‘Stolen Valor’ Advocates Harassed Actual Marine Veteran

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Stolen Valor

Benjamin KrauseOverzealous ‘stolen valor’ advocates mistakenly harassed Marine veteran Robert Ford following a wreath-laying ceremony in Pennsylvania recently. Following the ceremony, some overzealous veterans accused Ford for being a fake after a local paper claimed he was not a real Marine by mistake.

But why did this happen and why did these veterans feel the need to harass the person regardless of the truth of the claim? Does this new trend of shaming fakers benefit our country or veterans?

Doug Sterner, manager of a military service database, confirmed Ford’s military history. Sterner commented that incidents of false accusations of ‘stolen valor’ are a problem:

“There is a vigilante mentality right now in a lot of these veterans circles which is leading to . . . I just call it what it is [bullying.]”

In Stars & Stripes’ interview of Sterner, the report continued:

These incidents keep happening for a few reasons, Sterner said. In 2012, the Supreme Court struck down the Stolen Valor Act, which made lying about military honors a crime. It was replaced with the Stolen Valor Act of 2013, which makes it illegal to “obtain money, property, or other tangible benefit” from military awards.

“It needs to be revisited,” said Sterner, who noted that he thought more laws about this issue were needed on a state level, too.

But, Sterner said, he’s also seeing people “trying to make themselves look bigger, trying to make themselves look good,” by outing military impostors. These people can see a medal they don’t recognize, or a different uniform style, and jump to conclusions.

“I hate that part of my job,” Sterner said of outing a fraud, which he said he had done recently. “But it has to be done.

“But there’s some people that feel good about confronting people, and making themselves look big by trying to take them down. But when they do that, they’re going to make mistakes and that’s exactly what happened here.”

In many instances, false allegations have their root in modern military veterans not understanding difference in experience or uniform style relative to previous era experiences.

Recently, Tosh.O did a segment highlighting how it looks to civilians when military personnel and veterans chase and harass fakers in public. While the bit is used for humor, it makes sense to think through how this looks from an outsider’s perspective.

WATCH: Tosh.O Stolen Valor Segment

What’s your take on the issue and what do you think of the Tosh bit?

I am always concerned when any American wants to make certain speech, including lying, illegal unless that person is trying to commit fraud. Fraud should always be unlawful.

However, if we are going to focus on making non-fraudulent lying unlawful, let’s start by focusing on politicians first. Or should be instead only focus on chasing around psychologically unsound individuals who like how they look in a uniform?

Source: https://www.stripes.com/news/veterans/the-problem-with-calling-out-stolen-valor-when-the-claim-is-wrong-1.351472

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57 Comments

  1. “However, if we are going to focus on making non-fraudulent lying unlawful, let’s start by focusing on politicians first.”

    Says it all…they are unapologetic sociopathic liars…ALL Parties, without exception. The “sociopathic liar” is quite special in that they actually BELIEVE all their own lies are truth AND they have the ability to keep the tangled mess of lies organized.

    What would the VA OIG be labeled as with the recent Tomah VA conclusion?

    • Again, what’s going on with the investigation which was brought about by the State of Wisconsin (February 2015) against the VA at Tomah?

      • Dear Sir:

        Sorry I think a similar response may have been submitted because now was the first time I saw this article; this is just to clarify your error in thinking I had already posted this letter.

        This is in response to your reply to my letter posted approximately 10 minutes ago.
        Sorry, but we are all subject to err.

        Yours for God and Country
        Frank P. Calderon

  2. My point would be with the VA and these so- called “stakeholders” that are never named and that if a money audit were to be held, “tangible benefits” aka bonuses and this wait list scheme regarding metrics could technically be seen as Stolen VAlor.. Denying benefits that are rightfully earned and the patient flag system is straight up bullying, but yet these birdheads swear that their government service at the VA is some kind of military honor.If they were to commission the VA like the Public Health and make these employees deployable to support any mission abroad and throughout the country, you will get accountability, with a UCMJ style system that docks their pay If they were to look within the ranks of thos dewds with their Gino’s pizza hats, you will see a lot of fraud. The most disturbing thing is that someone is going to run up on the the wrong one and accuse them and get laid out.

    • I thought of that too, you run up on me in an aggressive way, well, I am going into full recon mode. Just my nature. But if that were to happen with a serious injury or even a fatality, then the VA would vilify Veterans and want all our guns and ability to own them taken away or restricted, or something crazy like that.
      I think these groups need to maintain some discretion, tact, and integrity when approaching to call-out any of these ‘fakers’, and I want to believe those types are actually quite a small minority of all the odd things out there in life.

      I also agree that it’s a degree of “Stolen Valor” with the way VA withholds benefits, and outright takes appropriated funds FOR Veterans for their own bidding…I would like to see these groups redirect that energy to make the VA right.

      • There is nothing wrong with an 0321 slap to the phrenic nerve for someone violating your personal space. The bigger they are, the harder they fall. There is always death before dishonor in fabric of call to duty of service to this country and your inalienable rights to the freedoms we fight for, which as always been cloud by corruption in government. The VA and the OIG does not have jurisdiction over your 2nd amendment rights unless you consent to their jurisdiction through a fiduciary. The MOU VA has with DOJ is fraudulent and unconstitutional and can be challenged through the Sumpreme Court if any actions are taken against you.

