Tag Archives: Army

The Forgotten

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.

Thirteen.

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!

LadyJai

 

 

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VA Appeal Update

VA Appeal Update #2

VA Appeal Update #3

VA Appeal Update #4

VA Appeal Update #5
VA Appeal Update #6

When The Fog Burns Off

Several weeks ago, my husband called me while I was at work.
Nothing unusual about that.

However, this time his voice was broken and quiet and he said, “Something happened.”

My mind raced within a microsecond of what could possibly have happened. My throat closed. My stomach flipped.

Before the sobs took hold and the line went dead, he managed to tell me of the memory that the fog had shrouded from him since the incident happened in Kosovo back in 1999.

My own silent panic raged inside of me while I dropped everything at work and sped home. He was no longer answering the phone. The more I tried, the faster I drove. Even if we had someone who could go check on him, I knew he was in no state to answer the door. Had I called 911 and had a sheriff go out, it probably could have made things a thousand times worse. I just had to get home as fast as I could.

I already had a plan in my head if I were to get pulled over by the police for speeding. I would have handed them my driver’s license and told them to meet me at my house because my husband was in full PTSD meltdown and I needed to get there as fast as I could. (Honestly, in hindsight, I probably should have called 911 to let them know what I was doing. Not sure how that would have ended though. Would they have come to the house? Would it have made TheHubs worse?)

Once I got home, I found him huddled under the covers, won’t come out from under them. I called his VA doctor and between me talking with him and the nurse talking with him while I held the phone to his ear, we finally calmed him down.

But that memory of his time in Kosovo, that memory that his brain had protected him from, still lingers.

PTSD never gets better. No amount of therapy or drugs can make it so. I don’t care what the VA says. PTSD is something that will haunt the person for the rest of their lives. They, alone, are the only ones who can manage it. Living with someone who suffers PTSD is not so haunting, but it does affect everyone it touches in some way. Those of us who live with, and love, someone who suffers with these demons has to learn to adjust. And the only way to learn is through communication between everyone involved.

I am blessed that he is comfortable enough, trusts me enough, to share with me his demons. But I am also cursed with the knowledge of those demons and knowing that I will never be able to take them from him.

LadyJai

 

 

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PTSD or Moral Injury
Anxiety, Depression, and Secondary PTSD

VA Appeal Update #6

I contacted the VA Under Secretary, in hopes to either speed up the process or at the very least, let them know about the gobbledygook woman that did his C&P.

Again, they just “passed the buck” on the whole thing. We did get an “update,” if you want to call it that.

Here’s what we got:

STATUS OF APPEAL:  Your husband’s appeal began in July 2011 when VA received his Notice of Disagreement.

BVA VIDEOCONFERENCE HEARING:  On 07-24-14, a videoconference hearing with the Board of Veterans’ Appeals (BVA) was requested. The next step in the appeals process will be the scheduling of that hearing. Your husband will be notified in writing of the date and time of the hearing.

 A hearing is not required. The wait for a BVA videoconference hearing can be long as there are limited slots available. The St. Petersburg, FL Regional Office – which is where the hearing will be held – received many requests for BVA videoconference hearings prior to your husband’s July 2014 request. Those requests are filled based on date order.

 If your husband decides to withdraw his request for the hearing, the appeal would then go directly to BVA for their review. (provided no additional evidence has been submitted requiring Regional Office action) Please know that he is entitled to a hearing – it is his choice whether to have the hearing. If he decides to withdraw the hearing request, that written, dated, signed statement should be submitted via:

·         fax to VA’s Evidence Intake Center at (844) 531-7818
·         or mail to Evidence Intake Center at –
Department Of Veterans Affairs
Evidence Intake Center
PO Box 4444
Newnan, GA 30271-0020

APPEALS BACKLOG:  The appeals backlog is large. Regional Offices and the BVA are working those appeals based on the date they were received. I apologize for the long wait which I know can be frustrating. The Under Secretary has repeatedly requested additional resources from Congress to help VA work appeals more quickly.

