I have been representing veterans in VA compensation claims since I graduated from law school. I have heard the phrase “Deny, deny, until you die” more times than I can count. As a lawyer, I try not to be cynical about the VA even though the massive delays and unaccountability are baffling and their excuses never make sense. I encourage my clients to remain positive and I strive to assure them that no one is waiting for them to die. But now, at least for Oakland and San Francisco veterans, it’s no longer just cynicism; the Oakland RO was intentionally ignoring claims in which the veteran was likely to die during the claims process.
Over 13,000 Claims Hid in Filing Cabinet at Oakland VA Regional Office
In a recent article in the Washington Post, a whistleblower from the Oakland VA Regional Office testified that claims from aging and terminally ill veterans were ignored, and that many did, in fact, die before the RO worked on their claims. Read the Washington Post article here. In another article, the San Francisco Chronicle reported that the Oakland RO whistleblower discovered a cabinet stuffed with over 13,000 ignored compensation and pension claims, some dating back as far back as the early 1990’s. See the Chronicle article here.
San Francisco and Oakland Veterans Feel Alone in Fight Against VA
At the same time the above articles came out (April 2015) I was in San Francisco attending a National Organization of Veterans’ Advocates (NOVA) conference and conducting a workshop for disabled veterans at the new Veterans Resource Center located in the Bridge at Main (San Francisco Main Public Library). Every veteran who attended the workshop complained that it took years to get a decision from the Oakland Regional Office and that once they did get a decision it was extremely difficult to get help filing a Notice of Disagreement or VA Form 9. The veterans also complained that the Oakland and San Francisco veterans service representatives ignored their calls and requests for appointments went unanswered; when they did talk to their representatives, they were informed that there was nothing to do but wait.
If you have a claim at the Oakland Regional Office you need an advocate to work your case, especially if your claim is for unemployability (“TDIU” or “IU”) because without representation unemployability claims are often denied. The only way to win your claim is to review your claims file and then go get the evidence that you need to win your claim. If you lose your claim you will be forced to wait at least three more years—probably more—to get your case to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals. Mental-health claims, including Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Military Sexual trauma, both require extensive evidence and often require a personal hearing before a Decision Review Officer or Veterans Law Judge.
Free Evaluations for San Francisco and Oakland Veterans
At Attorney Sean Kendall’s office we represent veterans all over California. We will stay on top of your case and use our extensive contacts to keep your case moving forward, even if that means filing a writ against the Oakland RO and obtaining a Court order forcing it to work on your claim. We offer free case evaluations and strongly encourage all San Francisco and Oakland area veterans to call or email us any time for a free case analysis.