Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Our Story: Avoidance and Delay

We are a proud family. We believe in working hard for anything that we receive. We believe in sharing what we have with those less fortunate. I will attempt to make this plea for help as short as possible, but a 5 year struggle with the VA entails many things that I could say. I will, however, concentrate on why we feel Charles should receive a 100% disability rating.

First and foremost, Charles was deemed totally disabled by the US Department of Social Security. Charles returned from his tour in Iraq via Landstuhl, Germany to Walter Reed Army Center in D.C. There he stayed from late October of 2005 until early May of 2006. Thanks to the generosity of the Fisher House Foundation, I was able to stay in DC by his side through his surgery and recovery, along with our 11 year old son. There are many horror stories I could tell you of our stay at Walter Reed, but that is not the intention of this letter.

Charles worked for the Pantex Plant here in Amarillo, TX as a Special Police Officer. During his 25+ years of working for Pantex, Charles had taken perhaps eight days of sick leave in all those years. He was subject to the laws, rules, and stringent physical requirements that are in place for being a SPO for the USDOE. He had a complete physical every year and underwent and passed many physical requirements every six months of his employment. When Charles was activated as an IRR soldier at the age of 59, he was more than willing to serve his country! He left in excellent health, healthier than most men that were 20 years younger than him.

In October of 2005, while serving in Iraq, Charles fell into a 7’ deep concrete causeway. Upon the urging of his fellow soldiers, he went to CharlieMed and was medically evacuated on the next flight to Landstuhl, Germany. While there it was discovered that he had a meningioma tumor on his brain that was about 7” by 5” large. This tumor was causing tremendous pressure on his brain, causing blindness in one eye, extreme lack of coordination, memory loss, and many other problems. The extremely talented and competent surgeons of Walter Reed were able to completely remove the tumor.

Charles improved drastically with the tumor removal. However, when he returned home he was no longer able to fulfill the physical requirements demanded of an SPO with the USDOE. He was fired, for lack of a better term, from his job of 25+ years at Pantex. He refused to seek disability pay from Social Security. He felt it made him a freeloader. Besides, he just knew that his country would take care of him properly. I lost my job when I was gone so long to be in DC with Charles, so that income was no longer there. He lost his job; that income was gone, and at the time all the VA was allowing was 30% disability. We had no moral choice other than to cash in all our savings and 401K to pay off all bills and try to make the best of life. Looking back on things, I wonder why we held so firm to our principals and morals and refused to file bankruptcy. But, we did what our Christian principals demanded of us, and we are proud to have done so, because we just knew that the VA would take care of him with disability.

For the last six years the VA has denied claims of his disabilities, saying they were not proved by any doctors. For six years he has been going to the VA to try to get relief for many of his problems, yet they would never take MRIs or anything to help him to prove the problems of lack of motor skills, severe pain in hip, leg, foot, and shoulder of the side that he fell on, (in full battle gear…7’ into a concrete trench). They would never give him a physical and check into the reasons for his muscle spasms that cause the loss of the use of his hand, nor would they look into the cause for his consistent dizziness. Because the VA seemed only to want to shove pills down his throat for his symptoms and not prove or disprove his claims, Charles began seeing our family physician, our family chiropractor and a civilian neurosurgeon.

During this last six years while the VA has been avoiding the physical proof of his claims, they have also been using what are blatant delay tactics. They have informed Charles on more than one occasion that they have lost all his paperwork and he will need to begin again with his claims. Every six months or so they send a letter to say that they still have the claim but they are backlogged and still looking into it. They send denial letters and always ask does he wish to have a hearing. After the first letter from the VA asking if he wanted to have a hearing, three years ago, the VA was told YES, he wants a hearing. He has yet to have a hearing. We have submitted documents from his neurosurgeon, his chiropractor and our family doctor to prove the claims that we have submitted, but the VA will only accept their own doctors’ statements in claims cases. Well, those are impossible to get when the VA will not do tests on the soldier to prove or disprove the claims.

We have recently learned of the return of the meningioma. If it were not for his competent private care physicians, we would never have been told the tumor was back. I had taken my husband to the VA emergency room when he had taken a bad hit to the head and an MRI was done at that time. Never was he told by the VA about the results of the MRI and that the tumor was back. Instead, he learns of its return by his civilian neurosurgeon seven months later! The neurosurgeon had assumed, incorrectly, that the VA would have told Charles what the results were from that MRI. Charles has submitted yet another claim concerning the return of the tumor. He did so about eight months ago. He has yet to hear anything at all concerning this claim.

Charles was recently upgraded to 140% disability with the VA, but is only paid at 90%. It seems the return of the tumor did get the VA’s attention, after all. With the upgrade percentage for the return of the tumor, it really should have brought Charles to total and complete disability. We feel the VA is still playing games with us.

Charles has fits of vertigo. When the vertigo hits, he is 100% totally dependent, my son or I must be with him 24/7. With vertigo it is impossible for him to sit up alone to even feed himself, much less to dress, walk, or attend to hygienic needs by himself. We never know when vertigo will strike. The VA knows that Charles has chronic vertigo. This was diagnosed and is a part of his file, yet they have never acknowledged this in his ratings determinations. It is as if the vertigo is not a problem and does not need to be considered when considering monetary compensation.

Yet, with the new Caregiver program available to OIF veterans, vertigo is understood to be a debilitating problem. Thankfully the Caregiver program has doctors and nurses who know what is required to take care of a person who is totally unable to sit up alone, much less do any other activity alone. Thankfully, I am now getting a stipend to help with the expenses that we face. I fail to understand, however, how the VA can ignore these problems and symptoms that my husband faces when it comes to settling a claim for his disability ratings.

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1 comment:

  1. Get ahold of John McCain. Not just an office of his, tho all his offices will zip all your letters to the 1st zip code or address you send them in your 1st contact. But start with your local, state and the Washington offices. Faxes work well to. John McCain has never let me down. I have called upon him for others and unfortunately even when I should not have. But always when it comes to an ailing Veteran this is the man. I wish we could make 2 of him and split the age. He is a uniqe little arrogant fruitcake type. But he is the gratest and I adore him. I even love him. Write maybe a hand writte letter and do not let any clerks working for him stop you from gettinng immediate attention to him. I have no doubt he will help.