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Craig's "choice Of Representation" For Veterans Bill Picks Up Support


Guest allanopie

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Guest allanopie

NEWS FROM THE CHAIRMAN OF THE U.S. SENATE COMMITTEE ON VETERANS AFFAIRS

CRAIG'S "CHOICE OF REPRESENTATION" FOR VETERANS BILL PICKS UP SUPPORT --

Legislation seeks to overturn 150 year-old prohibition on hiring lawyers

Craig's legislation seeks to change a policy prohibiting attorneys from

representing veterans -- a policy which began during the Civil War.

Image courtesy the U.S. Social Security Administration

June 8, 2006

Media contact: Jeff Schrade (202)224-9093

(Washington, DC) Legislation to allow veterans to hire an attorney as

they seek benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs picked up

strong support Thursday. The positive reaction came during a hearing of

the U.S. Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs.

The legislation (S. 2694), sponsored by Chairman Larry Craig (R-Idaho),

seeks to overturn a policy begun during the Civil War.

Under current law, all 24 million living veterans are prohibited from

hiring legal counsel to help them navigate the Veterans Affairs system.

It is only after a veteran has spent months and even years exhausting

the extensive VA administrative process that the veteran then may retain

a lawyer - a process that often takes 3 or more years to complete.

"Particularly for veterans of today's All-Volunteer Force, the current

paternalistic Civil War-era law is completely outdated. These

highly-trained, highly skilled veterans have the ability - and should

have the right - to decide for themselves whether to hire a lawyer,"

Craig said.

The Idaho Republican noted that many veterans have written in support of

the bill, including one from New Jersey, a decorated disabled military

retiree who served in Vietnam. He wrote:

"Murderers, rapists and pedophiles can hire an attorney; why are

veterans treated as third, yes third class citizens?"

Among those who spoke out Thursday in favor of changing the law was

former Chief Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for Veterans

Claims, Donald Ivers, as well as Rick Weidman of the Vietnam Veterans of

America and Barton F. Stichman of the National Veterans Legal Services

Program.

"Freedom to seek counsel of one's choice has long been a hallmark of

this nation's system of justice. That those who have given much in

defense of that system are denied that freedom in pursuing claims

arising out of their service is, at best, highly contradictory," Judge

Ivers said.

Under current federal laws and court rulings, criminal defendants,

illegal aliens, and enemy combatants have the right to have legal

counsel. Veterans are the only group which does not enjoy that

privilege.

"It makes no rational sense to deny them this right," Stichman said.

That sentiment was shared by Rick Weidman, who spoke to the committee on

behalf of those in his organization.

"Vietnam Veterans of America strongly and unreservedly supports S.2694

by convention resolution," Weidman said. "We urge its endorsement by

this committee and passage by both houses of Congress."

In the House of Representatives, two bills similar to Sen. Craig's have

been introduced, one (H.R. 5549) by Rep. Jeff Miller, Chairman of a

subcommittee of the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs, and (H.R.

4914) Rep. Lane Evans, the top Democrat on that same committee.

Despite the strong support Craig's legislation has received, the

Department of Veterans Affairs voiced opposition to the bill during the

hearing. That drew a strong rebuke from Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) who

is co-sponsoring the bill with Sen. Craig.

Other co-sponsors of the bill include Sens. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX),

who chairs the Appropriations subcommittee on the Military Construction

and Veterans Affairs, Jim Jeffords (I-VT), Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) and

Lisa Murkowski (R-AK).

#####

See this story on-line at: http://veterans.senate.gov

<http://veterans.senate.gov/>

If you want to send Chairman Craig a message, click on: Contact the

Veterans' Affairs Committee

<http://veterans.senate.gov/index.cfm?FuseAction=Contact.Home>

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Guest allanopie

I get a bit confused about things sometimes.

Was'nt Sen. Craig one of the "wrecking crew" Bush has been using to target Vets?

Help is help & it's good to have help from either side of congress. I just don't remember this Sen as being very concerned when it came to Vets benefits.

Please correct me if I'm wrong.............

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  • HadIt.com Elder

Allan

You gotta wonder about Craig's hidden agenda?

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Even if th bill passes it is meaningless. Without any laws to force the VA to do its job this is just a lot of hot air and smoke.

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My concern about this whole issue is that- where are vets going to find these lawyers who are fully versed in VA regs?

