MMQB: What might West Point do with Your Disability?

West Point Ideology vs Veterans

After having three heads of VA this past decade be past West Point grads, I think we can safely assume the answer, “It ain’t looking good.”

Yesterday, the Wall Street Journal published an article written by West Point graduate, and now West Point professor, Daniel Gade.

This was a follow up to a presentation Gade provided to some well-meaning philanthropists titled, “What Veterans Really Need.”

Yes, Dan Gade, please tell us veterans what we really need… since you aren’t a veteran yet?

Come to find out, if Dan Gade had his way, disabled veterans would just get a swift kick to the ass. That’d be his “West Point” style solution for all of us disabled veterans.

Welcome to this week’s Monday Morning Quarterback. I’m hopping pissed after watching veterans benefits get attacked by these DOD hacks as of late.

I read the article last night and stewed about it longer than normal, so today’s MMQB is more of an afternooner.

It’s fascinating how these “non-scholars” are being elevated to positions of authority across all media platforms to rain hate on veterans benefits. It resembles what many have called “The Echo Chamber,” a creation of the Koch Brothers to get policy changes done at a fraction of the cost when compared to the benefit to their bottom line.

Not sure if you all noticed, but I sure as hell have seen a recent slew of news, or rather, public relations articles, come out against veterans disability recently. They would be news if the topics discussed weren’t so clearly part of a multipronged PR campaign to crash VA benefits and the extremely large union that works for it.

Most recently, Wall Street Journal – India (WTF, India?!) published a piece written by Lt. Col. Dan Gade about how the current VA disability system causes “perverse incentives.”

Most lay people cannot read it without a subscription. So, unfortunately for us, it will get disseminated to all thought leaders who do have subscriptions without a chance for rebuttal from the veteran community.

Before Lt. Col. Dan Gade came along, I watched a video from Concerned Veterans for America come out against the current administration in favor of completely redoing VA benefits – be aware that you need to beware when anyone says this.

Before them, a veteran and lawyer was interviewed in a Stars and Stripes hit piece published by Tom Philpott – the claim was that veterans getting disability for sleep apnea are basically scamming the system. “Attorney urges Congress to end sleep apnea claims ‘abuse’”.

I could go on and on, but before I do, let’s talk about some statistics.

West Point Statistics that will Shock You

Facial Features Predictor of Later Military Rank

I know, some of you may have hoped I would write about the recent West Point scandal of its rugby team dubbed, “Butt Plugs and Bitches: The Emails West Point Doesn’t Want You to See.”

No, instead I’m going to try to keep this a bit classier (wink).

I was a bit surprised about this one on facial features being linked to higher career progression in the Army via West Point.

All along, I assumed people in the higher end of the military were promoted for their ability to kiss ass and to sometimes do work well. Come to find out, that is not actually the case, at least not all the time.

While performance does matter in the middle stage of a West Point grad’s career, performance matters less relative to appearance earlier and later in their career. Instead, being a kiss ass, doing a decent job, and being devastatingly handsome are recipes for success in the Army for West Point graduates.

In an older research article I dug up last night after reading Gade’s sack of B/S, I decided to see what I could find about West Point and its famous alumni… and I’m not referring to Edgar Allen Poe.

According to the journal article, “Facial Dominance of West Point Cadets as a Predictor of Later Military Rank,” the researchers concludes what we all knew, that actual performance matters less when climbing the ranks as a military officer.

By measuring differences between graduation photos and photos of the mean as successful generals much later in life, they were able to determine that men who resemble Zoolander type features fair better than their lesser good looking counterparts.

“Have you ever wondered if there was more to life, other than being really, really, ridiculously good looking?” (Derek Zoolander). Apparently dashing good looks are just what you need to put you past the competition in the Army.

The following hypothesis proved relatively accurate:

“Following our hypothesis that facial dominance might — deliberately or not — be regarded as an important factor for any high leadership position but irrelevant for “middle management” positions, we expect that face may influence a man’s chances to be admitted to war college, and for the sequence of promotions from lieutenant colonel to four-star general in the channel opened by that admission, but may be irrelevant for the promotion from lieutenant colonel to colonel for those men who did not go to war college.”

Here’s what this means. The Army values good looks over performance in at least a subconscious manner. If this holds across the board for all military academies, this would tell you that the general at the top of whatever maybe is not the most qualified, but he is definitely the best looking.

How does this play out in VA Land?

