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Yesterday I was attacked for being the "problem" with the service officers normally known as (SO's) they are the representatives that are entrusted to process the veterans and widows compensation claims thru the Veteran Affairs Regional Office (VARO's) and if necessary thru the appeals process to the Board of Veteran Appeals (BVA) and if ultimately necessary to the Court of Veteran Appeals (COVA).

These organizations are many and they have federal charters, the major groups are well known, the American Legion (AL)  the Disabled American Veterans (DAV)  Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA) Military order of the Purple Heart (MOPH) they can NOT charge for their services in representing veterans in their attempts to obtain benefits,  all assistance is supposed to be free of charge, but many of these groups use contacts to push for membership applications to be filled out, many veterans are under the idea that if they "join" the group or become life members at costs of several hundreds of dollars they will get "better service" which is misleading to say the least.  

I was told that I should join one of the groups after I was granted 100% service connection for my PTSD, regardless of the fact that they had nothing to do with the award being granted, nothing they had done enabled the award, in fact their SO had refused to file the claim for PTSD as it was not "combat related" and he refused to file PTSD claims for non combat related causes.

What many people and especially veterans do not realize, that there is nothing in all of their years in military service that prepares them to file a claim  for benefits with the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs  when they go to one of these various service organizations for assistance they are throwing themselves at the mercy of the SO that they happen to run into, the so called professional claims rep.

The fallacy of this, is that some of the SOs are very talented people and are well trained in what they do, in many cases however the SO knows about as much at filing a claim as does the veteran, this is a case of the blind leading the blind, literally.

In my case I was referred to the "best" Service Officer in the Augusta VAMC hospital in October 2002 after the cardiac doctors told me that I was medically incapable of returning to work of any type due to the severity of my heart problems.

A heart cath on October 22, 2002  showed that my ejection fraction was 25% and that 2 of my bypasses had closed off and could not be surgically repaired and that the 2 previous stents that had installed in August 1997 and Nov 1997 had also closed off and could not be re-opened. For all intent and purposes I was medically retired on this basis, and under the "grids" or SSA  the ejection fraction or the failure of the stents and the fact they could not be repaired I was automatically eligible for SSD, which they did grant in four months after they obtained the VA hospital records from October 2002.

The VA claim process was an education in itself, the fantastic SO from the AL, filed my claim, he however did not properly fill out the 28 page  request for benefits, rather than include the proper diagnostic codes that all insurance companies and SSA  and anyone else who deals with medical paperwork utilizes, he was rushed and put down "heart problems" and submitted my paperwork. It took him from October 22 2002 until December 19, 2002 to accomplish this. In January 2003 my primary care doctor sent me to mental health for help, I was having a meltdown after learning the details of the Edgewood Arsenal Human experiments to learn what really happened in 1974 was a shock to my system.

In April 2003 after extensive interviews by a 3 doctor team of VA doctors I was diagnosed with PTSD  based on this and several other incidents the military calls "stressors"  that were verified by courts martials and hospital and military police reports.

In July 2003 the VARO denied my claim for "heart problems" due to a lack of diagnostic codes, and a nexus letter from physcisians. I wanted the SO to file a Notice of Disagreement  (NOD) and to file a claim for PTSD now that I had been diagnosed with it, and it was verified that it happened while I was in the Army with the first stressor being in Feb 1975, with many others over the next 20 years. The AL SO made the comment that "he would not file a claim for PTSD that was not combat related" my wife pulled me off his desk. He also stated that he does not file multiple issue claims, he handles claims one issue at a time and as long as I had the "heart problems" on appeal there was nothing he could do.

In Dec 2003 we were in the VAMC and went by his office to check on the status of the claim, his secretary opened my folder and there lay the "heart" appeal  it had never been filed and the claim for PTSD was also laying there.  I wrote out a revocation of the power of attorney and his secretary said she could not give me my paperwork. My wife took me to 1801 Assembly Street on Monday of the following week and after talking to a service rep at the service desk, we learned the truth, veterans can file multiple claims at once from 1- 25 issues if they could justify them, my wife and I filled out a NOD on the denial of the heart issues, filed new claims for PTSD, hypertension, GERD, skin rash's, scars, tinnitus, hemmeroids, psoraisis, CVA, CAD this was done on the 22nd of Dec.

