Thursday, September 17, 2009

Just medals and scars / And I brought home that flag / Now it gathers dust / But it's the flag that I love / It's the only flag I trust //

So yep, if you've heard that I was silenced you heard correctly. I was told to stop posting about our deployment, (basically, the easiest way to not get in trouble for posting about our deployment is to stop posting about our deployment) but all the people I talked about are no longer in the company so I think it's safe to speak my mind about a few things:

1) My pay problem persists. Passed the 2 year mark of absolutely no money for drills/ATs and am now about 5 months away from the 3 year mark. Had the CO, 1SG and PSG really fired up about getting it fixed, then they all got promoted or otherwise left the company. My entire chain of command from team level all the way up to company commander is now different and I have to start over at square 1. As far as I'm concerned, I stepped into a time machine to 2.5 years ago. People have suggested involving senators or higher or getting a lawyer. I'm not too sure how suing the Army would work and I'm not at all comfortable with doing that. I consider myself pretty easy going and would really just like to stop paying my own way to come to drill. No drill pay every month means no pay from no drill and no pay from my civilian job. Ideally, gas and food on thurs/sun nights is reimbursed when I get my drill pay, except I haven't gotten it in 2.5 years. I also used to drive 600 miles round trip to drill for all of 2007. After bleeding out about $200 a month for a year, it became more cost effective to transfer schools and move closer to the armory. Again, if I was getting drill pay, it wouldn't be an issue at all.

For MUTA 7's (thurs night-sun night), this equates to 5 days of missed work. I work 3rd shift and have class right after all morning so Weds night is a no go unless I want to stagger into drill on 24+ hours with no sleep which I'm pretty sure is against an AR or three. No work thurs/fri/sat night obviously and we usually don't get out in time on sundays for me to get home and clean up for work. This is also two days of missed classes/extra homework/extra schedule juggling to make any up quizzes or exams (sometimes resulting in even more missed work) and overall makes it impossible for me to make rent for the next month. Rent goes on a credit card that is slowly building it's way to the destruction of my credit and if this continues for too longer, declaration of bankruptcy. Some of you are saying: Joe, where's your GI Bill cash? This leads to...

2) VA Education. The post 9/11 GI Bill is fantastic if you are coming off Active Duty or have been a reservist long enough to earn 36 months of active duty time through deployments or other activations. For me, I only have 18 months of active duty time and the REAP (CH. 1607) is more money for me. If I could get it. Previously, I had CH 1606 which is the non-combat veteran GI Bill that was right around $500 with my kicker ($506 exactly if I'm not mistaken). With 12+ months of deployment time, I became eligible for the 1607 benefits which is about $800 with my kicker. To get this, you simply (SIMPLY) re-apply for GI Bill benefits through the VA for the CH. 1607. You relinquish your 1606 benefits and receive 1607 benefits, supposedly.

I say supposedly because I applied the day after we got back stateside for de-mob. I received a letter about three months later telling me I would be getting 1606 benefits. I re-applied again. I heard nothing for 5 more months. I got a letter telling me I would be getting 1606 benefits deposited in a bank account that was not mine. I called the VA number on the letter for issues and waited on hold for 39 minutes. The dude on the phone told me that I needed to apply for 1607 benefits on the website. A frustrated sigh and then I try to tell him that the GI Bill money will be going into a bank account that isn't mine. He asks me for my new information. Again, I insist that this isn't new information, it is MY information, as the # on this letter isn't my bank account number. He takes my SSN, name, new bank account information, and then asks me to verify the bank account number and routing number. I tell him this is impossible because this isn't my bank account, it's a bunch of asterisks and the last 4 of a bank account number that I don't know. He asks if I need time to find the information in my files. Privately, I wonder if this guy is a fucking retard or something. Possibly some sort of robot programmed to treat anyone that calls like an asshole until they hang up or maybe even just a brick wall. He gives me 30 seconds; literally, he says he has to terminate the call in 30 seconds to help other veterans if I cannot find the information. I tell him I guess I'll have to call back. I wait on hold for 39 minutes and spend less than one minute talking to this guy, and solve neither issue. 5 minutes later, I had updated all this information on the GI Bill website with no verification needed at all. The VA rep at my school had some "bypass all the stupid assholes and red tape" button on his fax machine that got my GI Bill upgraded in under one minute, hopefully. Attendance verification is at the end of the month so we'll see then. I'll assume I'll be stuck with my pockets turned inside out like all the folks that took a crap shoot on the post 9/11 GI Bill and got boned.

