WWP– THE CUP RUNNETH OVER

imagesAs it is Easter today, those of us with a religious bent tend to survey their surroundings and take a second gander at how they run their lives. I don’t. I can’t change my stripes and besides, it’s really immaterial to someone like me who has committed more sins than good deeds. Nevertheless, it’s refreshing to try to mend your ways just in case.

Many of us look to figurehead religious leaders for guidance. I look at Facepuke for enlightenment. A good picture or poster says a thousand words so I don’t get carpel tunnel syndrome worse trying to grind out a 2,000-word diatribe on the subject.

Since the WWP is now in my sights as being obnoxious and overbearing, every TV or internet advertisement with their tired “gimme more” simply increases my distaste for those who profess one thing but lead an entirely different life that entails personal greed. If the Veterans they aspired to help actually benefited in a measurable, quantifiable way financially, it would be more palatable. I grant the fact that they do help some with mental deficits attain a higher understanding of how it all works but offering duplicative services already ensconced and readily available at the VA seems horribly redundant and a waste of scarce financial resources-all of the $150 million collected last year.

I have watched the WWP over the years gradually accumulate over 100 million dollars in a reserve account to prepare for a rainy day for Veterans. This fund is interest-bearing and simply sits like the proverbial lump on a log performing no useful service to disabled or disadvantaged Veterans- be they post 9/11 or Veterans from earlier conflicts. I recognize I only see the small picture. Not all of us are Earth shakers and far-sighted philanthropists tasked with supervising immense hordes of funds possibly needed against some cataclysmic future event. Being myopic and firmly rooted in the here and now, I look no further than the needs of Veterans here and now. As WWP’s “reserve” fund has grown, so too has it’s philosophy that there can never be too much money held in trust for Veterans but therein lies the conundrum. How much is enough? What in Sam Hill constitutes a cataclysmic event of such magnitude that would require more in funds than most third world countries will spend this decade?

To me, the interminable delay in adjudicating VA claims suffices to be a cataclysmic financial toe stubber. If WWP is so enlightened, why is it they feel our pain and little else? Similarly, at what point will Veterans groups and like minded charities speak up and say “Whoa, hoss. How much are you guys gonna rathole and keep back? Vets are hurting and all you do is crank up the commercials asking for yet more.”

And in keeping with that sentiment, I ran into the below on my Face Place from one of my good friends and fellow Veterans. She is terribly religious and does good works 24/7. She doesn’t have an agenda nor does she desire one. Her mantra is “If I have it and you need it, it’s yours”. I second the emotion and live it every day here on site and in my life. I don’t advertise it. I don’t petition for even more against a rainy day. Quite simply, for horribly disabled Veterans, every day is a rainy day.

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WWP– IT JUST KEEPS ON GOING

downloadMuch like the Energizer Bunny, the good ol’ boys down in Jacksonville, Florida just keep on cranking out commercials and new funding drives to insure their paychecks keep coming. It must be absolute hell to try to get by on $333,000.00 a year. I guess it’s a good thing they throw in that $100,000.00 bonus to keep the incentive high. Think of all the prioritizing and unhealthy life choices that must occur. Where to vacation? Maui and run the risk of skin melanoma? Colorado in ski season and run the risk of an avalanche? The Bahamas and run the risk of a hurricane in the fall? Having money comes with a whole new set of problems most homeless Veterans will never appreciate or understand. Food poisoning at some out of the way four-star Michelin-rated restaurant in Fiji always looms as a potential catastrophe. Fortunately, most of us disabled Veterans will never be subject to these life-threatening events. 

My good friends Dean and Patricia Graham of Help Indiana Vets are a classic example. While I attributed my original asknod.org article to my esteemed east coast co-conspirator in Independent Living Program matters (Bruce McCartney), Dean was the actual author. As a brief aside, Dean and I are not related nor is Bruce to Paul. Just thought I’d get that out there in case Kutak Rock LLP and Mr. Nardizzi were thinking of coming after us. Oops. Too late. Their WWP site has given me my much-sought Andy Warhol fifteen minutes of fame. I can now die with a smile on my face.

Smear Campaign

There are several defamatory blogs on the internet and an email circulating that appear to be derived in part from a post by an individual named Alex Graham who maintains a blog on the website “Veterans Today.”

Actually, perhaps I could sue them. They failed to mention this (asknod.org) website which is where it all began. My articles in Veterans Today (VT) are merely cut and pasted from here.  I feel umbrage. I have been maligned and compared to the kooks who inhabit VT. You have to admit they manage to find some pretty far-fetched authors with fanciful ideas about how the world turns. Considering the on-line magazine purports to be for/all about Veterans, I came away with a different take after a few months which is why I no longer post there. Veterans Affairs seem a distant second to the Bilderbergs and the latest info on the Illuminati. It’s difficult under the best of circumstances to maintain your credibility and be taken seriously without having your articles cheek and jowl with “The top ten reasons Sandy Hook was an elaborate Hoax.” On this point, Mr. Nardizzi and I agree.

Yesterday, I received from Dean his filed response to the WWP’s ongoing lawsuit against him. As you may recall, Dean and his merry band had the audacity to point out the WWP Emperor was nakedly raking in vast quantities of money in the form of donations and repurposing them for a redistribution of wealth to his cronies and himself. Here is his rebuttal to the trumped up charges by Nardizzi’s henchmen at Kutak Rock:

ANSWER TO PRELIMINARY INJUNCTION FINAL

I have repeatedly offered WWP a forum here to rebuke me and my licentious tongue. I have made it clear that I welcome something-hell, anything- from them to make me out a liar. I fervently wish to be wrong just as I expect Dean and Co. wish they, too, were misinformed. Nevertheless, the WWP krewe stoically remain silent and use intermediaries to hurl deprecations from afar. This strongly implies guilt when no one in authority steps forth to right the record.

