Why the Silence?

Why the silence?

How can those who we elect to represent us remain quiet when there are so many of our citizens that are being constantly abused by a government organization that exist specifically to help our veterans? Our elected officials are supposed to be voices more powerful than our own to go up against bigger entities that ‘swat’ us down when we attempt to speak up against the ‘wrong’! Yet, as more and more headlines express the consistent abuse, and way-too-often horrible deaths of our nations’ heroes, our main stream media remains silent. Our elected officials are silent. Our voices, stifled.

It should not take invested research and a room full of people to watch every congressional committee hearings on the veterans affairs to get the ‘big picture’ of the scandalous direction and affiliations that are connected between the VA and the Congressional Committee on VA. Yet, if there are no witnesses to the answers, statements and official comments from both sides, one could assume that everything ‘is as it should be’, and yet that is not the case.

As I write this, I have personally sent over 250 letters to the Congressional Committee on Veterans Affairs under the ‘Waste, Fraud and Abuse’ section of their webpage. Not a single return message, so I continue to send them. I request a response each and every time. No response. I also request a face to face, closed door hearing (or open, I don’t care) with members of the committee. No response. No invite. No interest.

What could be gained by not answering my messages? I include the latest articles, not from the MSM because they don’t care, they care about their money, their ratings and their BMW in the garage, not about our veterans who served their country so they can have their freedoms. I have learned that if you continually give something to someone without them actually earning it, they tend to expect it and much, much more…without regard to how it came to be.

The most recent article, dated on 2 December 2016, states that a Vietnam Veteran died (link below) with maggots crawling inside a wound. How is this medically possible if we are providing personnel who are qualified and CARE ABOUT OUR VETERANS? It should not be possible, yet it is.

Link: http://www.wnd.com/2016/12/vietnam-vet-dies-with-maggots-crawling-in-wound/

What about the VA dentist that did not sanitize his tool properly? Possibly infecting over 500 veterans, who had no idea this ‘Dr’ was caring less about helping the veterans AND putting their lives further at risk. So how many battles, seen and unseen, do our veterans deserve? I think that they have paid enough for their service and should be taken care of, but until we get politicians that actually have some ethics and morals in office, plus a Secretary in the VA that actually cares about the veterans, AND directors of VA hospitals that can run their facility with ethics, our veteran population will greatly diminish in a horrible and undeserving way.

The VA will get richer, deny more claims quicker, kill more veterans and not be held accountable, allow cancerous employees to retire before being brought up on charges, and politicians will continue to vote as persuaded and get rich off of the blood of our veterans. Alone we are a quiet voice in the darkness, together we are a thunderous sound that no one can ignore. Its time to become that thunderous sound.

 

How the VA gets around questions while in the Congressional Committee on Veterans Affairs hearing!

Well, I will give the VA one thing: they definitely prepare their people on circle talk, avoidance techniques and quick-witted-responses such as “we cannot talk about active cases in a public forum but can update the Chairman [or congressman] in private” or “We can gladly update you in private”. This is so the watchdog groups don’t have an easy time spotting their corruption, lies or generic responses to important questions or comments that deserve air time. I feel this is unfair. I also feel that the members from the VA that attend to these hearings are definitely prepped on how to ‘use up time’. What that means is: each congressman/woman has about 5 minutes each to ask questions, but their 5 minutes also includes the responses from those testifying at those hearings. So it behooves those answering questions to ‘use up’ or ‘eat up’ the time with long-winded and sometimes useless answers.
Very slick VA, very slick.
What I do not like is that our political representatives do not seem to catch these side-steps during the hearings. I think some may have an idea and feel as though their hands are tied or that they only have a small amount of time and do not want to divert from their main plan of questioning. It is something for sure. I can say that at this moment in time I have written 24 pretty-lengthy letters to the Committee on Veterans Affairs, requesting time in front of them to prove all of my information, to better arm them for future hearings. When you have things in print and a timeline map using VA documentation, it should be pretty easy to paint a corruption picture.
During this hearing [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1woZ47CTCTM] in September 2016, the VA representatives (as well as Office of Special Counsel, VHA & VBA) express the amounts of money that has been offered to some, which one is up to $300k settlement by a VA employee. So the VA offered $300k to an employee to remain quiet and walk away from the suit. This was just one of numerous settlements that the VA has paid out.
To keep things short here (and a promise that I will provide sound bites and video/VLOG to pick this apart) to respect your time today, I will tell you that what these VA personnel have described is as follows (once again, I intend to back this up with direct sound bites):
-Some employees could be absolute dirt-bags and when/if they receive a bad evaluation, they could easily file a complaint to the Office of Special Counsel and state that they were biased against because of ‘this-that-or the other thing’ and will probably get a monetary bonus to settle out of any litigation
-Some of the VA employees who have no business being in a position to handle ANY VA claims because of their lack of ethics, morals or sane judgement, remain at the VA because they are protected by a union who threatens the VA with litigation
-The VA supposedly weighs the ‘cost’ of litigating against an employee to determine if it is cheaper to just pay them off instead of dragging it out
-The VA puts ‘fluff’ into their statements by saying “we want to make sure we compile all of the needed information in order to apply the appropriate level of punishment” and then say 2 more years? I am baffled at this and will expound in future postings.
The Chairman also announced the percentage of VA employees who ‘broke the rules’, got caught, and did not have these negative ‘marks’ put into their records. This percentage was %90+. So greater than 90% of employees who break the rules, get caught and are removed from their positions keep a ‘clean’ employment record. This is called a ‘clean record settlement’.
Although there is a lot of information on this post, it is pretty choppy at best and just wanted to get some information out to the veteran community more as a placemark and will be updated in the very near future. I did not want to forget my points, or what I need for a future posting in order to get this specific information out for all to see, hear, taste and smell!

How to Organize my Disabilities

How to Organize my Disabilities

Before I begin, I want to ensure you understand the terminology that I am using in their article:

NOD: Notice of Disagreement
VA: Department of Veterans Affair
USPS: U.S. Postal Service

I wanted to offer something that would benefit you overall in the event your disability claim(s) come back as denied, or the VA disputes your claims. It is not the end-all-be-all but it works great for me and anyone else I have helped out in the past. It does take a little time to organize, but in the long run, by organizing your information as I do (and explain below), you will be able to have a quick reference and a timeline compilation for a rapid reply to ensure the VA does not ‘lock’ their ratings in because you forgot about submitting a Notice of Disagreement.

First off, I recommend submitting your appeal/NOD immediately after receiving your disability determination letter (if it is a letter specifically for acceptance or denials of disabilities submitted). Although the VA will express to all veterans that you have a year to submit supporting documentation for disabilities claimed, there ARE some letters that will inform you that you have 30 or 60 days to respond to their letter. Lessons learned: Do NOT assume that you have a year to reply to the VA because 1) you could forget, 2) the letter may specify a shorter span of time to respond.

Create folders on your computer.

