing already? Did I say, I really like Designated Survivor? I’m sure most Americans aren’t going to approve.

  13. @Jo3n – – – American Public, Main Stream Media [MSM], and out Elected Officials are either drugged, a sleep, or they just don’t care, but are acting like they do. – – – Nutter

  14. The only motivation I can see, is money. The powers that be, in every Gov’t organization we have has lost touch. The Whitehouse is a giant clusterfuck. What the hell is daughter and son in law doing with top secret clearance? Sickening.

    • I dunno Jo3n. I find it hard to get over excited about any of his family having a clearance to provide him advice.

      Not after 8 years of Valerie Jarrett and Huma Abedin having top clearances.

      Was it Jarrett whose mother is a part of the Muslim Brotherhood?

      I can’t see any of his family encouraging him to have many in his administration lie to the public over a nuke deal with a state sponsor of terrorism, or lie to the public over flying $150 billion to the same bunch of crazies so they can arm up and spread more terror.

  15. I just signed up for voc rehab. I think I should try to fail on the aptitude test because I’m already 70% SC for PTSD. The only job I have an aptitude for is psychology and social work. Both are jobs I’m pretty sure I can’t handle. I already work as a security guard where I basically sit around and do a few patrols around some buildings. I can barely handle it because I need frequent rest breaks due to stress.

    I think the VA psychologist I’m talking to is either stupid or not listening to me. I told the psychologist about my difficulty doing one of the easiest jobs imaginable and his response is to try and get me into voc rehab. What does he not understand about it that I doubt you can find an easier job than sitting and walking around watching some contractors remodel a bathroom? All voc rehab will do is push me towards a job that’s impossible get or me to handle. Not to mention I’m worried about the VA attempting to reduce my rating because a voc rehab psychologist says I’m better.

    • @lily, sorry you suffer with ptsd it is a terrible disorder and it is a crippling disorder. I would be honest at the testing to give accurate results to help you to find a possible profession that you may be able to improve your life. You don’t want to skew the test. If you can’t handle the classes or work because of your anxiety disorder i would tell them. You have to take care of yourself. Make sure you tell your voc rehab counselor about your issues.

    • @lily – – – No offense, but if your stress is so high that you can’t handle observing others and walking around doing your scheduled security rounds, then how may I ask, are you going to be able not only listening to the deep problems of others, but to also create an effective plan for individuals to help them with their own problems. I’m not stating this to discourage you, but if I was in your situation, I’d make sure before I committed myself to a field of study, that this is not only something that I would like to do, but to make sure that I have the coaching and support that I may need to back me up in case of flare-ups. Know what I mean? Good luck with Voc Rehab. – – – Nutter

      • I don’t think I would want to be a psychologist or social worker. The thing is I know that’s what vox rehab is going to say I’m good at. My stress issue has to do with the comorbidities associated with PTSD. I have a rare disease that I requires me to take a 15 minute yoga breathing break to neutralize every 2 or 3 hrs. So I think I could work if it wasn’t for more than 6hrs and I could get a good 15 minute break. I don’t even know if I could handle college again. I got an associates degree a long time ago and it was very stressful.

      • @lily – – – Ask your Voc Rehab counselor this question: “How good is it going to be for my patients when I have a major PTSD attack – – – then go ballistic on them while they are in a therapy session with me?” The answer to THAT question will probably tell you all that you need to know regarding the true intent of your assigned Voc Rehab Counselor.

        And take a recording device (concealed) to record the entire session. You will want a record later.

        Good Luck to You.

      • @lily if an associate degree was stressful an undergrad degree or higher would be very difficult. Even a half time student it is a lot of college work. It is fast paced and stressful at a university. They may offer help for your disabilities on campus. I would look at all the options and only do it if you think you could get the help and support you need and if you think you could manage it. Don’t let them push you into something.

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