My father served in Vietnam in the late 1960s. When he came home, he was spit on and called a baby killer. He was one of too many. Everyone hated him and everyone that put that uniform on. That was a horrible time for our military.
As our country engages more and more across the world, spreading our military might too thin, their overall support dwindles. I watched as everyone wore their American Pride well during the First Gulf war in 1989. But the political landscape capped that quite well – “It’s all about the oil.” Everyone listens to the media.
And then one horrible day that has spread across the world, 9/11 ripped through our lives, everyone’s lives. And our national pride soared once more. For a while, anyway. And then everyone started listening to the media again. The spun any part of “The War on Terror” as a waste of money, Bush’s War, the daily death count. I was confused when the new phrases came out – “Where’s the weapons of Mass destruction?” No one could think that a plane would be a weapon of mass destruction, or bio-weapons. All they cared about was seeing the nukes. Where were the nukes? Unfortunately, we gave them plenty of time to get those out of their country. And when we couldn’t produce a cache of weapons that the media wanted and the fact that we weren’t getting out of there any time soon, the phrase changed to, “Support our troops, but not the war.” How can you support that which engages in the thing you don’t like? It was a complete conundrum for me that still leaves me scratching my head. Just ugh.
Why do we continue to hate on our military?
According to a report released in March 2016 by the National Center for Veterans Analysis and Statistics, the greatest number of Veterans still comes from the Vietnam Era, closely followed by peacetime only Veterans and then The First Gulf War. Yet, everyone focuses their attention, and money, on those Post-911 veterans, which only account for 13% of the total number of Veterans in that census.
And yet, they are the ones who receive the attention, the focus, the help. They are the ones that all the charities gear their marketing efforts towards. In 2014, there were 19.3 million veterans living in the US and PR. Of those 19.3 million veterans, only 3.8 million have been awarded a service connected disability. Other statistics include: 7 million served in Vietnam, 5.5 million served during the Gulf War era (representing service from August 1990 to present), and 2.5 million served in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Now, when I say that 2.5 million served in Iraq and Afghanistan, I’m sure that is an accurate number in the sense that there were 2.5 million people deployed to those areas. However, it is a well-known fact that of those 2.5 million people quite a lot have been on multiple deployments. So, in essence, there aren’t 2.5 million veterans of those two wars. The RAND Association explains it best – in troop years, rather than number of deployed. At present, I have been unable to locate the exact number of Iraq and Iran Veterans. However, RAND is stating the strength of approximately 554,000 soldiers in December 2011. The VA is reporting that it has seen approximately 860,000 Iraq and Afghanistan veterans utilizing their Health System.
As the US Veteran population ages, the older generation numbers will dwindle. This is only natural. But with our continuing efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan, the number of veterans from these two areas will undoubtedly surpass the Vietnam era.
I am in no way trying to downplay the younger generation of veterans. By no means. What I am trying to point out is that Every Veteran Matters.
And that’s how ALL these benefits/charities SHOULD be run. But they’re not.
I lived through my husband’s combat deployment. He experienced it. Still experiences it. Every. Horrible. Moment. And how many people remember Kosovo and their atrocities?
Only those who went there in the beginning.
So why is it that only the latest veterans, those post-911 combat veterans, are the only ones to get any benefits, any assistance, anything from anyone?
We are not ones to ask for assistance or help. We are those people who would offer up our help to others, no matter how bad off we were. But this last year has put us in a bind. With my medical insurance premiums and cost going up, the services and prescriptions covered going down, we’ve pretty much wiped out our savings. The VA hasn’t paid for any of the procedures he’s gone through since they stopped working back in 2012 or so. I can’t remember the last time he went. They don’t pay for any of his pain medications. So we are forced, now, to go seek civilian help.
He’s been going to a civilian neurologist since we moved to Florida and he’s been doing Botox injections in his neck and shoulders for his dystonia. For the past two years, all we had to pay for was the doctor visit for this procedure. Now, we have to pay for the Botox and the doctor visit. At $1000 every 3 months, that’s a no go. So he hasn’t had this since October of 2015. His pain is ever-increasing.
I did some digging and found out that now the VA Pain Center can do the Botox injections for him. I also want him to try ketamine infusions, as it’s helped a couple of people with their chronic pain that no pain medications have been able to touch.
In January 2016, I called for a VA neurology consultation so he could possibly be seen for both Botox injections and get a referral for the ketamine infusions. February 3, 2016 was his appointment and the VA neurologist evaluated him and said he’d refer him over to the VA Pain Center where they do the treatments. March rolls by and so does April. OK, we knew we’d have to wait, but I had him call and check anyway. Come to find out, February 4, 2016 another neurologist revoked his referral due to “having a civilian neurologist and received Botox there.”
Um, no! Just no!
So he had to fight to get that referral reinstated and he had his fist consult with the VA Pain Center in May 2016. Despite having previously been seen there, with quite a few procedures that eventually failed, and records to show for it, the evaluating “doctor” decides to “try” a procedure he had, that failed, twice, since he hadn’t been there in several years. He kept trying to say it was “new” when it really was the exact same procedure he’s had there before. We are convinced he was fishing to get TheHubs to say, “no, I don’t want to do that” just so the VA could deny him benefits because he refused a recommended treatment. But TheHubs suffered through this treatment in June 2016, which seems to have made his pain worse. They have scheduled his Botox injections for the end of October 2016 (a full year without Botox, so it’s like starting completely from scratch.) And to top it off, they can only inject HALF of what he was getting in the civilian world. HALF! How the heck is that even going to help when his full dose only took the edge off the pain!?
Not only do we have to deal with all his VA and civilian doctors, TheBoy had to have surgery on both his feet last year. Now he’s in braces, which we are still paying on. And, of course, my medical issues. And last month, our A/C died. At 95 degrees, in Florida, you don’t want your A/C to die. I had just emptied out our savings to pay off all the medical bills and then this happened. Everyone in my support groups were great, giving me places to apply for assistance, in the hopes that someone, somewhere could help me with the payment of a brand new A/C handler and compressor.
That’s when I found just how frustrated and forgotten TheHubs REALLY feels…
Out of about 35 organizations I tried, only 2 were open to all eras. But both of them were out of money. Everywhere else, you had to be a post-911 combat wounded veteran. I was crushed. All the charities I see out there, helping people with all kinds of needs and assistance, and we don’t qualify. Just like the VA Caregiver Program or any of the “automatic benefits” these veterans get without having to fight for their compensation Retreats, discounts, even a day at an amusement park (even *if* he could go with all those people) are not an option for him. Heck, even just a simple tool box for veterans, and we were denied.
Nope, we have to fight tooth and nail for everything he deserves. He has always called it “The Forgotten War.” I understood it. But now, I am seeing it as “The Forgotten Veterans,” too. It breaks my heart. And what about my dad? He had to wait 30 years before the government would even acknowledge the fact that they used Agent Orange. Luckily, now they have automatic diagnosis that fall into the Agent Orange category. But, really, any assistance that my mom might need, like the Caregiver Program, is lost to her as well.
I just can’t believe that we are a NATION OF NOW, a reactionary force to whatever happens to be in your face at the moment. And since the Iraq and Afghanistan wars are still ongoing, because the returning and broken veterans are so young and so plentiful, more people see them, see their wounds, and want to help…them.
I want to know where we can go for ALL era veterans. I want to know why we continue to discriminate and forget about those that came before. I want to know why we can’t recognize and help them too! This is only a small portion that adds to the 22 veterans a day that die by their own hands. I only hope I can keep his hope from fading!
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