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Should I Or Shouldn't I Contact The Vscm?

Sergeant G


I am wondering whether or not I should contact the Veterans Service Center Manager (VSCM) regarding the delayed implementation of my appeal/award of IU. Here’s a bit of background information: I filed for Individual Unemployability in September 2009 with the Boston regional office. I have a mountain of evidence in support of my claim, and I even received a call from a VA rater who informed me that my claim was “looking good.” Then, in April 2010, my claim was denied because the RO said that my former employers didn’t return a form they requested and because there was “no evidence of unemployability” in my claim file. Both those reasons are bull$%#*. My employers did return the forms, which I verified in writing through an IRIS inquiry, and there is a lot of evidence in my VA medical records indicating unemployability. In fact, my healthcare providers specifically recommended (in writing) that I quit my job because my bipolar disorder is so severe. I should also mention that I had an appointment with my VA therapist about an hour after I received the denial letter. At that moment, I was so enraged that I told her that I wanted to shoot the bastard who denied my claim and then shoot myself. I never would have done anything, but of course those comments ended up in my treatment notes and the DRO flagged them. I learned my lesson—keep my fantasies to myself. (Just kidding.)

Anyway, I promptly filed a NOD and received a DRO hearing in June 2010. The VA police were there because of my previous homicidal remarks. (It’s amazing how easily the VA finds negative information, but conveniently “overlooks” positive evidence.) Despite being unfriendly, the DRO called my service representative and told her that she was going to award IU. She told me the same thing before the hearing. We proceeded to have the formal hearing because I disagreed with the effective date of the award. In the transcript from the hearing, the DRO stated that I met the criteria for IU, and I have a copy of her handwritten notes, which state, “award IU effective July 2009.” After the hearing, the DRO said that she was going to issue her decision regarding the IU by the week following the hearing. She also said that she would defer the issue regarding the effective date until she received a transcript from the hearing. The transcript was issued on August 4. Almost six months later, I am still waiting for the DRO’s decision to be implemented.

My claim does not require any additional development, and the DRO stated her decision. VA Fast Letter 10-02, dated January 6, 2010 states, “Delayed implementation of favorable BVA decisions is inconsistent with the Department’s long standing pro-veteran position and unnecessarily delays payment of benefits to the claimant.” I surmise this principle applies to regional office decisions as well.

How can I find out what is taking so long? The toll-free number is useless as they merely state that my claim is with the DRO. No sh*t. Also, my service representative informed me that she has attempted to contact the DRO several times by phone and by letters, but the DRO failed to respond to any of her inquiries. Is the DRO being vindictive because, in the heat of the moment, I said that wanted to shoot some nameless, faceless person after my claim was denied?

My service representative thinks I should call the VSCM and gave me his phone number. Does anyone think this will get results, or do you think I’ll just piss some people off and cause my claim to end up at the bottom of the pile?

Thanks for all the insight!

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  • HadIt.com Elder

If this was my claim I would go to the VARO and ask to speak to a Councilor and ask them the questions you asked here.

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Sargent G

I dont see a benefit to you in contacting the VSCM. Regardless of what the VA tells you the average claim time is NOT six months like they say. This is an absolute falsehood perpetuated primarily by political interests.

Here is the real deal: The GAO reports that only 4 percent of Veterans are awarded their benefits on the first go around, that is in the first six months. NINETY SIX percent of the rest of us have to do some level of appealate review. A DRO review may be a little bit less, but Veterans for common sense says that it takes the BVA an average of four years to do an appeal. THEN it goes back to the RO for "implementation" which is often a remand, which means start over.

Bottom LINE: Since most Vets dont get their benefits until at least five years after initial application, it probably is not going to help much to contact the VSCM to complain they have delayed your claim since 2009. She will probably say, " Delayed since 2009? Ok..well contact me again in 2014 and we will see where we are at then."

Reality: The VA claims process is a 5 to ten year project usually.

