VA – Me – and an update

I haven’t wrote much of anything on the VA in awhile and the main reason for that is that the VA hasn’t done anything for awhile until Monday of last week. Back in March I had a 30 second appointment with a back doctor that felt more like a fast food service instead of an appointment. Since no one in the is world will do surgery on me they are resorting to shots. Now this doc said he was going to put in a consult, so I took it one step forward and sent a secure message to my PCP to speed up the processes. Well it didn’t go as planned.

After countless emails, calls, secure messages, I finally received a phone call on Monday morning about scheduling an appointment for my back. This was a two month wait to get an appointment. Its not like the VA gave me an appointment that i was waiting two months out…they just ignored me until they decided to get me an appointment. So I guess this is there new way of keeping people off of the waiting list. They just don’t schedule you anything. And then when they call, your appointment is available only weeks out. But not only did I get my appointment, I received 2 more calls throughout the day about setting up this appointment. Each one said they would note that I already had an appointment, but I guess that line of communication is not working now at the VA.

I now have an upcoming appointment on the 6th of July. I have don’t a lot of research on the procedure that I am having. The first time the majority of patients say they feel 20 years younger and it last’s about a month, then you must continue to the procedure to keep the pain at bay, but the procedure wears off quickly with each shot. I would love to just be pain free. I haven’t felt that since February of 2004. So it will be interesting to see what that feeling is like once again. As I have made in many statements, that I, at this point, would rather them just take my leg for the fact that it is useless about 90% of my day. I hope this procedure does some long awaited justice to my pain I have endured for so long.

I’ll have a follow up on that after this week and keep you updated to my progress.

Future Endeavors (Vets on the Hill)

On April the 28th I flew into Washington D.C. The last time I was there I was at a B.O.S.S. Conference in 2006 when I was still in the military. This time I was there with Concerned Veterans for America. This time I came as a Veteran trying to help protect the rights that I fought for and was still fighting for in 2006.

I joined the fight with the CVA for two reasons. First, I felt a deeper call to help my fellow Veterans and help combat the fight they are experiencing and Secondly to help be a voice for Veterans around the world. The first has been a fight and struggle and will continue to be until all veterans have the support from our lawmakers to make a difference and fight for what Veterans Deserve. The second has been a fun ride and I know it will only be more fun. A good friend of mine Dan Caldwell is a driving force for the voice of Veterans and has been helping that cause since the beginning.

While in D.C. the Arizona Concerned Veterans met with many of the lawmakers in Arizona and helped them understand many of the Bills and concerns that Concerned Veterans for America are trying to push through. One of those is the Veterans Independence Act. This bill will help reform the VA Health system and make it into a 501c and will push the VA to compete with the Civilian Health Care System and actually give Veterans a choice of Health Care. Many think its a voucher system, but its not. It turns the VA back into what it was originally designed to be. A Health Care Organization that’s purpose is to take care of Combat Disabled Veterans or Veterans with Disabilities that were incurred during service. Many fear this change because many Veterans will lose their VA health care benefit through the VA, but our reform will allow all Veterans to enter into the VA health care system, but will have premiums and co-pays just like any other Health Care system. The problem originated in the early 90’s when the VA began opening its doors to any Veteran because the decrease of Veterans using the system began to decline. Now you have every Veteran and their families using the VA healthcare system and it is now over run and the VA can’t handle the surge from the Gulf War, Iraq War, and Afghan War. Now its time to put the VA back to the way it was, take care of our Combat Injured Vets and begin the healing process.

It is estimated that the VA will have 8 million less Veterans by 2030 and that will be the time that the VA will begin running into the same problems as they did in the 90’s. We need to fix and build a system that works for our Veterans and not against them and allows them to heal correctly when they return from combat or leave military service.

The next Bill is the VA accountability Act. This Bill will reintroduce the last accountability act, but this one will give the Secretary full access to fire any employee that works for the VA. Also it covers any whistleblower from being fired or coming forward. This will allow the Secretary to fire those employees that fail to meeting the guidelines and fail to perform. There will still be an appeals status, but instead of lasting months, up to a year, it will be 30 days. This putting someone on administrative leave for a year with full pay before being fired is a waste of Federal funds and a waste of Veterans time.

These are just two of the main bills that CVA are trying to have passed through the House and Senate. We are also trying to pass DOD bills to stop the over spending of the DOD and stop the Pentagon for wasting more money on projects that lead to no where.

During my visit I had the pleasure of meeting Krysten Sinema, Matt Salmon, David Schweikert, Jeff Flake, and Senator McCain. It was an amazing time meeting with these lawmakers and actually having them listen to what we had to say and why we wanted to say it. It was also amazing to watch both sides talk about the same issues and come together at a press conference on April 30th and back these Bills. As I said to Krysten Sinema, she renewed my faith in politics, because she showed compassion and drive to help pass these Bills to fight for our Veterans and because she was the only Democrat that backed the Bill first. Events like these help Americans know that we have a direct link to our lawmakers and that we do have a voice whether we are Veterans or just regular citizens.

