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FAQ

What is wrong with the Veterans Administration?
Well, that's the 150 billion dollar question, isn't it? What is wrong with the VA? Every veteran wants to know now and every active service member who will someday be a veteran wants the answer before they get out.I can't say I know for sure, but I can certainly say a great deal would get fixed by the following: In my opinion, it begins with work ethic and accountability.Work ethic:  In my office, I have dozens of civilian workers.  Half are retired Special Operators, the other half are a mix of non-SOF retirees and "complete" civilians. The work ethic between the two groups (retired SOF vs. "other") is quite noticeable.  The work ethic of the retired SOF (hereafter RS) is twentyfold the work ethic of the "others."  If I ask a RS to help with something outside his duty description, they will. And they will never question it. I have seen one of the "others" hand a duty description to another officer and say "that's not in my duty description." Right a 1600 (4pm), the "others" disappear so fast that there is a smoke outline of their body, while a top hat spins in the air, like out of a Looney Tunes episode.  I've seen our civilian deputy kick out RS because they are well exceeding their allowed work hours. Then I get emails from their government provided Blackberries (just like Clinton!) at 2100 (9pm).  The RS understand that they work for their former teammates, and friends, so SOF can execute missions around the world. The "others" have never been in that role.So how is this relevant to the VA?Many of the VA workers view it as a job, not a calling. They don't view their job as, quite literally, the thing that is going to keep a 90 year old vet alive another year with an operation, or keep a 26 year old Iraq vet alive another day by preventing him from killing himself because he has someone to talk to.  The VA serves veterans. That needs to be the mentality of everyone whom works there.  There is a fundamental disconnect between the military, whom is on duty 24/365, works weekends, holidays, deploys for 6-18 months and works until the work is done; and the organization that was created to care for them after their service. Disagree with me? Then answer why wait times are falsified?  Why has equipment been located on hand that could save Vets lives while the Vet waits 18 months and eventually dies without the lifesaving equipment?  I'm sure 99% of the VA's workers do not do this. But the 1% is literally killing people. Accountability: The military is "up or out". The VA and most civilian organizations are not. The Civilians whom work in my office are represented by a union. I have no tissue with Unions save for the ones whom prevent civilians from working as hard as their uniformed counterparts that rely on them. See my first dynamic: work ethic. Once you enter the General Scale (GS) employment and pass your 1 year probation period, it takes an act of Congress to get rid of you.  You are next required to excel. The Military is different.  First, Eliminate the head of the VA and put it under the DOD.  I'd love to see 90% of the GS jobs at the VA turned into uniformed service jobs. When the military pension is reworked, it won't cost much more. Wait until the civilians retire, and replace that GS position with a uniformed service member.  Guess what that brings: Accountability. You can get fired and booted out of the military. And everyone is trying to excel against their peers for promotion and selection to positions of greater responsibility (battalion command, etc).  We have recently witnessed several VA workers whom were re-instated by the labor relations board whom have been convicted of financial mismanagement. This is a systematic problem.  The government needs a way to fire underperformers and those who break the law. I do not believe that the VA's problem is funding. Not for a second. I think the entire federal government has issues with financial accountability. If you've ever witnessed the September "spend-ex", you know what I'm talking about. By the way, I'm not sure if everyone is aware that the VA's budget is entirely separate from the DOD's budget.   
How long does a VA claim take to process, on average now?
The VA Claim Process after You File Your ClaimThe VA Claim Process after You File Your ClaimFind out what happens to your claim after you file for disability compensation.How long does it take VA to make a decision?125.7 days Average number of days to complete disability-related claims in February 2019The amount of time it takes to review your claim depends on:The type of claim you filedHow many injuries or disabilities you claimed and how complex they areHow long it takes us to collect the evidence needed to decide your claimWhat should I do while I wait?You don’t need to do anything unless we send you a letter asking for more information. If we schedule any exams for you, be sure not to miss them. You can check the status of your claim online. The time frame you see there may vary based on how complex your claim is.Track the Status of Your ClaimWhat happens after I file a claim?Claim ReceivedWe’ll let you know when we receive your disability claim.If you file your disability claim on eBenefits, you’ll see a notice from us in your claims list within about 1 hour of applying.If you file online for increased disability compensation, you’ll get an on-screen message from us after you submit the form. If you mail your application, we’ll send you a letter to let you know we have your claim. You should get this letter about 1 week, plus mailing time, after we receive your claim.Initial ReviewA Veterans Service Representative (VSR) will review your claim. It’ll move to step 3 if we don’t need any more evidence to support it.Evidence Gathering, Review, and DecisionDuring this step, the VSR will do 3 things:Ask for evidence from you, health care providers, governmental agencies, or othersReview the evidenceMake a decisionIf we need more evidence during the review, your claim may return to this step more than once.Preparation for NotificationWe’ll get your entire claim decision packet ready to be mailed.Claim CompleteWe’ll send you a packet by U.S. mail that includes details of the decision on your claim. Please allow 7 to 10 business days for your packet to arrive before contacting a VA call center.What should I do if I disagree with your decision on my claim?If you disagree with our decision, you can appeal it.If you received your decision before February 19, 2021. you can start the appeals process by filing a Notice of Disagreement. Learn how to appeal your decision.If you received your decision after February 19, 2021. you’ll need to follow our new process for getting your decision reviewed. Learn how to get your decision reviewed.