When you are innocent of that which you are accused of, it is customary to stand on the highest hill and vociferously proclaim your innocence. Some even go so far as to take legal action to regain their rightful legitimacy. Few sue to muzzle the truth except perhaps GM. In actual fact, these days most large corporations indulge in a bit of both. A sharp threat of a lawsuit combined with an artful public relations campaign usually works wonders to keep the rank and file in check. I appear to be an anomaly. I suspect I’m judgement-proof.  I suppose all that might change if I got into competition with WWP and started up a 501(c)(3) of my own. Sorry but that’s not in the cards, Al and Steve. I enjoy my precarious position of being close to Bingo.

bmThe bummer about all these articles and the exposé in the social media news is that bigwigs at the WWP cannot be seen in public in Teslas and Lexus rigs now. They can’t just pop up in Colorado Springs for the annual meet and greet in high season without bad press. Face it. It’s anathema for these guys to arrive as they did at the Broadmoor on horseback. Grand entries are so yesterday. Here’s one former employee’s take on it:

WWP is totally a scam and what a gross misuse of money. It’s awful when you have an CFO getting $8,000 custom bookcases or the Chief Development Officer getting a $5,000+ custom desk for your offices. Or what about the company wide yearly meeting that is held in some swanky resort – Phoenix, AZ in Feb or Colorado Springs (both during high season) for 300+ employees. Hundreds of thousands of dollars spent on hotels, airfares, swag, CEO big entrances on horses, zip lines, etc. Money that could be going to our injured servicemen and women and their families. But you just let your executives fly 1st class and now have a program where you are sending staffers (IT, Giving Outreach, etc) for a 2 week trip to Germany to see what goes on there. How does that help? Really it’s a two week vacation to Europe. Through the Believe in Heroes campaign – raised another $6 million dollars. Isn’t is a shame to put our wounded vets on the side of Brawny paper towels just to raise some money. I don’t see Susan G. Koman putting breast cancer survivors on the sides of Campbell’s soup or Yoplait yogurt. Same message can be done with a logo but you just “pimp” out the veterans to the American public to get just a little bit more money.

wwpI have received numerous emails excoriating me for my nasty treatment of WWP. Some insist that most of the money gets to Vets and they’re okay with that but they base it on a narrow interpretation fostered by a visit to Charity Navigator. To date, not one soul who has written to complain has delved any deeper than the IRS 990. How many of you have taken the time to contact or investigate anyone who was actually “helped” by WWP? How many of you bothered to perform due diligence as Dean Graham did before blindly handing over tens of thousands of dollars to an outfit that simply ratholes it away in an interest-bearing account- one hundred million dollars of your donations to date? Not a dime of that percolates down to needy Veterans missing large pieces of their original birthday suits. I and some of my friends have done so. We encounter former employees who willingly write of WWP’s excesses for their own needs at the expense of the very ones they purport to help. Add to that the cadre of volunteers who selflessly contribute their time and energy for free to help these wounded warriors and you see the hubris of a $333,000 annual paycheck with a $100,000.00 “incentive bonus”.

Helping Veterans should be a labor of love devoid of any expectations of a better seat in Heaven. We, as Veterans,  opted to serve America and I count among those very same Veterans the ones who drove the British from our soil in the War of Independence.

Statistically, Veterans inhabit a lower financial niche that their civilian counterparts. That isn’t hard to reconcile when you consider they relinquish their formative years of education to defend our country. Some never finish that quest for a college degree. Nevertheless, their contribution to America’s preeminence in the world is indisputable and invaluable. When some of us are compromised physically with injuries and debilitating diseases incurred in that endeavor, we are ostensibly remunerated for our service. VA compensation is not, however, a complete panacea for our efforts. I compare it to a canary living in a cage rather than having its freedom. This is why we have so many Veterans Charities and other legitimate, altruistic outfits whose sole purpose is to backfill the gaps in what VA attempts to provide.

download (2)WWP and a number of other outfits have discovered this rich vein of giving and climbed onto the bandwagon. This is nothing new. Remember old Jimbo and Tammy Faye Baker back in the eighties with the air-conditioned dog house? Jimmy Swaggart who got busted with the fluffer at the No Tell Motel? The modus operandi is identical. Smoke the masses with pleas for a genuine cause and buy a Gulfstream IV to deliver the goodies to South America. Or Maui. Or Bermuda. Or Africa.

Why is this so hard to comprehend? Why is it indigestible mentally to conceive of WWP’s Big Dogs being scalawags? What cachet of respectability can attach to someone who usurps a legitimate 501(c)(3) for himself from the Melia family founders and then proceeds to vote himself a paycheck that dwarfs the imagination of most tax-paying Americans? Mostly, how to you hornswoggle so many Americans-Veterans included- into believing your actions are all for the betterment of Wounded Warriors?

That Dean Graham, or even myself should have to rationalize-let alone legally defend why we feel this is inappropriate, selfish, rude and harmful to thousands of homeless, starving Veterans- is almost tragicomical. Can Americans be so blind as to what is transpiring right under their very noses?

