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Process involves real people trying to do their best

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Posted on: Monday, November 07, 2011

Jim,

You advocate strongly that the best route for veterans to use when making application for benefits or appealing decisions or applying for increased benefits etc. is the D.I.Y. (Do It Yourself) method. Amen brother. You are so very right on this. Its not such a complicated system. It is a bit slow at times and errors on both sides can and do happen which can lead to down time and confusion but a well crafted, thought out approach, using all the proper forms and procedures along with good evidence and backup is all that is needed to get your case into the system and on the fast track to adjudication.

I would never trust an advocate organization with handling my case. They mean well but they just don't have the same level of urgency or care about your case than you do and they certainly can't devote the amount of time needed to do a good job. Hear that? No one but you cares as much about your case than you do! So why then would you hand your case over to someone to process for you? It's a ticket to delays, misunderstandings and lost paperwork. Not always, but enough to earnestly say if you want it done right..."do it yourself".

I have had a lot of issues that I have run through the VA system for benefits over the past four years and i have gained benefits from all of them. I have appealed and won. I have applied for increased benefits to existing and gained. Its is really a case of taking charge of your own destiny when filing for VA benefits. Study and learn. Use your gained knowledge to make applications, or appeals or increases timely, complete and document supported. If I were a VA case processor with a back up a mile long it would be great to receive an application completed properly and evidence supported so I could move it through the system instead of having to wrestle with it and side line it because the vet failed to provide the proper documentation.

Anyway. Good job. Keep it up. You are a great source of information and support. I hope you live to be 100 and still standing guard over veterans rights to benefits.

USMC Sniper 2

Reply:

Thank you for such an uplifting letter. I feel safer knowing that I have a USMC sniper watching my back.

You've made a great point. You hit the nail on the head when you say, "If I were a VA case processor with a back up a mile long it would be great to receive an application completed properly and evidence supported so I could move it through the system instead of having to wrestle with it and side line it because the vet failed to provide the proper documentation."

I've often said that same thing and it's worth repeating again and again.

The veteran who is filing a claim must always remember that the process involves real people. There is the veteran on one end and on the other end is an individual who must abide by the law to make a decision.

It is very likely that the VA person wants to do a good job and award the veteran the maximum benefit. I hear from VA "raters" (Ratings Veterans Service Representatives - RVSR's) who are frustrated that their hands are tied when it comes to helping some veterans. The fact is that if there isn't evidence available to support the claim, they can't make the award.

I know that VA raters make more than their share of errors. Having said that I also know that a claim that is properly "perfected" before it is submitted into the adjudication process is very likely to be appropriately awarded the correct benefit.

Perfecting a claim isn't so difficult. The veteran must recognize that the claim should be clear and legible. There must be some evidence of an in-service event that is the cause of the claimed condition. There must be current medical evidence that diagnoses the condition and provides some detail of the disabling effects that are caused by the condition.

Rambling discourses that go on and on are counterproductive. The veteran should focus and keep the claim as brief as possible while providing the necessary information.

Venting anger and frustration is a big mistake that I see daily. The person reading your diatribe has choices to make. If you put yourself in the chair of that VA employee you'll see that on his or her desk are a dozen files that need to be resolved. There are some that are perfected and simple to adjudicate and then there are those that are full of lengthy writings from the veteran berating the VA for all its problems. Which file will get your attention?

Properly perfected initial claims are rarely appealed to BVA or the CAVC. If there is an error that is clear and unmistakable at the VARO during the initial decision, the resolution is often easily accomplished with the DRO process review.

If the veteran has a legitimate claim, all too often there is a tendency to pile on questionable claims in an attempt to earn a higher rating. I recall one case of an agent orange presumptive lung cancer that was submitted with a dozen smaller claims. What should have been a quick decision to a 100% disability award then took over 3 years to resolve.

The bottom line is that if the veteran takes the time to understand the rules and then sticks closely to the rules, the claims process really isn't that difficult. Most BVA staff really do want to help us. But first, we have to do our part.

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