The San Antonio VA Vocational Rehab Counselors are Violating My Rights

Today I received the following letter from my Vocational Rehabilitation counselor, Scott G. Alexander, telling me that he is going to remove me from the Chapter 31 Vocational Rehabilitation Program:

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Now that it has come to this I have no choice but to go public in the hopes that, like with the VA backlog crisis, the shame of it will finally force the VA to do what it should have done to begin with: its job.

I doubt I’m the only one being screwed, and I hope this leads to more veterans coming forward.

This will be a long post, but it’s necessary to read it all in order to fully grasp the severity of what has transpired here. One of the denial letters attempts to use my history with the Voc Rehab program against me, and without knowing about the prior experiences you cannot see the injustice of it.

If you’d like some information about my disability status, you can read this past article. That in itself is a mess.

The tl:dr version is that I am a heavily disabled veteran (70% rating) of the United States Army who served between 2000-2005. I cannot work a normal job, and need an occupation where I can select my own work hours. The Vocational Rehabilitation program (or Chapter 31, as it is known internally) was designed specifically for people like me.

And I have a dream; to build a wonderful internet television network that employs thousands of people in the state of Texas. To make movies that entertain and inspire the generations after me. To, as Walt Disney, Nolan Bushnell and Steve Jobs did, put a dent in the universe.

As a disabled veteran I qualify for the Voc Rehab program that entitles me to educational benefits and assistance (both training and monetary) for starting my own business.

And now Scott Alexander is trying to kick me out of the program without having given any particular reason for it.

And he has lied on paperwork to make sure I am out of his hair.

You’ll soon understand this is not the only troubling thing Mr. Alexander has been up to, and how both the VA and Congressman Lloyd Doggett’s office have allowed Mr. Alexander to violate my rights.

To make this easier to digest, I will break things down into chapters according to the order of events as they happened, so that you understand both my passion for my startup and the injustice that has occurred to me.

(Be aware, I have edited the documents to remove my own personal information, such as my private email address. I have not removed the public and non-personal email addresses of federal employees involved in the case, since showing them offers proof that these emails are indeed genuine. Anyone wishing to launch their own investigation can follow the paper-trail)

pre-2008

Since I was a boy, I have wanted to make movies. I once convinced my father and brothers to help me make my own version of Ghostbusters, and you can actually watch this “first film” online at Youtube,

Generally, however, I didn’t make films as I grew up. My father wouldn’t allow me to use his expensive camcorder on my own. Instead I channeled my creative energies into my writing; I taught myself to write screenplays, starting with comic books. I would first draw them, but soon realized I did not have a talent for art. I focused on my writing, and eventually became capable of writing screenplays that others enjoyed.

As I became a teenager, I would lose sight of my dream. A series of events would lead me to believe I didn’t have what it took, and I’d give up on becoming a writer and making movies. I dropped out of High School, got my GED and enlisted into the military when I was 17; a year before 9/11 happened.

I was medically discharged in 2005, after returning from a tour of duty and suffering a poor reaction to the anthrax vaccine. During 2005 – 2007, I gradually got better after learning breathing exercises to control the most severe of my panic attacks. I applied for and attended one semester of college through the subsection of the GI Bill program, the Chapter 31 Vocational Rehabilitation program. However the Voc Rehab counselor refused to allow me to study game design or film-making, and he suggested I take a paralegal course under the assumption the credits would transfer to Lewis & Clark Law School (I decided that if I couldn’t be a story-teller, then I would become a lawyer) but when I learned the credits would not transfer to law school, and that the Voc Rehab counselor would not pay for me to attend a Lewis & Clark’s four year program (he told me, incorrectly I later learned, that I was only entitled to two years of college through Voc Rehab), I dropped out. I had no intention of wasting tax payer dollars getting a certificate in something you don’t need a certificate to be (paralegals do not require certification / licensing, or at least they didn’t in Oregon or Washington).

I took a job as a night security guard in a Ford marshaling yard in Portland, OR, while I spent my free time writing novels and screenplays. And then I fell in love with a girl, who I met through an internet forum, who was studying at the University of Michigan. After several trips back and forth I decided to move to Ann Arbor, MI to be closer to her.