I would ask any who read this to perform one simple test. Some may not be so brave or have the chutzpah to do so. Approach a Veteran who is quite obviously para/quadraplegic and first thank them from the bottom of your heart for your freedom. Next, ask them if they have been helped financially in any way, shape or form by WWP. By that, I mean have they helped with the rent, a power bill, air transportation or some selfless act that requires financial investment.  I have yet to find even one who has had his or her life changed financially by them. I have received several letters telling me of their largesse but it merely involves seminars on how to manage their money. Some tell of a sports event like an NFL football game but seem unaware that the tickets were donated. I’m sure this is not dispositive of the fact that they have helped some but the paucity of individuals stepping forward with tales to refute my contentions is rather damning evidence to the contrary.

With over one hundred million in the bank and a payroll of $2.1 million just for the fellows at the top who have to slave all day counting up the donation money, you can readily see why very little of it ever touches the lives of the Veterans who most deserve it. Every Tuff Mudder competition you attend takes their funds and donates them to the WWP yet none of that is distributed in little white envelopes to Vets. Every concert Trace Adkins puts on to honor our wounded warriors results in mass quantities of cash donated and collected but nary a dime is disbursed directly to defray the cost of life for these physically compromised Veterans. On the contrary, they are offered sports “fun runs” and parades. They are offered counseling and “how to” seminars on how to extract the most from the VA who should legitimately be doing this themselves. They are paraded on stage like circus freaks to promote even more giving but without any remuneration. They are brainwashed into becoming “alumni” to the tune of $20 a month when it is they who can ill afford to part company with even $2.

The parallel line between the WWP and the Jimmy Swaggarts of Veterans Charity  is mighty fuzzy. The only difference is that, to date, we haven’t heard anything about No Tell Mo-tels. I don’t mean to cast aspersions on the sexual mores of anyone in the WWP hierarchy. I’m sure they are all fine and morally upstanding souls. I reserve the right to withhold the sobriquet of Christians based on their greed.

Most folks know I’m not very religious. What I did in Southeast Asia is not conducive to getting a seat in Heaven-even a seat in the back near the kitchen entrance. I can live with that. Not all of us Veterans were destined to make the acquaintance of St. Peter personally. Someone has to break the eggs for life’s omelet. With that said, I still subscribe to the tenets of it being more blessed to give than to receive. Apparently Steve Nardizzi and Albion Giordano didn’t get the email. Do me a favor and send them one. Hear?

And have a very happy Easter. download (1)

 

Posted in Food for thought, Veterans Charity Scams | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

VA ILP–THE FARM REPORT

2014-04-18 12.15.18Just in case the VA sleeps with one eye open to make sure my agrarian pursuits are not a flash in the pan, I present the Grahamcracker report. I have been busy prepping for spring as usual. This always takes me away from my VA claims work and I apologize. This year will be a banner one for Veterans on the Key Peninsula. I already held a tomato starts sale and thoughtful folks hereabouts donated $99.00 towards that several Sundays ago. Thank you. 

With all the different flowers and fruit trees blooming, I’ve come to the conclusion a resident, on-site bee presence is going to be needed to ensure early spring pollination. I’ll have to add that to the greenhouse request. Hey! Speaking of which. I called the Prize Redemption Line at 800-827-1000 and complained mightily that VA had been funning me about finishing up my ILP request for the Greenhouse. If you remember, the last fiasco was that they claimed I never sent in the Form 9 within the allotted 60 days-thus voiding the Warranty. Well, we here at Asknod don’t get rolled that easily so we promptly whipped out the green card from our USPS and pointed out Clyde Klopperstad signed for it April 15, 2013. A mad search for it began and it was finally located at the BVA in DC in my decision for the 1994 date of claim. That was back in November 2013. Seems some confused fellow in Seattle “accidentally” thought the Form 9 for a ILP greenhouse appeal had something legally in common with Hepatitis C effective dates appeals and thoughtfully forwarded it to the BVA.

The latest is a compendium of “The dog ate the Form 9″ followed by “My dear old dad just passed away and I had to take off for that”. No explanation other than the inadvertent revelation that it had actually been sitting on his desk for months while he wrestled with his conscience and the confangled new M-28 Manual for VR&E claims.  Being born and bred a gfentleman, I decided not to call him on the obvious lie about having “lost” the claim for a protracted time if it had been residing on his desk these last months.

As almost no one other than Independent Living Program junkies would know, VA thoughtfully threw out all the old rules for ILP and instituted means testing, DNA testing, and covert VA Office of the Inspector General  surveillance to make sure you really are as severely disabled as you claim to be. You get photographed laughing when you should be crying like Clinton did at that funeral and your goose is cooked, Jack. No ILP for you. You’re not mentally depressed enough and we have the video.

On a more serious note, I was also told that due to the most excellent points I had brought up in my Form 9, Mr. David Boyd, GS-14 ($110,047.00/ year), head of Seattle VR&E was (or had already) forwarded it to the Central Office in Washington, D.C. to allow more erudite minds to contemplate it and it’s implications to Vetkind. Seems this VR&E file is getting pretty well-traveled between Seattle and DC.

VA is gradually turning the IPL program into a former shadow of itself. Gone are the days of a snowplow attachment to go with your ILP tractor. Riding lawnmower? Shoot, bubba. You need to shag 40 lbs. Get out the push mower. You may even heal up from the DM2 if you loose 80. Reading through the BVA decisions in 2013, hardly anything came up. Vets are getting the message and not even applying. Why bother when the answer is pre-printed, pre-addressed and a foregone conclusion?

