Thursday, April 23, 2015

Moments Of Impact

Hello. I'm Melissa, my husband and I have been married for 22 years. He served 16 Active Duty Army years. His last deployment was in 2007-2008. I remember doing the same thing then that I had done each time he was about to return/redeploy. You know, made sure the house was in tip top shape, did all the grocery shopping, bought all of his favorite things, and made plans for all the things we talked about doing when he returned. Little did I know, this return would be the one that would change everything. The defining moment. Prior to this deployment, we had a PCS move to the lovely Fort Polk, La. If you have ever been stationed there then you detected a hint of sarcasm behind that last sentence. We have three children. Two of them were Elementary age children at the time, one was a middle school student. Fort Polk has a DOD school on post for Elementary age children but it falls under the Vernon Parish school district guidelines, etc. The first time I walked into that school I had an uneasy feeling. It didn't feel warm, it wasn't welcoming, it was just cold. It didn't look like a place where children spent most of their days. It looked cold, dark, and felt like an institution. Not that I know what that feels like but they way I would imagine it was right there in front  of me. My oldest daughter attended Leesville Middle School. I don't even want to talk about our experiences with that school.  Needless to say, this was not the environment that my children were accustomed to. Maybe we had been one of the lucky ones. We had been to Schweinfurt, Germany, Fort Benning, Ga and had great experiences. Sometimes, comparing one situation to the next is the hardest thing to stop doing. Which brings me to this. Unfortunately I couldn't stop doing that. I couldn't just "suck it up" I had to move on. After being in Ft Polk for a few short months, my husband's unit was about to deploy. We decided during that time that I would return to our home state of Alabama where all of our family lived, my children had friends there, etc. So the move began. Everything was fine. It was the beginning of summer so the children were out of school and etc. I just ran into one problem that I had not considered.....my children and I had no one to relate to. This town wasn't a military town, these people had no idea what that was like, and the children in the town certainly had no idea what the word deploy meant.  I reflect on that word quite often and how it had a dark presence in my home. Deployment is a large word and it was like D day in my home. You can prepare yourself all you want to and you can make plans, you can hope for the best, but nothing can prepare you for what comes after.  This was the longest deployment we had ever been through, 15 months. That is a long time. That was the longest time we had ever been apart at one time. So towards the end when I knew of dates that things would happen like when he would return, when block leave would be, etc. I started to make plans. My Mother was taking the children and myself to Panama City Beach, Florida for 5 days. Block leave was to start the day after that 5 day vacation so I made preparations to rent a condo to stay an additional week and then my husband would make the drive from Fort Polk, La to PCB, Florida to join us. What I didn't do was prepare for what would happen. In my mind I visualized us sitting on the beach, sipping some sort of fruity drink with an umbrella and etc. You get it....we've all had that moment. After all this was our time, nobody could take that away. Iraq was a world away, that was over, we were just going to have the best vacation ever ! That's what I told myself anyway. The time came, he drove down and we immediately got down to the beach, toes in the sand, just talking. My children are quite adventurous and they wanted us in the ocean at that very moment. My husband doesn't exactly enjoy the water. He loves looking at it, walking alongside it, but if he gets in...not so much. Water up to his knees/waste is enough and he has his thrill and he's over it. Well. the children and I were in the water, enjoying the waves, made our way to the sandbar, etc. I looked back and I saw my husband pacing in the sand. I watched him walk back and forth for what seemed like forever but it was actually only a couple of minutes. I felt it, I knew something wasn't right. I got the children together and we made our way out of the water. He was gone, didn't see him, there were quite a few people on the beach and I started to feel this overwhelming sense of panic. I can't describe it but as I type this, I can feel it and smell it as if I am still there in that moment. The children and I raced up to the condo and there he stood, in the breezeway on his cell phone with one hand on the phone and one on his head, he was still pacing. I said "what's wrong? what happened?" He didn't answer, he just kept talking and pacing. He handed the phone to me and I grabbed that phone with a great sense of fear and I said "hello" It was Military One Source and the woman said "Mrs Saint, I understand that you are away from his duty station, but I need you to do this for me, for him" I didn't know how to respond to that. Tears began to flow and I don't even know what I said to her. I just knew that I had an address , a name of a counselor, and I had to get him there as soon as possible. I got him there and I would like to say that the story stopped here and that we lived happily ever after but that only happens in fairy tales. This isn't a fairy tale, this is real life and it was forever changed in that moment. We left the beach, we returned to Alabama. We packed all of our things into a U-Haul and we headed back to Fort Polk, La. Block leave continued and he would continue as if nothing had ever happened. In my mind I knew what had happened, it haunted me but what was I to do? I didn't understand. I had been told over and over that this is the way things could be, but I didn't absorb it because I didn't understand it.  