Create main ‘VA Medical Information” folder.

Depending on how you wish to set things up, what I do is: I create a master folder inside the ‘VA Medical Information’ folder and name it: Last Name, First Name. Then I enter that folder and create specific folders of priority.

I start with: 01_VA_Blank_Forms. This is to house all of the forms that I may need to use/submit to the VA.

Next will be: ‘2016 (or whatever year needed) VA Information’. This is to house all of the information that is sent/received in 2016 (or whichever year you are in). Inside this folder will house:

Example Image: folder_example_va I then create: ‘01_[year]_VA_Letters_to_Me’(Example: ‘01_2016_VA_Letters_to_Me’). This folder will house a scanned copy of the letters that the VA sends me. I usually omit the pages that are not pertinent to save space, not that word/PDF documents take up too much space.

Next folder will be  ‘02_[year]_NOD_Appeals_Letters_to_VA’ (Example: ‘02_2016_NOD_Appeals_Letters_to_VA’). This will house the letters, scanned PDF’s, etc. that I send to the VA.

The next folder will be ‘03_[year]_Political_Letters_IN_OUT’. This is to contain any of the letters sent/received asking for help by the local politician. Inside of this Folder will also contain an excel document with the following categories/setup:politican_tracking_documentAll paperwork in and out have copies that are digital and reside in the organized folders.

Service Record

It is wise to thumb through all pages of your service record to catalog all of the locations you have been and pertinent history (and associated data) to have a quick reference if your locations are in question by the VA.

Service Medical Record

Example Image med_record_main_page

I create three (3) excel documents and these documents will reside in the main folder created on your drive and labeled ‘VA Medical Information’:

1)Master Medical Documentation 2)Disability by Body Parts 3)VA Results and Correspondence Tracker

The ‘Master Medical Documentation’ file is where I list everything that I captured from the medical record, in no specific order, just as I encounter the disabilities. Once everything is annotated, then I organize everything on new tabs by year (example: all of the 2010 disabilities will be listed in date order on the ‘2010’ tab on this excel document).

The ‘Disability by Body Parts’ document will have the disabilities listed by body part (each body part will have its own tab) and in date order. This allows you to see which are chronic conditions (those that last greater than 3-6 months) and which are not. I usually create a tab for ‘other’ conditions and name it as ‘other’ because some disabilities are not easily categorized by body part.

The ‘VA Results and Correspondence Tracker’ document is specifically for tracking ALL traffic in and out to the VA. This will allow you to keep track of things as ‘sometimes’ people make mistakes and disabilities can ‘disappear’. That would not help your case at all.

On the document, I list all of the disabilities being claimed on the far left column. Then I annotate information for the specific disabilities moving rightward and include the dates on the top of the update. For an example: Lets say I claim Ringing in the ears (this will reside in A3 cell), Memory Loss (this will reside in A4 cell) and Lower back pain (this will reside in A5 cell). Cells A1 and A2 are left blank because the ‘B’ column will need those spaces (the 1 and 2 spaces moving rightward) for the dates and name of the updates. By doing it this way it will allow you to track the specific disability rightward as the correspondence moves back and forth between you and the VA.

So we now have A3-A5 disabilities listed. So in the B column we put the date we submitted our initial claim for these disabilities (example: Jan 1, 2001). So cell B1 will have the specific information as to who it came from: “Initial Claim to VA” and B2 will have the date: 1 Jan 2001. Then I write in cells B3-B5 “Claim submitted”.

When the VA comes back with a rating on the Tinnitus (ringing of the ear(s) but not on the others, we move over to Cell C1 and write: Results from VA and Cell C2 will have the date: 1 June 2002. Then, I check to see which cell number (row) has the “Ringing of the ears” claim and move underneath the column that I just created and add in the information for JUST the ‘Ringing of the ears”. Example: “VA Rating 10% SC” [SC = Service Connected]. For the other disabilities, under the ‘C’ column and most-recent date, I write ‘NO DATA’ for the other two disabilities. This is what allows me to maintain constant contact with all of my claimed disabilities, which will allow you to not ‘forget’ about what you have claimed. Some may find this excessive but unless you have a really good memory on EVERYTHING you claimed, you could very well forget what you claimed a year ago. If you forget and the VA ‘forgets’ then you could lose out on a rating for that disability, then good luck in trying to get that covered in the future.

By doing it this way you can make sure you are aware of disabilities remaining so you can call the VA, AND send a written letter to the VA inquiring about the disabilities the VA ‘forgot’ about. If you are not proactive about your case, no one else will be as proactive as you should be. Remember: there are some great support organizations that exist to help the veterans (VFW, DAV, AMVETS, AMERICAN LEGION, etc.) but sometimes, not all of the time, once a ‘good’ organization is known that organization usually gets flooded with veterans who want them to help them. They could have the best intentions but because they are so bogged down with veterans and their claims, they end up too busy to provide complete support as they had in the beginning. That is what happened to me.

Civilian Medical Records or Reports

You will want to log all of this information as well, which means a separate excel document or a new tab on existing excel documents. The main point is you will want to ensure everything is organized, otherwise it may take you a very long time to find pertinent supporting data thumbing through each page of your records each time.

Now that you have organized your digital storage locations and files, you will want to make sure you maintain a ‘running’ copy (paper) of all of your paperwork. The reason for this is simple: electronics can fail you.

I suggest you maintain a 5” 3-ring binder for your VA traffic (if you have only 3 disabilities you are tracking you may not need a 5” binder). This binder houses a paper copy of all of my correspondence back and forth with the VA. I separate the sections as follows:

Section 1: VA Correspondence IN

Section 1 will house all pertinent VA paperwork received. I make sure I write down the date I received the VA correspondence because the date received is not the same date sent.

Section 2: Appeals Submitted w/letters to VA

Section 2 allows me to track my letters (which I write the date sent onto the main page of the letter AND the VA documents) as well as WHEN the submissions were received. This is why I send my submissions through the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) as ‘Signature Receipt Requested’. This means I can input the code from the receipt onto the USPS website and get the information of who signed as well as the date and time it was signed for. I then screen capture that information and print out just the screen capture so I can staple it to my submission copies.

By doing that, I can quickly see when my submission was sent, when it was received and who signed for it. This way if the VA states that they never received any of my paperwork I can produce a copy of what I need to prove otherwise. This is very important.

Section 3: Logbook of calls to/from VA

Section 3 logbook is for you to update with each time you call the VA to inquire about your claim and each time the VA calls you. You want to keep a record of this because you may need to be able to reflect back onto how many times you had to call the VA if you are asking for any ‘outside’ assistance and want to prove your attempts. Part of this section is so you can write down the duration of the call, who you spoke with, time of call, the subject of the call and the highlights of the call. This may come in handy down the road.

Section 4: Other VA documentation-NON disabilities

Section 4 is for other VA documentation for college/GI Bill information, etc.

