A vision of the soul of the VA came to me this morning in what seemed to me was a blinding flash.
WHAT?? You are always hearing of or seeing a light go on when a revelation finally hits you. Well, it happened to me just as the sun was coming up today.
The Veterans Administration are all full fledged PATRIOTS!
It is now apparent to me they are in lock step with one of our founding fathers, Benjamin Franklin. He said in 1756 “A penny saved is a penny earned” and that is exactly what the VA has done and is now doing for the one million veterans pleading for their earned and rightful compensation.
By denying, protracting, and short-changing our veterans I estimate the VA has saved in just the last four years a bit shy of $49,323,746.12. Don’t go getting all smiley-faced, that number also represents one million deserving veterans that must do without.
That varies anywhere from a roof to sleep under to clothing for the kids.
If you know anyone that now works for the Veterans Administration, please ask them this one question. How?
How can you refuse so many deserving veterans?
How can you make deserving veterans wait years, or a lifetime for compensation?
How would you feel if you were the veteran and received your own VA narcissist responses?
(Read this “how” carefully – please) How would you feel if you asked for compensation - for example - for PTSD (post traumatic stress syndrome or being Shell shocked or battle fatigue) and the VA denies you because your PTSD (they say) was caused by being married and Title 38, U.S.C. does not recognize marriage as a cause for PTSD (I realize this is a brainless and maybe unintelligent comparison/analogy but you should see a few of the actual (real) reasons I have received while denying me cancer compensation – they are worse!). It makes no difference if you claimed three tours in Iraq and your nightly dreams are of your buddies body-parts crying to you from under your bunk as the cause and affect and you have twelve verifying civilian MDs official diagnoses, your family is broken and you now live on the street. The VA probable sent you a letter saying they are “Cognizant”. So the beat goes on and they keep denying you …and your words and professional MDs words go unread, or miss-understood or disregarded, or worse…!
That’s not what Ben was referring when he said “…save…”
And the final “How” - How are you able to sleep nights then go to work and do the same day after day to still more veterans? Is that the reason there is an 18% annual "Action Officer" turnover rate and present to former Secretaries of the Veteran Administration (Mr. Anthony Principi and Mr. Jim Nicholson or Togo D. West Jr.) resigned prior to their full appointments? Does this “How” also include Mr. Harold F. Gracey Jr.? It should.
You say “…that can’t happen…” Yes it can and I have the VA letters as proof.
Benjamin Franklin would not approve of our present day VA.
There are so many things/happenings/events going on in our world I’m almost embarrassed in writing this article. In the big scheme of things these words don’t mean a hill of beans to you. To me yes, but I am but one of over six billion folks alive on this blue marble we call Earth. Will you gain any insight or knowledge from this story if you read the whole thing? Yes. Will that knowledge do you or me any immediate good? No. Not today or tomorrow but someday down the road someone of you will have a light go on, take some seemingly insignificant action and that action will cause, if not the world, that action will change the well being and life of one or more persons. Promise. Scientist, deep thinkers, visionaries call it Evolution. The one major problem with evolution is I will not be here to see or benefit from it, me and one million like me.
That million number is growing exponentially so hang onto your scorecard to see the next thrilling chapter of our government’s Veterans Administration (VA) in non-action.
In our present politically correct world, why does our Veterans Administration aloofness continually surprise me? How can they do it? The VA attitude is NOT what Benjamin Franklin had in mind.
Benefit of the doubt
6 Month approval time
Baloney (aka BS)
“On my watch”
The above words are for the most part the backbone of the Veterans Administration (VA) but in reality these words are merely words. They have no teeth. They merely are used to try to placate, are narcissist and generic form words.
“On my watch” is one phase I always deplored while I was a federal government employee. It means that the status quo will remain the same, no one makes any ripples and everyone is happy in their position and no one gets fired or called to answer for their actions or inactions. “Change” doesn’t happen. Whatever the rules are at the time, those rules or interpolations of those rules/guidelines are static. “We don’t want our retirement/pension damaged now do we?” or “…don’t make waves.” You know what happens when everyone around you is up to their chins in a cesspool and someone make a wave? Its call the Veterans Administration (VA) or more correctly, the Compensation and Pension (C&P) branch of the VA.
