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I Had My Hearing - Ugh!

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I went to my hearing in Washington armed with my two IMOs and my arguments. I actually thought my IMOs would get service connection for my husband's lung cancer. I also contacted experts who specialize in industrial medicine or toxicology to see about getting an opinion if it was more likely than not asbestos exposure had contributed to my husband's cancer.

I had several doctors respond - but one said she worked as a consultant with a VSO - and that she could help me if I signed PO to them. I never got an answer from the BVA as to whether I would be allowed to appoint a VSO, so I figured if I didn't get approved on inservice onset, there should be enough to at least get a remand on the asbestos issue. That would give me time to see if an IMO on the asbestos issue was even necessary.

The guy at the desk was very nice, but he asked why I didn't have a VSO, and I told him - and he called that VSO and had them bring a paper down for me to sign. So I signed to have the represent me.

I don't know if I made a big mistake -- but I left the hearing feeling horrible. And I am not even sure how to work with a VSO at this point.

The judge was very nice, by the way. But I didn't get along too well with the VSO. He didn't seem to have much interest in anything I brought to the hearing, what my arguments were, etc. I finally got him to take a look at the IMOs, but I am not sure how well he read them.

He kind of dismissed them as "theories written by people who had not seen my husband."

The VSO thought it would be better to try to show boots on the ground in Vietnam. I told him my husband didn't have boots on the ground. But he said you don't know what the records would show. I think my husband would have known whether he was in Vietnam or not. It doesn't seem like something a person would forget. He was in Guam at that time - but the AO stuff on Guam is not presumptive.

While I appreciate the fact he wanted to make sure everything was covered, by checking out boots on the ground, and other possible connections, I don't understand why he kept dismissing the two claims we have presented all along - inservice incurrence, and / or related to asbestos exposure. He also wanted to see about pursuing contributing factors listed on the death certificate - Respiratory failure, pancreatic mass, and jaundice. I don't actually see how those would apply because they stemmed from his lung cancer. He also said my husband wouldn't know whether he had been exposed to asbestos or not.

Anyway, I got totally rattled and upset and was crying right before the hearing. The VSO did say he would let my submit my two IMOs, but that was all. He didn't want me to submit the article one of the doctor's sent me to submit. He kept telling me the judge might not accept my "theories." I don't know why he kept referring to the IMOs as theories. They were opinions of competent medical professionals.

Then he finally let me try to explain the "theories" -- but I couldn't quite get him to understand. I read him the part of the doctor's report that explained that they measure tumor growth rate based on a tumor's "doubling time" or how long it takes a tumor to double in size. It has to double a certain number of times to reach 1 cm, and a certain number of times to reach 3 cm. (the size of my husband's).

So he says "Is there evidence in the record that your husband's tumor was one of these double time tumors?

I tried to explain that there is no such thing as a doubling time tumor. Doubling time is how they measure tumor growth. He rolled his eyes. So I tried to explain it again, and THOUGHT I was getting the point across. Then he asked what my training was. I told him a teacher. He told me I had to watch trying to sound like an expert. He said I couldn't sound like an expert. I didn't plan on trying to tell the judge I was an expert. I hadplanned on telling the judge what the experts had said (backed by hard copies of what they said).

Anyway, we weren't getting along well. I agreed to let him ask the judge to hold the record open. And I don't mind him exploring other issues. But I worked so hard to put together this claim and he acted like my IMOs (theories) didn't even matter.

So right before we went over to the hearing, his assistant reminded me that I couldn't talk like an "expert." So we were going in the hall, and I asked the VSO what to do. I said, am I not supposed to answer questions about the cancer? I am not clear on exactly what I am supposed to say or do. And he shot me a look and told me he wouldn't answer that in the hall. So off we went to the hearing room, and I was totally confused.

While we were waiting for the judge the VSO asked me "Is there evidence that your husband's cancer was 1 cm when it started?" I said it wasn't 1 cm when it started. He rolled his eyes again. I know I was aggravating him. But it wasn't 1 cm. I told him it started as a single cell and grew. It eventually, over time, grew to 3 cm.

Then he asked me as part of the questioning what types of jobs my husband had in the military. I said electrician and First Sergeant. That earned me another eye roll. He told me First Sergeant was a rank not a job. So he asked me AGAIN and gave me another chance to get it "right." What was your husband's first job in the military?" I said "Electrician." Then he asked if my husband had any other jobs. I said First Sergeant." I explained that was his job title. I wish I would have had his DD214 with me to show him 8FOOO - First Segeant - 15 years.

Anyway, I was so rattled and shook up, I ended up looking totally stupid the whole dang time.

I would have to say the judge was very nice and very respectful. The judge even asked me about my request for records for an IMO. He asked if I had received them. I told him I was trying to get a copy of my husband's discharge physical before I got an IMO because I wanted to make sure that was given to the doctor if it was available before they doctor issued an opinion. But I told him the VA couldn't find the discharge physical and so I went ahead and got the IMOs. He picked up the papers and asked if those were the IMOs and I said yes. He asked what the doctors said. Then I got rattled again. I sure didn't want the VSO rolling his eyes at me again. And I wasn't quite sure how to answer. I told him they said it started in the service. And I told him one of the doctors had called a couple of times to discuss it.