It is my expressed hope and desire that you will not need ANY of the information I am writing about in this article but please take it from someone who has been fighting for years and years against someone(s) who desperately wants me to have a hard time getting my disabilities covered, if you can’t prove it happened then it did not happen. You need to have proof.

Once again, if you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to us through the CONTACT US page and we will get the information you need (if we don’t already know it) and get it to you as soon as possible. Be safe.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

Veteran Suicides down? VA tries to gain trust.

 Article: Largest study of veteran suicide reveals more precise information
Source: DAV
Web Address: https://www.dav.org/learn-more/news/2016/largest-study-veteran-suicide-reveals-precise-information/

Date of Article: 24 Aug 2016

So, it seems that the VA is really attempting to ‘clear their name’ by producing ‘facts’ regarding veteran suicides being 20 a day instead of 22. The article also tries to force the reader into thinking that the VA is being truthful about their information, sort of like how truthful they were about their appointment times, cost of the Denver hospital, transparency about how they punish employees, etc. I have to say that I am not sold on their information AND I do not believe everything that I read because, just as this write-up, it is from my perspective, how I read and absorbed the information given and how I spew out my opinion, which is what I am doing now.

Given that, I have to say that the article looks to have the information needed in order to ‘crunch’ the numbers in order have accurate calculations….however….with that, the article does try to sway the reader into believing that since the VA did the needed calculations and showed that the number of veterans is 20 per day and not 22 per day and “about 70 percent of veterans who took their own lives were not regular users of VA services” (DAV, 2016). Let us think about that:

Do all veterans need to go to a VA hospital to be a regular user of VA services? I know plenty of veterans who receive a disability, yet do not utilize any veteran services. Let us think further:

Does “users of VA services” mean that the veterans do not matter? No, I doubt that. I do, however, believe that the VA, just like other large organizations, politicians, and other people who are in higher positions who think that they can do whatever they feel, whenever they feel like it, uses the information in a manner (and worded in such a way) to look as if they are not as bad as people thought previously. Wait a moment… so if I had a glass that was 50% occupied, would it be half full or half empty? See where I am going with this?

In the above example (the glass 50% occupied) the answer would depend on the person being asked. Are they a pessimist (glass if half empty) or an optimist (glass is half full)? If I was trying to convince the pessimist, I could relay the statistical information in order to convince that person, without a doubt, that the glass is half empty (in the event they were not totally convinced initially). The media takes sound bites from politicians in such a way to make that politician to look one way or another depending on how they were bought off….oops….did I say bought off? Yes, I did. I believe NON of what I hear on the news or see on social media because the proof is out there regarding the whole story and at that point one can easily see how a media group manipulated the stories for a couple reasons: to get more viewers, make more money from the politicians and their favors, etc.

If you don’t believe what I have ‘spewed’ out up to this point, please watch the entire video: Hearing: Department of Veterans Affairs (EventID=104548) on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VNJanEDPG8g. (or wait for me to produce my written review of this video) and you will quickly see the Secretary and Under Secretary divert answers while on camera at the hearing. Some of the questions should be answered immediately but if those questions were answered then the watchdog groups would quickly jump on them for their answer. Now, if the VA officials tell the committee “We will get those answers to you” then those answers just: *poof* disappear, never to be seen again.

I believe that as a veteran, all us veterans need to band together and hold the VA accountable. Too many veterans want to do or say something but are concerned that the VA will target them and punish them or their disabilities by opening their mouth. It seems to be easier for me because they have ‘put the screws’ to me since I asked for a Congresswoman’s help. So, for years I have had to fight their tactics tooth and nail and once, way back when, I was actually a pretty trusting guy. Now I question everything and plan accordingly.

I recommend every veteran write their opinions to the congressional committee on veterans affairs at the below link:

https://veterans.house.gov/contact/write-the-committee

This will finally put the pressure on our elected officials. We PAY for them to be in office and they earn a quick 6 figures for that position. I don’t make 6 figures. Who knows if I will ever make 6 figures. I make no money helping veterans, sort of makes you wonder. Save a copy of each letter to send to the congressional committee on the VA so that you can gain the complete data needed to say “1 reply after 7 submissions to the committee and their response was…”. Those numbers are important: just like the numbers were important for veterans to gain exposure on wait times, it is important to show the results of our support by our elected officials.

I hope that one day we won’t have to expend our energy trying to gain support for our disabilities, or to try and keep them.

Reference
 Dever, M. (2016, 08 24). Largest study of veteran suicide reveals more precise information. Retrieved 2016, from DAV.COm: https://www.dav.org/learn-more/news/2016/largest-study-veteran-suicide-reveals-precise-information/

 

 

Why Punish The Entire Veteran Population?

Recently the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) came under fire because a Dr. at a VA facility, who was nicknamed the “Candyman”, had been supplying veterans with a copious amount of opioids and other medication without regard for the possible side-effects (such as death). At least one veteran had died because of the ‘canyman’s’ disregard for ethical behavior. This is obviously a horrible situation.

How could this possibly impact us veterans? I can guarantee you that there are now a copious amount of Dr.’s who, whether the veteran is responsible with their usage of opioids or not, are now paranoid about prescribing opioids to any of their veteran patients. This becomes a punishment to those of us who use our pain medication appropriately.

It seems that there are hundreds of stories/reports within the past couple of years regarding the VA’s waste, fraud and abuse and after reading many of the reports and watching the hearings, it is apparent that the VA will NOT punish their personnel for wrongdoings. The guilty would most likely get shifted into another position. Would they lose pay? Nope. Would they face criminal action against them? Probably not and in most cases absolutely not. In one particular case, the VA placed the ‘perpetrators of wrongdoings’ on administrative leave, with pay, and during the hearing one of the hearing members stated that those personnel are still being paid? While on administrative leave? Which was then mentioned that those personnel (who are making more than you and I, and in some cases more than you and I together, per year) had been on administrative leave for a couple years. So they are sitting around, making a six figure salary (or very close to it), only to regain their position or another position. No accountability.

Below is the link to the specific video where Mr. Rogers, the Chairman of the Hearing: Department of Veterans Affairs (EventID=104548), specifically comments regarding the over-prescribing of opioids (at approximately 18:10 into the video):

Video

So now the VA has their knee-jerk reaction and as many businesses do: send out a ‘blast’ throughout all clinics/medical facilities and put pressure on all of the top staff to take action to ensure none of the patients are being prescribed opioids, or to drastically reduce their prescription.

