It was fun being a baby boomer… until now

Published on March 13, 2012 by

Some of the artists of the 60’s are revising their hits with new lyrics to accommodate aging baby boomers.

They include:

Herman’s Hermits — Mrs.. Brown, You’ve Got a Lovely Walker .

Ringo Starr — I Get By With a Little Help From Depends.

The Bee Gees — How Can You Mend a Broken Hip.

Bobby Darin — Splish, Splash, I Was Havin’ a Flash.

Roberta Flack— The First Time Ever I Forgot Your Face.

Johnny Nash — I Can’t See Clearly Now.

Paul Simon— Fifty Ways to Lose Your Liver

The Commodores — Once, Twice, Three Times to the Bathroom.

Marvin Gaye — Heard It Through the Grape Nuts.

Procol Harem—A Whiter Shade of Hair.

Leo Sayer — You Make Me Feel Like Napping.

The Temptations — Papa’s Got a Kidney Stone.

Abba—Denture Queen.

Tony Orlando — Knock 3 Times On The Ceiling If You Hear Me Fall.

Helen Reddy — I Am Woman, Hear Me Snore.

Leslie Gore— It’s My Procedure, and I’ll Cry If I Want To.

And my favorite:

Willie Nelson — On the Commode Again

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Red Cross Telecare Program

Published on March 12, 2012 by

The Red Cross Telecare Program has volunteers call Seniors everyday of the year to check up on them. In case of an emergency, family members are notified; doctor, hospital, and ambulance service is contacted if needed. Through this program the red cross hopes to increase the self-sufficiency of the home bound elderly population. This is a great way for to help keep your loved ones safe and it is free.

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Should I stay at home?

Published on March 9, 2012 by

Families who are unable to sell their homes or who are not willing to leave the comfort of their homes as they age run into many issues. Am I living by myself? Is a neighbor willing or able to care for me? Are my children close enough to give me aid. If not, do I need to relocate to either live with them in their home or live close by. So many questions.

Lets break this down. Staying at home. Can I maneuver the stairs? Am I able to do yard work? Is the house too big and doesn’t serve it’s purpose anymore with the family grown and gone. Am I lonely? This leads to not eating well because you don’t want to cook anymore, so you eat what’s convenient which isn’t always good. Is it good to eat alone? Am I able to drive? If not, how do I get around to do shopping, hair appointments, doctors appointments etc. If I am driving, is it safe for me and those on the roads?

There are many options to being able to stay at home. Lets break this down. Is their family in the area that can assist with your needs? How about a neighbor, church etc.? You can usually rely on family to assist with your needs. What I hear from seniors is that they know their children are busy with their own life’s and don’t want to be a bother. Many times we run into family caregiver burnout which could lead to abuse. Make sure we are all in check when you know this could lead to abuse.

Other stay at home options for care are to hire a Home Personal Care Agency. The advantage to this is that they need to be licensed through the state, caregivers should have criminal background checks performed, liability insurance and bonded. Just in case something is stolen or an accident is caused everyone is covered. You will usually pay an hourly rate depending on where you live and how much care is involved. It could run anywhere from $15-$25 an hour. Some agencies will accept Medicaid which will cover your costs.

The VA also offers benefits for Veterans and their spouses such as caregivers coming in to offer personal services such as house keeping, laundry etc. They will also do yard work. The Area Agency on Aging which is usually county run also offers many services and a phone call to them is well worth the time and effort. They offer transportation, meals on wheels etc.

Another option is having a Home Health and Hospice company come in which is covered under Medicare. Their services are based around medical care, taking blood pressure or blood, medication administering, bathing assistance etc.

If you are paying out-of-pocket for any services and you are either a Veteran, a spouse or a surviving spouse to a Veteran, the Aid and Attendance pension is another option to pay for this.

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Who and what is Senior Care Associates?

Published on March 8, 2012 by

Working with the families of Veterans over the past 8 years has been a very rewarding experience at Senior Care Associates.  We have had thousands of opportunities to listen to the care needs associated with families who are not sure which direction or decision to make.  Whether it is questions related to staying in their home, moving in with a family member or a family member moving in with their loved ones, assisted living, long-term care needs, skilled nursing home, Medicaid and Medicare.  We try and direct families based on their geographical, financial and care needs.