EXPEDITING AN APPEAL:  However, please know that an appeal may be expedited for a veteran who is terminally ill, homeless or otherwise experiencing very serious hardship. If your husband is in one of those categories, he may request that his appeal be expedited based on such circumstances. To do so, submit that request in writing with documentation of the hardship to the VA regional office in St. Petersburg, FL. Documentation of severe financial hardship could include such things as copies of bankruptcy proceedings, eviction notice, past due bills, utility shut-off notices, etc. Submit the request and the supporting documentation via:

·         fax to VA’s Evidence Intake Center at (844) 531-7818
·         or mail to Evidence Intake Center at –
Department Of Veterans Affairs
Evidence Intake Center
PO Box 4444
Newnan, GA 30271-0020

 If your husband does not fall into one of the above categories, then his appeal will continue to be worked in date order. That means it may be a few months to many months to even more than a year before the next step in the appeal, which is the scheduling of the BVA videoconference hearing. Again, I apologize for the long wait – but I want to give you a realistic timeframe.

 CHECK STATUS OF APPEAL:  To check on the status of the appeal, please call 1 (800) 827-1000. Your husband’s representative, Disabled American Veterans, can also provide updates and assistance.

I hope that this information is helpful to you and your husband. As noted above, the next step in the appeals process will be the scheduling of the BVA videoconference hearing. Your husband will be notified in writing of the date and time of the hearing.

This waiting is expected. I grew up in the military. Everything was hurry up and wait. But this is absolutely ridiculous.

Let the “more waiting” ensue.

LadyJai

 

 

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VA Appeal Update
VA Appeal Update #2
VA Appeal Update #3
VA Appeal Update #4
VA Appeal Update #5

The Lasting Effects On One Veteran & His Family from 9/11

Allendale This memorial was designed by two Allendale residents, a college student and a sixth-grader. The 5-foot-tall granite marker is draped with a bronze American flag and adorned with a bronze eagle on top. Its inscription includes the words, “We remember.” The monument sits on pavers shaped like the Pentagon.

Allendale – This memorial was designed by two Allendale residents, a college student and a sixth-grader. The 5-foot-tall granite marker is draped with a bronze American flag and adorned with a bronze eagle on top. Its inscription includes the words, “We remember.” The monument sits on pavers shaped like the Pentagon. – New Jersey Monthly

While today marks a day we will ALWAYS remember, while we recount the stories of where we were that day, while we share in the patriotism that brought us all together, I wanted to shed a little light on how that day STILL affects some of us. We weren’t at Ground Zero. But it doesn’t mean we weren’t affected — all those who witnessed the terror, all those serving in the military, or joined up to serve because of that day. How it still affects us all.

He was full-time active duty Army at the time. When the 2nd plane hit, he told his troops, “Pack up, guys. We’re going to war.” They spent the next 3 months readying themselves for war.

I worked in the 3rd Corps war room (contractor for their secured network) and I watched as his unit’s orders came, got canceled, came again, and then canceled again. Over and over my heart wrenched and relief surged only to be yanked away again. It was a very stressful time for all of us.

For him, though, he *wanted* to go. To do his duty. He was denied the First Gulf War and Somalia as he was needed on the home front to train lieutenants before they were shipped off. He felt like a failure because he didn’t do what he signed up to do. Then, Kosovo happened and he deployed. No one remembers *that*war“. He didn’t feel as though he fulfilled his destiny there either.

Because 4th ID was chosen to go to Afghanistan before 1st CAV, he was again denied his duty (in his eyes). And again, he still feels like a failure, that he’s not a true soldier. He feels guilty for being a veteran, for having all the things he suffers because of some dumb “wag the dog” stunt that no one remembers, for missing out.

9/11 is a very conflicting memory in our household. While we love that it brought ALL Americans together as one, regardless of race, creed, color…it also means that my husband missed his chance to be the hero he always dreamed.

I hate seeing him in pain, both physically and emotionally. I hate that he cannot see himself like I see him. And I wish others could see him the way I see him too.