2008

The relationship did not work out, primarily because she came to the belief I did not want to go to college. She was an intelligent and beautiful young woman from an old money family, and they expected a lot from her. Dating a guy who didn’t have college aspirations was embarrassing for her.

The troubling thing is that I was actually trying to get into the community college, Washtenaw, but had trouble getting my education benefits. Initially I did not apply to the Voc Rehab program because of my poor experience with the counselor in Oregon who refused to allow me to study film. I attempted to use my GI Bill benefits, but because I only served five years of my six year contract, I did not qualify for the full amount of GI Bill benefits I would normally receive upon discharge (which was the Chapter 30 program).

Instead, I was told I needed to use the Chapter 31 Vocational Rehabilitation program. However, after meeting with him, the Voc Rehab counselor refused to allow me to study film; which is the only thing I wanted to do. He said I had no chance of making a career out of it. He showed me a chart the Voc Rehab department commissioned that had a list of occupations with how big the markets were. Anything related to the film industry had a very low number, so he refused to allow me to study film. He strongly suggest I take up welding and then go work at an auto plant in Detroit.

I wasted months fighting with the VA to appeal the decision before I finally decided to use what little GI Bill benefits I had to attend two semesters of college as a part time student. I did not study any classes except the film courses, meaning I did not take English, Science or Math. I could not afford to be a full-time student on the GI Bill and my disability payments.

I did well in film school. I produced a documentary (embedded below) and a short film. Neither are masterpieces, but working on them solidified my beliefs that I was meant to be a film-maker.  I had friends who liked my ideas and volunteered to work on projects with me. I felt like I was finally reaching my true potential.

With some validation that I had some talent in this occupation, I tried again to convince the Voc Rehab counselor to allow me to use the program to fund my film education, and even added to my portfolio a detailed explanation of how I was learning digital effects…

..but he didn’t care. “You’ll never make it in the movie business,” he said. “It’s statistically impossible.”

Financially, I couldn’t continue. To attend college I couldn’t afford rent, and was essentially homeless. I lived at the VA hospital for most of the winter, only because a kindly social worker took pity on me, ignoring the normal rules to allow me to stay in a wing designed for disabled vets who had drug problems. But I was walking through snow in order to get to class, and it was taking a terrible toll on my body. When my GI Bill benefits dried up, I couldn’t keep it going, and I had trouble finding part-time work that matched my class schedules. I gave up on my dreams of making it work in Ann Arbor, and said goodbye to the friendships I had formed there.

The worst of it is that, although I look back and see how silly it was, until this point I still clung to the idea of getting back together with my ex. “If I could just demonstrate I was successfully attending college like she had wanted me to,” I convinced myself, “she would take me back“.

Although I now realize the relationship had other problems, I still believe the fact I couldn’t use my college benefits (as I was entitled to do) didn’t help matters. The situation seemed too ridiculous to her, and she assumed I was lying to her about the denial of college benefits for studying what I wanted to do. The meetings were all verbal, and she didn’t attend them, so I had no evidence to show her that I really was trying.

My lack of seeming to make any progress toward a stable career was a huge issue in our relationship, and the Voc Rehab counselor stood in the way just because he could. There must be something about the VA’s culture that attracts people like that.

2009

I returned to San Marcos, TX feeling rather defeated, but hoping I might be able to use my portfolio to convince a Voc Rehab officer at the San Antonio branch that I could be successful in the film industry. Surprisingly, I was successful; my counselor, Ramona Cardenas, was willing to take a chance on me because I had put so much effort into attending college on my own and did have something in my portfolio to show for it.

Unfortunately, the school I attended was Northwest Vista in San Antonio, TX. The film program there was not a liberal arts program, but a Texas work-force program. I was not informed of this when I signed up. For those unaware, Texas work-force programs are basically a scheme for colleges to hire instructors who lack the usual credentials to instruct at a college (like a bachelor degree). The credits earned will also not transfer to a bachelor degree; instead the student receives an entirely useless certificate of mastery.

Furthermore, initially, I was told by the film department chair that my credits from Washtenaw would transfer; and then he rejected my prior credits for transfer after I had taken a semester at Northwest Vista. He wanted me to repeat classes I had already successfully completed at Washtenaw. I did actually start to do this, taking a directing and screenwriting course, even though I had taken equivalent courses already, but the quality of the instruction was so poor I became upset that tax-payer dollars were wasted on courses that were literally teaching me nothing.