I started pushing him into therapy, etc. He went, he continued to go each and every week. With each passing week more medication poured into our home. The cabinet that once held spices, cooking and baking supplies was now "his cabinet" His medication cabinet. I watched the person that had once been so vibrant, so full of life, etc. slowly morph into a person that I no longer knew. Things we had once done together, I was now doing alone. I became lonely, withdrawn and in a dark place. I would suddenly get chills, start to sweat, feel like terrible things were going to happen out of nowhere. I had to seek help for myself. This was out of the ordinary for me. I was diagnosed with anxiety and depression. My entire life had changed. His "problems" had become my problems. I began to fall into this dark place where nothing was enjoyable anymore. One day I decided, that's it, I have children. I can not do this another day. I applied for a job with Youth Sports in Fort Polk and my life changed. I would spend hours working outside in the swampy Louisiana heat. I loved it. The children and families I worked with changed my life. I could relate to people, they could relate to me. My children started a different school system in Louisiana, they loved it. Everything felt normal again. A year and a half went by and to me and the children life was great, we were happy, content. We were continuing on with life. My husband was in therapy. He was doing great, or at least I thought he was. Then things became different. He started pacing the sidewalks at night, blasting his music through his ipad. I started to notice that he was texting a lot. One day his phone went off, I picked it up to hand it to him and you know Iphones, if you receive a text it displays it on the screen. The text said "I Love you" the sender was "Jason" I thought, Jason?So Jason loves you? I've always been rather curious so I picked the phone up and hit contact info and got the number. I went to my phone, blocked my number and called it. Did Jason answer? of course not, it was a female. I said excuse me, who is this? She said "ummm this is Wendy, who is this?" I replied....Melissa. To make a long story short, Wendy was a high school sweetheart, his first real relationship, etc. I was furious. What did I do? I went into a fit of rage and everything I had been feeling since I stood right there in that condo breezeway in PCB came out, if I felt it, I said it. I didn't care. I was done. All of the things I had felt, all the things I had been through with him....I was done, it was out in the open" Well he rushed out of the house. Later I would find out he went to behavioral health. He had been doing many things that I classified as "STUPID" just straight stupid in my mind and I was done! A couple of weeks went by, he went to a lot of appointments. I continued working, we didn't talk a lot. I was still very angry.  He had more medication and a new diagnosis.....Bipolar, and PTSD and the term TBI was thrown around in casual conversation. Getting past this for a moment and kind of taking it all in and trying to research the "diagnosis" on my own came the next blow. He had been contacting DA without my knowledge to try to PCS. He came down on orders for Ft Campbell and just didn't think he needed to tell me this until the last minute. I didn't understand. Our children were happy, I was happy, but that didn't matter to him. That was my thought. We moved. My oldest daughter had the hardest time of all. She was to be a Junior and here she was leaving a school and friends she loved to finish somewhere strange and new once again. We made the move, things progressively got worse with my husband. He ruined my credit, he ruined his credit. He had highs and lows and struggled with himself all the time. The first year at Campbell I was diagnosed with squamous cell carcinoma skin cancer. I was to have surgery at Vanderbilt in January, he was to deploy to Afghanistan. His Commander suggested that he stay back. He said you've deployed enough, you need to sit this out and take care of your family and yourself. I went through surgery, everything was fine. He was on rear D, he was home a lot and went to therapy weekly. Well, his  unit returned 9 months later and my husband was sent to WTU. They decided that it was time for his career to end. After being in WTU for almost a year his VA ratings  came back. He had a date that he would get out of the Army. We made arrangements to stay in Clarksville. My job on post and my children liking the area were part of that decision. During this time I had 2 soldiers come to my door one day and tell me that they needed some clothes and personal hygiene products for my husband, he had been hospitalized and was suicidal and was in a mental hospital in the area and that I would hear from him "soon" Two days passed and I was told I could come visit him. I went to this cold, dark, institution. It was full of soldiers, walking around with no strings in their clothes, shoes, etc. In that moment I knew that things were bad, they were really bad and I didn't know how to handle it. I "sucked it up" I put on my brave face, I held his hand, and I listened. I actually stopped every thought in my own head and I listened. All this time I had heard him talk. I had listened but this was different. I knew that this was a man who had hit rock bottom, he needed help. That was 2 years ago. He is medically retired. Things have changed, I am his caregiver now, appointments at the VA are part of the "normal" now. I am so thankful for the Nashville VA. I am extremely thankful for Mrs. Elbrink, from the caregiver support program who actually listened to me talk and knew exactly where I was coming from and made me feel "normal" This is my new "normal" I work part time, I manage the household and I take care of my children and most importantly,I take care of him. One of the things that I miss the most is that no one takes care of me and I long for those moments. I look back at that moment in PCB, Florida and I often define that as "The Defining Moment"  If you google the term defining moment this is what you will find : 

