There Seems To Be Some Confusion

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I’ve been getting many emails as of lately asking me what the fuck is going on with my blogs. It seems people still find me through a portal I created just over a year ago with a blogspot blog that points everyone here to my wordpress blog. Why the portal? I was compelled to create something that was connected to my Google account because I follow many blogspot (blogger) (Google) blogs to show people I relocated to a better neighborhood so people would know I wasn’t just some random “bot” following their blogs. Many, and I mean many, of my friends still are loyal to blogspot and the Google ways. So, anyway, about a year and a half after Google killed off my blogs I created the portal so people knew I actually had a blog, just not on blogspot.

Apparently it is now causing confusion as I have been overrun with emails with people wanting to know why there was two blogs. Of course, I ask them if they had read the statement at the top of the page which states it is a placeholder, a static page which will NOT be updated, and serves purpose only to find my new blog on wordpress. See for yourselves @ Portal To T.S.O.S.B. and y’all will see what I mean. I also point them to my opening post on wordpress called “I’m Back” which was written on 15 March 2013 and my second post called “R.I.P. 13 March 2013” written on 18 March 2013 to explain, somewhat, what happened. If y’all are new here or you never saw the posts, feel free to click the titles to look at them.

For future reference, the portal will remain active so people can find me. Sadly, the IYAAYAS Moderator is “dead” and no I don’t think I make any more references to the name after those posts since my blog became reborn here on wordpress. Which, this blog for some reason, has evolved and taken on a life of it’s own, and very easily stands on it’s own. People take on the assumptions that I’m new to blogging when in reality I’ve been doing this shit in one way or another since 2001. And yes, I’ve had a “few” blogs over the years, but one thing always remains the same, I’m consistent in my views and in my ways.

I don’t ask that people follow my blog, y’all follow it if y’all feel like it. Think of my blog(s) as the little shithole bar on the corner of your street, y’all stop in for a drink or three one day and maybe never return or you stop in and find yourselves hooked. It pleases me people visit here every day, roughly 2500 per day to be clearer, and I hope y’all enjoy your visit. Remember, I’m just an asshole from Houston Texas trying to write and post things I see every day, telling stories of my own, sharing the stories of others, and giving my general opinion. I’m not seeking fame and fortune through blogging because I’m just here to be here. My email is always open for questions or concerns or for sharing and I always welcome your comments, except for you fucking spamming bitches, y’all can suck a dirty asshole as far as I’m concerned.

With that mental image I leave y’all to your day. Hopefully y’all aren’t confused any longer. When in doubt, search my blog, categories, and tags, or just ask me. Remember boys and girls to eat it every day!

Those Damn Teenage Years

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In a recent conversation with my soon to be fourteen year old son, I was reminded of my youth, the choices I was forced to make, and how rough it really is being that age. I like to think I’m taking a different approach to parenting than the approach my parents took with me, I was raised in a wrath of God house by two very devout Catholics with closet human tendencies. Of course, my wife and my style differs from many parents as I’m told. I also get told I’m doing it wrong, the parents are the boss. Before you assume way to much here, I’m not the “friend” parent type. I am the type of parent who has instilled justifiable fear into his children, after all they live in my house, sleep in my house, and scary shit happens when you least expect it. Anyway, I’ve tried very hard to not raise quitters in a society where quitting has become the norm. I believe in self esteem because without it you have little control of your inward or outward emotions. But, we all get to the point where we start asking when is enough going to be enough, when will the madness end, and why can’t this be easier.

We all have given up at some point. All of us at a certain point have stopped believing that we’ll be able to make it. Some of us have done it often, some just very few times, but all of us know how it feels.The  sad fact is that most of us give up far too soon.My son explained to me that he was thinking the other day, why does he actually give up? What are his most common reasons and are there any ways to get around those reasons for giving up?

He thinks discouragement is the biggest reason for quitting and failure. No matter what you have decided to do, as soon as you share it with people there will be at least few who will tell you that YOU Can’t Do it and come up with different reasons about why it can’t be done. At that point you may decide to give up the idea even before giving it a try.  Instead of thinking about giving up think about how are you going to prove all those people wrong.  In fact proving those who doubt me wrong has been pretty good motivation for me so far, I have spent a lifetime trying to stay on top of my game. As well, if you don’t believe in yourself you will always be tempted to give up because you won’t believe in your success. The self-doubt will be keeping you from pushing forward.

I somehow thought that I was not strong enough to make my dreams come true, but then there was a shift in mindset which sort of set me free. And it was one simple realization. The realization that none of the people who have succeeded are better than me. They worked harder, they were persistent and they believed in their dreams, but they were not actually better, just approached life differently, as most of us do. These days there are so many distractions… Social media, TV series, and different smart phone notifications not letting you focus on the important things. If you don’t keep focus on your goal you will end up with insufficient results and that will discourage you even further. But, as I discussed with my son, social media didn’t exist when I was growing up, none of this shit did. My social media was friends and family. My internet was called “the outdoors”, I earned my allowance by being a part of the family unit team. Unlike today, parents give their children money to just leave them alone. As it is, in our house we are pretty tight, we do allot together on a very regular basis. On top of it all we have dinner together, every night, without fail. Also, no television is on, no cell phones are allowed at the table, and we talk or play games while we eat, there is fun and laughter, and it is also a time to gather to discuss more serious matters, if any.

That reminds me of yet another reason we, as humans, give up, we give up when we don’t get the immediate results. We all want things to happen fast and it is hard to realize that there are things that actually takes time. One can not have instant on and instant off like the flick of a light switch each and every time. Some things, to include pets and people, are more challenging, they take more time, things like trust and value in a person have to be developed and earned, which takes time. There is no such thing as overnight success so we have to keep in mind that it takes time and to be prepared not to give up.

When I am starting something new I am on fire. I am full of enthusiasm and I am motivated. But with the time things may start cooling off and at some point the self-motivation may not be enough to keep me moving. That is when I may think about giving up, that is when I need to go back to beginning and try to recall the big why. Why did I start that project in first place and what was initially motivating me? That brings me back on track most of the time. But still we need motivation, we still need the allure that there is a prize waiting for us at the end. No matter what kind of life you had, you are used to your own personal comfort zone and that brings you great comfort. Now when you have initiated changes you entered the stage of uncertainty and struggle, which by no means is comfortable. What makes me not giving up in those cases is the thought that once I get where I wanna be my new comfort zone will be a much better one. But, what I’ve learned over the years cannot be taught, it has to be experienced. This is my son’s struggle know, the learning curve, stepping out of the comfort zone, finding new experiences doing new things or with new people. Plus, he is at the beautiful age where he has really realized he really likes boobs. One more thing we have in common.

Anything worth achieving is hard. Yes the easiest option is to just give up, but then, will it be easy living with the regret that you gave up midway? On the other hand I would not say that giving up is something terrible and wrong. Sometimes you may end up having too many things on your plate and that may make you overwhelmed. Sometimes you may need to give up certain things because they may not be a priority at that point. I find myself looking at the details in my own life on a regular basis, there is never room for bullshit, it is always the first into the fuckbucket. What is important that you don’t give up your dreams and the things you want really bad. Don’t give up your passion and never give up on life. I understand living with a person like me is challenging, being a sarcastic jackass is a fine art and we all don’t appreciate fine art. We all have given up at some point. All of us at a certain point have stopped believing that we’ll be able to make it. Some of us have done it often, some just very few times, but all of us know how it feels. The  sad fact is that most of us give up far too soon.