Alex is certainly one of the few lawyers I know who really knows VA law-the rest I know are at VACO or OGC and in orgs like NVLSP- as a matter of fact in the 20 years I have 'known' Alex via the net I haven't met anyone except him and some NVLSP lawyers who really comprehend it all.( and Neil at VACO-one sharp cookie)

And of course these are good lawyers who are always overwhelmed. I dont know how Alex even finds the time for hadit but he has always been in the electronic vets community-I am very grateful for that.

Last year my personal attorney asked me to help him with his VA claim-he is a great lawyer but

he didnt have a clue on 38 CFR-it is not part of GP law or civil and trial matters-

This is something to consider if vets get the right to hire attorneys.Who will they hire?

I personally feel that there is more knowledge right here at hadit than in most law firms around-

only because VA law is not a specialty like estate law and civil matters,etc.

Lawyers interested in helping vets would surely learn the VA regs etc- but -

I think they would depend on the veteran giving them some solid stuff as evidence because it is evidence that wins a claim and a claimant who lacks evidence and hires a lawyer is still faced with getting the medical documentation they need.

Also I believe that a lawyer would want many claimants to get an IMO right from the git go-

another cost to the vet- but a good lawyer wants a preponderance of evidence anyhow.

Lawyers who begin to specialize in VA regs for claims- if this all comes to pass- will probably collect a data base of specialized doctors for those IMOS-

that would make sense-

I love lawyers but they dont have a magic wand-they need the same evidence as a claimant without a lawyer does.I am trying to get a $4,000 reduction in a $8,000 legal fee for a CAVC vet because his lawyers didnt even look at his SMRs where the nexus was-

it was also in his BVA denial- a medical word that I looked up -and it changed his whole claim.

The VA has a specific criteria for payment of CAVC legal fees under an award.

There are ways to challenge the fee. What new criteria would a VARO level fee involve?

Could a vet challenge something that is unreasonable and what fee would be reasonable for a vet to pay for good counsel?

It is heartbreaking to me to see how little this law firm did for the vet I mentioned above- I dont think they had a clue on the nexus factor and did not understand his medical records -if they even looked at them.(but VA wants them to get $8,000 ! )

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Guest jangrin

It is quite possible that the payment system for an attorney might be a percentage based fee, rather than a fee for services. In other words the attorney would get a percentage of the award. Where I live an attorney gets a percent of workers compensation with a maximum of I think 6 percent. ALso, they might set it up like social security as a percentage fee but no fee if the client does not win or succeed at his or her claim. It could be a matter of supply and demand in the beginning and attornies will push for fee for service or hourly rate, that way they make thier money no matter what happens to the vet.

Jangrin

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It is true that there are few lawyers at this point that know VA law. But, I knew nothing of VA law myself, untill I had to learn it.

When attorneys are allowed into the system they will do their home work.

The veteran being his own best advacate theory has to be put to rest. It took me years and more years to learn regs and medical knowledge. At this pace, I was barely able to keep pressure on my claim. Everyone agrees that those of us that cannot learn to be our own best advacates get the short end of the stick. However, even those that agree seem to favor letting those veterans fall through the cracks rather than allowing them to pay someone to get the benifits they deserve.

Very few SO's can or will give personalized attention to a claim. Therefore, veterans like myself are left to do it on there own, WHETHER OR NOT WE ARE CAPABLE OF DOING IT. I would gladly have paid someone to save me from the stress of trying to figure out how to make the VA see that my disability exsists and is directly related to service. They could not see it on there own.

Sen craig is after votes. I have made sure and will continue to make sure that his local constituents know of his treatment to vets. He is doing this to cover the fact that he votes against funding the VA. Every bill he has been in favor of costs the VA nothing. He supports those and when he tries to reply to my letters in the local paper he he tries to say he has done all these great things for veterans and does not mention that he refuses to fully fund the VA.

Time.

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I believe that this bill will not do anything except create a way for lawyers to make more money. As we all know the problem usually is not on our ends, but at the VA itself. We have all submitted good claims only to be shot down by some screw up made by a VA employee. Will it really make a difference if the claim is printed on the letterhead from a local attorney? I seriously doubt it will.

The money that would be spent implementing and creating the changes necessary to encompass the actions required by the bills, would be better spent training and hiring new VA employees. Also with the limelight of the ID scandal Congress could create a method that would hold the VA responsible for negligence on their behalf, including error committed during claims processing.