When it comes to VA leadership, for example, Secretary Rick Shinseki is a West Point alumni. Former Secretary James Peake (07-09) and Former Secretary Jim Nicholson (05-07) are West Point graduates, too. Former Secretary Anthony Principi is a Naval Academy alumni (01-05).

All in, Academy boys from the Army and Navy have been at the help of this Titanic we call VA for the past 11 years (excluding one “acting” Secretary for two months).

I have no real conclusion to draw beyond this, but I thought the inference was rather amusing. At least, if nothing else, these guys will be incredibly good looking while they go down with the ship, along with our disability benefits.

Why the VA Is Buried in Disability Claims…

According to West Point’s Dan Gade

In Dan Gade’s recent article, “Why the VA Is Buried in Disability Claims,” Mr. Gade points the finger square at veterans – where he and most people from his ilk at West Point and within certain political circles feel it rightly belongs.

Here is a little about Gade.

He is, to my knowledge, a current officer in the US Army and not a disabled veteran – at least until he retires. He is an amputee and was injured in combat twice. He is a West Point graduate and now teaches within West Point’s social sciences department. He holds a PhD from the University of Georgia. After his injury, he did some work for George W.’s White House. He is probably a good guy, but I will still rip up his comments on veterans disability.

I’ll summarize what Gade’s article says and what the Wall Street Journal blindly printed (or maybe it was not so blind, at all).

According to Gade, the problem with disability is that it robs disabled veterans who can work of their chance to feel incentivized to work. The current system of allowing small disabilities that are not serious, like amputation, leave veterans unfairly trapped in a state of needless victimhood. Instead, the backlog problem is there because veterans file repeat claims for benefits based on small disabilities that plugs up the whole system.

That’s right, folks. Here are some people who you mistakenly might have blamed for the backlog, if you follow Gade’s model of assigning fault:

  • It is not the fault of George W.
  • It is not the fault of these current longest wars in US history.
  • It is not the fault of VA’s inability to diagnosis Agent Orange problems 30 years ago.
  • It is not the fault of the DOD for spraying Agent Orange.
  • It is not he fault of DOD using uranium weaponry.
  • It is not the fault of the Army for experimenting on military personnel…

Be sure to send these guys an apology for feeling like they screwed you over.

It is the veterans’ damn fault for getting hurt while serving his or her country. It is further his or her fault for filing so many “small” disability claims. That is the problem, according to Dan Gade.

It is as if Gade is saying, “SHAME… ON… YOU… America’s Veterans.”

Now that I have severely chastised you for using the benefits you were entitled to use, if you were fortunate enough to receive them after being wrongly denied by VA in the first place, let’s focus on the real deal.

My Take on Dan Gade’s Article

Dan’s research, if anything, is quite cliché. It is a rehash of all the crap we have heard before about welfare, foodstamps, social security, and other welfare systems that serve as a safety net for people who are down and out.

According to people in that camp, the law, as established by Congress and interpreted by the Department of Veterans Affairs, allows too many veterans to get away with filing legal claims for injuries they suffered while on Active Duty.

On the flip side of this, perhaps Dan Gade should focus his attentions on things that could even more greatly reduce the disability backlogs:

  • Stop making disabled veterans.
  • Stop going to war in foreign countries we have never heard of before
  • Stop spending tax dollars on bloated defense spending

But I fear his agenda has little to do with reducing government spending. Instead, he appears to just be concerned with spending less to care for disabled veterans.

Here is my breakdown of his Wall Street Journal article.  This article is merely an excerpt of a longer piece he wrote for the Right Wing magazine “National Affairs” titled “A Better Way to Help Veterans.” However, if you read the italicized below, it covers basically what he is saying in a shorter amount of time. I provide my commentary between each paragraph:

“The reality is that the majority of veterans’ disability claims are for post-traumatic stress disorder, depression or minor physical conditions, including common age-related ailments such as hearing loss, lower-back pain and arthritis. Furthermore, 62% of the claims in the backlog of unprocessed claims are not first-time claimants, but are from veterans reapplying for increased benefits.”

Dan fails to explain in detail what “minor physical conditions” means, however I think he is basically referring to anything less than the loss of a limb. I wonder if those at West Point would like to define that for us?

“The financial structure of the claims process gives veterans further incentive to make claims. By getting a disability adjusted upward to 90% from 70%, a veteran will gain an additional $500 per month. It should come as no surprise, then, that many veterans will appeal or refile their claims in hopes of getting a higher disability rating. There are so many conditions that the VA dubs disabilities that the average veteran in the system now claims more than eight conditions as “disabling.” The average during the post-World War II era was one or two.”