noun1.a point at which the essential nature or character of a person, group, etc., is revealed or identified.


Life is all about moments of impact and how they change our lives forever. This was MY impact, MY defining moment. I am forever changed.
Thanks for reading, 
Melissa 

Monday, April 20, 2015

I've Been Thinking A Lot About...

I've been thinking a lot about what kind of blog I could write. There are so many different situations we are faced with each and ever day. Some of them are easier then others.First I thought about the struggles with fireworks, the struggles with the kids and a Veteran who fights the inner fight of PTSD each and every day, then I thought about the struggles with medication or the simple things but then it hit me yesterday. Amazingly enough, my husband helped with this blog idea without even knowing. Its about the struggles of substance abuse, the struggles of addiction in more ways then we ever think about.

When we first met, 12 years ago, he was the most loving ,caring, most affectionate man you can imagine.I had never met a man like him before and I was so blown away and so in love. It all changed 10 years ago, with his return from Iraq. He was a different man. A quiet one, a "pulled back" one in a way.He wasn't affectionate , caring, nor loving anymore. Even so he told me he loved me , something was off, something was missing. The VA put him on medication and diagnosed him with "Major Depression" . The first round of medications made it worse. He was always sleeping or in a fog like state. He hated it and stopped his meds, turned to "self medication" , first alcohol, later Marijuana. I hated when he drank because he became even more depressed, even more unpredictable. He decided to stop drinking and did and I was proud of him. Then he started to smoke Marijuana. I hated that too because I was always worried about my children but he never smoked it around me or the kids and he slept without night terrors, he ate. For the first time in a year he ate more then a toddler would. In a way I accepted it and thought if it makes things just a little better and as long as he doesn't do it around us then maybe , just maybe we can pull through it. This lasted for a little while until he decided again, he needed to stop it. I was proud , am even still proud of him today for stopping. It came back with a vengeance. He stopped eating again and the night terrors returned but his goal was to be "free" of medication, "free" of alcohol and drugs. He wanted a job, wanted to work, support his family and he knew deep inside he couldn't do it while on drugs and alcohol. He found a job he loved and wanted to make it a courier and for many years after this was his "new addiction". Work , work , work, 60,70 and even 80 hrs a week he would work. He was never around and often I felt like being a single Mom since all he did was work. It being a salary position, it didn't make a difference how many hours he spend there. I hated it , I missed him. He was never around. I always was faced with struggles by myself. I missed him so much but again, I thought if it makes things easier, if we fight less, if he can function this way then I should be grateful and happy. For a while , he switched between companies. 3 different companies, always the same job but he seemed "ok", functioning. 3 years ago, he lost his job due to cuts and he fell in a whole. The one thing that kept his mind going , that kept him functioning, that kept the nightmares, the struggles at bay, returned - the evil beast was back. 