    • CorpsmanuP!!! The people running Public Health in America are the same people running VA! In sept 2011, Eric Shinseki signed all veteran benefit administration over to the Xerox Document Company. Bobby “Xerox” McDonald is on the Board of directors at Xerox and has been for decades! In Nov 2013, all benefits administration for Medicaid and Medicare was signed over to Xerox after Healthcare.gov failed. Xerox used Affiliated Computer services, a company they purchased in full in Sept 2009, as a hat to hide under in their government contracts division. ACS is a wholly owned subsidiary of Xerox! Xerox was also assigned total control over the Silver state healthcare exchange payment portal in Nevada by a dude named Harry Reid and his buddies. It took Xerox just three months to kill their first Obamacare compliant American while turning the lives of hundreds of Nevada residents upside down because Xerox refused to forward any of the payments made through the exchange… of that’s what the class action lawsuit in Nevada says. When pressed, Xerox notified the Court that forcing the insurance companies to actually pay for medical care they were contracted to cover would most probably result in those insurance companies refusing to participate in the states health care exchange in any following year, you gotta love veiled threats.

      Pick a state, almost any state in the US and you will find Bobby “xerox” McDonald’s fingerprints on health care via Xerox or one of it’s wholly owned subsidiaries…

      In February of this year, when Xerox announced in Europe that it had sold ACS, Affiliated Computer Services, to Atos Origin, Xerox only gleaned over the fact that ATOS got every government contract held by ACS at a premium… ATOS is paying Xerox for the privilege of completing those contracts, so Xerox is still making all the calls and making all the decisions on health care in these American contracts.

      Also, ACS, before the sale to ATOS, had all the IT and network management contracts at the District level in the US Federal Court system and ATOS took them over under the “supervision” of Xerox… it kind of makes it tough to get a fair trial in federal court.

      Xerox, with it’s Grand Dragon, Ursula Burns, and her human house pet, Bobby “Xerox” McDonald, has become the new Invisible Empire in the US. And the prez is just signing the contracts and signing the contracts. Just like the contract that put Joe Robles in charge of the newest layer of veteran benefit management. Xerox got paid [b]illions for their eBenefit system that doesn’t work and now the guy who won’t take care of veterans as paying customers at USAA has been contracted to add his own personal layer of stupidity to veteran benefit administration at the VA in order to slow it down even more while he’s collecting a seven figure salary from the VA. I think that money could have been better used to provide support to a veteran or two… or twelve. Robles doesn’t care who he puts on the street so long as he gets his pay at the VA.

      What’s happening at the VA is happening across the entire spectrum of health care in the US. Oh and just FYI, Xerox, or one of it’s subsidiaries, has the pharmacy contract at the VA. They get paid approximately $13.85 for every prescription they process through the VA system. It takes about 30 seconds to confirm and process a prescription through their system. $13.85 every thirty seconds is good money for anyone. They get paid for every veteran who is over prescribed medications. They get paid more per hour for the prescriptions than they do for providing a veteran with care from a doctor. Oh… and Xerox, or one of it’s subsidiaries, gets paid for “missed appointments”, too. So they have taken to scheduling a vet for some appointment but not notifying the vet until after the scheduled appointment time through a missed appointment letter. It’s their newest tool for of self funding! ATOS was famous for this in the UK.

      The subcontracts have got to be removed from the VA before anything can be done to fix the VA. Maybe someone should sue to stop the subcontracting. It has been proven that since the VA was subcontracted out, the costs for the VA have more than tripled and fewer veterans are receiving care. This problem isn’t something that started in the 70s, 80s, or 90s… this is a problem that started when VA got subbed out to someone who doesn’t give a damn about veterans, just money.

  3. Here in Florida, a few years ago, a group calling themselves “Disabled Veterans of America”, were ‘dressing’ people (fakers) up in fatigues. Their purpose was to ‘beg for money from drivers at off ramps and intersections’. The ‘fakers or posers’ were given 50% of the ‘take’! No one knew where the other monies went. Our Attorney General, I believe, was diligent in stopping this act. It outraged many veterans and civilians.
    I also want to add. Last night on “60 Minutes”, Bob McDonald was interviewed along with Gibson. I believe Bob made another “misspoke” statement. It was that he had been in a “dangerous situation(s)”. In my opinion, he has now made three errors in judgment. Looking at his military record, that one can find, he was never in any dangerous areas of conflict. He joined the U.S. Army in 1975 (after Vietnam). And was discharged in 1980. (He did receive a Meritorious medal, which was awarded to Army personnel for “actions during peacetime”!)
    Because of what and how he brought forth this information last night, on 60 Minutes, could he be considered a “Stolen Valor” recipient? In my opinion, YES!

  4. This article is about posers and fakes. So, I will address that issue and my point of view. It seems we have gone far afield of the question Ben asked.

    It should be easy for someone to bring out a poser who served. I have had three incidents where I called out someone. The first was a guy in my neighborhood who was wearing a cap which had on it WWII VET, Korean VET and Vietnam VET. He was obviously not in his late 80’s or 90’s. I just plained asked him why he was wearing the hat? He mumbled something about honoring relatives and I said, please take that hat off, you are not a veteran of those wars. He did and now he just avoids me when he sees me walking my dog.

