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Senior Chief Petty Officer
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About Bonzai

  • Birthday 05/08/1961

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    Staying current with news, Helping others and volunteering when I can, Avid reader of Science Fiction & Fantasy, NCAA Football, Cooking, and Spoiling my Grandson!

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  • Service Connected Disability
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Bonzai's Achievements

  1. Tbird, Not much can affect me anymore, but this posting brought tears to my eyes. I know how much time and effort you and others put into this labor of love. I still miss messing with Carlie... Louis
  2. A couple of weeks ago, I was informed by the Nashville VR&E Regional Office that I was finally assigned a Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor (VRC) in Memphis. After calling and getting the wrong departments for an hour and a half, I finally was able to talk to him. From the beginning of the phone call he was extremely rude, because I must have interrupted his afternoon siesta. I explained that I was trying to re-enter the VR&E program to beome trained in a career that I could work in. He flat out lied and stated that the VR&E program is NOT for education, and I had to use GI BILL or VEAP benefits to go to college, and that the VR&E program does NOT provide any equipment either. So I asked him if his statement was his official position, despite the fact that the VA Website and 38 USC Chapter 31 state that training is available, provided you meet the criteria. He repeated that NO education is available through the VR&E program. He also stated that his office is under-staffed, overworked, and he has appointments until October. I asked him if that meant my initial appointment with him wasn't going to be until November, but that he was already telling me my request was going to be denied? At this point, he asked my name and last four. He told me I already have a Bachelors degree and nothing more is needed. He then told me goodbye. I did not contact him to start a war, but he has drawn the line in the sand. I have sent certified letters detailing his disregard for U.S. Code (Federal Law) to the Nashville VR&E office, and Washington VR&E office, apprising them of the situation. I also contacted my Congressman, and have been assigned a Congressional Aide to follow this through at the Washington D.C. level. I refuse to see the Memphis VRC or even be processed by that office. So what should have been routine procedure, has now turned into a war with a tenured Government employee, who doesn't have a clue on the regulations of performing their job.
  3. I have been in serious discussion with a mother of a professional photographer, and found out that there is a reason for all the closings of photography studios around the Country. The field is fairly well saturated, and most photographers freelance out of their own homes and have the developing done off-site. I support my wife’s dream of achieving her dream of being a freelance photojournalism photographer with a Bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts. However, I am now doubtful as to making a photography studio a success. So I am back to square one, and researching something that I can do self-employed, that will be self-fulfilling. I filled out the DOL/O*Net Interest Profiler and the top two areas I was rated in were Artistic (26) and Conventional (19). The next thing I did was to select the Job Zone. I selected Job Zone 5 Extensive Preparation Needed, because I don’t want to fail at my goal. Lo and behold, self-employment was one of the options, and that is exactly what I need. So I am now at a point of trying to select a new self employment career path that is both artistic (creative) and conventional (run of the mill). I like to think ‘outside the box’ and I have a lot of outside the box thinking to do! I am expecting a call from the VR&E program sometime next week, and need to have a new feasible employment plan ready. I am wide open to receive suggestions! (that was a subtle hint….)
  4. I really do appreciate the feedback. Yes, I used logic to find a self-employment career that I would find self-fulfilling. Although, the digital camera we have is "my wife's", I steal it quite often to take pictures. I have used Photoshop for over 20 years to edit photographs in many ways, but I am not as proficient as I would love to be. I am even trained in AutoCAD. I often mix media to create unique photos, of backgrounds, images inserted, and then overlay with parts of the background that I have copied and erased everything but desired foreground to give the pictures more depth. It is hard to match shadows and lighting, but I use 'brightness' often to help. I also do all the editing for my wife's pictures. I realize that I may be risking having my 100% P&T rating re-evaluated by attending college, but the Social Security Administration (SSA) re-evaluated my disability as Medical Improvement Not Expected (MINE) January 2016 and no Continuing Disability Examination until January 2023. The VA gives more credence to the SSA's determination of disability than SSA does for the VA's determinations. It would indeed lie upon the VA to be prove that I am recovered enough to actually be reliable and dependable, once trained, to work in my chosen field at Substantial Gainful Employment or Activity. That is why I love photography, because I would be able to take pictures in such a variety of situations and even transform them to a higher level. I mentioned in my original post that there is a World of options that could be pursued. Having my own photography studio is something I ran across that the VR&E program did for another veteran, while I was looking for reasons why the VR&E program would deny my application for additional training. My goal is NOT to try to keep my 100% P&T rating forever, or even Social Security Disability Insurance. I want to be a part of the working World again. It may turn out to be just a dream that I may end up not capable of doing, but nothing ventured is nothing gained. As an ex-Interrogator, I am trained in looking for flaws when compiling information from a multitude of sources. However; I am the first one to say I am not perfect, so I am looking for others to rip my logic to pieces before the VR&E case manager does.
