The Veterans Law Blog teaches Veterans what I believe are the 8 Steps to Improve their VA Claim.
After getting screwed by the VA in my own claim, I spent YEARS learning the VA Claims Process, and have synthesized my knowledge into 8 Steps that any Veteran can follow to Improve their own VA Claim.
None of the 8 Steps are “easy” – there is no “magic fix” to instantly get everything working in your VA Claim.
But the first step is often the hardest: See the Solution.
Start finding your way out of the fog.
I hope that more and more Veterans realize that the VA, Congress and VSOs are not the solution – they are all part of the problem.
But this post isn’t about what you can do to IMPROVE your claim – I want to show you 4 things that cause a lot of Veterans to lose their VA Claims and Appeals.
I didn’t just pull this out of thin air – in the tens of thousands of C-Files I have reviewed over the past 8 years writing this blog and representing my fellow disabled Vets, I’d wager that 85% of the Veterans that lose have done – or failed to do – at least 1 of these 4 things.
4 Things you can do that will cause you to LOSE your VA Disability Claim.
In a nutshell, I offer Veterans a path out of the VA Hamster Wheel. Do you know where that Path starts? Do you know the person that has the Solution?
In a word – it’s YOU.
Only you can make sure that your VA claim is moved out of the backlog.
Only YOU have the power to affect the outcome of your claim.
Only YOU have the power to Change the Way You Experience the VA Claims Process.
Here are 4 ways you can misuse that power, and LOSE your VA Claim.
1) Waste your time on the “Shoulds”.
I once heard an awesome saying: If ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’ were ‘candies’ and ‘nuts’, oh what a party we would have.
Trite, yes. True, yes.
The VBA is really talented at messing crap up – they could screw up the empty void of deep space.
They are going to make mistakes – big, life-changing mistakes – in your VA Claim or Appeal. I believe, sometimes, that they are just “in the way” of reintegration into civilian life.
They are going to delay until you die. They are going to screw over your surviving spouse.
Should they? No, absolutely not.
We SHOULD expect a modicum of competence from the nation’s largest bureaucracy.
WeSHOULD expect government managers to be in it for the right reasons, not for the money.
WeSHOULD expect that the VA Claims Process respects our service and our sacrifice.
And we should expect that our own Veterans Services Officers at the VFW won’t sell us out – like Mr. R. Epps did in this Veteran’s claim.
But every minute we waste thinking about what the process SHOULD be, we are wasting time and energy that could be better spent focusing on what IS, what IS NOT, and how to bridge the gap between the 2.
Get the gripes and complaints out of your system, and focus on Improving your VA Claim – from the ground up, if need be.
Believe me – you HAVE the Power! But you are going to have to put in the WORK.
2) Verbally Berate VA employees.
I used to bash the VA every chance I got.
Until one day – I remember it like it was yesterday – a Vietnam Veteran (and a client) told me how the VHA saved his life – twice.
He told me that if I wanted to keep bashing the VA, that was my prerogative, but he thought the VHA had done right by him, and would not be my client if was going to malign the people that saved his life.
That opened up my eyes.
I spend a lot of time getting to know the VA. There are good people in the VA that are really trying to do the right thing.
And I really think that the VA Secretary – Bob McDonald – is trying to make a “culture change” at the VA.
Your job – your only job when communicating with the VA – is to find the ONE VA Employee that has the desire and the power to do the right thing in your VA Claim or Appeal.
If you spew venom and hatred at VA employees (even the ones that deserve it), you will never find that one employee that wants to – and that can – help you.
This doesn’t mean to go “all soft”. I ain’t out there “swapping spit in the shower” with the VA, and I don’t hesitate to call them on their BS.
Like my “Brother in Arms” and “True Veterans Warrior” Ron Nesler says (www.VAisLying.com), it is essential to call out (his phrase) the “scum-sucking parasites at the VA”.
(I LOVE Ron Nesler – he is a TRUE Veterans’ Warrior. After I learned what the VA did to him and his daughter, born with a disability due to his exposure to Agent Orange, I realized that through sheer perseverance, grit, and solidarity with other Veterans, you can get through ANYTHING that the VA throws at you).
The time and place for “VA-bashing” is not when you are trying to get the VA to fix your claim. When in doubt, use the century-old principles that Dale Carnegie teaches in his classic book.
Trust me – Dale Carnegie’s principles work!
3) Turn your back on other Veterans.
I won one case for a Veteran because I knew a Veteran that had information about flights from Thailand that passed through Tan San Nhut airport in Saigon. The Veteran that gave me this information is not someone that I would have a beer with socially.