I can say, from first-hand knowledge, that since certain medications were raised in their ‘opioid value’ (in other words, the level the medication was classified) I have had a hard time getting my medications on time. Some times the medications arrived a day late, while other times in was a week late. Fact is the medications are not going to get renewed until the day they are due, so since I get mine mailed and depending on the day the medication gets filled, I may get it three days later or a week later (and holy goodness if I was not home to receive the medication-all opioids have to be signed for). How does this benefit the veteran? [Side note: My Dr. moves on my requests quite rapidly, so I do not put this on him. I have seen him go above and beyond for his patients and am just happy he has stuck around this long…if I feel frustrated at the ‘system’, I can only imagine how he feels]

It is quite apparent that the VA is not veteran friendly. Granted, there are some veterans who are pill junkies and will want to get more, stronger, or different pain medications or drugs that will help them escape their reality, but what about us veterans who do not abuse their medications? Who do not ask fro stronger medications despite their pain becoming worse? Who are respectful to all employees they encounter in the VA despite how they are to me? I will tell you what happens:

We become punished and can do nothing about it….at the time. I believe that we, as veterans who have faithfully served their country, became injured and looked to the VA for support and medical care, should come together and put the needed pressure onto the VA and politicians to ensure our care is appropriate and proper. If we do not, the VA will continue to steamroll over us until we lose the power to fight back. I believe the VA Dr.’s should not fear the upper echelon within the VA, as some currently do. I think the Dr.’s should have a say and in the power to not be questioned about their care and if there is a question on whether or not the veteran should truly be receiving the level of medication they are taking, then IG should be able to review the medical information regarding that patient to ‘double-check’ the doctor. I believe that is appropriate actions. Yet, instead of using common sense, the only action being taken is knee-jerk in nature and then the cries of our Nation’s veterans are ignored.

I, for one, am tired of justifying my disabilities to the VA and is one of the biggest reasons for this website. I want to give my fellow veterans a voice and give them the opportunity to fill out questionnaires about their Dr, Nurse, Admin interaction, politicians, etc. per state. This will help out fellow veterans who may be thinking about moving to a new state.

Please pass the information along to help fellow veterans. If we don’t help others, then we are no better than the crooked personnel that make our lives harder than it needs to be.

*Note: Not all VA employees are crooked, matter of fact I believe that MOST of the VA employees are actually wanting to do good by the veterans, however most of those employees are not in the position to make the needed decisions that could help our fellow veterans. That is what makes things hard all-around.

Coincidence? I don’t think so…

Asking politicians for help can be  tiresome and pretty aggravating depending on the level of dedication that politician, or politicians, have for our veterans. Some will ‘toe the line’, meaning they will pursue the answers regardless how unpopular they become with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) (or their colleagues), while some will make an attempt only and when the VA ‘pushes back’ they turn tail and run the other way. I mean, they cannot be expected to actually do the job that they were elected to do, correct?

As I watch some of the committee videos on YouTube on the Department of Veterans Affairs, I become frustrated at the ‘bobbing and weaving’ the VA does answering questions to our Congressman/woman and Senators while in a hearing. I also noticed that many of the ‘sensitive’ questions conveniently cannot be answered on camera because the VA ‘does not have that data in front of them’ but “they will research and send them the answers”. What that last part means is: they will send an answer that could be proven wrong (which would be immediately called out by our watchdog groups and fellow veterans) to the person who asked it. I cannot seem to find any of the answers that were asked but not answered during the hearing anywhere.

So how do we, as veterans, get answers? How do we find out what the answer was? Unless you have time to sit down and contact everyone present at that hearing and request the answers, you will NOT get the answers at all. This is unfortunately the reality.

The coincidence part?

Well, I had recently reached out to my congressman for my area, I was contacted once by the Congressman’s’ representative. I had sent my signed authorization for them to pursue the answers, but I had also sent a letter specifically stating that if their policy is to send the VA a copy of my letter to the Congressman, then they were to immediately toss/shred my request and letter as I had no desire to be ‘punished’ by the VA again. that being said, I cannot prove whether or not my letter was sent to the VA or not, however I can say that two days after receiving the information packet (the Congressman’s generic letter outlining that the VA response accompanied his letter and the VA response) I received a call from my Dr. explaining that he wanted to reduce my pain medication. [Update: this absolutely WAS a coincidence and the Congressman DID send my letter to the VA, despite my requests not to].

Coincidence? I am unsure but I do have an appointment coming up and update all regarding this ‘coincidence’.

I want to trust the data, just have a hard time with the source…

Below is the PDF / report that came out from the Department of Veterans Affairs. Here is the problem that I have with their report:

For a decade, moving into the 11th year of being a civilian and having to deal with the appeal process with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), I have been lied to, cheated, duped, discarded, become a victim to delay tactics, as well as unfair treatments. I have noticed that the VA would do just about anything to gain a foothold in today’s society. What I mean by that is: there are so many stories coming out each week about corruption within the VA and other nasty truths, so the VA may want to somehow impede their backwards-slide by ‘conducting their greatest survey to date’.

I am not a believer that the VA conducted a legitimate survey only because the VA has yet to prove to me that they have not deliberately made it difficult for me to gain coverage for ALL of the disabilities that I left the military with. It has been one nightmare after another…for an entire decade, and is still going on. So, do I think that they are telling the truth? I wholeheartedly WISH they are telling the truth because that would mean a reduction in veteran-suicides. I want nothing more than the veteran suicide rate to decrease to zero, however, I do not believe the VA has worked out how they do business well enough to deter veterans from choosing suicide because of how they were treated (or rejected for requests for treatments-yet denied).

My opinion on their statistics:

Their numbers seem convenient enough to decrease the overall number from 22 veterans a day to 20 veterans a day, but, their numbers showing an increase to those veterans who have not sought VA healthcare can be deceiving. Who is to say that the veterans who committed suicide were not TRYING to get VA healthcare support? Basically, if a veteran was seeking support, yet had not yet been processed into the VA healthcare system, then the VA can wash their hands and take the stance that ‘the VA is there for every veteran, but the veteran must come to the VA to get help’. I say this yet I have experience much hardships with dealing the VA and can say firsthand that it is not always easy, and the VA is not going to call each veteran to guide them through the mess that is the VA process. Another point is (and I have seen this with other veteran’s claims) if these veterans are attempting to get a disability rating (or ratings) for legitimate disabilities incurred while service to their country, yet the VA keeps stamping them with their worn-out ‘deny’ stamp, the veteran can feel a sense of helplessness (since there is little guidance for most veterans) and after being denied so many times, and not remaining in pain, they may choose a simpler way out. Where are those numbers?

Please think about that when you read their report below:


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

July 7, 2016

WASHINGTON — The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has undertaken the most comprehensive analysis of Veteran suicide rates in the U.S., examining over 55 million Veteran records from 1979 to 2014 from every state in the nation. The effort extends VA’s knowledge from the previous report issued in 2010, which examined three million Veteran records from 20 states were available. Based on the data from 2010, VA estimated the number of Veteran deaths by suicide averaged 22 per day. The current analysis indicates that in 2014, an average of 20 Veterans a day died from suicide.

“One Veteran suicide is one too many, and this collaborative effort provides both updated and comprehensive data that allows us to make better informed decisions on how to prevent this national tragedy,” said VA Under Secretary for Health, Dr. David J. Shulkin. “We as a nation must focus on bringing the number of Veteran suicides to zero.”

