What Makes VA Raters Tick?


I had the opportunity to roam around inside a VA rater’s noggin recently. I say this in the figurative sense of course. As their thought processes are so jaded, it was difficult getting through it but I have much to report. Take your protein pill and put your helmets on, pilgrims.

     VA raters, aka examiners, RVSRs, DROs, etc. are a breed apart. There are many employees afoot at the Veterans Service Center as we now refer to it.  Among them walk the Holy Ones. They are responsible for deciding your claim. They consider themselves wise beyond their years and very well-trained. Some even boast college degrees or sport degrees in medicine such as PAs and ARNPs. I have heard of one fellow actually coming back to Ratings after obtaining his M.D. Insecurity must breed there among their ilk for this phenomenon to occur. Anyone with a medical degree wanting to settle in there for the golden parachute is suspect. The bucks just aren’t there- but oh! the responsibility.

      I digress. As I was saying, VA examiners would have us believe they are akin to Karnak the All-Knowing and have a Funk and Wagnall’s mayonnaise jar on their desk for the really big quandaries. Remember Johnny Carson? The best one I ever heard was “Yasser Arafat”. The question in the jar was “what is the sound Dolly Parton’s bra makes when she takes it off?” Our VA Ratings experts are even better.   The standard  incantation is automatically “Denied” followed by the ritual opening of the envelope to reveal the claim. They have the answer in hand before they see it. What is truly amazing is when queried as to the reasoning behind it, you will hear some of the most inane theories and logic regurgitated as if it were quoted out of the Old Testament.

     VA raters and their superiors (who were once raters) honestly believe they are being objective in their analysis. They say they are pro-Vet and bend over backwards to see it his way. They really are on our side and many of them are Veterans as well. They espouse words of compassion and caring for our plight. Their denial letters are often well written as only Adobe Acrobat programs can write them aside from the grammatical collisions.  The consensus at the VARO is one of hope and change-soon…

     VA raters are probably swell guys and you would welcome them to your community barbecue. They are fair and balanced like Fox News in their own minds. Of course, they are also a legend in their own minds, too. The idea of denial is not innate. It is learned, but never voiced.  Denial in their lexicon is reserved for those claims that have no merit and can never be resurrected and won. These seem to involve willful misconduct while in uniform or behavior that leads to exposure to diseases-but only after service, mind you.  If the Veteran has a valid claim and all the prerequisites such as nexus letters, the rater will see it when he believes it-but not a moment sooner.

     VA raters usually have many claims on their desk and in their in-baskets. It’s logical to assume that some of Billybob’s claim may accidentally get put in Jimbo’s file. There are always errors in this business. If some of you have been denied in the past for lack of evidence, it may have been misplaced by these loyal public servants. Be patient.  They may sort it out some day. Then again they may not. The important thing to remember is that they are on your side and they tried to get it right.  As the error rate seems to be hovering around 70%, one can surmise there is a lot happening in those offices. I had a kindergarten teacher for a client on a remodel once. Every afternoon she would return home and the magic incantation was “Rat-a-tat-tat!. Listen to all those busy little hammers!”. Sic Semper VAROs. Similarly, confusion is in the eye of the beholder. If you never vacuum your carpets, it’s hard to discern the dust. The carpet simply looks “dust colored”. 

     So, fellow travelers, this is what we are dealt. We cannot obtain justice until we have been denied the same. Congress made sure of that.  But the bright light is here at HCVets. We are under no such strictures as to feed you chicken poop and keep you in a dark basement thus condemning you to the life of a mushroom. We shine the light on these shenanigans and go even further. We illuminate the shoddy practices of VSOs who greedily sign you up for the government stipend and then ignore you like a deaf and blind person might.  We point out the incongruities of an examiner opining on the fact that there is nothing in your SMRs about hep.C in 1970. We harp on the necessity of having a viable nexus when they blithely gloss over the requirement.  We often opine that if we were Mel Gibson freaks, we’d suspect it was a conspiracy. There is no such thing. It’s apathy and lack of inertia. If you read those missives the VA sends you at the beginning of your claim, you would know a nexus is a requirement. Having a Service Officer repeat this again and again would be rude and redundant.  Why, you might even think he was being mean. We can’t have that behavior so if you neglect to get a nexus, the SO is left with the impression that you know something he doesn’t and have a better plan.  Well? How else can one explain their behavior when you see all these fellows show up with their VSO in D.C. empty-handed? The dog sure didn’t eat it. 

     VA raters are very talented and gifted. They have the unique ability to look through the forest at the weeds and ignore the trees.  This is a special gift that requires years of study. Pesky facts, like square pegs, don’t fit in round holes. Whittling and sanding them into round pegs is permissible because it makes the process  faster and easier. When caught doing this, there is no opprobrium associated with it. In fact, there is no punishment whatsoever for cheating or “disremembering the facts”.  Remember, these poor souls are overworked and underpaid. They get a “bye” on correctness. Starbucks has set up stores near every VARO and probably gives them a Rater’s discount.  If errors occur, it certainly wasn’t intentional-perhaps coffee jitters?. I think this may be where Vets get off on the wrong foot with the VA. Just because the rater has your facts cattywampus doesn’t mean he doesn’t care. You just have trouble expressing yourself with the written word.  How else to explain the fact those poor souls are constantly tasked with trying to figure out what we are claiming?  At Appeal, I have invariably read that hackneyed phrase “The Veterans’s claim was construed to be for residuals of hepatitis, but he failed to identify which kind. “or something equally inane.

     No, children. Be glad you never aspired to be a rater. It’s a thankless job as they will tell you. It leaves them depressed at the end of the day because their hands are tied by your intransigence. In spite of their best efforts to approve these things, you, the Vet, have failed the test. You arrived without the proper documentation. Your legal help (VSO) was negligent. You were a ne’er do well in the military and you cannot prove your half-baked claim because you have no evidence. Forget for a moment that they are the keeper of the keys and that evidence you need. It’s your responsibility to accomplish these things and if the people you hired to do it are sloppy and ignorant, the fault cannot be laid at the feet of the rater.  As for depression and dysthemia, I have never heard of a rater committing suicide, so it must not be too onerous a job. Just be glad it’s not on your shoulders to make these weighty decisions incorrectly. I actually think I might prefer the life of a mushroom over that.  So much chicken poop and so little time.

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About asknod

VA claims blogger
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One Response to What Makes VA Raters Tick?

  1. Kelly Clark says:

    Dear Mr. Nod,
    Thank you for restoring the blood into my well drained noggin’.
    I am happy to report that my breathing has resumed after a full 15 minutes of laughing so hard I believe I have stumbled upon a condition I was previously unaware of.
    Lets call it laugh apnea.

    I will always treasure the TP that I graciously recieved from the VA in the form of a denial.
    Dear Mr. Clark, we cannot grant you the next higher rating for your fracture residuals, as the evidence shows you do not wear a brace. Even though we designed you a “special brace”.

    Oops. Forgot to claim the clothing allowance thus proving to these poor overworked souls that I do indeed appreciate the hard work that went into microwaving the form fit plastic and velcro “miracle of modern Orthopaedics” they call a “brace”.

    My bad.

    Perhaps my “new and material evidence” shall be my approved “clothing allowance”.

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