Our staff has had many experiences working with seniors in this industry from Nursing Home Administrator, to Assisted Living, Home Health and Hospice and Home Personal Care we have the know how and the experience to direct families which direction they will need to go and the hard decisions that need to be made. We are fortunate enough to have a VA accredited attorney in our office.  All of our work is done and completed in our office by our staff here in Sandy UT.  We have worked together long enough and know each other very well and the roles we each play.  Our weekly staff meeting allows us to discuss our case load and where we are at with the families we are working with.  We are not limited to one meeting as if a situation arises we can go down the hall and discuss this with the appropriate person involved. We pay close attention to details as our priority is the families we are working with and making sure that their goals are met with perfection.

We have had the opportunity of working with families all across the United States, from Florida to Maine to Washington and CA and most states in between.  We have diversified our company and put essential tools in place to be very effective in working with families all over the USA.  The internet has made our world a smaller place in working with families.  Our tracking system is up to date as each time we converse with a family we are able to update and stay on top of each individual situation.  We have learned from our mistakes and through our growing pains have hired a staff that has been next to none in excellence and performance.  If we are not, let us know so we can always improve and be on top of our performance.

We deal with the government which at times can be a little frustrating.  I hate to generalize, as each VA office is a little bit different, some better staffed than others. We try and make sure all our ducks are in a row as we deal and communicate with our big brother.  We have been most successful by-passing our local VA and dealing directly with St. Paul.  The reasoning behind this is through experience dealing direct is better and not another avenue for documents to be misplaced, lost or delayed by our local VA.

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Long-term care needs

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By not planning for our futures today many of us are unknowingly leaving decisions about our futures to other, including long term care needs.  Six in ten of us have not determined how we’ll pay for our long care needs.

 40% of us don’t know that long-term care is more than nursing home care.  Taking control of long term care earlier in life enables us to live as well as possible how and where we want.  This could include daily assistance with chronic conditions that last a long time.  These services come from many sources.

 Only 23% of us know we’ll likely pay for future care needs with personal savings.  Medicare and private health insurance do not cover long-term services.

Women live longer than men thus are the biggest users of long-term care.  Women are typically so busy with their own lives and caring for others that they only address their own needs after everyone else’s.  Take some time and a few easy steps can provide peace of mind now and in the future.

  •  Know your family medical history.  This will help prevent against chronic conditions that may have existed in your family’s history.

  • As you age take a look at your home.  Do you have stairs to navigate?  Is your bedroom and bathroom on the main floor?  Take a look at your home and see if it suits your needs as you age.

  • What amenities does your community offer?  Do you have access to transportation, activities and services that are important to you?

  • Talk to your family about future financial and medical wishes to ensure they are aware of what you’d like.

  • Know your finances.  What options do you have now?  What care options would you want for the future?  Know what the costs are for long-term care needs, assisted living etc.

  • Know your options.  Go on line.  Google.  Call and ask questions of what is out there and what is available. Costs?

  • Plan for the future.  What are your lifestyle goals and needs?

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Assisted Living

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What is an assisted living community?  Many of our aging seniors think that assisted living is a nursing home.  Assisted living is far from a nursing home.  It allows for much more independence as possible.  Assisted living communities are that, a community within a building that provide some assistance with activities of daily living.  Assisted living is much more cost effective than privately paying for a nursing home.  They will offer a broader support of activities, dining, and entertainment; offer a social life other than that of nursing homes.

 There are many types and styles of Assisted Living communities from the largest of buildings to residential care homes.  Some assisted living communities housing as many as 300 residents to 6 residents.

There are different levels of assisted living.  Level I for those who are self ambulatory, able to get out of bed on their own and to the dining hall.  Level II for those who require assistance with getting out of bed, dressed, to the toilet and showering assistance.  Medication reminders and some incontinence care are also provided.  Usually not offered are a two person assists to get out of bed and extensive incontinence which means they may have to go to a nursing facility for additional care.