The good fellow gave me no idea when it might surface again but after four years, it almost has to be one of the oldest claims on the MMWR.

Enough of that. Look at Spring in the Northwest. Shoot, sounds like an advertisement for Salem cigarettes. Remember, you can click on any of these for a closeup. I pay extra for that.

Strawberries

Strawberries

Strawberries X 10 to the 10,000th power

Strawberries X 10 to the 10,000th power

green pears

green pears

Future Fujis

Future Fujis

Italian Plums

Italian Plums

Soon to Bing Cherries

Soon to Bing Cherries

Red Pears

Red Pears

Gravensteins

Gravensteins

The orchard

The orchard

The not so ILP Greenhouse

The not so ILP Greenhouse

1st Floor- Basil, sugar snaps, kohl rabi

1st Floor- Basil, sugar snaps, kohl rabi

2014 flavors Cupcake chose.

2014 flavors Cupcake chose.

Cuke world

Cuke world

Beets in VA-defined "greenhouse" with latest global warming methane  heating system

2014 Beets in VA-defined “greenhouse” with latest CO global warming methane heating system

 

Posted in Food for the soul, Independent Living Program, VAOIG Watchdogs | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

2014 Hep C Sovaldi sticker shock for insurers

The Kaiser Family Foundation (KKF) has published several articles of interest to Asknod members.  

One April 14 headline reads:  Biggest Insurer Shocked with Hepatitis C Costs.  

Quote: “United Health Group spent $100 million on hepatitis c drugs in the first three months of the year, much more than expected, the company said Thursday.” 

Uh-oh.  High demand and 80K plus per patient in costs have insurers stock costs dropping.   Well, they’ve tried to keep the lid on this disease for decades and now it’s off. 

cat

If only we could have covered up and ignored HCV a little longer…

KKF links to this VA March 27, 2014 38-page document for providers.  It details a “preferred treatment approach” for HCV by genotyping and other factors for “patient selection.”  It’s clear that VA hepatologists  and experts have been working hard on this strategy to deal with all the newly diagnosed veterans.  They have lots of studies and rationales to back up who gets what and when to manage their HCV crisis.

This article,VA, California panels urge costly drugs for sickest Patients, links to the new WHO 124-page  (April 2014):Guidelines for the screening, care and treatment of persons with hepatitis C infection

Unless the cost of the new drugs are drastically reduced, widespread rationing can be expected.  HCV patients will be stigmatized further as undeserving greedy people who…

  • dare seek a cure at the expense of the innovative drug researchers (who deserve their high-living wages for staying up all night in the lab), and
  • keep our altruistic health insurance CEOs up at night with worry, and
  • who torment the generous House members who fund the VHA’s budget.  By golly, we won’t let HCV-veterans defeat our great nation by breaking the bank! 

This is going to be hard for veterans who suffer from the largest cluster of HCV-infections deniedin America by far, because the VHA does not currently have the funds available to treat everyone, other government programs may not be much better off, and private insurers are beginning to panic.  I suspect that patients, including veterans, co-infected with HIV/HCV, will be more likely to get the new antivirals because of existing public policies. But what about the majority who may find themselves with nowhere to turn?

 

 

Posted in Guest authors, Sofosbuvir | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

CAVC–MURPHY V. SHINSEKI-MURPHY’S LAW STILL REIGNS

imagesI often wonder if the original Mr. Murphy ever considered his future enshrinement in the Hall of Giants when he began compiling his laws. I wonder if there was one that covered this sorry mess. Some of us struggle to shepherd our claims intact to a sane judge in DC to render judgement.  Encountering stupidity of the following magnitude would be the absolute last thing we would expect. Having the Murphy sobriquet must have been the trigger. Either that or one of the good Veterans Law Judge’s staff attorneys has a macabre sense of humor.

Murphy_12-1700

download (2)George D. Murphy enlisted in the Air Force (wisely ) and pursued a thirty-year career. When he separated, he filed for sinusitis and was issued a 10% rating in 1984. Sixteen years later, he petitioned for an increase and was denied. As do most of us, he failed to appeal and that went down the tubes.  In 2003, he refiled yet again, probably after reading up on the procedures on how this all worked. He was Air Force and they are picky about your being able to read and comprehend. As usual, he got the typical denial and a long wait while they prayed he’d get bored and walk away. This time was different. George wasn’t going to listen to the VSO tuki tuki bird.

Even with no big VA backlog, his claim slowly wended it’s way to the Board of Veterans Appeals for four years. He got his five minutes with the Judge in February 2010. After all that interminable delay, the BVA promptly remanded it for a new C&P exam to find out what had transpired in the intervening seven years while the claim grew dust. Such is the pace of VA justice that when you finally get your day in Court, your claim has to be sent out for a reassessment because you aged so much in the interim. It’s also pretty scarey when nobody, including VA, thinks much of it when Vets have to wait that long.

At the VA, if you have signed a waiver of review in the first instance of any new evidence presented, the Board’s very own private Regional Office called the Appeals Management Center (AMC) is authorized to do all this and make a decision without remanding it all the way back to your own RO for a new decision at the local level. This was supposed to be a time saver when instituted in 2004. It has now devolved into a miasma of remands for all manner of problems and is sometimes no faster that just remanding back to your own RO. Vets have even nicknamed it the Black Hole. I still think they are a step above local ROs. They don’t have Binford 5000 Shredomatics installed desk-side so your evidence actually does make it into the file. The quality of the raters is above par, too. The last thing you want is a Gomer Pyle FNG doing it.