At first I thought we could use this time to grow back together as a family, get to know one another again but oh was I wrong. By now we learned he didn't have just  "major depression"but also severe PTSD . PTSD settled over us like a dark cloud. He started "living in" his computer. Everything and anything was about that computer. He would talk to strangers more then he would talk to us. He never got into computer games but got caught into network marketing. Talking to people all over the world, signing up to sell products no one really wanted. We fought all the time over money that was spend for these products, the time he spend on the computer, the time he spend talking to strangers instead to me. It was the worst time. He was here but he was so so far away. The daily basics,such as showers, eating, drinking, brushing teeth, etc. became unnecessary to him. I tried so hard to get him to the VA, get him help, get us help but he blocked everything. He swore he can do it on his own.He kept telling me how there are guys out there who are worse off then him and how they need help from the VA but how he doesn't need it. About a year and a half went by before he started a "normal" job and started working for the post office as a mail carrier. I thought it would make things better, get him away from the computer, away from network marketing , away from all these strangers who became closer to him then I was , then the children were. I was wrong, things got worse.While out on the street each and every day, different things started triggering his PTSD even more. He turned into the person textbooks on PTSD must have been written on. Everything you ever have read about PTSD - it was him. From Anxiety and panic attacks to the return of the night terrors , the screaming , the hiding in the closets and under tables , it was all there. It got as far as him calling me one day to scream at me to help him get through one of his anxiety / panic attacks , screaming how he was ready to kill someone because of a gesture they made , another time he called and said they are blowing me up. At the end of 2013 , I finally had him convinced to see our doctor. Not a VA doctor but a private doctor to get some help. Another round of medications were started then and it seemed to help some. Having a doctor who also is a Veteran, served in Afghanistan finally opened my husband up. Not completely but enough to understand it wasn't his fault, it wasn't him doing this but the beast finally officially had the name of PTSD. For over 10 years , we battled, fought, learned through online information that it was PTSD but now we had a official diagnosis. Finally he got help. Anti depressant medication, sleep aid and counseling with the VA , I thought  we are on the up. However , he kept on living in his computer. 8 month later, we are ones again faced with unemployment. By now the count is 7 years, 6 different jobs. I would love to tell you more about how and why he lost his last position but at the current time I can't . I may at a later time when a variety of things are settled there.

He found work again and I am proud of him and oh so happy for him because it was the one job after his military time that he loved and enjoyed. The one he used o work 60-80 hrs a week in but this time it came with a restriction. 48 hrs per week and so much more happened just in the last few weeks since he started this job. He is FINALLY home again. He doesn't live in the computer no more, he works his 48 hrs per week , he is happy, he interacts with the kids, he talks to me.After a long close to 11 years since he left for Iraq, I feel like my loving , caring and affectionate husband who I have loved and fought for, for all these years, the man I missed and mourned the loss of , finally returned. He takes time to sit and talk, is being the most affectionate, most loving and caring man again.

