60 Mins v. VBA

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60 Mins2 "Delay, Deny, Wait to Die"? If you only watched one thing on TV yesterday, I hope it was 60 Mins and not the Patriots game wherein Mothax's hopes and dreams died with Wes Welker's leg injury. All in all I thought this segment was fair. Both fair in the sense of "just" or "equitable" and quality-wise. Wasn't great, but wasn't absolutely horrid either. A few thoughts up front. First off, when I first came to TAL, I worked on the Board of Veterans Appeals as a representative so I understand the elements in play. 60 Mins did a good job of explaining that it isn't a money driven issue, although I think there is an element of that. Any approach needs to be comprehensive. The story turned me sour VERY early not by what someone said, but who they had saying it. They interviewed Paul Sullivan of "Veterans for Common Sense." For those who don't know or remember who Paul is, let's take the way-back machine to the moments after Major Nidal Hassan decided to switch teams and light up an SRP center. Without any official word on motive, or even who had done the shooting, Paul decided to take to the air and bash the Army:
“I’m very upset. I’m at the point of tears,” said Paul Sullivan, executive director of Veterans for Common Sense, who lives in Austin. “We warned the military about this. We warned the military about the need to increase the number of mental health care providers. We warned the military about lowering recruiting standards, about the medical exams for soldiers coming back from the war and needing mental health care and brain injury exams.” “We have been working tirelessly to try to prevent this from happening,” he said. “This is so horrible. This is a tragedy.”
So, I take anything Mr. Sullivan says with a mountain sized grain of salt. The poor guy with the back/leg issues who can't prove he was in Viet Nam. First time I saw it I got a bad feeling, the second through fourth times I am starting to come around. So, I believe that this could have happened. I know the military loses records and that the VA does as well. So, for that guy, my heart totally goes out to him. But, we've seen in the past that there are phonies out there who try to steal from us what they have not earned. From the VA's point of view, what they are asking doesn't seem unreasonable to me. If you claim an ailment stemming from Viet Nam, you would assume it was incumbant on the claimant to prove he was in Viet Nam. I don't see a workable system wherein the VA just concedes service somewhere with no proof at all. Am I wrong on that? Same thing with Mr. Devens. I asbolutely believe his story as well. But 60 Mins really muddied the waters here. He is service-connected for migraines, which he claims were from the IED. But the VA granted his Migraine service connection because he complained of Migraines in service, not because they neccessarily felt that the IED attack is what caused them. I empathize with him immensely, as I also have not slept without sleeping pills since I returned 4 years ago. I chew Excedrin PM like a kid getting into the Flinstone's Chew-ables, and have to have background noise on all night or I can hear a squirrel flatulate seven miles away and think I am under attack. So, I totally get it, and I hope and pray he gets what he needs. But the reality is that somehow he needs to verify his stressor unless he has awards that make it automatic. (One of my coworkers nervously referred to the CIB as "the magic ticket" in Congressional Testimony once.) Anyway, enough of my nonsense, here is the video. Watch it and let me know what you think. Try to stay on message here if you would. The question to be answered is not who to blame, it is how can we fix the VA disability application system to better provide for deserving veterans. Watch CBS News Videos Online
Posted in Uncategorized, the burner | 5 comments
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It took me 4 years and appeals to get myself recognized for only 40% disability. This is for the usual problems a Green Beret might suffer like back and leg pains.

I've been out to Palo Alto, CA to the War Injury and Illness Research Center for undiagnosable nerve pain down both my arms. My symptoms are consistant with the report from a congressionally commissioned board for Gulf War Illness. This causes other problems like Depression, Thoughts of Suicide, Fibromialgia, Sleeplessness, inability to exercise, and on and on.

Bottom line. I'm AFRAID to apply for more disability because of the previous battle I had with the VA. I had to lean on the V.A. for four years to get what one V.A. employee called "the oldest file she has ever seen at the Atlanta V.A.". At the least, my PTSD is from dealing with the V.A.

BTW. My file, sitting on the table at my appeal, was as big as the box of files Wazinski showed in this 60 minutes article. They kept me running. However, the Social Security Administration, using two inches of records from the VA, made me permanantly 100% disabled in THREE months. I guess I destroyed my body with 3 years of a desk job.

Special Forces Retired

I'd say the way to get rid of the VA is to do away with it. Seriously. The DoD should take care of it's own. The Budget should come from the DoD, and the people who care for our Vets should be either Military or Civilians who work for military commanders. There should be no "Seams" in care for Vets to fall through moving from one system to another.

The VA, IMHO, is a travesty, and it's gone on for far too long. We make a commitment on the battlefield that we will leave no comrade behind, but when they get home, we shuffle them off to a dark closet called the VA, which is out of sight, and out of mind.

We can save millions of dollars by getting rid of duplicate administrative functions, by filling out VA jobs with injured Vets who have a DESIRE to take care of their comrades, and by getting rid of redundant medical evaluations.

Furthermore, we put the RESPONSIBILITY for their care back where it belongs: With the Service branches.

I meant *fix* the VA is to get rid of it....

In the interest of full disclosure, your "co-worker" technically referred to the CIB as "[not] a magic ticket". That being said, there is additional deference currently given to those veterans who can prove they were in combat, whether by CIB, CAR, CAB, Purple Heart, MOH, or other means. The underlying principle being that during combat, nobody stops to write down everything that happens (not that this ever happens elsewhere in military operations regardless of combat). Basically, if you were in combat and you say something happened to you that is consistent with the actions and hardships of combat, your word alone is sufficient to establish the occurance of the described event.

That alone is not enough to grant service connection. To be service connected for a disability, a veteran has to prove three things. One, that something happened in service. Two, that the veteran has a present condition. Three, that there is a medical connection between points one and two.

The combat rules (section 1154b of the USC Title 38) apply only to the first point, the establishment of the event in service. The other two points still have to be proved. Thus the statement that the CIB (or in the case of the testimony, a change to the regulations to expand the application the 1154b provisions to all veterans in combat zones) stated that expanding the regulations would not be a "magic ticket" in that they would only ease the burden of proof for one aspect of the claim.

VA is currently in the process of proposing and issuing a change to the regulations that would ease the burden of proof in proving PTSD stressors within a combat zone similar to what is described above. However, this regulation change, rather than the legislation up for debate in Congress at the time, would only apply to PTSD stressors, whereas 1154b applies to all incidents in combat, and could apply to something like an injury as well as the stressors.

Like many other aspects of VA operations, there are a lot of half truths and speculation that float around, which contribute to a sometimes inaccurate perception of how the VA operates. There is a lot of room for improvement in the VA claims process. I'm not going to even suggest that many aspects are broken. However, I don't think the entire system is worth scrapping, so much as a more aggressive approach to change the institutional problems and work towards perfecting the system we have, which for all its faults, is better than the provisions for veterans in any other country.

hey nice blog! looking forward to read your new posts!

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News from the World of Military and Veterans Issues. Iraq and A-Stan in parenthesis reflects that the author is currently deployed to that theater.