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.

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(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.

Mysteries, Enigmas, Cubicles, And Puzzles

The latest submission to The Magic Weekend is about a young professional man who spends his days in an office cubicle and his nights doing whatever comes to mind for his mood. His actual story does not have even one of the five criteria for being here on The Magic Weekend, there is no Sex, no Jail, no Blood, no Money, and no Fame. So why am I adding this e-mail to the collection of my stories? That will be a question that you must answer for yourselves after you read and digest the information provided. Personally, I think that Robert believes that if he gets his story out there that he may finally see and end or a beginning to something in his future. You see, his story is one of covert lust that, to date, has not been resolved and he hopes that by walking us through his story that it will help him look for clues he has yet to discover. As always, I try to provide as many pictures as I can. This is one of those cases that I can only provide the two pictures you see as the other 30 some odd pictures are just a wee bit racy. I’m not in the habit of censoring what people read or see but I would like to keep my blog somewhere in the PG rating. With no more from me, let’s get on with Robert’s torrid little story.

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“Hello, my name is Robert and I have a truly bizarre story for you today. My story actually takes much longer than a mere weekend, it has gone on for right at 4 weeks now. I’m sending you a mess of pictures in the order that I received them to better illustrate what has been happening. Where do I begin. How about a little background of what I do for a living as well as how I spent my time away from work. If you look through the pictures you will see one or two showing a gaggle of cubicles. That is my work environment. This is where I sit for basically 10 hours a day, cut off from the world below me and from any outside contact with other human beings. The job is real monotonous but it pays my bills leaving me with enough money to still enjoy my life here in Houston. I’m not from Houston, I’m actually a transplant who was chasing the all American dream of having a good career and making a good salary. I grew up and went to college at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV), graduating with my degree in Kinesiology. When it came time for job placement I was put on to information about a company in Houston that specializes in the design, concept, and implementation of biomechanics and orthopedics. When I accepted the job offer it was at the bottom tier of the career path. I figured I had to start somewhere, why not doing research, analysis, and comparison. Translation, I read and I read and I read. Then I get to provide my information for statistical analysis which is used for approach and further investigation. Sounds complicated, but it’s really not too bad. How does this play into everything? It has everything to do with it. My social life and work life does not overlap, meaning that I have work friends and I have friends outside work, the two never cross that line. In over a year of being with this company I can think of only one other text I received while I was at work and that was from my mother wishing me a great first day of work. Which, would have been a real push of enthusiasm for me it had actually been on my first day and not eleven days into it. I know she meant well. Anyway, right at four weeks ago I get a text from a number I don’t recognize. It’s a local number so I figure I will look at it and see what is up. When I opened it up I had to look around to see if anyone saw me looking at the picture of the girl which was being displayed. The text read “I’ve been watching you and have noticed that you have not noticed me yet”. Slowly I peek out over the top of my cubicle to look around, to see if I could see anyone looking at me that looked like this girl. I got nothing. It actually ruined my whole day because I couldn’t stop trying to figure out who she was. Not real good for productivity. It is what it is though. I ended up taking work home with me because of the entire day being a bust.

The next day about the same time in the morning I get another text from this mysterious creature. By now I think she is really trying to get my attention because that picture was a bit more exposing. Thinking to myself I don’t want to get any further behind or get fired I put my phone away and got back into getting my work done. Lunch rolled around, we get a whole 30 minutes which usually leads to most people just bringing their lunch and eating in the lunch room. On that day I decided to go to the atrium area of our building to get away from my other distractions and have a few minutes to try to figure out who this girl was and what she wanted. I keep thinking she is sending these pictures to the wrong person and that I am not the intended target of her affections. Don’t get me wrong, the attention is nice, even if it isn’t for me. It can’t be for me or can it. This continued every following day. Everyday I paid attention to who was around me no matter where I was at. Thursday nights is when my friends and I get together and usually go see a new movie and then go to a local bar to shoot darts and have a few beers. I found myself getting real paranoid because I could not figure out who she was. After about 4 weeks the pictures started becoming quite explicit, to say that I was getting to see a new side of her each day would be a complete understatement to say the least. The last picture I got of her was impressive, she is quite limber and acrobatic, it was sent with this message which haunts me still to this day. It read “I’m sorry you haven’t figured out who I am in your life. Be at the Red Lion Pub tonight at 10pm. look for me and you will see me”. Really? I couldn’t believe what I was reading.

I went home after work in quite a hurry. I needed a shower and to get dressed. I felt like a girl getting asked out on a first date. I don’t have allot of leisurewear as most of my wardrobe is casual business attire. I mixed and matched and finally thought I had it figured out. Then, I was done, walking out the door. I wanted to get there early and do a little situational observation. In reality I wanted to check the place out and see which one of my jackass friends was going to jump out and say “Gotcha!”. What I got was a fistful of mass disappointment and despair. I sat there until the placed closed down. Well, I actually didn’t just sit in one spot, I would walk around, sit at a new spot, walk around, and so forth, all night long. She never showed up. For some reason I didn’t include this in the options of what could happen that evening. She didn’t show, it was plain and simple. Did she get cold feet. Right about closing I decided to text her and ask her where she was and if she forgot about our meeting. There was no reply. I called her, my call went straight to voicemail. I left her the voicemail message of “sorry I missed you tonight, maybe another time”. I collected my belongings and hailed a taxi to take me back home. I waited for a call or a text, any sign that I wasn’t crazy and that she had a great reason or no reason for standing me up. Nothing. That nothing is what continued from that point forward. I waited like a love struck puppy for an entire week for something, anything from her. At the end of the week I called her one last time and was answered with a recorded message telling me that the number I was trying to reach is not available. Did she change her number? Was the other one disconnected? I will never know since I never even knew her name. So, back to my life, back to the cubicle, I will always have more questions than answers, it will always be a mystery to me who she would be to me, I feel a bit heartbroken but know it wasn’t all real. I mean, it happened, but it didn’t actually mean anything. Now, I have some very enigmatic memories of a nameless girl who was very talented. I won’t ever solve this puzzle, but if I do I will be sure to update you.

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Can y’all see now why I included this as a Magic Weekend submission. There was the promise of something from someone. The story intrigued me enough that I found myself feeling bad for this guy. I found myself wanting to reach out to help him. Therefore, I included his story here. Makes me wonder though, was she just screwing with him? Was he the intended recipient of all those texts? Is this that has been lost to ever be found ever again? Answers I will probably never know. I hope y’all enjoyed Robert’s story. I look forward to all the submissions I get to the Magic Weekend. Just e-mail them to me. What did your weekend involve? Sex? Jail? Blood? Monet? Or Fame? Send me your story now and see it here in the very near future. Thanks for stopping by and I look forward to your many returns.