Military Veteran Awaits Full Compensation Approval On Heart Condition -- 22 Years Later

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Chauncey Robinson --says VA doesn't take his heart condition seriously

Chauncey L. Robinson, a former serviceman, believes there's another big scandal that's not yet been exposed at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. While there's been intense media coverage of employees allegedly fudging data to cover-up long delays in wait-times for veterans to get doctor appointments, there's been no coverage about another major problem faced by veterans--delays in getting approvals for full service connected health compensation benefits.

The data manipulation scandal by employees and long wait-time for doctor appointments cost Gen. Eric Shinseki his job as Secretary of Veterans Affairs in May, 2014.

Robinson says the delay in full compensation for medical conditions sustained on active duty is just as bad of a problem. In his case, he's been waiting 22 years to get approval for full compensation benefits for his heart condition, even though the military always had documented evidence of his being prescribed procardia while on active duty service, he says.

Between routine pro forma denials of his applications for benefits for the documented heart ailment, the alleged shredding of documents related to his case, a claim that his file with all his records had been lost, and being assigned doctors who weren't specialist for the condition, the VA has managed to delay granting Robinson full benefits for his heart condition for more than two decades now, he says.

Robinson says his ordeal began with a freak accidental kick by a fellow serviceman in the military in March 1992, at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, where he was stationed.

Robinson says he'd knelt down to lace his boots when a fellow soldier, seated on the edge of his bed abruptly extended his right foot to use the military "speed lace" procedure for his boots when his right foot hit Robinson's left eye socket resulting in an orbital fracture.

Robinson had surgery for the injury in April and was restricted to desk duty. An x-ray taken at General Leonard Wood Military Hospital before the operation was normal.

Then on the morning of May 3, 1992, Robinson says, a drill sergeant sent three fellow servicemen to summon him for regular duty; the soldiers left him alone when he showed them the letter restricting his functions. Robinson says the drill sergeant himself, Michael Beuhler, then came over and turned over his bunk while he was still lying down, resulting in a serious fall.

"I started experiencing severe chest pains after the assault," he says. "After an initial examination at a medical station, I was sent to General Leonard Wood Military Hospital, in Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, for a chest x-ray, which showed that I had high blood pressure and an enlarged heart."

"Two of three men the sergeant sent, before he came and turned my bunk over, were intentionally transferred to other military bases so they could not be witnesses to the assault," Robinson says. "One of them signed a statement that he saw sergeant Michael Beuhler assault me."

As a result of the medical condition he developed after the assault, on May 26, 1992, he was prescribed Procardia, a heart medication, Robinson says. He then asked for a medical evaluation board, or a physical evaluation board, which the military uses to approve medical benefits after discharge.

Robinson says his request was denied.  "I was told I was going home just like I came into the military, with nothing," he recalls. "I was granted service connection for the left orbital fracture to my left eye socket at 10% disability."

When he was being out-processed to leave the military, in July 1992, Robinson found out that apparently he was not the only person being unfairly denied full coverage for a medical condition sustained while in the service. "An older lady was reading my discharge paper work and her words were 'I am tired of seeing this type of mess; you should be receiving a medical discharge'" he recalls.

Robinson says he followed her advice and filed a claim for his eye and heart condition with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

On July 7, 1992, he received an honorable discharge and was sent home to New York.  He was granted medical compensation for the left eye socket injury but denied his claims for the heart condition; he immediately filed an appeal, he says.

It's been 22 years now and Chauncey Robinson says he's still waiting for the department of veterans affairs to grant him full benefits for the heart condition. He says there are many others, former servicemen and servicewomen, who are in a similar position, waiting for full compensation benefits for medical conditions sustained while in the military. "A few months ago all the media were focused on the delays veterans faced in getting doctor appointments," he says. "Well this is another even bigger scandal. Waiting for decades to be approved full compensation benefits for medical conditions sustained while in the military. By the time full compensation benefits is approved I'm sure some veterans must have died.

"Ever since July 1992 I have argued my VA case with both the VA New York Regional Office and VA Headquarters in Washington D.C., without getting any assistance at all," Robinson says, referring to numerous letters he says he's exchanged with the Veterans Administration offices.

Robinson says it wasn't until another earlier scandal called Shreddergate rocked the veterans administration, in 2008, that he began to realize how corrupt the system was and how it resulted in the delays in his case and possibly other servicemen's and servicewomen's.