During the next few months I learned a lot from veterans boards called and American Gulf War Veterans and Veterans Benefit Network  there are decades of knowledge on how to deal with the claims process and is tremendous assistance to veterans and their families that are trying to learn about the benefits avaiable thru the VA.

In the next few months of going to Assembly street about my claims I met a nice guy, it turns out he worked for the DAV, he was amazed about the story of me being used as a human test subject at Edgewood Arsenal, and he found it interesting that the VA would not officially recognize my use in the "med vol" program or the fact that I was exposed to LSD and other chemical weapons and drugs while at Edgewood. I signed a new POA that allowed him to deal with my claim, and he was doing good as we were able to get at first a 50% award for PTSD, and then after I wrote VP Cheney the letter about his knowing about the human experiments in 1974 and 1975, that I was raised to 100% P&T, yet the VARO would still not address the human experimentation at Edgewood Arsenal in 1974.

The DAV  then terminated my reps employment, he went to work for the VFW, I revoked the DAV's POA  after the replacement for my rep insisted I drop the appeal for heart problems and start all over and file for a 10% hypertension claim and then after that was granted we could  start a new claim for CAD, I declined his advice and revoked his POA. I went to the VFW and the rep that knew my claim and what I wanted to accomplish, it wasn't but 4-5 months and my favorite rep  up and quit and went to Washington State, and I was again left with a rep that wanted me to drop my claim  and the request for back pay to the date I had originally filed my claim in Dec 2002. That did not make sense.

Since I am a member of PVA  due to my power chair and my heart failure, I took my case across the hall to the PVA SO, he looked at my case and told me that he had never seen anyone ever win a CAD and hypertension claim secondary to PTSD and he was not going to waste his time.

I then asked around since the VA had just approved the use of attornies to handle appeals of veterans compensation claim. The lawyer I found told me that due to the denial date of my claim I could not "hire" a lawyer under the new rules, but that they could see I needed the help of a good lawyer and they would take the case "pro bono", with that stress off of me, I did not have to deal with fighting with the VA by myself any more.

In less than 18 months, the lawyer had a meeting with the DRO where he denied the claim again, the lawyer filed the form 9 and asked for a BVA hearing in August 2008, the BVA hearing was held on Feb 4, 2009, the BVA Judge granted the claim for CAD and hypertension on April 7, 2009 and the VARO was forced to issue the award letter and back pay on 4 June 2009, which raised me to a level called SMC S and guarantees my wife and son the DIC and CHAMPVA benefits if I die from cardiac problems, which without that SC grant they would have been left with no government benefits other than SSD widow benefits when she turns 60.

The Army nor the Service Organizations do a "good" job of educating veterans or their families of the process, what can and can't be done, the PROMISE is a mystery to most veterans and most widows and kids do not have a clue to what they should be getting in help from the military let alone the service groups.

I wish I had a higher opinion of veterans groups but from what I have seen in the past decade, nothing has changed to make me even want to join any of these groups except the PVA, the work they do is worthwhile and I paid for my membership in body parts, the other groups want several hundreds of dollars for lifetime memberships  or annual memberships of 20-50 bucks a year and then you can buy hats, vests and donate to their causes.  

May be I am jaded but I think they should try and educate the veterans they claim to be serving.....they should also spend more time training the people that the veteran depend on to properly handle their claims. When veterans write to the national officers to complain about lousy service, some one should pay attention, not send your complaint letter back to the person you are complaining about. Nothing gets done and you still have nothing more than a chair warmer occupying the chair just waiting to screw over the next unsuspecting veteran or widow.

To the veteran service officers that do know what you are doing, I am sorry you are tarnished by these chair warmers

Originally posted to testvet6778 on Thu Mar 11, 2010 at 02:51 AM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  PVA called me (7+ / 0-)

    trying to get a donation. A little research showed that they, as well as a number of other veteran's charities, spend far too much on fundraising and too little on veterans.

    "A lie is not the other side of a story; it's just a lie."

    by happy camper on Thu Mar 11, 2010 at 05:01:49 AM PST

  •  What a frustrating mess! I'm glad you eventually (6+ / 0-)

    got help, it sure took long enough.