  5. Tomas89031, Thank you for your suggestion. I was quite an active member on HadIt years ago, but I had to choose between here and devoting more time to a different board dealing with problems people encounter with the Social Security Disability Process that was in more need of my services. I chose the latter, and established a section for veterans. I am not the board's owner, but I am the main Administrator of the site now. I have been able to recruit a team consisting of a co-administrator (to cover for me, when I am not available) and four Moderators. The board now runs smoothly and I only step in to be the heavy, and issue warnings to or banning members who violate the Terms Of Service they agreed to prior to joining that board. Now that that board runs smoothly, does not mean that I am leaving it. I will still do that too, but I am not 'needed' as much as when it was just me and the owner running it. So I was looking for other things to occupy my time. Full-time employment for me is not an option as I have been inpatient and wide awake for 12 1/2 days. On day 8, the Chief Psychiatrist had a meeting with me, and told me that I was on enough medications to sedate two people, but he could not tell I was on anything. I informed him that in full manic mode, I am unaffected by medications. Due to my severe Obstructive Sleep Apnea, they were afraid to induce sleep via IV medications, so they let my period of mania run its course until I finally fell asleep for six hours. Last night was a good example of what I deal with. I went to bed at 12:30 am after taking my nighttime medications, and the last time I saw the clock before falling asleep, it was 2:30 am. I woke up at 4:15 am, and I am up for the day. Per doctor's orders, I will lay down to rest my body around 1:30 to 3:00 pm, but I know I do not normally fall asleep for an actual nap. This therapy combined with adjusting my daily medications, adjusted according to how I assess my mental state, helps to prevent more frequent breakouts of mania, where I do not sleep at all for days. Those still occur, far too often than the VA psychiatrists like to see. That is why they have thrown their hands up, and I was approved for the Veterans Choice program to see Bipolar Specialists outside of the VA. What I am looking for is feedback critiquing my logic and plans for becoming a useful member of society and becoming self-employed: barriers, suggestions; anyone having prior similar experiences, etc...
  6. Please pardon the length of my post, but I am looking for feedback. I haven’t been on the board for awhile, and already miss the critique that Carlie and Stretch would have offered. I am 100% service-connected Permanent and Total for Bipolar Disorder. I was awarded 100% in October 2009, backdated to September 2007. Initially, I was in the VA system from 1994 to mid-1997, before they finally successfully diagnosed me as having a Bipolar Disorder. I responded to medication treatment well for seven years (during which time I used the Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment (VR&E) program to obtain two computer-related degrees, until the medication stopped working overnight. My Bipolar Disorder came back worse than ever, and nothing tried by VA and private psychiatrists worked in the least bit. Finally after 2007, in which I missed half the year being hospitalized time and again, I listened to my psychiatrists telling me I was disabled and resigned. After 8 years of failed attempts at controlling my Bipolar Disorder, the VA has finally given me the Veterans Choice program allowing me to see a psychiatrists and psychologists specializing in Bipolar Disorder. I have a rare form of Bipolar Disorder, which is why it took the VA so long to diagnose what was wrong with me. I am hyper-manic, as a result, I have longer days than most people do, and look for things to fill up my time. I do not suffer from depressive episodes like many others having Bipolar Disorder do. The lack of depression, in itself, is a danger sign, and the VA has given me months of therapy to cope with depression if it should hit me. There is a school of thought that people with my form of Bipolar Disorder cannot handle depression, and just spiral downwards until they commit suicide. But I digress, sorry about that. I was recently talking to another veteran about MIT offering their entire course curriculum online for free. You don’t get any credit, but you can study the subjects and I was playing around with that. He informed me that the VA is required by law to retrain me into a different profession, since I cannot work at my previous one; due to not being able to work a regular full-time job in the field I was previously trained in through VR&E. So I researched it and found: According to 38 USC Chapter 31 §3103. Periods of eligibility: (c) In any case in which the Secretary determines that a veteran is in need of services to overcome a serious employment handicap, such veteran may be afforded a vocational rehabilitation program after the expiration of the period of eligibility otherwise applicable to such veteran if the Secretary also determines, on the basis of such veteran's current employment handicap and need for such services, that an extension of the applicable period