 When looking at assisted living communities there are certain things you need to be asking.  Is there a deposit required? Is the deposit refundable?  Are there move-in fees?  What does the base rent charge cover?  Is transportation covered to doctor’s appointments?  How often to they offer transportation?  Do they allow pets, smoking?  Do they charge for personal laundry?  What levels of care are offered and how much is each level of care?  Some communities have levels 1-5 or A, B and C or some offer ala carte where you can pick and choose what services you need and just pay for those.

When touring communities, go unannounced.  Look at the residents, are they happy and attended to?  Are the employees cheery and working hard?  What kind of smells?  Go at lunch time and have lunch on them and see how the food measures up.  Check the apartments for cleanliness.  Are they short staffed?  Can you bring in your own furniture?  Are family and friends allowed to visit?

Make sure and take into account the costs.  Are you able to afford this?  How long will my savings or monies hold out.  Many people are living longer and out living their monies.  If you are not able to pay the rent will I be evicted?  Some communities will accept Medicaid or state programs.  Ask your Area Agency on Aging what programs are available.

The national average of assisted living costs for a one bedroom apartment is about $2,900 which equals $35,000 a year.  You will need to also take into consideration that most assisted living communities will up their costs each year anywhere from 1-5%.

 Nursing homes are an option but are much more expensive when private paying; nearly double that of assisted living.

For Veteran’s and their spouses and surviving spouses there is the VA Aid and Attendance pension which will pay for ones care.  For a Veteran $1,703, a Veteran and his spouse $2,019 and a surviving spouse $1,094 and a Veterans wife who is in need of care at #1,258 a month tax free.  This will assist with the cost of assisted living if approved.

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A tribute to my father-in-law, Carl “Dennis” Rohlfing, WWII POW

Published on March 7, 2012 by

Before POW

My squadron received orders to ship out to destination “PLUM”.  We left Salt Lake City on October 21, 1941.  We arrived in Manila noon November 20 on Thanksgiving Day.  We were served sauerkraut and wieners for Thanksgiving dinner.  We left Manila November 29th for the island of Mindanao to set up an airbase.

On December 8th, 1941, instead of the 7th due to being on the other side of the International Date Line, we learned that Pearl Harbor had been attacked.

On May 6th word came that all the Philippine Islands had been surrendered to the Japanese.  We were taken as prisoners of war to a Philippino army camp in the middle of Mindanao.  We were moved from this camp October 17th and shipped to the Davao Penal colony.  Others were shipped down from Manila to help run the colony, these were the men who had survived the Bataan death march and were in very poor health. POW photo

May 1944 we received the first letters from home since leaving home and it was one and a half years old.  June 6, 1944 we were shipped to Japan. The trip took 3 months of deplorable conditions, which normally took 10 days.  Arrived at Moji,Japan, September 1, 1944 where we worked in the copper and acid factory.  For two weeks we drilled out on the cold beach with only a hat, shoes and underwear on.

On June 18th, 1945 we had the first bombing of our factory by the allied forces.  August 15, 1945 stopped work at the factory and on the 24th we were notified that the war was over.  It came just in time for me as I had a hard time getting any sleep for many nights due to the fleas, bed bugs and lice that were about to get the best of me.

On September 4, 1945 we marched out of camp waving flags some of the men had made, while U.S. and British planes buzzed overhead.   I arrived back in Salt Lake City, October 21, four years to the day after leaving.

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VFW VS the VA

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One of our clients who lived one hour south of Salt Lake City and not able to drive needed his DD-214 certified.  I told our client that I would run this up to the VA office and have them give their stamp of approval.  I went in with his DD-214 and was rudely told that they would NOT certify a copy…here is a form to fill out and mail in.  That was it!  I turned around and walked across the hall to the VFW.  I asked them if they would certify this gentleman’s DD-214.  He kindly took the document and told me to wait a minute.  He went to a back office and a couple of minutes later came back with it stamped and certified.  Wow!  What a difference!  He was able to get all his Aid and Attendance paper worked submitted and approved in a timely manner.  Thanks to the VFW!

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Why the VA frustrates Veterans

Published on February 23, 2012 by

60 Minutes, CBS January 30, 2010

Why the VA frustrates Veterans

There is a sacred tradition in the military: leave no one behind on the battlefield. But many veterans are beginning to believe their country has left them behind at home, once they’re out of uniform and in need of help. That help is supposed to come from the Department of Veterans Affairs and the financial compensation it gives to veterans.

