2016 Government Shutdown? Because of budget! Lets see how much they get paid…

Once again, in September 2016, the headlines are exploding with “government shutdown fear’ and ‘can’t agree on a budget’ and this has forced me to take a look at what our elected officials actually make (without bonuses) each year. I wonder this since for a decade I have been fighting the VA just trying to get my service connected disabilities rated, which the VA took grade happiness in punishing me for, each and every step of the way. I have never asked for anything that was not in my medical record, and I have allowed the VA to conveniently ‘lose’ other disabilities (which they made ‘disappear’ from any past claim).

I feel that our elected officials should earn a pay, but I think a six-figure salary is an inflated salary for greedy people. How long, in time, are they actually in D.C. fighting for us constituents? How many hours are they in their office in their region? Compare their actual time with the average person and their wages. Some of us work 40-50 hours (some more) each week and our take home is nowhere near our elected officials. So, how can we know that our elected officials are there because they want to make a difference, or if they want a retirement pension, healthcare after 5 years in office and a hefty salary each year?

I believe that you would be able to truly tell how much an elected official wants to help out their state/community by the amount of money they accept at the end of the year. Our forefathers never intended on politics being a career. Being an elected official was for people to make a difference for their community/area/state and once they have successfully served, they then go back home and tend to their farm. That was is. Put that concept into today’s politics and you would see an mass uprising from our politicians if there was a threat of a reduction in pay, or no healthcare and no pension after 3-5 years. Sad. So very sad. I get to reminded each and every day about my fight with the VA and the stress that follows because of how my body feels. My pain drives me harder to help other veterans. I don’t ask for anything. I do not receive anything. Yet, I happily do what I can for other veterans. Politicians should be required to take ethics classes, as well as history lessons and maybe then we can have officials that are not afraid to get their hands dirty while helping constituents.

How many Senators Total:

100 Senators

Average Salary of each Senator: $174,000.00

Along with those salaries, each Senator receives retirement, as well as health benefits that are exactly akin to “federal employees, and are fully vested after five years of service” (Wikipedia:  “United States Senate”, n.d., para. 21).

Using the above noted information, the annual salary total for our Senate members:
$174k x 100 =
  $17,400,000.00

The Oath of office:

The Constitution requires that senators take an oath or affirmation to support the Constitution.[29] Congress has prescribed the following oath for new senators:

I, ___ ___, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God. (Wikipedia: “United States Senate”, n.d., para. 20)

For those in congress:

“In 2006, members of Congress received a yearly salary of $165,200” (Wikipedia: “United States Congress”, n.d., para. 60).

Using the above noted information, the annual salary total for our Congressional members (using data from 2006):

$165,200.00 x 435 = $71,862,000.00

United States Governors: 55

The Council of State Governments (2013) explain that “The average salary for U.S. governors in 2013 is $133,348 and 21 governors earn more than that average, a new survey by The Council of State Government reveals” (para.1).

Some Governors do not accept their salary, or they only keep $1 of their salary, while others have no problem taking all that they can. Seeing as the average pay (from 2013 survey) is $133,348, I will use that as the amount to calculate in.

55 Governors x $133k = $7,315,000

So to gather a total, here are the numbers:
Senators: $17,400,000.00
Governors: $7,315,000
Congressman/woman: $71,862,000.00

For a grand total of: $96,397,000.00 annual salaries of our politicians

Reference

Anonymous. (2016, 06 25). Pennsylvania’s Governor Earns the Most; Maine’s Governors Earns the Least. Retrieved 09 28, 2016, from CSG: The Council of State Governments: http://www.csg.org/about/pressreleases/GovernorSalaries.aspx

Anonymous. (nd). United States Congress. Retrieved 09 28, 2016, from Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_Congress

Anonymous. (nd). United States Senate. Retrieved 09 28, 2016, from Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_Senate

Congressman States that Veteran “Moochers” are Clogging the VA

I do not disagree at all that there are ‘moochers’ within the veteran community, as a matter of fact I was able to witness many of them at the military medical facility where us soon-to-be-veterans were attending a class on disabilities and the process that is taken for each veteran. I was in the class with some of these ‘moochers’, I actually had to leave the room on a couple of occasions because I wanted to tie some of these ‘moochers’ into one big knot.