The final report will be publicly released later this month. Key findings of the analysis will include: 65% of all Veterans who died from suicide in 2014 were 50 years of age or older.

Veterans accounted for 18% of all deaths from suicide among U.S. adults. This is a decrease from 22% in 2010.

Since 2001, U.S. adult civilian suicides increased 23%, while Veteran suicides increased 32% in the same time period. After controlling for age and gender, this makes the risk of suicide 21% greater for Veterans.

Since 2001, the rate of suicide among US Veterans who use VA services increased by 8.8%, while the rate of suicide among Veterans who do not use VA services increased by 38.6%. VA Conducts Nation’s Largest Analysis of Veteran Suicide

In the same time period, the rate of suicide among male Veterans who use VA services increased 11%, while the rate of suicide increased 35% among male Veterans who do not use VA services.

In the same time period, the rate of suicide among female Veterans who use VA services increased 4.6%, while the rate of suicide increased 98% among female Veterans who do not use VA services.

Please also see our Suicide Prevention Fact Sheet at the following link:

http://www.va.gov/opa/publications/factsheets/Suicide_Prevention_FactSheet_New_VA_Stats_070616_1400.pdf

VA is aggressively undertaking a number of new measures to prevent suicide, including:

Ensuring same-day access for Veterans with urgent mental health needs at over 1,000 points of care by the end of calendar year 2016. In fiscal year 2015, more than 1.6 million Veterans received mental health treatment from VA, including at over 150 medical centers, 820 community-based outpatient clinics and 300 Vet Centers that provide readjustment counseling. Veterans also enter VA health care through the Veterans Crisis Line, VA staff on college and university campuses, or other outreach points.

Using predictive modeling to determine which Veterans may be at highest risk of suicide, so providers can intervene early. Veterans in the top 0.1% of risk, who have a 43-fold increased risk of death from suicide within a month, can be identified before clinical signs of suicide are evident in order to save lives before a crisis occurs.

Expanding telemental health care by establishing four new regional telemental health hubs across the VA healthcare system.

Hiring over 60 new crisis intervention responders for the Veterans Crisis Line. Each responder receives intensive training on a wide variety of topics in crisis intervention, substance use disorders, screening, brief intervention, and referral to treatment. Building new collaborations between Veteran programs in VA and those working in community settings, such as Give an Hour, Psych

Armor Institute, University of Michigan’s Peer Advisors for Veterans Education Program (PAVE), and the Cohen Veterans Network. Creating stronger inter-agency (e.g. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Department of Defense, National

Institutes of Health) and new public-private partnerships (e.g., Johnson & Johnson Healthcare System, Bristol Myers Squibb Foundation, Walgreen’s, and many more) focused on preventing suicide among Veterans.

Many of these efforts were catalyzed by VA’s February 2016 Preventing Veteran Suicide—A Call to Action summit, which focused on improving mental health care access for Veterans across the nation and increasing resources for the VA Suicide Prevention Program.

Suicide is an issue that affects all Americans. Recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data reported in April 2016 (http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/products/databriefs/db241.htm)  that from 1999 through 2014 (the most recent year with data available from CDC), suicide rates increased 24 % in the general population for both males and females.

VA has implemented comprehensive, broad ranging suicide prevention initiatives, including a toll-free Veterans Crisis Line [https://www.veteranscrisisline.net/] , placement of Suicide Prevention Coordinators at all VA Medical Centers and large outpatient facilities, and improvements in case management and tracking.

Immediate help is available at www.VeteransCrisisLine.net or by calling the Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255 (press 1) or texting 838255.

For guidance on safe ways to communicate, please visit www.ReportingOnSuicide.Org (http://reportingonsuicide.org/)

 

(Source: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0Bxv-kKjZhQfyaERtN21ZRFJ0Y1k/view)

 

House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs July 2016

HOUSE COMMITTEE ON VETERANS’ AFFAIRS

If you have ever wondered if your elected officials are trying to help you, wonder no longer. The House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs site is where you can go to see who the committee members are, what they have to say and where things stand. One would have to wonder if there are any politicians that exist that truly want to help the veteran community, and hold the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) accountable for their actions. Please go to the following link (http://veterans.house.gov/) to view the information yourself. Here is what I found to be interesting (one thing out of many):

-The main landing page has a 4-slide topic changing slideshow that covers some topics that they feel are important, and I would have to agree.  The first slide is:

-“Trials in Transparency: Total Outstanding VA Info Requests: 156 Oldest Outstanding Request: December 4, 2012”

To stop there for a moment, please direct your attention to the date of the oldest outstanding request: December 4, 2012. We are now in 2016. So the VA has requested information from the Congressional Committee, to which the VA has ignored? Who would stand for that? Would you drop your vehicle off at a garage and then email the garage to ask them, for example, for the estimated cost of repair, only to wait in excess of 3-4 years for an answer? I do not think so, so why on earth would the Congressional Committee, who are specifically pulled together for Veterans’ Affairs, wait idly by while the VA ignores their questions/requests?

The second slide is: “VA Honesty Project: Is VA stonewalling the media? You decide.”

I find it ironic that this happens to be the second slide, to follow the information on outstanding requests that the VA is ignoring, and be a topic that should cause action to be brought against the leadership at the VA. Wonder who is benefitting from this one? I can tell you that it is NOT the veteran community, that is for sure.

The third slide is: “VA Accountability Watch: Is VA Holding Its Executives Accountable? You Decide.”

The final slide is: “The Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act of 2014 Highlights

Below you will find links to the stories in order that they appear in the slide-show. I am going to copy and paste each of the links but at some point I have to believe that whomever contributes to this website will relook at their layout and information and come to their senses that their information can only anger veterans that are relying on their representatives to take actions against the corrupt VA system, because the veteran community can figure out pertinent questions for the VA to answer, yet no one else can? Makes one think that there may be other reasons as to why the VA representatives are not being pressed as hard as they should be. Why else would there be such delays in requiring the answers? Delays in making the VA hold their executives accountable? Etc.  You be the judge.

“Trials in Transparency” [http://veterans.house.gov/transparency]

“VA Honesty Project” [http://veterans.house.gov/VAHonestyProject]

“VA Accountability Watch” [http://veterans.house.gov/accountability]

“The Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act of 2014 Highlights” [http://veterans.house.gov/the-veterans-access-choice-and-accountability-act-of-2014-highlights#overlay-context=content/the-veterans-access-choice-and-accountability-act-of-2014-highlights]

 

 

Some politician’s distaste for veterans

So if you were wondering if our elected officials have our best interests at heart, I direct your attention to the article that was submitted/published today (28 June 2016 at 2:37 p.m.) on the Military Times website, titled: “Marijuana provision stripped from Veterans Affairs funding bill” written by Patricia Kime. It’s amazing to see politicians, who don’t ever have to worry about healthcare, nor do they need to worry about pain medications, deny something that could benefit tens of thousands of veterans who suffer from everything from PTSD to chronic pain. These are the ailments that our veterans have to live with/through each and every day. It is not like we wake up and magically feel like we are 16 again.