Why is it that so many veterans become homeless? I mean doesn't the government pay them right when they get out of the military?
No, the military does not pay a stipend or pension for all veterans. Retirees get retirement pay. Wounded vets may get medical coverage and disability payments, and some vets get managed health coverage depending on their own personal situation. Also, I know this may sound like sacrilege. But, the veteran status of the homeless population is not really that inflated (based on per capita representation). It's fairly proportional, actually. What you see more of is non-veteran homeless individuals claiming to be veterans, as a panhandling tactic. This skews the perception that there is a higher percentage than there actually is. The other thing is that veteran status can be rather inconsequential. Most veterans were not front line combat veterans, and most didn't endure any major hardships while they were in the service anyway (caveat: being deployed to a combat zone and living on a nice secure base which you never left may represent a sacrifice - e.g. being away from one's family - but it is not a hardship either). They basically just got their paycheck through the DOD and had a slightly more regimented or rigid career field. It was not an all-consuming, brutal existence by any means. This may sound kind of harsh, but the military can attract some real losers too, particularly the Army.  These dirt-bags often get kicked out for fucking up and then they maintain this claimed "veteran" status for the remainder of their lives. So what if someone was a supply clerk for a  year before getting dishonorably discharged for a drinking habit and failure to adapt to military life? The brief stint in the military means nothing really. The underlying issues were still mental, psychological, substance abuse, etc. I'll often chat with the dudes panhandling using a veteran sign or spiel. The last one that approached me was talking all kinds of bullshit pertaining to my former military branch and a very unique career field that I was quite knowledgeable about, and claimed to have "seen" some crazy stuff, and worked with agents. So, I was able to quickly piece together that he made it through boot, got to his follow-on training program where he was kicked out for having controlled substances (he was vague),  and was on casual status for a little while before being booted (it takes a while to do the paperwork and out-process fuck-ups), and he probably had some interaction with military investigators.  But, he wants to approach me with his "combat vet" shakedown. Fuck that. I have no sympathy for him or his weak-ass story. But, some people might fall for his shit. And he gives veterans a bad name, in my estimation. Technically you ain't a veteran if you aren't honorably discharged. There was another guy that I'd run into all the time too. He would hit me up with the same exact shakedown, and forget that he already talked with me. Basically, he would ask how to get to the VA hospital, and he'd be purposely far away (he knew that). He's ask for detailed directions and let you go through with the whole set-up. Then, he'd act like he was totally upset about getting bad directions and being lost and bemoan that he spent all his money to get to the wrong stop. He'd ask for bus or train fair at that point. Well, of course, it gets to be funny when he approaches you with the same spiel over and over. However, if I find an actual vet down on his luck, I'll bend over backwards. And my VFW chapter routinely helps military/vets and family members with these kind of issues. I see red when its a matter of faking or selling a bullshit story.
Why didn't homeless vets stay in the military?