To this day, that war overshadows everything about him.

LadyJai

If you’re willing, I would love to hear your stories as well. Share with everyone so we never forget that day and its lasting affects on us.

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Where Were You When The Towers Fell?

VA Appeal Update #5

I’ve been trying, for two months now, to find the contact information for Secretary Bob McDonald. I’ve had one person offer help with our claim because she had his “cell phone number” and would “gladly help so no one had to go through what they had to deal with.” Yeah, after 3 attempts to contact her different ways with no response, I’ve given up on her.

I sent the second letter to Rep. Ted Yoho on 6 February 2015 and haven’t heard anything back.

On 3/4/2015 I tried sending a letter to the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs and when I hit the submit button it returns a 404 PAGE NOT FOUND error. I also sent that same letter to the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs and when I hit the submit button on their contact form, I receive “Access Denied.”

Yeah, I’m beginning to think there’s a conspiracy to cover up anything dealing with the VA. So much for their “TRANSPARENCY.” UGH.

Sent them both a tweet about it. No response.

Went to the Senate’s Facebook page but the option to post on their page has been disabled.

Went to the House’s Facebook page and asked about the 404 error there, and tagged the Senate’s account. Now we wait to see if they respond.

Yes, I’m getting very, VERY frustrated.

I went home that night and posted this in my caregiver support forum:

Today was a complete waste of time and effort. So many things I WANT to do but I spent most of it lost in google and government red tape. Someone in another offered to help with our claim issues and never followed through. I also haven’t heard back from my Representative I wrote to a month ago. So I decided to see if I could look up Secretary McDonald’s contact info. No luck there either. Then, I went to the House AND Senate Veterans’ Committees and their contact us form. One gave me a 404 Not Found error. The other, Access Denied. I thought maybe it was just the browser, so I tried another. Nope. Me thinks there is a conspiracy! I tweeted both of them. No response yet. I went to their Facebook pages. The Senate Committee page doesn’t allow posts from followers. But the House one does. I commented about their web page issue and tagged the Senate in that same post. No response yet. So frustrated. I guess we are supposed to be patient and wait, even though we’ve been doing that since 2003. I guess we aren’t meant to be lucky like everyone else. I guess pain and suffering in more ways than just what he’s going through is our lot in life. I should accept this. But I’m not going to stop. I will continue to try to get my heart hurt because that’s what I have to do. If I don’t do it. He will give up. It just reminds me of the story of Job in the bible. There’s always hope. Right?

I received an offer to help from one of the admins who was “connected.” Four emails later, and started feeling a bit better.

But that didn’t last.

I’ve sent the letters to Senator Ted Yoho, the House & Senate Committee several more times since February. I have heard nothing. What else can I do to get this going? I know I’m supposed to “Hurry Up And Wait.” That’s been the military motto my father drilled into my head since I was a baby. You’d think I would understand this by now. Logically knowing this is so very different from actually practicing this.

A few days ago, we did receive a letter from our Regional Office stating:

We have certified your appeal to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals and are transferring your VA records to the Board in Washington, D.C. The Board will notify you when it has received your records.

More Hurry Up And Wait. Let’s see, here’s a brief rundown of our latest claim with the VA:

  • 7/22/2009 – Claim Received
  • 7/29/2010 – Claim Considered
  • 8/2/2010 – Notice of Decision
  • 7/14/2011 – Notice of Disagreement
  • 10/2/2012 – Personal Hearing at the VA Regional Office
  • 1/29/2014 – VA C&P Exam
  • 7/14/2014 – De Novo Review election Received from Appellant
  • 6/22/2015 – Certified the appeal and sending records to the Board of Appeals in DC.

You can see how frustrating waiting can be!

In the mean time, I continue to advocate for him, anyway I can. But I’m running out. If anyone has any more ideas I can try, I am open and willing to listen. Please send them my way. I have finally found Secretary Bob McDonald’s phone number, which I will leave here for anyone else; but I think I might be too chicken to call him. I wouldn’t even know what to say. I write better than I speak.

http://static.c-span.org/assets/swf/CSPANPlayer.1434395986.swf?clipid=4507948

LadyJai

 

 

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Happy Lung Leavin’ Day 2015 – The Mesothelioma Story

A week and a half ago, I was approached by someone on my blog asking me to email him because he had something to ask me.

