Why Be Nice To The VA?

What do bees and the VA have in common?

I would have to say for many of us, this is the question of the century. You serve your country. You get hurt. You should be compensated. The process to get compensated should be simple. Being “nice” is nowhere in the regulations. “So why does it matter?” some might ask.

Here’s your answer; it could mean the difference between an approval and a denial.

Getting to brass tacks, the VA process would likely be simple, too, if special interests did not exist. Instead, we have a bureaucracy with a history of glad-handing and special interest payouts.

Unions want their memberships to grow. Government contractors want their services purchased. Manufacturers want to sell their special widget. Historically, the issues that plague the VA now have plagued the VA for at least the past century if not longer.

A simple cursory glance at the VA Office of Inspector General website reveals a laundry list of problems. Bad doctors hurt veterans on the operating table. Corrupt contractors continue to get work. And then there is the upcoming sequestration, which will massively cut VA administration of benefits.

While the process should be simple, these special interests have mucked up the system. It is no longer about just helping vets, maybe it never was. Either way, with the VA being pulled this way and that, sometimes the priority of “just doing the right thing” takes a back seat.

This brings me to my point of simplicity and my friend Ron Nesler. Some veterans get screwed because they refuse to sweet talk the VA into doing its job. And sometimes, the VA isn’t doing its job because there is some agreement behind the scenes keeping the veteran from their benefits.

For these veterans, they are pushed to the point of no return, where the adage “attract flies with honey, not vinegar” no longer applies. Ron is one such veteran.

“Ben, I just can’t figure out these people,” Ron says. “They just will not answer the questions I ask when I get someone on the phone. The rest of the time, I bombard their email trying to get their attention.”

Ron’s situation is a unique one in facts, but the way the VA has treated him generally is all too commonplace, and I’ll explain why.

The VA is supposed to provide comprehensive health care to Ron’s daughter, a severely disabled woman with spina bifida. Her biological father was sprayed with Agent Orange in Vietnam, which caused the disease.

This is where Ron is not unique. Vietnam Veterans of America reports that 5 of 7 veterans they see have children with some kind of birth defect. There are over 1,200 children of Vietnam veterans suffering from just spina bifida alone who need care. Currently, VA is only helping a fraction of these.

Ron is unique in that his former Congressman passed an Act through Congress to provide just the care his daughter needed for Ron’s family. But after five years, the VA has flatly refused to provide the care that Ron’s Congressman demanded.


To get care for his disabled daughter, Ron has been trained by the VA to use the “attract flies to vinegar by throwing it on them” method. This means he sends email after email to get their attention. When they ignore him long enough, the emails get assertive.

When Ron stops the emails, the VA seems to forget his existence. Then, he starts up the process again. It’s a vicious cycle that the VA hates even though it created the problem. However, through operant conditioning, VA encourages his treatment of them.

In the end, to the question, “Why be nice to the VA?,” veterans who are not nice will get screwed because they do not apply the “attract flies to honey” principle. Even though I believe the VA should do its job regardless of whether or not they like the veteran, the simple fact is that being nice goes a lot further.

This does not mean I condone the behavior of the VA. In fact, I find it rather juvenile at times. The fact remains that when you run into a dense wall, and your daughter desperately needs care, sometimes the vinegar method might seem like the only option. At least you get someone’s attention, like a neglected child getting in trouble just for the second of recognition. It is shameful that we push veterans to this extreme.

For those of you of faith, keep Ron and Honey Sue in your prayers – that God provides the resources and the solutions that will not only benefit this situation, but the thousands of other Vietnam War veterans trying to get care for their children.

My greatest concern for these veterans is that they will die, and the VA will still not provide the care needed for these children who had no choice but to be born into life with a handicap. I think we, as Americans, should expect more from the same government that sent these brave men and women into harms way, and then sprayed them with chemicals causing the problems in the first place.

War is supposed to be expensive; that is why countries used to fight them sparingly. I hope our government considers history before repeating it again and again.

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  1. I am a Vietnam vet. The Va calls me a whiner, because I object to being killed and eaten by them. In all of my years of dealing with the VA, once I have gotten above the level of the WONDERFUL Nurses. I have never accomplished ANYTHING by being nice to ANY Va administrator. If you shut up and try to be polite, they consider the “problem solved.” If you are bleeding to death, your open wound is NOT the problem to the VA, only if you complain LOUDLY do they feel there is a problem.. If you are polite, they will ignore you, until you are finally dead.