Primarily because “staying in the military” is always THEIR choice and not yours.Only 17% of military members (of any rank ) remain in the service the 20–30 years that they would need to retire and collect their benefits. That means the overwhelming majority of people who join the military are eventually going to separate from it; voluntarily or not. The few who are allowed to stay make up the rather small “lifer” communities that dot the nation.As far as why they are homeless:Many vets (although obviously not all) were marginal people before they went in and they never lose that status - The military, especially in times of war, lowers its standards to meet its quotas. When the conflicts subside, the same people who “squeaked in” find themselves in a competitive environment for which few are prepared. They haven’t saved money, they have likely gained at least one addiction and they probably have a job with few or no civilian counterparts. When they are discharged (again, voluntarily or not) they find themselves back in the world as the same marginal person only this time older and with harder time starting over.Few vets look to the future - Seriously. When I was in the USAF, I heard numerous people talking about the future, only it was a future that included their remaining in the service until they retired. Most of them had no “backup plan” (for a while this included myself) and, when they left the service, they had no idea as to what they were going to do. If you have supportive friends and family, then your transition (even if you are unprepared) can be easier. If you don’t, or worse, have family with whom YOU burn your bridges, then unless you have skills which are transferable to the civilian world. (see also #3) you may be in for hard times. That includes homelessness.They didn’t pick or get placed in a good job - I was fortunate that as an aircraft mechanic, the rudiments of mechanical and electrical theory were taught to me (beyond what I knew from the civilian world) and I was able to translate that into jobs working in factories and later refineries and power plants. Many vets go in with no idea as to what they want to do. Being a “ground pounder” (infantry) or a “swabbie” (a basic sailor) are tickets to Poor Employment Land when you get discharged. No one hires people whose only skills are infantry (not SF operators or even Rangers, but regular infantry) as other than leading people (itself a mixed bag) most soldiering skills don’t translate. In addition, jobs at the lower end of the ladder rarely allow for enough time to go to school and obtain skills training that will result in solid employment. So when they are discharged, they find that employers are seeking people with skills they do not possess and may not realize how to obtain. If you are quick thinking and quick on your feet, you might be able to overcome obstacles. If not….The military kicks them out for medical conditions - Become diabetic? You’re out. Lose your hearing? Bye. Get HIV, hepatitis or malaria? See you later. Mental illness? The worst of all. Basically, your health and its failings are crucial to your military career. If you have a medical setback, you’ll get treated and then you’ll probably get streeted. Whether or not that is with a medical discharge is up in the air but even if you do get one, you are still ill and you have been out of the job market for an extended period. Unless you actively deceive many potential employers , it could take you months or even years to obtain good-paying work. Even then, your illness or medical condition will likely always be in the background ready to upset your life once again. Many people never even consider this until they find themselves to be ill and soon to be without a job (e.g. the military) . Many are so unprepared that hey cannot deal and they wind up being homeless.They make HUGE mistakes - Multiple DUIs? You’re out. Hit your partner? Unless you have a “rabbi” or someone looking out for you, you’ll get booted. Gay before 2021 and neither careful, nor celibate? You were gone. Drug addiction? Toodles. Many people in the military make what are often moderate to minor mistakes in the civilian world (or not even punishable offenses) which are viewed as major offenses in the military one and they find themselves outside the fence looking in. The military usually only gives its “best and brightest” or its “heavy hitters” second chances after major mistakes. Many people only received one chance and they used it up. They are given a “Less than honorable” or a “general discharge” and they have to either spend a lifetime explaining that, or simply pretending that their time in the military never happened. Without any savings, and with a poor network of friends and family, many become homeless simply because they have no place to turn to.The above are the reasons that I rarely suggest that young people enter the military these days if they ask me for my opinion.The chances of squandering several years or longer when you could be in the real world (where you are statistically likely to return to without retiring anyway) gaining useful skills, building your network and living the life (or lifestyle) that YOU chose to. The military is useful for people who are indeed seeking the experience of military service. It is far less so for those who choose it out of desperation, fear of unemployment or because they can’t think of better ideas.The people who make up those last three are usually the people I meet when I am working in a vets shelters or with a vets organization. People who chose military service, but who didn’t realize that it wasn’t the panacea that they believed it to be. They have few skills, no plans, few savings, they are often ill and they are unable to “fit” back into the real world. As a result, they are usually one paycheck or bad day away from living on the streets.
Who are the best people to see, in regards to helping a disabled veteran getting his disability claim at the VA processed?
