When you join the military you are taught to take pain, suck it up and keep moving. You learn early that the Military gives you IBPROFEN for everything and no matter what your going through “Drink Water” is the answer. The idea that your actually hurting doesn’t matter and you begin to realize just how much pain you can take. Some soldiers hide injuries so as not to look weak or be looked as someone that is riding sick call. Going to sick call in Basic was looked down on and it becomes this goal you work towards, never going to sick call.

I write this to caution all soldiers in the military that this has to change. This way of being a soldier has to become a thing of the past. The reason so many Veterans are dealing with issues after service is because of the military trend. One thing you don’t realize when you get out of the military is that if its not documented it never happened. I am pretty sure if you lost a leg in Iraq and it wasn’t documented the VA would say, “prove it.”

So to those soldiers that are reading this. If your getting ready to get out and you have an issue that you know you never went to sick call for, start now. Document everything from twisted ankles, aches and pains and even your dental. I would go as far as a cut that takes more than a week to heal. Document every doctor you see, every sick call you have visited and every medication you have taken. As I said before, if it isn’t documented it never happened.

Second Small Step

So a few hours ago I received a call from a social worker that works at the PHX VA who is part of the Iraq and Afghan group. I had been calling to setup an appointment, but couldn’t get a hold of anyone for the last week. So I went on to social media and posted and then I received a response. So I guess that the VA pays more attention or spends more time on social media sites than to phone calls. Ok….I can do that. To easy, that just shows the world that there is a struggle for Veterans.

So after a few minutes the question was asked, “Have you ever spoken to a counselor about your issues?” Why, I haven’t. The last screening I received in July I was told that I needed to see a counselor and here we are. No appointment was setup and no one contacted me. When I think about this it makes me realize what all the dead Veterans who were waiting must have been feeling. Or perhaps the suicidal Veterans who were just waiting for that appointment. Now don’t get me wrong, I completely understand they have a walk in clinic, but that’s not the point, we as Veterans want that feeling that we are important. For whatever amount of time any soldier did in the military that feeling wasn’t important because we were in the military for a purpose and once that purpose is gone it is hard to find a new purpose, especially one that is greater than serving your country. At the end of the day a Veteran just wants to know they are being taken care of or that they have a voice.

So I truly felt that my voice was heard and today out of all days I feel like my voice is getting louder. I now have an appointment with a counselor to evaluate me for PTSD and I have an appointment with a pain doctor. After 11 years of being in pain someone is going to look at me. Its like Christmas before Christmas. Its just the sad thing is my disability that I still haven’t been seen for is the reason my PTSD issues are coming back. The more pain I’m in the more I think about those days 10 years ago.

But to be serious this is just the beginning. I won’t stop until all of our voices are heard. Veterans deserve to have individual voices. Not a voice of Veterans, but voices of each soldier that served. If you want to help a Vet then here are some places to start.;

Small Steps

A few months back I was sent a survey question from the CVA (Concerned Veterans of America). This survey asked one question. As a Veteran what do I think would change the VA and make it better for Veterans? Most of the time I don’t bother with these kids of questions because there are so many Veterans out there that I am sure my survey wouldn’t be read and wouldn’t be important. But on the off chance that it would, my ideas could help.

So I filled out the Survey and just last week I received a call. They want to spotlight me in a video that will be presented to Congress in February. I was shocked by the opportunity and even more shocked that I was chosen. So I can’t wait, they are supposed to be here in January with a camera crew to get my ideas on camera and my experience with the VA. I am praying and hoping that God answers my prayers that this is my way of helping not only myself, but my fellow Veterans who are suffering and dealing with bigger issues than me. I hope and pray that God has given me the vision to make a change that could save lives and change how Veterans look at the VA.

To many Veterans the VA is all they have. Its their only means of healthcare and they are failing at that. These are hopefully the small steps that need to happen to bring back the original vision of the VA. Lets take care of our Veterans.

Let me explain

From my last post I will jump forward to now. I’ve been out for 5 years now. It was, at first, an easy transition until I realized what I left behind when I got out of the military. Not that it was my choice since I was medically discharged, but leaving was a large impact on my life. The shelter that the Army places on soldiers is great. Many and I was one of them, complained a lot about how little solider’s get paid to do the duty that many refuse to do. But I finally realized later that so much was given to me that I didn’t need to be paid at a higher rate, though I think those that are married should be different. But let me explain, as a soldier your sheltered, you have a roof over you head for free, you also have free food from the chow halls, and you have free health insurance. The idea that you don’t really have to worry about anything, but doing your job is a great comfort once your realize it.