  2. The Speaker of The House happens to be from the State I reside in. Have been sending letters to all OH congressional reps for a long time and honestly, the only Senator that ever wrote, called, AND helped me out incredibly was Senator Sherrod Brown. Now, I am far from self-absorbed and have kept-up the barrage because even though Sen. Brown indeed at least then–sat on the VA Appropr. Committee, it was evident that that for ALL Veterans to be helped universally, it was/is going to take REAL CHANGE in which it’s not mearly Congressional Hot Air….no, it will also require checks and balances to ENSURE the VA just does not go ahead and do what they wish, as what has happenned over and over historically, with Ron’s case, brought to light here this week!
    JUST heard on evening news that Speaker of House, John Behner exclaimation that THE VA CLAIM SYSTEM and THE VA is broken!!!!!!!
    Yeah, yeah…we *could* just passively think that nothing but hot air but I tend to be the eternal optimist, even in glum situations, because we have all seen and had much worse at some point, right?!
    NOW that the VA Disability Claim is in the Main Stream Media due to The Speaker; no matter his or a certain political party’s possible self-serving motives to do so….the time is NOW for Veterans to each call ALL your State Rep/Senator’s offices, regardless of party affiliation!!!

    1. A further caveat, our Junior senator from Florida is Marco”Mighty-Mouth”Rubio and the only response I received from this neanderthal was that Veterans disability benefits were an “Entitlement” that would be difficult to support in these “difficult” economic times ! He of course is a Tea Party Darling. Thank God our senior Senator is an old Democrat (Bill Nelson) and has always supported Veterans programs. So be aware of WHO your Senator is, and what their voting history on Veterans affairs has been. If you are saddled with two republican senators in your state, you have a major problem !

      1. Yes, out of 5 YEARS of emailing, calling ALL Representatives/Seantors, regardless of Party, only ONE Senator has ever actually replied and actually helped me quite alot. However, when people of the likes of Marc Rubio state VA Disability is an ENTITLEMENT, then the same logic could be said by same lip-service politicians that LIBERTY itself then is an entitlement that EACH American enjoys because of our MILITARY.
        The word “entitlement” has been bastardized! If they genuinely were concerned about entitlement costs in the USA, they would impliment drug-testing for EVERYONE one WELFARE. Just this week the national news did a story on how people have up to NINE different free cell phones and how Medicaid $$ is still funding pill mills that people travel across nation to FLORIDA where it then goes to the streets.
        ALSO, our Congressional Peeps freely feel ENTITLED to give themselves raises each year AND did you know they basically only now work 3 out of the 5 work-days now?
        Congressional Peeps have made themselves ENTITLED to LIFETIME PENSIONS and HEALTHCARE serving ONLY ONE TERM! How the frak is THAT fair when a career military person works 24/7 for 20 years then has to fight for what was promised? Worse–injured by medical recklessness let alone an IED or chemicals used in name of LIBERTY?!!

  3. This not necessarily about article,but about dealing with V.A. in general. From the Korean war days showing I have had a long time dealing with the V.A. the main problem I find is regardless of the signs in front of hospitals & clinics stating D.V.A. meaning this is where Vets get their care, the truth is that generally medical groups within their ranks are operating under rules usually set up by the lead doctors of the clinic & sometimes with administration input. Operationally this is found to mean they are all set up for the doctors & clerks convenience & ease of function. In other words the Vet comes in second, they are not set up for the vets good or even at times not even for his welfare. I feel all procedures, clerical & medical should be approved or negotiated by a board of disabled vets & subject to review & change. Some very good things have happened at the V.A., but as well several very bad things in my life. I had always been told the V.A. could not be sued, Now I find out laws have been changed to in some circumstances they can be. I have at least 3 reasons to consider it, being blinded in one eye by use of laser that left big scar on retina of left eye, an unecessary installation of a stint in one of my arteries done for practice, an unecessary sugery, not signed for, that included a pacemaker instsallation & severing of the nerves between the 2 halves of my heart with upper half left in Atrial Fib which is grossly uncomfortable especially at night time. Contacted a lawyer to discuss it to find statute of limitations had expired when I did not even know I could have sued, & did not know the use of the laser on my eye was not a proper procedure for 2 ot 3 years after it was done, it should have been a chemical injection.. Doctors will not squeal on each other. And dental, I had 2 dentists for near a 5 year span. They both spent my time with them practicing making partial plates which I did not need. The 4 plates did not fit properly & asked what I should do with them they said just to throw them away. The 2nd dentist started making plates again & I asked him to take care of 2 small gumline cavities. He chewed me out saying he would take care of them in good time, but he was the doctor & he would outline my care. He finished the second plate & he was gone. After a few years of living with a crushed leg I started having back problems. V.A. clained nothing was wrong. Saw outside doctors, asked what kind of doctors did they have at Palo Alto VA, my back was a mess, could be rated at 100% disability on back alone. And they were 99.9% sure back problem was due to the dysfunctional knee. Went to VA & again told nothing wrong. Then I had a ruptured disc @ L4 & L5. VA did 2 EMG tests. Nothing wrong & injected back. Started intense physical therapy. Got an appointment at Neurosurgery. They looked at EMG tests & felt there was a problem, ordered an Overtime Friday night MRI test, did surgery Monday morning. Due to having request for re-evaluation & surgery they automatically did a re-evaluation, they changed numbers around randomly on existing rating & gave me 30% non-employability to get the 100%. Asked why they would do that & they explained it was just much easier that way. It has been thrown in my face by VA employees several times that I did not have 100% disability, only 70%.

