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


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#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