The below is a letter that I am sending to my elected representatives with a plethora of problems and difficulties, that don’t seem to get any traction and have yet to be resolved. I still have many other problems with both the Army and the VA, but I think this letter is long enough, don’t you?
I would be interested in your comments, thoughts, ramblings, etc. Thanks in advance.
I hope this letter finds you doing well. There are serious and continuing issues with the Army and the VA and I could use your help to solve them. It is taking its toll on me and it is unfortunate that I have to contact you now.
I am writing to request your immediate assistance these very important matters. The Army did their best to deny me and many others, the proper disability and disability retirement when I got off of active duty and had they done the right thing and given me the proper rating instead of trying to deny and prevent Disabled Veterans like me from getting a disability retirement off of active duty because it cost too much and the Army wouldn’t do it. The VA makes it so difficult to get an accurate rating from them with their deny, deny, deny and then deny again mentality and wouldn’t be surprised if that’s why there are so many homeless Veterans and why Veteran’s are committing suicide at an unprecedented and unfortunately at such a high rate.
The Army’s failure to do the right thing, even after I appealed their decision, caused a lot of problems for me and caused my VA Disability Ratings to get lowered by the VA, then reinstated and now I am at 100% Disability. The problems I have are that there were so many misdiagnosed conditions, failure to diagnose anything at all, and many other serious problems that I suffer from when if I had been told and treated for them, I wouldn’t have such deplorable health problems.
I should have gotten a 100% Disability Retirement off of active duty, but due to cost (it was just too expensive and we Reservists didn’t deserve it) and the fact I was “Just a Reservist” and that would most likely led to a 100% Disability Rating with the VA as well since the aggravation of my disabilities and the additional ones I got and some Desert Storm serious medical problems were finally allowed to be claimed. I have written the President and asked for his help to correct these serious mistakes. I should not have to go through the many, multiple processes to get this done and the President can make it happen, especially since it involves both DoD and the VA. I had written to General Shinseki previously and he was able to correct a few of the problems, but there are still many that are not corrected that need to be.
I am asking for your personal support, to call the Office of the President on my behalf and request that my retroactive disability retirement be approved and my retroactive VA disability also be approved. This is the perfect time to get things done and something that one of your voters definitely needs help with several Federal Agencies. I very much need your help. Granted, you can’t do this for everyone, but not everyone is owed over $500,000 either and this is part of what I am asking for in addition to a few other things. I keep getting asked to support this campaign and that organization, and I would like to support the Wounded Warrior Program, the DAV, VFW, etc., but it costs too much. I don’t have a military retirement, but I am on a disability retirement. If I did have my military retirement too, I would be more than happy to provide some donations many worthwhile programs.
I asked for help from a few Veteran Organizations I am a life member with, but it seems they couldn’t be bothered to help and just pushed it down to the Regional VA level, when it really is a national problem. I offered a substantial scholarship to them, named after my Dad, if they would help me out, but so far, nothing. I think many Veteran Organizations forget that it is about the Disabled Veterans and not all about the “money”, although money is important. It is about taking care of things like I am requesting that makes an organization great and not just something to join and get asked for money all the time. There are many other Veterans that had the same thing done to them and I firmly believe that this led to a lot of them becoming homeless among some other things like medications and medical care.
The Army and the VA should be held responsible for their improper determinations and lack of care. The main point I made was about a diagnosis for a serious medical condition that the Army and the VA doctors both knew about, yet failed to tell me or treat me for it. Most of this is in the attached letter that I sent to the President, along with some documentation that I am not going to provide with this letter, but you should be able to see what I am talking about. If you diagnose someone with a serious disease, then don’t treat them, there should be some consequences and mine are in the letter and they are the retroactive retirement and upgraded VA disability I requested.
Just a quick note here about the VA Medical System to show you an example of what it is like. I went for an endoscopy and a colonoscopy about 2 months ago and I woke up during towards the end of the colonoscopy. Talk about a shock to the system!!! I asked for more sedation medication, but the doctor refused saying she is almost done and wanted to have me just lie there and take it or she would stop where she was and not finish it. Talk about the lesser of two evils. She had a huge black guy in the surgical room lean over and put all his weight on me to keep me still so they could finish. Talk about pain!!! I don’t think I will ever had anything like that done at the VA and I guess I will have to use my civilian insurance that I pay for every month, to get a little better quality of care. I have not had much luck at the VA Regional Medical Center in Atlanta. The outlying clinics are good, but there are many areas of improvement for the VA to undertake I am doubtful if they will ever get up to the standard that is needed and/or required.