As I usually do when I attend a class, I sat in the back. I do so because I have to move and adjust a lot because of the chronic back pain that I feel, especially when I have to sit for extended periods, and especially if I have to sit for extended periods in hard-plastic chairs. While sitting in the back of the class, I was able to see whoever was talking, as well as catch most of the side-conversations that occurred whenever the proctor left the room. It was during most of the side-conversations where I heard these service members talking to each other about how to scam the system. This is what started to get me a bit mad, but mostly disappointed in my fellow man (and woman).

Below are some of the conversations I heard between these attendees while the proctor was out:

From one of the people who entered the room after me (while the proctor was at the podium), who I looked at as someone who must be in more pain than me! I thought this because of the forced limp/dragging of one leg behind as he walked, and the grimace on his face. Some of the questions he asked the proctor (which made the proctor mad) was:

“So how do get the most percentage for my pain”

“What if my pain gets better? Should I fake it the rest of the way to keep my percentage?” to which the proctor, a senior chief in the Navy, got really sober and said to this man “IF you are faking your pain, and the VA catches you, and they will catch you, then you WILL have to pay every cent back! Then you will be brought up on fraud charges” to which this attendee said “right, so if I get better, then I should fake it the rest of the way”.

The proctor was not impressed with this kid. There were a handful of these people peppered throughout this class. Most of which were complaining about not knowing ahead of time how much money they will get each month and other questions that seem to show that they were trying to figure out the best way to gain something for nothing. This was what I focused on with these attending this brief/class. Then, the proctor left the room and those that were ‘acting’ like they were in so much pain, leaped up (this was after sitting for about 50 minutes on hard plastic chair/desks) from their chairs and easily walked briskly to the door to head to the smoking area in the parking garage.

To put things into prospective, the smoking area was two levels up from where the walkway would have let anyone walking to the garage, out. So, knowing how much pain I was in, and wanting to get a quick smoke in, I hobbled my painful butt to that location and when I got there, those that were in my class were already lighting up their second smoke (I only know this because half of them were using their previous smoke to light a new one). Despite my pain, I usually try to hobble as fast as possible to quickly get to where I am going so that I can then rest for a bit before having to get back to wherever. While at the smoking area, I watched these people dance and play around with each other, not exhibiting ANY painful movements, sounds or facial expressions. Where they healed? Where they fixed in the magic parking garage? It’s a miracle.

I only smoked half of my smoke before realizing I needed the time to get back to the classroom, so once I stub my cigarette out, I start on the painful journey back. I enter the room and the proctor was present already at the podium, so I pass by to get to my aisle and to my destination: my hard plastic chair/desk. I could hear the group of individuals who were in the smoking area, playing around and being loud as they neared the classroom. As soon as they made it to the doorway, and noticed that the proctor was already in the classroom, you would have thought they were hit with a ‘disability gun’ with the way they were all-of-a-sudden inflicted with pain and the inability to walk without a noticeable limp. This really burnt me up.

A little note about this classroom full of those ‘hurting’ attendees: the side conversations to each other of “I heard that if you want a higher percentage you should add [specific disability] to your claim because they cannot prove that it is or is not present and you will get 100% disability”. Now, I do not remember the exact disability that was discussed between people, but I do remember that this was discussed numerous times between different people in the classroom, each and every time the proctor left the room. This bothered me.

If you want to know if there are ‘moochers’ in the veteran community, try to remember that regardless where you live, the age you live in, and the type of people that live there, there will always be someone that will manipulate the ‘system’ to benefit themselves. This does not mean that the majority of these people are doing so with malice, but it does bring the reality that people will try to gain a foothold in the system to try and gain something. The VA is no different. As much as I dislike the VA, the management that gets away, literally, with murder without repercussions, and the unethical practices which they have been caught doing, it is not all the VA’s fault. There are ‘moochers’, there will always be ‘moochers’ and it will progressively get harder and harder to do anything about it.

It would make me happy if moochers were caught and cleaned out of the VA system to make room for those of us that do live in pain every day, but I do not see that coming. Should the congressman have said that blanket statement? No, I think he should have cleaned it up a bit (however I cannot truly believe the titles of any media outlet if it was not a direct quote and from the looks of this article, the only direct quote was the word “moocher”) but sometimes the truth hurts. The article link is below:

 

http://occupydemocrats.com/2016/09/24/republican-congressman-moocher-veterans-clogging-va/

 

There is no ‘Helpless’, there is always help-You just need to ask for it! [Part 1]

Easier said than done. ‘No one knows the pain I am in’, ‘My pain is to the point where I don’t know where to turn for relief’, ‘My Dr. has no idea what I am going through’, “My wife/husband has no idea what I am going through’, ‘How am I going to get through this day/week/month/year’, ‘If I hurt this much now, how bad will it be in a year/10 years’, ‘How am I going to survive’, ‘Why does the VA make it hard for me to gain coverage for y legitimate disabilities’, ‘Why am I being singled out’, ‘Why won’t my political representative pursue answers with greater passion’, ‘What chance do I have to gain employment when I am finally downed by my disabilities’ [Part 1]?

