A Day At The Local VA: O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay! Part 1 of 3


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The day's-recital you are about to read is fictional. Any resemblance to actual people, places, or events is purely coincidental. Really, I'm making all this up - I mean, it - so if this happens to ring a bell or two with you - Xin Loi.

Morning - Early Morning: The good, at least to begin with

Not being able to get out of my house without help (it's a wheelchair thing coupled with certain VA house-modifications that are really .l.o.n.g. in coming - a story for another day) and considering my household's schedule (my wife works as does the three of our four who happen to be back with us right now - another story for another day if I should decide to "treat" you to a veteran-family tale), when I go to the VA I have the ambulette-service (it's that wheelchair thing again this time coupled with a catastrophic-disability VA rating) pick me up at 5:30 a.m. regardless of the time of my appointment(s).

As a Veterans Services Officer ("VSO"), getting to the VA at 6:15 a.m. isn't all that bad. After perusing various bulletin-boards, book racks, and other repositories of VA current-events information, I join a group of one of the top-five Veteran Service Organization's fellow VSOs to find out how the VA has managed to recently, well, for this writing let us call it "uniquely interpret" one of their own directives.

As an aside and to put things in perspective, even when I am at the VA for days in a row, there is never a lack of "newly, uniquely interpreted" VA actions with which any group of VSOs can "wax poetic." And boy, do we. With our recitations usually beginning along lines, "Folks, you really ain't gonna believe this one!" Back to my visit.

Morning: Not so early and past the good part

Today's discussion centered around the VA's refusal to admit a WWII Veteran into the VA system because the veteran's "income" exceeded the income limit. Yes I know, you thought that all pre-1980 Veterans we promised life-time (although not necessarily free) medical benefits. We were. And yet since January 2003, if your income exceeds a certain limit... (this is certainly another story for another day).

The form used to provide the VA certain basic income information is to be based on the "Previous Calendar Year Gross Annual Income of Veteran, Spouse and Dependent Children." Makes sense. Or rather, usually makes sense.

You see, this 80+ year old veteran, who after retiring 20 years ago, immediately went back to work and had worked his 40-hour weeks up until last month when the company he was working for down-sized, was told he made too much money to be allowed in the system. This because the VA said he "had to" use his last year's income to fill out their form even though he was no longer employed. And why did he have to use his last year's income - because the form said....

You know the old saw about not wanting to sit in the first few rows of a Shakespearean play - just let's say you wouldn't have wanted to be standing close to us, VSOs, when we first heard of this one.

The VA "Mean Test" is meant to measure one's

CURRENT ability

to pay for your share of the medical benefits you receive at the VA. Usually, using your previous year's income data will do just that - usually.

VA directives even allow for the situation that one's income might drop suddenly. In which case you are permitted to file a revised form, so as to "immediately" have your

CURRENT ability

to pay, properly reflected in its records.

Yet, here was this local VA office insisting that this Veteran who had never used the VA medical facilities before and who only wanted to get into the VA system now as a back-up to his existing retirement health plan, that this Veteran must use last year's data regardless of his current situation and regardless of the usual definition of

current ability

. I really dislike unique interpretations.

Can you say arrrgh?

By The Way

For those not having spent any time in downtown Vietnam, xin loi roughly translates into sorry about that. And for those not up on their Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, the title of this article includes a quote from Lewis Carroll's (Dodgson's pen-name) Jabberwocky (from Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There, 1872). A poem generally considered being one of the greatest nonsense poems written in the English language - I thought it fitting.

Post Script

[a few days later]

It seems that the entire on-duty VA clerical crew "forgot" to tell the Veteran that having filled out the initial form as per the form's instructions (with out-dated information) there was another form he could have immediately filled out (using his current information) and simultaneously filed with the original form that would have immediately started a process to get him into the VA system.

A certain VSO or two have contacted the Veteran, helped him fill-out and file the other form, and the Veteran is now in the VA system!

All mimsy were the borogoves, and the mome raths outgrabe.

--- Regards, Walt Schmidt