Complaining about the maddening delays wont speed it up. A pastor friend of mine said it this way:

"You are NEVER going to make a stupid person smart by telling them they are stupid." Ditto for the VA. You are never going to get your claim processed faster by complaining to the VSCM or others about how slow its going.

Veterans claims move at about the speed of a glacier...measured by inches per year.

I know its maddening.. beleive me, my home was foreclosed while I waited on the VA to process my claim. Dont listen to Shinseki's Rhetoric, the VA does not care if you loose your home and become homeless waiting on benefits. In fact, they do that sometimes because they know if you are homeless you wont be able to keep up on your benefits..and if you dont have an address, they can mail you a notice of a C and P exam, then deny you because you didnt show. It is your responsibility to give the VA your address and if you dont have one because you are homeless waiting on benefits the VA saves money by making Vets homeless. This is why there are more homeless Vets than homeless civilians.

I submitted a "hardship request" to speed up my benefits and the VA has "no record" of my hardship request. My request went direct to the shredder bin, and your request to the VCSM will go there also, and your claim will be placed at the bottom of the pile.

Instead, try this: Send an IRIS email, maybe about every two or three months that asks the VA to give specific details, so they will at least have to find your file. Be very respectful, never threating. Sample IRIS request:

Dear Regional Office Rating REp:

I humbly request that you verify the status of my IU claim. Specifically, have you received the THIRD COPY OF my report from General Motors where I was fired from my job because my PTSD required that I visit a mental health clinician three times per week. (Sometimes you can really rattle their cage with something like this: Was this GM report part of the evidence that was shredded, or was it other evidence that was shredded?) Of course, DO NOT USE this example unless its true. NEVER LIE and never insult.

Hang TOUGH. These are good reasons why Vets say that the VA is a worse enemy than Sadaam Hussein.

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  • HadIt.com Elder

You don't have a DRO decision until you get the letter in the mail. Usually, the time from a DRO Hearing until a decision letter is a matter of a month or two. Six months is a long time. There may be some hitch. I would do as Pete suggests and go visit these people to find out. It is possible to lack one document and the VA won't tell you. They just make you wait while they try to aquire it like a DD214. It happened to me.

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Personally I feel if your claim was denied April 2010 - you filed a NOD and had

a DRO Hearing June 2010 (2 months after the denial) you're already way ahead of the game.

Have you tried calling the VSCM yet at the number the VSO gave you ?

I wonder if it's a legitimate number or if you'll get some secretary or receptionist.

I would probably just go to the VARO and make an inquiry to start with.

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You posted," You don't have a DRO decision until you get the letter in the mail. "

I respectfully disagree. There are multiple cases on the BVA CAVC websites where Vets were "deemed denied" benefits without the benefit of a written decision, that is, a sub silento denial. When a Vet assumes his case has not been denied because he didnt receive a letter, he is setting himself up to loosing his benefits. Vets are required to appeal even deemed denials within a year, or be forced to meet the strict CUE standard of review that they may not be able to meet.

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Thanks Pete, Carlie, John, and Broncovet. It sounds like the general consensus is to visit the VARO. I will go there within the next week to see what I can find out. Depending on the results, I'll reconsider contacting the VSCM. Carlie, I called the number after hours that my VSO gave me and got the VSCM, Abner Concepcion's, voicemail, so it appears as though the number is legitimate.

I'm also wondering if my file was "misplaced." A few months ago, I requested a copy of my claim file. Perhaps it didn't make its way back to the DRO.

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I went to the RO today with the documentation showing that the DRO was going to award IU. At first, the lady at the front desk told me the same thing as the toll-free number and tried to shoo me away. I politely refused to leave until I spoke with someone familiar with my claim. I ended up speaking with the appeals section supervisor; he was very nice and said that the DRO who handled my claim was in a serious car accident and has been out. Anyway, he said that he was putting my file on her desk and would ask her to "look at it tomorrow" when she is back in the office. Hopefully that will get the ball rolling. Visiting the RO was so much more informative than calling the toll-free number. Thanks again for the advice!

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