I would be telling the greatest lie if I were to state that I had never stated any/all of the above statements. I am going to attempt provide positive explanations and ‘good to knows’ about each one in hopes that it will reach others and help them in their struggle. I do want to ensure everyone understands that help is out there and I will always be available to answer any questions for any veteran, and if I do not know the answer, I will guide you to someone how will.

‘No one knows the pain I am in’
This is true, no one will know the pain level or impact your pain has on your daily life, however, there are others in pain and by speaking with others, maybe in a support group (veteran or non-veteran both will/can help), an online chat group forum and phone assistance (it does not necessarily need to be a suicide hotline). Although others will not ‘know’ the exact pain you are in, they have experienced pain great enough to respect the thought that others can empathize with your pain.

One way to help others understand your pain is by telling them. They will not know about your pain or limitations if you do not inform them of such. It is true that I do have to weigh my limitations against possible plans to do anything: if I cannot or do not think that I will be able to accomplish something because of my limitations, I tell my wife/others that I may be with about those limitations. I do not have to say “well, because of my hurting [add disability] I am not able to ….”, instead I state “I am not able to do [add event] because I am not physically able to”. That allows me to inform whomever I am with that I am unable, but I will usually ensure I prompt the others to do whatever the event was.

‘My pain is to the point where I don’t know where to turn for relief’
There are so may groups that exist specifically designed to help those in pain. Worse case scenario, if you cannot find a place for relief, email me and ask me and I will do the research for you. It is important that you do not immediately shoot down all suggestions without trying them first. Being in pain and being rejected by other entities can make someone quickly shoot down any and all ideas, because they will usually expect the rejection is coming. There is relief, please ask me if you don’t know where to turn for such information.

‘My Dr. has no idea what I am going through’
Once again, explain to the Dr. exactly what pain you are feeling. Understand that the Dr. wants to help and the Dr. can get frustrated if they feel that they are no able to help you. Do not assume the Dr. knows exactly what you are going through, they can empathize, but they can truly never know the exact pain you are feeling. With that, learn to explain things to the Dr. in a way that they can relate, such as: “Dr. my elbow hurts when I pull towards myself and move my arm directly up and down, the pain is a level 4 out of 10 but remains at a ‘2’ when in active. I have put ice on it every evening to see if that would help and attempt small movements to limit the amount of pain. At rest my thumb and index finger goes numb topically”. This would give the Dr. an immense amount of usable information and will help to get them to understand what you may be going through.

“My wife/husband has no idea what I am going through’
Once again, you need to explain to your spouse/loved ones exactly what you are going through and what your limitations are. Granted, there are good days and there are bad days and you do not need to seek everyone out to let them know, trust me when I tell you that if any of your family has been around you long enough, they can pick up when you are in pain. They may ask you how you are feeling, which may surprise you if you did not tell them that you are hurting, avoid “I am okay” because they will know you are not telling the full truth. Be honest with them and it is not beneficial to those that love you to lie to them or to snap at them because you are in pain. Be honest with them and yourself.

‘How am I going to get through this day/week/month/year’
I can say with my own hurdles that I must navigate daily, I take each day one step at a time. There are some days where I have the hardest time just moving minimally, never mind trying to figure out how to get through the rest of the day, I am just trying get through that moment. There will always be days where pain and difficulty moving will be better than others. It is important to set yourself up with a ‘Pain Survival’ notebook. In this notebook you can write down anything that can give you something positive to think about, something that was a happy memory, so that there can be a positive thought in your head to detract from the immediate pain.

Photographs, videos, birthday cards, love letters: these are all things that can be taped inside you ‘Survival’ notebook to give you immediate detraction from your pain. Regardless the negativity that may exist in your brain while you are in pain, there HAS to be something positive that had occurred to you in your life. Use that. Use that thought or memory to pull you through your day and remember: no matter how bad your pain is, there is always someone who is in more pain. I know that may not pull you through your ‘moment’, however, it is important to remember to be thankful for what you currently do have in this world.