Here, Gade really misses the point. The reason veterans apply for the increase is for one of two reasons. First, VA may have violated their due process rights in some way, and awarded the veteran a lower rating than she deserved. Or, second, the veteran’s condition got worse or was more properly diagnosed as technology improved.

Further, Gade is implying veterans are more dishonest (malingering) today than before because they are filing more disabilities. Let’s get real. 1 in 3 injured personnel in Vietnam died. Now, due to medical advances, the number is around 1 in 10. This means there will be more claims and more claimants, in part because these medical advances are also allowing us to more readily diagnosis conditions that went undetected before.

In just 20 years, we have seen vast improvements in body imaging with the MRI. What VA used to get away with denying after saying, “Suck it up, you’re too young for injuries like that,” because the imaging tech was low. Now, veterans can prove spinal injuries in a way that previously were impossible, such as through a dynamic standing MRI that shows how gravity impacts your spine.

It would also appear that access to information is a primary cause of the increased number of claims due to the Internet, as well. Prior to the Internet, veterans had little access to information about their claims and medical diagnosis. Only after talking to someone on a VFW bar stool could a veteran learn from the experiences of others. Now, we have chat rooms, websites and much more. While Gade calls this increase a bad thing, he is most certainly mistaken. It is actually great because, for the first time in history, America is being held accountable for the full impact of war on its veterans.

“By categorizing minor conditions as disabilities, the process threatens to become a kind of stealthy welfare system, where those with minor conditions might feather their nests at the expense of both taxpayers and truly disabled veterans trapped behind them in a line that stretches over the horizon. This also harms the veterans who are being told the lie that they are “disabled” and being paid to believe it. Sadly, this process can decrease veterans’ work incentives and dull their ability to contribute to society after military service.”

Here, Gade is rather clueless and is insulting 3 million veterans all at once. I assume most disabled veterans wished their bodies and minds functioned as good as they did before military service. I sure wish the military did not experiment on me or give me poor health care that left me disabled. But, that’s not the case.

Would Gade suggest that Senator’s with disabilities have stuck an extra feather or two in their own nests at taxpayer expense? Last I checked, Senator McCain owned some 10 houses along side his beer baroness, and he is a 100% disabled veteran.

“The good news is that a small number of simple steps would result in a more just, streamlined and efficient claims system. First, the VA’s authorizing legislation should be updated so that only true disabilities are compensated. There is no moral or financial reason why minor or age-related conditions should be labeled as disabilities or compensated as such. Of course, the VA should continue to treat veterans for their service-connected conditions of whatever severity, but the era of labeling a veteran “disabled” for age-related degeneration should end.”

Who would get to define “true disabilities”? I bet West Point would love a crack at that one. I can think of a few reasons why US has a moral obligation to compensate veterans when the DOD experimented on them. Or, when they were contaminated by toxins. Further, Gade seems to miss the mark on disabilities that, when taking in combination with other injuries, are quite profound in impact to the veteran.

“Second, the claims currently in the queue should be prioritized. First-time claims should move to the front of the line so that seriously injured veterans can get necessary assistance.”

I think there should be no “front of the line.” VA should process the claims in a timely manner within 4 months, period. If this were done, and done correctly, there would be no problem. However, 60 percent of denied claims are denied with errors. Over 70 percent of successful claims at the Veterans Court are found to be so terrible – meaning VA’s justification for the earlier denial – that VA is forced to pay the attorney’s fees.

“Third, the focus of the entire system should shift to retraining, rehabilitating and reintegrating veterans into the workforce. Those with serious disabilities should be compensated for their pain and reduced quality of life, but they should also be encouraged to work. Paying veterans to stop working is the wrong course for veterans and for broader American society.”

Dan Gade seems to mistakenly believe that the current system does not encourage fully disabled veterans from working. While this is true for Individual Unemployability, it is not true for all other veterans.

Gade indicates that these veterans should be pushed to go through Vocational Rehabilitation. However, because that program is padding its numbers, they will not take veterans with more severe disabilities. This is a policy problem, not a veteran problem. I know of hundreds of veterans who have written to me through the years saying VA denied them Voc Rehab because they were IU. These are veterans who wanted to work but felt that training was need to get them back into the labor market. In those instances, VA just said, “No. Go away.”

“The real crisis is not a backlog of claims; it’s that the current system is focusing on the wrong goals. Instead of working to push the maximum number of claims through the system, the VA should take a step back and ask what we really owe our veterans.”

Hey Dan, we owe our veterans their constitutional rights to due process. Unfortunately, veterans have not been getting that for 70 years.