I also became offended by anti-military statements made by one of the instructors during class and when I filed a complaint, in retaliation he altered my attendance records to make it appear like I hadn’t been attending class (shocking, really, until you recall the college hires non-professional teachers as course instructors).

To make a long story short, Northwest Vista refunded the VA for that class and allowed me to drop it, but by that point I was so utterly disgusted with the college that I refused to attend another semester there.

(Most of my classmates would also drop the course.)

2010-2011

I applied, unsuccessfully, to attend the University of Texas in Austin, especially since it was closer to where I lived. Mrs. Cardenas frequently encouraged me to re-attend Northwest Vista, but I had no faith in their program. Instead I focused on self-distributing a web show I had been working on, and became involved in videogame and anime journalism, attending many industry conventions and conducting several interviews; including a notable one with Japanese director “Nabeshin” whose work I am a personal fan of and has inspired my own writing style,


I was earning some money from my Youtube videos, under the Partner program that allowed video ads to play during my show. I was able to figure out the average earnings was $2.37 for every thousand impressions my channel received. It became clear the easiest way to increase views was to make more videos, having a large library of them so that viewers who watch one episode will watch several more, multiplying the views and therefore increasing earnings.

The problem is that I did not have the equipment necessary to scale operations. A few years back, I had withdrawn my Thrift Savings Plan money (and paid the early withdrawal penalty) in order to acquire a Mac Pro and a copy of Final Cut Pro, so that I could do my own video editing. But I had an old, non-digital camera to work with. I also had no professional lighting equipment, or audio equipment.

I needed financial assistance to help me acquire the equipment I needed to scale. With better equipment I could even do commercial work for local businesses, and earn money that way.

Because I spent a lot of time reading about the Chapter 31 program when I was appealing the decision of the Ann Arbor counselor, I knew about a little known facet of the program called the ‘self-employment’ track. It is only available to heavily disabled veterans (such as myself) and it allows the educational benefits to, instead of paying for college, be used to purchase equipment for starting a company. Though I had originally formed Martell Brothers Studios in 2009, it had never been financially successful. It was not a sustainable form of employment for me, and now I wanted to do more than just make films but run a network that facilitates the distribution of films while also making original programming in-house. I used the same LLC, but it was a major pivot.

Unfortunately, Mrs. Cardenas did not believe I knew enough on how to run a business. She wanted me to acquire a business degree before I could be considered for the “self-employment” track of the Chapter 31 program. The problem is that would take two years out of my life. I knew (and turned out to be correct) that waiting two years would be too long. Youtube was becoming swarmed with startup companies like Maker Studios and Machinima, who had investments by large conglomerates. I needed to scale my operations and build a large audience before they used their connections to dominate Youtube search results and algorithms.

Unable to convince Mrs. Cardenas of allowing me to use my Voc Rehab benefits to acquire $10,000 of video production equipment, I instead took a gamble: I maxed my credit to acquire 1 Sony NEX-VG10 camera, a 3-point light kit and a solid state recorder with a shotgun microphone. My brother Curtis and I went on a house loan together so that I could use the house as a studio, converting the master bedroom into a set for my show.

The production values went up, and so did the views; for awhile. Several unforeseen problems occurred that I had not anticipated;

  • I got involved in a car accident, and the viewfinder of my camera became heavily damaged. The insurance did not fully cover the damage to my car, and put me into the red on money.
  • The room-mates I lined up for helping me cover the cost of the house did not stay around.
  • Due to my health problems, I was forced to resign from my job with the IRS, because my manager believed I was “faking it”. She was going to fire me since I had missed a few days due to migraines, and was using the bathroom too often due to my prostatitis. I knew that even if the manager was in the wrong, I probably wouldn’t win, because I had never won any appeals with the VA. I knew the system was against me, and that if I fought it, I would lose and never be able to hold another federal position again. So I resigned, but only because I was put into a position of “resign, and you can hold a federal position in the future; protest, be fired, and it will stay with you for life“.
  • Youtube made sweeping changes to the way their algorithms worked, resulting in my videos losing a lot of rank in the search engine (where the majority of views came from). Losing traffic from the search engine meant that my Youtube channel earnings slid hard.