Where does all this leave the conversation I was having with my son? Well, he was never actually clear as to what he was thinking about quitting. And, I’m not altogether sure we were even talking about the same thing. Later, while talking with my wife I was informed that a girl he knew in school, friends but not inner circle friends, had committed suicide last week. There was no clear reason why, she left no note, gave the parents no inkling that she was distressed, same with her two sisters, teachers, and friends. Except for one person, who came forward to “confess” to her parents that he knew why. You see, they were boyfriend and girlfriend. She wanted an exclusive relationship (at 14) and he wanted to play the field. She took it had, it killed her self esteem and self worth, and according to him, as she told him, she didn’t feel she was worth the effort of having his love if he was not willing to commit to her. Granted, this is the opinion of a 14 year old boy, and this story was also posted up on Facebook, so I don’t really know if it actually ever happened. But, after going back to my son to talk, he said that I did answer his question of “why people quit” without even knowing that was what I was doing. We talked more, we talked about the cruelty of emotions, especially in a teenager. But suicide is not an easy subject, simply because there isn’t an actual answer to give. The only person who knows is dead.

I don’t know if this makes me angry or sad. I do know that I have been in my sons shoes before, knowing a person who has had her self esteem crushed on a daily basis for “fun” by others. But, that is another topic altogether, since bullying seems to have become so evermore popular these days, or its just more in the public eye these days. As a parent I try to teach my children to hope for the best and prepare for the worst because the two survive together hand in hand. One may think they are just words, but others take those words to heart. As uncomfortable as I was talking with my son about suicide and how I personally believe it should never be the answer for anyone, I was also proud of my son for wanting to sit and talk to me about life, emotions, feelings, relationships, and family with me. It takes courage to begin a conversation with your father when you don’t know what the outcome will be. Both of us feeling a little bummed, we invited the rest of the family to go out for ice cream. Ice cream? Yes, the one thing on the planet stronger than any drug, stronger than and alcohol, stronger than any words, stronger than any bond, it is a time of peace for a troubled mind or a troubled soul. Its a time to take a break from the crap life offers and just enjoy a bite of ice cream.

Yes, I know, ice cream doesn’t solve all problems, but it does give the opportunity to step away from them, not to quit them, but to take a break from them. Everyone needs a break, we all take breaks or celebrate in our own ways. In the end I learned from my son that I should keep my past close so it can be accessed and shared. I never knew my life, in general, would be an education tool for the youth in my family. But then again, we do learn most of what we know from our parents and family. Having children has been the best challenge I never quit. Try something new, get in your child’s head today, give them a nice tight hug, a big smile, and a peck on the cheek. When they ask why just tell them it is because you were thinking about them. It scares the crap out of them. I know from experience that life isn’t easy. It wasn’t designed to be easy. We don’t evolve within ourselves if we are not constantly challenged. Don’t let life discourage you, leave that to the people around you, you know, the people who don’t want you to succeed because they don’t care about succeeding. Until we “meet” again, remember to eat it everyday!

Why I Stepped Foot In Church

Normally I would not attempt the madness called church on my own, but this last time I went to church not to be preached at, but to enjoy the music of the church symphony orchestra which has a member who is like one of my own children. We go to all of her events, in school or in church. I enjoy the way she can make the cello talk to you, she’s finishing out her freshman year of high school, but listening to her play that cello one would never guess her young age. It may just be my opinion, but she is great. So, that’s what led me to church, I enjoy the way she plays, it makes everything in life, the problems and troubles, just fade into the background where they belong. But, that’s not why we are here today, today I’m going to discuss how my attire was not proper enough to be in a church. Clearly there is confusion, unless you are looking to be offended that I’m not in slacks, a nice shirt, a tie, a jacket, and shiny shoes with a belt to match, oh wait, you are. All I can ask is why? Especially since this wasn’t a “service”, it was a performance.

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I wore what I would wear pretty much anywhere, black Wrangler jeans (no holes, clean), black leather belt, 3 button shirt (black in color, no logo, clean), black gator skin cowboy boots (polished, clean), and a black Stetson with a simple silver band (Stetson is a name/brand/style of a cowboy hat). So, it wasn’t as if I showed up wearing surf shorts, tank top, flip flops, and a ball cap. This is my basic “dress up” clothes, also good for funerals, weddings, and graduations. In fact, after walking in, finding our seat in the main hall (we picked 5 out of the nearly 1300 chairs, its a big Baptist church), I removed my hat, placing it in the seat next to me on my right with my wife on the left. Clearly I’m not a member of this church, I’m here as a guest with invitation in hand, given to me by my other “daughter”. After the 2 hour performance which resulted in a standing ovation and constant applause for the 62 members of the symphony orchestra, it was time to stand in the walkways to hug, shake hands, and chat, all of which I did while standing there wearing my hat. Some would say I stand out above the crowd being I’m 6’8″ to begin with. But people focused on more, people focused on the fact that I was wearing jeans and I had a hat on in church.

The message I received loud and clear from mr. preacher man was that my attire was not proper and will not be welcome in the future, this was said in a snotty rude way, very derogatory and unappreciated by me. I was left with but one option, in my opinion, which was to lean in to him, getting my lips very close to his ear as I pulled him close by the shoulder to say “go fuck yourself”, then I kissed him on the cheek, shook his now trembling hand, and walked out. I never looked back, no need to look back. Shortly after I see my wife and kids following up in my footsteps, we get in the truck, and we left. My wife did not become aware that anything was even said until a few days later, when she spoke with the preachers wife, who she knows outside the church professionally. Of course she asked if it was true, of course I told her it was, and no more was said about it. That whole night does nothing but reinforce my dislike for organized religion, I did nothing wrong and his actions/words cannot be justified in my opinion. Since when do I need to be dressed a certain way to be inside a church, no matter what is going on? So, I got to thinking that I had some thoughts to discuss, and in a long drawn out way that is why everyone was invited here today. So lets begin.

The so-called worship wars of recent years may have produced a winner. Many congregations/denominations remain divided between traditional and contemporary styles of “church”, but in most places the contemporary appears to have gained the upper hand. Your worship services have become increasingly relaxed and informal affairs. You can see it in what people are wearing. Church for today’s worshipers is not a dress-up event. Whatever is clean and comfortable seems sufficient. When it comes to church, attire doesn’t much matter. Most people I have spoke with over the years understand there is nothing particularly spiritual about a dress or a coat and tie. I was even told by a Sunday school teacher of my son’s that God is scarcely impressed by such things as clothes. She quoted something to me that day, “People look at the outward appearance,” we are reminded, “but the Lord looks at the heart”.

I do not intend to wade into the broader debate over worship styles; that’s a different discussion. But I do wish to raise a question about this fucking outdated way of thinking that when it comes to public worship since my clothing matters so much. This common assumption, it seems to me, deserves more scrutiny than it typically receives. Over the last several generations, American attire in general has lurched dramatically toward the informal. A feature that quickly dates an old photograph, just look at a picture of your grandparents. The changes are part of a broad shift toward the convenient, comfortable, and individuality. It’s a shift we see on display everywhere we go each day. Ever been to Walmart?  It’s easy to imagine how one might look over-dressed there, but less easy, short of immodesty, to imagine being under-dressed. Jeans or shorts, tee shirts or tank tops, flip-flops or sandals: these draw scarcely any attention, while full dresses or a suit and tie appear strangely out of place. Relaxed, even rumpled informality is in; suiting up in your “Sunday best” is out.