Disability benefits for veterans is a historical component of western civilization dating back to before the Romans. Hell, even pirates had their own disability system. Now, we in this country have also had a system in place for 300 years. While it does need an update, let’s not point the finger at those who have been injured and are veterans.

What Veterans Really Need – A Dan Gade Address

I also thought you should view this fella in action during a Philanthropy RoundTable.

Watch Gade’s keynote address. He basically tells the audience that the current VA disability system cause veterans to pursue “perverse incentives” and that those incentives should be done away with.

Ask yourself, if he were getting paid to say these things, and he is, who would be the kind of people paying him for his research?

According to Gade, “If you want veterans to be unemployed… or to say they are sicker than they are there is no better system than the one we have right now.”

Gade goes on to define things like “Hero Treatment”:

1. Hero Treatment: “Hero treatment is this non-monetary transfer of things like concert tickets… and all that stuff treats these recovering veterans like they are heroes. So, they are unwilling, or just kind of scared about leaving that treatment setting and getting on with their lives.”

Here is one of Gade’s prescriptions, “That before you claim that you are unemployable that you have to at least attempt to go through Vocational Rehabilitation.”

He went on to summarize the political issues surrounded the disability benefits quagmire, “The Right doesn’t want to touch it because they enjoy being called ‘Pro-Veteran’.”

This is the first time that I’ve ever heard that Republicans ever considered themselves as being called “Pro-Veteran.” Last I checked, Republicans are usually considered “Pro-Military” but not pro-veteran.


Until next week, keep your eyes peeled for things similar to what we read here. If you read the writings of others equally as uninformed as Gade, please send me a note. We will blast them again.

I’d like to clarify one thing, too. I bet Dan Gade is a good guy. I think he is just misinformed.

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  1. Col Gade is a hypocrite who has gotten to where he is because of his buddy George Bush, his membership in the George Bush Foundation and with a certain class of the republican party (who want to a take away VA disability and benefits to balance the budget on, SSI and SSDI disability payments for persons with disability and welfare.). Yet we don’t see his big mouth stating policy on why we have so many illegals flooding into the country taking massive benefits nor the rules of engagement that have cost more veterans with disability and more veterans killed in action. Instead we see his big mouth taking a stance on the backs of his fellow disabled veterans and the VA disability compensation they have earned !!.
    The facts are he has abused and used the US government and taxpayers via being involved with political patronage. He is using the US Army as a platform to illegally teach future west point cadets the US Armys position since they allow him to tell cadets this crap in his classroom at West point .Thus the US ARmy allows him as its mouthpiece as well to illegally make speeches that ” receiving disability is like being on drugs and alcohol”

    Lets talk about the patronage politically and privilege that Col Dan Gade has received :

    I refer to the Univ of Georgia and his own biography on linked in.

    In 2005-2006 he was given special privilege to stay in the US Army with such a severe disability while in fact other even less disabled veterans were put out of service by military boards . He was also given special assignment in “social policy” A position not even in the need of operations for the US Army Since when does the US ARMY need such . In fact Col Dan Gade’s BS degree from West point was in environmental science not social policy. So someone puled strings at the white house and with senior US ARMY/DOD officials to designate him in “social policy” to keep him in the Army . A position not in the needs of the US Army.

    In 2006 the army paid for all his schooling for a masters in public policy at the University of Georgia while paying him to go to school for a masters degree. $84.000 military pay, plus full US army benefits, travel, and family BAQ etc That’s a good gig Dan !! Then as announced by Dan in the Univ of Georgia web page while just starting staring his masters degree at Univ of Georgia in 2006.
    he stated he was going to be an Instructor-professor at West Point. This is . years before his appointment to the position !!. Wow thats nice Dan you already have a job as a professor with your bachelors degree when in fact guys with masters degrees cant be professors full time in colleges unless they are heavily published. Wish I could be guarented years before graduating with my masters degree a position as professor of social policy at any university!!.

    Then Col Dan Glade via his political connections at the white house and not even having his masters degree in social policy from Univ of Georgia ( having only a degree BS in environmental Science) gets to be Associate Director for the White House Council on Domestic Policy !! What ??!! How does a US Army officer on active duty with but a BS degree in environmental science even get to head and formulate and advise and coordinate this country on domestic policy ??!! Again political patronage and George Bush and certain republicans !! As the associate director of the white house council for domestic policy he was in charge of formulating policy, carrying out such policy and coordinating such policy in disability for the Military, the VA, Health and Human Services and across all federal agencies .