It was Abraham Lincoln who said the purpose of the VA was to “care for him who shall have borne the battle.” But the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have pushed the VA further behind in that mission, and today there are a million veterans waiting for the VA to handle their disability claims.

That has led some to latch onto another motto making the rounds for how the VA operates: “Delay, Deny and Hope That I Die.”

“Why, then, is the claim form 23 pages long?” Pitts asked. “A 23-page application form I think is probably goes beyond just what is required. And one of the things that we’re looking at is to try to simplify the process,” Walcoff said.

Add to that the recession, which is forcing more veterans to turn to the VA for help.  “All of those things have resulted in the Veterans Benefits Administration facing a backlog of one million claims,” Sullivan told Pitts.

“Veterans wait on average about six months to receive an initial answer on a disability claim. If a veteran disagrees with VA’s decision, the veteran waits another four years. That is a crisis,” Sullivan said.

Robinson told Pitts he was proud to serve and work for the VA, but that he’s not proud of the work the VA is doing. “We can do better,” he said.

Problems in the VA’s benefits branch have been the subject of GAO reports and congressional hearings for years. Starting in 2007, the VA received sizable increases in its budget and began hiring thousands of new employees. Yet the backlog of claims keeps growing.

“We keep trying’ to fix it, but it keeps getting’ out of hand. We throw more money at the problem, more people, we still have the problem,” Robinson said.  “So, what is it then? If more people can’t fix the problem, more money can’t fix the problem, how do you fix it?” Pitts asked. “It’s a culture. It’s a leadership problem,” Robinson replied.

But last March, the VA’s inspector general discovered that the VA was making more mistakes than it reported: the internal investigation found that nearly one out of four files had errors. That’s 200,000 claims that “may be incorrect.”  Attorney Douglas Rosinski has been handling veterans’ cases for ten years.  He characterizes the VA’s disability benefit system as “broken.”

Claims are being denied unfairly, Rosinski says, because VA employees don’t have the time to read the files thoroughly. “When you get a denial, and it says, ‘We didn’t see,’ that’s right. I mean, they’re not lying, but if you don’t look, you don’t see. And even if you’re looking, it’s hard to find out what’s in there,” he told Pitts.

Michael Walcoff told Pitts there is no incentive to deny claims. “And there’s no pressure from anybody to deny a claim. And I can’t say it any simpler than that.”

David Pitts is an Air Force veteran and one of Rosinski’s clients; he served for 18 years.  “Is your country serving you now?” Byron Pitts asked. “It’s not my country that’s doing this, it’s the VA. You know, there is no prouder American than I am,” David Pitts replied.

 

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VA vs IRS

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This is a very good article I found and wanted to share.  Happy reading!

As the backlogged number of unprocessed VA claims is knocking on the door of 1 Million, one has to wonder is anybody really at home.  Is anyone really trying to find “the” solution of how to fix and bring this broken agency up to the standards our veterans and their families deserve?

I had high hopes for the new VA administration, but to date, have not been impressed.  Every day there is yet another story about a Regional Office that has been caught shredding and changing dates on applications, or boxes of unopened applications are being discovered.  There are not enough fingers to cover the holes in this dam.

If the IRS was having this issue with collecting taxes from “We the People”, I can promise you that this would have been resolved and systems put into place to make certain it would never happen again.  Of this you can be certain, the IRS would not stand by and have 1 million tax returns waiting to be processed.

So here is my take on all this and a couple of questions that I believe bear asking.

I think the VA needs to take a crash course in how the IRS does things.  These folks don’t lose tax returns they keep up with every dime you make.  You can file on-line, they know if you haven’t filed, and if you are owed a refund, you can expect it in 30-45 days.  If you owe money and don’t pay, you are assessed a penalty and will pay dearly for that.  Big incentive for making sure you allot the right amount of deductions. Most of us hope to never know what an audit notification looks like.

If your taxes are complicated or more than you want to deal with, you can make an appointment with the fine folks at H&R Block or your personal accountant and pay someone to prepare them for you.