Hospitals and medical care are not the issues here. Veteran medical care can not be questioned. It is “First Class.”
If you are not old enough to remember the TV show “Dragnet” Sergeant Joe Friday’s penetrating monolog always contained his purpose in questioning people... “Just the facts mama, just the facts.”
This article is just that – the facts. I would love to embellish, make more dramatic, stretch the truth, but my four year odyssey dealing with the VA trying for rightful C&P (Compensation & Pension or monthly government $$ in compensation for wartime or military caused medical problems – most times ending in death.), besides - the truth almost sounds stranger then fiction.
Let me start with my US Senator after I asked for help. The senator’s response to my call for federal help was positive and reading the words told me, yes there is someone out there that will help and be on my side. I didn’t ask my senator for anything not deserved or owed by law or regulations, I merely asked if they could build a fire under the VA and requested a fair evaluation… but preferable during my lifetime. The senator’s official letter to the VA said I was a constituent and they were looking over the VA shoulder. The VA was then required to respond “…in writing… as to action taken on my behalf.” The VA response back to the senator took less then a month and read as to merely placate, there was nothing positive in the typed two pages and was obviously generic – only my name had been substituted in an apparent standard “Senate” pacifying letter. The senator’s office forwarded the VA letter to me saying, “…there you go… if there is anything else I can do for you, just let me know…”
Back at square one! Maybe... maybe not. As busy as the senator and her staff is, they called me at home to reassure me I had not been forgotten.
Growing up I had a younger cousin that was more then a bit slow that barely got him thought the ninth grade but his heart was golden and he always had a spring in his step and a ready smile. People, old and young always made fun of him to his face because he would always smile and never got mad. Anger was not in his personality. He never did anything positive, just never got angry. Our Veterans Administration is a lot like my cousin.
The really sad part of the VA is the people. For the most part they all fall under the category of “nice” or “normal”. There are no axe murderers, malicious sub-humans sitting in places of authority (action officers – mid and upper management) but there are many like my cousin. While these nice people don’t know or understand the word rote, the lower echelon (the GS-5s, 7s and 9s are unfortunately those that first make line decisions on the veterans) practice rote, and that is sad. They just don’t understand their position. In the civilian working community outside our federal government do you know anyone receiving more then $52,180 a year and doesn’t have a clue what their job is all about? Our General Schedule Civil Servants has over 200,000 of them just in the VA alone.
I am not a tourist visiting a government office similar to a tour guide pointing out the first-class parts while visiting Europe’s historic places in visiting seven countries in six days. I Lived in Paris for four years and in Germany for seven more years and a couple years in the Far East being shot at so I am not a Tourist. I lived the life and walked the walk. Similarly I worked on the rings and in the bowels of the pentagon for 24 years as an engineer action officer responsible for billions of USD ($$$) and in the War room responsible for military and civilian’s lives and well being. I was not a tourist so I fully know and understand the inner working of the US Government and our VA system and it is not what Ben had in mind.
“If you know the system…why are you writing this article?” You are thinking. “Why complain if you know the treatment you will be subject too. Why beat your head against a stonewall while being stonewalled?”
Good questions. Actually they are damn good questions. Staring at the screen the only answer I can come up with is “Frustration”. I have tried all the honest paths I can, talked to all those folks about what is happening, written letters – to everyone, done research till I am the resident expert on the VA, regulations, forms, querying the Internet but our VA system seems to me are a lot like the nursery rhyme:
For want of a shoe the horse was lost.
For want of a horse the rider was lost.
For want of a rider the battle was lost.
For want of a battle the kingdom was lost.
And all for the want of a horseshoe nail.
This Nursery Rhyme explaining consequences through its lyrics. A clever set of lyrics encouraging a child to apply logic to the consequences of their actions. Perhaps used to gently chastise a child and explain the possible events that might follow a thoughtless act. The references to horses, horseshoe, riders, kingdoms and battles indicate the origins of this nursery rhyme were probably set in English History but is as true today in our VA system as it was in 1754 when Benjamin Franklin wrote it.
