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get a copy of your va claims file bva trap

The BVA makes mistakes that are unheard of in other administrative forums and courts – as I explain below, this is a HUGE reason why I think it’s important for you to get a copy of your VA claims file.

With a level of frequency that is a little more than disturbing, the BVA makes the kinds of mistakes that would get almost any attorney that makes them disbarred, suspended from the practice of law, or at the very least, publicly reprimanded by a State Bar Association.

Now, before you think I’m too harsh on the BVA, I have had the pleasure of working with some STELLAR BVA Judges, too – like this one – or like this BVA Veterans Law Judge who went above and beyond to help a Veteran in dire need.   My point in this post is to show you what you can do to protect yourself and avoid a BAD experience at the BVA. Because there is a fairly decent chance you could run into a BVA Veterans Law Judge like this one.

Let me tell you about this case in 2013.

In Garsow v. Shinseki, CAVC Cause # 12-548E (August 30, 2013),  the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims issued a ruling pertaining to attorney fees at the court.

The basis for the decision had to do with the fact that, while on appeal, the BVA vacated and reversed its own decision.

Why would the BVA do that?

The answer to this question is glossed over in a single sentence by the Court.

“The Board explained that the record upon which the [original] decision had been based included documents pertaining to another veteran, which the [Board] determined had affected part of the [original] decision.”

What’s that you say, Chris, in English please?

The BVA made a decision to deny one Veteran’s benefits claim by using records from another Veteran’s case.

This is not a rare thing – sadly.  It happens all the time.

Several times over the past few years, my law firm filed suit on behalf of Freedom of Information Act (FOIA, pronounced FOY-ya) requestors in Federal District Court – multiple VA Regional Offices were refusing to give Veterans their C-Files.

In the course of that suit, the files were produced to the Veterans, through my law firm.

In reviewing the files before passing them to the Veteran, I noticed that one of the Veterans files had records belonging to another unrelated Veteran.

For that to happen in our FOIA case, the following people (at the very least) had to NOT look at the Veteran’s C-File:

– Part Time Copy Clerk

– Regional Office FOIA officer

– VA Service Center Manager

– US Attorney (at least an attorney and paralegal)

This sort of thing does not happen in professional law firms, or professional courts, as often as it happens at the VA and BVA.

It certainly does not happen at my law firm….and it should NEVER happen to YOU.

How can you Prevent this Sort of Problem in your BVA appeal?

There is 1 thing you can do – NOW – to ensure that this never happens to you in your VA Appeal.

1) Read and know the record.  If you follow the Veterans Law Blog, then you know that I strongly urge Veterans to get a copy of their C-File. What’s more is that I really think it is vital to  have a strong command of the facts in your case – know where certain documents can be found in your file, what those documents say and….most important….verify that they are YOUR claim and medical records.

Before a case goes to a BVA hearing, you should have scoured the entire C-File several times; if you find that the VA has put another Vet’s records in your case file, by the time it gets to the BVA, they should have been  long since been removed and returned to the Vet that owns them.

The VBA and BVA have Serious “Inefficiencies”.

For years, the VBA and BVA have operated behind a shroud of secrecy, protected by a moat of impenetrable processes and regulations.

We all know this.

But  complaining about it won’t help you advance your claim or have more power in your appeal.

(Although it might inspire Congress to get off their ass and take the VA Problem seriously, or it might inspire the head of the BVA to take some serious action to show that they are on the Veterans’ side in this one).

What can you do to prevent this sort of thing from happening?

Get a Copy your VA Claims File from the VA – NOW!

By getting your C-File from the VA, and studying it over and over again, you will learn the reasons that the VA keeps screwing up your claim and how you have the power to fix it.

Taking back the power in your VA Claim starts with knowing what is in copy of your VA claims file in the first place.

 

Is There Anything Else You Can Do Other Than Get a Copy of Your VA Claims File?

YES!

There’s a LOT you can do – I believe that Veterans have so many options to take back the power in their own VA claims.

Start by getting a copy of your VA claims file to see what the heck the VA has been doing – or not doing – all these years!

Then, start learning my 8 Steps to Improve Your VA Claim.

And be sure to join as a premium member as a premium member of the Veterans Law Blog – this blog has over 1000 posts, and hours of training videos, loaded with knowledge, tips and pointers on how to improve your own VA Claim or appeal, and walk you through a process to improve your VA claim and get it out of the VA Hamster Wheel for good!