Many seem convinced it’s a good thing, because, again, it’s the heart that counts. Yet precisely for this reason, because it’s the heart that counts, I want to suggest that what we wear in our public worship may matter more than we think. To grasp this connection, let us extract some helpful insights from daily communication we all see. Verbal behavior refers to all those ways we use language to communicate: speaking, writing, sign language, etc. Nonverbal behavior focuses on all those ways we communicate without words: facial expression, gesture, posture, eye behavior, vocal inflection, our use of space, or touch behavior. In our everyday relationships only a small percentage of what we communicate is conveyed via verbal channels. The rest is conveyed nonverbally.

The avenue of nonverbal communication I will call one’s physical appearance and dress shows more about a person than words, or does it?. Here are a handful of observations based on our human interactions.

The wearing of clothing is exclusively a human characteristic. We share many attributes with other creatures, but the inclination to clothe ourselves is not one of them. Where, if any, is there a moral or even a spiritual dimension to human clothing? Why is so much emphasis put on clothing? Our clothes serve a variety of practical, social, and cultural functions. Protection and modesty spring first to mind, but our clothes do far more. We sometimes dress to conceal or deceive. More often our clothes serve to reveal. We use clothing for decoration, for sexual attraction, for self-expression and self-assertion. By our attire we display our gender, our religion, our occupation, our social position, or causes with which we identify. Many dress to impress, while others choose the reverse: they express their rejection by intentionally flouting accepted clothing norms.

Our clothing is one of our most elemental forms of communication. Long before our voice is heard, our clothes are transmitting multiple messages. From our attire, others immediately read not only such things as our sex, age, national identity, socio-economic status, and social position, but also our mood, our attitudes, our personality, our interests, and our values. We constantly make judgments about one another on the basis of clothing. Common wisdom has it that you can’t judge a book by its cover. But this is only partly true; we regularly read one another’s covering. What’s more, we’re better at it than we think.  We spend our lives making judgments based on appearance and then testing those judgments in our subsequent relationships. In this way, we become rather adept at the process. Judgments based on appearance are rarely fucking accurate, of course, and we are wise to hold them tentatively. But it’s almost impossible to avoid making them in the first place.

Because our clothing is one of the fundamental ways we communicate with others, what we wear is never a purely personal matter. Our attire exerts a social influence on those around us. What we wear can shape patterns of communication around us, depending on what messages people are picking up. Consider, for example, the varied cues we send by the way we dress: “I want people to notice me.” “I’m very confident.” “I want to hide.” “I care only about comfort.” “I want to look seductive.” “I repudiate you and your expectations.”

How we dress not only affects us individually; it also affects those around us. How we feel and who we are influences the clothes we put on or leave off, and the clothes we put on in turn shape how we feel. Changes of clothes can generate a change of mood. As an example, I felt different in my Air Force uniform than I did in street clothes. In some settings our choice of clothing can make or break us. If we like the way we look for a job interview, for instance, it will tend to strengthen our confidence. We feel better about our chances, as reflected in improved posture, more fluent speech, more dynamic gestures. On the other hand, inappropriate dress can suck the fucking life out of our confidence. We have all experienced the uncomfortable effects of feeling under-dressed or over-dressed in a particular social setting.

Much of the social meaning of our clothing is contextual. The appropriateness of our clothing is often dictated by the situation. Dress that would send a given message in one setting might send a very different message in another. Times change, values change, situations change; what was proper ten years ago may not be proper today, or vice versa. All of the above is why we should not conclude too quickly that because God looks on the heart, what we wear to church doesn’t matter. Our internal and external states cannot be so easily disentangled. The fact is, when it comes to how we clothe ourselves, our external appearance is often an expression of our internal state.

What is worship, after all? It’s the act of acknowledging and praising God as God. Is that not a personal choice? According to my wife, “when worshipping, we come before God with awe and reverence, focusing on him in loving contemplation, celebrating him for who he is and what he has done. We willingly bow before him in surrender, delighting in the privilege of extolling his worthiness. In worship we join our small voices with the celestial choirs in a grand chorus magnifying the Creator and declaring his excellences, his purity, his power, his beauty, his grace, his mercy, and his love.” No, I do not agree, but we smile and agree that will do not agree. In reference to what she said, I ask, can’t that be done naked or in a suit of medieval armor? I think the term “stink-eye” covers the expression on her face the best, she was giving it to me.

According to the bible (yes, I’ve read the bible a time or three in my life), God called his people to public worship. It’s everywhere in the Bible. Your corporate worship of organized religion is supposed to please God? Everyone who has ever built a fire knows how quickly lone embers cool and die. But gather those embers and they create a furnace effect that burns hot. Corporate worship of organized religion is no different, its designed to generate that furnace effect in people. Where there is collective thought there is collective action, do as the crowd or the crowd will be undone, the absolute fear of the sheeple culture.

So what sort of clothing might benefit such an exalted occasion? Observers in the gallery of the United States Supreme Court are forbidden to wear hats. Out of respect for the importance of what’s taking place there, the Court’s firm rule for visitors is, “Inappropriate clothing may not be worn.” If this is so for a merely human institution, what might be suitable attire for God-honoring worship? Must there be a rule, must we give a shit, must it cause such an uprising within the walls of the churches of organized religion? Readers will be relieved that I have no dress code to be here at The Sting Of The Scorpion Blog. Read at will, however you are dressed, you will not be judged here in the House of Scorpion. But why don’t I care how you are dressed? Why do I not feel the need to judge how you dress when you are doing what you are doing? I reserve the right to judge you only at Walmart and Starbucks, y’all know who you are and why.

That which is special, that which is our best, that which is sacrificial: We may be tempted to think such standards made sense in the context of Israel’s ancient worship but have little to do with us in the modern world. After all, none of us shows up at church on Sunday morning bearing sacrifices now do you. Everyone has their own reasons for going to church, some go to worship, some to ask for forgiveness of their sins, and one of us went to hear the incredible musical talents of a young girl whom he adores as his own. If you ask me, which your not going to, so I’ll just say it now, I don’t think any of us belong in a church. Salvation isn’t found in church in words translated 10,000 times over by MEN who aren’t concerned about me and you. Think about it. Want a “relationship” with God? You want something/someone to believe in for the comfort of your soul? How do men give that to you? How do you really know what are looking for in the first place?

The question for all of you is this: When you gather for worship, does this sacred event generate within you any similar sense of “awe and reverence”? A perceptive observer of the contemporary church scene might be forgiven for scratching her head over such a question, wondering whether you have grown oblivious to the significance of your own gathering. How often, she might ask you, do you prepare for Sunday as if it mattered, guarding, for example, Saturday nights so as to be fresh and focused the next morning? How come your pre-service gathering so often sounds more like a bowling alley than a people meeting to offer themselves fresh to their God? How is it you are so susceptible to the lure of personality and entertainment up front, obscuring the God-centered purpose for which you have met? How prevalent is the notion that you can worship just as well at home, or on the golf course, or before a TV screen, or perhaps forfeit worship altogether due to inconvenient weather, the priority of other things, or who may be preaching that week?

