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.

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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.

Do Not Remove This Disclaimer

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In my neverending quest for clarity in our great society I have found that everyone has some form of disclaimer and/or copyright notification. I suppose I’m no different, I like people who visit The Sting Of The Scorpion Blog to be well advised to the conditions of their visit. This all got me thinking about all the information one can find in regards to products and/or services and I soon realized that there is something to state about just about anything one can lay their hands on. In a moment you will read what was readily available on products around my house, in mail I have received, in email I have received, and different agreements or contracts I have entered. I’m positive that I have only scratched the surface and I invite all of y’all to comment with some of your own. Without further delay, I give to y’all my study of common disclaimers.

Do not remove this disclaimer under penalty of law. For optimum performance, clarity, and safety, please read these instructions carefully.

Void where prohibited. No representation or warranty, express or implied, with respect to the completeness, accuracy, fitness for a particular purpose, or utility of these materials or any information or opinion contained herein. Actual mileage may vary. Prices slightly higher west of the Mississippi. All models over 18 years of age. No animals were harmed during the production of this product. Any resemblance to actual people, living or dead, or events, past, present or future, is purely coincidental. This product not to be construed as an endorsement of any product or company, nor as the adoption or promulgation of any guidelines, standards or recommendations. Some names have been changed to protect the innocent. This product is meant for educational purposes only. Some assembly required. Batteries not included. Package sold by weight, not volume. Contents may settle during shipment. No user-serviceable parts inside. Use only as directed.  Do not eat. Not a toy.

Postage will be paid by addressee. If condition persists, consult your physician. Subject to change without notice. Times approximate. One size fits all. Colors may, in time, fade. For office use only. Edited for television. List was current at time of printing. At participating locations only. Keep away from fire or flame. Avoid contact with skin. Sanitised for your protection. Employees and their families are not eligible. Beware of the dog. Limited time offer. No purchase necessary. Not recommended for children under 12. Prerecorded for this time zone. Some of the trademarks mentioned in this product appear for identification purposes only. Freshest if eaten before date on carton. Subject to change without notice. Please allow 4 to 6 weeks for delivery. Not responsible for direct, indirect, incidental or consequential damages resulting from any defect, error or failure to perform. Slippery when wet. Substantial penalty for early withdrawal. For recreational use only. No Canadian coins. List each check separately by bank number. This is not an offer to sell securities. WiFi for hotel guests only, not visitors or guests of guests.

Read at your own risk. Ask your doctor or pharmacist. Parental guidance advised. Always read the label. Do not use while operating a motor vehicle or heavy equipment. Do not stamp. Breaking seal constitutes acceptance of agreement. Contains non-milk fat. Date as postmark. Lost ticket pays maximum rate. Use only in well-ventilated area. Price does not include taxes. Not for resale. Hand wash only. Keep away from sunlight. For a limited time only. No preservatives or additives. Keep away from pets and small children. Safety goggles required during use. If rash, irritation, redness, or swelling develops, discontinue use. Do not fold, spindle or mutilate. Please remain seated until the web page has come to a complete stop. Refrigerate after opening. Flammable. Must be 18 years or older. Seat backs and tray tables must be in the upright position. Repeat as necessary. Do not look directly into light. Avoid extreme temperatures and store in a cool dry place. No salt, MSG, artificial colouring or flavoring added. Reproduction strictly prohibited. Pregnant women, the elderly, and children should avoid prolonged exposure to this product. If ingested, do not induce vomiting. May contain nuts. Objects in mirror may be closer than they appear. Do not use if safety seal is broken.

Apply only to affected area. Do not use this product if you have high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, thyroid disease, asthma, glaucoma, or difficulty in urination. May be too intense for some viewers. In case of accidental ingestion, seek professional assistance or contact a poison control center immediately. Many suitcases look alike. Post office will not deliver without postage. Not the Beatles. Products are not authorized for use as critical components in life support devices or systems. Driver does not carry cash. Do not puncture or incinerate. Do not play your headset at high volume. Discontinue use of this product if any of the following occurs: itching, aching, vertigo, dizziness, ringing in your ears, vomiting, giddiness, aural or visual hallucinations, tingling in extremities, loss of balance or coordination, slurred speech, temporary blindness, drowsiness, insomnia, profuse sweating, shivering, or heart palpitations. Video+ and Video- are at ECL voltage levels, HSYNC and VSYNC are at TTL voltage levels. It is a violation of federal law to use this product in a manner inconsistent with its labeling. Intentional misuse by deliberately concentrating and inhaling the contents can be harmful or fatal. This product has been shown to cause cancer in laboratory rats. Do not use the AC adaptor provided with this player for other products.

