Aftercare for America’s Heroes: Where the Government is failing our Heroes
Making a difference, supporting our country seems to come instinctively for many of today’s heroes. One thing you hear often from those left behind by their fallen loved ones is how much love and devotion the person had to their country. How many times they volunteered to go back overseas for a second and even third tour of duty, because they felt the cause was something they couldn’t ever experience stateside, a once in a lifetime opportunity to make a difference in a less fortunate country. The stories are all heartwarming and miraculous, yet the trauma that others sustain is something they will never fully recover from.
I am the wife of a combat Veteran, to better understand the battle we have waged over the last 4 ½ years for a Military Medical Retirement I forged an internet search as ammunition for my husband’s case as well as for the many other American Soldiers families being held captive to the Army National Guard and West Point. Seems simple enough at the start of our process we were told once he was rated at 30% disabled by any category area from the VA he would be processed for a Medical Retirement from the Army. My husband started at 10% for his neck and shoulder after his tour to Bosnia, and then shortly after his tour to Iraq he was rated at 60% and given non-deployable at his unit with a no weapons profile which interfered with him being promoted any further than E-5. Obviously having a no-weapons profile and non-deployable attachment to his career you would think would make the ARMY want to eliminate his contract and fill his Sergeant slot with someone that is deployable with the unit being called to mobilize soon?
A MMRB: Is a administration screening board which is conducted under the said provision of AR 600-60 which determines whether a soldier’s 3 to 4 separate physical profiles can interfere with their ability to perform their primary occupational specialty or MOS in worldwide, field environment. Referral to a Medical Evaluation Board or MEB is one of the four actions that can be taken after a MMRB. My husband had this happen after about Eighteen months of his non-deployable status he was referred to an MEB this was back in 2007. Apparently, an MEB takes 5 years to schedule.
The Military Evaluation Board continued to need more paperwork submitted proving my husband’s disability in Pennsylvania he attended the VA hospital in Williamsport PA for a Military Psychiatrist there; he attended multiple appointments for benefits at the VA Medical Center in Wilkes Barre; the Vet Center in Willliamsport for Individual and Group Therapy sessions to treat his Combat PTSD, an then ultimately in 2011 required in-patient care at Coatesville PTSD program after which he was processed for an increase through the VA and was deemed unfit to return to his civilian employer at the Department of Corrections after almost 15 years as a Corrections Officer for them. I relocated to Florida in March of 2011 and my husband began aftercare at Bay Pines VA hospital for continued support with a new Psychiatrist and new Therapist, VA at Bay Pines increased his Disability rating from 60% to 80% and are now processing him for Unemployability. You would think after all these years of his VA rating the process for the MEB would have long been a thing behind my husband, think again. His unit upon my husband’s relocation to Florida began trying to mark him AWOL for drills; this took intervention from a Congressman and a Governor to intervene. It took nearly six months for his Disability Pension to start from the state of PA and the Army is still “Processing” his medical discharge from duty.
Approximately three months ago now I sent out a Presidential EMAIL which went unresponded for several weeks about an inquiry into my husband’s case. It’s amazing to me how a respectable soldier with a very impressive career like my husband in both the Marine Corps and the Army who has earned a bronze star with valor could be treated with such disrespect. The saddest part is he isn’t the only one. Presidential reports about pulling out troops from Iraq are a ruse just in time for an election year. In my email I stated the real work begins upon the return of these men and women. Our soldiers are trained assassins, coming home to families who are often time in-equipped to handle the severity of their manifesting symptoms. Even in the VA process very little is done to support the family as a whole, focus is only on the soldier and their needs but the lack of funding for groups that can focus on family support is a sad sacrifice for all the families do and all they have to manage with a soldier who becomes disabled from the war.
Eventually I received first a response by email, next an official letter from whomever the President forwarded my email to, an inquiry was launched for Fort Indiantown Gap to respond directly to me about my husband’s case and forward their response to the Department Head of the Army also. No response was ever made yet from Fort Indiantown Gap, and of course why would there be the process takes time, right? To date, husband has been stateside and manifesting severe debilitating symptoms since July, 2006. How long does the process take, really? The Department of the Army has paperwork documenting injuries since 2002 and yet they continually every few months need more information. It’s clear the soldiers who fought and risked their lives for this country who care more for what our founding fathers established than even our own lawmakers or those who live in the White House.
It is with a sad and heavy heart that I must implore all Americans to stand up and use their voice that our God gave you. I’m unsure what the military sacrifice is for when even the military doesn’t have your back when you’ve served your purpose. You may think as you sign your contract that the military is offering you unlimited opportunity and a bright future but as a lifetime career you need more to back it up than the support of the military in the end they will not have your back and will make you fight for any benefit you were promised when you signed your contract.
For those who are only beginning this process, document, document, document. Keep copies of everything. Too many times to count where the phone calls my husband received stating there was no record (1) that an MMRB even occurred (which was my personal favorite); we lost your packet of information; we need more from your current Psychiatrist. I have no doubt that by now my husband’s case is over 2,000 pages long. I also have no doubt my husband will more than likely hear a judgment of his unemployability before hearing about his MEB and even from Social Security Disability before the Army makes a decision on his case.. It’s wrong that it is a full-time job to fight for something that you not only deserve but you are entitled to. Don’t be fooled by the false promises of the Army.
Arm yourself the process is daunting, so much information can be thrown at you in this process and you wouldn’t be undergoing the process to begin with if you weren’t with medical issues that may or may not make you incompetent. Don’t be fooled by their language and what they tell you need to happen in the PDES process, ensure a speedy process by retaining a trained legal professional like JAG representation below you will find the link which can help you with the process. Soldiers should that are undergoing this process should contact the nearest MEB outreach team, if you’re not assigned to one of those installations, you contact the nearest Soldiers counsel to be referred to a regional MEB outreach office or contact: https://www.jagcnet.army.mil/otjagosc
Lastly, don’t think for a second that we have given up and if you are struggling out there feel free to contact and post your comments telling your own stories with the MEB process I welcome the knowledge we are all in this together, the power of your voice is the most important valuable thing you have. Stay strong and hold steady with your beliefs.
US Army Medical Board: 11/15/2011 http://www.crdamc.amedd.army.mil/default.asp?page=meb
Army Medicine (June 2009), http://www.armymedicine.army.mil/news/mercury/09-06/attorneys.cfm
Warrior Transition Command: http://wtc.army.mil/soldier/medical_boards.html