Not just anything will do when you come before God. He is still honored by what is holy, what is our best, what is sacrificial. The kingdom to which you have come, says the writer to the Hebrews, requires us to “offer to God acceptable worship with reverence and awe,” because “our ‘God is a consuming fire” (Heb. 12:28–29). The casual attitude toward worship may indicate that you have failed to grasp this important point, a sign of your being more conformed to this world than so transformed in your minds that by testing you are able to discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. Don’t you know you are not allowed to make your own decisions? What of your church attire? You deceive yourselves when you breezily claim that God does not care what you wear to church. God cares about your hearts, and what you wear is often an expression of your hearts. So what does your relaxed worship attire say about you? What internal disposition are we revealing when we dress no differently for church than we do for a trip to the mall or hanging out with friends around a barbeque grill? Could it be that our casual dress, chosen merely for our own comfort and convenience is a reflection of an equally casual, can’t-be-bothered attitude toward worship itself? What about those around you? What message is your choice of clothing sending them as you gather for worship?

Can Christians who gather for worship afford to ignore what their church attire may be saying to those around them? Does your choice of clothing communicate to others that this gathering is an important occasion, thereby encouraging them to see it as important as well? Or does it send them in the opposite direction? Why is it that the wrong clothes can distract your fellow worshipers.In this way and others your choice of clothing can be sinful. But this does not render your everyday (“common”), come-as-you-are attire “spiritual” or “honest.” If you care for your fellow worshipers as you ought to, you will take them into consideration as you dress for worship. We will clothe ourselves in ways that edify them and strengthen their own worship. We will attempt to avoid the nonchalant attitude that says this event is entirely routine; that it merits nothing special from me; that my only consideration in what I choose to wear is what is easiest and most convenient. Such a self-centered attitude is corrosive to a true spirit of worship. Instead, the goal in our choice of clothing should be to express to the Lord and those around us that this event matters, that I view it as a holy occasion, one which deserves our highest regard. If the first audience for our nonverbal messages is God himself, and secondarily, our fellow worshipers, dress that best suits these first two audiences may also serve a third: outsiders who join your public worship.

Evangelistic gatherings can in many ways be designed to fit the unbelievers you are trying to reach. But this is harder to do with your corporate worship. The church must first shape its worship to honor God, a goal to which all else must be subordinate. But thankfully, watching believers do what they do can have its own evangelistic effect. Attire that genuinely reflects a God-honoring attitude toward worship may well contribute to a similar result. Can you take a wild guess at what that is? You can guess until you are blue in the gills but you will never truly have your own answer unless it is spoon fed to you, just my personal opinion of course.

None of anything I have said above leaves us with a dress code for being in church, no matter the reason. It certainly does not translate automatically into coats and ties for men and fancy dresses for women. Idealizing bygone eras won’t work here; the meaning of human clothing is too contextual for that. It varies too widely from place to place and time to time, and there are too many other variables to consider. We are left having to judge for ourselves what is appropriate for worship and what is not. Every denomination has their own dress code and rules, whether you want to admit it or not, they do. Want to know my rule? Fuck your dress code!

However, all of the above should at least warn you away from the glib assumption that God actually cares about what we wear to church; or that what I choose to wear in church matters. How I dress is a purely personal affair and that my own convenience and comfort are all that need concern me. The truth is, one of the ways we express ourselves as human beings is by the way we dress. Wittingly or unwittingly, our clothing gives us away. God certainly does not need this expression to know your hearts. But as for the rest of us, we do indeed look on the outward appearance, even when peering into our own mirrors. In this way the clothes we choose for church may have things to tell us about our hearts that God already knows, but that you need to hear from other people because you thrive on judgment of yourself as well as others.

You express this embodiment totality in the corporate worship of organized religion through your shared symbols, rites, and rituals; through your posture and gestures as you bow, kneel, or lift your hands; through your actions when you stand or sit in unison or pour out your hearts musically in congregational song. Just remember, your clothing belongs on this list. By it we express to God and those around us what the occasion of being in church means to you. This is why we are taught, brainwashed, when we come to church, our clothing matters.

Wow, that turned into something sermon like. Wait, all of you reading this will burn in hell unless you……. Unless what? I mentioned before, in the House of Scorpion you are free to do as you see fit how you see fit doing it. I have mentioned once, a long time ago, my own convictions and why I have them, so I will not repeat them now. I also mentioned, some of you may find it very fucking hard to believe tho, that in my youth it was my desire to become a Catholic priest. I wanted to be the one bringing the message to the people, I had many years of education for this purpose, many years I allowed myself to be brainwashed, many years of dismissing my own questions and answers, and ending in disappointment because I started to choke on the bullshit being fed me. Who is at fault for my misguidance? Why, me, of course. Something I corrected and haven’t looked back upon. Or have I? As years have passed, I continue in my reading about the commercialization of corporate organized religion, a term many Christians do not like hearing because they don’t like hearing that they are but a cog in a wheel that is just spinning in circles. But, as are most things written here, they are just my opinions on the world around me. I am not wishing to do battle with the “church” or religion or Christians, but I will not be treated as if my mere appearance is so non conformant that it tarnishes the grace of the church I stand in, to watch a symphony concert no less. Next time, yes there will be a next time, I will go in my slacks (dress pants), but I will be wearing flip-flops bitches!

What have we learned today? Not that I was teaching anything, but I’m curious if you have made the choice to look at what is actually important. What is more important, the message or the dress code? This is on my rather lengthy list of why I don’t attend church services. How can Christianity dismiss everything around us, science, evolution, dreams, and individual thought? I don’t want to be part of the “collective”, I prefer not to be in the herd of sheeple looking for salvation. Salvation from what? Damnation from what? One day we need to discuss corruption, greed, and our sinister needs to be one step ahead of our neighbor. I’m pretty sure we all want the same thing, just to live a happy life, a life we see fit, a life we are comfortable living. Until then, we struggle with our own happiness because that is what we are fucking taught to do after generations of brainwashing we don’t want it any other way. Why do we need to be led? Why do you desire being led? Why? Sorry, I can’t answer why, you must first look into the mirror and decide if you are comfortable in your our skin, then you can start asking fucking questions you might not like the answers to. We must all live with who we are individually to be happy, we can’t do that as sheeple, we can’t do that as a part of the collective thought. Who knew, right?

Until we speak again, I leave y’all with a final thought. I do care about my fellow humans, probably to a degree that few of y’all could ever understand. But, it’s hard to sit by idle and watch us destroy ourselves over stupid shit that doesn’t matter in the first place. Here’s an idea, find the person you cherish and live a happy life. The end my friends, the end. For fun, before y’all leave, get a better understanding of the sheeple by reading The Parable Of The Sheep found in the tabs above as well.

13 Rules Of Engagement

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This is a pretty complete list of 13 things that a veteran must do or more importantly, not do, while you attempt to win your compensation benefits. These aren’t in any particular order, each is as important as the next. I know these are all very important. I know the results of not catching mistakes and of making simple errors.

Following these simple rules won’t win your claim for you but it will help ensure you don’t lose it.

(1) Don’t call the toll free number. Don’t email the VA Regional Office. Don’t use the electronic system to file your claim. Do not ever, under any circumstances communicate with the VARO except by certified mail, return receipt requested. If you break this rule, you are sure to get the wrong information. When you call or email you aren’t contacting your VA Regional Office, you’re in touch with a call center. The call center has access to a computer system that is rumored to be powered by kerosene and data is stored on IBM punch cards. The employees are under orders that you are allowed 3 minutes and not any more. They will tell you anything you want to hear to get you off that telephone. If you insist, try calling 3 days in a row. Ask the same question each time. It’s likely you’ll hear 3 completely different answers, all the wrong answers.