    Yes Dan the man was Bush’s right hand man to wanting to cut VA disability, SSI SSDI and other programs at the same time Dan’s conferences with the 2 VA secretaries under George Bush( both fellow US academy graduates and former US Army officers ) all wanted to cut VA benefits and disability benefits ..
    Dan was the lynchpin in the administration and US Army guy for these politics
    Although paid for , and in the uniform of the US Army formulating domestic policy and caring it out and coordinating such policy !! All illegal under the separation of the military and “domestic policy setting”

    Now Dan the man will tell you that the US Army loaned him to DOD at the request of DOD but he wont go any further as how he got that big time illegal white house position as a full time US army officer and with only a bachelor degree in environmental science. He wont go into his political connections with George Bush and others and their connections big time Army and DOD generals and brass !! Yes you did well Dan with a bachelors degree while getting politically appointed to a position in the white grouse you were not even qualified for with your education and experience Dan !! Yet you set US disability policy and coordinated such due to all to your political patronage and you were not even qualified at the time based on your degree and no experience for such a position !!

    Then it was off to college at the Univ of Georgia after his masters degree was completed in late 2007. Now a doctorate degree all all paid by the US Army while receiving his $84,000 US army pay and BAQ for family, travel expenses, per diem, etc Again to milk the US army for a doctorate degree in Social Policy full time at the Univ of Georgia . Dan didn’t have to worry about money as the US taxpayers foot all his bills Yet he wants to throw out $55,000 for an inducement in veterans schooling or training and then a measly 10% – Dan’s rational is don’t do as I do but do as I say The biggest hypocrite ever , given his on a silver plate by politicians and brass he knew .

    Then Dan goes to the US Military academy in political science which allows him to be involved and endorse his behavior while being paid to spout politics and social policy across this country while as paid US army officer .and to future officers. The US military allows him to teach cadets who will be influenced while not allowing us vets to come into his classroom to debate his crap !! What he is doing is using the classroom as well as the public forum and with the approval of the US army to lecture and present civilian political rhetoric uncalled for in any US army or military position !!

    Dan insists and claims he makes disclaimers that he dose not represent the US Army.. We don’t see such in the New York times article or any other… When asked who pays his travel and for his speaking engagements/ interviews he wont release such information. N or how he has all the time to do this while also supposedly being a full time army officer teaching a full schedule at west point !! Who also pays for his research ??!! ( and whose time is he doing such taxpayers time or privately??) It appears Dan the man is two timing the army and cheating us taxpayers with the time and places he is doing his such research and illegally teaching such personal and political domestic social policy garbage to cadets and others on the taxpayers dime

    You are the biggest hypocrite to veterans Dan Gade . You got yours on a silver spoon handed to you via who you know and political patronage, Army and DOD generals and brass while veterans are struggling… You fool no one Dan !!

    Everyone should call their congressman , senators for a full investigation of this guy and what he is doing He is fishy and smelly Dan look how you made it before spewing you social policy crap !!

    Lee Horowitz, M.Ed, CAGS
    US Navy, Disabled Vietnam Era Veteran

  2. I have to say that I admire Gade’s combat experience and service but sadly, he is way off the mark on his position about disabled veterans. Gade is currently still in the military and no doubt receiving good pay and benefits at West Point. He is around his peers all the time and gets good peer support. I don’t think he has to go to the VA yet and there’s no doubt that he is shielded from that adversarial bureaucracy. I have to go back and think of some of the amputee ‘Nam vets whom I’ve met over the years and think about what they’ve said about being insulted, put down, and told they deserved to get hurt or killed over in ‘Nam, etc. I wouldn’t believe Gade has been subjected to any of that at West Point. I do wonder whether or not he’s dreaming of getting some political appointment in a Republican run Congress. Perhaps he’s wanting the VA Secretary job. Who knows? Do any of us want this guy running things at the VA?!! Heck no!!

  3. I thank the author of this article for ripping to shreds Gade’s propaganda. Gade’s ridiculous article in the WSJ bordered on arrogant psychosis… that we should all just suck it up and go find a job and that what’s really wrong with all of us is we’re not sucking hard enough?! Well to hell with YOU Gade! You do not speak for all veterans Gade and should shut your mouth. You certainly don’t speak for me and my situation. I am on full compensation and unemployability and it’s certainly no fun living through brain surgery, gamma knife, chronic pain, and a full laundry list of things I live with on a daily basis all because the US Government allowed a base to go for decades with a toxic polluted water supply – and KNEW about it! They allowed hundreds of thousands of people in the military and civilians on their base to get cancer, get brain tumors, and die.

