Do you remember the Veterans Affairs scandal that broke on 30 April 2014? The one where a whistle-blower claimed that as many as 40 veterans died waiting for care while the Arizona facility pencil-whipped their schedules to make it look like they were maintaining efficiency and the infamous “secret” wait-lists? That scandal opened up an internal audit of the VA across the nation, including The House of Representatives passing legislation to fund an investigation by the Justice Department.
It also found that about 1,700 area veterans were not even on the wait-list and “continue to be at risk of being lost or forgotten” and “may never obtain their requested or required care.”
The report determined there is “systemic” misconduct throughout the VA.
The report did not confirm whether the long delays resulted in veterans’ deaths, but promised to investigate the link between wait times and “possible preventable deaths.” (Source: http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/veterans-adminstration-scandal/story?id=23914029)
The media was all abuzz about these investigations and veterans from all over the country sent in their stories. I happened to be watching Fox & Friends one morning where Peter Johnson, Jr. was talking about the many stories veterans had sent to him. At the end of his commentary, he asked that if anyone else had stories to please send them along. I sent Mr. Johnson my husband’s story. If you’re not familiar, you can read it here.
I had already written our Senators and our Representative in hopes to move my husband’s claim along. The only one to take any action was Rep. Ted Yoho. His aide called me and they sent an investigation into his claim. That was earlier in the year. We did get a denial, again, in July. I wrote another update about this here.
In May, I wrote to Fox News. I never really expected anything to come of it, honestly. There are so many others out there worse off than we were, but I had to get his story out there. I still held a tiny sliver of hope for him. And that’s all it takes I guess, because on 1 August, I was contacted by the Assistant Director of the Congressional Liaison Service of the Department of Veterans Affairs. She stated that my letter to Fox News was forwarded to “Chairman Jeff Miller, House Veterans Affairs Committee, U.S. House of Representatives. The Chairman has asked the VA Congressional Liaison Service to assist with answering your concerns. Due to privacy issues, I need the Veteran to contact me directly with full name and address and specific concerns/issues that he/she is experiencing with the VA.”
I immediately got TheHubs to send another letter back to her. We summarized his previous letter and added more detail about his latest C&P as well as the appeal letter his VSO sent up the chain. Some of it is included in the Appeal Update #2 post. He also included this last bit:
I got out of the Army in July 2002. Here I am, 12 years later, still fighting for my benefits. I may not have the visible wounds that others have, but it doesn’t make me less broken. I may not have had boots on the ground in Iraq or Afghanistan, but that doesn’t make my experiences in Albania/Kosovo any less than anyone else’s. I am sick of people looking at me like I’m faking it, or telling me “You don’t look disabled.” I’m sick of being dismissed because I served in “The Forgotten War” as I call it. But most of all, I’m sick, and tired, of fighting. If it wasn’t for my wife, my caregiver and soulmate, I would have given up on my fight and life a long time ago. That’s what the VA wants–for the veteran to give up so they don’t have to pay out. We cannot let them win!
My hope had been restored again after he sent that email. But, per usual, as time passed, this subject faded to the far reaches of my mind. I forgot about it. Not completely, mind you. I still held onto it by a sliver of a thread of hope.
It’s now 4 December 2014, and a few days ago it decided to come to the forefront of my brain. All because TheHubs got a call–rather, several calls from the St. Petersburg Regional VA Office stating, several times, that they received a “letter from the White House” about his case and they were looking into his concerns. When looking into his case, one of the people who called him stated that his case was really “messed up.” Ya think? We’ve known that for years. Apparently they were the group of people set up by the VA to investigate messed up claims. They told him not to be surprised he received a dozen or so more calls over the next few days as they all worked his case. Even another person called yesterday, this one shocked us both. It was the guy in charge of the facility where he had his last C&P, the one who said his nightmares were “our brain’s way of processing gobbledygook.” He told TheHubs that if that is indeed what she said, and if he indeed only had a 10 minute meeting, that it was so very wrong. Yeah, why would we make that up?
I sit here, now, still processing what’s transpired over the last few days. At first, I didn’t know what to feel. I was beginning to wonder if it was because I’ve been traumatized all these years dealing with a screwed up VA who would send us mixed signals. Or if it was merely shock, as a friend told me. I did feel a bit sad that our media could make the VA move faster than my Congressman, and faster than the VA ever did. But that’s all I felt these last few days. So, I was leaning more towards the trauma. This morning, though, I woke up and that familiar stir inside. You know the one? The anxious excitement of hurry-up-and-get-it-over-with-already returned to my stomach and chest.
I’m almost at the end of this post and I am still debating with myself whether or not to post. We’ve had plenty of luck over the years, plenty of BAD luck and I don’t want to jinx this. Seems as though a lot of things I get all excited and hopeful about, that moment we acknowledge it out loud is the moment everything takes off full-speed downhill. It’s just so frustrating to see (and know) so many people who’ve gone through their own VA claims process that have had more minor issues than TheHubs and skated through the system in less than a year with more percentage than he has. And they can still work! It’s high time my husband had some good news, I think. So if you have it in you, could you please pray to your God, send positive energy, or whatever you do to give GOOD luck, send it our way for a speedy AND JUST resolution to this incredibly LONG fight.
Thank you so very much.