of eligibility is necessary for such veteran and—(2) that such veteran had previously been rehabilitated to the point of employability but (A) the need for such services had arisen out of a worsening of such veteran's service-connected disability that precludes such veteran from performing the duties of the occupation for which such veteran was previously trained in a vocational rehabilitation program under this chapter, or (B) the occupation for which such veteran had been so trained is not suitable in view of such veteran's current employment handicap and capabilities. So, indeed I qualify, but there is a caveat. I must have a feasible Rehabilitation Plan to present to the Vocation Rehabilitation counselor consisting of education needed, and employment plans. The only option that would fit me is self-employment. So I looked at self-employment careers, and found photography. I researched further, and found that VR&E had even given someone $30,000 to start their own photography studio after they were trained. I know I cannot be relied upon to work at the studio full-time, but I am not alone. I have a wife who wants to use her Dependents Educational Assistance to obtain a degree in photography too. The difference being is that mine would be a Masters of Fine Arts in Photography, while hers would be a Bachelors of Fine Arts in Photography. While I would be the one to setup everything to run the studio on my own time, she would actually be the manager with a receptionist. We would even hire local freelance photographers to shoot events, if need be. So basically, I would utilize project management skills to develop a business plan for the studio, and perform everything necessary for the start-up. Having a Masters degree would give me the necessary knowledge to oversee the entire operation, but not have to be there 8 to 5; which I know I cannot do. My wife will be the studio manager. I have researched 100% service connected Permanent and Total for Mental Disorders and going to college. Most of what I have read is “why would you risk the Golden Apple?”. First: I cannot be absolutely sure I will achieve the Masters degree, although I am quite confident; because having a Bipolar Disorder has no impact on your Intelligence Quotient. Second: Each and every one of us is unique, and not one size fits all. While some may consider 100% SC P&T the Golden Apple, I feel a need to do something other than exist and age. Third: I doubt that I will the studio will make enough after expenses for the initial couple of years for me to make more than Substantial Gainful Activity. If the studio starts to succeed and grow, then I can put myself on the payroll. Fourth: With a Masters degree, I will be qualified to teach other photographers the finer arts of photography. Fifth: I can undertake subjects for photojournalism and submit my work in competitions. Sixth: I believe in helping others. I live in a small rural town, and there are under-privileged Seniors who cannot afford to have Senior Pictures taken. I would love to help them. Seven: There is a World of opportunities to be explored that I haven’t even thought of. I have not read anywhere that someone with a 100% SC P&T Mental cannot go to college. I know “a 100 percent evaluation is warranted where there is total occupational and social impairment, due to such symptoms as: gross impairment in thought processes or communication; persistent delusions or hallucinations; grossly inappropriate behavior; persistent danger of hurting self or others; intermittent inability to perform activities of daily living (including maintenance of minimal personal hygiene); disorientation to time or place; and memory loss for names of close relatives, own occupation, or own name.”. I know I cannot attend a traditional college with scheduled courses, but I have found an online University that is regionally accredited where I can take the classes at my own pace. My social interactions would be online and not in person. I can study at-home, even when I have locked myself away from the World. There will be deadlines to meet, but I worry more about getting the work done too early, rather than late. Going to college is different than having an occupational job, although obtaining an occupational job is the goal of attending college. I need to mention that my wife is my rock I cling to. She tells me to go lay down, when I’m getting manic. It is absolute torture to lay down and rest your body, when your mind is racing with all the things you could be doing, and the minutes go by ever so slowly. She goes to all my appointments with me, and tattles about everything! The floor is open for comments, and thank you in advance.
  7. I find myself humbled as I write this, because Carlie's contributions and words of encouragement on HadIt will be sorely missed. I used to be on HadIt daily, but became involved with another website for people fighting with the Social Security Administration that needed my help more. However, every year on my Birthday, I would come back and see Carlie had left me a special Happy Birthday wish. Something moved me to come back here and see how everyone was doing, but I didn't expect this tragic news.
  8. I bought ASI for my wife and have no complaints, and we have used it a lot.
  9. I really had to look for this post to update the status. After 17 months, the Appeals Council vacated the ALJ's denial and remanded my claim for another hearing with seven issues to address. Seven months later, I had a second hearing with the same ALJ, but this time the hearing took over 45 minutes. Seven weeks after the remanded hearing, I received a fully favorable decision in the mail. So boys and girls, it is worth appealing an ALJ's denial, provided your attorney knows what was done wrong in the hearing and how to write the brief to the Appeals Council.
  10. Bonzai