    Compensation is NOT an entitlement like welfare or food stamps. Compensation is the government admitting they screwed up and damaged people’s lives and they are trying to balance the scales of justice. They are trying to right a wrong. And Gade has the gall to say otherwise?! You don’t speak for me Gade, your words do not help my cause, and I don’t know who’s political agenda you’re stumping for but now you are on my radar. I live with chronic pain every single day and NOTHING will ever be right or normal again in my life.

  4. “Benjamin is an award winning investigative reporter, Veterans Law attorney, and a disabled veteran of the US Air Force, where he served in its Special Operations Command. After receiving an Honorable Discharge, Benjamin began his decade long fight for benefits after being lowballed with a 10% rating in 2002. During that fight, he received degrees from Northwestern University and the University of Minnesota Law School while using VA Vocational Rehabilitation.”

    Sounds like the “lowball” by the VA was right on target, since it was likely an accurate appraisal of your ability to accomplish precisely what you did in earning two college degrees, one of them a law degree, and becoming an attorney. Daniel Gade’s point is that there are veterans who will likely lose the incentive to become as productive and accomplished as you have if they are given disability compensation that overshoots the real impairment in their income earning capacity.

    Perhaps the 10% “lowball” was precisely what the doctor ordered in your life, at a critical time, and perhaps the VA honored your true potential by not labeling you as any more “disabled” than you truly were. The VA may have done you a grave disservice by calling you any more “disabled” than it did. Hopefully your “fight” hasn’t been successful in having the VA call you any more than 10% disabled, given that you’re one of the small percentage of people who has the ability to become an attorney and make the corresponding income.

    VA disability compensation is for functional impairment and reduced income earning capacity, not for military service or military experiences. You aren’t “owed” VA disability compensation for your “service,” or for what you experienced in the military. You’re owed VA disability compensation for the decrease in your earning capacity brought on by functional impairment due to a service-connected health condition. It sounds like you, Mr. Krause, have very little if any decrease in your earning capacity. I’d suggest you leave the VA disability compensation for the folks who really can’t work and earn an income, and be glad you can function so much better than they.

    1. Ben had to appeal that 10% disability rating if you know anything about VA Vocreab One cant get into VA Vocrehab with 10% disability A bigger % disability is needed to get into the program .I suggest you talk with Ben Wihtout that VA Vocrehab many veterans would not have been able to be employed or where they are now in their lives In addition, many Vitenam era vets were not ready to enter VA Vocrehab from Nam or even knew about it or even use their militray benefits to go to school Vocrehab allowed many vets like myself to reach that potential but for many that may not be the case. We look at people as individuals in counseling. Not everyone is at the same level due to disability or mental heal;t issues, PTSD, etc You wouldn’t make a good counselor as the first thing one needs is empathy and a good counselor is all and advocate for his clients .

      Lee Horowitz, M.Ed, CAGS

      1. So when VA Vocational Rehabilitation is successful and one has become an attorney, should one still be considered 100% disabled and receive the corresponding compensation, as is Krause?

        Additionally, a good “counselor” as you put it advocates for his or her clients’ functioning and well-being as it truly is, not for their designation as “disabled” when they are not. Calling someone “disabled” who is not is an affront to his dignity.

  5. I agree with some of the points in Lt Col Gade’s article. That it only makes sense to require a veteran to go through vocational counseling before being approved for “unemployability” benefits. But I believe it is not about unemployability at all. Because if it was then why are 45% of new individual unemployability being awarded to those 65 and over? Also 19% are 75 or over when initially awarded the benefit. There aren’t many in the general population still working at 75. I would like to know the statistics of all the veterans on unemployability and how many actually return to work. I am positive it is very low. There is no incentive for them to work. There is also no counseling to the veteran to see how hard they tried to get a job. In some cases the veteran had a job and then quit so they had a better chance of getting unemployability. The VA only gives these veterans the full 100% rating because they are deemed unemployable, but currently they don’t counsel the individuals, they rely on medical personnel to give vocational assessments, which doesn’t make any sense. There are many veterans that are collecting unemployability benefits that can work. The reason I say this is because when I read the veteran blogs. In these blogs time after time a veteran will ask: Can I work if I am collecting unemployability benefits? If he or she has to ask this, then they can work.

