View From Table 9

December 19, 2008

Survival Guide for Veterans

Sad that an independent gourp has to come out with this, but hey, it’s out!

December 19, 2008
Editorial
Survival Guide for Veterans

Far too often, military veterans find themselves desperately short of the information they need as they make the torturous quest for benefits within one of this country’s most daunting bureaucracies, the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Officials say help is on the way, but administrators are forever promising to streamline procedures for an era of conquered paperwork that never seems to come. That is why it is heartening to see that one promising form of help has indeed arrived: a 599-page guide to veterans’ issues, from educational help to vocational rehabilitation, from housing to citizenship.

It’s called “The American Veterans’ and Servicemembers’ Survival Guide,” and it comes, unsurprisingly, from outside the system. It is a publication of the nonprofit advocacy group Veterans for America, available as a free download at veteransforamerica.org.

This electronic book is a descendant of “The Viet Vet Survival Guide,” which was published a decade after the end of that conflict — when veterans were still being routinely and shamefully denied their rights. The new book was written by veterans and lawyers for a new generation of soldiers with old problems, like post-traumatic stress, and new ones like traumatic brain injury, the brutal legacy of Iraq’s and Afghanistan’s roadside bombs.

The authors caution that while the guide will help a veteran understand what’s going on, it is not a substitute for a good lawyer or other advocate. And it isn’t the only source of information: The government, too, has vast Web sites explaining things — for example, how officers help veterans through the disability evaluation system. (In military acronyms, it’s how the Physical Evaluation Board Liaison Officer, or Peblo, helps with the D.E.S.)

The “Survival Guide” does this, too, but with a difference: It also warns veterans to “pay careful attention to what you say to your Peblo,” because the Peblo is not required to act in their best interests the way an attorney is, and things told to a Peblo are not necessarily confidential.

No book will ever defeat a bureaucracy this large, but a book can help people to subdue it. Veterans and their families often praise the dedication of health-care providers, but at the same time express utter frustration over incomprehensible thickets of rules and the glacial pace at which benefits and appeals are decided.

Unless and until the government significantly improves its treatment of veterans — and our hopes are high for progress under Gen. Eric Shinseki, President-elect Barack Obama’s nominee to run Veterans Affairs — they will have to keep looking to one another for help, as they always have. This veterans’ guide looks like a powerful updating of that old tradition.

Copyright 2008 The New York Times Company

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June 20, 2008

Support Our Veterans Radiothon

Finally, someone talking about how we treat our Veterans and offering something we can do.  Philadelphia station WMGK is broadcasting a 12 hour radiothon tomorrow, June 20, from 6 AM to 6 PM in front of the National Constitution Center.  The goal is to raise money for the nonprofit Philadelphia Veterans Multi-Service Center, a local group that assists Veterans in housing, benefits, job training, all those things they should be entitled to for serving us well.

http://www.wmgk.com/Extra/Pages/DeBellaVeteransRadiothonFullInfopage/tabid/296/Default.aspx

Listen if you can, they stream online.  Give if you can.  Spread the word – more than anything else raise awareness.  Those who protect and defend us deserve better.

June 17, 2008

Being a Soldier Can Ruin You….

Filed under: Uncategorized — table9 @ 12:28 am
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Yet more on what happens to our injured veterans these days, or the Me Generation’s idea of Supporting The Troops:

Soldiers risk ruin while awaiting benefit checks

By MICHELLE ROBERTS, Associated Press WriterMon Jun 16, 2:07 PM ET

His lifelong dream of becoming a soldier had, in the end, come to this for Isaac Stevens: 28, penniless, in a wheelchair, fending off the sexual advances of another man in a homeless shelter.

Stevens’ descent from Army private first-class, 3rd Infantry Division, 11 Bravo Company, began in 2005 — not in battle, since he was never sent off to Iraq or Afghanistan, but with a headfirst fall over a wall on the obstacle course at Fort Benning, Ga. He suffered a head injury and spinal damage.

The injury alone didn’t put him in a homeless shelter. Instead, it was military bureaucracy — specifically, the way injured soldiers are discharged on just a fraction of their salary and then forced to wait six to nine months, and sometimes even more than a year, before their full disability payments begin to flow.

“When I got out, I hate to say it, but man, that was it. Everybody just kind of washed their hands of me, and it was like, `OK, you’re on your own,'” said Stevens, who was discharged in November and was in a shelter by February. He has since moved into a temporary San Antonio apartment with help from Operation Homefront, a nonprofit organization.

Nearly 20,000 disabled soldiers were discharged in the past two fiscal years, and lawmakers, veterans’ advocates and others say thousands could be facing financial ruin while they wait for their claims to be processed and their benefits to come through.

“The anecdotal evidence is depressing,” said Rep. John Hall, D-N.Y., who heads a subcommittee on veterans disability benefits. “These veterans are getting medical care, but their family is going through this huge readjustment at the same time they’re dealing with financial difficulties.”