However, even while writing this , I am afraid. I am so afraid to lose this again. I am afraid that it is just going to be a small time , a opening in our dark clouds to let the sunshine in and the dark clouds will return. PTSD " THE BEAST" is  luring in the back ground , waiting to strike again. In my opinion that is one of the worst things about PTSD, you can have really good days , great days even but in a split second, everything can be gone. I am grateful for each great day but always on the look out and always have my guards up for the beast to return. 

= never give up fighting, always will love him = 

Monday, March 2, 2015

#DearVA I'm A Combat Wounded Infantryman...

#DearVA,

I'm a combat wounded infantryman and a disabled veteran. I am also a fat and grumpy father of two and the husband of a woman with an indomitable spirit. When I was injured in Iraq, my dreams of continuing my Army career went away. Yes, I know there are guys out there who lose legs or arms and stay in. That's wonderful, and I wish I could be like them, but that's not the point of my letter to you.  

I'm writing this to share with you what has been going through my mind when my doctor told me that I would soon be weened off of my narcotic pain medication. Due to the nature of my injuries, multiple parts of my body hurt, and at different intensities and frequencies. I use the narcotic pain medicine to help me stave off some of the more intense pain so that I may be the best father and husband I can for my family. I understand that there are risks involved with medicine, especially narcotic types. I understand that there is a chance for addiction, overdose, and other physical ailments down the road. Recognizing these risks, and in sound mind I say to you that I do not care. Doctors take an oath to do no harm, and I can appreciate that, however I am not interested in a long, healthy life. I want to manage the pain associated with my injuries as best I can so that I can continue to be a part of my family. I want to live with a little pain as possible - not for as long as possible.

Now you might have read those last few sentences and thought that I might be suicidal. I am not. Suicide is counter-productive to my mission. You also might have gotten the wrong impression, and figured all I want is my drugs. I am more than willing to try other things. I would be willing to be prescribed fewer pills. I've been prescribed a TENS unit and an Alpha Stim, and they get used regularly. I've also gone through physical therapy, and I'll be doing it again very soon. Considering all of that, I still feel that the narcotic pain medication provides relief, and without it I would be totally useless to my family. I wouldn't be able to complete my mission, which would leave me in a bind. Do I admit defeat (not going to happen)? Do I become a criminal? Thoughts like this have been keeping me awake for the past week now.  

Another thing that I found interesting: I'm not the only guy out there who thinks the same. Here's an article ( http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/veterans-struggle-to-renew-their-prescriptions-amid-new-opioid-rules/2015/02/18/4d42d63a-acb3-11e4-9c91-e9d2f9fde644_story.html ) full of other veterans who depend on opioids to cope with their pain. Also, like the veterans in the article, my wife is my biggest supporter. She is the fail-safe between me and an overdose. She spends her days managing my medications, appointments, the budget, the house and the children. It truly is a wonder this woman hasn't lost her mind and exploded like the exhausted celestial body that she is.

VA, I know you won't see this. If you do see it, I know you won't care. I understand that, as sad as that is. I just hope you know one thing: we are your junkyard dogs. At a young age, I learned a powerful life lesson that I fear you haven't: those who snatch from junkyard dogs get bit.

-Disabled Combat Veteran

Saturday, February 28, 2015

#DearVA This Is It...

#DearVA,

This is it, my last letter in 2014. I am going to close this year with how you have tried to close the door on my husband.

The Claim for PTSD. This process started approximately six years ago. We had the C&P. We heard nothing. I started banging on doors, congressman, representatives, and finally we got a denial. We appealed, got a copy of the C&P and about died. The C&P was filled with contradictions. On one page he was an alcoholic, on another he didn't drink. On one page he had meds, on another he took no meds.

There were 3, yes three, sentences about what he actually did in Desert Storm. The psychiatrist, let's call him Dr. M, asked my husband if his life was ever in danger, and my husband spent 30 minutes talking about all of the instances that the entire team and he were in danger... None of this was in the report.

The private doctors diagnosis of PTSD was listed as inaccurate.