(2) Know who is representing you. You hand over the future of one of the most important legal moves you’ll ever make where the stakes are counted in the hundreds of thousands of dollars and you aren’t sure who the person works for? On the other hand, you’ll walk into any office that looks official, sign over a power of attorney, complete financial paperwork that exposes your weaknesses to the world and walk away not knowing what to expect or when to expect it. Spend much time thinking about your claim and who that representative works for, you’ll be a lot happier down the road.

(3) Be patient. Take 2 hours of quiet time early in the process and read from all the stuff that is available all over the internet. The VA site itself is a wealth of information and will answer a lot of your questions completely. Your application for benefits will follow a process. If you’ve done your part that paper you submitted is going to slowly wind its way to the first step in the process, then the second step in the process, then the third step and so on right through over 100 steps that must be accomplished before it is adjudicated. Whether you think all that is necessary or not doesn’t matter. It’s the process that counts and you need to accept that very early in the game. Once you’ve submitted your paperwork and you’re confident that you have given VA all the evidence that there is, you’re done. There is nothing else to do but wait. Calling the VA (see #1) to ask where your folder is truly a waste of your time. Don’t write any more letters to the VA. Don’t call your VSO to ask if she has heard anything about your claim. She hasn’t.
Do anything at all but think about your claim. Your claim will be adjudicated when it gets adjudicated and not a minute before. Live with that.

(4) Don’t ever display any anger to a VA employee. Yeah, OK…we’re all pissed off. Every last veteran I know can feel their blood boiling at the mention of how the VA treats those it’s supposed to serve. We were trained to be angry. Extreme pain was a sign that weakness was leaving my body. My most basic and most important job was to kill people and destroy their stuff. We were not emissaries of peace, we were warriors. That was then and this is now. If you show your angry side to a VA employee by yelling, expressing your displeasure at waiting, slamming your fist down on a desk, cursing, storming out of a room and slamming the door or making a direct or veiled threat…you have created trouble for yourself and all those who have to follow in your footsteps. Most, not all, but most VA employees at the clinics, hospitals and regional offices want to help you. They’re usually every bit as frustrated as you are at the bureaucracy they work for. They have the same problems of paying bills, raising teenagers, flat tires and headaches that you have. Many of them are veterans. Many others weren’t born yet when you were injured. The bureaucracy wasn’t intentionally made tougher for you by that 23 year old student intern sitting across from you. A lot of these people are afraid of you. I was born with a scowl. At my happiest, my brow is furrowed and my eyes narrow down to slits and I sigh a lot. I’ve been told often that I intimidate people so I work hard to overcome that. Before you interact with a VA employee in person, on the phone or by letter, take a deep breath and let that anger go. The amount of courtesy, respect and smiles you give is directly correlated to what you’ll receive. Otherwise, you may find that your record is flagged to warn others about your erratic, threatening behavior and if you think you have problems with getting things done now, you haven’t seen nothing yet. Worst case scenario, the VA police are serious. Most VA police officers are real cops, not ‘security guards’. The handcuffs they use are pretty much guaranteed to show you what they think of your attitude. Think before you open your mouth. You’ll be glad you did. The rest of us will appreciate it too.

(5) A well written letter is your best friend. When you moved and changed your mailing address, it appears you told everyone but the VA Regional Office that handles your folder. Neither the toll free number nor the IRIS email system is at your regional office. Your VSO can’t be relied on to run errands for you. If you had written a letter, mailed it to the correct address and used certified mail with return receipt requested and kept the receipt along with your copy of that letter, it is very likely the address change would have happened just as it should have. If it didn’t, you have good evidence that you did your part correctly and timely. Without that little green postcard, you got nothing. This action applies to every action you take with the VA. Any time you want VA to accomplish anything for you, you must put it in writing and you must be precise in telling them exactly what it is you want. When you put your request in writing, you’ve just created a piece of evidence that can be held in the hands and reviewed by another person months or years down the road. It’s real, it’s solid and if it disappears from your folder, you have a back-up copy and that little green post card to prove it was delivered. A telephone call is a faint memory the moment the connection is broken. An email may roll up and off the screen, out of sight and out of mind. Emails are often purged whether by accident or intent. Your letter and your copy of that letter are the most powerful tool you have. A single letter that is brief and tells the reader just exactly what you want is more potent than a hundred phone calls. There is just no reason for you to communicate with VA by any other method than a letter.

(6) Don’t call your Congressperson or a Senator. Your elected representatives in Washington makes laws, they don’t enforce them. Each of them maintains a number of very busy offices staffed by a dozen or more people. In that mix are “Military & Veterans Liaisons” or an individual with a similar title and responsibility. When you write or call to complain about the VA and your claim, your call is routed to that person. He or she will ask you to complete documents that allow them to view your folder, privacy issues must be addressed as you have medical records in there. Then they send a “Congressional Inquiry” to your VARO. The VARO maintains a team of people to respond to such inquiries within 45 days. Your folder is located, pulled out of line and examined for any particular glitches or errors. Then it may be sent to the Representative’s liaison for a review. If the folder and your application are merely going through the usual routine of numbingly slow progress, that’s what you’ll hear. If there is missing evidence and VA can’t find records or something is lost, they’ll assure the Representative that they’re doing all they can and that message will be passed on to you. Your Congressperson or Senator won’t be aware that you’ve done any of this with their office. They each have hundreds of these requests every year. Often enough, the impatience is rooted in ignorance. The vet doesn’t understand the process and nobody told him that his claim may take as long as 18 months. Some requests and complaints are filed with these offices because the veteran is in dire financial straits and is depending on a compensation benefit to save the day. The wolves are at the door, the car is being repossessed, the credit cards are maxed out and the vet needs the money right now. This is probably the worst reason to call as an inquiry may cause even more delays. Your folder could have been next in line to be distributed to the desk of a Ratings Veterans Service Representative (RSVR) and you caused it to be pulled out of its place in the line.

(7) Don’t ask advice from everyone you meet. Once you begin the journey to that compensation benefits award, you should soon develop a plan and stick to it. An integral part of the plan is where you’ll get guidance from. Have you decided to use a Veterans Service Officer who you trust?  Are you going to DIY? Are you in an appeal and you’ve signed some agreements with a lawyer? Whatever path you choose, stick to it. There is no one perfect answer to any of the thousands of questions that may come up during the course of your claim. Different people will have different experiences and those experiences will shape the way they will advise you to handle your claim. This happens in appeals too. The veteran speaks with a lawyer who agrees to take him as a client. Papers are signed and the lawyer begins the process by notifying VA of the new POA and requesting a copy of the folder. Six months pass and the veteran hasn’t heard anything so he calls the lawyer to discover the VARO only delivered the copied folder 2 weeks ago. The veteran once again starts looking for advice elsewhere and the result is always the same, the vet is lost, confused and unsure of what to do next. Changing representation in the middle of the process may be one of the worst actions a veteran can take unless there is a very good cause. That the claim is taking too long or the lawyer isn’t calling you every week to tell you nothing has happened isn’t good cause. You should only change your POA in a circumstance where you’ve discovered and can prove incompetence, your representative is on an extended leave or the representative dies. Even then, you will want to give a lot of thought to upsetting the flow of progress, as slow as it may be. It’s perfectly reasonable to believe that it’s better to allow the claim to proceed to a denial than to try to make a course correction during the process. When you make the decision to file a claim, give a lot of thought to how you’re going to proceed and choose your representative carefully. If you’ve done your homework up front, when you hit those bumps and delays that come with working with VA, you’ll remain confident that it’s just the routine and you’ll be happier for it.