My time in DC, as short as it was, was a very big impact. It opened my eyes to a different perception of government and how they operate. Showed me that many of them do care and many of them do put the time in to make a difference. For instance out of all the representatives from Arizona, Krysten Sinema’s DC office is opened the latest. Just a fun fact for you all.

While there I also got to visit the Washington Memorial, World War I and II Memorial, and the Lincoln Memorial. The Washington and Lincoln Memorial were a great site to see and made me realize that to a different Generation these two men were larger than life. Seeing how they are memorialized in DC only reminds me of how small we really are in this world, but how much we can accomplish if are hearts our where they need to be and our dedication to those that came before us. So many men and woman have lost their lives for this country and I can guarantee you that if our founding fathers where here. None of what is going on in this country would be tolerated. All of the issues with are government and how are Veterans are being treated wouldn’t be tolerated. They stood for a higher purpose and as citizens of this nation we should strive to live for that higher purpose.

If your a Veteran and aren’t living for a higher purpose, and that purpose should be helping other Veterans, than you should take up arms and join an organization that is trying to make a difference. Veterans are 22.8 Million Strong in this country and with that many we should have a louder voice, but for some reason so many are laying low and not taking a stand. I call on all veterans to join an organization that is making a difference, attend Rally’s, attend Town Hall meetings. Show in force that Veterans are not going to be messed with anymore and that no Veteran will die under the VA’s watch. We need to come together as a community of Veterans to support one another as we did while we were in service. We need to build that band of brotherhood again and be there for each other once more while we go through this hard time. We also need to stop this Veteran Suicide that is killing us off 22 per day. Veteran owned businesses need to step up and higher veterans to give them a reason to live and a reason to fight, Veteran owned businesses need to also organize with Veteran Organizations and help drive this cause. We need to become a Family of Veterans again!. Join in the fight for our freedom and choice.

So as the title says….”Future Endeavors.” The reason is I don’t know what the future holds and everyone is entitled to their own future. We shouldn’t allow anyone in this world to shape our own future. We should be the masters of what we give back to the world. For 15 years I have worked with computers, I have focused so much on IT that I have fallen short of my true passion. Starting today I have changed my major in College. I am now working towards a Bachelors of Science in Military Studies. I decided to change my major to help me understand more about the political agendas in this country and to really understand what I am so passionate about. I know all there is to know about IT so I honestly don’t need a degree in it. I need the next degree to push me further in down this path I am heading on.

Again, if your not part of the bigger picture for Veterans you should be on board. Veterans have not only sacrificed so much for this country, but so many Veterans are apart of the backbone of this country that without them we would be in shambles.

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.

So I have to talk about it

So on Thursday our mighty emperor will be visiting the great city of Phoenix. He will be here to address Central High School. The talk of the town is why he won’t visit the Phoenix VA. Since the VA is only a mile from the school. Currently it is not on his agenda and the media outlets our beginning to blast him for it. I saw this morning that several media outlets are calling him “pontus” or “king.” I guess he’d rather be golfing then take time to visit the Phoenix VA. Though many say they would like for him to visit I on the other hand say stay away. Everything this president touches gets ruined and he still hasn’t recovered from the black eye the VA has left on him. I as a Veteran don’t want nothing to do with him and would ask for him to stay out of Veteran and American business, only Americans have that right.

The president won’t address the VA or visit because he knows his administration has failed a large part of the American community. No Veteran out there is happy with the way they have been treated by this administration and the VA. As I have said before, instead of feeling like outcasts in public like those that came home from Vietnam, we are laid to waste away in the VA and made outcasts from within the system. We as soldiers did our duty and did it well, why can’t this administration do its duty and do it well?

Oh, that’s right, only those that have sacrificed would understand duty, country and the way of life. I still think that the constitution should be amended to say that you must serve in the military a minimum of 3 years to become president. How can a civilian with no experience serve this country if they themselves haven’t served this country. If you look back on history many of the greatest presidents of our time served or bared the burden of war. To completely understand Veterans you have to be one. You have to undergo what Veterans go through. Some are lucky to have served and never been affected by war and incur injuries. But there are so many that have been affected.

Will the VA ever change? The sad truth is this has been going on for years. The VA is broken and I can only hope that it is fixed or gets better in my life time. We have a long road ahead of us. We need a president that comes to action on our Veterans, we need a congress that is willing to put the time in and make the difficult changes and instead of working 9 to 5, spend that extra time to make a difference, we need to remove those that are at fault and put those in place that are willing to work hard to make a difference, we need to show Veterans that they are important and that they aren’t just something America uses to get through a war and toss to the side like ammo.

I challenge Obama to come to the PHX VA. If anything some will be happy you stopped by, most will turn a cheek and look the other way. President Obama, you are a coward and will not show your face here in the PHX VA. You know that the media spotlight on this VA again will raise questions again and since you have made it very clear that you don’t care about Veterans I suggest you stay away, but again, a coward that hides behind his administration and doesn’t act like a commander in chief. You promised to bring change, but what you you brought was a dictatorship that we won’t tolerate in this country.

Soliders

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.

www.IAVA.com; www.DAV.com

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.

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.