I’m paranoid by trade and by upbringing. Not only was I a BRAT and an Army wife, where we are raised to understand OPSEC and how to become a hard target; I also work as an IT Security Consultant where I am extremely aware of spam, phishing, vulnerabilities, identity theft, and cyber bullying. Heck, I’ve had to track down and contact a couple of people who were using my email address to set up accounts in their name with their personal identifying information, to include a credit card. Had I been a bad person, I could very easily have ruined a few people’s lives. But I’m not. (you can read about this here, in my article called Am I A Victim? – Reverse Social Engineering).

Anyway, as I was saying, I’m naturally paranoid when something like this comes my way. I googled his name and email address. I looked him up on Facebook. Everything pointed to a legitimate plea. Even my first impression of his request gave me a hint to legitimacy due to the way it was written. But, I always err on the side of caution. I asked TheHubs. I asked a friend. It took me all day to weigh the odds. I even set up a secondary email address, just for this blog before I emailed him.

What I had found out about Mr. Von Saint James was accurate. And it was a legitimate email with a request for help. He told me what he wanted and I agreed. It was a no-brainer.

Lung Leavin’ Day is a nickname given to the day that Heather had her lung removed.  While LungLeavin’ Day is technically February 2nd, her husband wants to spread awareness throughout the month of February. Here’s a little about her story:

1Nine years ago, Heather was diagnosed with mesothelioma; a rare cancer caused by exposure to asbestos. She had just had a baby and was given 15 months to live. After surgery to remove her left lung, Lung Leavin’ Day was born.

Heather continues to survive. This is her 9th LungLeavin’ Day celebration! The purpose of this holiday is to encourage others to face their fears. Each year, they gather around a fire in our backyard with their friends and family, write their biggest fears on a plate and smash them into the fire. They celebrate for those who are no longer with them, for those who continue to fight, for those who are currently going through a tough time in their life, and most importantly, they celebrate life!

You can see Heather’s interactive page mesothelioma.com/heather/lungleavinday that tells the full story of their special day.

After reading their story, so many fears came flooding back. This, THIS is one of our biggest fears. Mesothelioma is not pretty. And usually, it’s a death sentence. TheHubs was a heavy-wheeled mechanic in the Army for 13.5 years. The first nine were spent in an asbestos insulated motor pool changing out asbestos breaks on military vehicles. Normally, a tour in the Army lasts 3 to 4 years. Unfortunately, the way the paperwork went for him during Team Spirit, The First Gulf War, Somalia, and a couple of cancelled PCS moves, he ended up staying in the same unit, at the same post, in the same motor pool for 9 years. This is unheard of. He watched three or four rotations of personnel while he stayed.

The thought of cancer from asbestos always tickled the back of our minds, but it was what it was and there was nothing we could do about it. It wasn’t until the Army contracted a company to survey the motor pool, remove the asbestos from the building, and then document all the personnel into some national database somewhere (they never told us where) did we start to figure it was serious. There was a problem with the contract, too. They only removed the asbestos from the walls. The ceiling remained untouched. TheHubs remembers having the insulation falling from the ceiling every day but nothing was ever done, even after the “renovation.” At least, not while he was there.

We moved on. The Army stopped using so much asbestos in their brake parts. They renovated the old buildings. But honestly, I don’t trust much of the “renovations” anymore after the motor pool fiasco, and after so many contracts I’ve worked on over the years with the government. I have seen and experienced so many things, how can I trust the government?

Over the last 5 years, we’ve seen so many lawyer ads on the TV about Mesothelioma that it’s constantly in our face. We know that it can take between 25-50 years to manifest, IF it manifests. Well, we are now at the 25 year mark from his first exposure. And now we learn that you can contract this through second-hand exposure. That means, even MY chances of contracting Mesothelioma are great because he would come home and I would snuggle up with him while he was still in uniform, and I washed his clothes. Not only that, now that I look back, I’ve lived and worked in government buildings since the day I was born.