  •  VFW (6+ / 0-)

    For many Vietnam veterans, the VFW experience was pretty depressing. The WW2 and Korean vets frequently told us, "Vietnam wasn't a real declared war, and besides, YOU lost." One of my recent happy days was when the local VFW post had too few members to carry their old meeting hall, and had to relocate to a double-wide-sized cinder block building.

    I recently acquired a nice, new shredder that can take unopened American Legion and VFW recruiting materials in a single pass. Fuck them all.

    Et des boyaux du dernier prêtre Serrons le cou du dernier roi.

    by johnrhoffman on Thu Mar 11, 2010 at 05:08:04 AM PST

    •  Yep (5+ / 0-)

      That was my experience.
      Besides I can't take all the uber patriotism. I never stand for or take the pledge to the flag, etc.

      The folded coffin flag is nothing but a receipt from the Masters of War to the pawns in their game.

      by BOHICA on Thu Mar 11, 2010 at 05:38:36 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  And they said the Hippies spit on us! (3+ / 0-)

      Disabled Viet Vet ret. My snark is worse than my bite

      by eddieb061345 on Thu Mar 11, 2010 at 06:56:32 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  the VA spits on us worse than hippies ever did (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        •  VA Service is great for me! (0+ / 0-)

          I take exception to testvet6778's remark. As an indigent Vietnam vet, I get complete, free care. There has not been one screw-up in any service I have received. I am certain the complete digitization of VA medical records has a great deal to do with this.

          When I shattered my elbow in a fall last year, I had several appointments with orthopedic doctors at a VA hospital. The first phase of my visit was an X-ray. Then I would meet with the doctor. The new X-ray was on the LCD monitor in front of him when I entered his office! He or she would always ask me how I was doing on the medications.

          Granted, I had to have my shit together at a level some veterans might not be able to achieve; insofar as I had ALL of my needed documents under control BEFORE I applied, and I filled out all of the printed on-line forms correctly on the first go-round. The primary reason I did so well is I asked a disabled veteran friend who had been using the VA for over twenty years about possible tricks and traps of which I might need to be aware.

          He said:

          1. Fill out the paperwork completely and correctly.
          1. Send along either the original or a certified copy of your DD214 when you apply for services.
          1. Do not EVER miss or be late for an appointment.
          1. Try to be early for your appointment. If the holder of the previous appointment was late or missing, you get in early!  

          Et des boyaux du dernier prêtre Serrons le cou du dernier roi.

          by johnrhoffman on Fri Mar 12, 2010 at 04:24:43 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  take offense all you want the VA heathcare is (0+ / 0-)

            excellent  the compensation claims process sucks  that is a fact  not jjust my opinion  the VARO manages to deny deny and deny claims until vets either die or give up in frustration  ask the VA how well  they have helped the nuclear test vets, the chemical weapons and drug exposed vets, the biological exposed  vets, agent orange anyone, gulf war illness,  radiation  etc  yea they really helped those veterans didn't they?

            •  VA problems (0+ / 0-)

              I suggest you work through an ombudsperson. They exist. Many are free. Complaining about a problem as unsolvable when there are still unexplored avenues to check out is not Helpful.

              First stop: Touch base with a veteran who has been successful in getting the VA to work for him/her. Determine what was done differently that resulted in your failure to obtain a benefit. Hell, you might not really be eligible for the benefit, and you're wasting everybody's time. You have to ask to find out for sure!

              A new tip: NEVER, NEVER lose your temper when dealing with the VA. You might not be speaking clearly or actually elucidating your case to the person with whom you deal at the VA. If the answer to your query is not what you want to hear, or makes no sense, restate the question. Cutting massive amounts of slack is always a good thing.

