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pipeman043

Actual Va Reply To Iris Question

Question

Hello,

In an effort to be fair and equitable here is the response

provided by the VA after some prodding by telephone both

in Washington and at the Eastern Area Directors Office.

I guess the phone calls moved my service complaint from the

"ignore" pile to the " Do something to shut him up" pile. B)

I did eliminate names to protect the "innocent". The Va's

response came yesterday afternoon, 05 Jan 07

Original Complaint sent 22 Dec 06 @ 0650.

Mr. XXXXXXX,

Good morning. After our conversation yesterday afternoon, I contacted the Veterans Service Center Manager, XXXXX XXXXXXX, at the Togus Regional Office (RO) who is now serving as the Acting Director since the retirement of Mr. XXX XXXXX. I asked that he prepare a response to your inquiry along with a status update of your pending appeal. While I do not think the response below will resolve your dissatisfaction with the VA appellate process and, specifically, scheduling of hearings, I am hoping this recognition of your frustration will, at a minimum, alleviate some of your dissatisfaction. We do understand your legitimate concern but are somewhat constrained by the procedures established by the Board of Veterans Appeals (BVA).

I will also forward this correspondence to the Compensation and Pension (C&P) Service in Washington as C&P Service is responsible for the policy and procedures that govern how ROs must operate. In situations regarding our interaction with BVA, they must work with that organization regarding policy and procedural guidance. I do not want to mislead you into thinking that this will immediately change the current hearing policy, but it is at least, a step toward in the right direction.

Again, on behalf of James Whitson, Eastern Area Director and VA, I apologize for any inconveniences and poor customer service. It is our job to provide you the benefits and services you are entitled to, in recognition for your service to our country, and we should always do so with the highest level of customer service.

XXXXXX

Supervisory Management Analyst

Eastern Area Office

734-930-5800

Please see the below response from Mr. XXXXXXXX:

Mr. XXXXXXXXX

I am writing in reference to a complaint you submitted pertaining to a recent Board of Veterans Affairs (BVA) hearing you attended at the Togus Regional Office.

Please accept my apologies for any inconveniences caused to you. Additionally, allow me to express my understanding toward your dissatisfaction with the current policy regarding the scheduling of hearings before a BVA Law Judge. As you have clearly pointed out, there are times when an appellant will have to travel long distances in order to arrive at their BVA hearings. Once an appellant arrives, they may be asked to wait, based on the order of their arrival.

Unfortunately, BVA has mandated the scheduling policy to our Regional Offices. This policy is in effect at every Regional Office in the nation. The notification sent to you on 11-13-06 was a letter, which has been approved by BVA, and stated, “…hearings are scheduled on a first come, first serve basis…”

so sorry, but this above quoted statement is NOT in the letter

I can assure you that the employees at the Togus Regional Office, along with myself, are dissatisfied with the current policy set by BVA. The former Director of the Togus Regional Office, XXXXXXXXX, and I, have met with your local American Legion representative on multiple occasions to discuss this very topic.

Your claims files is still currently located at BVA and our electronic records indicate your case is pending transcription.

Be assured that it is our goal to ensure that all veterans and their dependents receive the best services we can provide. However, we must operate within the laws and regulations that govern our actions.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

From: XXXXXXXXXXXXXX

Sent: Thursday, January 04, 2007 1:55 PM

To:XXXXXXXXX, VBADTRT

Subject: Fw: Service Complaint

Hello,

Thank you for your attention to this matter.

----- Original Message -----

From: Xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

To: amcquery@vba.va.gov

Cc: BVAOmbudsman@mail.va.gov

Sent: Friday, December 22, 2006 8:36 AM

Subject: Service Complaint

Hello,

In conjunction with my ongoing appeal, I requested a Travel Board Hearing be scheduled at my local RO.

I was informed by the TOGUS RO that no travel board hearings were available or being scheduled in the

foreseeable future in an effort to reduce existing backlog, reduce expenses, and increase productivity.

I was then scheduled for a Video Conference Hearing that was conducted on Monday, 18 Dec 06.

Due to issues that arose involving that event, I forwarded the following service complaint via IRIS and

am providing this information in an effort to make you aware of the problem.

At bare minimum I expect written acknowledgement of receipt and indication of planned corrective action.

Thank you for you attention to this matter.

IRIS SUBMISSION:

It is the standing policy of the VARO TOGUS to send letters to all individuals that are scheduled for

a video hearing on a specific day that their appointment is for 0830 and that they are to arrive one

half hour before their scheduled hearing time. There is no indication on any correspondence that

the actual hearings are scheduled that day on a first come-first served basis and depending on

how many hearings are scheduled the potential exists that the veteran will be waiting for an

extended period of time. This practice is very inconsiderate of the veteran and the VSO who

is representing the veteran. Clearly it implies a total disregard for the value of the veteran's

and VSO's time.

In MANY cases at this specific RO the veteran must travel great distance to get to the

RO and it makes the issue even worse if the individual veteran is economically or physically

disadvantaged and cannot provide their own transportation.

If you use the example that the Veteran who lives 3 hours away is using others for their

transportation and must arrive at 0800 and there are multiple hearing to be conducted,

you place the veteran in the position of having to be up and on the road sometime

around 0300 and having them exhausted by the time their hearing time arrives.

This places the veteran at an extreme disadvantage at the hearing and is blatantly

unfair and discriminatory.

The VARO TOGUS claims that it is due to the BVA directives and unchangeable even

though the RO TOGUS schedules all the hearing and can make the appropriate

change if they so chose.

This has been a long standing issue brought to the management's attention many

times and they demonstrate a capricious disregard for the people they are

supposed to be helping.

XXX XXXX, the Regional office Director basically told me that "this is the way it is".

He further stated to me that if I didn't like it I could leave.

Terrible customer service and a shining example of the pervasive attitude in that

office that it's my way or the highway.

I specifically asked about a timeline for a policy change and was ignored.

I believe it is reasonable that I be given a written apology by the

Veteran Service Manager for the poor conduct of his employee,

and a new policy be established following a complete review of

the scheduling process that takes into consideration the Veteran

and VSO's time along with other appropriate considerations.

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I sent service complaint in Dec that I never received reply on-yet- so I guess they are way behind-

days later my claim went to a claims examiner-so maybe this is why-

I asked a simple question-

Would the deputy Secretary of the VBA (Mansfield) accept my IMOs and with my 5 bucks enclosed for postage- send them to the VARO?

since the RO claimed last month that they have never been received?

(not from me or my POA or the BVA with my remand)

The RC has had my tort claim on this matter for almost 5 months.I think he has to make a decision by Feb 1,2007.That will determine what I do next.

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