Most permanently disabled veterans qualify for payments from Social Security and the military or Veterans Affairs. Those sums can amount to about two-thirds of their active-duty pay. But until those checks show up, most disabled veterans draw a reduced Army paycheck.

The amount depends on the soldier’s injuries, service time and other factors. But a typical veteran and his family who once lived on $3,400 a month might have to make do with $970 a month.

Unless a soldier has a personal fortune or was so severely injured as to require long-term inpatient care, that can be an extreme hardship.

The Army, stung by the scandal last year over shoddy care at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, has been working to help soldiers during the in-between period, said Col. Becky Baker, assigned to injured soldier transition at the U.S. Surgeon General’s Office.

In a change in policy that took effect last August, the Army is allowing wounded soldiers to continue to draw their full Army paychecks for up to 90 days after discharge, Baker said. It is also sending more VA workers to Army posts to process claims more quickly, and trying to do a better job of informing soldiers of the available benefits and explaining the application process.

“We make certain that we’ve covered all the bases before we discharge the soldier,” Baker said.

She acknowledged, however, that the changes have been slow to take hold across an Army stretched by war. “It’s definitely a practice that is new. It takes awhile for new practices to be institutionalized,” the colonel said.

Stevens was moved to the Operation Homefront apartment after a social worker at Tripler Army Medical Center in Hawaii, acting on her own initiative, rescued Stevens from a homeless shelter there.

“This is a situation where someone used their common sense and they did the right thing, versus saying, `This is the rules. We can’t do this,'” Tripler spokeswoman Minerva Anderson said of the social worker.

Typically, the first 100 days after discharge are spent just gathering medical and other evidence needed to make a decision on disability, VA officials say. If paperwork is incomplete, or a veteran moves to another state before the claim is decided, the process can drag on longer. Disagree with the VA’s decision, and the wait time grows.

“The claims are a lot more complicated than people think,” said Ursula Henderson, director of the VA’s regional office in Houston.

Amy Palmer, a disabled veteran and vice president of Operation Homefront, which helps newly disabled servicemembers, said: “Nobody’s assigned to them. You’re on your own once you get out.”

Hall is pushing legislation that would force the VA to use compatible computer systems and more consistent criteria and to reach out to veterans better.

“A veteran goes and serves and does what the country asks them to do,” the congressman said. “But when they come back they’re made to jump through these hoops and to wait in line for disability benefits.”

Simon Heine served three tours in Iraq as a tank mechanic before he was discharged with severe post-traumatic stress disorder.

His wife quit college so she could figure out how her four children could live on less than $1,000 a month. Eventually, she moved the family of six into an Operation Homefront apartment so they could finish navigating the bureaucracy and wait out the arrival of Social Security and VA benefits.

“It is like giving you a car and taking the steering wheel off. They say, `There is the gas and the brake. Just go straight,’ and hopefully, you are going in the right direction,” Heine said.

___

On the Net: Operation Homefront: http://www.operationhomefront.net

Veterans in homeless shelters.  I thought we pledged as a Country to treat these wounded better than those from VietNam?

September 29, 2007

And Then There’s This…

Filed under: articles,musings — table9 @ 11:53 pm
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From the Associated press, this article , on the trials of our wounded veterans once they return home.

He was one of America’s first defenders on Sept. 11, 2001, a Marine who pulled burned bodies from the ruins of the Pentagon. He saw more horrors in Kuwait and Iraq

Gamal Awad, the American son of a Sudanese immigrant, exemplifies an emerging group of war veterans: the economic casualties.

More than in past wars, many wounded troops are coming home alive from the Middle East. That’s a triumph for military medicine. But they often return hobbled by prolonged physical and mental injuries from homemade bombs and the unremitting anxiety of fighting a hidden enemy along blurred battle lines. Treatment, recovery and retraining often can’t be assured quickly or cheaply.

These troops are just starting to seek help in large numbers, more than 185,000 so far. But the cost of their benefits is already testing resources set aside by government and threatening the future of these wounded veterans for decades to come, say economists and veterans’ groups.

“The wounded and their families no longer trust that the government will take care of them the way they thought they’d be taken care of,” says veterans advocate Mary Ellen Salzano.

How does a war veteran expect to be treated? “As a hero,” she says.

Surprise, the VA is ill-equipped and severely unfunded. Soldiers are returning with more severe injuries than in previous combat situations, largely because of body armour and of more sophisticated weaponry. We’re encountering new syndromes – for instance, they’ve found that penetrating brain injuries, like those seen in IED encounters, leave the memory completely intact. This compares to blunt force trauma, where the memory is largely spared.

So we’re maiming, crippling, psychologically and physically scarring a generation, calling them heroes, then leaving them essentially ‘to the wolves’. Financially destitute, unable to cope, with limited medical and psychological help. Yep, that’s supporting the troops. NOT. God Bless America. Just be sure to not be a wounded hero.

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