(8) Prepare for the worst. Approach your claim as if it is already determined that you’ll lose and have a lengthy appeal. There are no reliable, precise statistics that allow us to predict which claims will be approved or the ones that are doomed to failure. We know that even when you submit a perfect claim with perfect evidence there’s a good chance that you will be tied up for a year or more and then receive a denial letter. When you get that denial, you’ll be stunned as you read along. In the required explanation from VA you’ll see that it’s almost as if not one single person actually read your evidence and/or they just ignored it all. The language they use might make you think that they’re speaking of someone else’s claim, not yours. You may read incomplete sentences, pages that don’t seem to connect from one to the next or the date on your letter may be days, weeks and even months previous to the day you get the documents. The truth is that it’s entirely possible that your complete folder was never examined for all the evidence. It’s possible that evidence you delivered wasn’t ever matched to your file. It’s not rare for papers from one file to be accidently included in another file and your denial may be based on a single page of a report from another veteran’s medical record. If you are already in need of the financial help that you deserve when you take that first step towards compensation, you must begin to develop your budget as if you aren’t ever going to see any help from the VA. I have met many vets who are suddenly unemployed or underemployed due to their service connected disability when they decide to file for a benefit. They hear from friends of the retroactive pay and that monthly deposit and the free medical care and they file and sit back and wait for it. It’s very unlikely that you’re going to find any sympathy for the knee injuries that you’ve asked for and been denied 3 years earlier. Even if your claim is valid and you’re unable to find work, unless you have a situation that is life threatening, you probably won’t see any help at all from VA. No matter what your situation, after you’ve completed your filing of the paperwork for your claim, you must then address your long term finances. You should involve your family in the discussion so that everyone understands that you’re facing a long road ahead. If you start the process knowing how you’ll pay bills each month until the point that you are awarded your deserved compensation, the time you wait will be less of a stress on you as well as your family.

(9) Read the fine print. Each time the VA writes to you you’ll find a page that applies to your claim and a number of pages of boilerplate instructions regarding your rights to appeal and other matters. Too many of us get to the part that reads, “We propose to reduce your benefits…”, or “Your claim for compensation is denied…”, or any one of a number of messages that we didn’t want to receive and we never read past that. The blood boils up in the brain, eyes cloud over and we get tunnel vision and we never see the instructions that can save us time and trouble. The fine print included with a VA letter is as good as it gets. Often enough it will detail why a particular action is taking place and once you understand that, you can correct the problem in short order. In a denial letter you may see that they didn’t consider an important piece of evidence that would have supported your claim and you have an instant reason to appeal. The most important detail you’ll find is that of timing. Your VA is obsessed with timing, yours, not their own. That fine print will tell you that if you wish to halt the apportionment of the money your ex is trying to withhold from your compensation, you must take certain actions within 30 days or 60 days. If you ‘timely’ reply you can request a personal hearing that can halt proceedings for months while VA makes room in the schedule for you. This can give you valuable time to gather evidence or get advice on how to fight a proposed negative action by VA. Reading those pages of legalese will provide the veteran with almost never-ending routes of appeals, hearings and opportunities to prevent decisions from going against us or to reverse decisions that aren’t favorable. Using the law to enforce your rights is smart. Getting smart beats getting angry every time.

(10) Get involved. You served your country. You wore the uniform, took the oath and you agreed that if ordered to do so, you would lay your life on the line for the principles we believe in. That isn’t enough. You aren’t done yet. When you were active duty, you could vote and that was about it. Now you’re a veteran and you have the knowledge and experience required to understand how our military forces need the support of the civilian leadership that control them. If you haven’t ever written to your elected representatives before, don’t embarrass yourself by thinking that they should jump up to help you when you have an issue with the VA. You Congressional representatives want to hear from you on an ongoing basis. Your Senators each have an easy, simple section on their web site for you to write them a note to let them know how you feel. Once each month, it may take all of 5 minutes of your busy schedule to write to say that you support some piece of legislation for veterans. If you do that on a regular basis, if you aren’t a ranter, and if you are contributing your thoughts to them even when you don’t need their help, they’ll pay more attention when veteran’s issues come before them. Today, the younger veterans need your wisdom, your guidance and the benefit of your experience. When you returned to the world in 1969, there were few people who were willing to offer you a hand up. If you haven’t lifted a finger to help our newest veterans but you have time to bitch and whine and cry about your own benefits, you need to reassess the situation you’re in. Giving your time to assisting these warriors will give you something to do while VA muddles around with your claim. You won’t get the sort of reward from the VA that you’ll discover helping a young veteran rebuild a life.

(11) Learn how to use your computer.  If you’re reading this, the odds are you’re reading it on a computer. It’s often said that filing an application for disability compensation isn’t a spectator sport. It’s time for you to get in the game. How can a person who manages to log on and use email not know about that phenomenon known as the Google search engine? The Internet is as amazing an invention as the wheel or sliced bread. To have Internet access is something most of us couldn’t have imagined in our wildest dreams as we entered our military service. Today’s soldier can’t recall a world without the Internet. If we take it in it’s simplest terms, the Internet is nothing more than a library that houses information. We all access the same Internet. It doesn’t matter if your portal is AOL or Bellsouth or Comcast, those are just doors that open to allow you access. Once you step through the door your Internet Service Provider (ISP) has for you, you are surfing along the same “Information Superhighway” as everyone else. Once you’ve arrived on the Internet, the “library” is full of billions and billions of pages of information. That information is piped up into the Internet from other computers, called servers, from colleges and governments and private citizens and even businesses that want to sell things to you. If you want to see what they have to offer, you have to be able to arrive at their Internet address and then view the information they provide. To get to a specific place or find specific information on the Internet requires that you know the exact address of the place you’re looking for. If you don’t know where you’re going, how on earth can you find your way among those billions of addresses? Thankfully, that was made easier for you years ago by the development of the “Search Engine”. The first Internet search engine came about 1993 and has quickly evolved into today’s Google. While there are plenty of competitors around, many consider that the Google engine is the best available. How do you use it? Simple. If the Google search bar isn’t already a fixture on the landscape of the web page you’re looking at, go to the address bar of your browser and type in http://www.google.com and you’re ready to search. Bingo, you’re on a page that shows you the results of the search by the engine. It may tell you that it found hundreds of thousands of “hits” of pages that are relevant to your query. The engine, being as smart as it is, has listed them in the order it thinks you’ll want to see them. You’ll see the main page of the DVA site (http://www.va.gov) and also the main page of the VBA site (http://www.vba.va.gov) Congratulations! You’ve just learned how to use a search engine. You entered a “search term” and then directed the engine to find a likely page of information for you. Once at the DVA web site you’ll see links to almost everything the DVA has available. A “link” is a word, phrase or symbol that you may click on that will take you to another place on the Internet or within the pages of the site you’re on. To find the facts about dependents benefits is easy once you’re on the VA site. Look around, you’ll see links to benefits, from there links to dependent’s benefits and so on. I recommend the DVA web site as a first stop for almost everything you need to know about the VA. The site is massive and it can be complex but with a little time, you’ll soon discover all you ever wanted to know about VA.