2012

I started borrowing money from family members to pay the house bills, until the situation got so bad I considered going to school under the Voc Rehab program just to bring in a little extra money. I contacted Mrs. Cardenas and asked to use the program to attend college in Austin, but was informed Austin is outside of the San Antonio department’s jurisdiction. I would need to apply for benefits all over again through the Dallas office.

I could have attended school in San Antonio, but I now lived in Kyle (10 minutes outside of Austin). I would spend 4-6 hours in traffic every day if I took that offer, and I knew I wouldn’t be able to afford the fuel expenses.

In August ’12 an opportunity fell into my lap. Another Youtuber posted on a private Youtube Partner forum that he had a CMS account (the type used by Machinima and Maker Studios to run their networks). CMS accounts are notoriously difficult to acquire, and I had been applying fruitlessly to get one for years. I started talking to him about forming a “network” together, and he agreed. So in August 2012 I wrote to Mrs. Cardenas and announced I had a great opportunity here to make a wonderful internet TV company, and all I needed was some financial assistance with getting equipment using the self-employment track of the Chapter 31 program. I would prepare a business plan and three year financial projections, and then meet with her to pitch it.

Unfortunately, Mrs. Cardenas informed me that she was being re-assigned to another department and a different Voc Rehab officer would be taking over. I would get a letter about it.

This new officer would be Scott G. Alexander, and the letter he sent me included incorrect contact information: his email address was wrong, and his telephone number was disconnected.

I actually still have copies of the bounced-back emails to him in my account, which proves the email address I was provided was not correct at the time he became my counselor,

Bounced email 1 Bounced email 2

 

I tried for several months to contact someone at the VA to get ahold of him, but was constantly directed by the VA automated phone system to a disconnected telephone number.

Out of frustration, in November ’12, I reached out to Congressman Lloyd Doggett’s office. Congressman Doggett is my district’s representative, and I hoped his office could notify the VA there was something wrong with their phone systems.

Indeed, a member of his office was able to get Mr. Alexander to call me and provide correct contact information. However, it took three months for me to get a meeting with Mr. Alexander.

In the mean time, I started attending events at the Tech Ranch Austin center. I enrolled in the “Venture Forth” program and began receiving mentoring from Kevin Koym, a seasoned executive with several start-ups under his belt and who has been part of the Austin technology scene for several years. I consider this program more effective than taking general business classes, because it was catering to the specific needs of my business, and while taking the classes I designed a software project that would eventually be called Martell TV; an “over-the-top” broadcasting solution that would allow anyone with a Youtube account to make their own cable-TV style stations.

Also, after eight months of not making a single payment, my car was finally repossessed. And it may be just as well, since my car insurance had expired, too.

2013

Sometime at the start of January ’13, I drove into San Antonio (in my mother’s car) to meet with Mr. Alexander. The meeting seemed to be going well, with Mr. Alexander entertaining my proposal to use Chapter 31’s self-employment track to acquire equipment for the business. However Mr. Alexander was also very focused on asking me why I wrote to Congressman Doggett’s office, and said it was, “a very serious thing that could get me fired“, or something to that effect. He wanted me to write to Congressman Doggett’s office and tell them everything was okay now, but I refused to do that until Mr. Alexander had developed a plan with me. Now that I had the idea for Martell TV, I wanted to also see if the VA could help us acquire funding, possibly through a grant program or something.

I also talked about working with the VA to run a “Veteran channel” in our TV guide, which would increase the discoverability of VA’s Youtube channel. Mr. Alexander said it was a good idea and something we could talk about. He asked me to leave my business plan and slide-show presentation with him (which I had printed out and stapled together) so he could show them to his superiors, and I complied.

Then on January 31st 2013, I received this letter,

January letter edited

 

Anyone that is familiar with the Chapter 31 program knows there is no requirement for:

  • The Small Business Administration to “approve” business plans.
  • To obtain a bank loan, or any kind of loan.

In fact, the program is specifically designed to assist with the purchase of equipment necessary for starting a business because it’s expected your average disabled veteran does not have any assets for securing a loan.