The judge seemed positive about that. He even told me about the three prongs that need to be met and said the IMOs might provide the nexus.

Thank God somebody appreciated the IMOs! And somebody thought they might provide the nexus! (I guess if you have to pick between the judge or the VSO supporting your claim, it is better to pick the judge).

Anyway -- my hearing didn't go all that well. I have no idea what to do to work with the VSO. I end up feeling like an idiot when I try to talk to him. I hope that if the judge sees an nexus, he will still rule in my favor even if the VSO doesn't want to argue the point of in-service incurrence.

But he wants to take my claim in a whole different direction now. And I don't know what to do.

Edited by free_spirit_etc
Think Outside the Box!
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Notorious Kelly, you Are one of the smart folks,

and free spirit , “Chin Up” is very good advise! We cant let these things get us down.

I am livid about this VSO.....then again he sounds like every vet rep I ever had.

But then again too, this VSO didnt seem to have much time to prepare for this hearing ,

still. He called IMOs ...”theories?”

That was absurd.How many vets has he discouraged already by calling their IMOs “theories.”

I say piss on him, it is the judge's opinion that matters.

He did pick up on Guam-AO and that however was a good point on his part but it would involve a new claim.....

here is a Guam AO award:

Since the Airbase perimeters were sprayed ,the veteran's MOS put him into exposure to the AO:

“In multiple written statements submitted during the course of 
this appeal and during his personal hearing, the veteran 
alleged that he developed diabetes mellitus as a result of 
his exposure to herbicide agents while serving on active duty 
in Guam.  His military occupational duties as an aircraft 
maintenance specialist allegedly required him to work in an 
air field, the perimeter of which was continuously brown due 
to herbicide spraying every three months.  The veteran also 
alleges that he recalls seeing storage barrels at the edge of 
the base, which he now knows housed herbicides.  Following 
discharge, Anderson Air Force base in Guam, where the veteran 
was stationed, underwent an environmental study, which showed 
a significant amount of dioxin contamination in the soil and 
prompted the federal government to order a clean up of the 
  “In June 2005, a VA examiner noted that the veteran 
had had the disease for 12 years, had no parental history of 
such a disease, and had served in Guam, primarily in an air 
field, which was often sprayed with chemicals.  She diagnosed 
diabetes type 2 and opined that this disease was 50 to 100 
percent more likely than not due to the veteran's exposure to 
herbicides between January 1968 and April 1970, when he 
served as a crew chief for the 99th bomb wing on the ground 
and tarmac.  She explained that such exposure, rather than 
hereditary factors, better explained the cause of the disease 
given that the veteran's parents did not have diabetes.”
 from: http://www.va.gov/vetapp05/files4/0527748.txt  
(I am sure the 2005 examiner was doing a C & P based on a prior BVA remand.

If I can find the original remanded BVA case, there may be more info in it as to the AO in Guam.

This would be a needle in a haystack alternate claim for DIC,
 but needles in haystacks can be found.

I wouldn't be concerned by the VSO. Maybe some day his wife will get treated 
like that by a vet rep when he dies.

If the VA denies the DIC claim, they will tell you why and that shows you what else you need ,as evidence, to overcome the denial with

the appeal.

No one has denied the claim yet. all you can do is wait.....and that is often as hard as getting a claim together can be.

I mentioned here somewhere the other day that I won DIC on three separate bases.....

I sure hope no one thought that was easy.

I have enough denials and SOCs and SSOCs to wallpaper my bathroom on those claims.

But every denial got me closer to awards.

Luckily the new DIC format VA is using seems to definitely be speeding up DIC claims so that is a good thing.

My 2003 DMII AO death claim took over 7 years.

Edited by Berta

GRADUATE ! Nov 2nd 2007 American Military University !

When thousands of Americans faced annihilation in the 1800s Chief

Osceola's response to his people, the Seminoles, was

simply "They(the US Army)have guns, but so do we."

Sameo to us -They (VA) have 38 CFR ,38 USC, and M21-1- but so do we.

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Here is how I would work with that VSO......FIRE HIM!

The fact that a VSO would sign on to a case and go into a BVA hearing without completely reviewing the evidence and prior decisions clearly shows the VSO system is dysfunctional and does not effectively represent veterans.

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Sorry to hear of your bad experience. When I had my hearing, the VSA showed up 10 minutes prior to the hearing. We talked and he shot down everything I said. I did say what I wanted to the judge anyway. I now have a lawyer representing me. What disabilities I have approved so far was a results of my hard work without help from a VSO.

I'm sure VSOs have helped a lot of vets but my experience wasn't good. My claim is my responsibility.


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i have a hearing come up sometime in the future. what can i do to prepare for this and i also have appointment in Atlanta to talk with a VSO on friday. is this good. what do i need to bring. do they talk about everything you want to talk about your claim.

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Thanks for the support! I hate feeling that stupid, and am frustrated that I let him get me so rattled that I ended up so nervous that I came across as a complete idiot during the hearing. I left the hearing just wanting to go in some corner and cry for about an hour -- but I had to regroup and keep focused to navigate my way across Washington DC on the metro and get checked out of the hotel, and navigate to the airport to catch my flight, and then catch a connecting flight - that it took most of my focus.

I come from a land where people actually drive where they want to go.

Chin up! :smile:

Think Outside the Box!
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