3) VA Healthcare. You know, when I first started watching the universal healthcare debates and town hall forums, I thought, there's no fucking way America is 37th in healthcare. Then I met the VA Healthcare system. Holy fuck. When we de-mob'd, the VA met us and registered us in their NATIONWIDE system, and gave us our ID cards. In January, about 30 days after we had got back stateside, some lady gave me a PTSD screening over the phone and scheduled me to come in in March. When I got to the hospital in March, I was told I need to register before I can expect care. I show my ID and say I was registered at de-mob. I'm told my ID is old and they don't use that; I have to start all over. I sit and fill out paperwork for hours while the guy tells me all the ways I can scam the system for a disability check. I'm fairly certain there's enough shit wrong with me to get a check if I push hard enough, but I just nod and smile with the guy.

I see a doctor, who is just going to "screen" me for what's wrong with me. I have my LOD (line of duty injuries) sheet from the Army docs that show I need treatment for my knees, hearing, and depression. The doctor asks what I want from the VA more or less, and I tell him I just want treatment for all the stuff on my LOD forms. My knees kill me, I'm deaf as a motherfucker and I'm not adjusting to stateside living as well as I'd like. He tells me I'm overweight and that I'm a heavy drinker (I write on one of the forms that I drink 2-3 drinks 2-3 nights a week) and makes me an appointment in July. Remember, this is in March. In April, we get our full drill schedule and I see that my appointment is during annual training. I call and ask to reschedule sooner and am told that it's still 3 months away and to call back later if it looks like I still can't make it. The drill schedule is 99.9% set in stone and is given 6 months - 1 year in advance. I call in June and let them know I still can't make it, they reschedule me for a September date. I'm pretty pissed at this point and switch to another VA hospital that is further away but in a better city so I assume it will be staffed with better people. Wrong.

Arriving at the new VA hospital, I am forced to register again as the information from the NATIONWIDE system doesn't carry over. I am then given an appointment for September here also. Nothing is available sooner. This date was last week and was canceled. I am sent a letter with some code that I assume means I will get another appointment right away. Nope. Soonest appointment is in late October. I try to stress to the guy at the other end of the phone that I haven't seen a doctor since I've been back from Iraq and I've been back 9 months now. This is still the next available appointment. I don't know how bad my depression is because I keep pretty busy but it's always there. Trying not to think about it is about the best thing I can do. My knees are terrible. I used to be able to squat 500lbs, leg press 1000lbs and calf raise around 1500lbs. Putting 100lbs on the leg press the other day made my knees pop and hurt so bad I had to stop so I wouldn't throw up and then I had to leave the gym because I was on the verge of tears. My hearing is bad and during AT this year, something happened with my ears and I developed some mild vertigo and my hearing got even worse. The PA at the clinic on post looked at my hearing sheet with a shocked look on his face and a "wow." His treatment plan was to take it easy and go to the VA to get treated. Easier said then done, sir!


TLDR: No pay. No education benefits. No health benefits. News at 11.

Feels really good to get all those gripes out.

10 comments:

  1. Good to have you back, Joe. Sorry the VA is all dicked up, but at the rate we're going, everyone is going to have VA-quality healthcare. Might be better off trying the DIY surgery.

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  2. Sugar, starting an inquiry into your pay by contacting your congressman is NOT suing. This is what happens....you call or write your congressman about this issue. I say start with your house representative, then move up to the senators. Anyway, you tell them exactly what is going on with your drill pay and how long it has been going on. Some low level staffer with the power of the congressman's name behind him calls the director of the pay center to find out wtf is going on. The director wigs out cuz it's a congressman wanting to know why you haven't gotten paid. You move to the front of the line and YOU GET PAID. I've contacted my senator enough times about VA issues on behalf of different WI vets, I have his staffer in Milwaukee's direct phone number. haha What is being done to you in terms of your pay and VA treatment is bullshit. It's not whining to expect the people who represent you in congress to do their jobs and represent you in these kinds of things.