As my Veteran spiraled down, I banged on more doors. Eventually, they told me nothing would change for a few years. This was dismissal. The doors shut.

With the VA being no help, and my Veteran now telling me that our son and I would be better off without him I turned towards anyone that might help, and that was Service Dog Programs.

Unfortunately no one was wanting to help, and I lost it. Feeling overwhelmed and hopeless, I tried to take my own life in April of 2014. Something had to break. He was spiraled down as was I. Shortly after this, we were blessed to hear from Dogs4Warriors, run by Sheila Slezak.  They had approved my Veteran for a Service dog for his PTSD.

A few months later we received notice that the VA wanted to have an appeals hearing. 

So at this last day of the year #VA, my husband is healing, and not because of you, but because of the men and women at Dogs4Warriors. Ebenefits shows his hearing paperwork is bouncing from our local office to the regional office and back again and again and again.

Our family doctor continued to treat his PTSD with medication until he was advised by the Vet Center to switch to the VA...

We have talked a lot this month about changes you could make #NewVA. Caring for the whole Veteran, improving tracking of Veterans, caring for families, but I don't know if anything is as important as the Spirit of the Warrior.

I watched you break my Warriors' Spirit, and Sheila at Dogs4Warriors had to help him get it back. He read that report from Dr. M, and something broke in him. You may use them as equipment, but damnit they are Warriors. 

They are Human, not lifeless automatons.

This needs to change.

I am not done with you VA. You will see me again. You will read my words again. I will ensure that my husband doesn't give up fighting you. With Seth by his side, he is the Warrior again.

PM
Caregiver
Spouse to a Disabled Gulf War Veteran
Thorn in the VA's Side

Thursday, February 26, 2015

#DearVA Hello Again...

#DearVA

Hello again #VA. Are you tired of hearing from me? I'm tired of having things to write to you about.
I'd like to talk to you today about how "fine' doesn't mean he's fine.


You know this, but it's easier for your caregivers to wipe it away.

These are men that were not trained to whine or complain, that were taught to be strong and suck it up, to make it work...

And you ask how it's going, he makes a joke, they laugh it off... all the while, I sit there knowing that tonight, he's going to drink and stare at the knives and the medicine cabinet and that I'll sleep with pill bottles under my pillow and hope that today isn't the day that my husband becomes one of the 22 vets a day who take their own lives.
Your caregivers know he isn't fine, but it is easier if you don't listen. I start to speak up and am told that I should let him answer. So he says he's fine. I've come to hate that word.

He's not fine.

Missed appointment after appointment.

The fact that today is the first time he's showered in 4 days.

The beer cans I throw out before the kids get up...

All these are signs of things not being "fine"

Thanks for asking me to not speak VA. Thanks. I don't know anything it seems.
Will his jokes still be funny when I have to point out that you're responsible?

Please sign this one...
Speechless


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

#DearVA,

Your Facebook post today says in huge letters SMOKE FREE VET, so let's have a chat about it. You value our Veterans so much that you offer smoking cessation programs, Great! What about all the damage you did to them with burn pits?

They were still using burn pits even when you put out your burn pit registry! Then, your registry link doesn't work correctly for many vets. Great job there #VA! Veterans are dying because of what they were exposed to, and they just want some help. Many of them just want to make sure that the loved one's that they will leave behind will be taken care of.

The #NewVA has an obligation to fix the burn pit registry and ensure that the Veterans exposed to burn pits and oil fires are taken care of. The Veterans who are facing an immediate loss of life need to be taken care of first, so that they know that their families will not be left with nothing.

They served you VA, now you need to serve them. Do your duty as they did theirs. You owe them that much.

PM
Caregiver
Spouse to a Disabled Gulf War Veteran who was Exposed to Oil Well Fires


Tuesday, February 24, 2015

#DearVA I Need Some Help...

