20 September 2014

"CASE BY CASE" Claims Processing: VA Empty Promises to C-123 Veterans

VBA C-123 Training Program
• "All claims are considered on a case-by-case basis." former Secretary Shinseki
• "All claims are considered on a case-by-case basis." – Under Secretary Allison Hickey
• "All claims are evaluated on a case-by-case basis." – VA Office of General Counsel
• "All claims are considered on a case-by-case basis." VA Deputy Chief Consultant Post Deployment Health
• "Claims accepted and reviewed on case-by-case basis." – Federal Register (VA per Dr. Terry Walters), May 11, 2011, December 26 2012, May 23, 2014
• "Makes a case-by-case determination..." – VA Office of General Counsel
• "Evaluations...conducted on a case-by-case basis." – VA response to Senate Veterans Affairs Committee
• "VA decides these claims on a case-by-case basis." – VA C-123 Agent Orange web page 
 • "These claims will be decided on a “case-by-case basis” – VA Agent Orange consultant
 • "All claims are evaluated on a case-by-case basis.” – VBA Director Compensation & Pension Service
• “Veterans' claims are evaluated on a case-by-case basis.” – VA Public Affairs spokesperson  
What VA means, in fact and in practice, is that C-123 claims are DENIED automatically. There is no true case by case evaluation, as VA’s own training materials have made clear.

No matter how often repeated, no matter who repeats the promise – these are shown to be empty VA promises, meant only to deceive. Proper case by case claim evaluation, particularly to weigh each veteran's disability claim individually, is a deception. The duty to consider cases on the merits of the situation is spelled out in the VA's own regulations, as well as numerous CAVC rulings. It is a duty which shouldn't be ignored by those responsible, even forgetting it amounts to Clear and Unmistakable Error.

These promises are deceptions, feints, misleading diversions...prevarications and dishonorable utterances. Dishonorable because most of the folks repeating the statements know VA has no intention of doing anything of the sort.

Proof of this was revealed yesterday, when VA's Office of General Counsel finally released a few of the documents C-123 Veterans had demanded under the FOIA. The fundamental VA deception regarding "case by case" claims evaluation was shown in the statements that no amount of scientific or medical proof would permit a C-123 claim to be approved...that VA had already predetermined none of the C-123 vets eligible for exposure benefits

Denied. Before claims are even submitted. Denied. While claims sit a year at the regional office before automatic rejection. Denied, forcing a three-five year appeal to the Board of Veterans Appeals where all C-123 claims have been awarded the veteran because there, at least, a sense of justice is working.

In this, and in other documents, VA makes clear its determination to block any C-123 exposure claims through legal or even extra-legal means. VA tosses off all obligations to be pro-veteran and non-adversarial, and pretends it never heard of Colvin, and tells the claims adjudicator his/her duty to evaluate all evidence has somehow been set aside. No.

Why? One suggestion is Slide 6 in VA's C-123 Slide presentation; please note the last point. Rather than focus on our needs and eligibility, VA worries instead about the impact on other Agent Orange controversies.

And throws us under the bus!

Above: Slide #Six, VBA Training Presentation on C-123 Claims

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