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  3. as "dependent data" of an army vet killed on active duty, writing your congressmen/elected officials (state AND federal) is the ONLY way you'll get contacted--and I know this from experience. and as far as VA benefits is concerned, only go through your school person. As they do have some sort of red bat-phone to the ONLY nonretarded bat-shit crazy VA employee in the entire world. I'm sorry. Glad you're back.

    My brother in law got back from the shit, and his PTSD "screening" was conducted in a mess hall with 400 other guys watching a powerpoint for 8 hours. then he was told to see psych, but that it'd go on his record and it'd affect his ability to reinlist or get his benefits. so he didn't go, didn't get his hearing checked, and didn't state his knees either, and paid out of pocket to get regular healthcare so he could get treated within the next decade. he says, best $1000 he ever spent. if you ever get your money, big if, just a thought. best of luck.

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  4. Glad to see you back up and writing, joe. seems like the other folks can give you better advice than me on the healthcare stuff. will be sending lots of good wishes and prayers your way, though.

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  5. Glad you are back also. Thank Lt Nixon Rants for the info. Check him regularly so found out you are out ranting yourself. Listen to #1 comment. We elect them to SERVE US!!!!! Use it. Many sites have mentioned people taking matters to the men and women we ELECT to SERVE US and get things done that couldn't be done any other way. It is not being a crybaby and it is only using the power that WE HAVE INVESTED IN THESE JERKS TO SERVE US - the people that elect the a**h*les in the first place. Go for it and win that pile of money that you so deserve for putting up with all of this sh*t for all these years. You can take your blog private and invite all of us blog dorks to join and write whatever you want and unless invited the "highers" can't get to you. Whatever you do keep safe and know that lots of us out here appreciate your service and writing about it. You are good - so we all keep coming back. Only the best get silenced. love lorraine

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  6. I can't comment anything on the VA and the system, other than it seems pretty bad and unfortunately it isn't out of the ordinary. I wish you guys had it much better after all you've done. But if "2-3 drinks 2-3 nights a week" is a drinking problem, I better walk in to the nearest AA meeting, I think I must be a drunk.

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  7. Glad you're back. I'm sorry you're still getting screwed, though.

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  8. Not terribly useful information but a bit of something:
    Each VA gets bean counters to budget for them partly based on how many veterans are registered with that particular VA. So, your nationwide registration was always a joke. Every VA will require you to register with them.

    Other information:
    Your best friend may be the OEF/OIF program at the VA. Hopefully not someone batshit crazy and someone that will fight to get appointments moved up. The "VA standard" is suppose to be 30 days for appointment not 3 months.
    Working at the VA is a lesson in who you can get to work with you---- many there want to do the right thing but the most likely to say "no", "sorry can't help you", etc. are the front line people. Don't be afraid to ask for a supervisor- and try EMAIL. Waiting on the phone can be a huge timewaster- email and it's in writing and more likely to get back to you- bonus---- in writing.
    Glad to see you are back in the blogosphere!

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  9. Holy shit, batman! And I thought I had problems... Talk about a long green shaft...

    1. Call your congressman about your pay issues (echo echo echo). It's not bitching, whining, pissing, moaning, or complaining; it's getting some dicked-up shit taken care of in a posthaste manner. Don't be afraid to give the staffer ALL and I mean ALL of the relevant information regarding your situation. Give them way more detail than what you've already shared here. If it takes two hours to detail your entire history and how it's affecting you, do it. They're sitting there with a shorthand pen in one hand and your dick in the other, taking copious notes and stroking you to full release. And, trust me, they will get the problem taken care of.

    2. Call your congressman about your GI Bill issues. (see above)

    3. Call your congressman about your health issues and the fucked-up-ness of your local VA hospital.

    4. The fourth time you call, see if your congressman's office can't insert some sort of amendment/rider/earmark in an upcoming bill, authorizing funds to construct one of those new OEF/OIF clinics at your local VA hospital. It will make all the difference, not just for you, but for all the other non-old-fart veterans in your area.

    5. I'm not kidding about the clinic. If I were a member of congress, and a constituent asked me to do that, I'd be on it like white on rice on a paper plate in a snowstorm.

    The cost-benefit analysis just makes too much fucking sense: It would take me less than ten minutes to draft the legislation and read it into a bill. None of my colleagues would dare to oppose the measure. And I get one more bullet point in my favor when I'm trying to get reelected.

    DO IT!

    Oh yeah, and good luck!

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