    Very good, I am on great terms with my lawyer - I am anticipating problems after I get my in-home assessment done.
  11. Bonzai


    Interesting, since I am running into the same thing through my VRC at the Memphis Voc-Rehab ILP. I had to fight for in-home assessment coming up on July 5th, as the VRC was trying to close my case without one. I am in the process of writing down the barriers that 'need' to be address to help me live more independently - after all, isn't that what the program is for?
  12. When I felt I got low-balled on my rating, I looked up a NOVA lawyer near me. I went to his office with my letter of award and some of my records. We immediately agreed he would represent me, and he wrote up my NOD and ordered my entire c-file for me. When I was awarded 100% six months later, he told me that there was no charge, as most of the work was done for him. I realize that the lawyer I have is really an exception, and not everyone would have done so. In the meanwhile, I have had him representing me in trying to obtain SSDI benefits, and we have had a battle that has been going on for over four years. So to answer your question - the lawyer agreed to represent me upon our first meeting; which is an advantage of hiring a local lawyer who handles VA cases.
  13. I just had my second ALJ hearing with a Vocational Expert sitting in via Video TeleConference (VTC), last week. I also requested a review of the first ALJ denial from the Appeals Council, and was granted it on seven issues that the ALJ has to address. I had my wife available to testify, but my lawyer felt that we didn't need her testimony. I would say that your odds on receiving Social Security Disability Insurance are really dependent upon the new ALJ you have. You should have a different ALJ, since you are in a different ODAR office, but then they can always VTC you with the old one (paranoia anyone?). I have the same ALJ as the first hearing, who is proud of his low-approval rate (32%). I found out that rate is inflated by Social Security assigning him Compassionate Allowance claims; which are fully favorable to the claimant. So my lawyer and I have planned accordingly, and laid the groundwork out for yet another request of review of denial from the same ALJ. If the Appeals Council declines to review my denial or affirms the ALJ's decision, we are going to file suit in Federal District Court - where we will win, as the ALJ has violated 20 C.F.R. Social Security should be simple. If you have the evidence to prove that you are totally disabled, then you should be granted benefits.
  14. Bonzai


    In the decision that I received regarding my claim being closed, the VRC wrote "if I don't hear from you by xx/xx/xx (30 days from date of letter being sent out), your case will be moved to discontinued status". I have ignored this, as I have an email sent to me earlier that same day, granting me an in-home assessment. I didn't wait to get the letter, and contacted Ms. Fanning's office, an a VRC there sent my complaint to Nashville RO, and then *poof* - action on my claim. I know I am going to have to fight tooth and nail, but that's OK by me.
  15. Bonzai


    I met with the Occupational Therapist on Monday, and this morning I received a call from the ILP counselor. She stated that since the OT said that I did not need bars on my bathtub or other necessities to move around with, there was nothing that ILP could do for me. She says that she KNOWS that I have mentioned hobbies in the previous meeting, but they just don't do that per Nashville. She then told me she was closing my case. I have called Ruth Fanning's office and am awaiting a call back. The Memphis VA ILP Voc-Rehab office seems to think that it can ignore VAOPGCPREC 34-97 completely. This may work with some veterans, but I am willing to fight the VA.
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