DO NOT DELETE THIS LINE — Your health depends on it.

Warranty does not cover normal wear and tear, misuse, accident, lightning, flood, hail storm, tornado, tsunami, volcanic eruption, avalanche, earthquake or tremor, hurricane, solar activity, meteorite strike, nearby supernova and other Acts of God, neglect, damage from improper or unauthorised use, incorrect line voltage, unauthorised use, unauthorised repair, improper installation, typographical errors, broken antenna or marred cabinet, missing or altered serial numbers, electromagnetic radiation from nuclear blasts, microwave ovens or mobile phones, sonic boom vibrations, ionising radiation, customer adjustments that are not covered in this list, and incidents owing to an airplane crash, ship sinking or taking on water, motor vehicle crashing, dropping the item, falling rocks, leaky roof, broken glass, disk failure, accidental file deletions, mud slides, forest fire, riots or other civil unrest, acts of terrorism or war, whether declared or not, explosive devices or projectiles (which can include, but may not be limited to, arrows, crossbow bolts, air gun pellets, bullets, shot, cannon balls, BBs, shrapnel, lasers, napalm, torpedoes, ICBMs, or emissions of electromagnetic radiation such as radio waves, microwaves, infra-red radiation, visible light, UV, X-rays, alpha, beta and gamma rays, neutrons, neutrinos, positrons, N-rays, knives, stones, bricks, spit-wads, spears, javelins etc.).

Other restrictions may apply. Breach of these conditions is likely to cause unquantifiable loss that may not be capable of remedy by the payment of damages.

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This supersedes all previous disclaimers

This entire disclaimer message is protected by copyright and its use, copying, distribution and decompilation is restricted. All rights reserved. No part of this disclaimer or any attachments may be copied or reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means, optical, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, telepathic, or otherwise, without the express witnessed and notarised prior written consent of the all holders of the relevant copyrights.

The information contained herein has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable. However, no warranty as to the accuracy, completeness or adequacy of such information is implied. No liability is accepted for errors, omissions or inadequacies in the information contained herein or for interpretations thereof. The reader assumes sole responsibility for the selection of these materials to achieve its intended results. The opinions expressed herein are subject to change without notice.

The information in this document and any attached files is strictly private and confidential and may also be privileged. It is intended solely for and should be read only by the individual(s) or organisation(s) to whom or which it is addressed. If you are not the intended recipient, or a person responsible for delivering it to the intended recipient, notify the sender by return, delete the message, and destroy all copies of the email and associated files in your possession; you are not authorised to and must not disclose, copy, distribute, or retain this message or any part of it. It may contain information that is confidential and/or covered by legal professional or other privilege (or other rules or laws with similar effect in jurisdictions outside England and Wales).

We have an anti-virus system installed on all our PCs and therefore any files leaving us via email will have been checked for known viruses, but are not guaranteed to be virus free. We accept no responsibility once an email transmission and any attachments have left us.

No part of this message is intended to form any part of any contract. The views expressed in this message are not necessarily the views of my employer, and the company, its directors, officers or employees make no representation or accept any liability for its accuracy or completeness, unless expressly stated to the contrary. This message is not intended to be relied upon without subsequent written confirmation of its contents. This company therefore shall not accept any liability of any kind which may arise from any person acting upon the contents of this message without having had written confirmation.

This document originates from the Internet, and therefore may not be from a reliable source. If you have any doubts about the origin or content of this document please contact our support desk where you may, or may not, remain on hold indefinitely. Consider yourself warned and advised.

This post could have come from absolutely anybody masquerading as the poster, could have been read quite legally by the State under the RIP legislation, by the security services of any other state through which the data passes, by the sender’s or receiver’s employer on the pretext of protection of business interests, and read or altered by anybody working at any of the infrastructure services involved in its transmission. Given that internet routing is complex and adaptive, you don’t even know who most of these parties are.

The Next Chapter For An Old Friend

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When I was in high school, a junior I believe, I found the iron ends of what used to be a bench of some sort. I rescued these end pieces from the trash pile, taking them into the garage where they would eventually sit, in a corner, for a few more months. Over the summer I scrubbed, rubbed, and scraped off years of paint, decay, and outdoor abuse. With the aid of my dad, we used some scrap red cedar, too short and too narrow for anything else, to make this a bench once again. I spent many hours applying linseed oil to the planks of wood, hand painting to iron supports, and getting it ready for a life in my mother’s garden she had in the front yard. This is where the bench lived for the next year. After graduation, I left to college in Waco the summer of ’87, my mother insisted I take the old bench because in her eyes it has always been mine. Since my high school sweetheart went with me, we decided to rent this little one bedroom, one bath house, the bench was our couch for the two years we lived there.

