Moving Forward

Since November when I started this blog I never imagined what would happen. In the beginning it was to just put words to my thoughts and what I was experiencing. I thought of a Journal, but what impact would that have on anyone or on me. Since November many things have happened. I finally saw a primary care provider, which hasn’t been anything but a check mark for the VA. I have began working with an amazing organization, Concerned Veterans for America, which I have completed a Video testimony and I am now a Strike Team member. Arizona Congress has started moving forward with my Disability case and issues with the VA. Yesterday I received a call from my primary care provider that she finally, after 6 months, has received my letter from Congress and is reviewing my files to determine further care. I have made a lot of friends in the Veterans world and have heard a lot of concerns for Veterans.

Its not over yet. We still have a hill to climb to get to where we would like to be with the VA. It will take many years to accomplish our goals, but as long as we have Veterans in our corner and we come together as a united front I am sure the hopes and dreams of those fighting for Veterans rights will prevail. Nothing worth fighting for is easy, I truly believe that. If it was easy why would we care. Too many Veterans are dying because of our Administrations lack of compassion and understanding. Too many Veterans are dying from wounds and unseen wounds with no end in sight. The only way this stops is if our country comes together and makes it right.

I am reminded of 9/11….yes if you forgot…..it still happened. That day we came together as a country and was there for each other. Thousands of young men and women started volunteering for the military services. Thousands committed their lives to this country to rid the world of terrorist. Now we are being attacked again by this Administration which is killing those same Americans that went to fight for our freedom and our way of life. Why aren’t we coming together as a country to protect those that fought to protect Americans.

Clarification

So it has come to my attention that my Video needs clarification. One key thing about my Video is showing awareness of the severe issues with the PHX VA. Please read that last line carefully. This is in correspondence with the PHX VA. Not all VA’s are bad and many people I talk to say they love their VA and their primary care doctor. I commend those VA Hospitals. The problem with that is, the VA is one organization and should work as such, but it doesn’t. The accountability of others should fall on the shoulders of all VA Hospitals, because as an organization if you fall, you all fall, if you succeed, you all succeed.

One of the main issues that I am starting to see is that many Veterans are happy with their health care. You say that’s an issue? Well the issue lies within the “me” category. I spoke with someone this weekend that praises the VA and says that their care is great, though they battled for years to get the care they receive today….but what happens now. Well, the issue is the same issue we are seeing across our country. Its not just with the VA, or Veterans, its with Americans. All the Veterans see what is happening and no one is saying anything. Sure you got the care you have now after your fight to get it, but what are you doing for your fellow Veterans who are having the same issues. You now have an insight that they don’t and your not sharing, your not helping others to achieve what you say is the best health care. Its the “me” issue. If it doesn’t affect “me” than its not a problem.

This is spreading like a wildfire in the United States. At first I thought it was just this new generation of adults, but I have quickly learned that it is affected even the oldest generation. No one truly cares for another person in this country. There are few and far between that we hear about, but as a mass, they are nowhere to be seen.

It shouldn’t take an organization to push for a reform of the VA health care. Veterans alone should be able to accomplish that, since we are in the millions in this country. We are the very backbone that keeps this country driving forward, but what are we doing to protect that life style. Absolutely nothing. I was asked over the weekend why I support an organization like the Concerned Veterans for America. I told them I support all of the organizations that support Veterans and will march with each of them if they can fix and bring back the pride that this country has lost to its Veteran. But I support and work with CVA because I believe in what they are fighting for and what their end game is going to be. Plus change has to start somewhere, and like I was always told growing up, if your not trying to fix the problem your part of the problem.

