MEMORIAL DAY 2–GONE TO GRAVEYARDS EVERYONE

downloadOne of the stalwart antiwar groups singing meaningful songs when I marched off to war were Peter, Paul and Mary. In a more enlightened, less-sexist era, that would have given Mary top billing. Their seminal “Where have all the flowers gone” encapsulates not only an era of discord and discontent, but the dreams of many and the inexorable ache of their loss for naught- or National honor-or whatever standard you salute. 

Where have all the flowers gone?
Long time passing
Where have all the flowers gone?
Long time ago

Where have all the flowers gone?
Young girls have picked them every one
Oh, when will they ever learn?
Oh, when will they ever learn?

Where have all the young girls gone?
Long time passing
Where have all the young girls gone?
Long time ago

Where have all the young girls gone?
Gone for husbands every one
Oh, when will they ever learn?
Oh, when will they ever learn?

Where have all the husbands gone?
Long time passing
Where have all the husbands gone?
Long time ago

Where have all the husbands gone?
Gone for soldiers every one
Oh, when will they ever learn?
Oh, when will they ever learn?

Where have all the soldiers gone?
Long time passing
Where have all the soldiers gone?
Long time ago

Where have all the soldiers gone?
Gone to graveyards, every one
Oh, when will they ever learn?
Oh, when will they ever learn?

Where have all the graveyards gone?
Long time passing
Where have all the graveyards gone?
Long time ago

Where have all the graveyards gone?
Gone to flowers, every one
Oh, when will they ever learn?
Oh, when will they ever learn?

Different wars have different cachets, different scents, different geographical anomalies-indeed, different dangers. The only common thread was, and is, danger. The unspoken metric is winning. Thus, each Memorial Day weekend, I spend an inordinate amount of time in help, introspection, cameraderie and being there for my fellow members who I have touched or helped. It’s the pay it forward button that I push to take my mind off my mind.

Law Bob Squarepants referred to me once as “madder than a shithouse rat.” I wear that one with pride based on the assumption it meant I was a scrapper. I forgot about the other definition of mad- i.e. crazy. He’s never corrected the sentence so I have no reason to severe our relationship.

Winning -be it in a war or or a claim with the VA, is still a battle. It consumes your mind with what if’s and I shouldas. It takes an interminable amount of time. It takes a toll on all members of a family and often results in divorces. Of course, dying during a war really puts a fork in a marriage too.

Memorial Day is a great way to remember and a sad time of retrospective loss. All the ‘what if he hadn’t been on LRRF that day?’ doesn’t bring him back. There is no DeLorean with a 3 gigahertz flux capacitor to take us back and rescue them or change their fate.

I know that emotion all too well and the involuntary subconscious butt pucker at an old memory as most combat Veterans probably do. What made me curl up into a ball that night just before the mortar hit? Why did Howard intercede for me and not my buddies? How come the guy behind me got toasted by the Bouncing Betty and all I lost was an eye and some skin?

All those what if’s slowly die in our minds with time-thank God for that. It was like a ricocheting bullet around my noggin for a long long time after I came back. Likewise, after 42 years, the memories are far less destructive and the funnier, warmer ones bubble up. Larry getting clap on R&R in Australia of all places. Who would have thunk it? Making bottle rockets out of  c-ration can metal, the PE they used on 60 mm mortars for propellant and a piece of  the baling wire from around the wood boxes for a stick. Idle hands were the devil’s workshop in an explosives candy store. Focus on those memories if you are troubled.

Raise your flags on Monday to the top and slowly let them descend to half-mast.  What the hey? Why wait? There isn’t some stupid law yet that says you can only fly it at half mast for one day, is there? Salute those who won the Golden BB Powerball Lotto and will never live to enjoy their riches. Salute what could have been and what isn’t. But mostly, salute them as there were no braver men and women who were more committed to keeping America in her rightful first position in the pantheon of Nations as the Veterans who selflessly sacrificed their lives for our country. Just remember if you think you’re having a bad hair day on Monday, think about how confining a 2X6 box six feet under must be.

If you’re having a barbecue this weekend, I’d ask you to take a poke at Mary, Peter and Paul’s most excellent anthem of angst and pray we never forget the horror of war and its inevitable aftermath on those left here. Hey, it’s a great song if you’re my age. It doesn’t have any of those weird high notes. That’s why I printed it for you. It pretty much sings what I feel.   War is Hell. as Chesty Puller once said, but combat is something else.