It gets harder once a family is brought into the mix. That’s why many say that a military spouse is the hardest job of the military. Military spouses have to deal with deployments, field problems, late nights, having their spouse pull 24 hour duty. It is a very hard job and I commend any spouse that takes on this job.

The comradeship that we lose when we leave the military will always leave a hole in our life as it was something that we built with fellow soldiers. Many soldiers find contract jobs that keep them close to the military life and close to other soldiers. When I first was discharged I had a great job lined up. It was with a church that I was a member of and was very excited to be apart of the company. It was a hard transition as I was accustomed to reporting and formations. It took almost a year to really get comfortable talking with the senior pastor as being a soldier you really didn’t approach your commanding officer. With the absence of orders I had to re evaluate my ability to conduct myself as a civilian and not a soldier. Even today I still have the military mentality of being on time, giving myself enough time to complete tasks, working until the bell rings, and referring to everyone as sir.

As a soldier we are trained to take orders, fall in line, wait, and don’t complain. These disciplines are instilled in us from Basic training and formed during our time in the military. We carry this for the rest of our lives and I believe this is the main issue with the problems we see with Veterans and the VA. As a Veteran who uses the VA I expected to feel the comradeship when I first went to a VA hospital. I didn’t, I felt lost and confused. I asked myself, “Aren’t these Veterans taking care of Veterans?” My experience with the VA so far hasn’t been good. My insight on why the VA is failing will hopefully help those that read this understand how we can fix this issue.

I don’t think that the VA knows it or not, maybe they do, but the training that we received as soldiers has affected how the VA treats us. Let me explain, I think that the VA uses this to their advantage because they know that soldiers will wait, they won’t complain and they will just fall in line as we have been trained. Many of those that died waiting for an appointment did just that. They did what I have done, have faith that fellow Veterans where going to take care of us. When I heard of the issues at the Phoenix VA, the hospital that I go to, the thought of the chain of command never entered my mind as the reason this was happening. Dislike my upcoming comment if you like, but this isn’t about those in power not doing their jobs, this is about Veterans not taking care of Veterans. As a Veteran the oath we took when we became soldiers doesn’t end when we leave the service. It continues to the day we die and hopefully we pass it along to our children so that they understand the importance of code, respect, and doing what is right when no one is looking. The core values that were drilled into our heads don’t stop once we leave service, it continues through live. My anger isn’t toward those that make the rules and told people to “fix” the system. It is toward those Veterans that allowed it to happen under their watch.

I and anyone that is a Veteran knows that the VA will take many years to fix. And if the country thinks that replacing the Secretary is the fix, then we have a larger problem. Firing the head of the Phoenix VA wasn’t the fix either. The fix starts from the bottom in this case. I would like to find out how many Veterans where hired because of who they knew, how many are riding the system because they only have to for a few short years to gain a 20 year retirement. In this case, the VA issues aren’t with the top, it is the bottom on up. And no civilian sector Doctor wants to work in an agency that has this type of corruption. If you want a fix, tell the new Secretary to come to Phoenix VA. Stay her for 6 months to a year. Fix one hospital to fix them all. Hold everyone accountable, fire those that don’t hold their own weight and be apart of the community your supposed to be fixing.

Soldiers don’t have a voice when we leave the military and for many of us that voice was our Non-Commissioned officers and once we leave who is are voice? Who stands up for us? Who is willing to take the hit and fight for our rights as soldiers? In the end….the main question is…who is going to take care of me now?

Why I joined

Fourteen years ago this past August I joined the US Army. When I decided to go in a had nothing but the clothes on my back and the idea that this was an opportunity to make my father proud and to experience something for at least three years. That initial thought spark something in me that has made me who I am today. When I joined I told myself that I had to follow three rules. One, never fail a PT Test, Two, never do anything wrong to provoke adverse actions, and Three, become and NCO within my first three years. I spent 9 years, 1 month, and 5 days and I accomplished all three rules. This has been the making of who I am since and how I live my life everyday.

The most defining moments of my Military career where graduating Basic Training, Being able to live in Germany, Deploying to Iraq to complete the very mission we as soldiers work so hard for and the day I honorably left the military. My military career now defines who I am. People in society see me different when they know that I am a Veteran. Some see me as a hero and others see me in a different light, the same way the Vietnam Veterans experienced when they returned home.