‘If I hurt this much now, how bad will it be in a year/10 years’
I am guilty of this thought. I think about this every now and then, especially when I am having a seriously-hard day. For anyone who believes that they are alone in this world, it will not bring very positive thoughts to try and think about how bad the pain may be in a decade. Thankfully there are medical advances that occur each year and at some point the medical community there may be a surgery that can help your situation. Not all things can be solved with medication, sometimes surgery will bring about the relief you have been looking for. Be proactive about your own situation and research possible solutions and discuss these with your Dr.

‘How am I going to survive’
This is a good question. How am I going to survive? I have to live, I have to have a job in order to pay rent/mortgage, food, etc. How am I to provide for myself/my family if I am in such pain that I can no longer work? In my situation, pain is going to get worse, this I know, so I am making sure I am researching successful surgery information, breakthroughs in pain relieving techniques and am doing everything I can to minimize my current pain.

It is important to plan ahead by saving money, setting yourself up with lodging for long term care or long term living, start researching support groups that can give you more ideas on how to set yourself up for success in the future. There is much more information out there in the world than I have time or space to put here.

‘Why does the VA make it hard for me to gain coverage for my legitimate disabilities’
This is something that everyone would answer differently, depending on their experiences. I can say that it is obvious that I have pissed someone off in the VA, in the past. I have a hard time believing that it is this hard for every veteran, especially since I speak to many veterans and know that some of them have the easiest time I have ever heard about. Amazing. So if you are part of the lucky few of us veterans who find it harder and harder to get things accomplished through the VA, remember to accomplish the following:
-Keep a log book to annotate information with your business with the VA such as: time and date you called, who you spoke with, what was spoken about, what was the solution
-When you sent out a letter, appeal, NOD, or any other correspondence
-When that letter, appeal etc. was signed for at the VA
-Who signed for that letter
-When you receive any correspondence from the VA
-What that correspondence was about
If you keep a good log, you won’t have to argue with anyone when they say “I never received your appeal” and you can say “Actually, you did. It was signed for on the 4th of January of this year, by Robert Smith, at 1300”. There may be an awkward silence at that point because most veterans do NOT record their life, but I believe every veteran should because then they will not forget the information (which may be needed in the future).

‘Why am I being singled out’
For most veterans I do not believe they are being singled out, I can speak for my own case only where I can say that I was singled out. Even with that, as long as I follow the rules and do everything by the VA letter, the VA cannot ‘gig’ me about anything I submitted or anything I didn’t because I do everything by the VA ‘law’. This does not stop them from making life hard for me, but at this point I want it to be completed and closed. Easier said than done, but, I know people who have been dealing with the VA system for over 20 years and I just hope that no one else has to go through the hassle of dealing with them for that long to try and gain closure. 20+ years? That is entirely too long for any veteran who is trying to get ratings on claims in their records. Sad but true. If you feel that the VA is singling you out, maybe its just a miscommunication, or maybe you mentioned my name. Hopefully its the first.

‘Why won’t my political representative pursue answers with greater passion’
I have found that most of the politicians that I have asked for help through, do not want to ‘stick their neck out’ or do not want to get involved with any case that requires them to spend any more time than sending a letter will take. Sad thing is that hardly any of the politicians actually do any of the legwork, they have people for that work. I can understand that, however, I can also state that not all politicians are like that, I have had the pleasure of one politician who actively pursued answers and solutions on my behalf, while in Washington D.C. It was nice to see that. I hear/watch some (very few) politicians at the Senate and Congressional hearings who seem to stand up to the VA and demand answers, as well as politicians who do not. What disappoints me a little is that some politicians go out of their way to ‘smooze’ with the VA representatives instead of standing their ground with them and actually demand answers. It almost seems like the politicians don’t want to hurt their friendship with the VA….

‘What chance do I have to gain employment when I am finally downed by my disabilities’

Businesses cannot ask you if you are disabled. You do not have to admit you are disabled, however, with that you cannot knowingly take a job that you are not physically able to accomplish. What that means is you cannot take a job knowing that you cannot accomplish the work, then when the company fires you, you try to sue them for being biased. You have to be realistic about what you can do. What I would suggest is figure out your restrictions and abilities and start searching for positions that you can actually do and then apply. My advice on this would be to be the best at whatever you can do and you can progress upwards within that company by hard work and dedication (as well as good quality work, as well as good work ethics and morals). No one owes you anything, regardless what you went through serving your country, and you deserve the very best but you also have an obligation to yourself as well as your loved ones to be honest and work hard for everything you get.

 

If ever you were curious about your politicians…

As a veteran, especially a disabled veteran, there are certain things that I would want to make sure of: I will be able to go to “X” or I won’t be able to go to “X” because of my physical limitations, I have all of my paperwork from the Department of Veterans Affairs and my letters and appeals to the VA organized by date and put into a folder, and that the elected officials are working at making veteran healthcare better, as well as the ratings process. Well…I always evaluate whether or not I am able to do something because of my physical limitation, I organize ALL paperwork coming and going to the VA, and I keep track of what they elected officials are doing in DC to ensure they are working towards a better ‘tomorrow’ for us veterans and what we have to go through with the VA.

Now, there are some locations where the VA is spot on fantastic: great service, great staff, accommodating appointments and easy to get on the phone with a provider whenever need-be, and there are some locations where it is the opposite. I can say that my Dr. is pretty awesome but some of the admin staff are horrible, a couple nurses are downright hateful and getting a message to my provider is pretty tough, but in his defense he MUST get a tsunami of emails daily. He is one of the good ones and you know how that is: if the Dr is good, all of the vets will flood his calendar.

So, my initial point to this was to outline the most recent vote that was casted by our elected officials for veteran reform. Many, if not all of the elected officials will state that they are pro-veteran, why wouldn’t’ they? That would be political suicide if you a congressman/woman were to say ” veterans? Screw them! I am tired of hearing all of the whining and crying! Let them figure their own crap out!”. So the link to the information I am about to put out is: http://www.militarytimes.com/articles/how-did-your-congressional-representative-vote-on-the-va-reform-bill .

This link will show you the breakdown of the vote: http://clerk.house.gov/evs/2016/roll519.xml . Some of the people of interest, in Virginia, is Representative Scott (D), who voted “NO”. Now, why would any representative vote no? Good question. What about the Democratic Minority Leader of the Congressional Committee on Veterans Affairs: Corrine Brown? She is adamant about everyone knowing that she is extremely PRO VETERAN for her veterans in Florida! Most hearings that I have watched, I have seen her make it a point to say something about that topic. Well, this year, she was indicted on Fraud charges! What? Fraud? Yes, fraud. I did happen to notice that there was someone else in her space during one of the hearings that I watched. In one article, it mentioned that she was removed once indicted on fraud and embezzlement charges, which makes sense, you would not want anyone in office that is going through an ugly legal battle, it would not bode well for re-election.

I just want to break this down a bit: this woman has been in office for 22-23 years. Her salary is no less than $193,000 per year as the Minority Leader [http://usgovinfo.about.com/od/uscongress/a/congresspay.htm], so effectively, she has made (193k*22) approximately $4,246,000.000 and that is if she JUST made that salary. I am pretty certain she is getting pay from other committee’s or whathaveyou but for the sake of argument, lets just say she is making just the $193k per year, another article outlined her creating a donations website? Baffling. She wants donations to help pay her attorney fees? How does someone get to the point in their life that they feel so entitled that they assume that hard working citizens, who work hard for their money, want to donate to someone who: 1) is making no less than $193 per year, and 2) (allegedly) embezzled a copious amount of money through a non-profit that she created, which has not shown to benefit anyone? Either she has the biggest set of brass numblies, or once again she feels entitled to things she has not earned.

My point in bringing her up is that she voted “NO” as well to the Veterans Reform bill. Now, my question,  which I asked in my message to the House committee on veterans affairs: [https://veterans.house.gov/], was: How was she able to vote on this bill if she was removed from her position and why would she vote no if she was so pro-veteran? I have written 9 messages/letters (some pretty lengthy) to this Committee, and have never received a response. You see, I do not believe in just complaining about this or complaining about that without actually trying to come up with a solution. That would be non-productive and make me a chronic whiner. I so desperately want to help my fellow veterans, and I want to make sure our elected officials are in DC toiling tediously trying to pass bills that will ultimately help my fellow veterans, however, I do not believe that to be the case with many of our political appointees.

We have a President who vetoes veterans bills that could hold people accountable for their actions at the VA, we have politicians who fight these bills just to get an attachment into the bill to satisfy their own agenda (could that agenda be money coming in from some entity in order to persuade a vote this way or that way?), and a VA who does NOT fire someone for corruptness, nay nay, they relocate that person but they get to keep their same pay. How is that? If you mess up at your job, you could get fired, so go work at the VA and you will never get fired!!!