In this article (linked below), it mentions that the funding bill for the Veterans Affairs (VA) had a provision in it (one of many) that would have made it legal for VA doctors to discuss/prescribe medicinal marijuana to their patients, but that provision “disappeared” from the funding bill, which was passed last week (approved 239-171 vote).

Because the Senate failed “to forward the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs funding bill for a vote” it “provides an opportunity for the marijuana provision to be put back in” (Kime, 2016). Plus, since the Senate failed to pass a procedural vote because there was a dispute over funding related to combating the Zika virus, the bill can be reconsidered once the politicians come back after their 4th of July break. Supporters of medicinal marijuana are hoping that the provision will be put back into the bill.

The funny part is that the lawmakers explained that the medicinal marijuana provision had bipartisan support and the provision should have been non-negotiable. Senator Steve Daines (Republican from Montana), Senator Jeff Merkley (Democrat from Oregon) and others stated: “We feel the failure of the conferees to include either [the House or Senate] provisions is a drastic misfortune for veterans contrary to the will of both chambers” (Kime, 2016). It seems that in May 2016 an amendment for medicinal marijuana was offered by Representative Earl Blumenauer (Democrat from Oregon), and passed the House 233 to 189 vote, and was voted for a second time as part of the larger Military Construction and Veterans Affairs bill, which passed 295 t0 129 vote. Our Senate included a similar medicinal marijuana measure in their version of the VA funding bill, and that was approved with an 89 to 8 vote.

Why would anyone want to remove this provision? At this point, it would seem that medicinal marijuana would be welcomed as it has been proven to provide comfort and remove pain for many patients (especially cancer patients). So why would anyone want to deny this? I can think of a reason, and this is purely my view and I do not have any proof that this is a legitimate reason, but I could see big pharmacy being concerned if medicinal marijuana was introduced into the VA. The VA healthcare system is so vast and requires so much money to operate and supply our veterans with medications, the big pharmacies are making billions (if not trillions) of dollars off of our veterans.

You would have to have been living in a cave if you do not think that politicians are making money to vote a certain way on things. I am pretty confident that if investigations were to take place, real investigations by an independent party who has no ‘dog in this fight’ so that corruption would be minimized, things would be brought to light. That, however, probably would not happen because the blood of our veterans are not even a thought for many of our representatives up in D.C., especially up in the ‘big office’. Sad, makes me even sadder that I have to wake up each morning feeling like I have been run over by a zamboni for 12 hours, to remind me of what I succumbed to while serving this great Nation and many of our representatives have never served a day. So very sad.

The story continues to state that on June 23rd of 2016, while the Democrats conducted their sit-in for more gun control (once again, what is their purpose of impeding on any Americans’ rights? Follow the money), the House Republicans proposed the negotiated version of the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs funding bill to be voted on. At this point the bill was supposedly missing many provisions, to include the medical marijuana provision. It was also missing the provision to ban flying the Confederate Battle Flag in our national cemeteries. At this point, the House Appropriations Committee has not revealed who on the committee was responsible for taking out those provisions.

I believe that to be a travesty. I think that the American public should absolutely know who it was that proved to be haters of our veterans and any possible avenue that could reduce or eliminate any amount of pain: physical or mental.  The voters deserve to know, our citizens have a right to know. We all deserve to know so when it’s time to vote, we can vote someone into office that actually cares about our nation’s citizens more than their FAT paycheck!

Of the eight House members who were on that panel and negotiated the bill, five voted against Blumenauer’s amendment, to include: Tom Cole of Oklahoma, Charles Dent of PA., Jeff Fortenberry from Nebraska, Martha Roby from Alabama and David Valadao of California. In May, during the debate of these measures, Charles Dent (of Pennsylvania) stated that medical experts and the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) should weigh in on the matter. He continues on by stating “I’m uncomfortable in trying to dictate policy on medical marijuana without input from the FDA and National Institute of Health” (Kime, 2016). If we dig deep enough, I believe that he would be proven to be a huge hypocrite with that statement as I am sure he voted on plenty of bills without having to go to someone else to see what they thought of it. Why were they elected? Why are they still serving in D.C.? More-so who are the people that voted them in?

The following representatives signed a letter that was sent to the Speaker of the House, Republican Paul Ryan (Wisconsin), Democrat Nancy Pelosi (Minority Leader-California), Republican Mitch McConnell (Majority Leader-Kentucky), and Democrat Harry Reid (Minority Leader-Nevada): Daines, Merkley, Democrat Kirsten Gillibrand (New York), Democrat Barbara Boxer (California), Democrat Cory Booker (New Jersey), Democrat Tammy Baldwin (Wisconsin), Democrat Ron Wyden (Oregon), Blumenauer, Democrat Jared Polis (Colorado), Democrat Dina Titus (Nevada) and Democrat Ruben Gallego (Arizona).

The use of marijuana for medical purposes has been approved in 26 states and Washington D.C. (where you would think would be the last place that would have approved medicinal marijuana), and another 16 states passed laws for the legal use of the compounds derived from marijuana plants. Currently, marijuana is still illegal federally (federal law).

This article finishes up by explaining that marijuana is not barred from use for veterans who live in states where medicinal marijuana is legal, however, their doctors at the VA cannot recommend it to the veteran, nor fill out any administrative paperwork for the veteran so they can gain a medical marijuana card. Any veteran that is found to have used marijuana “cannot lose his or her access to health care or disability compensation. VA doctors, however, reserve the right to decide whether to continue prescribing some medications if a veteran is found to use marijuana” (Kime, 2016).

This legislation would not commit the VA to paying for the cost of medicinal marijuana for the veteran. So what does that mean? It means that if the veteran chooses medicinal marijuana instead of pain-killers/narcotics/NSAIDs, then they would have to pay for it out of pocket. This is why I mentioned that big pharmacy would lose out on a lot of money because of this. It is bad enough as it is that big pharmacy jacks up the prices of medication to the point where the patient, if paying out of pocket, would not be able to afford anything more than a couple of pills (which probably costs pennies on the dollar to create/make).

That is one of the things that bothers me greatly: big pharmacy can charge exorbitant amounts for the medications they produce, despite the overall cost-per-pill being quite small. Where were they when business ethics was being taught? Should they omit making a profit off of the consumer? Not at all, because they would quickly go out of business, but they could change the way the consumer (patients) looks at them by developing a plan that offers discounts by age and the older the patient, the less they pay for their medications. This would ensure our elderly are not without their required medications, whereas currently many elderly go without their medications because they just cannot afford to pay for groceries AND their medication. This should not be, we should want to take care of our elderly (U.S. citizens could learn a lot by observing how those from Asia treat their elders).

