Veterans Advocates Conference In San Francisco

NOVA San Francisco

Benjamin KrauseThe veterans advocates group NOVA kicked off its spring conference today in San Francisco today, and I am in attendance to find out more of what is going on with veterans’ cases across the country.

RELATED: Read about NOVA conference

NOVA is short for National Organization for Veterans Advocates. It is comprised of attorneys and accredited agents from across the country. Its members are great barometers of what is going on behind the scened with VA policy. Each time I come to a seminar, I come away with tons of new data and relay it back to you, my readers, over the course of the next six months.

Big on the list this seminar is how VA is treating veterans’ attorneys who need access to VBMS to adequately represent their clients. VA is trying to force attorneys to sign away their privacy related to searches and monitoring of their use of a veterans file by signing a Rules of Behavior for VA Contractors agreement. I suspect this could include a search of ones own computer if it is tied in to the system. As such, it waives client confidentiality and numerous other ethics requirements making the agreement basically unlawful.

RELATED: VA Handcuffs Veterans Attorneys

I covered this a couple days ago, and will get back to you with updates from the conference.

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  1. The veterans advocate in Tuscaloosa Alabama is afraid to do anything .I don’t see how veterans anywhere can get any help at least here in Alabama for any reason . God bless the ones who try, and it’s sad they make so little for their insurmountable effort. I gave up on our advocates years ago. Mainly because of the pain on their faces, when asked to do anything.

  2. Used a VSO to increase benefits of SC conditions recently. A couple rated at 0% and one at 10%. Hiatal hernia, back and knees. Came back with only a 20% increase for total of 40%. The VSO didn’t say anything about submitting fee based doc letters or MRI’s or anything before exam. Things done fee based outside VA that was not made part of my record that they gave the examiner. Not even DBQ’s. Said she had taken care of it all, and I didn’t need to do anything but show up for the exam. So, the examiner went off only what was given him from VA and wouldn’t look at the records or MRI of my back and knees, from fee based docs that I brought with me to exam. Have to file an NOD. Especially since my GI consult hasn’t even happened yet. Waiting on that appointment. Next on list is to get C-File, after NOD. Hopefully I can get my C-mile in a timely manner.
    A lot on my plate right now and it’s a juggling act, but I won’t stop fighting. I have a lot of fight in me, and am educating myself along the way. Bens site has been so helpful.

  3. I have dealt with a few VSO’S. All I can say is They remind Me of a SELF PROPELLED HUMAN CHOCK BLOCK! I am STILL AWAITING a FIRST decision on a claim from Jul 2012.
    I have also been TERMINATED from a Butcher Job ( Kilo-Roger co.) of over 28 yrs. DUE to a PERCEIVED PTSD THREAT! Not one Org is able to help Me. ALL I get is “Man that is just Wrong, Sorry I cant Help” Don’t even get me Started on the CRC,ADA,EEOC,ACLU etc…
    I can go ON an ON but I wont.
    IF you would like more info [email protected]

  4. @Phil Bailey–

    I did my whole VA Service Connected Claim process **without ever** using any VSO because I did it all myself. I also happened to have a ton of civilian medical evidence that supported the hard copy evidence I also had from my military career, as in medical evidence and my records. I won my 100% Service Connection without EVER using ANY VSO or attorney. Same with Soc Sec/SSDI Claim, but THAT was actually a much harder uphill fight with Soc Sec because they and the VA refused to share info with each other but the point is I won BOTH fights by using ALL THE FREE INFO/TOOLS on the website for Vets at and that was years before I even knew about or Ben’s site here even existed.

    My main point is I do not think Veterans are completely powerless….I think most Veterans THINK they are or have been led to believe they are powerless but if you DO treat it like a full time job in putting together a well-supported and documented case with civilian Dr.’s evidence (pretty important, since VA Dr.’s seem incompetent and same holds true for the contracted Dr.’s Soc. Sec. uses), a person CAN do it…as long as YOU can provide undeniable **connection to active duty service…service connection**, and NOT rely nor trust the VA to somehow make that Service Connection for you because the VA is like any insurance company, they are covering their own ass and COUNTING on fact the Veteran has NOT covered their asses.

    I learned on that VSO’s were pretty much worthless and reason I totally bypassed and dealt with my Regional Office directly. It still took a few years, even with all the damning evidence I had, but certainly better than had I used the regular VSO’s I am quite sure now almost 8 years later I would have still been waiting or stuck in the appeals process like quicksand.

    One DOES have to spend A LOT of time reading the VA Regs. regarding Service Connection and the particular health/mental issues one is dealing with, and reason I followed instructions on to indeed treat it like a full time job because my future literally depended upon it.
    It can be done. I think more Veterans need to know about certain websites that empower them to fight….but if a person’s “fight has up and gone”, then perhaps the VSO is way to go BUT be very careful because a given VSO can easily SEE if you are not tenacious, if you do not have many or no tangible medical evidence to connect the dots for Service Connection…those VSO’s that do nothing or just lip service, am afraid are worthless…but do realize it’s not really wise to place all your trust in a VSO and rely on him/her to put in all the effort while you just pass time away and if they are not working, find another.