One of my main concerns with the PHX VA is the wait times. In my video I speak about how the main focus of the PHX VA should be to those Veterans with a service connected disability, a Combat wounded soldier, or a Veteran who has a disability that was worsened by service. This doesn’t imply that Veterans can’t use the VA, what this implies is that these Veterans should be given priority and that routine visits or basic medical needs could be outsourced to Doctors that Veterans would choose that could be closer to home and more manageable. This doesn’t mean I don’t want Veterans to use the VA, what this means is there is no priority in the VA. The severity of someone else’s issues aren’t seen as a severity. They are seen as the same as anyone else’s issues. I shouldn’t have waited 6 months to see a primary care provider as I have an 11 year history of Blood Clots and when leaving the military in 2009 I was not placed on any medications. For almost 5 years I dealt with the condition on my own until I couldn’t anymore. Then I have a primary care doctor that says they need to watch me for 2 years to see where my condition goes. I thought having the issue for 11 years was good enough. But when someone I know that has no service connected injuries and has not used the VA since he left the service in the 60’s can get a routine appointment the same day or gets a service connected disability for a condition that isn’t even a result of service at the PHX VA, this is a slap in the face. Not saying my issue is worse than anyone else’s, but there should be more importance placed on Veterans with severe issues.

But again, this isn’t the same for all VA’s, but you can’t fix the entire system by changing the VA across the country. You need to fix one at at time, but provide the same services for the area you live in. I am sure many VA Hospitals are doing it right. But many are not. I hope this clarifies my intentions and helps those with questions. I stand for what I am fighting for and will defend it just as I have defending this country. I will not rest nor quit until all of my fellow Veterans have good health care, feel like their service was meant for a reason, and make the rest of the country aware of what we as  Veterans deal with on a daily basis.

Proud to be an American

Yesterday I decided to go and see American Sniper. It took a lot of thought and decision to go, because these types of movies move me, emotionally and physically. But I wanted to not only honor a fallen comrade, but also wanted to show my support for the movie.

I would like to first start by saying that I am already a proud American and not just an American, a proud American Veteran. But watching this movie made me even more proud to have served my country. Being able to see parts of what SEALS endure to be come the elite was a good part and seeing the passion of another solider as I had made my passion all so real. I remember the anger and bitterness of 9/11 and the visions of that day are still burned into my mind. Though I had already enlisted before it happened it is the reason I stayed and chose to continue serving my country.

It is out of passion and love for this country that so many serve. Chris Kyle’s story about what he endured in combat, family, and just being a man in this world. What he endured was more than any man should have to and he did it for God, Country and Family. No one will ever truly understand this except those that have sacrificed and endured for this country.

One of the hardest things that I have experienced that was portrayed in the movie is the motivation to be with your fellow service members. Chris protected so many soldiers, he saved so many lives and he knew he was the best at what he did and the idea that he wasn’t doing it anymore truly affected his life. I wasn’t in a role where I was directly saving lives, but just knowing that I was providing some sort of communication to those on the ground was close enough. So many soldiers experience this after they leave service or after a deployment. Over the past 5 years I have felt the loss of comrade and the relationships that I made over time in the service. Its a feeling you will never experience anywhere else in the world. I have talked to recruiters to go back in and have tried to push myself to overcome my disability so that I could serve my country once more. What I have learned over the past few months is that there are other ways to serve my country.

Chris learned this and used his skills to help Veterans where were disabled by war and those that had no hope found hope in Chris. This movie has pushed my ideas of wanting to help my fellow Veterans even more. I have skills that many can use and need in the work force and what I have learned is that I may have a disability and that he shouldn’t define me and even though mine is life threatening, there are other Veterans that have a worse disability than mine will ever be.

That is one of the reasons that I have started to work with the CVA, VFW and other organizations. I still need to do my part for my country. I may have ended my service, but the commitment I made back in August of 2000 didn’t end when my service ended.

I, do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the Officers appointed over me, according to the regulations and the uniform code of military justice. So help me God!