Now here is where I take issue.  How is it that you can legally seek the expertise of someone who understands complicated tax laws, forms, and all the legitimate deductions and credits you are entitled to just to make certain that the IRS gets a full accounting of your finances and their piece of your pie, but veterans and their families legally are restricted from any assistance attached with a fee and are left to figure it out on their own.

Two government agencies, two different approaches, two different agendas.

It is legal to make sure you pay your taxes, but illegal to make certain your claim for benefits is correct and complete in order to “receive” your entitlements. Interesting that there should be such a stark contrast between the two and who actually benefits from this arrangement.

Decades ago the VA instituted a law that an attorney could not charge a veteran more than $10.00 for representing him.  This was done to “protect” the veteran from being taken advantage of by those who would be so inclined to do so.

So one might have to ask, who is truthfully exploiting and taking advantage of our veterans and their families? Considering some recent actions on the part of the VA, the answer to this question may not be what you’d expect.

The application for Improved Pension was originally a 4-page, simple straight forward application.  Due to the benefit being highlighted and the rise in the number of applications being submitted, the VA decided it was time to increase it to a 26-page application, and write it so that you probably won’t figure it out increasing the odds they won’t have to pay or at the very least delay having to pay.

While the benefit sat idle and unused, 4 pages seemed to make perfect sense.  Now that Baby Boomers are our largest demographic and the VA is being flooded with applications for Aid and Attendance, whose best interest is it in that the process should suddenly become so much more complicated?  The veteran is not who first comes to mind as to who stands to gain the most from this change. It seems a little suspect as to the true motivation for having done so.  Is the VA once again “protecting” the veteran?

If you don’t get it right the first time, you should not feel too badly about it as the national rate of applications being returned to the originating VA regional and local offices as being incomplete or missing documentation is 46%.

I wonder if these same employees who failed VA “Open Book” tests could find permanent employment with the IRS.  I suspect that performance standards are probably just a “little” higher. Millions of taxpayer’s monies going uncollected – not going to happen, but it is ok for a million veterans to be waiting on the VA to get it right. There is something incredibly wrong with this scenario.

The VA continues to operate off an antiquated “Fiduciary” process refusing to acknowledge POA or DPOA. The IRS acknowledges POA. Your mom or dad might have some investments that pay dividends, so there may be some monies to be collected, so for the sake of efficiency they will gladly work with you to assure a proper return has been filed.

The VA’s refusal to respond to the demands of accepting POA and doing away with the fiduciary process is once again done in the name of “protecting” the veteran.  According to the VA they have to make certain that the family member or other interested party who holds POA can’t take advantage of the veteran or widow and have access to the pension money to spend at their discretion such as purchasing Depends or Ensure.

I’m sure that somewhere there is someone who absconded with funds they were not entitled to and did in fact take advantage of a veteran, but I’m willing to wager a guess that most who are providing care for a loved one have spent the check out of their own pocket long before it is received.

It is the lesser of two evils.  On one hand you have the family member who is taking advantage of the veteran or widow by writing a check every month to the ALF or caregiver hoping they will have enough to pay it as credit cards are maxed out and all funds have been depleted while waiting to be approved as a fiduciary.

On the other hand you have the VA who wants to take months to arrange for a fiduciary to be appointed without much care as to how you will pay for everything pending their approval.  In the meantime if you have to move your loved one to a lesser quality facility due to costs, or arrange to bring them in-home and provide the care yourself, keep in mind the VA is only doing their job and “protecting” the veteran or widow.

So if the veteran is doing without basic essentials and is living in conditions that are not healthy or services being provided are not adequate even though they are entitled to the pension which would allow for better care and services, who is really taking advantage of the veteran?

All of this “protecting” has created an “opportunity for many individuals and companies to “Carpe Diem”  – Seize the Moment and many of these folks, but not all, have found a way to use filing for this pension as a revenue generator, and doing so under the guise of reaching out to veterans and their families at no cost for their assistance to make application, but it sure helps if mom and dad need someone to manage their investments and move them around so they will qualify for the pension from a financial standpoint.