Long may it wave

Lest we forget.

May Howard always walk beside you. Or Andy. Six of one and half a dozen of another.

Posted in Food for the soul, Memorial Day | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

MEMORIAL DAY 1–MICHIGAN VSO OVERCHARGES VETS FOR HIS SERVICES

Scott "the Loser" Losey

Scott “the Loser” Losey

We always ( I did) got the old saw from a VFW service rep. that “Hey, we’re doin’ this for free for you. We don’t get paid a dime like those shyster attorneys that scalp you for all your winnings. We’re an up and up outfit. Say, are you buying another round? Way cool. Make it a double. Anyway, where was I? Oh yeah. We’ll have your six all the way until we win. Hear? That’s why we’re here, dude.”

 

1398714386749When my son was in middle school in the nineties, one of the prevalent hand signs to indicate a loser or someone with low, future social potential was to hold the extended thumb and index finger into an “L”and plant it firmly on your forehead.  This visual sobriquet belongs to Mr. Scott Losey. Were I to have embarked on this endeavor, the first stop would have been the Calhoun County Courthouse to file for a name change. Losey is like being given the surname of Burglar. That might work at McDonald’s if your Christian name is Hammond but not here.

I am always amazed at human greed when I encounter it. Nothing is sacred but it does seem a lot of misanthropy crops up in the Veterans sector. For it to come from this quarter (the VSO vector) is more troubling than it appears. We would like to ascribe this to a horrible aberration but what if it is merely a harbinger or the tip of the iceberg? I have personally had contact with four different organizations over the last 26 years. None petitioned me overtly for more than a year’s membership “since I was already there anyway”. It would seem that the mere act of signing the POA was also a commitment to the cause -if not  an unwritten financial prerequisite- to obtain top drawer service. We all know most VSO reps took a page out of the VA’s manual on sloth, inaction and gross neglect and practice it religiously. Most, granted, but not all. I apologize. My New Year’s resolution was “With malice towards none”.

I was destitute when I signed with DAV so a membership was out of the question. Getting any meaningful legal help was seemingly also impossible. And so it went from denial to denial and VSO to VSO. No one told me the secret to success was right there at my fingertips and I was too dense to absorb it. A simple concept. “Hey, how about I give you 20% of my winnings if you kick ass and take names?” All these years they’ve been funnin’ us and sayin’ they were doing it for free.  That was the intro and I missed it for the obvious tagline that it was. You just had to have the secret password to get into the VA winner’s circle- “How much?”

See how simple that is? I bet that’s why  you fellers come here to learn all these tricks. Wooooooo, doggies. I’d like to see some of you go into AmVets and say “Hey, I just got the briefing on this from Alex. So how much is this gonna cost me? He says you folks prefer Home Depot or Target gift cards to keep it on the up and up. I’m cool with that. ”

Happy Memorial Day weekend. It is the most glorious time in the world to be a dead Veteran. With that said, I contribute member WGM’s photo of his back yard and an inspiring poem he sent.

A Poem for Remembrance Day

“The inquisitive mind of a child”

Why are they selling poppies, Mummy?
Selling poppies in town today.
The poppies, child, are flowers of love.
For the men who marched away.

But why have they chosen a poppy, Mummy?
Why not a beautiful rose?
Because my child, men fought and died
In the fields where the poppies grow.

But why are the poppies so red, Mummy?
Why are the poppies so red?
Red is the colour of blood, my child.
The blood that our soldiers shed.

The heart of the poppy is black, Mummy.
Why does it have to be black?
Black, my child, is the symbol of grief.
For the men who never came back.

But why, Mummy are you crying so?
Your tears are giving you pain.
My tears are my fears for you my child.
For the world is forgetting again.

Author Unknown

Lest we forget

Lest we forget

Posted in Food for the soul, Memorial Day, VSOs | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

BVA–EARL SCHIEB $99.95 NEXUS– IN BY 10,OUT BY 2

VeteransAdministration.12755109_stdYeppers, just like the Chinese dry cleaners, our Johnny Vet tries to hire a $1.395 nexus writer and ends up losing his claim. This was a disaster and I’m ashamed to note he had a real law dog representing him. Apparently, Mr. Peter J. Meadows hasn’t read my Nexus letter brief and advice. Either that or Johnny Vet arrived with this baggage and Mr. Meadows blithely accepted it as viable medical evidence in favor of the claim.

