This post has been one that has been difficult to start, largely because I want to do it justice and not to let my emotions cloud my judgement. You see, I’m from a very patriotic family and I have several family members, including currently, my son-in-law, all of whom have sacrificed and served our country. My son-in law is serving now, overseas.
I cannot fathom the thought of not rolling out the red carpet for them when they finally return home, or worse yet, not giving them the benefits they so richly deserve. I have a friend who has been fighting for those benefits for years now, and I would like to share his story with you.
My friend, who for the purposes of this article, I will call ‘R. Michael’, because his disability case is still pending, brought this press release to my attention. The press release from Senator Mikulski’s (D-MD) office was part of an email he also received from the Maryland Department of Veteran Affairs. This particular email praised Sen. Milkulski for her commitment to work towards improving the system that is currently inhibiting the benefits process for many veterans.
“I applaud Senator Mikulski for working with Secretary Shinseki and the Veterans Administration to form a plan of action to address the critical inefficiencies that are obstructing Veterans’ claims in Baltimore and across the nation. As I recently wrote in a letter to Secretary Shinseki, Governor O’Malley and I share the goal of providing the best and most efficient process for our Veterans and we stand ready to assist in any way possible. We are also fortunate to have the partnership of the entire Maryland Congressional Delegation, who is unwavering in their support for our nation’s service members.”
It is simply unacceptable that so many of our Veterans are unable to access the government benefits they’ve earned. These brave men and women have served our country with distinction and honor, and we must continue to do all that we can to protect their needs.”
Let me tell you what I think is unacceptable and highly inefficient. My friend R. Michael received an Honorable discharge from the United States Army in March 2010 and applied for disabled veteran status in June of 2010. Since that time, he has continued to suffer from the following:
- Ejaculatory Anhedonia – loss of the ability for one to achieve orgasm (qualifies for a “Loss of Limb” designation by the VA)
- Interstitial Cystitis – the same condition, which was already determined to be service connected.
- Chronic Insomnia
- Urinary Retention
- Urinary Incontinence
- Chronic Low Back Pain
- Individual Unemployability
- PTSD – my friend was in the Fort Hood shooting in 2009
Two Congressional inquiries were launched by Sen. Milkulski in relation to the length of time R. Michael’s case has been pending. Both cases were the only time he received communication from the Veteran’s Affairs office in reference to the delay in processing of his case.
A VA representative at our local Wicomico County Courthouse indicated her system does not show her specific details with R.’s case, only general dates of things happening. When R. views his case via an online system, it currently shows an anticipated completion date to be between April 26, 2013 and September 22, 2013, however, he indicates this date has changed on a regular basis, and is never sooner, always months later.
The system also shows his case is in the phase of “Pending Decision Approval”. Multiple VA representatives have informed R. that this phase should only take a maximum of four weeks, yet he has been in this phase of the process since October 2012, which as of this writing, is almost four months.
While this cannot be verified because he did not get the representatives name, he was told during one call that the case has been pending so long because “it is a very complex case and the VA employees are paid based on how many cases they clear per day” and that because “his file is so think, they know they would be unable to clear this case in a day”, therefore his file sits, untouched.
Senator Milkulski, I find this completely unacceptable. I have witnessed for myself the emotional and physical toll this has taken on my friend. I implore you, and everyone who reads this article, to advocate for all of our wounded warriors. They already fought for us, now is the time to fight for them. Give this man the benefits he has earned so he can start living his life again.