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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, the NOD DRO Hearing Request has been filed, just recently, right?
You're looking at a couple years before your Hearing Date makes it to the "On Deck Circle."
Stop beating yourself up, we've all been there and it doesn't do you any good. So take a break, relax for awhile and try to clear your head.
If you would post redacted copies of your Claim, C & P DBQ's and subsequent Denial Letter, we'd be better able to get a grip on your situation. More info is always better than less. It may end up that the DRO Hearing is a very wise decision, if not, you can always cancel or even hire a "For Fede" Lawyer to rep you at the DRO.
Do you have a realistic guesstimate of what your Retro $$ would be if Awarded in say 2 to 3 years? The amount of possible Retro quite often determines if a "For Fee" VA Lawyer is willing to sign on.
Thanks for the quick response. No, this has occurred over the past few weeks. I requested the DRO hearing in late March and got the letter dated April 26th. The actual hearing, according to the letter, is set for June 6th.
Should be a great deal of retro, since I'm still waiting on claims from 2010, although I've been service-connected and paid out at 20% thus far.
What precipitated the decision to consider Lawyering UP?
With the potential Retro Award, you referenced, VA Lawyers would put you on their Christmas Card List.
My limited VA Lawyer contact was back in 02/14, regarding my eventual (Date Unknown then) DRO Hearing. Both National Firms wanted me to sign the same day and recommended canceling the DRO Hearing Request and proceeding to the BVA. I opted not to do that, after waiting for 4.25 yrs, they had to be high.
I did meet with a local VA Lawyer, she had a completely different take. Recommended that I stay with the DRO Hearing and Rep myself. She said she'd be glad to do the BVA for 20% if the DRO Denied me. The other thing I liked about seeing her, I didn't have to spend 20 min on the phone with a Law Firm Screener before talking to an Associate.
Actually I had begun compiling a list of attorney's that everybody was suggesting on here, when I got my first call from the VARO about my FOIA requests. Then next thing I know the VSO is calling to work up the 646.
I was all set to pick up my search again after helping him complete that part (figuring that all this costed me was a week of time), and that I could hire an attorney at any point after that. That's why I followed his advice and asked for a DRO hearing, figuring that it would take a while as well.
But after standing my ground with the VARO about the FOIA's and the DRO Hearing (instead of cancelling to move straight to the BVA), I suddenly now find myself in a hearing in less than a month from now. I figure I'll use the VSO to ride that one out, and then if things don't work out and I can't get anything reversed or increased, I'll still have plenty of time to retain an attorney for the BVA.
I'm scared of telling them to hold off and reschedule, after going to light speed for a DRO Hearing within three days of being told that it could take months to years.
Good move? Bad move? Thelma & Louise driving off a cliff move?
Any chance you could post a redacted copy of the DRO Hearing Notification Letter?
Is your RO located in a Federal Bldg?
Been a few years since my DRO Hearing Letter, the instructions said to get there early, First Come - First Served. Also said to plan on being there the entire day due to the number of DRO Hearings Scheduled.
So I did, the only problem was the Federal Bldg Security, didn't unlock the doors until 8:00am sharp. Getting there at 7:30 did no good. Eventually signed in at the RO Front desk at 8:10, spent 15min with my VSR DRO Hearing Specialist (recently Retired VA DRO) who only worked for my VSO on Fridays, apparently, the Det RO only does DRO Hearings on Friday. The Hearing Officer was the only one with a tie on, everyone else was doing a "Casual Friday." Semper Fi
Ditto what Gastone just mention, when I went to my DRO Hearing it was early Morning too...we were about 110 miles to my R.O. so we left the day before and got a Motel....and like Gastone we got there at 7:30ish and had to wait until they ( YEP OPEN),
After they let us in I sign in and met with a VSO he went over the hearing procedure and told me what to expect and do, after we were called in to the Hearing room there were like 8 chair's on each side of a long table with microphones at each one , this made me a little nervous but after the DRO And Rating Specialist walked in and introduce them self. they both were just dressed casual.
I was dressed like the DRO was, Blue Jeans and western shirt boots. (I can't stand a Tie) makes me feel like I am going to a funeral (just be yourself) I normally wear a T-SHIRT /Jeans or cargo shorts, tennis shoes, but for this hearing I upgraded a bit...Lol
I was luckly I got a DRO that had a heavy since of Humor and said don't know about you guys but I need a cup of coffee and body want a cup?...anyway he joke some and said ok lets get down to business and settle things for why you came here...then he mention about how he would conduct the hearing ask me for formal or non formal and mention the differences,he did say no reason to be nervous I'm here to hopefully help you settle your claims, so that made me feel more at ease , he said I have read your case and I am familiar with it , how may I help you? I said well first I would like to thank you and the rating specialist for allowing me this opportunity to hear my case (he said your welcome)
and I just presented my case to him the whys and why not's , gave what I had new & material evidence to show he had read it in my records a day or two before the hearing but I took it with me just in-case he didn't, I told him how I feel about how I was treated at my VAMC he said wow what a damn shame ect,,ect ...Anyway my case worked out better than I expected.
Mark hopefully yours will too!
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