Mr. Murphy’s remand disappeared into the Black Hole but in six short months he got his 30% rating. This was a watershed moment as it now added to his rating total to attain 100% combined and a hefty pay raise. Most Vets don’t know it but VA pay is $1,857.76 per month for 90% with spouse and without rug rats. 100% is $3,017.60 - an almost $1,110.00 + difference monthly. Annually, that’s a pay raise of over $12,000.00. And here is where our Mr. Murphy ran afoul of his namesake’s Laws.

An old decision called AB v. Brown  6 Vet. App. 35 (1993) held that a Veteran who appealed for a higher rating was appealing for the highest rating attainable and not just the one above the current one he was being compensated for. The reason they used the initials AB is that the claimant wished to maintain anonymity- perhaps because the disease or injury was to a private part or the clap. The CAVC is tasked with making the determination as to whether the request is granted. Not all are. Thus Mr. Murphy’s claim was required to be sent back up to the same Veterans Law Judge who remanded it for a determination as to whether the increase from 10% to 30% might not be premature. In fact, Mr. Murphy was entitled to an appellate determination, under the auspices of AB v. Brown, as to whether he might be entitled to 50% (or higher). But under no circumstances could the VLJ lower the rating. Shoot, that’s against the law in all 57 ROs including the Black Hole. 

AB.211

We are protected against this injustice by many statutes and regulations. Once we get a rating, we own it. After five years with no appreciable improvement, VA needs dynamite medical evidence to dislodge it. Under no circumstances, can a VLJ start disassembling it at the BVA level. They’d have to remand yet again to have the RO or the Black Hole execute that dirty deed. Besides, by law, you have to have a medical exam or two to reduce a rating and be given sixty days to respond to this injustice following notification. In fact, the list of judicial faux pas runs into eight pages or more.

Finally, under the due process holding of Cushman v. Shinseki, we have a vested right in our compensation payment. Any decision to rescind or abrogate that must be based on fraud, clear and unmistakable evidence to the contrary and a denial in the first instance down at the Regional Office level such that you could appeal it upwards properly. If the BVA started doing this on a regular basis, you’d be unable to combat it or even rebut it with new and material evidence when it arrived at the Court.

You can see what this looked like when it came through the mailroom at 625 Indian Ave. NW. The chief Law Clerk up there, Gregory Block, is an old Army war horse. As would be expected, everyone around there is sporting a JD after their name- even the janitors. His is from Seton Hall and certainly one held in high regard. It can probably be said that the Gregster was alerted in short order when Mr. Murphy’s NOA crossed the threshold. This was a golden opportunity to make the BVA, and by extension, the whole VA leagal beagle kennel, look like rank amateurs. By allowing this out the door of the BVA without more scrutiny and oversight, they were advertizing the bona fides of their inferior Juris Doctor degrees for all to see. Appearance is everything in this business. If you look like a boob and act like one, you’ll get laughed right out of the court. No one will treat you seriously. Your legal theories will be ridiculed from then on even if  they are sound. Your credibility will be so compromised that you’ll even lose your own kids’ respect. You might as well advertize your membership in the Flat Earth Society.

Let me put it in perspective. Each level of jurisprudence considers itself more erudite, more educated, more highly paid and lastly, mo’ better than the traffic cops beneath it. As your claim rises to each new level of review, it is supposedly vetted for proper judicial procedures to make sure you, the claimant, were not disenfranchised. Translated into DickandJanespeak, VA likes to make sure they screwed you over perfectly legally (in their own mind) before turning it over to the CAVC on appeal.

As the CAVC is not part and parcel of the VA proper, they are not swayed by VA’s desire to cover up their errors and stupidity. Some colossally big ones like Leroy Macklem’s sometimes get out of the Pandora Box at Vermont Ave. NW but VA strives to conceal them via Joint Motions for Remand (JMR) to quietly whisk them under the carpet.

Mr. Murphy’s case gets the front stage, three Judge Panel treatment because his Veterans Law Judge illegally attempted to play Judge, Jury and Executioner over something he had no legal authority to address. However much his distaste for the AMC’s decision to grant George 30% for nose itch, the VLJ cannot summarily reduce it on his own. This is mission creep in CAVC parlance and Greg the Bouncer spotted it for what it was from the getgo. And like a dog with a bone, once apprised of the enormity of the BVA’s lack of legal talent, they weren’t going to let this one go until every VA Law Review magazine had all the juicy details.

110For that reason alone, cases like this get the reversal treatment. The CAVC Judges are not vindictive but when you cross that line from sloppy jurisprudence into judicial mis/malfeasance you can be confident of being brought back down to earth with a rough, caustic verbal tackle. As usual, Meg Bartley got the author honors on this one. Seems she’s been the author or Single Judge decision maker on quite a few reversals in her short tenure at the Court. It’s so refreshing to see someone who set precedence with their mere presence and interpretation of law while in charge of the NSVLP’s Veterans Benefits Manual authorship finally doing so from the bench.

We look forward to more of the same. Every Veteran should hire a soothsayer and tea leaf reader to find the most auspicious time to file their Notice of Appeal in hopes of drawing St. Meghan. If you have a valid claim, your chances of bringing it to fruition skyrocket in her courtroom.