Seminars are being held daily nationwide at $500.00 a session to learn how you too can use this pension to recruit new business and increase your sales. Don’t overlook the kids who are taking care of mom and dad, they will be so grateful for your assistance they will want you to manage their assets as well.  While you are at it, sell some annuities.

What most don’t realize is that by moving things around to a trust or annuity can often mean that when mom or dad need that money to continue paying for their care, they won’t have access to it.  It will sit in that trust until they die and the beneficiaries get it.

For those who are fortunate enough to have assets that need protecting, these services are valid, but for those who go into this situation strictly based on wanting to file for this pension, you need to educate yourself on whether this is truly in your best interest in the long run.

Again this frenzy of businesses using this pension to get in the hen house is largely due to the fact that the VA has created a need for these services due to the lack of information, the lack of trained employees well versed in Improved Pension, taking a simple application and turning it into more than it needs to be.  If it was as originally designed – a simple 4- page application based on meeting the need for assistance and financial guidelines, there would not be a need nor an opportunity for those who use this as a calling card.

As a result, the VA has responded by now sending out an additional form to those who submit an application that they have to sign stating that neither they nor the veteran have paid anyone for any type of assistance in completing the application.  The application will not be processed until this form has been returned.

So in the name of “protecting” the veteran, which in my opinion translates to denying the veteran, there is yet another hurdle to jump through.

Rather an unfair dynamic that the VA has its attorneys and council, but a veteran is not entitled to any representation upon making an initial application for any benefit or compensation.  They are only entitled to representation if they are appealing a decision on their claim while the IRS wants to make sure you get it right the first time.

Of the two, which do you think is more efficient?

There are more of us that file income tax returns than there are veterans/widows filing for benefits, so how is it that the IRS can receive and process a higher volume of paper so seamlessly while the VA claims they never received the application even though you have a signed “Registered Return Receipt” proving that they did?

If you posed the question of why the IRS created the EZ form while the VA took an easy form and turned it into 26 pages, it really is self explanatory.  One wants your money and the other hedges their bets they can keep their money.

This mindset is nothing new.  For insight as to how long this treatment and mentality has been permitted and promoted, one need look no further than what was done to the “Bonus Army” when our veterans marched into Washington in 1932 demanding what had been promised.  Not much has changed in 77 years.  Do yourself a favor and Google “Bonus Army”. You’ll be enlightened for having done so.

I know there are a lot of good hardworking people at the VA and local offices who have the right intent, but they are only acting under the directives they have been given. What I want to know is who signs the memo authorizing these practices.

When bonuses hinge on giving a veteran the lowest possible disability rating rather than the rating they deserve, I’m hard pressed to believe that this qualifies as acting in the veteran’s best interest.  Make no mistake here, there is a vested interest, but somewhere along the way the interest got shifted to self serving.

Like solving any other mystery – follow the money.

Until such time that the VA can get its house in order, I think the individuals who do nothing but help file for Improved Pension and have no hidden agenda or want to sell you anything, should have the right to provide the same assistance as your accountant does. Most of these well intended folks have to stay behind closed doors for fear of retribution by the VA for actually helping a veteran make a correct application.

The VA will argue that the veteran is entitled to assistance with filing for free, but when the SO of the office you walk into knows nothing about the pension, or says you don’t qualify, when actually you do, “free” comes at a pretty hefty price.

Yes these folks (the good ones) who work secretly behind the scenes helping veterans and their families should be able to charge a modest fee for their expertise and assistance, but the VA will never sanction anything of the likes, they have too much to lose.

There would be too many applications to approve with no reason to deny them.  There are budgets to be justified, bonuses to be earned, and credits for getting a Service Organization assigned as Claimant’s Representative rather than the family member so that you can’t call and inquire about the status of the claim.  The SO isn’t paying the monthly bill so they won’t have much motivation to follow up and press for a ruling or approval. And lastly they are busy making sure that no one other than them can “take advantage” of a veteran or widow.

The IRS has a few free months before it is tax season again. Maybe they can step in and show the VA how to get the job done. Better yet, instead of employees getting bonuses for the highest number of denied applications or lowest disability ratings given, how about an imposed penalty with incurring interest for any application that takes longer than 90 days to process!

Now there’s an idea that has merit.

 

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