Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Phase II - Your Post No. 1

Reporting for Roll Call - 15:15Hrs 7-10-13
Hi LT:
Back again. Took short break to take care of other matters.
Re: Your Post No. 1
Since I've never had to deal with the disability claims process, directly, I'll defer to your experience with it.
From what you say in your post, our Cherry Troop faces a VA which has an institutional bias against any veteran's claim for any kind of disability related to invisible wounds such as PTSD and/or toxin wounds of one kind or another. If its "motto" about that is...Lie and Deny Till You Die!...that means the VA is deliberately doing everything it can to obstruct the processing of such disability claims, and, has made that a matter of general policy. In short, if that is the case, the VA considers and treats such claims as coming from liars and frauds, who are only trying to "game" the system. My only reaction to such a situation is: WHAT IN THE HELL DID ANYONE SERVE FOR THEN? Worse than that, if that is the sub rosa policy, then every Sec. of the VA, every senior official of the VA...every shrink(as the one you mentioned),every administrative bureaucrat involved in the process are all liars and hypocrites (and we haven't even mentioned all our "honorable" elected officials such as the Pres. Senators, Congressmen).Talk about "conspiracy theories"! If that's the reality involved with such a process, then it's a doozy.
Sorry, but I have a hard time wrapping my mind around such a thing. Is it really that calculated, that contemptuous of all those who've honorably served, that, should they make a claim for those invisible wounds incurred, they are considered and treated as frauds? I really hate to think so. Or is it simply a matter of a massive organizational incompetence, and sheer slipshod, lazy, bureaucratic inertia? Having said that, sounds like one is as bad as the other.
So, if it's is a matter of figuring out how to play the VA's game (something akin to Chess, maybe?),what are some of the opening moves our Cherry Troop needs to make? For instance...can you explain how a claim is initiated? And how is it put together?


Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Post No. 1 - Begining Phase II of Roll Call

Reporting for ROLL CALL  7/16/13  4:38PM

If you are reading this, you are doing so because you have completed the Phase I of ROLL CALL.  There are 24 posts in Phase I, and after reading these you should be familiar with the exact procedures needed to get signed up with the VA, have your first meeting with your Primary Care Doctor, and your first visit with your doctor at the Mental Hygiene Clinic.  You know the Rules and the Steps and you have familiarized yourself with the special links giving you more 'facts' about the current situation with the VA, and the reasons you need to get signed up if you are an honorably discharged Veteran.  

Remember, you served this nation in uniform, and you 'earned' your benefits at the VA.  And this is especially important if in fact you were physically wounded, or mentally wounded, or both.  This is not a 'gift'.  It is not a 'handout'.  It is an earned return for doing your job.  Like a paycheck at the end of the week, your benefits at the VA was secured by you for doing your job properly.  If anyone says you are taking advantage of the system by signing up at the VA for your medical benefits, then that person saying that is a MORON.  

Now we have reached a point in ROLL CALL where I will discuss filing a claim.  There are two kinds of wounds one receives in war.  One is physical, and the other is mental.  And, there is a third.  Agent Orange was sprayed on soldiers in Vietnam in order to kill them.  We did that to our own people.  Millions of people, not only our servicemen, but the multitudes of Vietnamese and other nationalities who were also exposed to this chemical weapon.  In World War I, soldiers were exposed to Mustard Gas.  And in World War II, they were exposed to radiation after we dropped two atom bombs, and also when we tested these atomic weapons by marching our soldiers through an area where an atom bomb was dropped.

I am going to call this third wound a "toxin" wound.

Not long ago, I was doing my Veteran Advocacy and I was helping a soldier who was in The Desert Storm.  That was the one before the Rich Man Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.  This particular soldier is suffering from extreme PTSD.  Without going into details, my fellow advocates and the professionals working with me at CalVet here in Sacramento agree that this man has been 100% wounded with PTSD.  He did not get wounded in that fight physically.  But, he did bring home The Black Snake from his experiences in war.  

After much work on my part to get him to agree to sign up for his VA benefits, I arranged for him to see his first doctor at the Mental Hygiene Clinic here.  When he met this doctor, the first thing this doctor asked him was, "Are you here to play the game?"  This malicious question by this doctor caused this wounded Veteran to 'quit'.  

So, here's my point:  The VA is playing a game when it comes to 'awarding' a soldier medical benefits from these unseen wounds.  So, you need to know how to 'play the game' if you are going to succeed in getting your benefits if in fact you were wounded in your service to this nation by an unseen war injury.  I have come up with a motto for the VA today.  It is their motto.  It is:

"Lie and deny until you die!"

OK, from here on out, in Phase II of ROLL CALL, I'm going to explain to you how you need to 'play the game' in order to get your claim filed.