"It was revealed that there were several VA officials involved in shredding veterans' documents in order to deny them their proper disability benefits and payments," Robinson says, of the 2008 scandal. "Two of the VA officials were senior executives who were implicated with others in the shredding scandal. These two, Joseph Collorafi, veterans service center manager and Patricia Amberg-Blyskal, director, were involved in the decisions to reject my application for medical benefits for my military service-connected my heart condition."

Joseph Collorafi was forced to retire, with his pension, while Patricia Amberg-Blyskal was transferred to another VA Regional Office, Robinson says.

The current veterans service center manager, Joe Corretjer, and the director, Sue Malley, have also been unable to end the long delays, he says. (A Spokesperson says the VA has reduced backlog in disability claims processing significantly).

Robinson says the history and timeline of his case clearly shows that he should have long been approved full benefits for the heart condition instead of the many delays by the veterans administration.

In 1995, he'd filed for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (P.T.S.D.). Later, his application for Social Security Income (SSI) was granted and the examining doctor, Albany Medical College's Robin Tassinari examined him for SSI application and tied the heart condition and P.T.S.D. to the assault. A second doctor, Sumner Goodman, of the Sam Stratton Albany VA Medical Center, concurred with Dr. Tassinari's decision. He then submitted the two doctor's diagnoses to the VA New York Regional Office that years. The following year, Robinson says, he received a letter from the regional office informing him that his original claim file folder had been lost.    

In 1999, Robinson was finally granted P.T.S.D. disability, but at only 40%; he appealed, asking for an increase. Later that same year, his  P.T.S.D. disability claim was finally approved for 100% benefits; however, he was again denied his claim for the heart condition.

Over the next several years after that, numerous letters were exchanged between Robinson and the regional as well as national VA offices.  "The Office of Inspector General continuously rejected my several complaints over the years and the New York Regional Office never responded to my complaints at all," Robinson says.

Then after the 2008 Shreddergate scandal Robinson believed that as a result of the negative publicity following the media coverage he would finally get some justice.

But even then, it took another two years for the veterans administration to finally acknowledge, on February 23, 2010, that his heart condition was sustained while he was on active service. Still, the VA granted his medical disability for his heart condition only at 10%; he appealed.  "So it took 18 years waiting to get 10% disability for the heart condition,"  Robinson says.

"My appeal continued to be wrongfully denied," he says. "Around December 2010 I filed a complaint with the VA Office of Inspector General only to see my complaints consistently be ignored."

Robinson also filed several of what's known as VA Form 10-0381, civil rights discrimination complaints. On August 20, 2012 the VA Office of Resolution Management referred the complaints to the VA Office of Inspector General for investigation of criminal wrong doing.

The VA Office of Inspector General finally informed Robinson, in September 2012, that it's not responsible for adjudicating claims. "That's not what I wanted from the IG. I wanted a criminal investigation," he says.

On January 3, 2012, The Board of Veterans Appeals (BVA) issued a Remand Order, sending Robinson's appeal back to the regional office in New York with instructions to schedule Robinson for a cardiovascular disease examination with a cardiologist.

Veteran's Administration has many "mind boggling" delay tactics, Robinson says.

On June 12, 2012, Robinson says he reported to the Sam Stratton Albany VA Medical Center for what's called a compensation and pension examination or C&P.  But instead of seeing a cardiologist as the BVA had ordered, he was instead assigned a geriatrician specialist named Daniel Tobin. He says his own private attorney, Kenneth S. Beskin researched Dr. Tobin's background.

"Doctor Tobin asked me if I was on heart medication and I told him I was and gave him the names," Robinson says. "Metoprolol Tartrate 100 MG; Lisinopril 40 MG; Amlodipine Besylate 10MG and Nitroglycerine 0.5 MG." (Procardia, a heart medication, was documented in Robinson's service medical records on May 26, 1992).

During the same examination his blood-pressure was found to be 260/191, which is beyond the hypertensive crisis range. Robinson says he was never examined for Total Disability Individual Unemployment (TDIU), which determines a veteran's total benefits eligibility, even though Veterans Law Judge Jessica J. Wills had ordered that it be done.

Robinson says when he received a copy of the compensation and pension examination report, dated June 18, 2012, it was filled with "fraudulent entries." In the report dated June 18, 2012, one of the forms on the compensation and pension examination form asks "was Veteran on heart medication" and in the box next to it Dr. Tobin checked off "no", Robinson says.