The most serious medical issue is the fact that two Army doctors diagnosed me with osteoporosis in 1991, yet they failed to tell me and failed to treat me for it, even though the doctor wrote in my medical records that it was “very unusual for a 32-year old male”. The VA during a VA disability examination for an appeal I had made for my herniated discs in my back also found out that I had osteoporosis and thought it also unusual for a male my age. The problem is they never told me or treated me. I had extremely brittle bones when they sent me to Afghanistan and had two back surgeries and was a 40% Disabled Veteran when I got deployed there in 2003 for 9 months. I found out when I got back that I had severe osteoporosis and could have easily shattered bones with them that brittle. I was at a – 4.0 on the T-scale, which was – 1.5 below severe osteoporosis.
Almost three years ago, I had a compression fracture of my L-3 vertebra, which was the one on top of the two herniated discs that had been operated on twice. Two Army Doctors and two VA Doctors never told me and never treated me for it and that is just shameful that it happened and unfortunately happened to me. My quality of life suffers due to their incompetence
I sustained the compression fracture on my vertebra picking up medical records from private physicians to submit to the VA. When I asked my civilian orthopedic surgeon why, he said because I had severe osteoporosis. He said I could have sneezed and had one fracture. He said it was the “good kind of fracture” and when I asked why, he said because it looks like it collapsed on itself and instead of severing my spinal cord or killing me, that it was better than the alternatives, so I guess I did have a “good kind of fracture” when you consider it that way. Really stinks that you have to consider something like that as a good thing!!! I am lucky I am not dead from that alone.
How much is one of your vertebra worth to you? Priceless I would imagine! Well they were to me too, but it appears that it means nothing to anyone else especially the Army and the VA. They just don’t care. I have been in both systems long enough to know that neither one of them is taking care of Soldiers who need care and have problems like me, both financially and medically. An overhaul is sadly needed. General Shinseki has done some really great things and changed some areas, but the Federal Employees (I used to be one) have been entrenched for so long that it is difficult to change things when they balk or flat out just don’t do it the way it should be done. Yes, you can fire a government employee. It just takes more time and effort to do the paperwork.
We had a more difficult time separating Soldiers from the Military than they do in the Federal Government System and I did just that when I had Soldiers that were recalcitrant and didn’t want to play by the rules. I would have fired many of them if I had the opportunity in the couple of Federal Agencies I worked in. They discriminate against Veterans it is incredible how much the Federal Agencies discriminate against Veterans and Disabled Veterans. Shameful, just shameful. Maybe someday that will be fixed as well. There are just so many issues and problems, I could take a lot of paper to list them. If possible, I would like to meet with you if you are down in your office here in Georgia.
One of the most severe problem I have, even though I was diagnosed with it on active duty and by the VA, they are telling me it is “not a service-connected condition” which I do not agree with. I was a Field Artillery Officer and the amount of time I spent out in the field was about 4 years of the 11 years I was on active duty the first time. I had to get out because of my back problems and it they had told me back then, I would have been able to potentially added it to a medical evaluation board (MEB/PEB) and possibly have had a disability retirement back in 1993 when I got off of active duty. Even if it wasn’t service-connected, and I know it was, then they should have told me and treated me and I would not have had severe osteoporosis, deployed to Afghanistan with brittle bones, and then had a compression fracture, which I am at greater risk for since I have already had one.
I was supposed to get a couple of teeth pulled at the VA, but since I am on Coumadin, the dentist won’t do the oral surgery with me taking it and no other doctors will take me off it. I was instructed to not take it for a week before my colonoscopy, but the oral surgeon told me that it is actually when I started taking it again that I would be at the most risk.
How can I get it done if I can’t stop taking Coumadin to keep my blood thin? I am taking it because I had blood clots in my legs and lungs and was hospitalized twice as I had to bouts of pneumonia back to back. The VA doesn’t seem to think that it is the result of my weakened immune system and my serious lung disease, even though this was a lung problem, and refused to pay the couple of hundred dollars I had to pay out of pocket at a civilian hospital. I am on Coumadin for life now, so I don’t know what they are going to do, but can’t understand how others get surgery done when they are on it?
I think that the retroactive money is a lot less than what I think my vertebra cost, but I am being gracious. Because of their negligence, incompetence, sheer ignorance, stupidity, carelessness, malpractice or whatever you want tto call it, I cannot live pain free nor have a decent quality of life because of it. Now, if that were the only thing, maybe, but that is just one of the serious problems I have and the Army or the VA could not figure it out but civilian doctors can figure it out in about 5 minutes.
