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Galen Rogers

Just a Comment on VSOs and Who they Really Represent

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Howdy all. I recently received a decision letter on some of my claims. Some were positive, some negative, and some in between. After reviewing the decisions I have decided I am going to file a NOD on the decisions. SO as a courtesy I emailed my VSO to keep her informed on my intentions and provide my rough draft disagreement statements and reasoning. She immediately sent it to their legal staff. The legal staff came back with every reason why I should not submit a NOD. Their response is below.

"If you are going to NOD and apply for an increase, you need to be aware of the risk that you could be reduced for the knee and/or not increased above 10% again if they do conduct another exam. Given that you just had an exam, I am not sure they would request another exam so soon after. Do you have a private doctor that you would be willing to go to to get a second opinion? Either way, applying for an increase will likely result in another exam down the road.  But you should know of the risks associated with it as we are seeing many veterans applying for increase in turn being proposed to be reduced. 

As for the inadequacy of the exam, we can certainly make that argument, but you will need to go into greater detail as to what she did in the exam that rendered it inadequate. I see the statute you have cited, which is fine, but we need more details of your specific exam. 

As for your disagreement with OSA.. Your logic that the VA had a duty to assist that extended to the Rater who should have known the link between GERD and OSA does not supersede the requirement for that evidence to be submitted specific to your case and your issues. BVA decisions are not precedential, and every veteran still needs to make an argument based on their medical and military history."

Now whether they are really concerned for me or just trying to dissuade me from  filing a NOD, a Vet who is not a little versed in the VA Claim game would be discouraged and probably just accept the decision and not file a NOD.  I know that is what i did in 2001 and then again in 2008. I won't do that now. 🙂

ASKNOD just reminded me recently that the VSOs are actually chartered to assist the VA in adjudicating our claims. That means they work for the VA and not us. So as the old saying goes "Buyer beware".

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Sorry you fell into that trap.  My VSO is a pass through to ensure that the VA gets my evidence and I have a record of it.

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This time it was expected. Even as a pass through my VSO is lack luster. I originally gave them all of my claims and documentation to submit last April. My actual face to face appointment with them was  last May. She waited until then to upload them into their system for their QA office to review. She did not go over them with me just uploaded them while I was there. Then their QA office  (made no changes)took a month before they handed them over to the VA in Roanoke, VA. So using them as a pass through cost me 3 months. I don't plan to use them as my VSO any longer.

 

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Good for you, Galen.  Listen to Alex, not your VSO.  

"Fear of reduction" is a terrible reason not to file a NOD.  

There is no evidence to support the hypothesis that filing a NOD increases your chance of reduction.  The VA has a specific proposed reduction procedure, and "nowhere" does it state anything close to "whenever a Vet applies for an increase or files a nod, decrease him instead".  

More importantly, with a single paper file, your claim can not be in 2 places at once:  The BVA and your VARO's "proposed reduction" department.  

While I have received a proposed reduction, I have never had that happen while waiting on the outcome from the BVA.  My proposed reduction was on dependents, and I submitted (again) their dependent form and I received a letter than the proposed reduction would not occur, a few months later.  Again, if I had been in appeals, I dont think I would have gotten the proposed reduction, because there is only one copy of the paper file.  

I dont think the electronic claim process will change this anytime soon.  After all, if you are waiting at the Board for a decision, the VARO is unlikley to do a proposed reduction at that time.  Remember, it takes about 5 years to go to the BVA, so going there could Reduce your chances of a reduction!   In other words, if you are concerned about a reduction then keep the file away from your VARO by "sending it to the Board" via appeal.  

I do NOT recommend filing a NOD on:

1.  Any remanded issues.

2.  Any deferred issues.  

The reason is you can ony file a nod on a finally adjuticated claim, not a remand or deferral.  

However, if condition A was granted, condition B was denied, and condition c remanded or deferred:

1.  You can appeal condition A's effective date or disability percentages if you dispute the outcome. 

2.  You can appeal the denial of condition B.  

3.  You have to wait to appeal any remanded or deferred condition until the VARO denies or awards them.  

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On 12/4/2018 at 2:19 PM, Galen Rogers said:

...[SNIP]...

ASKNOD just reminded me recently that the VSOs are actually chartered to assist the VA in adjudicating our claims. That means they work for the VA and not us. So as the old saying goes "Buyer beware".

Bingo on that!

I went through TWO VSOs (Texas Vets and DAV) before finally hiring an attorney.  I personally experienced just how ineffective VSOs actually are.  And I had already written a 158 page NOD on my original claim before hiring my attorney.  Definitely listen to ASKNOD's advice.

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