(12) Retrieve and then organize your own documents and evidence. The VA has a duty to assist you. The obligation to help you includes a reasonable effort to track down records and to notify you of your rights. The word you want to pay attention to is “reasonable”. If 10 years have passed since you were treated at the infamous Our Lady of Pain and Suffering Medical Center, located in beautiful Dog’s Breath, Georgia and you want those records, you better work on getting them yourself. That VSR may fire off a letter in the direction of that hospital and include a copy of your release but there is never any guarantee they’re going to respond. He may even try again. After that, it’s your problem, not his. Many hospitals today have medical records outsourced to a vendor in another city and state. If the VA writes to the hospital asking for your records they may get a message to contact the vendor. In turn, that vendor may require a stiff fee to research and copy records, and yes, they can do that. The vendor may require a photocopy of your driver’s license or other identification for security. Their rules may require all of that and then they must send the records back to the hospital where the hospital releases them to you or the VA. Upon encountering those kinds of barriers, the VSR at your VARO will note his attempts and move on, only without your important records. If you were treated by a handful of different physicians over the years, practices may have changed hands, doctors may have moved on. If you were treated by Dr. Quackenstein 12 years ago and his notes will prove your disability, you’ve got problems if he gave up medicine and is now a back-up singer in an unheard of band. Your file may be in storage, it could be that the entire practice moved to another building or that the practice, including your chart, was sold to another group of doctors. The VSR may send a letter and might even make a phone call on your behalf. If that isn’t productive, he’ll move on. In the circumstances above, had you taken the initiative yourself, you may have been able to track down your record. Yes, it may have taken you 30 phone calls and days of frustration but if you are persistent and you find the right person, the one with the keys to the storage facility, you may get that single piece of paper that wins your case.

(13) You’re not in the military anymore.You no longer have to accept answers you get as if it was handed down from authority and, or through the chain of command. Question everything. If the answer or decision is not favorable to you, disagree with it. Our government’s agencies do not always get things right, do not have your best interests in mind, and will not always tell you everything you need to know. If you think your claim has merit, and your belief is based on facts, law, and evidence directly on point to your claim, then appeal and persevere. Do not shrug your shoulders, give up, and think the VA must know better and, or must be right. They make wrong/bad decisions all the time; hence, the incredible backlog that exists in the VBA claims process today.

Read this disclaimer: The above information is provided to you to describe general processes and procedures that occur during the application for disability compensation and pension and other benefits within the Department of Veterans Affairs System. You are not being provided with any legal advice. Any information provided here is not intended as and should not be construed as legal advice. The DVA laws and regulations are subject to change. I cannot guarantee the accuracy or completeness of any of the information provided, or any results or outcome as a result of the use of this information.

Uphill Battles & Gaining The High Ground

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Many of you have been around here long enough to know I’m a disabled United States Air Force (AF) veteran who has been in an uphill battle with the Veterans Administration (VA) since the day I got out of the AF. I’ve asked why it must be a battle to receive veterans disability benefits, I’ve asked why there must be so much red tape, and repeatedly I find myself with the same damn answer, because this is the way it is, just accept it. Well, I’ve called bullshit, and that answer is not only un-acceptable to me and shouldn’t be acceptable to any living breathing veteran on the face of the planet. The word needs to get out, we need to share what we know with everyone, the more information we are armed with can mean the difference of one’s success or failure with the VA. So, here’s my personal challenge to all of you, veteran or not, disabled veteran or not, family members, friends, and co-workers, share this post on your web page, your blog, Facebook, Google+, and so forth. This following information will help you whether you want to file a claim or you wish to re-open an existing claim. But this information needs to get out there, the word must be spread. I won’t mention her name here, she knows who she is, who she is to me, but she knows first hand the battle veterans fight in the VA system, whether it be on the medical side or the claim side of the VA. We have spoke extensively and I want to be the one that gives something back to my fellow veterans. She has been an inspiration to me to keep my head held high and keep fighting. I owe her a debt of gratitude for lending me an ear and being a dear friend. So, again, the more this information is shared with everyone the better.

There is information within the walls of the VA which is very important to each and every veteran. I’ve spent many years just taking the VA’s word for it about my personal disability claim, but I’m done with that nonsense, real done with it, everyone who is a veteran needs to come to the very moment I did, and just flat say that enough is enough, its time to get to higher ground, its time to win my battle and claim the high ground. I didn’t do this alone, I’ve had help along the way, I’d love to mention each person out but I would rather thank all of them in mass for they each helped me in their own particular way or supported me when I thought it wasn’t worth fighting for any more. But why do we need to fight? Why can’t the process be easier? I’ll tell you why, it has the appearance that the VA makes the process of filing a claim overly complex and hard simply to discourage veterans from filing a claim. When, in reality, it should be just the opposite, our Veterans Administration should be helping us, not fighting us at every turn, they should want to be there for us as we have been there for them. But, we all know it to be very different, a scenario that resembles a battle plan with contingencies to set in play for the setbacks. Again, we must be prepared, we must be three steps ahead, we must have a hand in the grand scheme, and the only way to win any battle is to be well informed.

I have read many blogs, web sites, forums, reviews, papers, and government documents than one single man should ever have to endure. I’m no lawyer, not by any means, and this post will only point out your legal rights as a veteran, but in no way constitute any form of legal council. And, for the purpose of the contents of this post I offer you my disclaimer. The information you obtain on this blog or this post specifically is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. You should consult an attorney or advocate for advice regarding your individual veterans claim situation. This blog post is intended for informational purposes only. Got it? Great, lets move on then, there is much to cover. The following information has been researched by me personally, shared with me personally, all for the purpose of being better prepared to do battle with the VA. With that being said, I’ve collected quite a stack of useful information. Today we will talk mostly about a veterans “C” file or claims file, it’s contents, and why the information might be the single most important resource a veteran can have.

What is in a C-file? When I casually say everything about you, I truly mean it. For simplicity purposes, let’s separate the contents of a C-file into 11 different categories so each one of them can be examined. Your claims file is being reviewed by the VA to evaluate your case, it is your legal right to have a copy so each party has the same information. See what is missing, see what is being overlooked, and provide yourself with ammunition to fight back, you need a page by page copy of your entire claims file, without it you have already lost your battle.

Miscellaneous: Basic information can be found here like birth certificates, employment information, and more.

Military Administration: This area pertains to everything from your discharge to your awards and personal records.

Compensation and Pension Exams: Any records pertaining to your C&P Exams.

VA Medical Records: Record for any occasion in which you have sought treatment at any VA facility.

Private Medical Records: Any medical records from non-VA facilities, or from your active duty period.

Military Medical Records: Any medical records from your time in service.

Entrance and Separation exams: These exams are performed when an individual enters and when they exit the military.

Ratings Decisions and Statements of the Case: This section is rather large and will contain your application for benefits, appeals, decisions, statements of the case, and so much more.

Statements in Support of Claim: Any statements or questionnaires that you may fill out will be located here.

Transcripts:  This simply pertains to transcripts from hearings.

Transcripts: Any applications, decisions, and records pertaining to Social Security.