It also doesn’t help when you try to smuggle in a nexus authored by someone with .HRC, ADD, MSc, CRSC, PRc, et cetera. If there is no nursing degree, no PA-C, no MD or ARPN, it’s ND (no dice) for VA. Of course, they are free to use a CNA to opine on a brain aneurysm cogently even if they can’t spell it.

Just remember. Submit the nexus but make sure the doc has read the contemporaneous records from service (STRs) and explains why he feels what he does. I really hate to see these because the poor Vet is going to have to head back to the barn and start all over. There’s not much to salvage here.

http://www.va.gov/vetapp15/Files2/1512625.txt

Posted in BvA HCV decisions, HCV Health, HCV Risks (documented), Tips and Tricks | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

BVA– PTSD EQUALS HEPATITIS C

635646931319099161-veterans-administration-logoWe are finally getting traction on this after twenty years of filing it under willful misconduct. Considering VA takes it upon themselves to make this determination, legally they are precluded from it. A UCMJ court or nonjudicial punishment while you were in might be grounds for willful misconduct but it is a determination made by military folks-not VA. Conversely, the military cannot enter the picture after separation and try to dissuade the VA from granting you service connection for anything. Why would it work in reverse?  

I’m not sure what battles he fought in that gave him the SC for PTSD but that’s not my call. Military Sexual trauma is a known fact-both female and male.  Getting Hep C from PTSD is readily considered as a known risk factor. Read and heed Brad. More ammo for your claim.

http://www.va.gov/vetapp15/Files2/1513269.txt

Posted in ASKNOD BOOK, BvA HCV decisions, HCV Health, HCV Risks (documented), MST, Nexus Information, PTSD, Tips and Tricks | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

CAVC–PAZ V McDONALD–IMPLICITLY MAKING A FINDING

vetcourtappealspromoI love reversals. Where Meg Bartley is concerned, they are delicious and well-thought out. So, too, is this vignette of Mr. Santiago Paz and his incredible bad luck with VA. In my next incarnation I shall write a book for Vets entitled Semantics Are Everything. It will educate Veterans on the old adage of “Lord, keep Your arm around my shoulders at all times and Your hand over my mouth. Amen”

We as Veterans tend to be loquacious and honest. We tend to downplay missing a few things like hands, arms, legs and the like. In fact, sometimes when in pain, we grin and tough it out. This is not the thing to be doing at a C&P exam. If you normally wear a back brace, keep wearing it-even to a C&P exam so they know.

Paz reversal

I would never ask anyone to fake their symptoms or exaggerate them. I would point out there are certain disease processes that have natural high points or exacerbations that do not always coincide with the timing of the  C&P exam. The only thing I have ever suggested is to not take the beta blockers before a heart exam. It makes no sense to measure METS when you’re at the top of your form medically. What in hell caused you to get there in the first place? Likewise,  if you have a bad back like Mr. Paz, it would not be inconceivable to go out and rake the leaves in your yard and clean up even if it meant aggravating the back muscles shortly before the exam. If anything, it would clearly and unmistakably illustrate the shortcomings and the limits of motion/pain associated with the injury. Nothing says you must sit in the recliner for a week relaxing the lower back musculature prior to an in-depth investigation. That’s a medical non sequitur.

downloadI have heard of packing your pockets with lead tire weights and then going in for the follow on VAMC visit and weighing in without them. It’ll raise a few eyebrows. Nurses will ask you if you feel well.  So too will putting FD&C #2 yellow food coloring in your eyes for a HCV C&P exam. The only problem with that is that the blood test for bilirubin may not show much elevation and then VA wonders what caused that bodacious sclera ictera. Maybelline eye shadow is another good one as long as you don’t overdue it or smear it. No, seriously. A C&P is an excellent way to demonstrate, in most cases, your disability. You may be at a disadvantage with eczema or PCT at the right time. Whatever you do, keep your piehole shut and your eyes and ears open. Never diagnose yourself.

Mr. Paz has paid his dues. Hell, he’s almost sixty.  Few will recognize it but please note Mr. Paz’ first term of enlistment that found him in Vietnam mentioned in the decision under Facts:. It was a term of two years-in other words, Mr. Paz was drafted. That he continued in a Nasty Guard, Weekend Warrior gig until injuring his back in 1985 shows he decided the military was a good fit- even if part time.