Anyone who would like to read all the sections of the Chapter 31 program that have to do with using the self-employment benefits, well here they are:

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Some might say I am acting like a self-entitled brat by fighting this decision so hard. I’ve certainly heard that from people I have explained this situation to, and who are not ex-military and have no idea what the GI Bill / Voc Rehab programs even are. But I am not being a brat; these are programs I am 100% certainly entitled to take part in, and have been approved to take part in.

To become eligible, the first requirement is to have served in the military; which means you must be willing to die for your country.

The next requirement is, during the course of service, become so injured you can never again live what is regarded as a normal and healthy life.

Furthermore, my desire to use the benefits to build my own business is in line with the intent of the program.

I have always believed that the spirit of a law should determine how a law should be carried out.

Congress developed the Chapter 31 program in order to help returning veterans get back on their feet once they leave the service. The self-employment track was designed to help heavily disabled veterans who cannot work a regular job (like me) start their own businesses where they can work within their means. Furthermore, the GI Bill was created to give otherwise unobtainable economic opportunities to returning veterans so they would not be at a disadvantage to civilians who did not give years of their life in service. To help us get back into society and be part of the economy. This is well known.

I was asking for exactly what the program was intended to do; help me start a business, to use my experience and knowledge to become part of America’s economy and contribute back to it using my talents and interests. I wanted to become a job creator, and I wanted the Voc Rehab program to help me achieve that.

Yet Mr. Alexander looked for ways to deny me the rights the GI Bill entitles me to, by setting hurdles in front of me that no veteran is supposed to need to jump if the Chapter 31 program is followed as it was written by Congress and signed into law.

When the GI Bill was last amended, Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness was quoted as saying,

“The intent of the G.I. Bill, as it was written originally, was strictly to benefit the veterans, to help the servicemen adjust. It’s about helping veterans take their place in society and become educated, become professionals. It’s about investing in the future of America. That’s what the GI Bill has always been about.”

Unfortunately, Department of Veterans Affairs Vocational Rehabilitation officer Scott G. Alexander did everything in his power to ensure I could not use the Chapter 31 section of the GI Bill to take my place in society; including lying about my cooperation.

But we’ll get to that in a moment.

In response to the letter from Scott Alexander dated 1/28/2013, I wrote the following email:

Email 1 editedEPSON MFP image

Email 3 edited

Mr. Alexander responded….

Email 4 edited

…and then I wrote back, first asking what parts of the Chapter 31 program he is citing and then explaining why his suggestion to attend college at Northwest Vista will not help me obtain my goals,

Email 5 editedEmail 6 edited

I also forwarded Mr. Alexander’s email to a contact at the Texas Veterans Commission, but did not receive any help. Looking back, I suppose without knowing the full history it is hard to understand what my complaint was (and part of the reason I am posting all these images is so others can see the whole history of events as they happened).

I did attempt to work with the SBA to secure a loan. However due to lack of credit and assets to use as collateral, I could not be approved for one from any traditional lender. I won’t bore you with all the emails but here is proof that I was working with the SBA.

lionel 1 lionel 2

(You’ll note that they also didn’t know what Mr. Alexander was talking about concerning “approving my business plan“. They were trying to help me obtain a loan; isn’t that good enough?)

loan attempt1

 

I also filed out for grants, which I have continued to apply for (an example of one video application).


Anyway, as I said I won’t flood this post with all the failed attempts to get a loan. But I gave it my best effort.

I also wrote a long email to Congressman Doggett’s office, filled with attachments concerning the provisions of the Chapter 31 program that proved the hurdles Mr. Alexander was putting in front of me were not in line with the way Congress intended the benefits to be awarded.

Essentially, Mr. Alexander, for whatever reason (possibly in spite, since I had opened that complaint when I couldn’t get in touch with him due to incorrect contact info on the original letters)  was trying to block me from obtaining access to the self-employment track.

dogget 1 Dogget 2 Dogget 3 Dogget 4

 

Unfortunately, the letter and attachments were too large to submit to his email account. I then collected the information in a zip file and emailed it to his office. I also cc:ed Mr. Alexander so he was aware of my complaints and that I was also contacting Congressman Doggett’s office.

zipped info

 

I became contacted by an aide for Congressman Doggett by the name of Guillermo Villarreal. His official title was Constituent Services Representative. Mr. Villarreal contacted Mr. Alexander on my behalf, and said that he did his best to investigate, but that ultimately the Vocational Rehab services had “wide oversight” on how they could interpret the Chapter 31 program guidelines, and if they wanted to make up new restrictions they had the right to do so.