    1. many veterans will have a hard time making that fight a full-time job mainly due to health and bad advice. many of us went that route of trusting VSOs too only to learn the hard way where that was leading. indeed did help educate me. there was certainly trial-n-error times too as this process has many pit falls. hadit taught me about IMOs and seeking med help in the civilian med community which i had not done for years. yep, i was a believing soul that VA was telling me the truth.

      learned the hard way that the VA wasn’t telling truth regarding the health. they were actually deflecting the health/injury issues that occurred on active duty. IMOs take money and time and often travel. making this a full-time job that sometimes, costs veterans their families due to the stress and frustrations of all the work involved and little income coming in.

      not to mention the many so called friends, family, etc., who don’t really believe the veteran is sick. that can get quite frustrating for the veteran. but as you say and we know, to win you have stay in the fight and often you end up giving up many things along the way to win that fight.

      we are talking about a fight that takes years, not weeks or months. and you’re injured and/or sick at the same time. might have a family tugging on you the whole time too. family needs the attention from the veteran too.

      i would not have won if not for hadit i’m certain. during that time the VSO at xVA did the propaganda tricks when i relied on them. i still feel a bit foolish believing all that crap and handshakes now knowing what i know. the good VSOs left or were fired so i see they knew what the score was too. upper management at that VSO played the same game. zero question there is a conflict of interest between many a VSO and their relationship with VA.

      still, i had to get legal representation for the last lap. just not physically able or have the knowledge to prep for the final lap. VSOs wouldn’t even do that particular claim — very telling on whose side they are on — what an eye opener that was/is, but legal rep saw a case right off the evidence. a blind person could have seen the evidence!

      i just wanted to reply to your post that i agree with you but to add there are some valid reasons why some/many veterans can’t/don’t follow through on their own to fight the VA. circumstances are different for many a veteran.

      for me too, it was/is a matter of survival & truth, but survival has a cost and takes its toll and there are no guarantees with outcome dealing with VA or any “good fight” for that matter. i feel lucky i won my disability claim, though i deserved it & fought hard for it, it’s not a vertical uphill fight i would want to repeat many times.

      1. @Cantigny-

        Yes, I totally agree. I was and am single, no family. During process of making my VA Claim I was in and out of civilian hospitals way too often than I care to remember and was at death’s door a few times in process as well. I lost all savings I once had in the process, became socially isolated even more because the few friends I had in a then-brand new city for me, could not really comprehend what I was going through. I had a best friend Veteran buddy that had already gone through four years of wrestling with the VA and it was he who pointed me to as well as I had some experience with Political Activism under my belt…but it did not help matters at ALL when my best friend, Veteran buddy was totally forgotten by the VA and he then killed himself…that was while I was waiting to hear back from the VA after a few years, but called the Regional Office monthly. I was -1- week away rom officially becoming homeless in process BUT it was info on that assisted me in getting help with my State/County as far as Housing, food assistance, and even at that time, State Medicaid…and it was some of those very State Medicaid Independent Medical Opinions/Statements, on top of all the other paper and physical evidence that assisted me winning my claim.
        I should mention that I also got one of my State’s Congressional Senators involved at very end with both my VA and SSDI claims…he happened to hold a seat at the time on the Congressional Veteran Oversight Committee, so am sure that also helped a lot. My health is still hit or miss from day to day and will remain this way rest of life and I can fully admit that the process and stress of process of filing claim with both the VA and Soc Sec at same time took a HUGE physical and mental toll on me…so am trying to say it was not an easy road but remained tenacious and refused to let them squash me.
        My point is a person can acquire those IMO’s by following steps (as long as one can qualify) in getting onto State Medicaid and Subsidized Housing for the interim while going through claims process…But I repeat that at that point I did not even have a vehicle any more, no savings, and if not for local food pantries, would have starved to death…not anything ANY Veteran EVER expects to find him or herself at in any point of our lives and no, I would NEVER want to go through those YEARS AGAIN…NO WAY!

        I just do not think the VSO’s or lets say MOST VSO’s, do not have we Veteran’s best interest first…you can easily see their allegiance to help deny, lie, and hope you die in their eyes…as they give you a crocodile smile and handshake and then place your folder under a plant in their office to keep it from leaking on their floor. Sad but often true.

        Morale of story is every Veteran needs to CYA. (cover your ass) I never meant to give any impression that this process is easy because it’s absolutely not. It actually killed a lot of my extended hope for fellow humans and my self-worth in process, along with much more am still in therapy from now going back to 1996.

  5. The place I go to for help from VSOs there is usually a long waiting line. You can not make appointments and if you come in the morning there is a line at the door, 30 to 45 minutes before the doors are open.

    The good VSOs seem to leave for better paying jobs as-soon-as they can. The one who helped me did not help me go over my claim and how to prepare for the VA. I started about 90 days before retiring, and had I known should have gotten medical appointments current to have more recent documentation.

    I submitted my package and in 9 months only 20% came back, the rest was denied. I since then learned what I did wrong and now in the appeal process or Letter of Disagreement.

    I hope this seminar push through much needed changes.

  6. Ben ,

    Who are the” accredited agents ” who are members of NOVA>? does this mean the VSO’s … If VSO’s is there not some conflict of interest between attorneys and VSO’s since VSO’s represent traditional veterans organizations?

    Lee Horowitz, M.Ed, CAGS
    Veterans Advocate/Veterans Civil Right Advocate
    [email protected]

    1. Lee,

      VSO’s, from what I’ve seen, are a conflict of interest. If they are not the first line of propaganda, then they tend to move on quickly. Even the best most sought out VSO’s: either they change their tune or they hit the road. They are a necessary evil until the initial claim goes though and is responded to, before a lawyer takes over. Multiple issues in ratings is a slippery slope in timing because we really do need representation like a VSO is supposed to provide. All the Vet gets is barely getting claims in the one year deadline, half-ass and incomplete presentations due the anti-vet delay system, It’s darn near an unpaid full time job with less than 50% chance of success.

      The Vet’s need a super VSO with legal powers to get things done. Right now, they don’t have shit.

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