    The second was a guy wearing a Vietnam hat who was at the home of a friend unloading something from his car. I asked him when and where did he serve after saying I was there in 67-68. His response was, I was in the Navy. When I asked him if he was blue or brown water, he didn’t know what i was talking about. He then made a lame excuse to break off the conversation. My parting words were if you didn’t earn it, don’t wear it. As I watched him walk away, he took off the hat.

    The last guy was a young fellow who came up to my car telling me he was a veteran and needed a few dollars to get back home. (I have disabled vet plates on my car). It took only a couple of questions of where he was stationed, his MOS (he was supposedly Army) and about rank and he was told to get lost.

    The point is, to those who have served honorably and don’t embellish their service, no one likes a poser. I don’t go looking for them and I don’t believe we need poser police (with the possible exception of the guys who go after fake elite force fakers). However, if anyone presents himself as a vet, they should be prepared to back it up.

    • I also have exposed’ fakers. I don’t take it lightly, to have to down-grad an individual. It’s not fun in exposing someone. Maybe they are wanting to help. Who knows. The way their going about it, though, is wrong!
      After the “Disabled Veterans of America” fiasco was exposed a few years ago here in Florida. Things have quieted down. We don’t see that many more ‘fake veterans’. I think the posers know now what their doing IS WRONG!

  5. Dan F, do you not only believe persons who exaggerate their military, as McDonald did last night on a “60 Minute” rerun from 2014, should be held accountable for such actions? I put a comment on yesterday. Which I believe you responded to. As far as civilians are concerned, stating things that did not happen, look at what happened to Brian Williams. He WAS FIRED from his long standing job as a news anchor. Hillary Clinton was ostracized over her exaggerated experience! A fake marine, in Illinois, a few years ago was almost sent to prison for “Attending the Marine Corp Ball” in Chicago. He was in “Full Class A Dress Uniform” he had purchased on-line. It had a $#!Г pot full of medals on it. He got those online also.The only thing that kept him from going to prison was, “he received no compensation for his attendance”! That was according to the news article.
    As far as person’s exaggerating their military service. That ain’t ever going to stop. The only thing we should do is; Don’t ostracize them in public. Get them off to the side. The only persons, I believe, who should be ostracized are the ones in public office. They are the ones who lie on national tv.
    The ones in the local bar is the ones I feel sorry for. They just want some recognition for their service. Even though their going about it in the wrong way.
    So, what do you think?

    • I am not referring to the guys at the VFW telling war stories over a couple of drinks. Are some exaggerated? yes. I am referring to the people who are out and out not veterans or wearing hats pretending to being something they never were or never close to being. I believe in the 2000 census, something like 10 million people claimed to be Vietnam vets when only 2 1/2 million served in country. I think McDonald believes, in his mind, he was in “dangerous situations.” However, his definition and mine are totally different.

    • My biggest concern relevant to this issue is exactly that of public perception. From what I have witnessed I personally was disgusted by the unprofessional, childish and destructive behavior exhibited by those veterans who make it their mission ferreting out these alleged imposters, whose obvious intent is to make themselves larger than life Hero’s through their actions. As far as I am concerned they are a disgrace to the military and veteran community. One does not lift him or herself up in life by victimizing the mentally or emotionally unstable who in desperation concoct fictitious stories in the hopes of garnering a modicum of love and respect from the people in their social circles. As a Veteran I made a commitment to protect, serve and minister to those less fortunate in need of assistance. And that includes these misguided individuals. I am a Guardian and protector, as are those who served with me, We are men and women of Honor, Integrity and Service. Contrary to the characteristic traits of predators who pray on the weak and disadvantaged. Predators have no place amongst the ranks of our Heroic Military and Veteran Community, and I for one would not want the public to view members of the Military and Veteran Communities as predators or bully’s.

      • Imposters are not always benign creatures looking to get some love. They can misrepresent those of us who stood in harms way, creating false truths, just as did John Kerry in 1971. I don’t go out of my way to find imposters, but the few times I found myself subject to obvious fictional bragging I did not hold my tongue. I don’t give a damn about the imposter’s feelings. I spent a year in Oaknoll and Pendleton Naval Hospitals after being medevac’d from I CORP in 68, and lost most of the Marines in my unit. Imposters do not deserve to pretend they walked in my boots.

  6. Personally, i don’t quite understand the reasons on either side of the poser issue. I feel sorry for those who need to find some kind of justification for posing and i feel sorry for those offended by the act since we all know that it wasnt easy, therr were some tears shed, and the lifelong pain is agonizing. I dont carr who posed or who gets offended as I know my service and those that srrved was judt a duty but i want my congressional given benefits for every single day of pain and agony paid back to me.

  7. Years ago I used to run into these ‘Nam vet wannabes out there. That was when it became cool to be a ‘Nam vet. I’ve never said anything to any of them. I just get up and leave or walk away from them. I couldn’t see turning it into a public spectacle.

