Connect With VVA VVA on Facebook Faces of Agent Orange on Twitter VVA on YouTube
Find A Service Officer
vietnam veterans of america
vva logo

july/august 2008

red star bulletThe Veteran Departments : Featured Stories / President's Message / Government Affairs / Membership Notes / Constitution Committee / Region 3 Report / Veterans Incarcerated / Veteran Benefits / Women Veterans / Chapter 141 / Chapter 142 / Chapter 295 / Chapter 523 / AVVA Report / At The LC / At The LC - book review / Diabetes / Books In Review / Letters / Etabo / Locator / Reunions / Taps

2010: Jan/Feb
2009: Jan/Feb | mar/apr
| may/june | july/Aug | sept/oct | Nov/DeC
2008: Jan/Feb | mar/apr | may/june | july/Aug | sept/oct | Nov/DeC
2007: Jan/Feb | MAR/APR | MAY/JUNE | july/aug | SEPT/OCT | Nov/DeC
2006: July/Aug | SEPT/OCT | nov/dec

Once again, veterans have an opportunity to observe the inner workings of the Department of Veterans Affairs first hand. The results of the review of the policy decision detailed in this article can lead to only one conclusion. The Department presents a public relations pitch that it is concerned with the welfare of its stakeholders, but takes actions that contradict the stated position.

This is a case example of the system at work. The Veterans Claims Assistance Act of 2000 was passed by Congress and signed by the President for the expressed purpose of helping veterans better understand how to negotiate the VA’s Veterans Benefits Administration. Since then, Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims decisions have refined VCAA to enhance that initial process, making it easier for veterans to understand the requirements necessary to prove a benefit case.

Unfortunately, the behind-the-scenes staff at the Veterans Benefits Administration, legal staff, and the Compensation & Service have established policies that have placed roadblocks that prevent a clear understanding of the benefits process that the average veteran can grasp. So much for a non-adversarial relationship with the Department of Veterans Affairs. This latest move by the VA is the last straw for me.

The passage of the VCAA has had a significant impact on the way the VA provides pre-adjudicatory notice. A series of court cases has resulted in the VA continually modifying its duty to help with notification letters, and court reinterpretations of VCAA have resulted in long, confusing letters. The VA could create language to fix the problem, but instead fights at every turn to make the process more difficult to understand.

A recent holding in Vasquez v. Peake mandated the VA to provide additional notification requirements—namely to provide notice of any specific test or measurement required to evaluate a disability for the diagnostic code under which a veteran was rated. That seems like a very reasonable request. This rule would clarify the type of ratable evidence needed to prove a claim.

What steps did the VA take in response to the court decision? The Department filed a motion for reconsideration on the Vasquez v. Peake decision. This is unacceptable behavior and harmful to veterans.

On February 20 the VA Secretary filed a motion for a panel reconsideration, or in the alternative, en banc review of the court’s opinion in Vazquez-Flores v. Peake, 22 Vet. App.37 (2008). The Secretary contends that reconsideration is warranted because (1) the notice requirements set forth for increased compensation claims in the opinion would require the Secretary to provide specialized, individualized notice not contemplated by the statute or case law, and (2) the opinion incorrectly held that the notice error found in this case was prejudicial.

Once again, the VA shows its true colors by undertaking a true adversarial posture rather than finding a way to help the very people it is sworn to serve. Maybe we need to find a way to send these bureaucrats a clear message that we disapprove of their actions. Let’s name names. Maybe they would then have a change of heart when creating rules and regulations that affect the very process used to determine benefit eligibility. Realistically, they should be fired and have their government pensions withheld or cancelled.

It is time to name names. Decades of hiding behind the scenes in the bowels of the Central Office of the VA will no longer be a safe haven. The American public needs to know what instructions our elected officials are providing to the agency heads and their subordinates when carrying out public policy.

Who are the responsible parties who implement public policy? Certainly Secretary James Peake is one. The Director of the VA Compensation and Pension Service, Brad Mayes, is involved in creating the documents to support the policy. The Office of General Counsel, which prepares legal briefs and motions to the court, is certainly involved.

Veterans should ask the Secretary of Veterans Affairs how the motion to the court to prevent the application of Vasquez v. Peake is not harmful to veterans. I, for one, would be interested in the explanation. The slogan “Support the Troops” is not an explanation when policy decisions harm the troops.



clothing donations button

Altarum Banner Ad




vva logo small©2006 - 2013, Vietnam Veterans of America. All Rights Reserved. 8719 Colesville Road, Suite 100, Silver Spring, MD 20910
Report Website Errors Here | Advertise