Monday, October 17, 2011

The Secret Life of a Veteran's Wife...

There's something about being a Veteran's wife that I believe many people... at least people not filling those shoes... would never imagine.  And that's the fact that we... in the middle of caring for injured heroes and raising children... among days of VA appointments and managing endless medications... while trying to keep up with normal "wifely" stuff like laundry and cooking and bills... in the midst of trying (mostly unsuccessfully) to care for our over-tired, over-worked, over-stressed, selves... that we have to become masters at managing impossible amounts of paperwork.

Now, let me explain, I'm not a "whiner".  You give me a problem... present me with a challenge... and not only will I figure it out, but typically I'll then turn around and help other people do the same.  I'm not easily defeated.  I'm not easily discouraged.  I'm, to put it simply, damn stubborn.

But... tonight... I'm tired.

I'm tired of figuring out yet another process... with yet another bureaucratic institution... with endless requirements in yet another form of legalese.  I'm tired of figuring out what documentation (out of mountains of medial records) to send to said institution.  I'm tired of jumping through hoops with not enough guidance.  Truthfully, I'm tired of proving to the government what my husband's service to that government did to him (no matter how fiercely proud of that service I am).

It's a pretty simple equation.  My husband left for Iraq a healthy, happy, well adjusted 26 year old who walked without a cane, had perfect hearing, did not have PTSD, did not have TBI, etc., etc.  By the end of my husband's last deployment... and in the time since... the exact opposite is true.  It's not rocket science.  It's not brain surgery.  It doesn't require a crystal ball.

But, here I sit, overwhelmed at the prospect of starting 3 new rounds of paperwork... paperwork I know basically "zilch" about.  Paperwork, that even when I talk directly to the institutions they will be submitted to, I can only get vague answers about.  Paperwork proving what's already been proven.  Paperwork to fight for benefits and entitlements my husband's injuries justify.  Paperwork... paperwork... paperwork. 

And, I wouldn't say a THING about all of this if I was the ONLY one.  The thing that really gets to me, is this is EVERY Veteran's wife (or husband!) I know.  In the middle of everything else they're trying to learn, to cope with, to handle, they're also effectively required to earn a "school of hard knocks" degree in endless red tape... tape that they have to figure out how to cut and maneuver in order to access the benefits their hero has earned.

It's ridiculous. 

First, because in a time where our country is fighting tooth and nail to save money, instead of proving and filing the same information in slightly different ways among a dozen different places, the entire process could be centralized.  One form (probably on the long side, but still, one form!)... far fewer people processing those forms... far fewer stressed out caregivers.

Second, even the people who have been put in place to assist with things like this have not been given a big enough stick to get the job done.  There are some incredibly awesome Federal Recovery Coordinators and Reserve Recovery Care Coordinators out there with huge hearts of pure gold.  BUT, they're forced to basically plead, cajole, and beg to get a lot of things done.   

Finally, because we're holding up our end of our vows by caring for our Veterans in sickness and in health.  It sort of... well actually, royally... sucks that we not only get to hold up our end of the bargain but then get to effectively hold up our country's end of the bargain, too.... you know, the part where a soldier, sailor, airmen or marine who is injured in service to his or her country is cared for and provided with every benefit and aid they earned in order to proceed in life after they're injured in service to said country.  Instead, the agreement has effectively become that our heroes are cared for so long as a caregiver can figure out what benefits the hero earned, how to file for those benefits, how to complete the paperwork or find someone worthwhile to help (unfortunately few and far between), manage to miraculously find out about those benefits before any cut-off dates, what medical records (in thousands of pages) should be submitted, how to appeal the inevitable first round denial, and on and on.

This is NOT a burden our nation's already overburdened caregivers should be shouldering.  It's just that simple.

Our heroes deserve better.

Thanks for listening,

Brannan Vines
Proud wife of an OIF Veteran
Founder of - an organization dedicated to helping heroes and their loved ones survive and thrive after combat with real world info about PTSD, TBI, and more!


  1. I am a Vietnam veteran with ptsd, I hear you on this post.

  2. Well SAID! Yet another perfectly and accurately written account of life after combat! So many papers to go through, so many to sift. And the thing is, not even our beloved VSO's and Vet Reps and others can help us, because, the time we have available to fill out "said paperwork" is done late at night! When the babies are finally asleep, when the children are quiet, when the family is fed....when the dishwasher (if it is working) is running, when the dog has been walked, shall I go on? Indeed it is frustrating, indeed it is the most TIME CONSUMING task I have ever encountered. Yet it is vital! Vital to getting the care our heroes desperately need. The institutions that the (dare I say UN) necessary paperwork is required, are the very ones who know our heroes best! *sigh* In honor of EVERY spouse who fills out this massive undertaking, the ones who brave the blank spaces under dimly lit kitchen tables, scanning and double checking with tired eyes- it is NOT in vain! And you are NOT alone! Brannan, I applaud your honesty, your ability to call things as they are, and your fearless and undying commitment to your husband, and to Vet families (ALL VET FAMILIES) everywhere. You are definately our own God given Angel here on earth! Remind me to stuff your stocking for christmas with black ball point pens...there is nothing worse than running out of ink!!!

  3. Brennan, I think you and I are on the same wavelink today. I have found myself more and more enraged at the system as it is and wanting ever so desperately to do something to change it. You are amazing, strong and fearless and we are all better for knowing you. Keep it up, it will eventually pay off. I went through it all too and we finally got through all the red tape and the final payoff was months away, but he couldn't hold on any longer.
    Good luck to you. Jessie