I am proud to be a Veteran and do what I can everyday to give back to my community as I have been for 14 years. At some point I just hope that the community will eventually give back to the Veterans who have helped give them so much.

Can it be true

When I was medically discharged in 2009 I was found unfit to perform my job as a soldier and as a Cable Dawg. When I was released I was released with the condition called Post Thrombotic Syndrome. This syndrome is the aftermath of multiple blood clots in my legs that still to this day I haven’t been given the answer to why at 23 I was experiencing a condition that many would only see when they are in the late 60’s. This condition calls for blood thinner medication to combat my body from forming more clots. In my medical discharge it actually states….”stop all medications.” So the Army released me with a condition that was life threatening and discontinued my medication. No further action was given as to what I was supposed to do. I submitted my paper work to VA and nothing happened after that.

Since 2009 I dealt with the pain….took a lot of aspirin and did everything I could to keep myself safe. On July 8, 2014 I couldn’t take the pain in my leg anymore so I checked myself into the Phoenix VA emergency room. Ten hours later they found a clot in my lower left leg……hhhhmmmmm wonder why? I was placed back on my meds and was seen by a Coumadin clinic doctor that stated I would be placed on this medication for life. Now at this time I was placed with a Dr at the Phoenix VA. In October, tired of waiting for an appointment, I went to the clinic and asked for an appointment. The lady behind the counter asked me what the appointment was for, I said “its the first time I am meeting my doctor and I haven’t had an appointment yet since July, I have a lot of questions that need to be answered.” So they made me an appointment in December… was actually December 16, 2014. Now when this date came I was excited to actually speak to a doctor…..nope… received a call that morning that the doctor called in and that my appointment would be pushed out another month.

Now I know thing happen and I know that other people might have a more serious condition than I do….but as I explained to the patient advocate….there is no name for my condition and I am on blood thinners and I am still having blood clots….oh in November I had an ultrasound done and while on meds, they found another clot. So obviously the medicine isn’t working and blood clots are a serious issues, especially since you don’t know why for 11 years my body just wants to clot. As I have said before….I would rather have lost the leg and know why I lost it, or have cancer and know what I have and how long I have to live, then have a condition that the VA only give me 10% disability for that could kill me at any second.

I won’t rest until I have answer to why a perfectly healthy 23 year old soldier lands in Iraq in 2004 and then all of a sudden starts swelling in my legs and they do nothing for me while I am in Iraq and then in 2005 they find two massive clots behind both of my knees and now I have a Post condition. Post means after….so what is the Pre to my condition? My favorite answer is, “no one knows its something new.” Well the problem I have with that is no one is doing anything about it as I sit and wait for this condition to destroy tissue in my legs, then have ulcers that eat at my legs and then lose the use of my leg, then and only then per my claim denial will I be awarded 40% disability from the VA. I actually have to lose my leg for anyone to do anything and even then I don’t think the VA would have any actions.

What the VA doesn’t know is I know what the cause is. After 11 years I haven’t just set by idly waiting. I have every copy of every medical record and have found many compelling finds. Like the fact that a shot I received in 2003 had an affect that would only affect 1 out of 30,000. This affect would produce low blood platelet counts. This causes the blood to not form a clot….10 days before my deployment on February 04, 2004 a blood test was draw and tested to make sure I was healthy to deploy. Obviously they didn’t care about the test because they test I have shows that my platelet count was a 32…next to that number on the form says normal count should be between 67 and 82. So as I was deploying and flying into Iraq my body wasn’t able to clot….my valve in my leg must have failed and started flooding my leg with blood. Because I couldn’t clot the valve couldn’t heal and now I am left with the aftermath because some doctor or nurse didn’t do there job and make sure I was fit.

Please, if you have issues that aren’t being resolved by the VA….do some homework…ask for your records, Google all the shots and side affects to see if they cause what is wrong with you. In the end it will only help your case. Get smart about whats wrong with you and don’t let the VA walk all over you. Complain, Call, make them feel exactly how you are.

After my appointment was canceled I filed a complaint with the patient advocate office. I called 6 times, left 3 voice mail’s before they called me back today. The lady said, “well you know you can just walk in and a doctor will see you.” I told her that that is how I got the appointment in the first place. I honestly shouldn’t have to walk in. There should be more than one doctor doing their job at the VA. Step up and uphold the oath of a doctor and take care of your patients.

I am a Veteran who honorably served this country….Now its time for them to serve me as I served them!!!

%d bloggers like this: