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  1. Ok folks, In the midst of researching attorneys to replace my VSO, I got a call from the VSO who was working/not working on my claims. He wanted to get a few more details to work up his Form 646. After a week of speaking back and forth with him, he came to the conclusion that the VA had not reviewed several medical reports, including some of my active duty USAF medical records. (If the VSO would have woke up years ago, and saw that, maybe I would not have had to scream from the mountain tops for the past few years.) I know that it has been my fault all along though for keeping the VSO there. Meanwhile, I get a call from the Houston VARO, who wants to discuss a couple of my FOIA requests for the curriculum vitae of the C&P nurse practitioner and family practice doctor (who from a Google search is actually a Family Practice guy who specializes in collagen and beauty cream treatments in Florida.) They also wanted to discuss my FOIA request for the complete bloodwork lab results and x-ray reports from my last QTC C&P examination (with the collagen guy). The thing they wanted to "discuss" is that they can't seem to obtain the curriculum vitae for either medical practitioner, one from Veterans Evaluation Services and the other the QTC Collagen King. They also wanted to discuss that they can't seem to find the bloodwork lab results, nor the x-rays (and x-ray report), which were all done at the same QTC location near Fort Polk, Louisiana at the same time as the C&P, even though "some of the information" is actually described in the C&P report, which was half completed, with no "rationale" filled in, and excerpts of my time in the Army, although I have never served in the Army, and have always been USAF riff raff. Meanwhile, my VSO guy calls back and says that he will send me my Form 646, and recommended a DRO hearing, and that I request one in writing, so I did. I'm also still kicking myself for still riding this VSO wave, when I should have pulled the ripcord and hired an attorney early on as about 90% of you recommended (and I'm still looking into it). I send one to Janesville in writing. I wait. I wait. I wait. Then I take a chance and call the Houston VARO back and request an update on everything. They tell me they will call me back. I wait. I wait. Then, they do call back and let me know they are still having trouble retrieving records, but that they received my request for a DRO hearing, and that they will forward the request on, warning me that it could be a year or more, and that they are still having hearings from requests from cases filed in 2008. I tell them that I filed mine in 2010, but I'll keep riding the wave. While this is happening, I get a letter from the VA stating that they have addressed one outstanding NOD regarding my dependents, siding with me. So I go back to waiting on the DRO Hearing notice. I wait. I wait. I wait. Then I call back. They say that the hearing request has been submitted, but cautioned that the wait time is still tremendous, and that if I wanted to, I could let them know that I would waive the hearing, and they would get me back on track for the BVA certification, which is still forever away also. I thought it over for about 5 seconds, and said no, I think I'll stand by my DRO hearing request. They seemed disappointed, and once again cautioned it could take months to years. I said it's already been like six and a half, so let the dice keep rolling. We parted ways with them saying that they would let "them" know that I still wanted a hearing, and that I could call back in a few months to check out the status of the request. I said thanks, and they gave me the usual sigh and "Thank you for your service." Such a tender moment. Then three....yes, THREE days later, I get a letter from the VA stating that a VA DRO Hearing has been scheduled for June 6th. I called the MIA VSO to ask him about the hearing, and to see what I needed. He was surprised, pulled me up on the computer, and acknowledged that he saw it too, still surprised, and advised that I need to wear a tie and show up an hour early to visit with him. I plan to be there, and will bring my medical records (hopefully orderly), and see what happens. Any advice on what to do? What not to do? What a ride! Mark
  2. OK Folks, Been a while since I posted on here, but I've been lurking and reading. After receiving my SOC on several conditions, and being informed by the Houston VARO that they will be sending an SSOC within the week, I think it's time that I hire somebody a good bit smarter than I am, and who can navigate the BVA system. I ran the gambit myself for the most part, obtaining all of my military medical and personnel records from NPRC when the VA said they couldn't find anything, getting an IME/IMO from Dr. Ellis in Oklahoma, an IMO from Dr David Anaise in Arizona, an IMO from my oncologist of the past 18 years, and a bundle and a half of my civilian treatment records. I fought with the help of Ted Ebert of the VA to get 95 pages of medical records that belonged to other veterans out of my C-File. (First denial and first SOC contained a ton of citations of these records, some of which were before I was even born.). I still have one record from some poor Airman whose name is nowhere close to mine, who has a rough condition that they still cannot seem to remove, but at least it's only one page now....I hope. I requested and received three copies of my C-File, gettting a different number of pages each time, and always something new from my military records that they couldn't find before when they did their first rating. I went through three C&P's, with an affirmative one in 2012, and two adverse ones in 2015 (after introducing Dr. Ellis' IME/IMO) and another in 2016 (after introducing Dr. Anaise's IMO). I started all this in June, 2010, and have to say that it has been a ride, bumpy, but educational. I've filed NOD's, Form 9 Appeals and all kinds of other junk, and have learned that eBenefits has a long way to go before being truly veteran friendly. (But it is better than the old VONAPP system that I used when I first started this mess.) When I receive my SSOC in the next few days, (It should have already arrived by now, but hey...it's the VA, right?), I'll do whatever needs to be done to keep the ball moving, but old Mark is ready to let somebody else navigate. I don't mind working, submitting to more exams, blood work, x-rays, etc, but I think I need an attorney to move on. My American Legion guys, who have been friendly, etc. through it all have only really served to help me eliminate the long waits on the 1-800 number, and that's about it. And of course, the VA finally has fixed that a bit and the waits are pretty small now. So, question is, who do you folks recommend to help me from here as I enter BVA land? Thanks again for the wealth of information so far, and I have to say that I would not have gotten the much-needed 20% that I received without your advice early on in this march. Have a great weekend, and I look forward to hearing from everyone who has had experience with good law firms, and warnings from those who have bad experiences from others. Mark
  3. Ok, here we go again. Got a call a few days back from a DRO at the Houston VARO. They are doing a de novo review of my case, and scheduled me for a series of C&P examinations, which will be my second round from the VA. Sure enough, got a call from Veterans Evaluation Service, who advised that the VA had contracted them to do my C&P examinations and to do bloodwork. Looks I'll be heading to Houston for the examinations and Beaumont for a blood draw and CBC. (They used VES on me last time too.) Keep in mind, I've been through a prior round of C&P examinations, but this is the first time with a CBC blood draw, and I have on file an independent medical examination and opinion report from the Ellis Clinic and an IMO from my oncologist of 17 years, along with a ton of medical records and SMRs. We'll see how this goes. I'll keep y'all posted on what went on. Looks like I have the examination on July 18 (Saturday) and the blood draw on the 21st. Mark
  4. Does anybody now what the average (if such an animal exists) wait time is for an open records request for a C-File to be processed at the Houston VARO? I was one of "those people" who worked their own claims, and didn't obtain a copy of my C-File before filing. Of course, after I filed my initial claims, I kicked myself for not doing it, but put off making an open records request for fear that I would delay my claim longer. Bad part is that I waited 32 months before finally receiving a rating. Now that I'm in the NOD phase of my claim, I know I have one year to get it filed properly. I'm also in hopes of obtaining IMO's this time around for the other conditions denied, and believe that it is imperative that I have my C-File. I mainly would like to know how long it takes to get it from Houston, if there is a normal amount of time. Or if I should go ahead and file my NOD with my own language, and then shoot IMO's over to the VARO after I receive my C-File and receive an opinion or two. Btw, I already mailed off my open records request via U.S. Mail yesterday for my C-File, so at least that part is done. Any advice, horror stories, input or ideas would be greatly appreciated. Thanks again! Mark
  5. Thursday, I spoke with my American Legion representative at the Houston VARO to check on my status. I usually do it once a month to see how things are percolating. He said that as of October 29th, my file had moved to "Special Ops", and he noted that it was probably because my claim was on of the ones that is over two years old. Anybody had their claim moved over to that section in the past? If so, does it mean a good thing? Or just another delay? I'm still in Gathering Dust stage on eBenefits, but still patiently watching the paint dry. Good luck to all of you, and happy Veterans Day tomorrow! Peace out! Mark
