Thursday, June 2, 2011
The Red Tape Saga Continues
FYI: Don't go overseas and get blown up. You're government will find any way possible to screw you.
Seriously though, I thought we had it pretty easy with my husband spending the past nearly three years in a WTB. He had a whole network of people, case managers, social workers, etc to help him out with his recovery. Instead of battling for years to get SSDI, all he had to do was sign the application and it was processed and approved for him. Same thing with his VA claim. His wait was a lot shorter than someone who submits a claim on their own and again most of it was done for him with all of the necessary medical info attached. Once his rating came back he was given a retirement date, terminal leave and was able to outprocess within a few days. The whole process felt pretty streamlined and although was still stressful at times because it felt like we were always in limbo, he had plenty of resources at his fingertips.
Right now I'm thinking it must've been too good to be true. I'd heard horror stories from many of my friends who dealt with this stuff and from the sound of it, we had it pretty good compared to them. Pretty good that is, until retirement.
When you're found unfit for duty and forced to retire, you would think that you'd be properly taken care of. After all you fought and nearly died for your country, one would think that you wouldn't have to fight for the benefits that you've earned. That couldn't be more wrong. One day my husband was active duty with full benefits and the very next that he became officially retired, he also became chopped liver. Suddenly the Army didn't want to help him with any of his questions anymore and he immediately became ineligible for many programs. Things that he had qualified for just the day before. Not to sound like we should be entitled to some of this stuff, but it rubs me the wrong way that a brand new soldier with no combat experience whatsoever is able to have a membership in a program that my husband who nearly died now cannot.
All that pales in comparison with the "minor" oversight that just happened to our family though. My husband received his last paycheck in April. Although they could find no outstanding debts that he owed, the military still helped themselves to a large portion of his check. We can't figure out what it's for, nor is anyone willing to help. He gave them nearly twelve years of his life and gets treated like crap every time he's called to find out what's going on. We have an inquiry into DFAS but that could take months to find out an answer.
While we've received his last check, the VA usually takes about a month to catch up and for him to start getting his disability payment. Unfortunately his paperwork has been sitting in Houston, TX the entire time. Even though he's gotten his rating back and they retired him, someone never bothered to put any of it into the computer. Hense the problems that we've been having with his VA appointments. He has a rep in Texas and in Tennessee and has left several messages with both of them and can't get anyone to return his calls. He has a new case manager here as well and has yet to hear back from her. He called the main number for the VA today when he started getting billed for his medications. They were able to confirm that while his claim was processed, the paperwork never made it to it's final destination and therefore he's not getting any of his pay or benefits. All they could see in their computers was that yes he has a claim but they can't see anything about his status. The only thing that has saved him from more headaches at his clinic appointments is being able to prove that he has a purple heart and his DD 214.
Our next step is to try and get some assistance through the VFW or Disabled Vets. We had a Recovery Coordinator in Texas but we need to find someone local to help on our behalf. In the meantime, I think we'll be able to pay most of our bills yet this month, although I'm beginning to play the shuffle game and put off who I can. I'm hoping the military friendly bank who we have our car loan through will let us skip the payment for the month as they often do once in the summertime. We are literally draining our savings though and that makes me nervous. I've had a couple of job interviews but haven't heard back yet. I've even signed up with a few different temporary agencies but I know I'm in the same boat as thousands of people when it comes to a job. Hopefully things change soon.
I'm finding it hard to keep plastering a happy smile on my face and not be so negative all of the time. Of course the more that I get depressed, the less support that I feel that I have. I'm so used to being strong and dealing with whatever comes my way and yet my emotions are right below the surface so I find myself crying at the worst possible times. Sometimes I feel like people think that now that he's retired that life is just grand and all of our problems have gone away. It couldn't be farther from the truth. It's safe to say that things are more stressful now than they were when he was still in the military.
I keep trying so hard to keep my head above water but it just feels like I'm drowning.