Copyright by Wendi Goodman THE One Weary Soldier. Powered by Blogger.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Spay Day 2011 Online Pet Photo Contest -- A little self promotion

Hello Friends,

I hope you'll take a little time out from your busy day to click on the above link to vote for my Service Dog, Rocco.  I've entered him in the Humane Society's Spay Day 2011 Online Pet Photo Contest.  He's a great dog and deserves proper recognition.  I should warn you in advance, it's also a fundraiser for the local SPCA.  I know among us Veterans money is tight.  If you can spare just one single dollar, even that will be appreciated.  Thank you so much.

Wendi & Rocco with Emily & Bella during a training session in Naples, Florida.
As you know, Rocco and I have been together since the end of June 2010.  We've been working very hard with the help of Service Dogs of Florida, Inc., Ken LyonsEmily Gittes, and my very patient wife, Terri, to get Rocco trained and "certified".  I'm happy to report to you that as of  January 29, 2011, Rocco passed all the required tests needed to become a "certified service dog".

Now the real fun starts.  Just because he's completed all the required tasks for certification doesn't mean his training stops.  Far from it, my friends.  This is just the beginning.  From this point forward, we will continue to fine tune his obedience skills and we/I will be teaching him more and more tasks which will help him to mitigate my disabilities.  His certification is provisional and is good for one year.  In January 2012, SDFL will retest and recertify him.  After that, I believe, he is good until the year 2015.  Is the retest mandatory?  No.  However, if I want SDFL to stand behind me in a Court of Law should I need it, I'll put Rocco through retesting and recertification.  It's part of the program, Rocco will pass it with flying colors, and I have nothing to lose by doing it, so why not?  It keeps us both sharp.  

Rocco & I taking a much needed and well deserved break at Starbucks.
If you're wondering about Rocco's appeal for VHA benefits, things are at a standstill right now.  To refresh your memories, I received a letter from the VHA on 4 January 2011 telling me that VACO had denied benefits for Rocco.  Later that week I went to James A Haley VA Medical Center in Tampa and requested a copy of my medical records.  Naturally, I'm still waiting for them.  There is a 20 working day wait when you ask for them to be mailed.  I asked for 6 months of records and that's a lot of copying.  I SHOULD be getting my records very soon.  I had to request a copy of my records to see what evidence was considered.  You see, the entire packet was submitted internally and that includes "evidence".  I have no clue what "evidence" they considered and of course, no one can tell me that.  I'm hoping that answer will be in my medical records.  

Here is the problem, my friends.  When you are denied benefits at the VARO level, at least they are detailed WHY you have been denied.  They give you that much even when they are slapping you in the face.  Not so with the Tampa VA Hospital.  They sent me a very vague letter telling me I'd been denied and enclosed the standard  VA Form 4107, telling me I have one year to appeal.  How do you appeal when you don't know why you've been denied or what evidence was considered?  None of the evidence considered was listed on my denial letter like it is when you receive a denial of benefits from the VARO.

Just for kicks and grins, my friends, I filled out one of those fill in the blanks CAPWIZ letters and complained about this to my Congressman, Rich Nugent, who represents Citrus, Hernando, Lake, Levy, Marion, Pasco, Polk and Sumter Counties here in Florida.  I figured since it was a complaint against the VA Hospital and not the VARO it wouldn't interfere with my pending claims.  About two weeks ago I received a letter from the Congressman's Office.  Basically, he acknowledged my complaint, said he'd be happy to look into my problem with the DVA on my behalf and asked that I fill in "the enclosed Privacy Authorization Form" and return it to his Brooksville District Office.  He asked that I include "any relevant documentation to help support {my} case".  As I'm still waiting to get that "relevant documentation" from my medical records, I haven't sent the form back to Congressman Nugent yet. 

Last Wednesday, I received a call from "Kyle" (no last name), and he stated he was from Congressman Nugent's D.C. Office.  He said that Congressman Nugent was personally interested in my case and wanted to do everything he could to help get benefits for my service dog.  He instructed me to contact the Brooksville, FL, Office and gave me the phone number to call.  He said to mention his name and they would know what to do.

I have very little faith in the Congressional route. Unless you are the son or daughter of one or you're someone with a large pocketbook and contribute a lot of money to a campaign, they are of very little use to anyone like me ... just a regular ole Veteran, trying to get the benefits I need.  BUT ... I was willing to give it the old college try.  Like I said a couple of paragraphs up ... just for kicks and grins.  I'm doing that a lot these days.

I called Congressman Nugent's local office as instructed and spoke with the first woman who answered the phone.  She was as far as I got.  How much help did I get?  NONE.  She told me to go see the County VSO and he would help me prepare an appeal.  I don't need to see a VSO to help me prepare an appeal.  I know how to prepare one.  I need the Congressman to look into WHY I was denied.  That's what I told this woman.  She told me, "We don't do that sort of thing.  There's nothing we can do to help you."  I asked her, "Why did Kyle from D.C. tell me to call you?"  She stated, "Because he doesn't know what we do here.  We've already reviewed your case and we can't help you."  By that time I was pissed.  All of you with PTSD know how quickly anger can boil up and sneak up on you.  I did my best to remember that I was on the phone with an elected officials office.  I said to her, "So what the hell was the point of calling and asking for help?  So much for calling my Congressman."  She hung up on me.  I have to wonder.  Had they researched my voting record?  Did they know I hadn't voted for Congressman Nugent?

It's all good, my friends.  Like Jim Strickland says, no one cares as much about your claim as you do, so do it yourself.  It's back to the old fashioned way ... which I was doing anyway.  :-)  Kicks and grins, my friends.  Kicks and grins.

While you wait for the next chapter in this saga, please scroll to the top of this blog and vote for Rocco.  He was the inspiration for today's blog in the first place.

Until the next time ........

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