California has a Veterans Affairs Department. Many cities have offices, and generally, the staff will complete the paperwork and send all information to the appropriate people.After you file your claim, you may keep track of its status:Check Your VA Claim Or Appeal StatusIt takes time to process and investigate claims, so you have to wait in line, so to speak.Another avenue is to go directly to a VA Hospital in your area. There you apply for medical benefits. It does take a month or so to process your application. This is because it is important to weed out fake veterans. However, once you are in the system, from my experience, you will get very good service. Again, this is from my experience at Jerry Pettis Veterans Hospital in Loma Linda, CA.Once you have been accepted into the system, you will be assigned a unit and doctor. From there, your primary care doctor will arrange appointments with specialty clinics.If the veteran is already in the system, he/she may be able to process claims through his primary care provider. There are also patent advocates on staff to help.When you file a claim, part of the process will be for you to be evaluated by a doctor who specializes in whatever your disability claim is for. Recommendations will be forwarded, and it is not uncommon for a second opinion. Your disability will be given a percentile, which affects the amount of disability you will receive. If you disagree, you may file an appeal through the same system in the link above.You will receive compensation retroactive to the date you filed your claim, unless there extenuating circumstances.The process is rather lengthy, because there are a lot of veterans to process.
If a US soldier were incapacitated for several years after their military service as a result of their service, what obligations, if any, does the US government hold for them?
“If a US soldier were incapacitated for several years after their military service as a result of their service, what obligations, if any, does the US government hold for them?”At the time of discharge, every service member is given a discharge physical.After discharge the service member may, if desired, make a disability claim with the Department of Veteran’s Affairs, who will interview the veteran and review the veteran’s medical and dental records. All claims supported by the records will be included on a list of service-connected disabilities.Based on that list, the veteran will be given a status of the percentage of disability, starting at 10%, for the least impactful disability, to 100% for being totally disabled.As a minimum, medical coverage will be approved for service-connected injury treatment. Additionally, Congress recently funded total medical (but not dental) care for veterans in financial need who don’t have medical insurance. That will continue, a long as Congress renews the bill. There’s no guarantee it will continue. But, regardless, service-connected care will always continue, because that was in the original VA legislation, decades ago.For the veteran who is totally disabled (at 100%), medical care will be covered. Dental care will also be covered if the dental issue was caused while on active duty.There are many rules and regulations, and the VA is NOT who you should talk to. They are only interested in controlling costs. (The doctors care, many administrators don’t. Watch the news to see it in action ‡ or inaction). There are many not-for-profit service organizations that will help veterans in this process. A good one is DAV (Disabled American Veterans).In addition to medical care, the VA has a few retirement/treatment centers and other facilities for the disabled, especially if they are also low-income.They are also building a lot of mental-help facilities. Seattle, for example, is building a very large building dedicated to that.
When white Americans claim Native American descent, why do they so frequently think that their ancestors were Cherokee, rather than some other tribe? I’m not talking about tribal affiliation but instead genetic ancestry.
It has a lot to do with their ancestral history and settlement patterns.First, the bulk of people that falsely claim to be Cherokee are from older colonial roots. They are heavily British Isles stock, mixed with German and a dash of Hugeunot French. They moved in from the eastern seaboard settlements in VA, NC/SC, and GA. They pushed generally west, although one exception is a southern movement of settlers coming from southern PA and MD, moving into VA and then down along the eastern flank of the Appalachian Mountains into central Carolinas, or even into GA, in the latter half of the 1700s.Following the Revolutionary War, American (White) settlers flooded west, taking up recently ceded - or even unceded - land….steadily pushing for the further reduction of Cherokee territory. It was a steady and relentless process.Notice how much land the Cherokees claimed at point of contact and how much they ceded?Of course, the bulk of this land was never settled by the tribe, and it was actually contested or claimed by other tribes. But, the Cherokee were powerful enough to lay claim to it, and have the European powers recognize them as the dominant land holders. So, they treated with them and conducted various land cession treaties starting in the 1720s onward.So, a lot of Americans with lore of Indian blood will simply go to a map and point to where their ancestors may have lived or passed through, and they see large swathes as “Cherokee.” This then propels the theory that unnamed “part-Native” ancestors were probably Cherokee. Because, after all, it “used to be Cherokee territory.”But, they will ignore the timelines and demographics involved. They’ll determine vague ancestors were Cherokee by nothing more than wild theorizing.Additionally, this is a reflection of their own cultural heritage (which is old colonial Northern