    The whole purpose of disability benefits is to compensate the veteran for “loss of earnings and pain and suffering” but the VA does not take into consideration how much the veteran earned during their civilian careers. The total amount of compensation is around 3000 a month, tax free. That is not including all the heath care costs provided by the VA. If you calculate 3000 a month that would be equivalent to around a 25 an hour job. Then if you add in the medically costs, it could easily be the equivalent of a 60000 dollar a year job. unfortunately there is no where that I know of to see how many of these veterans have held 60000 a year jobs.

    Notice I am only focusing in on the unemployability benefits. I am not saying that a 100% scheduler veteran should get any less benefits.

    I also agree with LTC Gade on the prioritizing the claims. Initial claims should go to the front of the line. There should also be a time limit to the claims process. For instance if a soldier submits a claim and it gets denied, then unless there is substantial new evidence, they should not be allowed to re-submit it for at least 2 years. And also a time limit for submitting new claims. For instance from the time the soldier leaves service, they are allowed 10 years maximum for submitting the new claim.

    Veterans need to realize there is only so much money in the budget. If some veterans are getting benefits that they shouldn’t that leaves less for others that truly need it. There is not an unlimited amount of money to go around and in the future there will probably be a lot less.

    In my opinion it would be better if Benjamin would get his politically comments to himself. If he wants to discuss politics, that should be on a separate blog. i.e If the United States didn’t get into these wars we wouldn’t have so many wounded veterans. That comment has no place on a blog about veteran issues. The veteran clearly has no power to change US foreign policy.

    Joe M. Harrison
    Retired military member

    1. how about you and Gade give up all your benefits if your worried about the budget

      how much TDY money did Gade rack in this year to be a lobbyist to cut benefits

      Last I checked Gade is on active duty officer not a politician

      lastely how many wounded warriors did Gade recommend for med boards wile he stays on Active Duty

      People like you and Gade are hypocrites

  6. Well the fundamental transformation is nearly complete. We got to see Americans divided along lines of race, sex, class, religion – and now we get veterans going against veterans. I am including not only the Gade article, but also the political sideshow with Rep. Tammy Duckworth.

    Here’s a thought. If you don’t like the laws that are on the books for veteran disability compensation, then work to change it. Keep in mind that many of the items that are in the schedule of rating disabilities are designed to cover things that can go wrong with a service member in peace time or in war. If anybody believes that this system is overly generous needs to look at a typical police or firefighter disability system to see it is hardly generous. Also keep in mind that the majority of service members statistically serve an entire career and never set foot in a combat zone. That does not mean that they are not exposed to inherently more dangerous situations than the average American would with nearly all jobs out there. The key difference is that a veteran **cannot** sue the government and **cannot** receive workmen’s compensation. This VA disability and compensation system is it.

    It is terribly inconvenient that a retiring service member at 20 or 30 years of service happens to retire right as a major war is winding down. If there is concern about claims processing and prioritization, then realign the priorities. The current system is essentially FIFO (first in, first out). If we have combat wounded veterans that are unable to work due to loss of limbs, eyes, etc., than amp up the priority to bring them to the head of the line. If that is not permissible, then set up a special processing center just for those high priority type claims and divert those cases to that center. In the military, I think we understand the concept of triage and you don’t keep the guy who has the sucking chest wound waiting while the other soldier who just wants a cold pack to go to the front of the line. I thought stuff like that was common sense, but the term common sense nowadays is also under assault, so who knows…

    Another issue is the backlog. Some of that is self induced pain. Pasted in below are some of the changes I proposed to the VA disability claims system to another online forum:

    1) Go paperless – but not the VA way. VA’s answer was to erect a “system” to do this. That is pointless, expensive and unnecessary. What you do is tell a veteran, “here’s the deal. You can submit your claim on paper and we will process and adjudicate it. OR, you can scan all of your records into this format – Adobe PDF file, that is optical character recognition searchable, and we will also process it as well.” Method one will take 12 additional months to process your claim. Method 2 will not. Guess how many paper claims will be submitted?

    2) When we do our taxes, we do not auto-magically get our refund held up awaiting some bureaucratic response from the IRS. Bottom line, they pay the refund and the check is cut within three weeks. If somebody thinks you were scamming the IRS, they still cut your check, but they take your taxes for that year and place it in the “we need to audit this guy file.” Likewise, as returns are filed, the IRS develops an internal controls system that screens returns based upon certain key parameters (type and quantity of deductions, questionable credits, evil one percenter status, etc.) and develop an algorithm for whose returns will get audited. based upon those criteria, a
    relatively small percentage actually get audited:

    So what does this have to do with the price of tea in China? Glad you asked. Comment 2 is set up for the fix in comment 3.

