Well, actually DAV didn't decline...they simply suggested we bring our issue before each individual DAV post, in each state, to see if it floats up to the national level, as their national leadership is barred from action except as directed by resolution of the membership. His suggested approach to even becoming concerned about us would mean years of effort just to get the DAV interested...so it seems a strategy to prevent too much "stuff" like ours getting on their agenda.
However, they can and will help any individual who applies to them for representation before the VA. A couple weeks back I wrote DAV's national headquarters as well as their Washington D.C. office, and the DC office kindly phoned me. Their representative carefully explained why they can't do anything except work issues approved by their membership.
I kept interrupting the gentleman to try to make the point that we are a group of veterans who might not be healthy enough to stick around long enough for that path to work for us. We parted with friendly good-byes...and great disappointment on my part and obvious relief on his for getting rid of my phone call.
What I'd hoped for was leadership, not buck-passing, on the part of the first veterans' organization I joined, and have been a life member of for more than 19 years. I'd hoped they would offer a letter of support, some strategy, some contacts, some information about AO issues, some encouragement...anything. Anything we can use before this thing is "resolved" by us getting swept under the rug by Old Man Time! My mistake. I thought I joined DAV to offer help, and get it, as the need surfaced.
Thank goodness the Vietnam Veterans of America didn't hesitate. Thank goodness Commissioner Linda Schwartz didn't hesitate. Thank goodness the Oregon Health Sciences University didn't hesitate! Thank goodness for friends when you need them.
Some senior folks who've been working this issue before I was painfully brought to focus on it have wisely counseled us to seek a class-action lawsuit. That is certainly an option, yet I fear becoming one of the groups (and there are many) which initiate such a suit and watch millions of dollars in fees and years of litigation pass by without resolution. Perhaps we should get some organization done along such lines, but I remain hopeful (until I get the BIG VA SMACK-DOWN) that we can present a logical and scientific case to the Department of Veterans Affairs and get them to positively evaluate us on an individual basis. I feel that as a class, we're too small to get any pro bono publico representation and we obviously lack the funds. And I feel too many of us lack the time. I want to savor a little victory in my lifetime, not from Heaven's Gates (as I'll get no farther than that, my wife warns!) Maybe we can get some attorney to meet part of the ABA's 50 hours a year guideline by offering advice or review of materials?