European). Many of these families that pushed west as early settlers, from these colonial seaboard settlements, didn’t leave a lot of records. And they left even fewer for female ancestors. Sometimes, they left NO records for the female lineages. Further, literacy wasn’t all that high and many families didn’t keep very long or detailed family trees. A family bible might be used to record a few births and deaths for a short range of generations, but normally it isn’t too extensive (a family bible would eventually get passed down in a particular branch, and at some point, the descendants would stop recording their details in the older bible and the wider family wouldn’t have access to it, or they’d forget about it completely). So, knowledge of lineage was not as extensive, or it didn’t extend back too far in many cases.In this atmosphere a lot of stories were built up about unknown or mysterious ancestors. And a lot of speculation was going on. Beyond that, details can get easily skewed or theorizing turns in to “fact.”Alternative narratives tend to fill in the gaps, or even attempt to cover up more taboo or unsavory aspects. So, an illegitimate baby that mysterious and suddenly shows up in a family is said to have been a “Cherokee baby, the parents gave up because they were on the Trail of Tears.” Or, something to that effect. This was the cover story that deflected away from the reality: the farmer’s 15 year old daughter that got pregnant by an unknown male in the neighborhood or a hired hand. Or, it could be even more serious social taboos, like rape or black-white mixing. A darker baby from a White-Black sexual union would be described as an “Indian/Cherokee” to explain darker features. Again, that was the cover story.In any event, at some point being ‘part-Cherokee‡ simply took on a certain charm or gave people a sense of authenticity. A legitimate tie to the land, etc. Or, it gave people something exotic to talk about or claim. It would be used to explain someone’s temper or inability to hold liquor, or bravery, or not being afraid of heights, immune to cold, etc. All kinds of odd things. “It’s that Indian blood!” It also just made the family stories more interesting or romantic. It became entrenched as a sort of folk belief. Certain communities in Appalachia in particular seem to think having a little Indian blood is a sort of default. So, it becomes a collective identity.Anyway, all of these elements get compounded and once the stories get entrenched they expand through the generations. And it’s rather amazing how they ripple through each generation and get carried forward, almost completely intact.I mean like this:A parent tells a child, “My mother was said to be part-Cherokee through her mother.” This child grows up and then the details get entrenched. She tells her kids, “My grandmother was at least half Cherokee.” Over time, the story changes…then “great-grandma was a full blood.” Then, the process can start over. The person with this lore tells the kids, “Ya know, we got some Cherokee blood in the family. Your grandma was a Cherokee.”And the odd thing is that once it gets passed on like this and entrenches as a sort of personal identity, people don’t like to research the claims and vet the details. In fact, it goes beyond that. They will often deny the facts or what research might clearly show. And they rationalize why the supposedly “Cherokee” ancestor isn’t show up with tribal affiliation or listed as white. So, at that point, they begin to craft alternative reality narratives. That’s when you get the various stories about “hiding out” or “Passing for white.” Or, their family didn’t want to register “with the government”…ass if their lack of affiliation and status in the record trail was a result of some principled stance or formalized protest against enrollment. Or, if they were listed as white on records, they had to “hide.”Finally, the reason there are so many White Americans falsely claiming Cherokee ancestry is because their ancestors put in -collectively- hundreds of thousands of erroneous or outright fraudulent applications during Dawes Roll enumerations or Guion Miller (Eastern Cherokee Claims Settlement). There was a lot of media coverage back in the day that was highlighting that Cherokee descendants were eligible for a monetary pay out. All you had to do was claim some blood, and you’d get some cash. So, this brought out a ton of poor Whites, trying to put in these applications. There was no legal repercussion, so what did they have to lose?Anyway, these applications were uniformly rejected. Yet, how many modern descendants that see their ancestors applications will believe they were lying or being shady? Not many! Most will still cling to the original claim of “Cherokee blood” And they will assume that the rejection was just based on capricious or harsh bureaucracy. They will likely think that their ancestors at least believed in the veracity of their “Cherokee blood.” And it’s probably just a matter of it being a little further back, or harder to prove in the records. But, it’s probably in there somewhere!
Is the Veterans Administration's "Decision-Ready Claim" process, with its promise to deliver a decision in 30 days, beneficial to disabled veterans or is it just a way for the VA to deny claims faster without genuine consideration of the claim?
It depends.As other respondents have written, their Fully Formed Claim, actually wasn’t, so they were placed in the Traditional Claims Process.I have seen some of my clients claims back approved within 45 days.I have seen other claims denied within 45 days.I have seen claims denied within 45 days resubmitted for review approved within 120 days.The best way to navigate this process is with a Veteran’s Service Officer at your local regional office.Veterans Benefits Administration Regional Office Locator
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