  8. In the late 60`s early 70`s We called them PX Hero`s, Guy`s buying ribbons & Expert Rifle & Pistol badges Jump wings from the PX. Blousing their travel uniform Boots instead of low Quarters. and Changing out or pinning it on in Airport restrooms. He walked in a Cook or Clerk Came out looking like John Wayne. We laughed it off. We (Most of us white guys) were also, Trying to get haircuts that would`nt give you away as a grunt Desperately trying to “Look Civilian” shedding the uniform at the Airport because If girls thought you had been to Vietnam they were afraid of you like you will snap & go off because they thought And WERE TAUGHT To them we were baby killing nutjobs The Haircut policy was`nt enforced too strictly over there Almost Every black guy had a Shaving profile and had huge Afro`s & Beards The fro sticking out the side of their baseball cap like bozo the clown, White dudes Oiling it down & tucking or even pony tailing & tucking while on duty. Damn near EVERYBODY was trying to look different except the “lifers” (An NCO) Times have changed. Then it was just another dipshit trying to look like bad meat. Never thought it would be illegal. We took it as a joke. nobody gave a damn.

    • I remember those days. I e.t.s.ed 31 July 1969 came “back to the world” 15 January 1969! I even went so far as to buy a fake goatee. Didn’t want anyone to know I’d been there.
      Before I went there, I’d met a beautiful woman. We were young and we wanted to wait till I got back before making any plans. When her parents found out where I was transferred, they called my parents and disallowed her to ever see me again. Brothers and Sisters, that broke my heart. I still think about it occasionally. Whay might have been.
      My going over broke up my family also. My sister was against the war. She wouldn’t talk to me again, ever. It’s been 46 years.
      So, that’s just some of the stuff I put up with.
      I think, as does some of my friend, If we hadn’t been treated the way were treated then. Maybe, just maybe, our PTSD wouldn’t be so freakin’ bad.
      U.S.Army 1 August 1966-31 July 1969 (Vietnam 15 Jan 1968-69).
      U.S.Navy 31 Sept. 1975 – 15 May 1982 (“Operation Fluid Drive” 20 June 1976, the evacuation of civilians at the Beirut, Lebanon Airport.)

  9. I have a strong feeling this is going to be a ‘topic’ which will divide us. Some will say, call the posers out. While others will say, leave them to themselves. They will receive what they sow.
    Others will get up and walk away. While others might confront them. Some might even be violent in their actions. (This I think is wrong.) Referencing the video from this blog. Where the young ‘poser’ was slapped.
    There’s no right or wrong answer. It has to come from a person’s heart and soul over what they will, or will not, do.
    I’m torn over this issue. Something tells me to confront the idiots. While at other times, I’ll walk away and let them spew out their B/S.
    As far as our “elected officials, appointed officials and professional civilians” go, if they spew this B/S over the airwaves (tv, radio and newspapers) then, in my opinion, they deserve everything they get. Don’t make things up to make yourself look better to the “viewing public”!
    As far as the “average joe”, at the corner bar, I’m with most people, l’d just walk away and laugh at his or her stupidity…..

  10. Boy, I’d love to tell you what it was like up in Laos, Ben. No uniforms. No Geneva Conventions Cards- USAID credentials. I’m sure I could be “outed” until 2020 when my non-disclosure agreements all expire. Fortunately, Battle Creek Bob induced me to get my medals before they shredded the proof. I don’t wear them in public for the exact same reasons above. Besides, coffee at Starbucks still costs the same no matter how many combat Vs for valor you have. Congrats on the knot tying. I wrote it up. https://asknod.wordpress.com/2015/06/29/nova-news-gretchen-and-ben-tie-the-knot/

    • Asknod, you’re so damn correct. All of my “Brother’s” feel the same- no matter how many medals a veteran is awarded, those and $1.69+tax might get us a cup of coffee.

      • A “shot” of coffee, if at any of the Starbucks that are in many VA Medical Centers…that’s a slap right there…tasty, but outrageously high priced coffee at a place where the patrons do not generally pay half that for a whole big can of coffee…no, it’s there for the pariah on Veterans, the employees at the VAMC, that’s my take and rant over and will go drink my coffee!

        For real…all the misspent energies in calling out these posing veterans could be redirected in all we Vets collectively making the VA be all it can be…and that’s coming from an Air Force guy here…:-)

        Congrats, Ben!

        Anyone trying to reopen the VA in Tomah, VA OIG concluding nothing was done that contributed to any deaths…or something along those lines, correct me if wrong, but this needs looked into if true. Think I read it on Stripes, or elsewhere.

      • Just a note on the Starbucks which is the sole concessionaire at VAMCs for coffee shops. A couple of years ago, the VA awarded the contract to Starbucks and threw out dozens of small businessman who had for years given vets a square deal and good service. At my VAMC they are right across from the cafeteria and charge double what the cafeteria charges. I wonder who at the VA got paid off?

      • I like buying a Starbucks coffee at the VA. I don’t remember any local businesses kicked out of the VA in SC, NC, GA or FL.
        If you don’t like Starbucks, you can get a cup of coffee in the VA cafeteria or from a machine. I doubt several local vendors were terminated, at least I cannot find any information about it.

      • First of all, I really don’t appreciate you questioning the veracity of my comment. May I suggest you Google: VA Starbucks contract. They are run under VCS (the Canteen Service) and are called Patriot Brews which in turn has a license from Starbucks.

