Veterans Affairs... or Veterans Affrontery?
CNN ran a story about how our wounded veterans are receiving shoddy care and concern from the US Department of Veterans Affairs. The story featured several wounded warriors, including Tammy Duckworth, Garrett Anderson and Ty Ziegel. Their stories are all different: Tammy lost both legs when a RPG ripped them both off and downed her Blackhawk helicopter. Garrett lost an arm and suffers from a traumatic brain injury. Ty literally had his face burned off, lost part of his brain and part of his right hand and most of his left arm. Each of them had problems getting the VA to treat their cases with proper respect.
Ty took his case directly to Washington to visit a few select officials. Barack Obama met him personally, shook his hand, treated him with respect and honor while listening to his story. Hillary wasn't there, but her staff was. In Ty's own words "They couldn't get me out of there quick enough", showed no respect or concern. Ty's original disability determination had him rated 80% for facial disfigurement, 60% for left arm amputation, 10% for head trauma, and nothing for his brain injury, right eye blindness or jaw fracture. Ty was featured by CNN earlier this summer. Within 2 days of the report, the VA changed his 10% head injury to to 100% traumatic brain injury. Ty's story has been in the news and all over the blog world for the past couple of years. His story and wedding- a wedding that occurred AFTER being injured, is not unknown. What was unknown to me was how underrated his initial VA determination was, or that his marriage is, sadly, now over. He's a strong kid; he'll be OK... as long as his brother, Zach, who just left for Iraq, doesn't have to jump through the same VA hoops he did. Ty says "I want to make the VA system better because if he has to go through anything I went through, that's really going to upset me. That'll make my fuse real short and hot".
Garrett Anderson was blown up by an IED, causing him to lose his right arm. His report? His shrapnel-riddled body was DENIED VA benefits because his injuries "were not service related." Jesus H. Christ.... how could ANYONE in their RIGHT MIND (or LEFT MIND) say that a GWOT soldier who was blown up by an IED, lost an arm, has shrapnel wounds all over his body, that his injuries were not service related????!!!! Apparently it's the same type of person who would eventually tell the same soldier that he suffered from a generalized anxiety disorder, not PTSD, because he didn't incur enough trauma to be traumatized? Garrett has also found out that he suffers from TBI, yet the doctors failed to even mention that little fact, much less treat it. It's been TWO YEARS since he was injured. Two years of TBI treatment that he has missed, and if it wasn't for being nosy and paging through his medical report, he never would have known. And he's not alone- I personally know two other GWOT vets with diagnosed TBI which went untreated because they were never told about the diagnosis. His VA settlement now includes his TBI diagnosis, but they still have not accepting his PTSD claim.
Tammy Duckworth made headlines immediately following her release from Walter Reed- she ran for Congress, fighting on a platform of Veteran's rights and VA reform. Tammy was piloting her Blackhawk helicopter when an RPG ripped through the floor underneath her feet, and exited out the top of the aircraft. She remembers trying to maintain control of her helicopter, but the foot peddles wouldn't respond... because she didn't have any legs anymore. Three years later, she has lost her bid for Congress but instead runs the Illinois Department of Veteran's Affairs, is back in the air again flying small airplanes in preparation for flying helicopters again.. and recently sent her husband off to war, leaving her behind, just like she did in 2004. I didn't support her run for Congress because I disagreed with many of her stances- except her dedication to revamping our veteran's health care system. Seeing her tonight has shown me a different side of Mrs. Duckworth. She is truly amazing and has earned my respect.
The current director of the VA is a disabled Vietnam Veteran. He seems to sincerely want to overhaul the system and prevent problems like these from occurring again. I hope to GOD they get it right.... SOON.