Wednesday, June 05, 2013

VA Records: Setting up an Appointment to Get a Phone Call to Set up an Appointment to Order Records .... Or Something

I'm not some kind of anti-gummint crazy person, but I can understand how people can feel more than a little cranky sometimes when office procedures don't seem to make any sense.
Monday I went to the downtown Seattle VA office to meet with a Vietnam-era veteran who was having problems over a claim for compensation for an injury received back in the 1960s. The outstanding question was whether he'd included that particular injury on a claim filed in the 1990s; the VA was saying it had no record of it, he pointed out that was because (A) while the records were in VA custody a warehouse fire destroyed them and (B) nonetheless he had a document clearly referencing the claim so under the balance of evidence, the claim should be sustained (cuz all the existing evidence favors the veteran AND any lack of evidence is the fault of the VA).
But before I try to help this guy out, I want to see a clean copy of all the documents. I'm not saying anyone is trying to fool anyone, but stuff gets lost, filtered or sorted, and the best course is to go back as far as possible and look at the most original data available. This is true in just about every field, not just the law.
So we're at the VA office and ask to look at his file; we knew this wasn't going to happen today but wanted to get the process started. We were told that a FOIA request would take 4 months to process. Well ok, might as well get started; how would we start. We were told that we needed to make an appointment. Well ok, how do we do that? We were told we needed to request the appointment and someone would call us to set up the appointment. Well ok, when were we going to get the call? We were told it would be sometime within the next three days.
Well, ok.
So in other words, by close of business Thursday we should get a call to set up an appointment to talk to someone about filing forms that will let us see a file in four months.
I'm not some kind of anti-gummint whack-a-doodle. But in the private sector, I can look my bank records online; they *encourage* me to use online inquiry so that it's more convenient for me and takes less effort from their staff. This is how VA records and government records in general should be set up.
I appreciate that it's not this way because Congress hasn't told the Executive Branch to do it this way. Also, I strongly suspect (based on a little experience proposing software to the government) that if Congress *did* tell the Executive Branch to do it this way, there would be a huge battle between contractors to skim off 75% of the proceeds while delivering the minimum product necessary; or perhaps delivering nothing because the job of contractors is not to serve the public but to collect taxpayer funds.
Meanwhile, I'm waiting for the phone call that will lead to setting up an appointment to see about filing paperwork to get a copy of the file. I'll let you know what happens next.

Monday, June 03, 2013

Solar Powered Chipper!

The trees we care for grow too many branches for our land; it is therefore our responsibility to prune them. But what to do with the branches?
In the past I re-used the branches in various ways. I laid laying them in a paths; I used them as the underlayer in raised beds; I made a little brush pile in the back. But I was running out of things to do with them. Fortunately,  my brother and I had bought a chipper a while back, so I hauled that out.
It's electric so there's no skanky fumes or carbon emission. In fact, when I plug it into the extension cord, it can run off the solar electric we generate ourselves. So in a real sense, we have ourselves a solar-powered chipper.
It worked great! The branches that would have taken years for bugs to brake down were swiftly converted into usable mulch. In fact, I don't think I'm going to ever be short of mulch again since the trees keep growing branches; we can just recycle the ecess branchs into the soil, to be used to grow more branches, I suppose.
This little electric chipper a good tool to jointly own and share, because you don't need it too often, but when you do, it really makes the work go faster.

Sunday, June 02, 2013

4freeCLE: The Free CLE Newsletter! June 2, 2013

4freeCLE: The Free CLE Newsletter!
June 2, 2013
In This Issue
Webcast CLE
In California
In Florida
In Illinois
In Massachusetts
In Minnesota
In New York
In Ohio
In Washington
On-Demand CLE
Past 4freeCLE Issues

Does Your State Offer Free CLE For Pro Bono?

Several states offer free CLE credit in exchange for pro bono service, e.g.MinnesotaWashington. Researching this is time-consuming, so if you want to do your colleagues a solid, check out your state and send the results to the editor. I'll be happy to give you credit in the publicity!

Webcast CLE
Update your skills anywhere you are!
Find more webcasts at 4freeCLE's Web-Based CLE Page.
In-Person CLEs State-by-State
Each of these programs can earn you credit, at no cost, in the state in which it is held.
In addition, these programs often can earn you credit in other states. If the organizer has not applied for credit in your state, check with the credit-granting authority in your state.
New York
On-Demand CLE
Learn what you need to know from the comfort of your home, office or whereever! 
Find more on-demand programs at 4freeCLE's List of On-Demand CLE. And feel free to share this list with a friend!
About 4freeCLE
4freeCLE is delivered weekly and will always be free!
About 4freeCLE
4freeCLE is delivered weekly free of charge!