        From an article dated May 22, 2013 in Fox Small Business Center:

        “Over the past five years, the PatriotBrew initiative has converted 30 coffee shop contractors to PatriotBrews. Papachrisanthou says when the vendors’ contracts are up, they’re given notice that their shops will change over to VCS management. At that point, owners and their employees are offered the opportunity to become employees of PatriotBrew.”

        At my VAMC, we get coffee at the cafeteria which is self serve (not from a machine). The point is, the VAMC threw out vendors who had contracts for years. Since when does the government run anything better than the private sector? And if you like two buck plus Starbucks, I really don’t care, as that too, wasn’t the point.

        Your apology is accepted.

      • Dan, I appreciate the information verifying Starbucks moving into VA and displacing other vendors. I wouldn’t have questioned your first comment if you provided the same references. No apology, but thanks for the information. I may be in the minority but I like the addition in the VA. In Little Rock and Columbia (SC) vets have a greater variety of food and drinks AND the prices of the canteen remain lower than non- VA food courts I have visited.

      • Even the damn ‘food courts’ at VAs are expensive. And the food ain’t that good either. The wife and I ate there ONCE. She said there’s no way we were to eat there again! She also said it wasn’t that clean either. That was at the Lake Baldwin (Orlando) VA Clinic. Has anyone here ever ate there?

    • “we hope to soon be sending him lots of disgruntled Veterans with a VA axe to grind.” That is just as bad as the VA. And you wonder who is making money off of who. I will do my part in making sure the veterans I know are aware of who they get for representation.

      • If Vet attorneys ever start making money off of Vets, you let me know. Most I know end up working for a 1/4 of what a dedicated ambulance chaser/personal injury attorney gets. Fact, is they are more rare than a cop when you need one. That’s why Veterans Service Organizations lose 85% of their cases- no law degree. 30 hours of training on how to fill out a 526ez. By all means, sir. Do your part. Shout it from every rooftop. Meanwhile, the Vets we counsel will keep on winning.

      • Which VSO’s require just 30 hours of training to become fully accredited representatives? Any representative who wants to do nothing more than fill out forms should be avoided and reported, especially if you are involved in an appeal.

        Evidence wins cases, not having a law degree. If lawyers have a higher success rate than VSO’s it is expected. Lawyers can pick cases to accept, while VSO’s are required to represent anyone who chooses them. There are quality differences between VSO’s and between individuals of any VSO. Keep in mind the number of clearly and erroneously denied claims at VARO’s is less than 1%. Cases that are allowed by the BVA are usually judgment calls where good legal argument CAN make a difference. You should feel secure in getting such an argment from whichever perrson personally handles your case at the BVA, but that is not the case.

      • One thing many overlook and that is the obvious. Statistically, most Veterans utilize free VSOs. VSOs are not trained in the art of developing claims. If you doubt my word, look at the BVA case files. The majority are denied because “the Veteran” failed to bring in nexus evidence required by Caluza (1994). Since he is legally represented by a VSO service rep., the legal obligation falls to them. They rarely do ergo the Vet loses. When you lose at the BVA and appeal to the CAVC, you can no longer introduce more evidence. This hiccup sinks more Vets’ claims than you can imagine. The free legal help suddenly becomes a liability. However, the attorneys who take these cases-for free in most cases- have little to work with because the VSO rep. mismanaged it so severely. If by luck the attorney manages to eke out a vacate/set aside and remand, s/he does not always relish a long fight to rebuild that which the VSO screwed up. To compare attorneys to VSOs is rather disingenuous. However, comparing their relative success or failure is no contest. VSOs fought tooth and nail to keep attorneys out of this arena for a century. The reason is simple. VSOs thrive off the money they get for each and every Power of Attorney they execute from a Veteran. VA pays them $250 for each. Yes. Lawyers can pick cases to accept but they are Officers of the Court. If they so much as suspect fraudulence, they must retreat or decline to accept it. Similarly, if they are going to invest $5,000 of their own money in a Independent Medical Opinion (IMO) for a Vet with a less than 50/50 chance of winning his claim, that is a strong inducement not to take it.
        The majority of Service reps require a minimum of 40 hours to begin their jobs. This varies little from VSO to VSO. They are required to take refresher courses every year and get a minimum of 10-20 hours on the clock. Since VA itself enforces these standards and requires documentation, they, in essence, are the ones ensuring mediocre representation-a win for the VA and a liability for the Vet.

        More Veterans are winning now with true legal help since 2007 and it is born out by statistics. Line graphs of VSO successes are flat and remarkably static at 15-18 % since the 1940s. Attorneys, even after VSOs manage to hamburger the claim, are winning at the 22-24 percentile. Think about it. If you had a choice between a law student with 40 hours under his/her belt versus a real law dog with a 3 year Juris Doctorate on top of a Bachelor’s degree, which would you rather have? A free one with no knowledge or one who will work for peanuts and have a greater chance of winning? Of course, everyone has free will. Free always sounds good until you get the BVA denial. When the 79% who lose at the BVA discover that their VSO rep is not accepted to practice at the Court of Vet Appeals, suddenly “free” appears to be a chimera.