Other then nursery rhymes, Stonewalling comes to mind.
The VA does not live up to their own rules and regulations. All you have to do is read Title 38 http://ecfr.gpoaccess.gov/cgi/t/text/text-idx?c=ecfr&sid=a3eb31fee1750ec515d3219f78412b17&rgn=div5&view=text&node=38:126.96.36.199.5&idno=38#38:188.8.131.52.184.108.40.206 - then talk to or be one of the one-million veterans awaiting rightful compensation to read what should be and receive from your government what they feel like granting.
The front-line VA GS-5s and 7s have the most impact on our veterans seems as if they are not allowed to act outside their own rules and regulations and their interpolations, or inside them for that matter.
Is there retribution in our government? Do civil servants always play by the rules, with smiles on their faces and a spring in their step? Are civil servants honest and give you an honest day’s work for an honest days pay? Please read http://www.mspb.gov/decisions/2001/ch00531d0644i1.html before answering. This GS-9 was demoted to a GS-5 within the VA for inefficacy but then continued in their old job. I’m not sure about you but I am as honest as the day is long and love my fellow-man but IF I was demoted and left in my old position I’m not so sure I would be smiling all the time. You don’t go to “efficient” from “inefficacy” over night. Ask anyone of the 3,000 plus veteran claims handled by this one disgruntled demoted GS. (if the above site is not working, ask your VA why they took it down.)
It seems to me the VA thinks nothing of protracting benefits for deserving veterans as they can not see the results of their inactions. Sad…. So sad… Ben would not approve.
I know Ben would have asked, “…how…?” or maybe “...why…?”
So… back to my article.
In December 2006 I wrote a lengthy and stinging article titled “We owe our veterans” www.haroldhester.com. Mailed it to 14 members of congress, six newspapers around the U.S.; was a guest speaker on a radio talk show in Phoenix. I had a phone call from my VFW representative telling me the Veterans Administration Regional Office in St. Louis had taken note and moved my 12” thick rubber banded C&P file to “…their congressional side of the house… for immediate action”. Immediate is a relative term. To you or me the word mean “right now”, “as quickly as possible”, “ASAP”, “rapidement”, “bonne baise maintenant”, or rápidamente or “schnell”. To our VA friends those words only means “business as usual” and business as usual is extremely slow – even in the tourist season.
I had a VFW representative tell me two years ago “…you have to play the game. Pretend it is a game of tennis. You write the VA a letter that puts the ball in their court… they respond… the ball is then in your court… you hit the ball back with another letter, etc…etc…etc. – Love - 40 game.” I tried that. In four years I have served 41 times, returned their high lazy lobs (generic VA letters) with stinging forehand (truths) smashes they never return – they simply ignore the bright yellow Wilson or Penn tennis balls bouncing at their feet and drop an old gray water-soaked Dunlop (generic) ball and lazily tap it under-handed over the net. In the past four years I have even received a few high floating badminton shuttlecocks (half-truth narcissistic answers to my senator). Two players, different balls, totally different rules BUT the same game. That can’t be, you say. There are USTA line judges, chair umpires, TV cameras, the senate, the news media all watching the “game” how can that be? Unfortunately for the American military veteran there is more emphasis and background qualification required to call a tennis ball in or out of bounds then what is required of professional Civil Servants that hold a combats veterans life and well-being at the point of their ball-point pen.
What qualifications do I have to write this story? In the big scheme of things, I’m actually a nobody. I am a college graduate, a professional architect for a brief time before being drafted, served with distention in the Army for 20 plus years until I was medically retired. A Bronze Star winner and combat soldier in sunny Vietnam was a…. well…you get the idea… just an all around good guy and even worked as a civil servant at the Pentagon until retiring in 2001 when they stopped shooting at me and started throwing airplanes at me. Medical-wise I’m not all that great; a couple heart attacks, a stroke, diabetic and kidney cancer to mention just a few ailments. I’m 73 now but don’t go saying “…well he has had a good life…” – I have had these ailments since I was active duty military – since I was 43. The military – our government, the VA now have me on their hands to do with as they have promised in writing and in blood since 1776. Give me rightful compensation for those years I gave so much in defense of this country. “Freedom is not free”.