I also suffer from spinal stenosis and now I think Cauda Equina Syndrome that is very serious and has progressed from the spinal stenosis. The spinal stenosis is where my spinal cord is compressed from arthritis, scar tissue and a narrowing of my spinal canal, but the Army doctors even though they knew all of the symptoms, were incapable of diagnosing it for whatever reason. When I went to an orthopedic surgeon, he looked at the x-ray, listened to what I told him was happening and he said “you have spinal stenosis”. Would have been great if the Army would have diagnosed it, but they didn’t. The VA is not giving me disability for it and they should have known from all of the symptoms I had and if it had been reviewed by a “qualified medical professional”, they probably still would have missed it.
I was also diagnosed with sinus infection in all my sinus cavities not too long after I got off of active duty and even though I complained about my sinuses, they failed to diagnose it. The ENT doctor I went to looked up my nose and said “you have sinus infection in all your sinus cavities”. The Army missed this one too, or was that the point? Were they supposed to “miss these kinds of diagnosis”? Make me wonder especially since I was also diagnosed by an ENT Doctor with sleep apnea and all he did was look down my throat, yet the Army didn’t diagnose it or wasn’t supposed to? There are other conditonas too that the Army didn’t diagnose and the VA won’t say is service-connected so they don’t have to pay for it and the expensive medications I have to take, even though I am a 100% Veteran and they are actually service-connected.
It is really pathetic that I have to get out of the Army after herniating two discs in my back in Desert Storm during the war and the doctor told me I could “spend 10 more years in the Army or get out and find something else to do for a living”, so I took his advice. Still, even though I was in the Army Reserves, the Army decided to call me up and send me to Afghanistan, even though I had two back surgeries and was a 40% Disabled Veteran. Then they deny that my previous condition in my back was not aggravated from my service in Afghanistan when it was. Just my luck that the compression fracture of my vertebra I is right over the two discs I had to have surgery on because they were bulging and pieces were breaking off of the discs, so to have the compression fracture on top of those two discs, just presents so many challenges and a lot of incredible and intense pain for me.
I even have PROOF that they said I was “already compensated” for this by the VA. They were making the false assumption that the two systems are equal and so did the VA but the Army and the VA systems were and still are separate, although they are trying to merge them. No wonder I got 10%. That was illegal to do. It got aggravated during Afghanistan, but since I was getting disability from the VA, that the MEB/PEB doesn’t have to give me anymore because I was just trying to get more disability. Yeah, this Major put it in writing and I have the original document, so I do know they were not going to give any of the hundreds of people that had the same problems with the Army that I did, and they were not going to give any of us over 20%. Maybe if we weren’t Army Reservists??? Maybe if we….???
It is a clear case of the Army not doing the right thing and the VA following in their footsteps when the Army gave me only 10% for the same thing the VA gave me 40% for and the condition was aggravated in Afghanistan, and they decided “well if the Army gave you 10%, we are going to lower you to 10% too”. Can you believe that? I had to write to General Shinseki to get that fixed and it was, but there is still a problem with them recouping more than the SSB I got when I got out of the Army, but the VA was just didn’t want to bother to contact the Army and they owe me about $3,500+ for that.
As you read the letter I attached, you can get the reason I am asking for and why I should get it. I wonder how much you would consider the price for one of your “vertebra”? I think mine was priceless, but the Army and the VA won’t do anything about it and will have to be forced to do so, ergo the letter to the President. Think I am being unreasonable? I don’t, which is why I am asking for your help to get what I deserve and am entitled to as I am sure you might agree. I should get some support, since I didn’t get any when I went to the DAV VSO for help and wound up doing everything myself. I think I am “owed” a little bit more than the average Disabled Veteran, don’t you agree?
This is a serious problem and I don’t think that the Veteran’s Organizations Service Officers should be collocated right in the same office as the VA Counselors and those making disability determinations. I think that they might be influenced by the VA into not fighting determinations. I am not saying they are, but it appears that they might. The thing about perception is that if it is perceived so, then it is. I learned that as a Battery Commander. If you were perceived as unfair by your Soldiers, then you were, even if you weren’t. Stinks, but that’s the way it was. I think the VSOs right in the same building with the same .gov e-mail, is not a good thing. I would hope that the VA wouldn’t pressure anyone, but I wouldn’t put it past them, given their track record.