      • Excellent post. I had three VSOs on my original claim and NOD. I fired all three of them because all they did was file forms. One organization even accepted a POA without having a local representative. Another, never sent my POA to the VA. I ended up handling my own claim and NOD where I submitted volumes of documents, independent medical opinions and provided information in the NOD where the VA failed in its duty to assist, as well as citing applicable sections of 38 C.F.R. I don’t recommend that course, it was what I was forced to do.

        However, It is not just a matter of free representation, the average vet doesn’t know what a good VSO should be doing to bring the case to a successful conclusion.

      • It’s sad but true a lawyer is the way to go, for those that have claims for ptsd, I suggest you contact Kenneth carpenter out of Topeka Kansas, after fourty years of hearing lies, excuses from the va, I hired him and not only was he able to get my disability, he was able to get the va to provide him with my long lost records. He will only take a case if he thinks he can win, he’s listed in the phone book under carpenter charter

      • The legal obligation falls to the veteran,not the VSO. The reason virtually all nexus appeals are denied is there is NO nexus in fact to establish. If the only reason these cases failed was the VSO failed to develop them then there would be an avalanche of malpractice claims flooding the VSO group. Some VSO’s provide lengthy, comprehensive training in all aspects of veteran representation, not only before the VA, but SSA appeals, active duty PEB appeals, discharge upgrad applications and military board of corrections petitions (DAV, PVA). Most do not. But, unless the viability of clams have changed since I retired the majority (overwhelming) of cases ending up at BVA are without merit to succeed. If issues were obviously weighted so much in the veteran’s favor, they would have been granted by the VARO.

      • Again, we are blaming the veteran.

        Most veterans do not have a clue what the word nexus means. If all a VSO does is file paperwork and gives little time to helping the vet develop the claim, the outcome will be as you stated at the BVA. The VAs duty to assist can be a joke depending on the rater working the claim. The vet trusts the VSO and it all goes down the toilet years from the original claim date. In fact when I asked DAV national what they do for a vet who files an NOD, I was told, “We will represent you at the BVA hearing.” Everyone with half a brain knows you should go for the NOD with a DRO and have two bites at the apple.

        Can a VSO be sued, if he is providing a service free of charge?

      • Dan,
        Yes a VSO can be sued if the vet can prove he lost out on benefits because the VSO failed to provide basic services. For example if a vet comes to me and signs a NOD, understanding it is my responsibility to submit it to the VA timely. I put it in my desk to process the next morning but forget, then go on vacation and by the time I discover it is still in my possession the one year preiod from notice of the decision being appealed has lapsed. The vet must reopen his claim, and he does so ultimately receiving an increased evaluation. The VSO is likely going to be on the hook for the prior period of time that was lost due to VSO negligence. The fact the VSO provided service without a fee is not relevant. I am not sure about outright malpractice since the difference in quality of representation is so vast between the best vs the worst VSO.

        Unfortunately too many claims are handled by local service officers (VSO or County) whose training IS almost ccertainly limited to filling out forms and who don’t have a clue what the word nexus means. If you have an appeal issue with merit, that is when you need a VSO with high level of training and skill AND WHO WANTS TO GO ALL OUT TO DEVELOP THE CASE. At least if you sign a power of attorney with the DAV or PVA you know they got the training. Whether the representative cares is another matter.

        Both DAV and PVA have Wash DC staffs responsive to complaints and (when I retired in 2000) money for instances where a medical opinion is necessary to support an issue. I recall very few cases that went to BVA that were allowed there because we kept the case in the VARO until we got enough evidence for the VARO to grant the benefit. The system is different from what I am told, and the job of the representative involves less personal contact with VA Rating Board personnel, which if true, is not good for the veteran. I don’t know this for a fact, so I will end now

      • So if I understand what you are saying correctly, 85% of all Veterans’ claims are fraudulent? The VA’s duty to assist is a time-honored tradition that doesn’t apply to VSO reps? Did you ever read Roger Schafrath’s adventures with VA Secretary Derwinski? Perhaps a little research on your part might enlighten you. A VA litigator at the CAVC admitted that VA was in error 70% on just the cases reaching the CAVC. How does that comport with your assessment of the appeals reaching the BVA are without merit? I respect any man’s explanation if the evidence supports it. Your argument is without merit since the statistics clearly show the opposite. The CAVC receives approximately 4,200 appeals a year. If the claims were without merit, how is it that 70% are decided in favor of the Veteran? Remember, you said “evidence wins cases, not having a law degree”. As for who handles your appeal at the VA, it is a team (of 3) of various VSO reps not a single individual. Read the charters of all the Big Six and you will discover that the VSOs are there to help and to assist VA. It appears you have a dearth of knowledge on how this all works. Nowhere in any judicial system in America are you denied the services of a Vet lawyer unless and until you get denied. Would that be what you refer to as nonadversarial and Veteran friendly?

      • I am not familiar with current stats at BVA or Court of Veterans Appeals. I suspect any case that involves a Remand is countd as a win for the vet, which is similar to a criminal court remand. The reason for Remand is almost always about procedural error, not reflective of ultimate success on the underlying issue.