I strongly disagreed with that, and continued to stress how, as the law was written by Congress, I am entitled to use my benefits for the self-employment track and Mr. Alexander has no right to require me to obtain a bank loan (which I would never receive since I have poor credit and no assets of value to leverage). Still, I continued to try to obtain a loan, meeting and calling several banks. No one would look at my business plan. All they cared about was my credit score. Furthermore no matter who I talked to at the SBA, no one would “approve” my business plan, saying they didn’t offer that service. I could travel to San Antonio (!) to attend a seminar on how to draft one but no one from their department would tell Mr. Alexander my business was good or bad.

On February 27th I traveled from Kyle, TX to San Antonio, TX (a two-hour drive) to meet with Mr. Alexander. To this meeting, I brought my business plan, three year financial projections, a printed out power-point presentation on how my business would work, and a list of equipment I would like to use my Chapter 31 benefits to purchase. I also brought market research I had conducted into the viability of my business, and a copy of provisional patents I had filed related to the technology our Martell TV app uses.

Here’s the cover letter of my business plan, which I put on the top page of my submission. It explains my position on the matter.

scott cover letter 1 scott cover letter 2 scott cover letter 3

The result? Well, you can hear for yourself. I was smart enough to record the meeting with a digital recorder in my coat pocket.


Yes, you heard correctly.

  • Vocational Rehabilitation officer and Department of Veterans Affairs employee Scott G. Alexander refused to read my business plan and rejected me based on the fact I didn’t have a bank loan.
  • Even if I had been “signed off” by the SBA, he said he would have rejected me anyway.
  • He refused to tell me what parts of the Chapter 31 guidelines say that I need a bank loan to be approved for the self-employment track.

The VA sent a letter to Congressman Doggett’s office saying that I was rejected for the self-employment track because I refused to submit a business plan (!). It’s on page three, near the end of the second paragraph.

lie filled letter 1 lie filled letter 2 lie filled letter 3

 

The letter also claimed I was offered employment by Rackspace and therefore did not need the Voc Rehab program, and this is a lie. I have never applied nor been offered employment by Rackspace. I’m not a software or hardware technician. I don’t know what role I could possibly do at Rackspace. My assumption is Mr. Alexander simply needed to load his rejection of my plan with lots of things to make it appear as if I’m the problem.

Again, anyone can read the requirements that Congress set for Chapter 31’s self-employment track. It’s not private information, it’s a public law. There is no law requiring the SBA to approve my business plan, nor that I need to secure a bank loan first. The Chapter 31 self-employment route provides funding.

It says, very clearly,

VA will conduct a comprehensive review and analysis of the feasibility of a proposed business plan, as submitted by the individual or developed with VA’s assistance, prior to authorizing a rehabilitation plan leading to self-employment (Authority: 38 U.S.C. 3104, 3116, 3117)“.

Note that it says ‘VA’ and not ‘SBA’.

The only involvement of the SBA is this,

Evidence of coordination with the Small Business Administration to secure special consideration under section 8 of the Small Business Act, as amended

Section 8 of the Small Business Act is about how the SBA is supposed to help veteran owned business seek federal contracts. It has nothing to do with “signing off” on a business plan. The law itself even spells it out: “secure special consideration“.

And I provided evidence of coordinating with the SBA. It’s not my fault there are no government contracts for running an internet TV network. Nor is it a requirement that I obtain a federal contract to be approved for the self-employment route; there are cases of vets approved to start everything from McDonalds to recording studios using the program. I know, because I’ve met vets who used the self-employment track before.

The Voc Rehab Department is simply trying to pass the buck to the SBA, and every SBA employee I spoke to said they do not do the VA’s job for them.

Furthermore, as for his claim that the VA could not provide me funds for purchasing equipment for my business, 38 CFR 21.214 – Furnishing supplies for special programs disagrees.

