If I was a cat, I used up many lives

absolutely loved everything about my career in Special Warfare in the Navy. It was an exciting career where I was able to go to work, enjoy a workout for the first 2.5 hours each day, worked with like-minded (and somewhat ‘touched’) individuals, able to shoot a lot, drive really sweet boats, parachute, and deploy to great locations. All this with no publicity! That was the best part.

Regardless what you may have heard, those in Special Forces (SF) or Special Warfare (SW) did not (well I should say the majority of those who entered special warfare positions) join the elite group(s) to do on-camera interviews, or to have their picture on the front page of the local newspaper or news channel. Silent professionals. A job where injuries do not hold you back (depending on the injury(ies), where there are so few within the community, that tight-knit relationships and bonds are made. What a great place to be.

Unfortunately, because of my hard-headedness, I had avoided the medical trailer as much as possible: not because the staff were unethical, unprofessional or bad at their job, but because in special warfare an operator does not run to medical for each and every ache and pain. That can get you labeled and then no one wants to work with you. Our medical staff (for the most part) were topnotch and a great handful of guys. As with the regular Navy, the ‘go-to’ for most ailments was Motrin, 800mg. We would eat Motrin like candy. Unfortunately, this also means that most of our injuries, aches and pains are not logged/annotated. This does not provide an SF veteran with much proof that the injuries were as bad as they were (currently are).

For most commands, it was/is highly looked down upon if a service-member were to visit their medical department often. They become labeled as a: ‘sick-bay commando’. Now, there are some that would/will sprint to their medical department to get out of PT (morning physical exercise), a deployment, and/or other taskings. In some (not all, there are some women that plan their pregnancies or are surprised that got pregnant) cases, some females would get pregnant to get out of a deployment, some get caught, others do not. I have seen some males that would escape what we would call a ‘monster mash’ by going to our medical trailer and complain of specific aches or pains, but magically heal up once the ‘mash’ concluded. There are all types that exist, some have legitimate problems, aches, pains, while others cry wolf, and when one cries wolf, management will attempt to relocate the wolf (out of the community).

Personally I had two very bad parachuting accidents that fast-tracked me out of ‘operator’ status. This definitely affected me mentally, as well as physically. I was medically discharged after almost 16 years, with 20% disability. No TRDL. No medical retirement. Nothing. I did receive a severance package, however, the Department of Veterans Affairs will deliberately take a portion of a veteran’s disability check until they recoup the entire amount the veteran received. What? You don’t call that a severance package? Neither do I.

A traditional severance package is an amount of money paid to an employee, by their company, because that company was not able to get them to retirement. Understandable. The amount is mathematically decided by incorporating the amount of time the employee worked for the company times a specific amount, and that is that employee’s severance package. Now, if civilians were to have their severance packages in the same manner as the military, the employee would receive a severance package (lest say $10,000) but if that employee were to go work for Company B, Company B would withhold a portion of that employee’s paycheck until Company B recoups all of the money that Company A paid to that employee ($10,000). Confused yet? When the VA was questioned about this, they state (without hesitation) that “you cannot double-dip” (I believe they are referring to receiving a disability check and not paying back what was paid to the employee/service member).

So, I spent almost 16 years, with spectacular evaluations, in the Navy, became injured in more than one situation, was not able to retire at 20 years, received a severance package, do not get a full disability check until the VA recoups the entire amount that I got paid. What that means is: I spent almost 16 years doing a job that very few could do, almost perished on more than one occasion, and ended up with a very busted body, for what? For a disability check (well, a partial disability check because the VA will continue to recoup that severance package until they receive all of the money that I received, back in full). I will not see a full disability check until 2022 I believe. So 16 years for a disability check. I don’t get retirement benefits because they did not medically retire me (hence why they discharged me with 20%). I do not get to go to the commissary for groceries, because I was not retired. I am not eligible for CRDP/CRSC despite my accidents being combat-related, because I was not retired.

Since 2006 I have had to deal with a seriously broken system known as the VA. My injuries were followed by a laundry-list of ailments and problems that are directly linked to my accidents while I was on active duty. I have been fighting for 10 years, however, I have learned quite a bit about the VA and their sneaky little tricks, and that education allows me to help other veterans to avoid going through what I have had to deal with. To date, it has helped dozens of veterans, which is a victory for me (mental victories are still victories nonetheless).

Despite the VA making life hard every step of the way, over the last decade, and the confirmation that I received from someone on the ‘inside’ that there were deliberate actions taken against me to ensure I met with roadblocks in my case, as well as the knuckle-head that I had to speak with regarding VocRehab, which I voluntarily removed myself from his office after being berated by him that he was “not going to pay to go to another college” for me, and the many other situations that I had to experience, I have been trying to do what I could/can to help my fellow veterans. This site is a step in that direction. I decided to create a site where veterans can rate their VA experiences and leave comments for specific experiences to help other veterans read about the different experiences, but also for any veteran that may be tired of poor treatment within the VA, read about the different areas where they may move to, in order to gain better support.

Each state has a link for the overall evaluation grading for the different questions and will be updated as often as the evaluations come in. Leaving accurate evaluations and explanations on their experiences in a VA clinic/hospital/Dr./Nurse, etc. will help other veterans gain needed information on that location. The information for each state will be separated by the cities within that state (alphabetically). No personal information will be published and I ensured that each questionnaire had a block where a veteran can put initials, any set of initials they choose, to identify their posts but not have their real initials published so the VA cannot identify them and punish them.

Word to the wise: If/when you contact a political figure to help you with your fight against the VA, whatever letter you send to that politician will be sent/faxed to the VA representative. So if you decide to complain to the politician in your letter and end up specifying the unethical tactics that they have used, and even spell everything out, that letter will be sent to a VA representative and if you do not think that that will make your life that much harder with your appeals, then you may want to do some reading. Learn from others’ experiences. I repeatedly sent the Senator’s veteran-liaison proof of what the VA was doing, when they did it, how they did it and all that representative did was send my letter to her contact within VA, VA would then send that representative a letter stating they are still working my case, and that representative would send me a letter directing my attention to the enclosed VA letter, and that was that. No solution. No attempt to call the VA out on the items I described. No pressure onto the VA, which was disheartening because I proved unethical treatment over and over again, but they would not do anything other than send the VA the letter I sent to them. What great political support. More stories to follow there.

Anyway, please pass this site’s URL to all of your veteran friends and ask them to send it to their friends and mention that the questionnaires need their attention to help support their fellow veterans. I appreciate all support from fellow veterans, and want to make a difference so other veterans can avoid going through what I had experienced. There is never going to be a need to stand on the backs of veterans to gain better support from any organization. Morals and ethics still mean something to veterans.