Even today I wonder if about the place I’ve worked for the last 12 years. My co-worker dried her hardest to have a fish tank here. Everything died. Even when she used distilled water, everything died. She took it home and the fish thrive. Makes you wonder. I mean it is an old WWI building. It was even considered a Fallout Shelter once. The sign has since gone missing. I always wonder about sick office syndrome because of all this. But now, I wonder about asbestos in all those other military buildings I lived and worked in. Only time will tell. We just keep praying that it will not bless us on top of everything else that bless our lives.

We’ve already had to deal with lung cancer in our family. My father was diagnosed with lung cancer on September 11, 2001, the same day the Towers Fell. It was not due to his smoking, but it scared him enough to quit (for a little while, anyway). My father was exposed to Agent Orange during Vietnam. That’s what caused his cancer.

This experience changed my image of my father for me. He was my indestructible strong man. My Superman. To see him mortal, laying in the hospital room, he looked so small and frail.   But I couldn’t cry. I couldn’t break down in front of my mom. I had to be her strength. I had to be my dad’s strength. (and I am still trying to find out why I have always put that on me.)

He’s been cancer free since his surgery. We’ve been very lucky with that. I admire Heather and her family. They beat the odds and they came out the other side with a glorious outlook. I admire their dedication and willingness to help others. Their story is inspiring. I hope you will take the time to check it out. And if you need resources or reference material for Mesothelioma, please see below:
http://www.mesothelioma.com/asbestos-cancer/
http://www.mesothelioma.com/treatment/
http://www.mesothelioma.com/veterans/
http://www.mesothelioma.com/asbestos-cancer/

Here is a video where Heather goes into detail of her experiences as well: http://www.mesothelioma.com/heather/

There’s always hope in the face of darkness. I will always hold on to these stories. They will get me through if ever we are blessed with Mesothelioma.

God Bless you The Von St. James’

Heather and Family

LadyJai

VA Appeal Update #4

I guess it’s about time to update you on our VA Claim/Appeal process. Last time I wrote about the VA Scandal and where it got us. I was so excited to see that Washington actually took our story and made movement on it. My veteran was getting all kinds of calls for a week or so and each time they told him that they couldn’t do anything until such-and-such department made their decision.

Well, I guess that department made their decision because we got a letter from the Director of the C&P office. Here’s what they said:

We received your letter regarding your Compensation and Pension (C&P) exam
with <EXAM DOCTOR>. <CHIEF OF C&P DOCTOR>, Chief of C&P, reviewed the letter
received, the C&P exam notes from <EXAM DOCTOR>, and met with the examiner to get their
input.
<EXAM DOCTOR>’s professional opinion is based on objective evidence and a
thorough review of available resources, to include: service treatment records,
electronic medical records, Disability Benefits Questionnaires (DBQs), and Veteran’s
statements. The diagnosis was reached through a forensic disability psychological
exam. This is standard practice across all Compensation & Pension services within
VHA.  reviewed the examination notes and supports ‘s
rationale behind her professional opinion. <CHIEF OF C&P DOCTOR> mentioned that during his call
with you on December 3, 2014, your concerns were discussed and you indicated you
were currently going through the appeals process with VBA.
We apologize for any misunderstanding that may have been caused.

If you have been following our Appeal Updates, you might remember that the C&P examiner only saw my veteran for no more than ten minutes and rushed him out, saying his memory is fine if he can remember all the meds he takes every day for the last 7 years and that his nightmares are nothing more than “gobbledygook”. How is gobbledygook “objective evidence?” 

Why do they continue to only focused on the PTSD portion of his claim? He’s been told he missed the PTSD qualifications by 2 points. Ok, fine. He doesn’t qualify for PTSD. BUT, the VA found, during that C&P exam that there is evidence of depression and mood disorder and his VSO clearly defined the precedence in his NOTICE OF DISAGREEMENT SUBMITTED ON 7/8/2011.

