Friday, April 12, 2013

A Small But Welcome Improvement

The Department of Veterans Affairs has a long way to go before its performance in handling claims and appeals but I can point to one positive change.  As a veterans advocate, I am authorized to inquire on the status of clients' claims.  That means I can call the 1-800-827-1000 hotline which ultimately takes me to a VA clerk who tells me where a claim is in the process and the average time to process a claim.  Sometimes I learn that VA is still waiting for information but otherwise I can't do much with the information I get from the hotline but at least I can verify that the claim is still active in the system.

When I first started representing veterans, I'd call the 800 number and sit on hold for maybe 30 minutes before reaching that clerk.  The hold music was particularly enervating.  Then VA offered the opportunity for a scheduled time for a representative to call me but the times available were always days later and during work hours when I'm not available.  These days I call and end up in a queue for a call back in turn.

Not a big deal in the scheme of VA's responsibilities but it's made tracking claims more tolerable.  I can listen to my own music and do other things while I wait.

instant update:

Halfway through that last sentence VA called back and I inquired about two pending claims and two pending appeals.  One claim is just sitting in the queue for decision--has been since we submitted a pile of evidence in November--but the second has been decided in favor of the veteran whose rating was increased from 90 to 100 percent, retroactive to October 2010.  I haven't been notified because VA has always had the incorrect PO box number on the claim.

Of the two appeals, which can be infinitely long, one has moved to a review officer's desk after sitting in the queue for two years.  That's no guarantee of a speedy or favorable decision but it's the first actual sign of progress since I filed the appeal in March 2011.

Bottom line is I obtained some useful information and didn't have to sit on hold.  A small, welcome change.


Tuesday, April 09, 2013

A Vietnam Archive

Came across the story of Charlie Haughey, a Vietnam infantryman photographer who took many, many photographs of his unit in 1968-69 and is just now printing from scanned images of negatives never printed.  A show of Haughey's work opened in Portland this past Friday.

His photos show Vietnam as I remember it.  A bit different in some details from my own experience but close enough.  Even more than simply bringing back memories, Haughey's images highlight much of the war's little known detail.
This guy looks barely old enough to be a soldier, much less one humping that big, heavy machine gun and looking at the world with those steely eyes. But the jungle was indeed that green.

 This photo is my favorite, a nice composition of chaos and strength--the strength of the Chinook hoisting that Huey and the chaos of all that chaff flying in the Chinook's rotor wash.   Nice composition and black and white exposure. 

Haughey's website has lots more.  It's worth checking out.  The story of the collaboration that brought these prints to light is worth reading as well.

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