Below is the full text of the letter that was submitted by the Representatives and can be viewed at KTVZ.com (news source from central Oregon)(link to story is below):

Dear Speaker Ryan, Majority Leader McConnell, Minority Leader Reid, and Minority Leader Pelosi:

We write to express our serious concern with the conferenced Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 2017. The Conferees failed to include a provision passed by bipartisan votes in the House and Senate that would allow VA doctors to discuss medical marijuana and make recommendations regarding its use in states where it is legal. The provisions that appeared in both the House and Senate bills were substantially similar and had broad bipartisan support.  We strongly believe the inclusion of either the House or Senate language in the final text should have been nonnegotiable.

Currently, twenty-six states and the District of Columbia have laws allowing for the medical use of the cannabis plant to treat certain conditions, and sixteen more have laws allowing for the use of some its constituent compounds.  However, under VHA Directive 2011-004, the Veterans Health Administration effectively prohibits VA physicians from taking any steps toward providing their own clinical judgment when discussing or recommending the use of cannabis with their patients.

For the second year in a row, language correcting this and giving veterans a life changing benefit has overwhelming passed the Senate after being adopted by the Senate Appropriations Committee, this year by a bipartisan vote of 20-10. A substantially similar amendment passed the House by a vote of 233-189.  There is precedent and an expectation that identical or similar language is to be accepted in the final version of conferenced legislation. Additionally, both the House and Senate sponsors of the legislation wrote to the Conferees requesting inclusion of the language and providing guidance on a preferred outcome. As you will note, the texts of these provisions are drastically similar.

Senate Text: SEC. 247. None of the funds appropriated or otherwise made available to the Department of Veterans Affairs in this Act may be used in a manner that would interfere with the ability of a veteran to participate in a medicinal marijuana program approved by a State; deny any services from the Department to a veteran who is participating in such a program; or limit or interfere with the ability of a health care provider of the Department to make appropriate recommendations, fill out forms, or take steps to comply with such a program.

House Text: SEC. 523. None of the funds made available by this Act may be used to implement, administer, or enforce Veterans Health Administration directive 2011–004 (or directive of the same substance) with respect to the prohibition on “VA providers from completing forms seeking recommendations or opinions regarding a Veteran’s participation in a State marijuana program.”

We feel the failure of the Conferees to include either provision is a drastic misfortune for veterans and is contrary to the will of both chambers as demonstrated by the strong bipartisan support for these provisions. We urge you to act to ensure one of these provisions is included in any final funding bill sent to the President. (KTVZ, 2016)

If you want to read about how politicians use people as pawns for their own agenda, please read the article published by Jordain Carney (2015) that outlines the strategies that were initiated by Senate Democrats, who blocked a VA funding bill, just so they could negotiate a bigger budget deal with the Republicans. These politicians do not value any lives other than their own. It is quite obvious that they do not value the lives of veterans, because if they did then they would cease using veterans’ bills as a chess piece and start applying moral and ethical standards to their actions in the political position they current sit (after being voted into office by the citizens of the U.S.). Although this article was written in 2015, this bill was for the 2016 budget (fiscal years are not the same as calendar years for those that are not familiar with fiscal years: Fiscal years are a point in time, within the calendar year, that the entity (business or government) will choose as the ‘start’ of their year. This allows organizations to capitalize on tax breaks by strategically initiating their fiscal year during specific buying-times, such as Christmas, where they would make the most, or when they make the least, whereas a calendar year is January 1st to December 31st).

Please get your heads out of the sand and start doing something about those that represent us citizens: call your representative and tell (not ask) them to stop using veterans as pawns, write a letter to all of your representatives (you can use google to find the addresses of your representatives) informing them that you will remember how they treated the veterans when it comes election-time, participate in charities that actually help veterans and not just pay themselves an inflated salary first and then worry about the veterans second, and finally, throw your hat in the ring! What that means is: if you want to make a change, complaining about things will not help matters in their entirety, run for elected office so you can make the change. Do not think that you cannot do it, do your research and start asking questions on how, then: BE THE CHANGE!

References

Anonymous. (2016, 06 28). Lawmakers urge: Let vets talk to VA docs about medical pot. Retrieved 06 30, 2016, from KTVZ.com: http://www.ktvz.com/news/Lawmakers-urge-Let-vets-talk-to-VA-docs-about-medical-pot/40265794

Carney, J. (2015, 10 1). Senate Democrats block VA funding bill. Retrieved 06 30, 2016, from The Hill: http://thehill.com/blogs/floor-action/senate/255643-senate-democrats-block-va-funding-bill

Kime, P. (2016, 06 28). Marijuana provision stripped from Veterans Affairs funding bill. Retrieved 06 28, 2016, from Military Times: http://www.militarytimes.com/story/veterans/2016/06/28/marijuana-provision-stripped-veterans-affairs-funding-bill/86471448/

Links to the stories:

http://thehill.com/blogs/floor-action/senate/255643-senate-democrats-block-va-funding-bill

http://www.ktvz.com/news/Lawmakers-urge-Let-vets-talk-to-VA-docs-about-medical-pot/40265794

http://www.militarytimes.com/story/veterans/2016/06/28/marijuana-provision-stripped-veterans-affairs-funding-bill/86471448/

Voc-Rehab Experience-2006

Everywhere you go you will find some people that are good and some that are not. With that, even some good people have ‘off’ days where they are not as nice (or good), and there are some days where those that are not so good, are better. So I am sure there are those that have positive experiences, I happen to be lucky enough to have many negative experiences.

Caveat: I want to add that I do suffer from chronic pain and a laundry-list of ailments that could turn someone into a beast: one who hates everyone and everything and is never happy. However, I make it a point to try to be nice to everyone and not appear in pain. I do this for a couple reasons: 1) By not looking like I am in pain, others are not going to ask “what’s wrong” and “are you okay” and so on; 2) I do this to mentally ‘beat’ the pain for the moment. I make it a point to be nice, not confrontational, and to try and get through the experience in a positive fashion. Lastly, by doing this I do not give some negative people the opportunity to use my pain as a reason why they are negative themselves.

My experience with Voc-Rehab happens to be with a negative person, one who apparently disliked his own life, job, circumstances, or all of the above. I went to my appointment (I am always at least 60 minutes early to every appointment) and sat down. I listened to the brief/presentation and wrote down some questions I was going to ask during my one-on-one with the counselor. When it was my turn, I picked up my 3-day pack and headed towards his office.

In his office, I sat down across the desk from this guy and he asked me one question: “What do you want to do?” to which I explained that I had done some research to try and find a skill that I would be able to move forward with, with all of my disabilities. I informed him about ECPI and how they are establishing a new degree program for a Bachelors degree in Computer Science and Management. I also informed him that I was experienced in management and figure computers would be the best route to pursue.

At this point, this negative man looked at me and said “are you currently going to school?” to which I answered: “Yes, with Saint Leo University, but they do not have a computer degree as of yet”. His reply took me off my game when he said “Well, I am not paying for you to go to ECPI when you have been going to SLU”! He was very ‘matter of fact’ in his speech and acted as if that was going to be the end of that. Seeing as though I am not three years old any longer, I was not going to stop at his remarks. I added “Well, it has a degree program that would allow me to have a career despite my disabilities” and his return: “I said I am not paying for you to go to a different school, I will pay for you to finish your degree with SLU”.