I’m sure there is a question in your mind now. Let me try to phase it for you. Why should the government, the VA pay you monthly compensation? ANSWER: Without military service I may or may not have these same health problems but the fact is I do have them now and all my health problems are directly related to my military service as are the one-million other veterans in my same boat. If you are a civilian you may not be familiar with just how dangerous the military really is. In civilian life you do a job - to make money. In the military your job is to kill or help those that do the actually killing. When you are in a fight as a civilian you may get a bruise or a black eye – when you are in a fight in the military you are trying to kill the other person as they are doing the same toward you. Bullets and bombs kill as does disease and accidents.
A military veteran deserves all their government has promised.
In my December 2006 lengthy article I spelled out for the VA a way they can redeem themselves. I guess only time will tell if they (VA) ever read the article and if they will heed its words, advice and council. Unfortunately for the VA it is made up of humans and humans have built-in flaws but the folks in the VA don’t even see or acknowledge their own flaws. “Why?”
Do you know how many parts go into making a Million?
Do you know how many parts go into making a Billion? How about 3 Billion USDs being spent PER WEEK in an Iraq war we should not even be in.
If you took all us veterans that have applied for and been waiting for years plus our new younger veterans in our current war(s) – if you added the USD that they/we are asking for in compensation of rightful service the total would be in the neighborhood of less then $48,000,000 for the remaining lifetime of the veterans – you can do the math comparing that number to 3 BILLION PER WEEK
There are still a handful of WW1 veterans, and a few million WWII, Korea, Vietnam veterans and now Iraq and Afghanistan are producing young veterans that need medical care and compensation to live post military lives. Say that word again… Million. There are over one million old and new young veterans asking, begging for their rightful due that Washington, George and DC promised. Few remember the Bonus Army of veterans march on Washington in the spring of 1932. History has taught us that “…if you either do nor know or heed history you are bound to repeat it.” I would hope, at least, upper management in the VA knows enough history to get themselves out of their self-imposed quagmire called C&P.
There are lots I can not fathom about the VA but this is maybe the worst. How can a GS 5 nobody say no or only give a small percentage of what the VA’s own rules and regulations specify to a new amputee, or brain damaged or PTSD veteran?? I am told a large percentage of VA action people are in fact, veterans themselves. If that is true then we have a LOT of hard-hearted veterans with attitudes. Could that be the reason there is more then an 18% yearly attrition rate within the VA?
There doesn’t seem to be any way to build a fire under these VA people. Sure, sure they have a huge backlog of C&P claims. They do, and it is ALL their own doing – its called inefficiency. At the Bureau Veterans Affairs (BVA) the backlog of veterans awaiting rightful claim is in access of 493,000. When you have but 60 lawyers looking for errors and making sure eyes are dotted and tee’s crossed in Regional Office (RO) submittals of deserving veterans it’s no wonder the normal 4-6 year C&P claim is protracted another 4-7 MORE years. I wonder if anyone has noticed more then 56% of BVA veterans claims are “referred” back to ROs for further work. Backlog at the BVA (these are the lawyers and law judges sitting in Washington DC acting as the overlords for the VA) is >493,000 then you add the 57 ROs backlog of 638,408 you have that million number or 1,137,408. You know the really sad part of the million number? It’s an INCREASE of over 44,000 just from one year ago. Four years ago when I started my rightful quest for earned C&P the total backlog was “only” 472,918. That’s a hell of an avoidable increase. Remember that word – exponential? If you are a veteran all we can do is take tennis lessons and enjoy the days we have left on mother earth because the VA is going to fight you tooth and nail for your rightful due.
The VA has basically doubled their work force during the last couple years. They have doubled their budget and work force and their case load has more then doubled. Something is horribly wrong when you double the force and the money and your efficiency is cut in half. Shouldn’t the case load go DOWN – not UP?