There are numerous cases of personnel who were caught deliberately screwing the system for their own financial benefit, and instead of getting fired, they were allowed to retire. Many others who were caught were moved to another position of lesser responsibility…but with the same pay. Some, and this one really made me feel swell, were put on paid administrative leave where they raked in their paycheck from the comfy-ness of their own home.

So each morning, when I wake up and try and figure out what I have to do to get my body to lesson its painful grasp on me, I think to myself “I wonder if the politicians will do good for our veteran brethren today? I wonder how the VA is going to screw me today? and I wonder how many more veterans have to kill themselves before the nation puts pressure on the VA and our elected officials to create an organization that will actually help the veteran instead of throw roadblocks up everywhere to make it harder on us all”. Life is hard enough as it is, it is even harder when you are physically engulfed in pain (but your Dr wants to reduce your pain meds) but try to live a somewhat normal life to not have the added stressors of the VA denying everything you turn in and then picking and choosing what they keep on file to deny future claims. I truly want a VA that works, I want closer on my case after a decade of fighting them and I want a better process where the veteran can gain the rating coverage they need before they pass away from it. Godspeed to all and have a great day.

 

 

 

Action is Needed

 If you want to truly see those that are making decisions that greatly affect veterans, go to the article: http://www.azcentral.com/story/news/local/arizona-investigations/2016/09/01/va-deputy-secretary-touts-phoenix-hospital-improvements/89666526/ and make sure you read all of the text. Scroll all of the way down after watching the video and read the timeline and who said what. This is very important, and I would have to say, Mr. Sloan Gibson, if you were to talk to me that way you and I would be having words. You are disrespectful, a liar, and should try taking an ethics course at the college of your choosing (providing it is a legitimate college and not one that just conducts online courses only).  Below is an exact quote about the quickly-to-retire-before-charges-are-brought-against-her VA Director at the Phoenix VA:

“And if some jerk wants to assert that something that happened over here is/has got anything to do with her retirement they’re full of crap! That a good answer for you? Clear enough? Good!”

As you just read the above quote, or watched the short video, you can see the deflection that occurred. These management personnel are quick to deflect instead of holding people accountable. Do some research and check to see how many VA top management personnel retired….just before being called to a Congressional hearing. It’s amazing, yet what is anyone doing about it? Nada! Nothing! Nil! This spiked wheel will continue to roll over veterans and these management personnel will still get big, fat paychecks off of the sacrifices of our veterans. Shameful punks!

I am absolutely tired of the mental assaults of the VA personnel, the tactics that they have used over the years, the petty things that they do to make it difficult for veterans to close out their ratings (meaning they are satisfied with the results of the VA findings and rating decisions). It is nonstop and I know that if I have been going through it, my previous VFW Post commander has gone through it for over 20 years, the copious number of veterans I have helped have had to go through it but thankfully I learned the VA’s tactics and decisions and was able to ensure the veteran I was helping was not experiencing all of what I have had to.

It is amazing the number of people that were allowed to retire and made their decisions JUST after hearing that they would be brought into the Congressional Hearing on specific matters, or they were caught doing illegal actions or processes, got caught and then they retired before charges could be filed.

This is ridiculous. If you rob a bank, you cannot retire before the police arrest you! If you belong to an organization, such as the VA, you cannot manipulate the numbers to make your hospital look good, and then when caught and told you will be brought up on charges as they were responsible, they retire. Then *poof* that subject just disappears. It is time for veterans to stand up and take responsibility for their own claim and demand action to be taken by the VA! It is time for this greed, unethical practices and wrong-doings to stop. There are some great people that work at the VA, yet the bad people make them all look bad. Sad reality for sure.

Why Things May Look Bleak

Why Things Look Bleak

As with anyone, whether in physical/mental pain or feeling great, we all have our bad days and we have our good days. For those of us that have to live with chronic pain, we tend to try and find anything possible to cut the pain, even if just partially, to live with reduced pain…even if just for an hour. Where does it leave us when what works is taken away? Where can we turn when we are proactive about our pain management but actions are taken to disrupt things? What options to we have when, because of others, decisions are made that greatly impact your pain management plan?

It is extremely unlikely that one voice will change things and this is where one group needs to combine to be a voice of one, which is louder and less-likely ignored. Too many veterans have to pay because of the actions of others. Case in point: due to deaths and overdoses of opioid medication, plus the over-prescribing of opioids by a Dr. within the VA, the FDA raised the ‘level’ of Vicodin to make it a 30-day new prescription each time its filled. Since this had occurred, my pain medication was usually delivered late. I don’t blame it wholeheartedly on the FDA, there are personnel involved that dropped the ball when my needed medication was requested (but not my Dr.). So, because of the rampant overuse of opioids those of us that take it daily to cut the edge off of chronic pain are going to have other medications prescribed.