No Change – Same Game

Yesterday – January 28, 2015 I had a phone appointment with my primary care provider. During my last appointment I was told to setup this phone appointment so that we could talk about my levels and take appropriate action on those levels. My appointment was at 230 PM yesterday. If anyone has ever used the phone system to get anywhere at the PHX VA, make sure you call an hour before. I started my call at 225 pm….After 5 minutes of prompts I was finally in the que. As I sat on hold I started watching the clock. Before I knew it it was almost 3 PM. I still never got through to anyone. I then when online to my secure messaging and let the Team know that I was trying my hardest to call in for my appointment. They gave me another number and that put me into another que for 30 minutes before I just gave up. I was then contacted via the secure messaging that the appointment I was speaking of was made by mistake and that the doctor will call me next week. But wait, I was told to make this appointment and then I’m being told it was made by mistake. So in other words I wasted an hour of my time to get no answers and still not speak to my doctor. I understand the phone system is busy, but if its an appointment why should I sit on que waiting.

This is just another failed mechanism at the PHX VA. Product of poor management and understanding their customers. I would suggest to anyone that if they say phone appointment you say no. You’ll waste the same amount of time on hold waiting as you would at the clinic. At least at your clinic  you will get to see your doctor.

Frustration is not even I word I would describe the PHX VA. Disappointed is the word I would use. And I am sure I will continue to be disappointed. Deep down I know that the VA will change. My fear is it won’t before my time is up. How many must wait in pain and hope to not die of their injuries or at the hands of a VA Doctor.

Being Accountable

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In the Army from day one we learn the Army Values:

Loyalty – Bear true faith and allegiance to the US Constitution, the Army, your unit and other Soldiers.

Duty – Fulfill your obligations.

Respect – Treat people as they should be treated.

Selfless Service – Put the welfare of the nation, the Army and our subordinates before your own.

Honor – Live up to the Army Values.

Integrity – Do what’s right, legally and morally.

Personal Courage – Face fear, danger or adversity (Physical or moral)

Since being medically discharged in 2009 these Values have never escaped my mind. I live by them everyday. In everything I do I can contest that I either learned it from my military service or was given these values to succeed. My Loyalty will always be to God, Country, My Family, and my fellow soldiers. I will stay vigilante and loyal to those that have sacrificed for our country. No matter what branch of the military you are affiliated with. My Duty lies before me to be a Veteran and to be an example of what a Veteran is. Someone that continues to fight for what is legally and morally right and to never forget what those before me and after me have sacrificed for me and my family. My Respect lies with those that have served before me and after me and to all the Veterans who wear that name everyday. It also lies with those that fight each day to make Veterans lives better and fight to give us the health care we deserve. Selfless Service is what I do everyday, give back to my community, provide anything to those that fight for Veterans and even make video appearances to try and give the Veterans a voice and a face. Honor to me isn’t just living up the Army Values, but to live up to the sacrifices that have been made to make sure I am here to have the freedom to try and make a difference. Honor those that have sacrificed for these values. Integrity is a life lesson. We should all live a live free of dis trust. We should do what is right whether someone is looking or not. Integrity should be something we strive for everyday because with it bring trust and with trust a better relationship is formed. Personal Courage, face fear of dying at the hands of those that are supposed to be saving us. Face danger from those that are supposed to be doing the right thing, and overcoming adversity of scandals and those that don’t care about us. My Personal Courage is to do what I have to too affect enough people to wake them up to affectively make changes.

The Army Values are instilled in Soldiers from the first day. Whether you truly live by them is up to the soldiers, but every solider knows them. I guess the major issue with me is that many of the VA employees are previous military personal who were taught these values and they weren’t used, because if they were, this scandal wouldn’t have happened. I was asked today at my shoot if what has happened at the PHX VA personally affected me. Your damn right it did (excuse the language). It has pierced a hole in my heart. No true soldier wants to die in a hospital or at home. They would rather die on the battle field defending their country, but instead countless soldiers were killed because of wait times. We have lost so many soldiers because of PTSD suicides that it truly makes the War in Iraqi a complete waste of time. The mere fact that soldiers survived IED’s, Mortars, Small Arms fire, to come home and die because of the careless acts of those at the VA Hospital. It sickens me to think that no one has been held accountable for purposely killing American Soldiers. Covered by Federal Law, no one will be held accountable, it will go down in history as a malpractice, no wonder why Soldiers can’t sue the VA.