I know from browsing the DAV's website that they do not support this bit of legislation.

After all who is the best representative for your case, you are. Study up and fight fire with fire.

Edited by Scott D
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Terry - Although I believe that lawyers are a needed step in resolving this issue. I believe until the laws change to allow veterans to hold (as in sue) the VA responsible for it's misconductthat this jesture in and of itself is meaningless.

The VA has had decades to develop was to keep cases in the remand process even if the claim is done correctly it will still end up being a crap shoot since their is no legal recourse a veteran can take against the VA.

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  • HadIt.com Elder

How do workers compensation lawyers and SSA lawyers get paid? Maybe this is how vet lawyers should get paid? If there is a will there is a way.

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I believe that this bill will not do anything except create a way for lawyers to make more money. As we all know the problem usually is not on our ends, but at the VA itself. We have all submitted good claims only to be shot down by some screw up made by a VA employee. Will it really make a difference if the claim is printed on the letterhead from a local attorney? I seriously doubt it will.

The money that would be spent implementing and creating the changes necessary to encompass the actions required by the bills, would be better spent training and hiring new VA employees. Also with the limelight of the ID scandal Congress could create a method that would hold the VA responsible for negligence on their behalf, including error committed during claims processing.

I know from browsing the DAV's website that they do not support this bit of legislation.

After all who is the best representative for your case, you are. Study up and fight fire with fire.

No, the DAV is not likely to support legislation that would reduce jobs in their ranks. The more attorneys are utilized there would be fewer needs for SO's. As helpfull as these organizations can be, it is clear the use of SO's in claims filing is not working to improve veterans chances of getting their well deserved claims approved.

As far the vet being their own best representative goes----BULL

It can take years for a person that is able to learn all that needs to be learned in law and medical experience to represent themselves. For some it is impossible. For those that it is impossible, many may find someone willing to do it correctly. The rest will starve on the street.

My SSDI attorney will get a percentage of my backpay. I think it is 20%. I will gladly give him $20 for every $100 he get's me for his services. If I do not present my claim properly I get nothing. $80 is better than $0 no matter how you do the math. The best part is that I do not endure the stress created by taking on the claim myself making it an all or nothing type situation.

It is my opinion that by permitting attorneys the claims proccess will speed up. If for no other reason than because an attorney will not work for free. If the claim cannot be successful it will not be filed. Claimants hireing attorneys will be told if their claim is winnable. SSDI lawyers will not take a case they cannot win because they do not get paid if it doesn't. Fewer frivolous claims filed=more time for good claims to be worked on. SO's generally file all claims with or without merit because they do not want to offend a veteran and then let the VA be the bad guy. They get paid the same either way.

If we think attorneys make too much money, maybe we should send our kids to law school. ;0

Time

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Your right about the DAV They seriously DONT WANT LAWYERS; Check out this posting by them:

http://capwiz.com/dav/issues/alert/?alertid=8819571&type=CO

Attorneys in Claims Process

June 6, 2006

The Disabled American Veterans (DAV) is concerned that the current claims process does not work properly. We believe Congress should focus on correcting the process, not making it more adversarial and legalistic. The question should not be whether veterans have a right to hire an attorney, but how to improve claims processing. Clearly, the solution is not to allow attorneys into the process.

The VA benefits delivery system was designed to be open, informal, and helpful to veterans. The goal was to ensure that veterans receive the benefits a grateful nation has provided for them, rather than discourage or inhibit their claims with government “red tape” or lengthy litigation. Allowing attorneys into the process would interfere with this goal and will create a system that is more adversarial and legalistic and less veteran-friendly.

I urge you to write to your Representative and Senators, urging them to oppose the enactment of this bill and to truly focus the attention of Congress on ways to ensure the process performs in the manner for which it was designed—an ex parte, non-adversarial system, with VA being obligated to provide all benefits allowable under the law.

Take Action Now! Enter Your Zip Code:

powered by Capitol Advantage ©2006

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  • HadIt.com Elder

Rogus

I read the DAV's statement about lawyers. They are just afraid of how bad they will look when lawyers eat their lunch. These VSO's have been sitting on their asses for years. Craig's agenda may be to weaken the VSO's by bringing lawyers into the picture. I joined DAV because they were my POA. I would not have joined otherwise. Their probably is an ulterior motive to Craig's actions. All those guys want to destroy the VA and cut back on benefits. This is the party of Lincoln. Hard to believe what the Republican Party has turned into a bunch of right wing cheap skates.