Mr. Paz found himself in macho land when he applied for an increase in 2006. He didn’t want to sound toooooooo disabled and be perceived as a goldbrick. The difference between 20% and 40% in 2006 was about $200 dollars or less or a jump from $180 to $360. His wife would get a pittance of $109 and an even smaller amount for the chillluns. This was about enough to cover half the rent or his food bill every month. And, as with most back injuries, they rarely improve with age. Mr. Paz was getting ready to get quite an education in that regard.

Let us take an aside and examine some of the most overlooked bedrock principles of rating-the Holy Commandments of such ensconced at the beginning of Part 4. Most Vets or their attorneys are in such a rush to get to diagnostic codes and actual ratings language that they skip over Ratings 101 to their own regret. St. Margaret will lead us through the bedrock, core principles of clawbacks- the Dos and the Don’ts.

https://www.law.cornell.edu/cfr/text/38/part-4/subpart-A

Many have come to me in recent years and tell of horrible “You have sixty days to pitch a bitch about your reduction or we’ll institute it in six months”. Some of you get the ax with no examination whatsoever. Some get the paddywhack with over five years of protection. Whatever the case, there are a gazillion rules that govern when and how VA can do this. Most fail to appeal and it becomes set in concrete. Most clawbacks, too, are wrong. Few are the Vets who pursue this to the Court foolishly thinking that VA is right.

Mr. Paz fought back because he knew he was right. It sure wasn’t for the bucks. I mean, sure, the money would come in handy but the core principle is that he was entitled to it.

This illustrates the reach  of 38 CFR § 3.344(c)  but it also reveals the shortcomings of  VA using it solely as the determining metric and the last word on ratings protocol. For that we rely on Part 4’s Introduction on the destruction protocol.  38 CFR § 3.105 has the far more descriptive path for rending it asunder.

The OGC really tried to reach new ground on this using the descriptive adverb “implicitly”. Sorry, Will. That dog don’t hunt.

The Secretary responds that, although VA did not expressly find that Mr. Paz’s low back strain had improved under the ordinary conditions of life and work, it implicitly made that finding by assigning a lower evaluation, which was necessarily based on VA’s assessment of his ability to function under the conditions of daily life, including employment. Secretary’s Br. at 11-14 (citing 38 C.F.R. § 4.10 (2014)) Paz supra

You notice how they just try to slide that in like an Aluminum siding salesman in Kansas’ tornado alley? “We decided to lower it because our guys found he was improved and the way we did it was based on our super secret assessment protocols which were implicitly considered. We don’t have to discuss it with the VSO or the Vet. Suffice it to say we know what we’re about here so butt out.

The absolute crux of the holding is quintessential Bartley. I know. She’s only been here for the blink of an eye but boy howdy can she make the OGC ‘s eyes water.

The Secretary’s attempt to circumvent the Court’s holding in Brown is unavailing. If, as the Secretary contends (Secretary’s Br. at 13), VA’s assignment of a lower evaluation necessarily [implicitly] establishes that a veteran’s service-connected disability has improved under the ordinary conditions of life and work, then there would have been no reason for the Court to  identify and discuss that  requirement in Brown (and its progeny) because every reduction decision would, by definition,satisfy that [implicit] requirement. That is not a tenable reading of Brown. Thus, the Secretary’s argument must fail.

Mr. Paz’ decision is the first where the VA has tried to subtly insinuate that the reason for the reduction is what Mr. Paz said and the evidence showed-but only up to a point. The cuttoff came before a showing of his unemployment  picture which is a prerequisite for TDIU. Hellooooooo?

One thing that concerns me is the sudden chill in reversals from 625 Native American Ave. NW. Can it be that justice has been clarified like butter and there is no further need for messy,  obstreperous reversals?  Hath the Secretary promised never to darken the door of  the CAVC with further judicial abortions henceforth? This is the first recent reversal I have seen that irrevocably gutted a complete decision and left nothing for affirmation or vacation since the NOVA convention. Seems Judge Bruce Almighty dropped the hammer on the FNGs and told them to quit gerrymandering justice to the benefit of Veterans. Trust St. Meg to ignore his counsel. Mr. Paz’ reduction was void ab initio six ways to Sunday and needn’t have taken years. Perhaps this is why we have such an interminable backlog? Poor judicial training below seems to result in more nuanced law reading above. At least if you get a farthinker like St. Meg.

