Yes, I have had it. Working with the VA Regional Office (VARO) is bad enough, but the Disabled American Veterans (DAV) are just as bad. What follows in the laundry list of reasons I fired them.
Lets start off by saying something good about the DAV. As service organizations go, it is one of the best, perhaps even the best. It's national service officers are trained by the VA during a two year training period.
The DAV is one of the few organizations that has access to VA claims data. The DAV is automated and networked into part of the VA claims system.That is the good news.
The DAV seems to be too chummy with the VA. We recently met with a DAV National Service Officer (NSO) who listened to our complaints about the VA. We strongly hinted we were about to bolt to an attorney, but the NSO suggested attorneys wouldn't have any better luck with the claim. The second time we met him he repeated verbatim the same pabulum we got back from the VA after a congressional inquiry.
The NSO also suggested we were just two retired people who spend all day working on our claim. This was the wrong thing to say to clients, particularly when my spouse works and I am politically active. I spend more time on my FB page and blog than on my VA claim. Perhaps someday that NSO will see this article and get a clue!
The DAV's activities are, for the most part, invisible to the veteran. The DAV rarely advises veterans of actions it takes on their behalf. If you fax or mail a letter to the DAV, you might get a letter back acknowledging the receipt and filing, if you are are lucky. They will also advise you of any hearings with the Decision Review Officer (DRO) or Board of veteran Appeals (BVA). That 's about it.
On well known VA blogger describes service organizations as mail rooms.He makes a good point.
The NSO's abilities vary widely. There are NSOs and senior NSO's. The senior NSOs are excellent but most of the other NSO's have wide variations in ability. In the case of the St. Petersburg VARO, NSOs rarely last more than a year. In an 11 year period, my spouse estimates we have had a minimum of 30 NSOs. Every 90--120 days, the local DAV changes the NSO for a vet based on his or her Social Security number.
We recently found out that the St.Pete DAV has never been a training facility. This was a cover story for some sort of a management problem in this office for a long time. Of interest, the number two supervisor in the St. Pete DAV had been replaced in the last couple of months. A 17-year senior NSO also resigned.
Not only do the NSOs rarely correspond with vets, it is not common for them to return phone calls either. I can recall perhaps 4 times that the DAV returned a phone call in past 11 years. When my wife thought I was dieing in a hospital, she called 4 times and the St. Pete DAV never returned any of the calls.
In New York, a service officer must have legal training. This is not the case in Florida. The St. Pete DAV has abysmal knowledge of 38USC, BVA and USCAVC rulings.
The DAV has a tough job, my attorney explained, because they listen to sad stories all day long. They function much like social workers. It is a tough job with relatively low pay, about $48,000 per year.
After the major did a smack-down on the VARO during his last BVA hearing, one of the NSOs suggested at the time he apply for a job there because he was "knew more than anyone" in the DAV office.
Regardless, this would hardly be the kind of job a person with a technical background would want. You need a real people person as an NSO.
In Oct. 20l1 the major suggested the Veterans Benefit Administration (VBA) develop a checklist for veterans who were initiating claims. This was because the new claims process was so haphazard with the local DAV.
Not long after that the VA developed the Disability Benefits Questionnaires (DBQ) which the major thinks will help more vets develop successful claims. In many respect, the checklist idea was a workaround for vets who are assigned marginal NSOs.
Most of the NSOs appear to be former non-commissioned officers and some have an attitude toward officers. Others NSO's like to talk about their claims which wastes a vet's time.
The attorney is right. The NOS's are fundamentally social workers. Listening to the laments of vets who have been physically and mentally wounded wears you down over time. It's a tough job.
If fact, it's a job better for an attorney than a social worker. That's why the major fired the DAV.
An attorney will return phone calls and you can send them email. An attorney will provide an organized presentation to the DRO. BVA or USCAVC something the DAV will not do. An attorney will also suggest ways you can improve your claim, something that the service organizations rarely do.
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