              Et des boyaux du dernier prêtre Serrons le cou du dernier roi.

              by johnrhoffman on Sat Mar 13, 2010 at 04:47:44 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  you really need to read my history before you (0+ / 0-)

                decide  that "I should just play nice"  they don't they refuse to even admit this happened


                Vietnam Veterans of America, et al. v. Central Intelligence Agency, et al.
                Case No. CV-09-0037-CW, U.S.D.C. (N.D. Cal. 2009)

                What This Case Is About
                Plaintiffs seek declaratory and injunctive relief only – no monetary damages – and Plaintiffs seek redress for 25 years of diabolical experiments followed by over 30 years of neglect, including:

                the use of troops to test nerve gas, psychochemicals, and thousands of other toxic chemical or biological substances and perhaps most gruesomely, the insertion of septal implants in the brains of subjects in a ghastly series of mind control experiments that went awry;
                the failures to secure informed consent and other widespread failures to follow the precepts of U.S. and international law regarding the use of human subjects, including the 1953 Wilson Directive and the Nuremberg Code;

                an almost fanatical refusal to satisfy their legal and moral obligations to locate the victims of their gruesome experiments or to provide health care or compensation to them;

                the deliberate destruction of evidence and files documenting their illegal actions, actions which were punctuated by fraud, deception, and a callous disregard for the value of human life.

                The Complaint asks the Court to determine that Defendants’ actions were illegal and that Defendants have a duty to notify all victims and to provide them with health care going forward.

                They are supposed to serve the veterans that served this nation   no one ever said we had to kiss their azz to make them do their jobs

                •  Apologies and reparations (0+ / 0-)

                  Of course, I get it now. You don't want or need help with a medical issue. You want government employees, two generations removed from your problem, to apologize for something that happened on another generation's watch. Is this quest of yours not unlike slavery reparations? Would it make everything whole for you if a faceless bureaucrat from the VA sent you a letter or shook your hand on television?

                  Et des boyaux du dernier prêtre Serrons le cou du dernier roi.

                  by johnrhoffman on Sun Mar 14, 2010 at 05:57:24 AM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  how could they be 2 generations removed I am (0+ / 0-)

                    still alive  and they can stuick their hand uop your azz for all I care  what I care about is the widows they have ignored of the test vets that have died  and give the other test vets the medical care from the VA they deserve I am a 100% disabled  vet I have my benefits and get excellent care  I want the PROMISE kept to the other 7119 veterans or their widows   but I guess that is to much to ask from a grateful nation   you got yours so everyone else can go fuck off is that about it?  you disgrace all veterans   as long as you got yours the rest should just shut up

                    •  A grateful nation (0+ / 0-)

                      I got over the notion that my country was going to thank me for my service about fifteen minutes after I got home. Nobody cared, and that's part of what passes for normalcy in the United States. People who knew where I had been were happy to see me and were relieved I was okay, but nearly everyone else was just not interested.

                      Shortly after I got home I went back to college, and joined the campus veteran's club. After a few months all of the non-Viet Vets just stopped coming to the meetings. This group of new friends and I partied our brains out. Those of us who wanted an education eased back on the partying to attend class, write papers, and take tests until we graduated. Other members failed out of college and disappeared. Among the things I noticed was the fact that things that mattered to non-veteran undergraduates, such as sports, dances, debate clubs, fraternities/sororities. etc., just did not register on our event horizons.

                      About the time I was finishing my MBA, I had an insight that has stuck with me. Veterans who join veteran's organizations are participating in a Vonnegutian granfalloon, which as I understand the term, is a collection of people who think they have something in common.

                      My veteran friends and I greet each other on Memorial Day and Veteran's Day by saying "Happy Memorial Day," and "Happy Veteran's Day." Some of my veteran friends are disabled to varying degrees. I believe by saying these things, we are simultaneously remembering our dead friends and celebrating the fact that we are alive.

                      Et des boyaux du dernier prêtre Serrons le cou du dernier roi.

                      by johnrhoffman on Wed Mar 17, 2010 at 05:37:18 AM PDT

                      [ Parent ]

  •  I'm 80/100% connect disability (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    testvet6778, post rational

    In 2001 I suffered a Heart attack fortunately I suspected it in enough time for my wife to get me to the emergency room of the Bronx VA Hos. They at first told me I wasn't having a heart attack or Diabetese as time passed I got worse and worse. Then I got the News I WAS having a herart attack and i DID have Diabetese. They gave me a special blood thinner which actually worked. The Heart specialists determined I needed stents although I was reluctant. But after their assurances I aggreed. Well during the stent insertion they threw in a bonus, a Stroke that put me in a wheelchair. Well to make a long story short the Rep they assigned to me at the Hospital came to me while I was in recovery and submitted all the paperwork for me. I didn't have the slightest idea of what he was doing. I subsequently received my SS disability and my VA Connected Disability approval months later. What still  plagues me is,  how does my 80% treated as 100% rating,( as long as I don't work) affect my benefits in other areas? Will the 80% come back to bite me or my family in the future?