I will write additional letters and since I live in Atlanta, I am sure that I could get on CNN for an interview about what the Army and the VA did and are still doing. I would like for the person or organization right there with me saying they are supporting me in and getting the Army and the VA to do the right thing. I would expect you would agree, because I could just as easily say that I didn’t get the support I needed from the organizations and elected leaders. It works both ways. If I can get what I am owed, I have no problem donating to several worthwhile charities and other organizations after I take care of my needs first, but if I don’t, then until I get my retirement when I hit 60, I won’t really be able to contribute like I want to do.
I doubt I will live until 60, since the burn pits and other environmental hazards from Desert Storm and also from Afghanistan, caused COPD/emphysema and I will probably be dead before that happens, so I would like to get my retirement and increased VA disability before that happens, since both are terminal illnesses and have no cures.
I know the Army and the VA might balk at having to do it, but it is just as easy for me to drive over to CNN Plaza and I am sure that I can find someone to listen to my story and get me on TV. This will be a problem in about two weeks if nothing is done and I am sure that I can get some media to help me out, regardless of who will do it. They will try to say that I claimed it too late, when I didn’t, and that there are these 234.9837 things I have to do in order to get it done and I can bet that once I show up on tv, those things will magically disappear.
If you can’t help me, please let me know. It would be great if you made some phone calls personally, and following up with letters, but I guess you are too busy to do that, even though it might really help if you called the White House, DoD and the VA. It may seem like a small thing to do and I know you can’t do it for every Veteran that has problems, but it would be very much appreciated and I will continue to help Veterans deal with the issues they have and maybe my case could be an example of what should not be done and also show that perseverance prevailed in this case. I am sure at least a few thousand people are dealing with the Army and the VA over one or more of the issues that affect me directly. I can and still do help a lot of Disabled Veterans; I feel I am doing my part. Like it is a cruel joke, Veteran Organizations keep sending me life insurance brochures and telling me I need it. Well they may as well save the postage, as I am “not insurable” with COPD/emphysema that I got in Afghanistan from the burn pits.
The latest example of the difficulties I am having with just doing normal everyday things. I was trying to cut my lawn and I accidently flipped over the riding lawnmower and could have been killed just from that happening. Fortunately, the lawn mower didn’t cause any serious damage aside from bruises and other sore parts, but now I have to incur the expense of someone doing my lawn because of the medications I take might be the reason the lawnmower flipped and I don’t want to take the chance working with power tools that I need to use to do yard work.
I also have to get someone to clean my house because I just can’t physically do it. Just these two things cost me $600 – $800 a month just to do what I used to be able to do, but have extreme difficulty doing now. I don’t go out much either because I don’t know sometimes if I can use the brakes when I have weakness below the waist. I feel like a shut-in. Really sad state of affairs that has put me into this particular situation, but the time has come for the VA and the Army to step up and do the right thing.
I should actually be a poster figure about how you are not supposed to be treated by the Army and the VA and there are so many problems to fix that I may never get them all completed. I wrote the President, but that was more than 6 months ago and nothing since their e-mail response. I thought they would be more responsive especially since the White House always says how much they are helping Veterans, but I guess that’s not going to happen so it’s a lot of talk but no action.
The final thing and may be one of the most important personally to me and not medically related, but I have been in the Army all my life. I was born in an Army Hospital in Germany and have been in the Army ever since. I served the Army and Army Reserves for 30-years, active and reserve, but all I received for all those years of service, was “A piece of paper transferring me to the Retired Reserves”. That was it! I got the same from the Federal Government when I had to take a Disability Retirement too. I find that sad that I and others served and fought for our Country (just like my Father did for 21 years and he died from Agent Orange, before the VA said they are taking claims for it) and all that military service is not recognized and neither is the service to the people by working for the Federal Government. Shameful don’t you think?
I have been waiting to file my the Agent Orange claim for my Father who passed away in 2007, because we have the same name and it would get so complicated that neither would be done properly if at all. My Mom is anxious to have me do it, but understands why I was waiting. The track record of the VA has me worried that if I do submit it, they two will be intertwined and never be sorted out.
I know people who got Legions of Merit and rode a desk their whole careers when they retired, but all I got was a letter transferring me to the Retired Reserves after my Military Service and serving in two combat zones. I guess IRR members like me should just be glad we are alive and we should take that and go off into the sunset, but it is not the right thing to do and I thought you should know. Kind of like when your Parents would go to Florida and all you got was a crummy t-shirt.
Thank you in advance for your support. I really appreciate any efforts on my behalf and would hope that just a call from you to the White House and other Legislators, might help it get done and before the next Congressional election. I can but hope.