        I did not accuse any veteran of fraud. Rather, their case goes through the entire appeal process without ever having the evidence necessary to succeed, because there is NO SUCH EVIDENCE. 25 years of experience is what I rely on for my opinions, not interviews with anyone else. Unless procedure has changed only one Rating specialist reviews and writes the proposed decision, which may or may not be required for review by one other specialist. It used to be a Rating Board doctor also had to review the case and sign it, but that has not been the case for 20 or so years. Once the proposed decision is signed by Rating personnel, it and the claims folder is set on the VSO table for review. If the VSO rep finds nothing wrong with the decision then he/she signs off and it goes to the adjudicator to input and notify the vet by letter. It is impractical to have 3 people all reviw the case independently. You think the system is slow now?

        I don’t care who says the purpose of the VSO is to help the VA. Of course VSO’S help the VA by taking care of interviews, phone calls and filing claims the VA would otherwise have toconfront. That is why VSO’s get offices inside the VARO. Co-location benefits everyone. It allows VSO access to claims folders, adjudication personnel and many other benefits. in my experience the VA was not the enemy. Employees cooperated with us as much as we with them. Very few decisions were outright erroneous, less than 1% in my opinion. When I discovered a clear error and brought it to the Rating Specialist attention, the VA corrected it. Some cases involved current decisions, and others as far back as WWII.

        If VSO’S are not being advocates then they are betraying us all. I won’t argue against your stats. I am taking the position that the VA does (or did) a good job as far as properly rating disabilities AND VA employees, many of whom are vets, try to do the right thing. Lastly, based on my years at a VARO working for a VSO, the great majority of complaints I received from vets that the VA was screwing them by denying their repeated claims, were misplaced. The VA decisions were in almost all cases correct. We did win many cases like those by developing them beyond what what was done by the vet and VA. If you don’t get a rep willing to do that then you may not succeed, not because the VA isscrewing you over, but because it cannot do such devvelopment, like chasing down service buddies or requesting an expert medical opinion.

        I know what my experience tells me. If you dispute what I say then I cannot help that. If you want to find fault then you surely will succeed in that effort.

      • Find fault, don’t you think it’s faulty when a veteran was shot in the head, the va keeps stating they need more evidence and then the veteran finds out the va had the evidence of the veteran being shot all along and telling the veteran, their records were destroyed in a fire, knowing that was not true and all of a sudden they are found once an attorney gets involved and the veterans forced to endure fourty years of hell from not receiving the proper care and leading the veteran to believe their records were destroyed. Where’s the justice in that and then after the veterans attorney finds the real proof that the va hid those records and the veterans only getting back pay from when the attorney filed the inquiry. Justify that. What would be the back pay from 1973 ,when the veteran first applied and that too ending up lost and the one after that and the veteran given 100 percent disability, which he should have been rated 100 percent. Since when he got out of the service. The veteran unable to get the care he needed due to the va stating they need more evidence over and over turning the veteran down. Forcing the veteran to treat themselves using alcohol and that treatment destroying their lives, with family and all other aspects of alcoholism, I had a psychologist write in my official records, Mr g should not be punished for his willful drinking, as he was only doing so to self medicate. Once I received the proper care and treatment, I have not touched one drop and been called a success story, after fourty years of hell. Do you care or does the va care I had to suffer all those years. No they don’t, after I got my disability, the va proceed to punish me further by accusing me of being disruptive on many occasions and refuse to provide any proof to anyone that this actually occurred. They refuse to admit that they don’t have any proof of anything, that’s not totally true, the va admits, they have no evidence at all, but someone made a verbal report, did not have to provide any proof, just say it. If you have no proof, how in the world can you punish someone and then not give the person accused a chance to defend themselves or provide that person with the evidence used to punish him. Can’t anyone see that this veteran was railroaded and his good name restored and hearsay banned from being used as fact. The va is not above the law and have no right to infringe on anyone’s civil and constitutional rights and the va has a responsibility to make that veteran whole and apologize TO the veteran.

      • James,
        It sounds like you got the shaft. If I gave the impression that I believe the VA is always correct or ated properly that is not the case. VA employees got caught creating false beneficiary accounts and then awarding compensation to an outside party. Several others were fired and imprisoned as well in different cases. I cannot account for the VA failure in your case. It appears to be the worst possible circumstance for you. It makes no sense why someone would deprive you of benefits, when NOT doing so clearly created more problems for that person, the VA and for you than just processing the claim properly. I am glad you DID get it resolved before taking your own or someone else’s life, something I suspect crossed your mind too many times to count. Was any single person identified as a primary thorn in your side all that time?