    Not necessarily about article & then again completely about it as it is all about dealing with the VA !!!!!!

  4. Ben, I certainly understand where you are coming from AND the “logical” thinking this approach may be coming from. However, whilst I was in college and pursuing a degree in Psychology before my health finally hit the wall hard enough that it was affecting really anything I did; I had ALWAYS been a “FAKE IT UNTIL YOU MAKE IT” person, even in leadership roles in and out of college, always having my PTSD/anxiety and plethora of other physical issues NEATLY tucked away and treated all with a smile while NEVER letting anyone on outside remotely have an inkling of what was “bugging me”. This is obviously hiding behind PRIDE. This was and is very unhealthy from psychologically to where it starts to even affect one physically.
    The VA does not “get this”! Nor do their vastly old-school of Psychiatry, which is just a decade or two behind frontal lobotomies to “calm people down”. NOT to calm a person down for YOUR sake! No, it’s to make THEM and other’s around the anxiety/PTSD patient feel BETTER as to NOT NOTICE HIM/HER!
    I totally believe in treating other’s in life the way I expect to be treated. However, trying this with the VA is simply both co-dependant and passive-aggressive in approach and nature.
    It’s akin to we Veteran’s being the new piece of living meat thrown into the large area of the lion’s den. The lion may not neccesarily be hungry at the time (the Lion akin to the VA), so the Veteran chooses to NOT RUN/fight the lion–what does the lion do? The lion (or VA) will then WAIT until it FEELS like it’s hungry and more times than not in this actual physical scenario in ancient Rome, the Christians would pass out or even DIE while keeping still, waiting for the lion to engage them and guess what? THIS was not entertaining for the Romans NOR the lion!
    What I am trying to state is at least in MY situation with the VA, I tried the passive aggressive approach and all I literally got were “croccodile smiles back” and no action. I was fortunate enough to have enough civilian Dr’s whom I had seen for years before ANYONE even told me I could go to the VA for help. When I finally tried the “VA way”, the last straw with me being nice was a VA Psychiatrist REFUSING to even LOOK at the letter from my civilian PSY Dr that contained a comprehensive list of meds tried and failed. THAT civilian Psy Dr. I had happened to not only be a dept. chair at a major hospital, but also adjunct professor at a rather prestigious medical college where I lived at the time.
    Had I used suggested approach and seeth with “honey” and kissed their ass while I was not getting the help I both needed and deserved, while hoping the “vinegar” inside did not explode, I personally do not think I would be around to date to be writting this.
    YES, I got my State Senator involved! However, not JUST for my sake and my no more than a few year old claim by then–but ALSO to give a snapshot of how ALL Veterans are being treated by the VA.
    That Senator, coupled with the ALL SO IMPORTANT team of civilian Dr’s documentations, and the ugly truth of my claim, is what kind of approach it took to deal with people at the VA Medical Center and Regional Offices that are HOPING you are passive in your approach because it seems to be their wont to let a Veteran degrade to the point where no longer can he/she SMILE when the sharp teeth of the lion puncture the psyche!!
    No, the damage has been done. Change needs to come from HOW the VA treats Veterans! There’s OF COURSE great people working within the VA! I really REALLY want to believe this! (tapping heals together three times does not work) My experience showed the people who actually gave a damn consistantly were the older Veteran Volounteers working at the entrance huge front desk in lobby. From that point though, it’s simply akin to walking directly INTO the perverbial lion’s mouth! Honey also can attract ALOT of bees and enough of them sting you, the Human thing to do is FIGHT for your life and rights od due service!

  5. The fine distribution of honey does not always work. The distribution of anger is worse yet ! If you get your Senator involved on your behalf, you will probably irritate the bureaucrat just as badly, but in this instance you will get an occasional response to your honest inquiries. You are damned if you do, and damned if you don’t. I’ve “smiled” in my letters and attempted phone conversations for far too long. I may well die before an adjudication is returned denied that I can appeal with legal help, but what else is left? You want to see stone walls ? Imagine being an “Era” Vet that was exposed to A/O on Okinawa ! Imagine the fun involved here ?

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