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Monday, December 30, 2013

The Rug Is Pulled Out From Under Us (Again)

Today we were up and out at 6:15 am (why is it so dark out at that time) and headed for what we thought was going to be some definite progress towards getting my disability claim with the Veterans Administration finally wrapped up.

Alas, it was not to be.  You’d think that I’d be used to this, but I guess we had our hopes up too high.

My ongoing struggle with the VA Regional Office in Columbia, SC has now entered the 29th month with no resolution.  I need two MRIs to complete all my examinations and then the paperwork would be sent on for review and a final determination.

On the advice of a VA patient representative, the fastest way to get the MRIs done was to make an appointment with my primary care physician and have her schedule the MRIs.  The plan was then to take the results to the VA administrative side that handles the disability claims and have it put in my file to be forwarded on for the final review.

I have to stop here to define the two sides of the VA.  The medical side where I’ve been able to get treatment has been nothing short of outstanding.  The doctors and nurses are some of the best I’ve ever had in my life.  They are a real credit to the VA health care system.

On the administrative side, the VA representatives that handle and process disability claims are nothing short of abominable.  After over a dozen in person visits with them as well as a number of phone calls and paperwork submissions, I’ve found that all these people do is tell you what they can’t do for you and offer no help whatsoever. 

Now back to today, my doctor cannot get involved in any disability claims and is not allowed to schedule the MRIs like the patient rep said.  Instead she is going to schedule me for therapy on my knees to see if that will help with the issues.  Now we’re going to have to remain in the South Carolina area for an undetermined amount of time while that goes on. 

I was able to get signed in to an online VA website today so I can track what is going on with my claim.  After wandering around, I got some answers, none of which I was very happy with.

According to the website, my claim is still in the “Gathering Evidence” phase.  There is a completion date assigned to it.  It will have to be completed between 5 May 2014 and 30 November 2014

And the big kicker?  My package and all the involved paperwork for my claim has been transferred to the VA Regional Office in Atlanta, Georgia!  That office is now handling all the backlogged claims over a year old from the Columbia, SC VA Regional Office.

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If I need to fill out any additional administrative paperwork or meet with a VA rep, I’ll now have to drive 3-4 hours to get there.  Thankfully, at least, the therapy sessions will still be at the VA Hospital in Columbia, SC, about 1 1/2 hours from where we’re staying with our workamping job at the COE.

This puts us in another “lock down” mode, limiting our travels for the next year.  We still are planning to go to Missouri (April) and New Jersey (August) for the births of our two new grandkids, but plans for heading out West will be put on a “wait and see” list.  We’ll probably be confined to the East Coast for the duration until this sorts out.

On one hand, I feel like chucking the whole thing and just forgetting about it.

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On the other hand, I’m a fighter and don’t give up easily.  I can see why so many veterans give up with the VA, or choose not to get involved with them in the first place. 

So we’re pretty bummed, feeling like the rug has been pulled out from under us again.  But we got a little something today that brightened us up.  A picture of our granddaughter Anabelle up in New Jersey helping her daddy make our family’s favorite cookie bar recipe.

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That helped us keep our focus on the really important things in life.

Thanks for visiting and feel free to leave a comment.

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19 comments:

  1. Now that girl knows how to get into cookie bar making!

    So sorry for your continued struggles with the VA. How frustrating for you both.

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  2. The photo of your granddaughter Annabelle would cheer anyone up especially loving grandparents like you and Marti.

    It's sad that you have to go through all these hoops and delays simply to get a claim reviewed and processed. The next time I see a bumper sticker with a sign saying "Support Our Troops" I think I'll pull up along side and tell they to call the VA and demand better treatment for veterans if they really want to support the troops!

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  3. Oh Paul, I am so sorry. I would be so furious!! Is it time to contact the higherups and raise h..., a stink? Wonderful that you have your family to bring joy to your life.

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  4. Oh no -- we were hoping things were finally on the upswing. Instead, this sounds worse than it was before! Soooo incredibly frustrating!!

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  5. One word: Shameful! Veterans certainly deserve better.

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  6. This is disgraceful. Is there anything that your senator could do for you? I mean really. The IRS was terrible but the VA is so much worse. I'm so sorry it's turning out this way. We are thinking about heading east next fall so we may track you down. Plans in chalk of course. Love that picture - definitely put a smile on your face.

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  7. I'm so sorry to hear of the additional delays. I'm sure you are both extremely frustrated. I hope the resolution will be closer to the May date than the November one.

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  8. So frustrating what a way to treat the countries veterans. Hope you can soon get things done and carry on with your life.

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  9. Shameful. I suspect these delays are quite intentional. Lesser men would have given up and gone away by now :( I hope your persistence pays off BIG!

    Happy New Year to you both!

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  10. Paul are you represented by a National Service Org. i.e. Am Legion, VFW, DAV? They are the key to getting the VARO off the snide and working on the claim. Yes the VARO must order the MRI's at the Medical Centers. I know this because I work as a County Veterans Service Rep. Oh and the representation is free, never pay for VA reps.
    Unfortunately this is normal VA bullhockey and a call for the Senators and Congressmen only means it will take longer. Because if they pull your file out of order it then goes to the bottom of the piles!!
    NEVER - GIVE UP! Only then the govn't wins.

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    1. Thanks, Norm for the tips. I am represented by the American Legion and all the local rep has done is look at my file on his computer and told me my claim is "Pending". A call to the Am Legion State Office I was told they could not do anything to help me.

      I am aware that Congressional help only causes further delays and I have avoided that.

      Thank you for your kind words of encouragement, I really appreciate it.

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  11. I am with Gail. I suspect these delays are quite intentional and I would certainly contact my congressional representatives. It is shameful and ridiculous. Hang in there.

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  12. I see Anabelle is a really big help in the mixing process. She even has boots on in case things start overflowing.

    Sorry things are still not straightening out with the VA. I can only imagine how frustrated you must be.

    Happy New Year to you both.

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  13. We are so sorry to hear that the process is not moving forward as you had hoped. It is obvious that the system is broke and it might require intervention from higher ups. Perhaps you were meant to squeak that wheel...so you and others will not continue to get the run around. Just know that a huge gang out here in Blogville are sure pulling for you!!!

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  14. As slow as they are moving, time should be going backwards.

    Sorry you are going through such frustration.

    Now that is one great cookie helper.

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  15. Also wanted to chime in on your frustrating delays with the VA. The good thing is you seem to make the best of any situation life throws at you. Your sense of humor will get you through this trying time.

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  16. Regretfully, I am not the least surprised at this outcome. I have seen it happen too many times in the past. Frankly, when I was urged to complete the VA process when I retired, I decided to pass that up and stick with the retired medical scheme. I have not looked back and nothing I have seen or heard since has given me any pause for regret. Life is just too short to be jerked around when there are perfectly acceptable other options.

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  17. It was disheartening to know that you had a tough time with filing your disability benefits. But it’s good that despite of the difficulty you’ve experienced, you never give up and keep on fighting. Keep it up! Everything has its proper time. I just hope for your claim gets approve soon.

    Victoria Pierce @ Fight4Vets

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