He and I have different backgrounds, different experiences, and have very different ideas about how the world should work.
But I believe Veterans should set aside those differences to help each other in their VA Claims – leave the politics out of our battle against the VA.
That Veteran that you bashed on Facebook because you didn’t like his or her position on VSOs, or gun-control, or abortion?
They may have been able to connect you to the evidence that could win your VA Claim or Appeal.
Given that, how important is the fight over political issues?
I’m not saying you have to “swap spit in the shower” with every Veteran, or compromise your values or beliefs.
Just consider this: what makes soldiers – and Veterans – different from civilians, is that we are part of a family. A Team that – despite our very significant differences – puts the team ahead of the individual.
Connect yourself with other Veterans.
Keep the politics and religion out of it, and get down to brass tacks to find out how they are winning – or not winning – their claims.
4) Don’t get a copy of your C-File.
Leslie Nielsen once did a skit about the 3 Rules of Golf:
Rule #1: Keep your head down.
Rule #2: Keep your stupid head down.
Rule #3: Keep your damn stupid head down.
Similarly, I have the 3 Rules of improving your VA Claim:
Rule #1: Get your C-File!
Rule #2: Get your damn C-File!
Rule #3: Get your damn C-File NOW!
This is the MOST IMPORTANT document in your VA C-File.
Every rater looks at your file.
When the DRO holds your hearing on your Notice of Disagreement, they will study your C-File.
When the C&P Doctor conducts your compensation and pension exam, they will review (allegedly) your C-File.
When the BVA Holds a hearing, the Judge will make his/her decision based on what is in your C-File – and sometimes what has been misfiled in your C-File.
When you get to the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims (CAVC), the VA attorney’s first step will be to file your C-File with the Court (calling it the “Record Before the Agency”, or the RBA).
With everyone else inside the VA tearing your C-File apart trying to find a way to deny your claim, doesn’t it make sense that you should know what is in your C-File?
Oh, and when you get it, here’s some tips and techniques for how to organize it, or how to store it digitally so you can ditch the “paper-weight”.
Don’t wait – you don’t want to miss your opportunity to improve your VA claim by not having a copy of your C-File when the DRO Hearing – or the BVA hearing – is finally scheduled.
How to Get Started Taking Back the Power.
Check out the Veterans Law Field Manuals: you can purchase the Field Manuals individually, or as part of a training package….or, if you are so inclined, save a TON and click here to buy everything I’ve ever published (and get a BIG discount on a Premium Annual Subscription to the blog)
Here’s how one Veteran described our Veterans Law Field Manuals and Training Videos:
“If you are new to the VA process and do not understand how it works (or doesn’t), this is a good investment to help get your “Boots on the Ground”.
I have spent a lot of time over the last 3 years researching the VBA Decision site – this would have saved me some time.”
How does one request a copy of the cfile? Is there a specific form or do you simply write a letter and request this file? To whom should the request be directed? I see a lot of references to the cfile on your blog, but I have yet to see any instructions on how to acquire said file.
Thanks for your comment!
I have a video training course where I not only teach Veterans and Survivors a method for getting their Claims file, but also show them how to USE it to improve a claim or appeal. Here’s a link to the video training course …. it’s over 3 hours long, and loaded with information. Link: How to Get and Use Your VA C-File.
What does FOIA stand for?
Brad – FOIA Stands for the Freedom Of Information Act
The acronym is pronounced FOY-uh. I have a post on acronyms coming soon so stay tuned!
Your absolutely right about not trashing the VA when getting care.
I make it a point to compliment the desk girls and the nurses and everyone else in my clinic when I go.
I tell them “my favorite joke” if its being done right, its not being done by the government; I tell them I know the problem is much higher up.
The ladies are actually upset at how laid back and cheerful I am, and fight the system for me, thinking Im “too nice” to stand up for myself.
As Sun Tsu said – The best victory is letting your enemy destroy himself for you.
Well said, Dave, well said. Particularly the Sun Tzu quote.
have been getting the run around about my cfile location..so far i have sent requests to st louis and des moines regional VA office. st louis says des moines has it but have had no reply. i sent for the file 6 months ago and now i have sent for it again. what do i do?
Don…did you contact the VA Office of General Counsel to file a FOIA Appeal if they did not produce your C-File by FOIA? You might also consider emailing General Hickey (VBA Undersecretary) or Bob McDonald directly….they shouldn’t be making this so hard on you.
Here’s where to get Bob and the General’s email addresses: Click here