On one hand I could understand a stricter control over opioid medication, but I have to tell you that those that are in pain will usually find another way to reduce said-pain. That could be alcohol, harder drugs, etc. For some, when something that was working is taken away because of actions of others, they cannot deal with the pain that they now have to face every day with very little help in reducing that pain. This is when they may feel that they have nowhere else to turn, no one that will understand what they are going through, and nothing ‘bright’ for their foreseeable future. This is where they ‘disappear’ by choosing their own way out, so they never have to feel that pain, since no one else seems to understand the intensity and impact it has over their happiness.

All of these factors play an important role in the lives of our veterans, as well as anyone else that has to live with chronic pain each day. There is a breaking point. This is where it is important for each person to be proactive about their own therapy options as well as exercise. Nowhere has it ever been stated that exercise (within reason) has been detrimental to one’s health and wellbeing. With that, if you actually pursue other avenues of pain relief, you may find that it helps, but what happens when you exhaust all avenues?

I have done many things to try and find relief from chronic pain, some of the ways I have pursued or still use today are:

-Yoga: despite my limited abilities with flexibility, yoga has helped with stretching my muscles and flexibility. I can only do what I can do.

-Tai Chi: I found this to be good for my mental health. Actions are deliberate and fluid. Once again I could only do what I could do.

-Going to the gym: Low weights to maintain my muscle health, not heavy enough to cause more damage but not too light where I am wasting my time. Cardio has been my main focus to maintain good blood flow as well as maintain a healthy brain.

-Swimming: the gym I belong to has a 25-yard pool so I attempt laps whenever I can.

-Painting: for a while I turned to painting, artistic not professionally, despite my inability to be artistic. My brother received all of that artistic talent where he could draw a horse that looks just like a horse, whereas I draw a horse and there is no telling what it looks like. Painting help me divert concentration to try and find my ‘happy place’ away from pain. The pain was still there but my brain was occupied enough to make it somewhat bearable.

-Writing: I have spent a lot of time writing. I have contributed to articles and much of my writing was kept private, some have been published in numerous locations and I had a very small publication of just my writings in 2005. Writing was another way to occupy my brain in the hopes that I could preoccupy my brain away from physical pain.

-MOOV: MOOV is a wristband/software bracelet that has low-impact exercise programs that is short and increases the heartrate. Some days I was not able to do half of the exercises while other days I could.

-Stretching: Every day, on more than one occasion, I stretch. Upper and lower body. I do numerous stretching exercises hoping to keep my muscles stretched hoping it will reduce the pain in my body.

With all of my attempts of being proactive on my own case, I still have physical pain. I do not want to have surgery because I cannot afford to be out of work for months while going through rehabilitation. As mentioned previously, I do not ask for more pain medications, nor have I asked for higher doses. I go to my appointments, I don’t complain, I wait patiently despite knowing that if my appointment is at 4pm, I won’t see the Dr. until about 6-630pm if I am lucky. I accept that wait because my Dr is one of the best Dr’s I have had at the VA.

So what happens when they eliminate my opioid medication because of all of the other cases of opioid abuse? If I complain about not receiving my opioid medication for pain, then I look like I am addicted to the pain medications. If I don’t say anything about having my pain medications that work reduced or eliminated, then my life will suffer: my marriage, my friendships and my quality of life. Why would this be fair? Am I not open to trying different things to see if there are any other options to reduce my pain? Nope on all counts.

My issue with these things are as follows:

I will be given many appointments to other specialties in the hopes that it will be a feasible option for pain relief. These appointments will be during the day (so I will need to take time away from work).

These appointments will be with departments who may not know my entire physical injury history, which means I will need to relive every-bit of information about my accidents and injuries.

These department personnel will be excited to attempt to get me to fall in love with their procedures and make one feel as though if it does NOT work for me, then it is my fault because they have such positive results with every other veteran. Once again, that would put me into a position of defense or cause me to look for other medical doctors in the civilian world for my medical needs.

If I try to explain that what I am using now is working to reduce the pain, it will look like I am not willing to try anything else. When I explain all of the things that I accomplish daily for my own health, it will once again look as though I am not willing to try anything new.