At this point I was getting a bit angry. I looked at him and asked “Are you stroking the check? Are you physically writing a check for my education out of your personal bank account?” to which he replies “No but I may have well be”! So at this point I want to make this individual cry, and I weighed the pros and cons of making this man cry. I decided to be the bigger man and told him “I have a decision to make, I can either handle this in a manner that will put me in jail or walk away. I am going to walk away because I do not feel we have anything else we need to discuss”. I then grabbed my bag and walked out of his office and to my vehicle. I sat in my vehicle, fuming, for about 30 minutes before starting it up and making it back to my apartment.

Since I had already been using the assistance of Congresswoman Thelma Drake, in Virginia Beach, I decided to reach out to her and explain my most recent experience with the VA and Voc-Rehab. She took action and spoke with the Secretary of the VA and informed him that these situations are not warranted and that veterans deserve better. The Secretary contacts the regional director for that VA department and informed them about my experience. It seemed to have trickled down to the man whom I had spoken with about my education because I started to receive threats from through email. Since emails and anything online never dies, I forwarded his emails to his boss and to Thelma Drake. I also replied to his emails to inform him that he could save time and effort by telling me face to face how he feels, instead of behind his computer. Apparently he decided against meeting me again. His loss, I just wanted to be friends.

At this point, he was forced to send me to a testing facility out in Richmond, Virginia. The reason for the testing was to see how much I knew about computers. That’s correct, I needed to be tested…to see how much knowledge I had about computers…..to see if I was knowledgeable enough….to go to school to learn….about computers. It seemed that the gentleman that was sending me on this adventure was trying to ensure I faced as many hurdles as possible: I was informed that I was to test out.. and….if I was eligible (if I knew enough about computers) then I would have to go and get approval from a Dr. Not a medical doctor per se, but a Dr….you know….to say it is okay for me to go to school to learn about computers….

I went to the testing facility and faced many timed tests. The good thing about the tests is that they were independently timed, so when I finished one test I could immediately move into another. The tests were pretty involved with the hardware and different software. Those that were with me were burning up their paper and pencils….me? Nope. I had made some half-conscious effort at one calculation, but it was way over my head. So I figured it would not end well for my desire to go to school to learn about computers.

Once finished, I was to finish my test and then I could leave. About two weeks later I received my appointment to speak with a counselor about my tests. I drove out to Richmond and sat down with the counselor. This man introduced himself and told me that he reviewed my test results, and I did not score high enough to go to ECPI. Upon hearing this, I asked him “wait a minute, so you are telling me that in order for me to go to ECPI I would need to score well enough on the subject of computers, in order to be eligible to go to school to learn about computer?”. He stated that that was a correct statement. I reiterated my question “I just want to be clear on this: I don’t know enough about computers, to go to school for computers, to get a degree that is computer-based along with management?”. He once again agreed.

At this point I am pretty agitated and asked him: “Does this make any sense to you? Are you telling me that you honestly back what you are saying?” and his only reply was “that is how the VA evaluates the veteran”. I sat there for a second, trying to understand this immense amount of ignorance and how broken the VA is. Finally, I looked at him and said “If you don’t mind, I will need you to write down everything that you said, to include why I am not eligible to go to a school to learn a trade/skill that will benefit me when I am not longer able to walk”. At that point he looks at me and finally says “I am supposed to deny you going to a school that you are not eligible for, but I don’t think that you should have to be judged by a test in order to go to school. I am going to approve you for this school, but you still have to get a Dr.’s signature as the final step”.

I am unsure if it was because I asked him to put his words on paper, or if he honestly thought that the system should not be this fouled, but I was not going to argue with him when he was willing to let me go to a school that I wanted. He filled out the paperwork and informed me that I will receive an appointment letter to go through an interview with a Dr. that the VA assigns. I thanked him, shook his hand and left, and faced the long drive back to Virginia Beach.

After about a week to ten days I received an appointment to a Dr., he was a teacher/professor somewhere (I cannot remember), and was a great guy. He welcomed me into his office, I sat down and was preparing to hear that I was not eligible because I did not know enough about a subject that I wanted to attend a school to learn. I was not going to want to hear that again. I will admit, I was very standoffish due to the past interactions with VA representatives, but this guy understood. I wish I could remember his name, I am sure I had written it down on my appointment letter.

Anyway, he introduced himself and sat down and read over my package that was sitting in front of him. He sat back in his chair, looked at me and said “Why are you here?”….I paused to answer, I thought that it was a trick question. I shifted in my seat a little and said “I’m sorry, why am I here? I was sent here to get your permission to go to school” and he sat up slightly, started playing with his pen, then stated “Why would you need to come see me, to get my permission to go to school?”, I replied “I was told,that, if I did not know enough about computers, that I would not be allowed or approved to go to a school to learn about computers. Then I was told that they will let me, but I had to get your approval in order to progress forward with this”.

At this point the Dr. looked puzzled. He sat up and leaned on his desk and asked “Why would you need to get my approval? I don’t know who you are, I think that anyone that wants to go to any school should be allowed to go”. Startled, I sat up as well and shouted “Exactly! That is exactly what I was saying! You do not know me, I don’t know you, why would I need to get an approval from someone that has nothing to do with what I was trying to achieve?”….then I laughed. He laughed. He looked at me and grabbed his pen “I am approving this. I am sorry that the VA had nothing better to do than to send you to me, for what? To deny you? I won’t deny anyone that wants to pursue an education. Here” he hands the signed paperwork to me, “I hope you do well in your pursuit, thank you for your service and keep moving forward in life. God Bless”. I shook his hand, thanked him, and left immediately before it turned into a “GOTCHA, only kidding, I am denying you too” situation.

Despite wanting to pursue that specific degree with ECPI, I decided to stay with Saint Leo University. One of the reasons for this change in decision after all of the garbage I had to go through, was they would call my phone about 3-5 times a day. Relentless they were, in their attempts to get me into their degree program. ECPI also organized their school years into 7 months. After doing some figuring, they would have capitalized on all of my GI Bill money and it would not have been a benefit to me, other than achieving the degree I was looking for.

All in all I was able to get through my BA in Business Administration, Management, and Entrepreneurship and Family Business. The moral of the story is: Do not let one person tell you that you are not authorized, or approved, or eligible for a program that you are qualified for, mainly because you served your country. Voc-Rehab is a great program, and there are some great people that go to work at the VA that truly love helping veterans and think of them first. It is my hopes that all of my stories can help out a veteran that does not think they can do something. My main concern was the ability to make enough money to live off of when my body finally gives out. I stressed about that, still do, but now my pursuit remains at full throttle to try and help fix this broken system we call the VA. More experiences to come. Be safe.

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.