You'd have to know me to know what a gigantic debate writing this is for not only my
professional mind... but also my heart.
I *BELIEVE* that part of my life's (and heart's) work is to teach the heroes and families I
love to work with - hand in hand - the physicians, mental health professionals, therapists,
and every "alphabet soup after their name" person they NEED in order to face the
And, I know that for most heroes (and caregivers!) the best chance and avenue for help
they have is the Veterans Administration. Let's face it, not only is it a system set up
purposefully FOR our Veterans... but it is also where those with the most experience
dealing with the myriad of injuries and illnesses faced every day by those who have served
our country ARE.
So, my philosophy is simple... I will do my darnedest to learn, help, work within, encourage,
lift up, advise, provide insight, offer free resources, basically anything up to my first born,
to help that system.
I have spent more than six years now doing my best. Have met many people who work
with the VA who I truly (dearly and deeply) respect. I have jumped at every chance to
support and help them. And, I will continue to do so.
I don't want "us vs. them" - I want "USSSSSSSS", one solid front, united team, dedicated to
helping and saving the men and women who have laid down their lives, their bodies, and
The roadblock though to that philosophy of mine? It's a system of thinking, an approach,
an infuriating perspective of "Adversarial Health Care".
It's a process that assumes our heroes and families are out for MONEY. Yes,
because most of us REALLY enjoy the process of going broke and hungry while waiting to
prove our heroes are broken enough to "deserve" that *HUGE* paycheck... we LOVE the
daily process of stroking the egos and soothing the souls of heroes who are no longer
able to raise their eyes some days because, as a result of the costs of combat, they can
no longer work... we're OVERJOYED by endless paperwork and it's SO much fun to
constantly have to prove and re-prove just how screwed up your family and the hero you
love really are.
It's a process that discounts the knowledge and insight of those who best know a
hero in favor for professionals who have almost no knowledge of the "insides" (the heart,
soul, thinking, and desires) of the hero they're treating (because, sure... it makes
PERFECT sense that those of us who spend 24x7 caring for those heroes can't
POSSIBLY know more than someone who has spent a cumulation of maybe 5 hours in the
past year with him or her... it's SO easy for us to return home after trying our best to speak
up and say potentially hurtful, potentially heart crushing things in front of our hero in
hopes of getting better care for them).
It's a process that costs the lives of our heroes... and the sanity of our families. I
couldn’t begin to count the number of heroes I’ve seen turned away from a VA Emergency
Room when all indications are (at least to those who know them best - including often,
themselves) that they are on the verge of suicide. Or, the number I’ve advised to call (*Let
me insert here, PLEASE still call the crisis line if you need help, but also have on hand the
Vet Center “Combat Call Center” number [877-927-8387] and the National Hopeline
Network [800-784-2433] just in case.*) the Veterans Crisis Line only to be put on hold, mis-
routed, or otherwise incredibly poorly handled WHILE in crisis. But for most, even before
that life-and-death point, there are multiple opportunities and cries for help - and often
multiple times that a hero or loved one find their concerns brushed aside, their insight
discounted, and their need for intervention unanswered. Those are the places that slowly
(but certainly) literally drive us crazy… all of us… as we beat our head against
It's a process with endless red tape and far too little common sense. We fill out the
same forms, same information, same details, over and over and over again. Many times
simple steps take months (and hundreds of man (or woman) hours we don’t have to spare
in order to make progress. There are more and more positions, programs, and policies
put in place but unless a hero or caregiver knows to ask the right question (and happens
to be asking someone with the right knowledge) they are far too often told something
doesn’t exist (when the person in charge may work a few offices down the hall). And
many, many, mannnny of us on the “veteran side” of the world literally spend hours a
month searching for and reading legislation, policy, and VA directives in order to be able
to educate VA employees on the rules that govern their own institution.
It's a process that is - literally and figuratively - beating us (and our heroes) to
As I sit here typing, I have been living with, caring for, and loving a hero with PTSD, TBI,
and other injuries since the end of 2006 and have actually been married to him since
1999. I also “work” here in this world. I have for 2,265 days to be exact. And, in those
days I have probably worked with, sat heart to heart with, met, fought for, cried for, prayed
for, and loved more heroes and families than most VA employees see in a full career. I
work what are often 20 hour days - at home - caring for my hero, parenting my child, and
talking / typing / listening / crying with heroes and families around the country. It's not
"paid" work. It's heart work.
I not only serve veterans and loved ones… I have honestly come to love them, respect
them, and am daily humbled by them - by “my” heroes and families - with a depth that I don’
t think it would be possible to explain. But, I can explain (from what some now consider an
“expert” opinion, though I am perfectly happy with my wife / mom title) that what is
happening to them and within them is WRONG.
As I sit here typing tonight, one of my fellow caregivers is dying - not this moment, but
soon. She will be the third one of “my” caregivers to die in the last 18-24 months. All have
died in their mid-thirties. I won’t even start the count here on heroes dying. There’s
something wrong with that... with people in the prime of life dying.
I’ve spent countless hours in the last week not only soothing my own hero - but too many
other caregivers and warriors - who are faced with the possibility of no income next month
because of the government shutdown and VA and Social Security benefits hanging in the
balance (writing this in the wee morning hours of 10/8/13). It’s not only a fight against
panic… it’s a fight against allowing our heroes to feel discarded and unvalued by the
country they served. There’s something wrong with that... with heroes feeling abandoned
by those who lead them.
And, there’s also something wrong (so very, morally, at its core WRONG) with the fact that
I keep seeing these heroes and families… I keep seeing my own hero and child…
endlessly faced with new struggles, new “glitches” in care, new issues with benefits, new
problems, new pain, new fights added to not-yet-through fights, that then become one
never ending blur. One blur of getting more and more frustrated, developing less and less
faith in a system meant to help, and endless question of not IF but WHEN the next issue or
“oops” will occur.
There are reasons - some of them logical - for all of these things. Far more veterans
returned from Iraq or Afghanistan with PTSD than ever was anticipated (and, at that point,
prior heroes still weren’t fully taken care of). Then, too that, we added the “surprise” of
Traumatic Brain Injury (and its triggering of many other illnesses and disorders) and the
respiratory problems caused by burn bits and the digestive issues that still go largely
undiagnosed. And then, PTSD and TBI together created harder to treat, harder to figure
out, mental and behavioral health issues. And, then there’s the fact that so many of our
families are young. And the fact that our country has been in a budget crisis for far too
long. And, and, and, and.
I know all of those reasons (and more), but I still argue that somehow it has to matter that
the system designed to serve and care for these heroes has so many broken, illogical
places… and that those places only serve to contribute additional stress, strain, and
brokenness to already much too dark places. It has to matter that even though almost any
veteran (or caregiver!) from the Vietnam, Korean, WWII, or other service era can tell you
these struggles are not new, they should be LONG past at this point.
Adversarial Care has to go.
Common sense has to be prominent.
And TEAM WORK between all involved in the care of our heroes has to be the only rule
we play by.
Because, to put it simply, these heroes and families I love are dying while people are too
busy fighting against us instead of fighting beside us.
So, please read through the stories of those heroes and families… look at the statistics
that impact our lives every day… then please keep going to see what we are hoping can
Thanks for listening,
Proud Wife of a Hero
Founder of Family Of a Vet
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