#DearVA, 

I need some help… actually I just need more support. I need better coping methods when I’m upset with my husband because I feel like a single parent again. I need help explaining to him why we can’t have any more children. It’s not that we’re incapable (though that was a fear at one time) but more that I can’t handle any more on my plate. He loves our kids with his entire being but that doesn’t make him more engaging or active with them. I need better de-escalation skills when he’s frustrated and wants to be bull headed and fix it his way or keep trying even when he’s making the issue worse. Getting him to stop and breathe is a real challenge. I need more help getting him on a budget. He buys things that he “needs” and proceeds to tell me how long they’re going to last and how he’s all set and doesn’t need another single thing in this world… until he spots something he likes and then he needs more too. I need a break. Motivation is dwindling since I don’t see an end in sight and I don’t see anything different in the coming days. I feel like I’m stuck in Groundhog’s Day… except everybody around me and our kids get to keep progressing. It’s like groundhog’s day with new challenges regularly… added challenges. Burnout is so real and I know we’re supposed to put our own air mask on first and all but how do you do that? If I take me out of the picture for a break, who’s juggling those balls that are left in the air? I’m not saying the world will collapse but… I’m sorry. I don’t even know how to end this letter and I’m just at a loss at the moment. #VA, this is reality. Sometimes we just can’t. Sometimes we just want to shut down and not be us anymore. We want to pretend everything is normal and everything is okay. That we’re not feeling the pressure and the stress building and that we’re not tired and feeling unfulfilled, again. #NewVA, I don’t know what to say to you really. #NewVA seems like the new year’s resolution of #VA. Good intentions, plans are made… how many months before that resolution is given up and we’re back to the same old thing? 

Sorry my attitude isn’t better today. Maybe tomorrow. 

Sincerely, 
100% Navy Wife


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Hey #VA... Today I want to talk about physical intimacy. 
I know that's probably not important to you, but it's a critical part of an adult relationship. It is not normal or healthy for people to go without physical intimacy for long periods of time. 
This isn't just something to be brushed aside... it should be taken seriously and it should be treated as a problem and not something to ignore or joke about. We've had several medical professionals make light of it  or joke about his lack of sex drive and how I "must be relieved" or been told "It could be worse." 
Trust me, my husband and I have made love less than 3 times in the last 2 years. Neither of us finds it funny.
Maybe this could be addressed with the #NewVA. 
-- 
Please sign this... 
Not even PG-13


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#DearVA,
I took a day off, but I didn't forget my duty to the Veterans. Tonight I would like to talk to you about the ebenefits website. Lets start with how hard it is to get access to the site. My Veteran had to drive an hour and a half to Phoenix to meet with someone who claimed he was the only person in the state of Arizona who handled login issues.


Seriously?

This was after he spent two months trying to get through to any human being on the phone. Do you know what it is like to put a Veteran with PTSD on hold for two hours only to disconnect him at the end of that time frame without him ever reaching a human being? I do, and it is not pretty. Every Veteran should have insurance on their cell phones.

So he drives to Phoenix to meet with this guy. The guy is in a meeting for two hours (this explains the phone hold time). He goes and has lunch, comes back and the meeting is not done on time (typical).
Finally he gets his login fixed (which was a VA error anyways and the guy explains that it is normal), and this process takes no more than 10 minutes. He drives home, frustrated, angry.
So now we can track his claim. Yeah, right. His claim bounces everywhere, with no explanation, no sense.
None of this crap makes any sense to him or me. #VA, I am in school about to start my Masters degree program, I am a pretty smart cookie, and your system confuses even me.

I go back to the point, I think that you purposely attempt to confuse and frustrate Veterans so they give up their fight.

The #NewVA will not only fix the login system for ebenefits, adding more technicians to help the load, but will also make it easier to track claims and understand the language used. I think that Veteran Advocates would be beneficial to help Veterans understand where their claims are, what still needs to happen, and explain things in clear simple language to Veterans and their families.
One person for all of Arizona VA? Seriously... Fix this.