Remember the tennis game? Follow this logic please; Backlogged veterans claims are increasing exponentially over 4,000 per month; The 57 state Regional Officers (ROs) are so over-loaded they forward most of their case-load to the BVA for adjudication (it’s call passing the buck); the BVA, list, studies, catalogs then REFERRS over 56% of those cases BACK to the ROs for further study; when a case is referred it DOES NOT go to the head of the line – it is a “first come first served” so the veterans case takes 4-6 years to work it’s way to the BVA and then there is a strong probability that case will become a tennis ball adding another 5-7 years before it can be denied. Before the year 2000 the BVA had a favorite phase for denying rightful claim, “…not well grounded…” That phase kinda went away when VCAA (Veterans Claims Assistance Act of 2000), was made law now the VA and BVA play tennis with the veterans cases by referring them back and forth to each other – once referred it is a minimum 2 years before that claim sees the light of day again.
I’m not kidding.
Internet site http://www.index.va.gov/search/va/bva.html is searchable. Please feel free to verify these numbers – it’s scary to see numbers the VA and BVA seem proud to display.
Here’s another scary report: http://www.vba.va.gov/bln/201/reports/mmrindex.htm The VA calls it their Monday Morning Work Load Report. You can see weekly reports for the last EIGHT years. Scared the pants off me when I reviewed the numbers, but the VA just keeps plodding alone.
The VA will argue the veteran “…gets the benefit of the doubt… that the preponderance of the evidence must be against the veteran for his/her claim to be denied.” That is just VA rhetoric. I personally had two professional medical MDs furnish proven medical facts from world renowned physicians and oncologists plus they included the American Cancer Society proven studies for me and was denied. Why? The VA’s had their own IME say after a less the 3 minute physical examination “…there is no supporting literature”.
HOW? How can a professional medical doctor turn a blind eye to facts?
The veteran needs outside help. Many can not afford lawyers nor IME (Independent Medical Evaluations – doctors that will review your records and render professional opinions to the VA – normal cost are in the $3,000 range and it’s not guaranteed – that is just to get the VA opinion). The VA and BVA routinely turn to their on in-house MDs that parrot the party-line and turn a blind eye to the more honest civilian IMEs.
Remember that tennis game and the rules?
Remember that number – Million?
The military is funny. They will give you $20,000 to enlist but will fight you tooth and nail for $100 monthly compensation that you earned – all in contradiction to “their” rules.
Some advice for the young soldier that one day will be a veteran and most likely be seeking Compensation from the VA just as – remember that number? – a million of us are doing today.
1. Keep copies of your medical and service records
2. Know that the smiling civil servant sitting across the table is NOT your friend and owes you nothing.
3. If possible, tape (digital) record all your meetings and VA testing.
4. Be VERY careful of your phraseology when speaking with the VA. “How are you?” if responded with “Fine, thank you” translated into VA medical records means “Veteran denies any physical problems – the veterans sits straight with no slouch – has an upbeat gait even with his Cain – is well tanned and centrally obese.”
I choose not to go on and on about the VA. I did that in my December 2006 article. I choose also to say the VA in understaffed – They ARE NOT!! They have plenty of work force – they just don’t know how to use them. I covered the “how” in the December article. I choose also to not go on and on about the VA budget. They have plenty of USD. In fact, as soon as the VA stops saying how over-worked and underpaid they are maybe, just maybe these $128,757 a year middle managers will start doing something for the veterans they were hired to look after in the first place.
One final statement on the VA. They answer to whom they wish; they do not answer questions they do not want to but they answer questions you do not ask. A newspaper, the News-Record in Greensboro NC in early 2006 asked the VA 57 pointed questions many thousands of their veteran constituents needed to know. NC has about 800,000 veterans and many of them are seeking C&P. They asked the newspaper http://blog.news-record.com/staff/lexblog/archives/2006/09/index.html if it could get answers because the VA was not responding to individual veterans. After a year, the VA finally gave the newspaper an answer: NO.
Do you know whose portrait is featured on our US $100 paper bill?
Benjamin Franklin. He would prefer his picture was distributed more freely and openly to our present day veterans.
Harold F. Hester
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