As I call this scandal the “Silent Vietnam”, it reminds me of the stories from Vietnam Veterans returning from war and being called baby killers and being shunned by society, except now we doing behind closed doors killing Veterans off one at a time and now one really cares. At least that is how I an many other Veterans feel. After all the sacrifices we have made no one is sacrifices for us. Its a turn of the tables as you might say. But as many Americans today really don’t care. They are in this bubble of, if it doesn’t affect me then its not my problem. That is why so many American’s didn’t want the Iraqi war and why so many wanted to leave and now look what we are dealing with. It may not affect you now, but your actions now will affect you later. If I have learned anything about life in my 33 years, I have learned that your actions always come back around. Nothing you do in this life will never be unseen, because not only is God watching, but the world will one day know.

So as I end this blog I will share about the picture above. Today I held myself accountable and provided loyalty to my country. I went in front of the camera to speak to the American people and congress to tell them how I feel and not just how I feel, but what it means to me to see what is happening with our Veterans. Because my true feeling can’t be read, but only seen. I showed integrity and showed loyalty to my country and fellow Veterans, Showed respect to those on the other side of the camera, fulfilled my duty as a Veteran to speak for my fellow comrades, provided selfless service to my country to help those that need help, and personal courage to speak before those with higher authority over me to tell them what they are doing wrong. In 30 minutes this morning I was able to effectively live the Army Values, why can’t every soldier or Veteran. Maybe that is what is needed. The VA needs core values to be held accountable too. Maybe they need to be re-educated to understand what it means to be a Veteran and what it means to be an American.

I hope my Video makes a difference and whether it does or not, I won’t give up until change happens and even then I will be vigilante in my pursuit in changing the VA for future Veterans. No matter what organization I have to work with, not matter how many hours I have to work I will not falter, I will not give up. I leave you with the Warrior Ethos, what soldiers live by each day:

I will always place the mission first

I will not accept defeat

I will never quit

I will never leave a fallen comrade

Hey PHX VA….live by these each day and you may save a life instead of killing our hero’s!!!!!!

Good Morning

As a Solider over time you begin to hate waking up early. Its only after you have ended your service that you realize how much is done so early in the morning. So many women and men have woken up early in the morning for your protection and for you basic human rights. I think the public understanding of what soldiers really do is misunderstood greatly. Before I joined the Army I only had stories that my father would tell me and let me tell you those stories would make anyone not join. My father was a Marine during Vietnam, he taught me how to respect officers, what kind of Non Commissioned officers I should be friends with and how to stay out of trouble. I knew how to properly salute before I went into the service and I also new drill and ceremony before day one. In so ways I think I was over prepared, but none the less it was something my father taught me.

Growing up he was always the first to rise and the last one to bed. I never understood why he was like that and now that I’m at that same age I understand. It doesn’t take an alarm clock to wake me anymore. The Army instilled one within me. For years I have been able to just tell myself what time I need to be awake and it never fails, I wake just minutes before said time. I can’t stand that I can’t sleep in on the weekend like the rest of my family but I have realized over the last few years that its been a blessing because I get that one on one time with myself while everyone is sleeping. I also can effectively finish a lot of things before my family even decides to rise from bed.

In a way the Army has shaped me into something I otherwise wouldn’t have been, a disciplined early riser that is resourceful, respectful and a fighter. I heard something last night that reminded me of myself. A fellow Veteran said that without the military he wouldn’t know where is life would have gone and that the military truly turned him into a man. This is true. No matter at what age you join you will mature quickly and become a man of this country. Those that join the military and aren’t these things when they leave joined for all the wrong reasons and I am glad they aren’t still serving.

As the old saying goes, “The early bird gets the worm.” This is true. The military and Veterans will do more before 9 am than any other American will do. You will have your exceptions, but none the less, the military makes well oiled, self sufficient machines called Veterans. The true American backbone. They have been the backbone of this country since its founding and will continue to be for years to come.