Soon enough, this bench would begin a journey with me, seeing the places in the world I would live, and eventually being introduced to my daughter who was born in Japan. The bench sat in my back yard facing a beautiful Japanese garden complete with koi ponds, statues, and a zen garden. We would sit out here daily, as weather permitted, watching the old couple in their 90s meticulously groom their garden. This is where I would read to her as I tried my hand at learning to speak Japanese. Eventually, we would begin calling New Mexico home, the bench found a spot under a large Chinkapin Oak where my daughter spent allot of time year round playing, reading, and taunting the local wildlife. Years later, her mother and I would indeed divorce, we owned very little in regards to furniture and such, but she wanted the bench for some reason. When I got wind of this devious plan the bench mysteriously got stolen, meaning I made it disappear, finding it a new home, once again, at my parent’s house. Skip ahead a few years now, I’m remarried, bought the place we’re in now, and the bench has been watching the pond ever since. By now, as you can see, some 28 years later, it needs a little tlc. I don’t know how old this bench is for real, but my almost 4 year old granddaughter has taken a liking to it. My oldest daughter thinks I should give it to her, one day, when she decides to get married.

When I told my son that I was going to be doing a little work to the bench he begged me to be a part of it all. Which is great for me, reminds me of when I was young and wanted to help my dad do things. I set him to disassembling the bench, taking care not to nick himself with something rusty, he used a fair amount of penetrating oil on all of the rusty bolts, all which would be replaced, which he didn’t know. He helped me scrub the metal and eventually paint it, he chose black again because as far as he can recall, its always been black. I had some engine block red I was going to use, but we kept it black for old time sakes. He helped cut the slats out of some reclaimed red cedar planks I had stashed, helped sand, shape, and finish them with me as well. Finally we were all ready for assembly, which he was very much involved in. I can see the pride on his face as we near the finish, he has done an absolute fantastic job, and I think he learned a few new things as well. Reminds me of a show I like that shows what happens to man made items if there is nobody to take care of them. For fun, I sent the picture below to my dad, asking if he remembered this bench. He called me and we talked about its great adventures and how well my own son had done bringing it back to life once again.

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Have Y’all Read About CONOP 8888?

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Did y’all know that The United States Pentagon has a glorious plan to stop the zombie apocalypse? No? Then this is an absolute must read for everyone concerned. The following story has been borrowed from Stars & Stripes online and retain all credit, I am merely resharing the information, please enjoy this information about CONOP 8888, better known as Counter-Zombie Dominance.

“The U.S. military has always been the one place in government with a plan, forever in preparation mode and ready to yank a blueprint off the shelf for almost any contingency. Need a response for a Russian nuclear missile launch? Check. Have to rescue a U.S. ambassador kidnapped by drug lords? Got that covered. How about a detailed strategy for surviving a zombie apocalypse? As it turns out, check.

Incredibly, the Defense Department has a response if zombies attacked and the armed forces had to eradicate flesh-eating walkers in order to “preserve the sanctity of human life” among all the “non-zombie humans.”

Buried on the military’s secret computer network is an unclassified document, obtained by Foreign Policy, called “CONOP 8888.” It’s a zombie survival plan, a how-to guide for military planners trying to isolate the threat from a menu of the undead – from chicken zombies to vegetarian zombies and even “evil magic zombies” – and destroy them.

“This plan fulfills fictional contingency planning guidance tasking for U.S. Strategic Command to develop a comprehensive [plan] to undertake military operations to preserve ‘non-zombie’ humans from the threats posed by a zombie horde,” CONOP 8888’s plan summary reads. “Because zombies pose a threat to all non-zombie human life, [Strategic Command] will be prepared to preserve the sanctity of human life and conduct operations in support of any human population — including traditional adversaries.”

CONOP 8888, otherwise known as “Counter-Zombie Dominance” and dated April 30, 2011, is no laughing matter, and yet of course it is. As its authors note in the document’s “disclaimer section,” “this plan was not actually designed as a joke.”

Military planners assigned to the U.S. Strategic Command in Omaha, Nebraska, during 2009 and 2010 looked for a creative way to devise a planning document to protect citizens in the event of an attack of any kind. The officers used zombies as their muse. “Planners . . . realized that training examples for plans must accommodate the political fallout that occurs if the general public mistakenly believes that a fictional training scenario is actually a real plan,” the authors wrote, adding: “Rather than risk such an outcome by teaching our augmentees using the fictional ‘Tunisia’ or ‘Nigeria’ scenarios used at [Joint Combined Warfighting School], we elected to use a completely-impossible scenario that could never be mistaken for a real plan.”