July 8th, 2011!

That was 2 and a half YEARS ago! And they STILL ignore it.

I also applied for the VA Caregiver Support Program in May of last year. Some caregivers told me it took them a month, while others told me it took them a year. I’ve given it a while now, somewhere in the middle, and decided to check up on my request. After many calls to many different people, we found that the national office had attached it to my file but never emailed the Caregiver Support Coordinator. When she found it, she apologized profusely and said she’d do what she can to get this pushed through as fast as she could. A few days later, we had our eligibility appointment. I just received a call from the VA Caregiver Support Coordinator telling me that we qualify based on his mental health. However, there is no record that it’s service connected. I proceeded to explain to her that it’s still in the claims/appeals process that we’ve been fighting for years over. She informed me that if/when we receive that service connection, to contact her and she will get this pushed through again.

This is just our luck. What a kick in the teeth.

So now the scramble again, to get this ball rolling. I’ve contacted Rep. Ted Yoho again with a second letter. We’ll see how that goes. And TheHubs is trying to contact his VSO about this. Since he’s always so busy, he had to leave a message.

And the waiting game continues.

LadyJai

VA Appeal Update #3

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.

A scathing interim report released by the VA Inspector General revealed Wednesday that the average wait time for registered patients at the Phoenix facility was 115 days.

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.

HOLY WOW!

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.

LadyJai

Changing Perspective

I wrote about how I changed my outlook on life and dealing with my husband’s deployment a few weeks back, here.  Now, I’d like to share with you how I am continuing my removal of the negative.

Why did it take another 15 years, from that pivital moment when I needed to surround myself with positive in order to get through the deployment, why did it take me so long to realize that I needed to evict the negative within myself? At the beginning of this year, I started this blog to work through my own emotions as a caregiver. I always told people to find the positives in every situation, no matter how small. I tried to live this myself. But I never realized until I fell into that deep, dark, pit of despair last year that I was listening to those negative voices in my head that told me I wasn’t good enough, that I wasn’t pretty, that I didn’t deserve anything good. The ones that stuck around, hidden in the shadows, since I was a young girl. They were really ugly to me during my teenage years. After I got married, they’d come and go. My self-image has always been negative, especially when I came down with a really bad case of adult acne. I tried all the stuff from the doctor, and never had any success. TheHubs has been with me almost 25 years now and he’s shown me so much love and understanding. He’s made me stronger and helped me learn to be confident. But there’s always that nagging little voice in the back of my head that says, “How could he love me?” And, last year everything got so overwhelming with the whole caregiver stress, exhaustion, and depression the voices screamed so loud I just couldn’t stop crying.

This year has been a journey of healing. Hopefully I’ve managed to squash those negative voices under my shoe. So far, they’ve only whispered every now and again. I know they’re there. I think they always will be. But I don’t have to listen to them. When they come around, I try to do something for others, to make someone smile and feel good. I write. So far, it’s been frustrating because my fiction writing has fallen by the wayside. But I still write. I write to heal. I write to share my experiences to help others who may think that no one would ever understand, who think they’re alone, to show them they are most certainly NOT ALONE. And I try to remember to breathe.

I’ve noticed a movement getting off the ground, gaining more momentum this year. Or, maybe I’m just a little late to the party. In either case, I am so happy to see this movement that is trying to raise our girls up and learn to love who they are. I only wish this had happened in my teenage years, so I wouldn’t be 45 years old still worried about my looks, still comparing myself to others, still thinking I’m not good enough. Now that I’m getting older, a mother, and putting on some weight, my self-image has gone to pot again.

I fell in love with Colbie Caillat’s Try Video because I’ve never been one to wear a lot of makeup, if at all. I’ve gone years and years without putting anything on my face, especially when I was hit with adult acne. I found Operation Beautiful and began leaving post-it notes around the town when I’m out and about. Also, check out The Mrs. Band who put together an experiment to help people see their beauty in a mall in Texas.