Posted in CAVC ruling, CAVC/COVA Decision | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

WHO SAYS SEXTING AND DUIs REDUCE WORK PRODUCTIVITY?

downloadWe always read horror stories about the VA and government in general. Tip of the Spear in Georgia (Bruce) who brought us the initial reports of “irregularities” in the WWP pay schedules, sends us this equally revolting report on VA’s proclivity to “Fire the Best and Hire the Rest (if they’re related to you). 

 

It completely defies logic to have an agency tasked with such an important task take such a lackadaisical approach to our plight. I don’t like to whine. I like to strike, to take action- in a word-to improve the status quo at lightspeed.  Unfortunately, VA doesn’t have a lightspeed setting. VA hierarchy has no qualms about allowing this system to rot on the vine just as they have no plan to fix their backlog. Some have contacted me and tell me I’m wet and don’t get out much. They probably haven’t spent a year as a guest in a VAMC and witnessed ODing on Heparin, a MRSA infection via their PICC line or a septal infarct that went undetected for six months. I forgot to check but I’m sure the VISN director for the Seattle VAMC received a large bonus while on my watch. According to this article, that’s par for the course and not some aberration.

To really get a feel for this, read the plethora of  follow-on comments from actual VA employees (present and former) who do not seem particularly perturbed by this turn of events. We are handed a rotten deal from the get go. We are pawned off on an overwhelmed system staffed by incompetents who have no loyalty to Vets. We are assured we’ll get quality care “soon”. We are lied to, delayed and ignored by a medical system that insists it is cutting edge. To add insult to injury, they find “satisfied customers” to spout their propaganda on their blogspot Vantage Point. I have railed on and on here about their shortcomings and been told by some of you that I must be one of the most unlucky souls to ever darken the door of a VAMC.  One gentleman implied that my complaining would make life worse for other Vets and I should shut up and sit down. This article in no small measure vindicates what I’ve been trying to get across for years.

VA has proven time and time again that they will only jump when they find themselves between a judicial rock and a hard place. One brief glimpse of the Extraordinary Writs filings at the CAVC would reinforce this thinking. Many are the filings of Vets who simply want some closure to an ages-old claim that is stuck in limbo somewhere. When the Court queries the VA secretary and his minions, suddenly it is resolved. The logjam miraculously dissolves and what was sought is found to have been accomplished while the thirty-day-old complaint was still in the Court’s in-basket. A coincidence you say? I think not.

VA is intransigent. Mark my words now. They have no plans for the “what if” moment on January 01, 2015 when the backlog will still be firmly entrenched and alive and well. I see a plethora of excuses queueing up waiting to be employed though. VA medical procedures and indeed, even their personnel problems, will never subside without a sharp prod from Congress. I don’t see that happening any time soon-if ever. Of course, complaining mightily about it will do no good either.

Unless, and until Congress elects to actually punish individuals who perpetuate this system, there is no force on Earth that can overcome the impasse. The VA is far too busy creating new acronyms and programs to deal with every imaginary threat to their viability at our expense. Each new program takes us further and further away from the core function-the Veteran. As an example, look at gun laws. Every new atrocity spawns a new batch of laws designed to prevent such an event from reoccurring. No one looks back over the laws already promulgated and on the books to notice that many of these eventualities have all been provided for. In what many have touted as a perfectly controlled setting, the impossibility of having an “adverse gun event” on a military installation has been examined in detail and every eventuality accounted for. Yet somehow it still occurs in a designated gun-free zone. VA takes this to the logical end and provides for every contingincy. When something like a mass outbreak of Hepatitis C occurs at the Dayton VAMC due to unsanitary procedures, VA’s Office of the Inspector General descends in force and examines it in minute detail. Their findings often include the phrases ” It was not substantiated that the_____ were incompetent” or “It was not conclusively proven that the individuals in charge were criminally negligent.”  The mea culpas are not far behind in the Recommendations section.

VA has an enormous, magnificent excuse machine built into the system. Were you to read the whitewash about the multimillion dollar HR getaways in Orlando in years past, you would come away with glad heart and the conviction that this egregious behaviour will never, ever happen again.

vaoigEvery month I get the VA news feed from the OIG. Each and every one reads like its predecessor. The recommendations section is mimeographed from prior ones. Every few months a new set of recommendations surfaces based on a large number of complaints of new, previously undiscovered travesties. The years and recommendations tend to blur together because they all boil down to recommendations and not change orders. You can recommend to an alcoholic that he should cut back on his consumption if he wishes to improve his lot in life but absent any intervention it is merely good advice with no teeth.

Notice the similarity of “findings” in each of these. Pressure ulcer prevention (bedsores) seems to be the bugaboo this year so far. Well, that and “community living center resident independence and dignity”. I suppose that means the staff can no longer tell the inpatients to piss off.

http://www.va.gov/oig/publications/report-summary.asp?id=3077

http://www.va.gov/oig/publications/report-summary.asp?id=3076

http://www.va.gov/oig/publications/report-summary.asp?id=3074

http://www.va.gov/oig/publications/report-summary.asp?id=3068

http://www.va.gov/oig/publications/report-summary.asp?id=3068

The term “lather, rinse and repeat” rolls of the VA OIG’s tongue with alacrity and great frequency. How they can just reprint the same litany of excuses and expect our eyes to glaze over with boredom is amazing. I expect they think no one reads these epistles.