The claims file is kind of like the lifeblood of your case. A C-file is something that every Veteran has once a claim is filed with the VA. Some C-files are small, and others contain more 7000 pages, but no two files are the same. Unfortunately claims files are not currently electronic, and they arrive from the VA unsorted. One of the first things to do when your claims file arrives is sort it into the eleven categories above. Those eleven categories contain all of the essential information about your case. So, how does one obtain a C-file? That part, unlike the review, is simple. All you really have to do is ask for it from the VA. Remember, the word simple with the VA is a relative term. As I mentioned earlier, the files are not electronic. They are paper.  As they are paper, they are stored in filing cabinets. Further, depending upon when you served, where your case is in the process, and which Regional Office is handling your claim, the file may be in multiple locations. Because of this, it takes time to get your file together.  Also, it is important to note that only one copy of your file is free. If you request additional copies you will be charged. I recommend, if you have the technology, scan it all, scan everything, make that digital copy for your records, store it on a thumb-drive and/or burn it onto a DVD or CD. Saying that your claims file is important to your VA Disability claim is an understatement. Honestly, the records found within the claims file really determine your eligibility.

I mentioned above that a veteran just needs to ask for his/her claims file, below is an example of what I used.

———————————–

(Date)

Privacy Act Department

Department of Veterans Affairs Regional Office

6900 Almeda Road

Houston, TX 77030

Re: (Veterans Name) Claims Folder FOIA Request

(Social Security Number or Claim Number or Case Number)

Dear Staff:

I hereby request a copy of all documents contained in (Veterans Name) claims folder, including, but not limited to, all documents in the right flap, left flap, and center flap, and the reverse side of any documents with writing on both sides.

Please note that this request for documents is being made pursuant to the Privacy Act, 5 U.S.C. § 552, and the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), 5 U.S.C. § 552a, as well as 38 C.F.R.§1.550 and 38 C.F.R.  § 1.577.  Your agency has a duty to respond to this request within TWENTY (20) DAYS of the date of this request pursuant to 5 U.S.C. § 552 (a)(6)(A)(2)(i).

Additionally, although an extension of time to respond may be requested, it may only be granted for “unusual circumstances.” “Predictable agency workload” is not typically considered an unusual circumstance as stated in 5 U.S.C. § 552(a)(6)(C)(ii).   Moreover, even to the extent that unusual circumstances could be demonstrated in this instance, the time limit for the extension is limited to “10 working days” pursuant to 38 C.F.R.§ 1.553(d).

Please also be aware that your agency’s failure to respond to this request within twenty (20) days may result in the filing of an administrative appeal with the office of the Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs pursuant to 38 C.F.R.§ 1.557 and 5 U.S.C. §552(a)(6)(A)(2)(ii), and potentially, the filing of a federal lawsuit to compel the production of the information.

This may subject your agency to contempt of court and a fine, including attorney fees and litigation expenses in compelling the production of this information pursuant to 38 U.S.C. § 552a(g)(l) of the Privacy Act, and 38 U.S.C. § 552(a)(4)(B) of FOIA. Thank you.

(Veterans Name)

(Veterans Signature)

(Veterans Contact Info)

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Hand write the request, type it out, print it, be sure to sign it, put it into an envelope and send it. But, wait, be sure to send it certified mail requiring a signature. Why? You will be notified of the date, time, and person signing for the letter. Why is this important? Their time to reply starts on the date signed. Remember its business days, excluding weekends and federal holidays. Once you get a copy of your claims file, categorize it, read it, get to know it frontwards and backwards, then use the information to better prepare your initial claim or to help you re-open your claim. Personally, I’m in the information collection phase of my battle, soon I will soon be finished preparing my package to be submitted to the VA. I will continue to update this blog with my progress and/or road blocks. Remember, the more this information is shared with fellow veterans, family members of veterans, co-workers of veterans, and so forth, the better we, as veterans, can better prepare. If the playing field is level then the veteran once again has a fighting chance. The resources are out there, the information is out there, and the almighty answers are all out there, find it all and live a better life.

White Weddings Are For Fairytales

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“I don’t know how young girls get it stuck in their heads that the perfect wedding is one of our life’s goals. When I was a little girl I learned that I desired the perfect white wedding to mark the beginning of my life as being married to my prince charming. What I never knew was how it was all going to happen for me. I suppose one could say I grew up in a typical suburban family, the youngest of three girls, all of us achieving the goal of being a high school cheerleaders while remaining as straight A students. We all followed in the footsteps of our mother who we all idolized, we all wanted what she had, we all wanted to be where she was in life. Being the youngest, I was witness to seeing just how easy it is for one’s dreams to fall by the wayside. Somewhere in high school I began losing my faith in God, not because I blamed him for anything, but because he no longer seemed to have the answers. I grew impatient with him because when I turned to him to find my strength I felt as if I was waiting for something that he couldn’t help me find, myself. I lost myself wanting to be like my sisters and wanting what my mother had. Dreams I would soon find that I could not reach the way they reached them.

Halfway into my freshman year of high school my oldest sister found out she was pregnant. My sisters and I were close, we had a pact to remain virgins until our honeymoon, so I was sure how my sister explained it was the truth. She had attended a seniors only party a few months before, she went with her boyfriend of three years, and she was dropped off by that boyfriend after the party. The truly strange part about it, because my parents had DNA tests done, is that he was not the father of the baby. At the party she did like she always did, just drank diet coke, because she didn’t drink. A few hours into the party she remembers feeling sick so she went to the bathroom, which is where her boyfriend found her thirty minutes later, passed out on the floor. Long story short is that it is believed that someone at the party put some kind of drug into her diet coke, this lead to her getting sick, which lead her to the bathroom, and where someone raped her while she was out cold. Nobody is ever going to know the secret to the mystery. At five months pregnant, the fetus aborted in the middle of the night, we were told that due to unseen complications during the pregnancy that it just terminated on its own. Three days later, during my sisters first night back home from the hospital, she committed suicide. We buried my sister and her unborn daughter at the end of the week.

As a family we took all of this real hard, my parents really closed off the world, even worse, the closed us off from them the most, emotionally and physically. It seemed, at the time, that being the youngest, that I was taking it all in the most negative way, but the following event proved the opposite. Within a month of her funeral, my other sister decided to just disappear from the face of the planet. She left a brief letter to explain not to worry about her, she needed to be far away, and she would be okay because she had a plan. Nice plan, abondon everyone, give everyone something new to grieve about. I personally, have not seen or had contact with her since the night before she disappeared. I continued high school, I watched my parents grow distant from each other, and finally my dad decided that everyone would be best if he left as well. After their divorce, shortly after I graduated, I too, left everything I knew, my mom was heart broken, but said she would always be there for me. I ended up in Houston somehow, came in with the wind one night, broke, hungry, and alone. I didn’t like my current situation so, after seeing an ad I applied for a job and was hired a few days later. That job lasted about a month and one day I heard these two pretty girls talking about the money they had been making. I sat down with them, we became friends, and, in a weird way, showed me an uncertain path.

Which, coincidentally, is where we sit today. I will be 23 in a few days, graduating from Rice University later this fall, after 4 very long years of hard work. I really don’t mind doing what I do, strip for money, because it has actually given me a bright future, one that I can touch, feel, and see. Stripping has given me an education about people, an education that I’m not sure I could have received anywhere else. When I graduate this fall I will be leaving this club and beginning the next chapter in my life, always being very thankful that I overhead a conversation I was never meant to hear.” 

…………. The preceding paragraphs were transcribed from a recorded conversation between myself and Molly, well, most of it was her talking while I listened. I have let technology take the place of my own memory and little black note book when it comes to writing for Scorpion Sting’s Bartender Stories. I’m liking the way it worked out, I didn’t have to handwrite any of it and I just pushed play and pause to thumb type this on my phone. I hope y’all enjoyed this entry, it was sad and happy, just like my own life seems to be, sometimes life is what it is and we must roll with the punches just to survive.