Vallarta Living | Veteran Affairs | March 2008
|The V.A. Squeezes Vets by Removing Doctors' Non-Medical Opinions|
David Lord - PVNN
In this year's annual training by Military Order of the Purple Heart, I will review a case that deals with the refusal of a veteran/claimant to report for a VA Exam in regards to a PTSD claim.
The Veterans I serve often fear the VA and sometimes with just cause and good reason, despite the VA creed of service that is supposedly non-adversarial. Time and again the VA adjudicators serve the bureau of Veterans Affairs - not the Veteran.
The recent ruling against veterans in Turk v. Peake (06-0069), dated January 31, 2008 again shows this ever increasing evidence of that coarse. The VA now says that when there is a question as to whether or not the veteran experienced the specific event claimed as a stressor.
That it is not a medical matter but a factual issue for determination by the Board of Veterans Appeals or the VA regional office according to the Department of Veterans Affairs. They stressed that adjudicators (not doctors) should be making these non-medical factual determinations.
In Sizemore the CAVC stated "To the extent that the examining psychiatrist is expressing an opinion on whether the appellant's claimed in-service stressors have been substantiated, that is a matter for determination by the Board and not a medical matter." Sizemore v. Principi, 18 Vet. App. 264, 275 (2004). The Court also emphasized that adjudicators are better equipped to apply the proper legal standard (38 U.S.C. 5107(b), (benefit-of-the-doubt) to factual issues.
It is my opinion that the adjudication employees working at the VA are biased by the mere fact they are an employee of the VA and they are bound by these ever increasing rules designed against the interest of Veterans. Even though the current Clinicians Guide indicates that it is the job of the VA examiner (doctor) to determine whether the veteran's assertion of a traumatic event should be believed.
Section 14.10 in the VA Clinicans Guide asks:
How can a stressor be documented?
a. Validity of history.
The diagnosis of PTSD is contingent on the experiencing of traumatic stressors. At times, the examiner may have questions about the degree of distortion or fabrication in the interview. The clinical picture of PTSD is relatively easy to fabricate on a superficial level but very difficult to fabricate in depth. Thus, the more detailed the history taking, the greater the validity.
b. Documentation of traumatic experiences.
1. A study by the Social Work Service may assist in gathering information about a buddy or officer who might be contacted to help confirm or deny crucial statements about military operations or other events in specific localities.
2. Documentation from family, friends, and teachers concerning changes in the individual from pre- to post-service status may be helpful.
Because these adjudication employees are working for the VA not the Veteran, when the case is denied against the Veteran it should be appealed. The battle for benefits needs to be watched over by someone that knows the law, the average veteran just does not know what is going on behind those guarded doors at the VA Regional Office, where all the claims are processed.
The Veterans living in Mexico must be very vigilant when their medical appointment is set by the American Counsel in Guadalajara, when involved if you miss the appointment they are involved in reporting that results in a denial decision as a result of the missed appointment. You should always have a Veterans Organization represent you, and I am the only National Service Officer living in Mexico and Latin America. Do not go it alone, contact me.
Social Security Blues
U.S. Veterans are not alone in long waiting times for receiving their benefits, those civilians applying for Social Security benefits also face years of waiting. The S.S.A. chief calls eliminating the backlog a 'moral imperative' for the Administration. In an article written by Brittany Ballenstedt the news is very similar to what we veterans face every day.
During the last decade, the Social Security Administration has lost 10 percent of its administrative law judges while the number of disability cases awaiting hearings has more than doubled, the agency's top official told Congress on Thursday.
Social Security Commissioner Michael Astrue said litigation and budget cuts have reduced the number of judges in the past 10 years. Currently SSA's Office of Disability Adjudication and Review has a backlog of 750,000 hearing requests, up more than 300,000 since 2000.
Processing times for disability hearings have increased by 200 days during the last seven years, and have dramatically and unacceptably damaged many applicants' lives, Astrue testified before a House Appropriations subcommittee.
"Eliminating the hearings backlog is a moral imperative for the agency," he said. "This effort will take several years, but by the end of fiscal 2009, SSA will have laid the groundwork for regulatory and process changes needed and will be driving waiting times down."
Good Luck on that promise!
David Lord served in Vietnam as combat Marine for 1st Battalion 26th Marines, during which time he was severely wounded. He received the Purple Heart and the Presidential Unit Citation for his actions during the war in Vietnam. In Mexico, David now represents all veterans south of the U.S. border all the way to Panama, before the V.A. and the Board of Veterans Appeals. David Lord provides service to veterans at no fee. Veterans are welcome to drop in and discuss claims/benefits to which they are entitled by law at his office located at Bayside Properties, 160 Francisca Rodriguez, call him on his cell: 044 (322) 205-1323, or email him at david.lord(at)yahoo.com.
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