Reform at the VA is similarly stymied by lots of recommendations and four-letter programs that seek to focus on the problem-du-jour. Unfortunately, the calamities at the VA are so continual and so grievous, no amount of triage can keep up with the ineptness. As an example, did you know the VBMS system set up to electronically revamp our records is still not operational system -wide in all  VAROs?  After two or three years the excuses wear thin. Not enough servers. Too many RVSRs online simultaneously. Pick any excuse and then parse it for legitimacy.  Someone once opined that excuses are most definitely like assholes. Everyone has one, but for some inexplicable reason. VA medically defies logic and has numerous assholes whose primary job is none other than to obfuscate and apologize. If half the energy expended to manufacture excuses were devoted to claims adjudication, it is highly unlikely we’d be in the predicament we’re in now.

Here’s a sampling of some Extreme Writs I’ve parsed recently from the Court. Each one exhibits the same hubris that the VA was always in the loop and the Vet is simply expecting far too much too soon from the system (which, incidentally, is working just fine).

In his petition, he asks the Court to order the regional office (RO) to produce a copy of his claims file. The petitioner states that he mailed his first request on March 18, 2013, and that the RO has only responded that it received his Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request…

Or

The petitioner contends that a prior remand of his claim by this Court in May 2012 for compliance with VA’s duty to assist has resulted in inaction by VA and “interminable delay”  notwithstanding this Court’s directive to act within six months. 

Followed by the revelation from the VA’s OGC excuse squad…

On January 22, 2014, counsel for the Secretary responded that she contacted the Indianapolis, Indiana, VA regional office (RO) and was informed that all documents from the service department were received, including the charge sheet pertaining to the petitioner, and that a Supplemental Statement of the Case (SSOC) was issued on January 15, 2014. 

or…

On December 3, 2013, the petitioner, Claude V. D’Unger, submitted through counsel a petition for extraordinary relief in the nature of a writ of mandamus ordering VA to forward his file
to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals (Board) for action on his claim…In April 2009 his rating was increased to 100% with an effective date of March 2009…

According to VA, the petitioner’s claim remains before the regional office (RO) pending adjudication by the RO. The Secretary asserts that the RO cannot adjudicate the claim without
additional development, consisting of a new medical examination. In his response, the Secretary informed the Court that an examination had been requested through the VA medical system on January 23, 2014…

The delay here in completing the Board’s remand does not satisfy these conditions. The Court recognizes that this claim is unresolved at four years and counting, but a writ is not justified
at the present time because VA is taking action to adjudicate the claim. The RO has just now requested an examination. With VA alert to the delays in Mr. D’Unger’s case and taking steps to comply with the Board’s remand, a writ ordering VA action would be unjustified and, hopefully, redundant…

I could go on but the reader can ascertain the essence of the problem. Running from one brush fire to another with a hand-held fire extinguisher is no substitute for a system-wide revamp of the process. VA is disinclined to purchase a bonafide fire truck and prefers to myopically address each calamity on a case-by-case basis.

downloadUntil this myopic, neanderthal thinking process is upgraded to the twenty first century, we will be condemned to more of the same. It’s not getting better in spite of what the talking heads tell Congress. Apparently Speaker of the House Boehner has now been apprised of the disconnect and it will be repaired soon. We expect to see pigs suitably outfitted with wings down at 810 Yellow Brick Rd. NW any day now.

 

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WHAT MILITARY BACKLOG?

Sgt. Chris Peden

Sgt. Chris Peden

As if the VA didn’t have their own PR problems trying to explain away their backlog, now the military is facing the identical same predicament. What’s more, the military’s medical discharge backlog is now colliding with the VA’s. Déjà vu has never been so glaring as it now is here. The Tacoma News Tribune, my local fishwrap, decided to take an in-depth gander at it and comes away with an imperfect grasp. They failed to follow the trail of breadcrumbs to the Seattle VA. It’s eerily reminiscent of what we encounter in our claims filings-but only after we leave the service.

One thing we observe as we wend our way through the VA House of Mirrors is the inexplicably long, drawn out adjudication procedures. 385 days is nothing any more. I know the VA advertises far less in their jaunts up to Capitol Hill but we know better than to listen to Gen. Allison Hickey sing the Beatles’ “It’s getting better all the time” again and again. After three years, it’s redundant and untrue.

So I was not the least surprised to read the article this morning and observe the military is employing the same pigeon-holing technique as their counterparts at VA to create ever-larger inboxes to accommodate the overflow. What does surprise me is that the Army is recalcitrant about 86′ing all the PTSD deadwood during this latest round of Reduction in Forces (RIF). In fact, Medical Evaluation Boards (MEBs) have always been the first vehicle employed to begin the RIF. The Army hates to pay anyone who sits on their duff unless they’re incarcerated. Well, excluding generals at any rate.

As the article points out, Sgt. Chris Peden is suffering a serious bent brain. Unlike the recently deceased shootist in the morgue down at Fort Hood, Peden’s is a legitimate combat injury incurred in a hostile environment. The Army is fully cognizant of this yet they continue to play with fire and shuffle him to and fro in an endless Monopoly game from  Portland back to Fort Lewis.

It seems the Army has also caught Abbreviation Fever and has begun creating cute-sounding names for dysfunctional entities in which to house all these folks. The Integrated Disability Evaluation System (IDES) is a case in point. The Army itself states that the IDES process is supposed to take 295 days from the time the Army begins considering a soldier for an early medical retirement to the day that soldier starts receiving VA benefits. Think about that. Two hundred ninety five days. The Air Force inducted me, gave me basic training, advanced training and had me in situ in a theatre of war-all in the record time of two hundred thirty days. Fully clothed. In 1970. At the end upon my return, they invested ninety (90) days divesting themselves of me claiming I had irredeemable personality disorders. How is it these folks can stand proud and be complaisant about a 295-day termination process that often segues into three years as in Sgt. Peden’s circumstances? I doubt he’s alone.