    Disabled Viet Vet ret. My snark is worse than my bite

    by eddieb061345 on Thu Mar 11, 2010 at 06:55:00 AM PST

    •  from what you describe to me is that you are rate (0+ / 0-)

      80% scheduklar and am getting paid at the 100% TDIU rate  am I correct?  If so as long as you never return to work  the 100% funds and your rating should be increased to TDIU P&T where your wife is entitled to CHAMP VA medical care and shapter 25 benefits  she is also entitled to use your 10 points as a disabled vet to get a federal job  with  excellent benefits  since you are unable to use them   my wife is needed as my "nurse" so working out of the home is not practicle for us  but it may be in your case   and federal jobs have excellent benefits  and if possible she should go for it   hell even janitors at the post office get all 13 national holidays  start with 2 weeks vacation and work up to 5 weeks vacation   with the holidays that is almost 2 full months a year off of work and base pay is around 38,000 a year  my last year at the post office as a carrier with OT  I made 73,000  more than my supervisors made since they were salary   I also use to volunteer to work Xmas which was triple time   you got your base pay and then double time for all hours worked  it adds up to triple time to me  and at a base pay of 22.00 an hour  I smiled all the way to the bank for 66 an hour   also as long as YOU don't get a job with a W2 or a 1099  and file your annual earning statements to the VA  they will keep sneding you the TDIU checks   the only way to lose it is if you return to work    where as my 100% schedular rating can be reduced with 2 exams that the doctors can claim that I have improved  in your case they can;t do that to you   in my expert opinion the TDIU rating is the best of the 2 ratings  schedular vets can have their ratings lowered a whole lot easier  sleep sound at night    your cardiac problems sound on par with mine  stroke at 36, triple bypass at 41  7 heart attacks in the next 2 years, 2 stents  bith stents failed and a ejection fraction less than 30%  I can not do  tread mills either  they use nculear dye and take  CT pics  and other type tests....I am a medicate only patient

  •  After Running Away (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    testvet6778, RosyFinch

    from all things VA for the past 40 years
    I'm now enrolled and getting excellent care.
    The down side was getting diagnosed with PTSD
    even though it explains a life spent on the margins.
    I've submitted my paperwork and all I can do now is wait. My State employed VSO is an idiot but my best friend is a retired VSO who is keeping things on track.

    I hope your claim gets works out to your satisfaction.

    No one will set you on the wrong Path quicker than a true believer.

    by post rational on Thu Mar 11, 2010 at 07:26:41 AM PST

    •  my claims are great NOW like I said I am SMC S (0+ / 0-)

      I get about 3300 a month I have no complaints now  the past decade sucked though  now I advocate for my fellow veterans and I am strident in my support for the veterans exposed to any type of experimental programs Edgewood Arsenal, Fort detrick, Dugway, SHAD, Nuclear (my step father was a nuke vet and had 3 kinds of cancer, due to his national security agreements and my own signatures on national security agreements)  he died before we could compare notes  he died so soon after the RECA act was approved that he never received the 75,000 dollars he was entitled to, since my mom diedbefore he did, his claim died with him, children of nuclear veterans can NOT collect on the damage done to their fathers   I think that needs to be fixed, they suffered because their dad suffered from the cancers, like any family the kids are affected by their parents cancer and are normally cheated out of quality time they could have spent with dad

      •  It's a Shame The Way (0+ / 0-)

        Vets get taken for granted sometimes.
        Now that I know how the ptsd has effected
        my life I can plainly see my WWII father had it too.
        The families of Warriors, share their wounds.

        I'll take the benefits for both of us and enjoy
        the retirement he planned but didn't get.

        ... .. --. -. .- .-.. -- .

        No one will set you on the wrong Path quicker than a true believer.

        by post rational on Thu Mar 11, 2010 at 03:25:07 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

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