Changing Directions

Tonight I spent dinner with four men that I otherwise would have never had the chance to meet if it wasn’t because of a common cause. Being a Veteran in my eyes is the biggest accomplishment in my life and anything else I do afterwards is a direct result of that choice to serve my country. Being a Veteran brought these four men into my life and it was an amazing dinner. Being able to share past military experiences and just shortly relive those moments was a highlight of the night.

I want to shout out and thank Maj. Pete Hegseth for being the main purpose for this meeting and name drop, David Caldwell, Mike Mitchell and Matt Kenney. The Concerned Veterans of America has impacted my life over the last most as many have read and I am excited to help them in their cause in anyway I can and I encourage all Veterans to support this organization.

Tonight surely reassured me that I am doing what I am supposed to be doing with this blog and the work I am trying to do through other organizations to raise awareness and try to be a voice for Veterans.

Veterans now need a voice that’s louder than their own and with one voice we maybe able to reach many, but with many voices we can reach thousands. Veterans need to know they aren’t alone and that they have others fighting for their rights.

Through this organization I truly believe they will deliver this need. Let us not forget that we still have a problem and time may pass, but we will never forget what happened at the PHX VA.

More to come tomorrow as I will be working on my video shoot tomorrow for the CVA.

Meaningful Work

When I first joined the work force in 1998 at McDonald’s I only took the job because I needed money. Money was the source of my living as I was 17 years old living on my own. I needed money for my apartment and wanted to eventually buy a car which I did a year after working and saving. In 1999 the General Manager of that McDonald’s approached me and said that she saw potential in me and that I take a lot of pride in my work. So she offered a promotion to me and I was promoted to Manager just a few days later and jumped into the McDonald’s management program. It was a great time, more money, more responsibility and I quickly learned that friends are few in the Management field. Over the next course of a year as a Manager I learned a lot about responsibility and what it meant to be in charge. But I also learned that whatever I was doing needed to be meaningful. The service that I was provided needed to be the best and the service needed to be for others.

In August of 2000 I resigned my position as Manager and joined the US Army. I quickly learned then who really were my friends, many that helped me get to the Management position quickly turned their backs on me and showed me what true professionalism was. In the Army I found that meaningful feeling I had been searching for. Though I joined because I wanted to experience something different, it filled that void in me to help others. I knew the moment I stepped off that bus at basic training that what I was about to endure was going to shape me into a soldier that will be doing a service to other and protect my country. During my 9 years in the military I served others by being a brother at arms to those that needed it. I served others as a Better Opportunity for Single Soldiers adviser, president and writer for the regulation governing B.O.S.S. I put in volunteer hours to relieve married soldiers to be home with their families. I deployed in service to my country to provide support for communications so that we could talk on the battlefield, but also so that fellow soldiers could call home and speak to their families, send and receive emails from their families. The comrade that you experience in the military you will never find again. No matter how long you search for it after your service it will never be the same. It is something you can’t replicate or describe to anyone. No one will ever understand your attachment to something this important.

Many leave the military and project their career into their lives by having veteran plates, stickers on their cars, wear clothing and showing support for Veterans. Others don’t do any of this. I wondered why and eventually understood. Many Veterans don’t want to be reminded of their time because of loss, but many know that the life they live after the military will never be the same so they leave it completely behind.

In 2009 I left the military. It was probably the hardest choice I have ever had to make. 9 years is a longtime to commit to something that become your lively hood. The feed me, clothed me, provided me with training and a family. I learned early in the Army that there is usually only one reason someone does 30 years in the Military. It is because when that person joined they had nothing and the idea of leaving something that has given them everything is hard. Plus if you had nothing before you joined, what is there to go back too. I joined with the clothes on my back and planned on a 20 year career, but that was cut short because of medical issues. That meaningful feeling was slowing slipping away.

After I was discharged there was really only one place for me to fill that void and that was at my first job. I started working for my local Church and that idea of my job being meaningful was back. I provided a service for thousands of believers to have an experience each weekend. I also prayed with the lost every Monday and would hope that I saved a few of those people. When I was laid off from that job, that feeling left again. I had many jobs after that. Many had that meaningful feeling at first, but eventually it got to the point that I was just there collecting a paycheck. I never wanted that feeling again, that all I was doing was working for money and that my job had no true meaning to it.