With the advent of computers and satellites, it would seem that record could be exceed by a magnitude of 10. Yet here we read of an endless parade of Medical Evaluation Boards (MEBs) investigation, medical and psychiatric exams, committing Sgt. Peden to a  VA inpatient ward at the Portland VAMC and several other parking places while they cut bait instead of fishing. All this to see if Sgt. Peden is salvageable.

I don’t profess to having any medical training nor do I aspire to. I do have an innate sense of what is right and wrong about others around me. It doesn’t take a degree in psychology to ascertain when someone is a half a bubble off after a combat deployment. Or two. Or three. Throw in some SFWs and a few buddies who are room temperature and you suddenly aren’t going to Be All You Can Be. Why try to salvage this individual or even go through the motions of trying to repair what’s broken? I suppose you could make a case for repair/reinsert were it some critical MOS but Sgt. Peden is irreparably damaged by his own metrics and not a candidate for investing a lot of energy in cross-training to a less-stressful job. In fact, having attempted suicide already, he has voted with his actions. That ought to be pretty damning evidence against any repair order.

Now, as to why any military organization would need three long years to outprocess you and get your VA benefits on line needs investigation. What I strongly believe is that Sgt. Peden could be out on the street with the wife-san and trying to glue his brains and life back together in as little as a month to six weeks. If you could out-process from CONUS and travel to Afstan in that period of time and be boots on the ground shooting, why would it take a timeline like that below to reverse the process?

October 2012– fellow soldiers notice Sgt. Peden isn’t “all there”.  They ship him back to Ft. Lewis. Followed by:

1) temporary posting him to the Warrior Transition Battalion which is the Army’s way of putting you on medical waivers. Then, suddenly…

2) running short of NCOs and assigning him back to his original unit (A Co., 4th Batt., 23rd Inf. Rgmt.) as a “supervisor”.

3) February 2013– shipping him off to the Portland VAMC psyche ward for unstable individuals who are at risk for hurting themselves (or others) for a month.

4) April 2013– reassignment to 23rd Inf. Regiment again (current) and  continued refusal to reassign him to the Warrior Transition Battalion.

And then they wonder why some of us go bug-fucky.

The Army insists the MEB process is necessary to discover if a soldier is recyclable. This overlooks the present circumstances of a major RIF in progress as well as Sgt. Peden’s prognosis. By his own admission, all the King’s men and all the King’s horses are not going to get this Humpty Dumpty back in the saddle. So why the interminable delay with little or no mental/medical intervention? With over 22 soldiers or Veterans sucking on lead lollipops every day across the fruited plain, why delay a day or a week longer than necessary to get him into the hands of the VA and some good help? Granted, I’m being facetious using VA and good help in the same sentence but let’s assume that is the preferred alternative to what he is now experiencing.

downloadThe problem is glaringly obvious. There is no place for Sgt. Peden at VA yet. He has to take a number as they all do. Were the Army, Air Force and the Navy to suddenly divest themselves of all their unwanted, damaged personnel baggage, the VHA would sink under the load. There simply is no room for the Sgt. Pedens’ of the military services yet. It has to be accomplished gradually-often on a triage basis- in order not to tip the boat. We observed something similar after the Vietnam Misunderstanding. Thousands of Vets were cut loose and left to their own devices. They, in turn, became homeless and hopelessly addicted to drugs with the complicit knowledge of the VA and no one did a thing about it for decades. They also started taking their own lives but again,  no one complained. That era is mercifully over and we consider it a dark chapter best left to  dim memory. With the social media sites available now, nothing of this magnitude can escape inspection.

With this sure knowledge that simply opening the front gates and turning all the defective soldiers loose to fend for themselves a la post-Vietnam is not an option, the Army and the other services are forced to babysit them and release them in controlled numbers so as not to create a lump in the VA python. The saddest part of this is that future Veterans like Sgt, Peden could begin the healing process far sooner and more successfully if they were able to put as many miles as possible between them and the base they are artificially incarcerated in.

Sgt. Peden began this odyssey in late 2011. It is now spring of 2014. Most of us would consider this ample time to inspect, detect and reject Peden in the artful words of Arlo Guthrie. Nevertheless, here’s the projected timeline according to the article:

 

Peden is nearing the end of his disability process. This month, he received his final ratings from the VA and the Army. He expects to be able to start taking leave from his unit for good by about June, and he should finish the entire process by November at the latest.

Strikes me that he’s been playing Angry Birds and collecting E-5 pay for over two years and a few months and hopes to have this puppy in the bag by three. Anyone out there see a problem with this picture? Sound like delay, deny, until we die? I see it as a typical punishment for attempting to squirrel out of a commitment to serve. Either that or the babysitting/triage theorem is more on point. Either way, it’s certainly an unceremonious way to treat a warrior whose only desire is to go home and reintegrate with society. Considering the military frowns on those who lollygag and malinger, we would expect them to expedite this process to reduce payroll and preserve every dime possible for other military endeavors. Since Sgt. Peden doesn’t fall into the gold brick category, the insult is all the more egregious.

And we, as Veterans, thought we were getting the run around. Shoo, doggies. At least most of us get a denial in less than sixteen months. Too bad you can’t file a Writ of Mandamus in the Army.

 

 

 

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