When I left service in 2009, I left running as fast as I could. I turned my back on the Army as fast as I could because of what I went through the last few years I was in. What I have learned is that no matter what I went through the Army gave me skills that I will use for the rest of my life. Most of those skills I still use today, like being able to accomplish things that I don’t have the strength to accomplish, face things that I would have normally feared. For a brief moment when I left the service I stayed far away from the military, I didn’t associate with the Army, I didn’t seek the VA, I never even put Veterans plates on my car. I saw the service as something in my life that is my past and I needed to move on.
Last weekend I spoke to a fellow Vet that left service in 91 of the Gulf War. He did the same thing, he moved on with his life and left it all behind. He is now dealing with PTSD, hearing issues and many other issues that affect him today. He thought the same thing that I did, that I volunteered and I felt the world didn’t owe me anything. I didn’t my duty and that was it. But I learned quickly in 2014 that it wasn’t so much that the world owed me something, but I owed it to myself and my family to make sure that the things that happened to me while in service were taken care of so I could be around longer for them. Its not that the government promised me that the VA would take care of me, I never heard of the VA until I was about to get out of the military, my father never used the VA and I don’t think he even knew he could. But its not a promise its an earned right. As a Veteran I think my sacrifices are worth good health care, better benefits, and things being taken care of in a timely manner. The VA isn’t a right, its something I earned. I gave my all in service to this country, the least this country can do is give its all for Veterans.
Now this Veteran that I spoke too is filing claims and starting the long uphill battle that awaits in Veteran. The continued waiting and denials will begin, but I assured him that he would accomplish what he needed as long as he stays on top of them, question everything they do and make sure you have proof of what your asking for. Don’t take no for an answer and don’t let them lie during the claims. Request a full audit of your claims file and record everything the doctors do and say.
I’m glad that the groups I have worked with have shown me what being a Veteran is all about. Its not a title, its a way of life just like the military was. I’m here to protect my brothers and sisters through the struggles they face after service. We need to educate more Veterans and get them on board with advocating to other Veterans that don’t know how to file a claim, how to file for a representative and how to process a claim appointment. The transition from service is vague and there really isn’t a transition from service to the VA. The Veteran has to do all the work.
I thank the Army for making me the man I am today. I thank the Army for giving me the skills that allow me to live and work ethically and to have morals instilled where others don’t. I may be out of service but my service to this country hasn’t ended its only begun!. To any brothers and sisters out there struggling, your not alone, we are in this fight together. Never hesitate to reach out for help.