 

10 Comments

  1. Isaac Gearring

    Thank you Mr. Attig for all of your advice and help. It was your kindness and concern for veterans that I now have my C-file that you obtained for me at no cost. In reviewing my C-file I have found info in it that belongs to another veteran. How to I have this information corrected before my appeal gets to the BVA? Thank you very much!

    Reply
    • Chris Attig

      Isaac,

      This is a tough situation to be in.

      I would make a list of all the documents, dates, titles and page counts and submit that summary, with all of the pages attached as a single page-numberd exhibit to the BVA directly (if your appeal is certified) and to the EIC. Explain in the letter that these are not your records.

      Then, I would go through every adverse decision against me and see if the “evidence lists” in those documents used the wrong veteran’s records. If so, document this in another letter to the BVA and EIC.

      Then, if you can, send a copy to the Veteran whose information is in there. In some cases, you might have a clue as to his or her representative, etc. If you cannot find them, it may be best to have them delivered to the US Attorney’s office – through a private attorney – to let them know that the VA violated this other veteran’s privacy rights.

      Last, I would look through your c-file and see what records of yours are missing, and go back and ask the VA to search until they find them, and send the letter to the BVA and the EIC (the VA will do neither, but the point is document that the VA’s negligence is what led to your denial, and that your testimony as to the contents of the records that are missing should have greater weight).

      If the BVA denies your claim and those records are still in the file, my law firm would be very interested in reviewing the possibility of a Court appeal here – there are several potential criminal, statutory and constitutional law violations that may be at issue here, and I can’t promise my law firm would take the case, but one of our attorneys is looking at issues like this. (attigsteel.com is the website, choose the link to upload your BVA decision).

      Hope that helps. Fill out a support ticket and we can talk privately about this if you prefer.

      Chris

      Reply
  2. Ron Fielder

    I recieved my c-file from the VOC after I talked with him about what you tell Veterans. Thanks for the help an the great advice. If not for your help I would still be trying to get a copy of my c-file.

    Reply
    • Chris Attig

      Ron, I’m so glad it helped!

      Chris

      Reply
  3. Mardina Hinkle

    I have a question……in order to receive Aid and attendance benefits, does the disability have to be service-connected?

    Also is the C-file you discuss the records from your military service or your actual claims file?

    Reply
    • Chris Attig

      Mardina,

      Thanks for posting!

      The second question is easier than the first – the C-File I refer to on this site is the whole claims file (including SOME of your military service records) that the VA keeps on you.

      In regards to the second, there are several “types” of “Aid and Attendance” Benefits. If you are talking about Special Monthly Compensation (Aid & Attendance) then yes, the need for help with major daily life activities – toileting, showering, eating, getting dressed, navigating your daily environment – must be related to your service connected conditions.

      Was this the type of A&A you were talking about?

      Chris

      Reply
  4. Ron Fielder

    I was told by a Veterans Outreach Coordinator who works for a Congressman in Arizona that there was no time frame for the VA to release a copy of the Veterans c-file. He told me that the information came from a Lawyer who worked for the VA.

    Reply
    • Chris Attig

      That may be true….depending on HOW you request the C-File.

      On the Veterans Law Blog, I recommend using a process to get your C-File that requires the VA to produce the file in 20 business days…and if they don’t, my method has real TEETH to bite the VA for failing to do this. Read more here.

      Most other folks recommend submitting a C-File request using some other format and in those cases, the VOC is correct. The VA has no obligation to respond to a C-File request using any other form than the one I teach here.

      Chris

      Reply
  5. dennis l. cort

    I have filed a foia to va…. it has been over 30 plus days no answer…. the claims phone line at 1000. says it shows it has received it. how do I force the required time line myself?????
    I also so have rep for vets as my helper???? at times they have and are as bad as va… what do you think of rep for vets…at tampa florida…
    thank you dennis cort navy

    Reply
  6. David L Barnes

    Thank you for the information. At least I feel somewhat impowered when dealing with the VA now as I know when it comes to money, the VA is going to do what it can to protect theirs, like making a Veteran PROVE something that is obviously service connected. I have been in a battle for 4+ years over the back dating of my PTSD claim to the date of my retirement, BUT VA is only back dating to the date I filed the claim. I was denied by a Army physician to be evaluated for PTSD while on active duty, so like any good Soldier, I accpeted same and continued the mission. At what expense did I am my family/friends continue to pay for my condition; however in my opinon, VA doesn’t want to do the right thing because of the amount of money involved. Hmmm, that is taking care of a Veteran?

    Reply

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