Honesty is the key attribute of a good VA Voc Rehab Counselor. But what happens when your counselor is less than honest?
That is a major question I constantly receive from veterans. “My counselor Mrs. Such and Such will not listen. She denied my request but wrote things in my file that are not true. Now what?”
Well, if you did not take steps to protect yourself before this point, you will likely lose your claim. Arguing with only your word against hers within the confines of VA is always a losing battle. So I thought I would write this post to teach you how to protect yourself and to protect your right to receive only honest dealings.
I have two key pieces of advice based on honesty, aka veracity.
Voc Rehab Counselors are required to follow the ethics code of the CRCC – that acronym stands for Commission on Rehabilitation Counselors. It is called the Code of Professional Ethics for Rehabilitation Counselors. Should a counselor breach the Code, they could lose their certification. If they lose the certification, they may lose their job at VA.
That brings me back to my point on veracity. There are six basic principles upon which the Code is based. They are:
- Autonomy: To respect the rights of clients to be self-governing within their social and cultural framework.
- Beneficence: To do good to others; to promote the well-being of clients.
- Fidelity: To be faithful; to keep promises and honor the trust placed in rehabilitation counselors.
- Justice: To be fair in the treatment of all clients; to provide appropriate services to all.
- Nonmaleficence: To do no harm to others.
- Veracity: To be honest.
Generally, of the entire 40 pages within the Code, you only need to know that a counselor is required to ensure their conduct adheres to these six principles. In my mind veracity is the most important. So long as the counselor is honest, you will receive a fair shake from VA.
For most veterans, they will never have to learn how to fight back against a dishonest counselor. For those who do, the CRC has a complaint process you can follow to file against the counselor. However, many of you may end up in a situation of he said she said unless you plan your attack ahead of time.
Here is what I mean. In order to encourage honesty in this age of corruption, I believe it is important to document almost everything when it comes to government interactions. When it comes to communications with your Voc Rehab Counselor, the same holds true.
You can do two things to encourage honesty. First, follow up with all communications with a writing of some form. This could mean sending an email. It could also mean sending a letter. A third solution could be writing an affidavit and getting that affidavit notarized in the event you think court or an appeal may be a possible destination. Each state has different rules, so merely Google it and you should find the requirements in your state.
The second, and possibly more effective option, is to record all interactions with your counselor so long as it is legal to do so in your state. Most states in the US are single party states. This means you do not need permission to record without providing notice to all parties as long as you are a party to the communication. If A and B are talking, A can record the conversation without telling B. That is a single party state. In an all party state, A needs to notify B of the recording. Otherwise, A could be breaking some major laws. Consult a lawyer in your state with questions if you are unsure.
Beyond this, here is a guide for reporters from the Reporters Committee that lists the states and other related information.
Two apps I use for recording in my journalistic activities on my iPhone are:
- Voice Record Pro
These work pretty well for most things, and for appointments with VR&E officials, it may not be a bad idea to turn your recorder on prior to any meeting. Many attorneys in NOVA are starting to recommend doing so prior to any VA appointment because of the consistency across states of false statements being made by VA employees. Once you make the recording, find a Certified Court Reporter in your area to create a transcript of the call or conversation. That may cost around $150 depending on length.
Once you have adequate documentation about your position and about the falsity of your counselor’s position, it may be time to fight back.
File an ethics complaint with CRC or with VA directly. Overall, we as veterans are getting fed up with VA holding all the cards. For that reason, it is time we encourage honesty by monitoring those who lie about us. Encourage greater veracity by fighting back.