    3) We need to get the VA out of the direct claims processing business – strictly speaking. DVA needs to provide oversight on a process that is a little bit more holistic than what we currently have. The claims need to be processed by the NSOs (National Service Officers) that are certified by the DVA. In essence, this is already happening for all claims that have a power of attorney through an NSO. The gold standard for NSOs is the DAV (Disabled American Veterans). They are training for no less than 16 months to do their job. In all likelihood, they get more and better training than DVA employees – at least initially. Most of the NSOs get poached by the DVA to work for the DVA. A saner solution would be to leverage the NSO training and have the NSOs file the claims. Skip seven of the nine steps and then get the processing time down to under 60 days. Stipulate that just like with your taxes, the DVA can audit all NSO completed claims for up to seven years and after that, the disability claim cannot be countermanded. This will free up a lot more time for C&P personnel. That time can be better spent providing better training for up and coming new claims personnel. What sort of training will they do? yes, you guessed it, review the work of the NSOs. If a particular NSO is found to have an excessive error rate, that NSO can be de-certified. If an entire NSO office is found to have an excessive error rate, that office can be de-certified. Again, the DVA employees can be placed in an oversight role of the end-to-end process, instead of just being a slow cog in the process. This will also free up DVA personnel to better define audit control systems. The bottom line is the current system treats the veteran as “unauthorized” for compensation. How about changing the paradigm to adjust to the reality that a veteran is starting from a position of trust?

    4) It is borderline criminal that the DVA is predominately populated with non-veterans. Every job should automatically default towards going to a veteran. No other government agency has such a narrow constituency for service. I cannot begin to count the amount of VA employees I have spoken to that were non-veterans. Totally
    coincidentally, these were always the least helpful DVA employees. That needs to change.

    5) I wouldn’t sack the current head of the VA – GEN Shinseki. What I would do is present these ideas and see what legal impediments exist to get them rolling and give him the required time to get the law changed. If he did not want to do this, then I would find a replacement.

    Okay, that’s my $.03 worth discounted to two pennies with inflation. What’s your fix?

  7. Lots of issues involved with this subject. Everybody touches on some aspect of the perceived “problems”, but there is no single silver bullet for the veterans disability programs. To disparage views of others trying to weigh in on the understanding of the complex issues doesn’t help.

    Take the time to consider all of the discussions on the problem, without the built in filters of society, politics, gender, etc. and you will find some legitimacy in even some of the wildest interpretations of the causes and effects.

    One thing is for certain…we can’t just continue down the path that has been charted over knee-jerk reaction to the hot issue de jour. A comprehensive review…devoid of passion, if that’s possible…is long overdue.

  8. What is flawed in this proposal: ” That before you claim that you are unemployable that you have to at least attempt to go through Vocational Rehabilitation.” ?

    1. Because, as I explained in the post, VA Voc Rehab will not usually let these veterans into their program because seriously disabled veterans will diminish the program’s “success” rate. Once VA changes that part of their program, sure, require one appointment with a Voc Rehab counselor prior to awarding IU.

      1. IMO, if VA rejects a vet because they are seriously disabled, that, in itself should make them eligible for the claim they are making. Those are the kind of b.s. loop holes and snags which can and must be fixed. That has nothing to do with fraud and claims which are totally unrelated to service.

  9. Sadly, Gade raises valid points. I’ve watched(much too closely) many milk the system for long term benefits for lifestyle ailments with no regards for the resources they consume which should be helping the combat injured first and foremost.

    1. As a country, we should not fight wars where we cannot afford to care for the wounded soldier and the disabled veteran, both. Given how much our country pays out to other countries directly, and to large corporations, I cannot in good conscience conclude it is reasonable to short change the soldier when the uniform is on or after it is off. Once we stop making the handouts to these other entities, if we still lack the funds, then and only then should we consider asking soldiers and veterans to bear the financial burden of our Republic. However, until that happens, I see no justification for attacking veterans benefits.

      1. There are a LOT of things we, as a nation, AND as citizens, SHOULD NOT be doing because we cannot afford it, and more importantly because it is just WRONG. People who injure themselves OUTSIDE of boundaries of terms and conditions should not be seeking compensation from those who employed them, military, or civilian. Consider, for example, this contractor: That is a perfect example of some of the system abuse I’ve seen. It is wrong, regardless of what war, who voted for it, and your, or my opinion about politics. We should ALL ostracize and block those who will game a system designed for, and dependent upon GOOD FAITH.

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