What is not understood is this: I do not want to be in pain. I accept that I will have to deal with this pain daily, probably for the rest of my life. This is a harsh reality because no one wants to be in pain. I believe that it is just a matter of coming to terms with the pain and the situation that I am in. Only I can do this. I can ask for help and go through their motions but despite my willingness to ask for help and proceed with their tactics and techniques, there is a good chance that my pain will continue. I have to be okay with this fact. I do not have to be happy about this but I do need to face the reality.

Political Assistance

Over the years I have asked for help due to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), from politicians. I have had one CongressWoman: Thelma Drake of Virginia Beach, and she was incredible. It was because of her that I was able to have some of the things that the VA was screwing me with reduced or stopped. She was no-nonsense, supported the veterans and was willing to meet me face to face whenever we could. She also had her representative set up a meeting between myself, the liaison and the head Dr. of the East Coast Military Medical Department. Ms. Drake was incredible and I wish that she was still available and in Congress because she was the veteran’s loudest supporter.

I have asked Senators in Virginia for help and one Senator wrote me back and stated I should go through a Veterans Service Organization (VSO’s) instead of helping me out, another Senator told me he could not help me. A Governor told me that I should pursue help somewhere else. Another Senator’s representative called me, angrily, to brow-beat me about my case because I kept asking them for help but they were doing nothing to help, other than sending the VA my letters that I wrote to the Senator (because the VA would NEVER punish a veteran for writing their representative). I consistently sent their office proof that the VA was doing deliberate actions trying to screw with my case, only to have them (the Senators representative) send my letters directly to the VA.

My most recent attempt to ask for help was for my local Congressman in the city I now live. I never spoke to him, just to his representative. Once. I sent them a letter outlining the proof I had and the problems I have been faced with. I also wrote in this letter that ‘if your SOP is to send the veteran’s letter to the VA along with your request for information, then please just shred my letter and let me know that you cannot be of assistance with my case and I will pursue help elsewhere’. I never received a letter (or email) back from the Congressman’s office stating that they shredded my letter, matter of fact I had not heard anything back from his office for quite a long time.

Then, on a Saturday, I received a packet from the office of the Congressman. In this packet contained a packet from the VA. Apparently the Congressman reached out to the VA hospital where I mentioned the problem I was having with my pain medications, as well as the main VA office. Two days after receiving this packet of information, my phone rings and it is my Dr. from the VA hospital. My Dr tells me that my appointment is coming up and he wants to reduce my pain medication. If the Director of the VA or other management officials had nothing to do with my Dr calling me, it was an eerie coincidence.

 Where it stands now: I have no political representative in my STATE that has the intestinal fortitude to pursue the truth from the VA and support their constituents as much as humanly possible. I am unsure if I am going to get any prescription filled for pain medications at this point. My case is being picked apart up in Washington DC where they are trying to do whatever they can to not look like they targeted me, all the while trying to reduce my ratings as much as possible. My disability check will still come reduced so that the VA can recoup the money I was given for my 15.5 years of service, and tomorrow…tomorrow I will still know that I will wake up in pain.

This is why things look bleak. Do I give up? Do I freak out? Do I quit?

I do not have anything in me that allows me to quit. I have fought all my life and will continue to fight until the wrongs have been corrected and I will continue to help other veterans with their claims to help them avoid going through what I have gone through over the past decade plus. I will always pursue whatever I can to reduce my physical pain.

Will I have to start drinking?

Will I have to pursue illegal drugs?

Will I have to go to a civilian Dr to try and get pain medications that work?

There are very few things in life we can be sure about. At this point I am unsure of most things. I won’t quit. I will offer my assistance, my shoulder, my ears for any veteran that needs help. I will always fight for my case until I am content with my ratings coverage. I will not lay down and let the VA, or any inept politician, run right over me. I am a fighter. I will continue to fight. I will try to maintain a positive attitude. That is all that I can do at this point, but the next time you see that veterans are committing suicide, understand that everyone has a breaking point and pain can convince most people that the remainder of ones life with a pain that will only get worse, is not something that many will want to live with. I do not want to commit suicide, but I understand why some of those veterans do. Some pain cannot go away and death is the only way for them to escape the hell that they have to live through each and every day.

Instead of donating to charities to make yourself feel better about doing your part for our nation’s veterans, get involved. Give time to a cause that helps veterans. Lend a hand at a veterans organization. If you can only give money to a cause, use Charity Navigator and/or Charity Watch to research the ratings of the charities you desire to give you money to. You will be surprised at how much goes into the organizations pockets instead of helping veterans in need.