(e) Self-employment. The supplies and related assistance which may be furnished, subject to the requirements prescribed under §§ 21.257 and 21.258, to a veteran for whom self-employment has been approved as the occupational objective, are generally limited to those necessary to begin operations:
(1) Minimum stocks of materials, e.g., inventory of saleable merchandise or goods, expendable items required for day-to-day operations, and items which are consumed on the premises;
(2) Essential equipment, including machinery, occupational fixtures, accessories, and appliances; and
(3) Other related assistance such as business license fees.

And the financial restrictions on how much the Voc Rehab Department can spend to assist me are covered by 38 CFR 21.258 – Cost limitations on approval of self-employment plans.

“A self-employment plan with an estimated or actual cost of less than $25,000 may be approved by the VR&E Officer with jurisdiction. Any self-employment plan with an estimated or actual cost of $25,000 or more must be approved by the Director, VR&E Service. (Authority: 38 U.S.C. 3104 )”

What conclusion is there to make of this other than that Mr. Alexander is lying about what the Chapter 31 program can do for me?

  • He claims the SBA has to review and approve my plan , but Chapter 31 says he’s supposed to do that job.
  • He claims I need a bank loan to be approved, but Chapter 31 does not list that as a requirement.
  • He claims the Voc Rehab Department cannot help me buy anything for my business, but Chapter 31 says I should at least be approved for $25,000 from a VR&E Officer with jurisdiction.

Perhaps he’s not the officer with jurisdiction, but if that is the case…

  • Why don’t I ever meet that officer? Why am I meeting him?
  • Why does he, toward the end of the audio recording, make it quite clear he is the one making the decision to not approve me?

He also didn’t want to honor my FOIA request, attempting to return the document to me as I left. To this date I still have not received a copy of my Voc Rehab file so I can properly appeal the decisions. This is a violation of my rights. You can see a copy of my FOIA request here,

FOIA 1 FOIA 2

I thought this would be the end of it. Obviously I had caught him in a lie — he claimed I hadn’t provided a business plan and therefore my plan could not be evaluated. But my audio recording shows this is not true. This should be check-mate, right?

dogget 5

Clearly, if I shared this audio file with Congressman Doggett’s office there would be an investigation, resulting in at the least, Mr. Alexander no longer handling my case anymore since his integrity is highly questionable.

Right??

Of course not. That was too much to expect.

Mr. Alexander got off scot free, and his superior covered for him.

By the way, the letter quotes VR&E Letter 28-12-40 as an attempt to reject me. Here is a copy of it,

VR&E Letter 28-12-40 1 VR&E Letter 28-12-40 2

 

As should be apparent to anyone who has even a rudimentary understanding of the English language, under these guidelines I qualify for the self-employment route. 

Shortly after this, Mr. Alexander called me on the phone, and in a smart-ass way, informed me that he would never approve me for the self-employment program and was going to request I be removed from the Vocational Rehab program. I lost my lid and cursed a storm at him, essentially telling him to go fuck himself.

I tried once more to get Congressman Doggett’s office to launch an investigation. It’s simply inconceivable that the Voc Rehab counselors are allowed to not only invent additional hurdles for self-employment route qualification but even lie to ensure the people they don’t want approved stay unapproved.

 

final dogget letter 1 final dogget letter 2 final dogget letter 3

 

The letter that Congressman Doggett’s office received back from their final inquiry was this:

VA final letter 1 VA final letter 2

 

For the record, I currently own 100% of Martell Brothers Studios, having purchased Curtis’ equity with a promissory note. So at least one invented hurdle they set before me is no longer applicable. And it wouldn’t matter because the VA employees are simply looking for ways to reject me rather than help me. An LLC isn’t the same thing as a partnership anyway, and Curtis is also a vet currently on active duty in the Marines. They don’t even care to get their facts correct when they write their rejection letters, so confident they are that they can do whatever they want.

Besides, I have found recent documentation from VA’s own internal memos that show they have given money to veterans with established businesses,

This audit of Vocational Rehab operations, on page 5, quotes as:

 

“For example, a veteran-owned and operated a printing business for 2 years
and earned about $18,000 to $20,000 a year. He requested self-employment
services to purchase new computer equipment to expand the diversity of the
products offered. He received about $9,200 for new equipment from VR&E
self-employment services.
In another example, a veteran operated a business that provided coating
services for cars, motorcycles, railings, and other metal products. According
to the CER file, the veteran needed additional supplies for his 1 year-old
business to maximize its potential. Over a 6-month period, the veteran
received about $11,700 for supplies and equipment from self-employment
services including stripper solvent and a powder-coating sprayer system.”