Navy Capt. Pamela Kunze, a spokeswoman for Strategic Command, acknowledged the document exists on a “secure Internet site” but took pains to explain that the zombie survival guide is only a creative endeavor for training purposes. “The document is identified as a training tool used in an in-house training exercise where students learn about the basic concepts of military plans and order development through a fictional training scenario,” she wrote in an email. “This document is not a U.S. Strategic Command plan.”

This isn’t the first time zombies have been used to inspire trainers or the American public. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) built an entire public awareness campaign for emergency preparedness around zombies. “Get a kit, make a plan, be prepared,” one CDC poster warns as a dead-eyed woman peeks over a blanket.

But the military appears to have come up with the idea first. And of course, should there be a zombie apocalypse, the military indeed has a plan.

CONOP 8888 is designed to “establish and maintain a vigilant defensive condition aimed at protecting humankind from zombies,” according to the plan’s purpose, and, “if necessary, conduct operations that will, if directed, eradicate zombie threats to human safety.” Finally, the plan provides guidance to “aid civil authorities in maintaining law and order and restoring basic services during and after a zombie attack.”

The “worst case threat scenario,” according to the plan, suggests a rather dark situation: a zombie attack in which there would be high “transmissibility,” lots of zombies eating lots of people, zombies infecting humans at a rapid rate, and little or no immunity and few effective countermeasures.

Under “Zombie Threat Summary,” the plan highlights the different kinds of zombie adversaries one might find in such an attack. They include not only vegetarian zombies (“zombie life forms originating from any cause but pose no direct threat to humans because they only eat plant life”); evil magic zombies (“EMZs are zombie life forms created via some form of occult experimentation in what might otherwise be referred to as ‘evil magic'”); and also chicken zombies.

“Although it sounds ridiculous, this is actually the only proven class of zombie that actually exists,” the plan states. So-called “CZs” occur when old hens that can no longer lay eggs are euthanized by farmers with carbon monoxide, buried and then claw their way back to the surface. “CZs are simply terrifying to behold and are likely only to make people become vegetarians in protest to animal cruelty,” CONOP 8888 notes.

The catalog of the walking dead also includes zombies that come from outer space; those deliberately created by Frankensteinian bio-engineers; and humans who have been invaded by a pathogen that turns them into zombies.

The plan reviews, extensively, the various phases of saving the world from zombie rule and reads not unlike the phases of a counterinsurgency campaign: from “shape” to “deter” to “seize initiative” to “dominate” to “stabilize” and, in the final, confidence-building phase, “restore civil authority.” That final phase includes the directive to “prepare to redeploy the forces to attack surviving zombie holdouts.”

Finally, “[a]s directed by POTUS and SECDEF,” using military-ese for the president of the United States and the defense secretary, “provide support to federal, state and tribal agencies’ efforts to restore basic services in zombie-related disaster areas.”

If the military’s mantra is to “be prepared,” then writing a zombie survival guide – even if it is just for an imaginative exercise – makes sense. “I hope we’ve invested a similar level of intellectual rigor against dragon egg hatching contingencies,” one defense official quipped.”

Originally written by Gordon Lubold Foreign Policy Published: May 18, 2014

Now that you have read this story and exercised your imagination a bit, I’m curious as to what all of y’all are really thinking now. I have went on, after reading this piece originally, to read many different articles with many different perspectives and angles, looking for a price tag. Know what I found? The final overall price tag puts it at $55 Billion or more. Seems legit………right? For fun today take some time and search out information on CONOP 8888 because there has been allot written about it.

Posted From Scorpion Sting’s Motorola Droid Maxx!

Are You One Of The Sheeple

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My definition of “Sheeple” is as follows. The term is used to describe people who behave in the manner of the herd, as do sheep. Sheeple is used to describe those who voluntarily fall under the suggestions without critical analysis, research, or individual thought. The best examples of this behavior can be found in politics and organized religion  Sheeple are people who tend to follow the majority in matters of opinions without offering their own individual thoughts. In other words, people that are Sheeple are those who are meek, easily persuaded, and tend to follow the crowd. Sheeple most often are unable to think for themselves and therefore incapable of living their own life to it’s fullest potential.

How do you know if you are not a Sheeple? You are the complete opposite of a Sheeple if you’re independent minded, well informed and probably a regular visitor of The Sting Of The Scorpion. Now, make sure to stay on track and question events in the world around you everyday without fail. Keep reading the alternative resources of information and voice your intelligent views to others willing to listen. (But don’t waste your time on those who aren’t).