P.S. We are in for an indeterminate period of flux until Kasold punches out. That much we know. What ensues in the interim is of paramount importance. We shouldn’t have to put Veterans law (or reversals) on hold while waiting for his Eminence to Emigrant to greener pastures.

Posted in CAVC Knowledge, Implicit denial, Informal Claims, Reductions in rating, VA Medical Mysteries Explained, Veterans Law | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

VHA–YES, WE HAVE NO HARVONI

freezing HellThis just in from member Mike. Fargo, North Dakota is officially out of Harvoni or you have to wait until Hell freezes over to get any. Mike reports it’s not even a normal wave off with red smoke. They say they have no money for it. Not only that, it’s a new transplant (liver) Mikey’s talking about that is on the wrong side of the triage line.

Think about this. If they allotted X dollars for Harvoni throughout the Fruited plain, stands to reason some of it would land in, of all places, Fargo. It has to be on VA’s radar. This is May 2015. Mikey’s a Vet. Mikey’s also  a Vet with a new liver being destroyed by the old Hep C virus still in his body. Make’s sense to protect the new liver with a bumper to bumper warranty right after you install it. Yeppers. Makes sense just about everywhere except at the Fargo VAMC.

Now, since I know a little bit about VA law, I’ll let you in on a little VHA secret. You can file a Notice of Disagreement on one of their shiny new  21-0958 forms and file it at your local Cheeseville or Newnan intake center. In it, you list the reasons why you need Harvoni and why it is oh-so -much- more- economical to fix it now rather than to wait and destroy a practically shiny new liver. You get Dr. Cecil to opine that to wait is to ensure a host of evil outcomes including cirrhosis of the new liver/ ascites/spider angioma/ esophageal varices just to get started.

Yes sirree, Bob. And you thought you could only file and appeal for benefits. We going into a whole new realm of litigious innovations. HCVets are at a crossroads for a cure and VHA is pulling out the empty pockets and signaling the LZ is too hot for the dustoffs to come in.

Maybe we need to get an advance on the docket because if we wait the traditional amount of time now, we’ll be dead before we get a docket number to sit on the Group W bench.

hARVONI budgetThe newsflash from Sam in Palo Alto is garbled. We’re gonna start you on it any week now. Maybe next week. Maybe the week after.

Houston has it. American Lake Tacoma apparently has it for everyone but me. Seems that it depends on where you live and if you have an autoimmune disorder or a migraine this week. They have it in Baltimore but not at the VA. Jimmy Durante would be proud were he still alive.

P.S. Randal and another Vet  are getting it in Denver but they don’t trust old Randy not to sell it to the highest bidder so they only give him a two-week supply and make him drive 70 miles one-way to pick it up. Only at the VA, ladies and gentlemen. Only to America’s sick defenders.

Posted in HCV Health, Medical News, Sofosbuvir, VA Health Care, VA Medical Mysteries Explained, vA news | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

ILP–10 DAYS IN MAY

11102741_705019316269671_7495132787478366177_nThe most glorious moment until the first tomatoes come in late in July has to be the annual attempt at ILP humor when I attempt to grow corn starts. Everything has to be evicted except  for the actual tomatoes I intend to plant for myself. I baby them until the first of June indoors like spoiled Paris Hilton chihuahuas. To compound problems, the Strawberry Fields is in high gear out front. Global warming throws everything out of kilter. Too much food and too little time.

This is what 900 Silver Queen babies look like. Leave no kernel behind. Not on a jungle trail, Not on a desert trail. Not on a garden trail.

 DSC01207DSC01208DSC01209DSC01210DSC01211

 

As for the Strawberries, the call has gone out. So far the score is ” If you’ll come dig clams off my beach, I’ll come pick your strawberries. We’re both in the same predicament–too much of one and not enough of another…” Well, boooy howdy is that ever a fair trade. Some of the corn starts go towards my trading for free-range chicken eggs. Imagine trading plant starts for eggs? Who would of ever thunk it? I must be in heaven man. Now imagine that 365 a year inside a warm greenhouse. I know how Bruce Dern must have felt in Silent Running. I wonder if ILP would cover a Huey and a Dewey too?

download

Okay, guys. This is how we do the Silver Queen gig. Watch.

 

Posted in Food for the soul, Independent Living Program, VR&E | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments