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Articles Posted in Veteran Affairs

17330-a-doctor-and-couple-viewing-an-x-ray-pvWhat Are Lay or Buddy Statements?

“Lay” or “buddy” statements are:

  1. Oral statements made by the Veteran, family members, friends, neighbors, or service buddies during a hearing; OR
  2. Any written declaration or written statement made by the same (Veteran, family members, etc.), regarding the Veteran’s disability.

Why Are Lay or Buddy Statements So Important?

As the names suggest, “lay” or “buddy” statements are statements made by people who know the Veteran but who aren’t qualified to make a medical diagnosis or prove medical facts. Continue reading

Cuckoos are geniuses in the bird world.  They trick unsuspecting birds into feeding their chicks, usually with the result that the poor duped birds loose their own babies while the cuckoo chick thrives.  But don’t think this happens only in the bird world.  Others have learned from the cuckoo, and are taking your resources!  For example, according to a recent independent study, here is how the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) compares with a few other large U.S. health-care providers:

Provider            # of Employees       # of Physicians     # of Patients     # of Facilities       States

 VA                              288,000                    20,208                 5,814,463              1,600                  50

Kaiser Permanente     174,400                    17,400                 9,100,000                646                   10

HCA                             225,000                   37,000                 1,795,300                 280                   21

Ascension                   155,000                    40,000                 1,515,500                161                    23

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Inverted_JennyIf you or I made a high-dollar mistake at work, a “clear and unmistakable error,” we might expect some consequences. That’s not at all the case with “Clear and Unmistakable Error” (CUE) actions committed by benefits claims examiners at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

Far from any remedial or disciplinary action for committing a CUE, as far as we can tell, nothing happens at VA.  Since there is no consequence to employees for errors, do not expect errors to be acknowledged or corrected. Continue reading

Clinicians_in_Intensive_Care_UnitMany people assume new illnesses, aches, and pains are “normal.”   Just part of aging.  Simply bad luck.  Or even genetics.  Veterans should not be lulled into passive acceptance of this so-called common wisdom.  Diet and exercise can only get you so far with the many health problems – some tremendously serious – which may be the result of your military service.  In addition, some health issues, such as birth defects, may be results of military service that affect not only you but your entire family. Continue reading

SmartIf the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) denies your request for benefits, don’t be shocked.  If VA gives you a lower disability rating than you merit, don’t be shocked. Since 2014, in an effort to reduce its backlog of disability benefits claims, word is that VA is simply shoveling responses out the door.  Many are complete denials.  Some are just sloppy, giving you “something” (a low disability rating) in the hope you will be happy and go away.

When VA denies your request or offers a deceptively low rating, don’t be shocked: be smart!  Seek legal advice and promptly file a Notice of Disagreement (NOD). Continue reading

Veteran_Affairs_backlog_(2012-08-09)Until Veterans are treated like full U.S. citizens with the right to representation by an attorney, we can only celebrate Veterans Day once a year.  Here’s why.

Only under limited circumstances are Veterans are allowed to use an attorney to represent them on appeals from denial of benefits by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).  In fact, prior to 2006, Veterans weren’t allowed to use an attorney at all when dealing with VA. Continue reading

Homeless_Veteran_in_New_YorkWith the extremely long delay in obtaining benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), many Veterans face tremendous and crippling medical bills.  These bills impact ability to pay for necessities, including rent, utilities, transportation, and even food.

KNOW YOUR RIGHTS: VA BENEFITS ARE PROTECTED!

Threats and constant calls from creditors and even advice from attorneys not familiar with Veterans benefits matters may push Veterans to make unwise decisions regarding their VA benefits.  It’s very simple:  VA benefits are protected from creditors, taxation, and other legal processes.  No one is entitled to just take your benefits away to pay off debts. Continue reading

Hickey_AlisonThen-Secretary for the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), Eric Shinseki, resigned in May 2014 after a shocking season of revelations regarding Veteran deaths at the hands of VA.  Last month, on October 16, 2015, VA Under Secretary for Benefits, Allison Hickey (pictured), resigned in the wake of a pay fraud scandal involving senior bureaucrats Diana Rubens and Kim Graves.

Rubens and Graves – ironically – were put in place by Hickey in 2014 to clean up following the international news coverage of Veteran deaths and VA’s back-log of benefits claims.  World-wide exposure of VA’s actions highlighted the shameful treatment U.S. Veterans suffer at the hands of the very agency that supposedly is dedicated to Veterans’ well-being. Continue reading

Archive photo of the 1973 NPRC Fire

Archive photo of the 1973 NPRC Fire

The National Archives tells the story.  On July 12, 1973, a fire at the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC) destroyed approximately 16-18 million Official Military Personnel Files (OMPF).

To its credit, the National Archives views the 1973 fire as an “unparalleled disaster” and a “loss to the cultural heritage of our nation.”   Acknowledging the tragedy, the National Archives has gone to extensive lengths to reconstruct the destroyed service files.  In the years since the fire, the NPRC has collected numerous series of records (referred to as Auxiliary Records) that are used to reconstruct basic service information in lieu of an OMPF.   Continue reading

Bob Goss, founder of the Law Office of Robert B. Goss, P.C.

Bob Goss, founder of the Law Office of Robert B. Goss, P.C.

Back in September, we posted a blog about VA’s handling of the “Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act of 2014,” P.L. 113-146 (“Choice Act”).   The “Choice Act” was intended to improve Veterans’ access to medical services – especially private-physician-services – provided through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

We informed you that Congress passed the Choice Act to allow Veterans access to private physicians when VA is unable to schedule an appointment at a VA medical facility within specified wait-time limits, or when the Veteran lives more than 40 miles from a VA medical facility or meets other eligibility criteria for using a private physician.  We also alerted you to the fact that, more than a year after Congress passed the Choice Act, VA’s handling of referrals to private physicians created more confusion and difficulties for Veterans without providing better care.

Well – on October 29, 2015 – VA published a notice titled “Expanded Access to Non-VA Care Through the Veterans Choice Program.”  What does this mean?  It means we’ve been heard!  VA’s “expanded access” isn’t a huge victory, but some of the improvements are those we called for and discussed in our September blog.

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