I’m on a crusade to change my perspective. And you should be too. Don’t let the media and Hollywood dictate to you what beauty is. Stand up and tell them what they are doing is detrimental to our health! That we are ALL beautiful, IN SPITE of our flaws. 

What is Beauty? Beauty is intelligence, confidence, honesty, and compassion. Your heart is what makes you beautiful! Pretty isn’t beauty. Pretty is how you look. Beauty is who you are! Pretty is in the face and body. Beauty is in the mind, heart, and soul. Pretty fades. Beauty grows. If you let your heart and soul shine each day, you will be beautiful!

Meghan Trainer’s All About That Bass is the perfect message to retrain your brain. Tell your babies, tell yourself, don’t worry about your size, you’re perfect from your bottom to your top! Make sure you see the beauty within you. Check out my 30 days where I reflected the positive within myself. It was hard at first. REALLY HARD. But each day it got easier. And today, I found #IAmBraveAndBeautiful!

I  hope you will join me.  Share the love and the positive to everyone you see.

 Keep smiling! You’re beautiful!

LadyJai

 

Related Articles you may like:
My Personal Anti-Bully Campaign
Pivotal Moment
Writing to Heal
You Are Not Alone
A Pivotal Moment Can Go Both Ways

Where Were You When The Towers Fell? (Repost)

I’m re-posting this from my 10th Anniversary tribute I did on my other blog. Because we must NEVER FORGET!

September 11, 2001 started out like any other day–for everyone. But that day ended in total devastation for many, heartbreak and disbelief for all. It was double for me because of the terrorist attacks and the fact that my father found out he had lung cancer. My father is now cancer free and still blesses my life. But, today, I would like to remember the fallen.

911TwinTowers

Where were you when the towers fell?

Me, I was already at work. Back then, I was working on the Tactical Automation contract for III Corps, US Army at Ft. Hood, Texas. That day was going to be the start of our annual exercise with their sister troops in Korea. I had started my 12 hour shift at 6am and we were getting the servers all set up for live connections, making sure everything worked before the troops arrived at the Battle Simulation Center (BSC). We were going to play a game of war.

Around 8:50am I received a call from a co-worker who was due to start his shift at nine. He wanted me to pull up a news website and verify what he just heard on the radio to see if it was a joke. He had told me that the radio station had just reported an air plane had crashed into the World Trade Center in NYC. He also said this radio station was known to joke around. So he wanted to be sure. Our television in the BSC had been off all morning. And at that time, the Network Operations Center (NOC) did not have a television hook up. Since our computers had already been connected to the Internet, I tried to pull up CNN.com. When the network timed out, I tried FoxNews.com to no avail as well.

The commotion of the troops filtered in and out of the BSC for their training exercise usually calmed down by now on any other given day. That day, it built into a manic deluge. I went to the BSC break room where there were gathering soldiers around the only active TV and watched, over and over the unbelievable footage of a Boeing 767 crashes into the side of the World Trade Center. Maybe this was an accident. Maybe the pilot had a heart attack and something happened to the co-pilot. Or maybe the controls got stuck. How could anyone NOT see that big building in their path. My mind was trying to rationalize what it had just seen.

After watching only the split second I needed to comprehend what was going on, I rushed back to the NOC and said, “Turn on our TV, a plane just crashed into the World Trade Center.” A flurry of speculation went up between us all. As we watched and theorized, time ticked slowly by. At 9:01am we watched in disbelief as another plane rammed the second tower. It went from “possible accident”, to DEFINITE TERRORIST ATTACK. I rushed outside to call my husband (cell phones were not allowed inside the BSC). My husband was currently active duty Army and worked across base. The cell towers were slammed and no phone call was possible at that time. I kept trying and trying. Over and over I dialed his number. I knew what was next. He would be leaving. I wanted to call him. I wanted to hear his voice. Finally, I got through.

“Two planes just flew into the Trade Center,” I said.

“I know. I have my radio on. I just told my troops, ‘Pack up guys. We’re going to war!'” replied my husband.