But recently that void has begun to fill with my outreach to Veterans. Something that lately I feel strongly that its where I belong, that its my meaning for being in the position I am and living where I do. Many of the organizations I have spoke with have been great, but are greatly overwhelmed by so many other Veterans. One though has out shined and that the Concerned Veterans of America. They have opened my eyes to the possibilities of a future of helping veterans which fills that void in my life to help others and have a meaningful career again.

What I have learned over the years is that having a passion for something isn’t enough, you have to have the drive and devotion to drive what your passionate about. I love computers and I would have to say I am exceptional at the IT Profession, it is something I enjoy doing, but I am not passionate about it. It pays the bills and takes care of my family, but in the end it doesn’t take care of my void. Many would tell me that I need to be grateful that I have a job, but I say to them, that just having a job in life isn’t enough. There is so much more to living then making money. Helping others that otherwise wouldn’t help themselves is living. My true passion is helping others, taking care of our Veterans and God. If I can put those together and make a living doing that I would in a heart beat. We should be doing what we love and not what we have too.

I will leave you with a thought. Is your working meaningful in you life? At the end of your day are you excited to leave or are you excited you get to come back the next day?

A Few Stories

Today at my long awaiting appointment at the VA I had the pleasure of meeting a few older Veterans in the Pharmacy. As we all stood around waiting for our number to be called it occurred to me that past, present and future soldiers will endure the same fate that all of us Veterans are experiencing today.

As I was waiting for 2 hours to pick up my new medication I had the pleasure of speaking with a Vietnam Vet name Robert. He was explaining to me how he had been waiting for over 6 months for an appointment and that he eventually had to go and see a civilian doctor who was able to adjust his medication and change his medication stating that he was on the wrong medication. He was at the VA trying to have these prescriptions filled because he is on a fixed income and even being 100% service connected he couldn’t afford the $200 for the prescription. So he spoke to the pharmacy tech and they explained to him that the only way they would fill them is if his doctor referred him to his civilian doctor. He explained to them that he would have to be able to see his VA doctor first. In short they said it was out of their hands and because he couldn’t wait for his appointment they couldn’t fill his prescription. So now there’s a Veteran without the appropriate medication and the after affects could be devastating.

Still waiting for my number to be called I spoke with Mark. Mark was a Marine during the Vietnam War and has had multiple surgeries and until this year has never really had any issues with the PHX VA. For the past 6 years Mark’s medication had been automatically refilled an sent to his home. But for some reason this month they didn’t arrive. When he came in the VA said that they can’t automatically send medication that you have to go online each month and electronically submit a refill. Mark is in a mobile chair and seldom leaves the home so to have to come to the VA was very hard for him today. Mark has been taking the same medication for 6 years and will be on the same medication for the rest of his life, so why not save the Veterans time and reduce wait times by automatically sending prescriptions that will not change.

The last man I spoke with was in front of me trying to receive his medication that for the past 2 months hasn’t arrived by mail and he has spoken with the post office and they can’t account for any package coming through the mail. So he asked if he could pick up his prescription and they told him that the only way he could pick up his prescription was if it was a new prescription, that all prescriptions have to be sent through the mail. So again, another Veteran without his medication waiting for his medication in the mail that hasn’t arrived in 2 months.

I tell these stories to give those that read this an insight to the VA. I spoke with each of these Veterans and tried to sympathize with them and let them know they aren’t alone. I think with the older Veterans that is the case, they don’t think they have a voice and that they are alone in the fight. I let them each know they are not alone and that hopefully soon someone will be their voice and that they will be heard. I breaks my heart and saddens me that these men and women sacrificed so much to serve their country and they are having to deal with poor health care.

Our Veterans in my eyes have built the backbone of this country and will continue to move this country forward. We just need to let their voice be heard and provide them the best care we can and be there for them through it all. We all must be advocates for Veterans. They are the reason we are still a free country and why we are the greatest country on earth. Without Veterans, we wouldn’t have an America.