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"an ex parte, non-adversarial system, with VA being obligated to provide all benefits allowable under the law."

Well, that's a joke.

The DAV should pull their heads out.

sledge

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  • In Memoriam

Here is another angle. §§§§

The Genevase effect was discovered when 38 people each watched the murder of a young New Jersey woman being stabbed repeatedly to dead. Nobody did anything.

Experiments revealed that one person witnessing an event would assume responsibility and do something; that when more than one person was involved nothing was done. This was because there was shared responsibility.

Oh, I didn't do it, he did it or somebody else did it.

VARO

BVA

BAV

VHA

AME

CAVC

C&P

Primary Care

Urgent Care

Mental Health

MRI

Nexus

Current Diagnosis

Stressor

SMR

MOS

NEC

DOD

FOIA

VSO's

VSR's

NPRC (St. Louis-sombody smell smoke)

Identity Theft

What do these all have in common? They all share in the responsibility of a Single Veterans Claims. Probably left a few out. Lawyer is one of them.

This sounds like the Genvase Effect in reverse. All of these, with little screw-ups in the transitions, against or for, one Veteran.

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Guest fla_viking

Dear Fellow Veterans & Friends.

In my brief i will complain to the court about the American Legion representig me without my knowleg or consultaton. This would be illegal in teh civ9ilan world. Unless us vets start raising hell about these standard pratices. we will continue to be 3rd class citizens.

Terry Higgins

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  • HadIt.com Elder

Sledge

That comment from the DAV was on the joke page of their magazine. No one could actually believe such a statement was made in a serious manner, ha, ha I get it, what a punch line. Non-adversarial...he,he, ha, ha boy that's a good one.

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Strectch makes a very good point about watching and not doing anything. My hat is off to Terry and anyone else on this site who has the ambition to take the VA to court.

For some of us this is the only place we can vent our frustations to people that actually have "been there, done that", and that's fine.

However, if we as a group actually want to change things we have to take some kind of action - we can fight within the system - but we already know from experience that the system is broken (otherwise we wouldn't have anything to complain about).

What we really need to do is come up with a plan as a group to challenge the law that allows the VA to get away with this. I plan on contacting the ACLU later this month. If anyone has any other ideas please let me know.

Robert

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Guest fla_viking

Dear Robert

You hit the nail on the head. I have been preaching for years the 1933 Economy act that took away our acess to the courts is is unconstitutional and violates our civil rights. Until veterans treat the lack of acess to courts the same way blacks treated jim crow and the voteing rights issue. We will continue to be 3 rd rate citizzens.

The VA hides behind the laws that keep effective review of its screwed up system. However 2 years ago when the ajudicators changed my direct deposit bank # loosing my chefck and refusing to fix it. I had 3 days to eviction and I threaten my congressman, VA lawyers If I lost my home or the lights turned off. I was going to surrender to a Fed Jury trial in progress. I would then be arrested and have my own day in court where i will tell every one of the VA criminal acts. 4 days latter I had my check in the mail box

Every veteran right now who is at risk of family harm or loosing there home has the right to warn the VA of a pending jury trial if things dont change quick.. IF the VA belives you will really go to a jury. They will pay up.

Terry Higgins

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  • HadIt.com Elder

Maybe the service organizations have to really get their ox gored in order to wake them up and organize veterans. The VSO's have the name recognition and all the ammunition to really fight for some changes, but they have to get off the bar stools first. Maybe is has to get so bad that grassroots groups take some direct action. God knows I can't afford to go to jail. That is what it took for the civil rights workers was people who were ready to go to jail for their ideas. Broken down disabled vets make poor prisoners, but it would be good media to see old vets in wheelchairs and canes being hauled off to jail for demanding a better VA. During the Vietnam era, I know the cops did dump vets in wheelchairs on the ground for protesting the war.

The 19th Century Robber Barons said that you could hire half the working class to club the other half. Do you think I could have my pain meds in jail?

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Guest fla_viking

Dear Jhon

One man with the right set of facts who gets himself arrested because congress violated our constituton and our civil rights, That one man shows how they pass laws locking the doors to the courts so no redress can be had regarding the criminal activity committed because of the first act suspending our civil and constitutional rights.

I will not hessitate to threaten every one again with surrenduring tot a jury trial if the VA ever trys to screw with me again.

Terry Higgins

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