  6. Here's What I posted in the eBenefits "Kentucky Windage" thread: Whew! OK, here's a new update from the firing range. On Monday, I believe my claim was sitting on Pending Decision Approval, but by Tuesday evening it showed Complete on ePeggy. I checked my VA Letters area, and sure enough there was an AB8. It's showing a whopping 10%, and yes, I was....and still am.....aggravated, but I didn't throw a fit. I tried to call my VSO (American Legion) at the Houston VARO on Wednesday....Thursday....and Friday, but no answers, just a voicemail. I really wanted to know what was going on. On Friday however, I received retro in my bank, which equates out to what I would have gotten at 10% from my original filing date of June 19, 2010. That all fit so far. Then on Friday when the mail was delivered, I received the magical "brown envelope" that everyone talks about. And sure enough, I only received a rating of 10% for Tinnitus. I also received a 0% rating for hearing loss in my left ear. (Makes sense because I'm left handed and all firearms use for the most part was left handed.) Everything else was denied. I do plan to file a Notice of Disagreement, but first I want to do this the right way. (If there is a right way.) I'm mailing off a VA open records request form for my entire C-File, including all documents within, the folders, the flaps, the post-it notes and any old napkins from donuts that the raters may have left it while they were snacking. Then I guess I need to file my NOD. OR.....should I file it first BEFORE I receive my C-File documents. Any thoughts, prayers or "told you so's".? I want to thank everybody for the instruction, help and moral support over the years since I started this journey, and I hope y'all will put up with me a while longer as I trudge through the NOD and maybe even the longer appeals process. Any suggestions or input will always be greatly appreciated. Mark (And just a side note to all of you just beginning your journey. I want you to know that I probably did everything possible that was not a recommended thing to do. I didn't have a VSO to help when I first submitted, I had medical records, but no "Opinion Letters", I did not request my C-File first. I added conditions in the middle of the process. And I also contacted my Senator who although trying to help, probably slowed things down even more. Don't make my mistakes.) - Mark
  7. Well, just when I thought I submitted EVERYTHING I possibly could submit to the VA to process my claim, in walks the USAF Form 55. My wife had me clean out the attic this past weekend, and in the midst of going through old boxes of junk, I ran into a couple of boxes with my old AF gear from 20+ years ago. Also, I found even more of my old military documents from my personnel file (apparently these were ones that I had collected through the years while on active duty.) What amazed me was that there were several copies of orders to TDY training, weapons qualifications, letters of appreciation, and memos from supervisors with duty rosters, etc. One thing that struck me was this AF Form 55 Employee Safety And Health Record, which was completed by one of my old NCO supervisors. It was just a simple front and back form, but identified "hazards" of my daily duty day, including electrical, deploying in and out of vehicles, weapons and carrying heavy loads. Now this was nowhere to be found in my other documents, nor was the weapons qualifications forms, but I have already prepped a package, and will mail it off Wednesday to the Houston VARO via certified mail, just to make sure that these items are put into my claim, especially considering some of my claims are hearing loss, tinnitus, and back and leg pain and injuries. I also submitted the AF Form 55, via VONAPP this morning, but still don't trust it enough, and I want to make sure that the VA gets this form, along with those firearms, duty and training records. I know it may slow me down a bit....once again, but I want to do this right the first time, at least as much as possible, in hopes of the VA rating me based upon ALL information possible. We'll see how that works out for me. I was wondering if anybody else out there had ever run across an AF Form 55, and had success in using it as evidence of a cause or aggravating factor in a claimed condition. I am now kicking myself for not retrieving every copy of those from every duty station and job description. Everybody have a very Merry Christmas, and a prosperous and healthy New Year. Mark
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