Also on August 25, 2012, Robinson's attorney, Kenneth S. Beskin, wrote to the veterans affairs regional office in New York and the BVA in Washington, complaining that the C&P examination was fraudulent and that it should be stricken from Robinson's record.

"More than two years later, the veterans affairs regional office in New York and Board of Veterans Appeals have yet to respond to my attorney's report of fraud," Robinson says. "Neither has the Veterans Benefits Administration in Washington DC, after being informed of my situation in a letter from the Office Of Resolution and Management dated August 20, 2012."

Rather than deal with what Robinson calls the doctor's "fraudulent" compensation and pension examination report the VA has been engaged in a coverup, he says. "Instead, they are engaged in a ratings scheme," Robinson says, "by knowingly denying me, and probably many other veterans the proper compensation amounts."

Notwithstanding the attorney Beskin's letter about the alleged fraudulent C&P examination, the Veterans Affairs Regional Office on March 25, 2013, increased Robinson's disability claim on the heart condition to 60%.

"I have always felt that the fraudulent behavior in the C and P examination was because the VA did not want to give me a rating of 100%, especially since the 60% rating issued on March 25, 2013 was made after we reported the June 18, 2012 fraudulent C and P examination report and requested that it be stricken from the record, "Robinson says. "And they ignored our report of a felony crime and issued a rating decision of 60%".

"My attorney Kenneth S. Beskin filed a Notice of Disagreement dated May 17, 2013 with the veterans affairs regional office in New York informing them that the rating decision was fraudulent since it was based on a fraudulent C&P examination," Robinson says.

The VA continues to ignore the issue of the fraudulent C&P examination raised by Robinson and his attorney, which means it would have to address the doctor's findings.

On May 6, 2014 Veterans Law Judge J.W.  Zissimoss issued another remand order for the VA to conduct a hypertension blood pressure check, without responding to the attorney Beskin's August 25, 2012 complaint of the alleged fraudulent C and P examination.

"Each and every VA official who reviewed my attorney Beskin's letter dated August 25, 2012 concerning the fraudulent C and P examination and didn't respond committed a felony crime," Robinson's says, referring to Federal & Veterans Affairs Laws, 18 U.S.C. Section 4: Misprision of Felony; 38 C.F.R. Section 1.201: Employee Duty Report.

In October, 2014, Beskin submitted a letter of complaint to the Inspector General's Office of the Veterans Affairs. As of this month, he and his attorney have yet to receive a response, he says.

Robinson, not surprisingly, is quite angered by the whole ordeal. "These senior executives back then and the present senior executives who commit crimes against Veterans must be prosecuted and put in jail," he says.

Meanwhile Robinson has also met with a New York -based lawyer to explore the possibility of filing a class action lawsuit against the VA. "I know many other people who've suffered illegally as I have," he says. "I know there must be thousands or tens of thousands around the country. We will sue the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and the Secretary of Veterans Affairs for deprivation of our due process rights; for deprivation of property rights; and, for deprivation of our civil rights."

When contacted for a response to Robinson's claims by The Black Star News, Randal Noller, a spokesperson for the VA said he didn't immediately "have the full case details on Mr. Robinson's appeal but will provide that to you as soon as I can get it."

"It appears that Mr. Robinson is already in receipt of a 100% rating for PTSD and an additional 60% rating for the heart conditions, as well as special monthly compensation," he added.

Noller implied that Robinson's heart condition may have involved a supplemental claim, which he made later after his discharge. When informed by e-mail message that Robinson had in fact  made the claim at the time of his discharge in 1992, Noller didn't respond by publication time.

In the earlier response, in an e-mail message Noller also noted, "VA has made extraordinary progress in reducing the backlog of disability compensation claims. We still have more to do, but the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) has Reduced backlog (any claim older than 125 days) from a peak of 611,000 in March to 245,000; 60% reduction in 20 months."

He added: "2. Reduced inventory from peak of 884,000 in July to 519,000 this week; 41% reduction. 3. Without sacrificing quality: Increased claim-level accuracy from 83% in 2011 to 90%; at the issue-level, accuracy is 96%.

While completing over 1.32 million claims in fiscal year 2014 (an increase), appeals were maintained at 4 to 5 percent, historically the same as years with fewer claims filed."

Robinson says he's still waiting for his 100% rating for the heart condition.

If any Veteran is going through or has gone through a similar experience with the VA please contact mallimadi@gmail.com with detailed information.

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