PM
Caregiver
Spouse to a Disabled Gulf War Veteran

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

#DearVA My Husband is Succeeding.

#DearVA, 

My husband is succeeding. I want the #VA and the world to know that. It doesn’t look the way that people might perceive success to be. He doesn’t work, and he has a hard time taking care of the kids when it becomes absolutely unavoidably necessary for him to do so. He gets overwhelmed and wants to lock himself away in our bedroom. He relies heavily on our older child to help with our younger child, which he knows isn’t fair but can’t be helped at this point. But beyond that, he’s in school. I won’t lie and say that he has a grand plan with career dreams. But he’s in school and this is such a miraculous step in our lives that I am more proud than I am able to express. He went to college before. I thought it was a good one because it was a small community college… but the campus was crowded and the numbers of people there were detrimental to my husband’s psychological well being and he quit. We live in a small town now and he attends the local university. The buildings are much further spaced out so he feels like he can see what’s going on better. And this also allows for a much larger “personal bubble” as he can walk in the less traversed areas. His mere attendance is the miracle that I’m so proud of. His mentality while he’s there is to keep his head down and keep his mouth shut and get through it. It’s not something he takes a great deal of pleasure in, though we’ve finally found the area that he seems to like studying and have chosen his major now, so hopefully the pleasure will come. And he’s not talking to his classmates or forming relationships or friendships. He goes in, takes copious notes, comes home and studies his notes, runs through them with me. I read his textbooks to him and he takes more notes. I listen to his assignments and counsel him as necessary, proofread his papers and make suggestions to him. I am his personal tutor and he often says that without me he wouldn’t and couldn’t be in school. But I want people to see that he is successful, not because of me but because regardless of whether he needs help or not, because he has the drive to keep going. He has the ambition to finish his degree. I want #NewVA to see that my husband is not just a disabled vet. He’s not just collecting a check. He has drive and while he doesn’t know where it’s going right now the same can be said for many college students. He’s trying to find his place in this world again and he’s not letting the fact that it’s hard and he’s excruciatingly uncomfortable stop him from doing this. And damn it, he gets outstanding grades. He says that when his degree is complete he will not walk with his class because it’s too much and too many people… but you better believe I will pick up those honor chords and hang them proudly in our house. I will send out announcements and I will throw a very small party to celebrate him and his accomplishments. #VA and #NewVA, you have no idea about the drive and determination and struggle of these men and women. It may take time and it may take multiple tries and I surely can’t guarantee success… but if you knew what kind of efforts this takes, you’d see the sheer success that I see. 

Successfully Yours, 
100% Navy Wife


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#Dear VA,

Tonight I want to thank you. 

For finally providing my Veteran with a Sleep Study appointment. 

You see, every night it's the same; either he's not sleeping (therefore I'm not sleeping), he's tossing and turning, having nightmares or he's snoring so loudly it keeps me awake. The snoring is the scariest, in my opinion. You see, it's in these snoring episodes that he stops breathing. It's a terrifying prospect to face, not just for me but for my husband. 

It keeps me awake at night, when he sleeps, listening for the inevitable moment when he doesn't take in a breath and I have to wake him up, gasping, from his "sleep." 

It's been like this for a while now. We requested a Sleep Study in 2012. 

His appointment has been made for February 2014. 

For two years we chased this appointment, asking at every PCM appointment, where we'd hear the same, "It's in the system" response.

Why is that?

Why is it that it took TWO YEARS for a simple appointment? 

Hopefully the #NewVA will work something out so that important appointments like this aren't two years in the making.

And in case you're wondering, this was written at 4:23 am, after a night of no sleep for me and my Veteran husband. He didn't even snore tonight, because he didn't even fall asleep.

But again, thank you for taking two years to show that you might (kind of? Not really.) CARE about my husband's health.

K.W.