The memos claims it was inappropriate, but they did it. Vets with existing business (successful ones, in fact) got a bunch of money. I would actually be using the program as the memos instructs, but I guess that is where I’m going wrong.

One More Thing….

The Veterans Benefits Administration’s Manual M28 is actually online. It gets mentioned a lot in these denial letters, but they never quote it because the quotes don’t match the fantasy world the Voc Rehab Department is trying to push to Doggett’s office.

For example this page details the FOIA request policy  while this page documents the self-employment route policies.

While the FOIA request policies clearly were not followed by Mr. Alexander, the more pressing issue is the lack of adherence to the self-employment track policies.

Pages 9-8 to 9-9  govern the SBA’s involvement in the business plan. You’ll notice there’s no mention of the SBA needing to approve a goddamn thing. There’s also no pre-requisite of obtaining a bank loan and/or any other type of funding before acceptance into the program. He’s actually supposed to help me with that (see Page 9-8).

We also know Mr. Alexander didn’t do any of the additional sections, since he pretended my business plan didn’t exist until I came forward with the audio recording of the meeting. Scott Alexander basically did not do his job at all.

I mentioned at the start that Congressman Lloyd Doggett’s office is allowing my rights to be violated. This is because, although it is true that his office has done investigations, nothing has changed.

  • Very clear violations of the way Chapter 31 is to be executed have been allowed, to the point some VA director is quoting VR&E Letter 28-12-40 to reject me when the guidelines actually demonstrate that I qualify for the program (does anyone at that office actually do any real investigating??).
  • The fact my FOIA request has been ignored well over the allotted time period is preventing me from having any chance of appealing the decisions.
  • Doggett’s office has accepted the fact that, at first, the Voc Rehab Department claimed I never submitted a business plan and later changed their story once I provided evidence to the contrary.
  • No penalties have come to any of the parties involved for fabricating evidence against me.

The aide, Guillermo Villarreal, said he has done the most he can do.

I do not know what more to say.

A few months back I received an award letter informing me that I was now 70% disabled, yet now I’m being kicked out of the Voc Rehab program. My FOIA goes ignored, preventing me from using a copy of my file to defend myself against the attempt. Mr. Alexander, although clearly demonstrating he is willing to lie in order to deny my dreams, continues to work at the San Antonio, TX Vocational Rehabilitation Department; as do all other counselors involved in his infringement of my rights.

Is there no wonder that less than 1% of the nation’s population wants to serve in the military? Even when we follow all our orders, and suffer the rest of our lives for it, there is no guarantee we will receive the benefits Congress has entitled us to have.

Some jackass paper-pusher can deny you of them for any reason they want to conjure, even if those reasons are not in line with the way Congress expected those benefits to be awarded and dispensed.

I will never forget this betrayal. I swear that as long as I live, I’m going to keep building my business as best I can, even if it kills me. And when I succeed I am going to start a ‘Veteran’s Channel’ in the Martell TV app, and on this channel I will have part of the day-schedule hours devoted to programming documentaries and investigative reporting about the missteps of the Department of Veterans Affairs. There will be such detailed reporting the likes of which this country has never seen, so that every time they trample on the rights of one of us — even if they don’t change their policies — the shame of it will never be lifted from those who violated our rights. It’ll be broadcast 24/7 for the whole nation to see, until Congress finally does something about it.

It has already begun. Though I had to sell my house and cut back on everything I can (like how much food I buy) I am slowing making progress on developing the internet television app that will enable Martell Bros. to become a wonderful company that can make Texas the new center of the TV industry, and give jobs to hundreds — perhaps someday thousands — of people who want to share my dream to produce entertainment to inspire the world. We still are in dire need of money to scale operations, but I will not give up.

Mr. Alexander cannot stop me from becoming successful. He can only delay the inevitable.

Carey Martell

(To reduce spam, I don’t allow comments on my blog. If you have anything to say, feel free to contact me through LinkedIn.)