“I’ve got to go. The phone lines are getting jammed. I love you.” I told him.

“I love you, too.” he said.

And that was our first conversation after the attack.

I went back in to the NOC and we all readied for the start of our exercise. Delayed though it was, we were still having it. At 9:37am another plane crashed the Pentagon this time. I knew my brother-in-law had just been there and was unsure if he was leaving that day or the day before.

We sat in disbelief, going through the motions of our routine of the exercise.  And at 9:59am, 57 minutes after the first plane hit, the South Tower collapses. It was so surreal, almost like watching a movie. And moments later, a 4th plane was reported crashed  in the fields of Pennsylvania, missing its target.


This couldn’t be happening! No way!

We all sat with our mouths hung to the floor.

Silence.

………….

What broke the silence was the phone ringing and my boss telling me then need me down at the Sanctuary.

“What is the Sanctuary?”, you ask.

It is the war room. It is the place 2 stories below the ground where all real-world operations take place. It is the safe haven for the General and his staff. The motto on my III Corps G3 Operations mug says:

BASEMENT DWELLERS –
PEOPLE ARE BURIED
CLOSER TO THE
SURFACE THAN WHERE
WE WORK!!

Any other time of the year you can hear ants eat. I hated working in the Sanctuary. It was boring and isolated. We had TV, but it was always on the news. And where I had to sit was nothing more than a converted broom closet that housed our classified servers. It was loud, and cold. And did I mention, lonely?

I pack up my things and leave the BSC. When I get into the Sanctuary the noise was astounding. There were about fifty people all sitting at their stations, people walking in and out, people talking plans, people, people, people. It was a sight I’d never seen before in the Sanctuary.

The wall of LCD monitors at the front of the room were sectioned off, 4 of which had the General’s presentation, the rest were either on new channels or showing some military computer program that I can’t talk about. 🙂 I went straight to work getting people their accounts, email and internet set up on the classified network so we could get information flowing between bases. New computers were introduced into our area and people were always having troubleshooting issues I had to resolve. It was a busy time. I was on my feet all day helping people and didn’t realize the passage of time.

In between computer issues and tasks, all eyes were on the news. Talk centered around the stability of the North Tower. We were all hoping and praying she would stand tall. But at 10:28am the North Tower begins to collapse. 

NYC, America, and the world will never be the same. I continued to keep myself busy with all that was going on in the Sanctuary that day. Tears didn’t come until after my shift and I was safe at home in my husband’s arms.
I was one of the lucky ones.
Unfortunately, many were not so lucky. The worst terrorist attack on U.S. soil left 2752 people dead from the World Trade Center buildings, 189 from the four planes that were used (not including the hijackers), and 44 people at the Pentagon–totaling 2,985 families devastated.

It is now the 10 year anniversary of this horrendous crime. I beg of you, NEVER FORGET!

Where Were You When The Towers Fell? 

Where were you when the towers fell?
Tucked all safe and snug in your bed
Waking to smell pancakes and coffee
Getting dressed, rushing out the door
No need to be late
Just another day of routine folly
Where were you when the towers fell?
Making your lunches
packing your things
Checking your homework,
meeting your friends
Filling the buses
Cramming the cars.
Where were you when the towers fell?
Just came in through the office door
Set your briefcase, keys, and cell phone down
Flipping through papers
Business meetings
Conference calls
Emails and emails and more.
Where were you when the towers fell?
Radio, television tuned in to news.
Calling loved ones to hear their voices
Phone lines busy, anxiety runs high
Voices in huddles speak of nothing less
Daily habits are a distant dream
United in terror and pride.
Where were you when the towers fell?
Our home no longer safe
Family clenched tight
Clinging to the common bond
Strangers become family
Grasping at hope
Desperate for peace.
Where were you when the towers fell?
Back to your methodical drone.
No care in the world, not one reminder
On this ten-year anniversary
Please don’t make this
Just another day of routine folly.
-Jamie Dement (LadyJai)
September 11, 2011

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The Lasting Effects of 9/11