      • I pulled the stats from VA’s website. It clearly shows that VSOs routinely (to this day) arrive at the BVA with no IMO for their Vets and beg for the Benefit of the Doubt. We all know evidence is king so why would anyone (let alone a VSO rep) enter into an appeal without the requisite tools essential to win? You imply they have no nexus and are mountebanks seeking false entitlement. This has been boilerplate VA policy for over sixty years-i.e. the Vet is at fault. I filed in 1989 and 1994 for my benefits. In 2008, VA suddenly remembered they forgot to complete it and gave me P&T-but only from the date of reopening in 2007. After 8 long years they finally chieu hoi’d at the CAVC and gave me the 1994 date and half of what I asked for. After another two years, they finally caved in on the Agent Orange diseases, the Special Monthly Compenstaion S to 1994 and restoration of an illegal CUE clawback of an earlier rating. The only reason that happened is because I filed an Extraordinary Writ. If successful CUE claims only constitute 1%, perhaps Veterans have given up and walked away in disgust. Remember, an unappealed claim goes in the win column for VA. The Seattle VA has managed to lose a Form 9 and a rebuttal to a SSOC and accused me of never filing them. I produced the Certified mail receipts proving otherwise and no apology was forthcoming. They merely reinstated the claim and continued the denials. VA is out of control and there is no oversight. Each VARO is a fiefdom with its own King. If I am just one example of justice gone awry, I would not have begun advocating for Veterans. Sadly, I am the rule rather than the exception. I conservatively estimate that two trips to the BVA (losses) followed by a “Joint Motion for Partial Remand” (JPMR) which netted me almost $400,000 dollars, constitutes quite an expenditure over 26 years in a futile effort to deny me my due. The evidence was there all along yet they did not “discover” the error until the Rule 33 conference at the CAVC. Suddenly, it was the VA who begged for the remand, not me. I wanted an outright reversal. You are welcome to access the docket search at the CAVC website to ascertain the particulars of my case. CAVC #1 was case # 12-1980. Case # 2 was 15-0112. My problems are just the tip of the iceberg yet you imply it is the exception rather than the rule. Were that true, you and I would not be having this conversation.
        Sincerely
        Alex Graham
        USAF/Air America1969-1973
        RVN, Laos, Thailand May 1970- May 1972

      • Put plenty in bodybags! Honorable service! The subject matter is not about money, it’s about putting in the face to face work of saving the lives of fragile veterans who lose their lives from the effects of hard core close quarters combat. No forms or hours needed. Just integrity without the “disgruntled veteran” characterizations. Hope you understand, there are a lot of people who put in footwork on the personal level with these veterans who are truly afraid to come to the VA. They do not even bring up the subject of benefits or anything. When you go visit some all of their medals and ribbons are stored away somewhere (long forgotten) Had plenty of rooftop experience BTW (HOG)

  11. Channel 9 news at 4:05 pm, 29 June 2015. it looks as though we just lost another ‘brother’ to suicide this afternoon. He was a retired “U.S. Army veteran with 20 years active service”. Neighbors saw a house engulfed in fire in Melbourne, Florida. When they tried to help, a “gunshot was heard”. The neighbors again tried to help. The flames had gotten to bad by then. Neighbors who knew the vet said; “(he) had been suffering with ptsd for some time!”

    • If you live in central Florida, and are reading this, please turn your tv to channel 9 news, WFTV, Orlando, Florida. There’s another story concerning a retired veteran coming up.

    • “Authorities have not confirmed yet” if the vet in Melbourne committed suicide! The story continues.

  12. Sniveling Tea Baggers causing decent for the 1 percenter’s so they don’t have to pay Veteran’s for their obligations. It’s no different from the KKK: it’s the 1 percenters causing distractions in masses while they steal our money and health from services rendered. Only the real STUPID play their games.

    • This deserved a reply because it’s so lonesome! You’re absolutely right, it’s a waste of friggin time and is an embarrassment to the soldier, the vet and the poser. Let con artists be con artists, they probably don’t have any money anyway and if you’re a sucker for a man in uniform, well..

    • I recall a time years ago when my family and I were going through a very large financial disaster and we had our electricity disconnected going on two weeks when I finially attempted to get help from several online veteran organizations only to get slandered and blacklisted from all but one of them , due to one mans quest to prove I stole Valor. He decided to take it upon himself to point out the error that the Navy made on my dd214 which says I will be returning to Omaha New Jersey rather than Omaha Nebraska. wtf…like this was my plan was to create a fake dd214 and request financial help from good people. Anyways this man showed my so called “Fake” dd214 to dozens of organizations through email blasting and kept me and my family from getting the help we needed for over three more weeks then finally someone actually had the initiative to check up on me and find out I was real deal. I want thank that man for adding insult to injury and damn near causing me to go balistic. I digress but not before I mention Christopher Fitzpatrick and his Veterans Plus organization for making my life ten times more miserable than it already was. To this day I am still unable to attend veteran family retreats due to his slander. [email protected]@@

  13. What Bob McDonald did it in front of the whole USA, double standard don’t you think, the va makes fake allegations all the time and then get bonuses for lying. Only in America.

  14. Dear Sir:

    I think it is self defeating when fellow veterans engage in this type of behavior, that is just the kind of behavior the adversary expects to accomplish and capitalizes on, divide and conquer, these servicemen who engaged, in this behavior do ot realize what damage they inflict on our cause to improve our lot.

    I hope they realize this and exercise self restraint; anyway the cheaters will be uncovered and be dealt with appropriately here after, without undermining our cause.

    Yours for God and Country
    Frank P. Calderon

  15. Just happen to me walking my support dog about a block from MCD San Diego. I had obsolete came trousers and cover. Had an active duty accuse me of not being a Marine and asking questions. I”m patient and answered them but he always had another. I had my name tape on them and if so want to were then I am. I did my time. It nearly got to blows when he back down. I’m tired of it and going to involve the police in future encounters.

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