Friday, July 12, 2013

Post No. 24 - Winding Up Phase I

Reporting for Roll Call:16:30 Hrs
Hi LT:
I concur with your conclusion. We've covered about all that can be covered for this Phase. I hope our "excercise" proves useful not only for our Cherry Troop, but to anyone else who may or may not have realized that they too might discover some things of value for their situations. Hope my sometimes "hardass" commentaries haven't been too distracting during this dialogue. Old "centurion" habits don't go away...they just keep grinding on...aiming for the jugular. Hah!
Re: Visible versus Invisible Wounds: You're right about the physical ones. The process is relatively cut and dried. About the only thing that may be open to any discussion about these, given all the medical technological advances that have been made since our times of service... will these affect "disability" determinations for such physical wounds in the future? But that's for another area of discussion at another time.
As to those "invisible" wounds, whether PTSD, or having been exposed to any kind of toxins of one kind or another, you are quite correct. Obviously, only those who have been field grunts (rather than REMFs),involved in multiple deployments into all sorts of weird field situations, not to mention direct combat ones, have any basis for any possible claims for "disability" because of those situations and exposures. As an example, whether someone was involved in tactical operations and combat, or, just driving supply trucks, humvees, etc. and getting blasted by IEDs, or field medics,doctors and nurses who, day after day had to deal with trying to patch up and save casualties brought to them (in some way perhaps having a stronger cumulative impact than anything else), there are undoubtedly similar mental health impacts, particularly if the service members involved had to endure such things over extend periods of time.
Granted, the severity of mental health impacts vary from individual to individual. It's not a one-size-fits-all thing. This may be where the current system has great difficulties coping with that. They simply haven't yet figured out how to effectively work on a case by case basis, because everything has been designed and organized for a "collective" approach. No question about's a bitrch of a problem.  Which is where your rules about getting all records possible together are right on target. I might add, it isn't only individual records, etc., but also any specific unit field reports related to either actions, or incidents, which can add further support to a service member's filng a claim.
Well, this is as far as we can go with the subject right now. Meanwhile, you deserve a "medal" for what you've done here LT, but since that's way beyond my current pay grade these days...the beer and burgers are on me...the next time we rally at Sinbads or. at your Stalag Cluckenspiel.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Post No. 23 - Things Are What They Are

Reporting for Roll Call- 17:35Hrs - 7-10-13
Hi LT:
Re: Post No. 22. Addy typo delayed this one. Re-posting it to complete sequence of discussion so far.
Re: Info and Records. Your comments on my post No. 21 shows we're both singing the same tune, but, I seem to be in a different Key. Yes, things are what they are, and we have to deal with them that way, but everything you mentioned simply highlights the points I was trying to make. While we have to work with what we have, there's no reason we shouldn't consider how what we have could be improved upon. Well, it's nice to know there's a Freedom of Information Office, at VA facilities. At least our Cherry Troop now has some kind of pry-bar to use for what he needs as regards getting records, including whatever his doctor(s)are reporting about him. Even so, everything you've mentioned so far puts the spotlight on and illuminates the -why- there is such a dismal amount of delay and obstruction in the process. Everyone goes ape hearing about the millions in backlogged cases, and wondering why it's so. What we've shown here so far, LT, is part of the answer...they keep using BandAid patches to "fix" things. C'est la vie!
Re: Well, now that our Cherry Troop has his act together, etc..what happens next?If there is a basis for filing a claim, what must he do?

Post No. 22 - A Brief Fall Back and Regrouping

Reporting for Roll Call :16:50 Hrs 7-8-13
Hi LT:
Re: My Post No 21. I was expounding on the problem of how as a veteran, the system made getting copies of one's service record and related medical records difficult, to say the least. To repeat my position on that...a) A service member should be given these automatically as part of his/her discharge process. Perhaps on a disk, if a paper form is too much trouble for the Services to do. If that were routinely done, much of the delays and problems we've been talking about...would disappear. I see no valid reason why that can't be done. None. b) If it's a mattter of CYA for the Services, a simple "receipt" form signed by the service member being discharged, would take care of that. Once the service member personally took over those copies of his records, it would his responsibility for keeping these secure. It would be a relatively easy thing for the Services to do...K.I.S.S. c)To further secure those records, they could only be "copied" or otherwise downloaded, to another computer if the veteran involved allowed it, using a pin number or password. For example, if he wanted to give these to his PC doctor, he'd have to be physically present in that doctor's office, to type in the pin or password needed, to download those files, and these would be "read only" on the doctor's machine...they could not be transfered, printed out, or otherwise made accessible to anyone else....again...without the veteran's ok. Something along these lines  and they already exist with other applications.Well neither of us are "experts" in that stuff, but there are enough hi-tech hotshots around able to create such a system for this purpose. To summarize, one way or the other, any veteran should be able to get his service records and related medical records without a lot of procedural BS and admin. roadblocks. They're his, after all.
Re: Initiating a claim process. Okay, our Cherry Troop has done everything we've both laid out so far. He has his act together, his documentary "ammo" etc., and he' ready to lock and load. What happens now. Couple of key questions here:
1) Who initiates the action? Through his PC doctor? Or elswhere?
2) Is it the same process for either physical or mental problems, or do these require separate approaches?
3) Once whatever "paperwork" has been prepared for filing that claim...where does it go..that is...what part of the VA gets it?

