Pam from Maine is a member of the Warrior Legacy Foundation who has been working to help our wounded troops who leave the service make their way. She has seen some holes in the system that need work and wants to discuss how WLF can help with this. Here are her thoughts.
There is a
clear sense of urgency for me to continue thiswork so as few wounded as possible slip
typical administrative gaps that clearly affect them on a regular
The bottom line is that as many as 65% of these
individuals are coming back home with either
TBI, PTSD, or both. Many symptoms for each tend to
dovetail into each other and make the
medboard process long and tedious so the DoD can define
what type of disability they may
be cut loose with. As you may, or may not, know, the
DoD selects the most severe injury or
condition, rates them according to that, and retires or
discharges them - usually not coinciding
with their original ETS date issued upon enlisting.
Once the medboard process is complete, these
servicemembers are no longer considered active duty and
that pay stops. If they are lucky
enough to have had someone who's on the ball involved
in their outprocessing, they may already
have gotten help filing for Social Security benefits.
Many aren't that lucky. So, pay stops, they get
sent home and now have to start the whole evaluation
process over again, based on a completely
different system within the VA. Many are too injured to
work, have no more active duty pay,
and can wait months for their comp & pen
evaluations to get scheduled.
The VA takes into consideration the DoD's disability
rating, and may (or may not) give additional
percentages for the other, less dominant, injuries they
will now have to continue treating. Once
the evaluations are complete, and the ratings are
issued, if the servicemember is not satisfied with
that rating because they feel it is too low, they have
a mandatory waiting period of 657 days to
have their appeal heard. And there is no guarantee that
the VA rating will go up. That's just the
wait time. Most get frustrated after the long medboard
process, and can't be put on hold for another
two years for resolution and settle for the lower
percentage just to move on.
So, what I get after all this is military coming home
with debilitating PTSD and/or TBI issues, and a lot
of frustration at their situation. Now, these are
people who may have lead units in combat, directed
missions or whatever. And because they are trained to
handle things, shake it off, fix the problem, etc.,
they end up too proud, embarrassed or what have you to
step up and ask for help early on. They've
served their country proudly, yet are told to apply for
public assistance, food stamps, and other ways
to provide for themselves and their families. I see
many foreclosures, bankruptcies, folks way behind
in their bills and can't pay their rent or buy basic
necessities. Forget about Christmas for their kids or
Trying to navigate the gargantuan VA/benefits system is
overwhelming for the average person. For
these guys with the signature wounds of this war, PTSD
and TBI, it is next to impossible. I spend a lot
of time trying to walk them through it as best I can.
Sometimes it's as easy as making the right phone
call for them or pointing them in the right direction.
Most of the time it's not.
They get frustrated, angry, and they lose faith and are
reluctant to ask for help because they can't
handle one more entity letting them down after all
they've been through up to this point. Many times
it's a bit of work to gain their trust.
So, the bottom line for me is this; these folks have
served their country proudly and asked for nothing
in return. They should be able to walk away from their
years of service with their head held high,
be able to take care of themselves and their families,
and be taken care of with dignity. With only one
percent of our country part of the military, that
leaves the other 99% of us in a position to make that
happen. I raise money to do this and awareness to shed
light on this issue. Most are unaware and are
shocked and are more than willing to step up once
they've been enlightened.
I plan events that do both of these key things. I do
public speaking, I plan fundraisers, I do hands-on
casework, I do media events (radio, news articles,
interviews, etc.). I have been very luck to have the
best people in the world fall into my lap and come
aboard to offer help. I have made friends with the
Free Masons in our state who organized a benefit dinner
that brought in over $4,000. I have good friends in the motorcycle community
that have helped me put on an upcoming benefit ride next month. We're
potentially looking at a riding contingent of 400-700 bikes with full police
escorts, a bagpipe group, and other fun stuff. I have new friends in a local gun
club that have helped raise money and connected me
with other groups. I just spent last weekend on the
road in three states with a model who flew in from
South Dakota to do appearances/meet and greets and
helped us raise over $2,200.
I've made regular appearances on local radio programs
that are incredibly supportive of our military.
The list of wonderful people is long and I am grateful
and honored to do this work with their support.
I do hope we can work together to keep making people
aware of the difficult and unique challenges
our country's wounded face after being injured in the
line of duty. The mission is important and I'm
ready to hit the ground running if we share the same
vision and are ready to get to work.