Monday, July 8, 2013

Post No. 21 - A Classic Case of Instituional Obstructionism

Reporting for Roll Call:14:35Hrs 7-5-13
Hi LT:
Thanks, quiet, and a laid back one.
Re: Getting records. Your comment on my Post No. 20 is enlightening. You are quite right. Getting access to and copies of your service record and medical records has barely improved since my times. The VA site you mention is okay as far as that goes, but it really doesn't do much to "improve" the process. In my view, this where BOTH the armed services and the VA display what I consider institutional obstructionism. There really is no valid excuse for it. Let's be blunt here...handing over a complete file of a service member's service record, and related medical file while in service, to a departing service member should be a routine part of the discharging process, not something he has to do after the fact. This is a  key failure directly chargeable to the Services. That failure  thus forces a discharged veteran to then have to go through the VA's procedures to try and get these. If I recall correctly aren't these forms for that purpose, 88 or 89... for the veteran's "authorization" to the services Records Center (St. Louis) to release these to the VA...or some such? At one point, I tried to get my service records directly, and had to flll out forms,,,just to get them released to me, never mind anyone else! Worse yet...they were incomplete...most of my enlisted period was missing (which they blamed on that big fire of theirs).Which isn't quite true, most of those "fire destroyed" files were archived and burried in a mountain cave storage somewhere, but since these had never been microfiched, the sheer volume of them to physically search to retrieve them would be too long and costly..
Well, it seems to me this is one issue about the system that needs some serious correction, and every veteran, every veterans group, etc. should be raising hell to make it so. Maybe if everyone started pounding on the JCS, and the Sec could happen, especially if there were a concurrent pounding going on at the Chairman of the House Ways Means Committee, and the House Armed Services Committee (from which the Services get their appropriations). Our classic panzer double pincer movement. Hah! That could make it all happen in double time.
Re: Maybe this all calls for another "rule" here (No.7?). That is: From the very first moment, build your own record file. Make copies of any and all types of communications with either the VA or the Services, including any attachments, enclosures, whatever. And whatever verbal responses you get to any questions you ask, from anyone, request confirmation of that in writing/email or what have you. Better yet, take notes, and if they don't  or won't give things to you in writing, write your own record/memo of it, then send them a copy with a nice polite cover note asking:"Is this my correct understanding of our conversation?" The key points here are: a) Bureaucracies tend to magically "eat" paper files, then call them "lost". b) No bureaucratic verbal word about anything can be trusted to be true. Get it in writing, one way or the other.
If this seems too cynical and over the top...I speak from long experience with all sorts of bureaucratic beasts, whether, military, government, or civilian.. it's common to all their natures. That's the reality of things. Once our Cherry Troop understands that, "maneuvering" through their respective procedural minefields becomes easier and less stressful,The trick is to learn how to keep one's cool, smile a lot, and how and when to slip an ITG (Improvised Textual Grenade) into their shorts.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Post No. 20 - Getting His Act Together

Reporting for RollCall ; 15:40 Hrs 7-3-13
Hi LT:
Short one for today. First off...have a great 4th of July! For the occasion, I'll be playing my favorite track from your album - Voice of America...."Hello, America, do you remember me? We're the ones who fought the war every night...on your TV" But why nitpick. God Bless America, land that we love....
Re: Making sure our Cherry Troop has his act together. Your comment in answer to my post No. 19 is a bit confusing. That is, your saying that before he does any of all those steps we've laid out so far, he should sit down and note down all the events of his service, particularly all those incidents where he went through anything remotely resembling "trauma" of one kind or another. Sure, all of us could reasonably do that, but just because we assemble that record ourselves, the question much weight will our Cherry Troop's own produced narrative have with a beady-eyed clerk/bureaucrat who might  review it? Not much I'm thinking. Seems to me our Troop should have official copies of his  service record and medical record in his hands before he even heads for the VA to get his card. Suspect those records are the only ones that will count in any disability claims process. Which leads me to this question. How and when does he get those records? So, if I understand things correctly here the suggested prep work for getting his act together should be as follows:
1)Besides your DD214, have copies of both your Service Record, and you Medical Record while in service, in your hot little hands. Bettter yet, make extra copies of all of them so you will always have one complete set in your posession, if you have to use those other copies to backup whatever you may need for an eventuality of a disability claim.
2)Head for the nearest VA and get your VA Card.
3)Get your assigned primary care doctor, and make that first appointment with him.
4)Meanwhile, connect with an Advocate to help you maneuver through whatever process you need to go through.
5)Meet your PC doctor, give him copy of your records, and ask for all those examinations and tests previously outlined.
Is this more or less what you have in mind, for getting our Cherry Troop's act together?
Re: Categories of Wounds: You know my views about that. A wound is a wound is a wound. Period. The only difference is how physical and emotional wounds are handled. The physical ones are self-evident, and handling these is almost  a cut and dry matter. The emotional ones are different because they are not self-evident, and,more often than not dormant ( much like a volcano, which can errupt at some unknown time almost impossible to forecast). This is probably why there is so much difficulty in figuring how to deal with these. This is where that first Mental Health Examination becomes a critical factor in the process we've been discussing to date.
Well, let's keep on keeping's the Fourth of July....I'm heading for a shot of Cognac!