color: SOME SOLDIER'S MOM: March 2009

Friday, March 27, 2009

Veterans: Can't Catch A Break

Thanks to some mighty good and generous friends from Fort Benning who paid his expenses, Noah is currently away on his first vacation since he was wounded in 2005 and was medically discharged (we won't count his mid-Iraq tour R&R and his 30-day convalescent leave after he was wounded) and hasn't seen his mail in the past 3 days. Really. This poor kid just can't catch a break.

As this recent post illustrates, he has been busting his a$$ since the day he left the Army. He arrived here in AZ on a Friday and began his classes in Fire Science on Monday. He certified as an EMT within 6 months of leaving the service, has completed the basic and advanced Wildfire Academy, completed the seriously rigorous Firefighter Academy, as well as classes in fire codes, inspections, hazardous materials, fire management, business management, and many others. He currently has a 3.85 GPA. He tried to find a job (any job) to supplement his VA disability allowance, but what few jobs were/are available, could not (or would not) accommodate his class schedule -- which is inflexible because the classes in his degree program are offered progressively, i.e., one class is offered one semester and the follow-on class offered the next, then the next. If you opt not to take a class this semester, it's not offered again for 2 or 3 semesters AND you're then ineligible for the follow-on class. Since this degree program is not only geared to those seeking a first-time career, but also to those already working as firefighters and to those working in some other field but wanting to change careers, many of the classes are late afternoon/night classes (longer classes-- fewer days) or every weekend for say 10 weekends.

For the past 18 months, Noah has attended school full time, has almost full time hours as a student intern at the Veterans' Center, PLUS he is a single Dad with custody of his fifteen-month old son. He also attends regular counseling sessions. He has a lot on his plate for a 23 year old. Hell, for a man of any age!

So here's what has come in the mail since he left to relax a few days ago:

Even though Noah has had his son living with him for almost a year, it was considered "informal" because there was no court decree. Prior to his divorce being final, he and his (ex-)wife received a subsidy from the state for child care which enabled her to work full time and Noah to attend school and work. When custody was formally granted to Noah, he went to the Department of Economic Security and asked that the subsidy paper work be put in his name and he gave them a copy of his divorce decree -- only to learn that the State of AZ considered that a whole new application for a subsidy which, because of the budget deficit in this state, are frozen, and his "new" application WAS DENIED. There was no arguing with these people that nothing had changed except the formality of the baby's custody. If Noah wants to keep his son in the licensed child care center, it will cost Noah an additional $400-$500 per month!!

Next, he applied for health insurance through the State because he has no real income and (as I wrote here) he has no health coverage (the VA only covers his service-connected conditions):
Veterans of the current conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan who are medically unable to continue in the service but receive less than a 10% disability from their service branch, receive no medical insurance once they separate. For those with service-connected disability ratings of 10 or 20% (ratings are 0% or greater in 10% increments), they receive UP TO 12 months of medical insurance (Tricare) for themselves and their families after separation; for 10% and 20% ratings it is typically 6 months but can be 9 or 12 months depending on the medical condition. If a service member receives a disability rating of 30% or greater from the service branch (a medical retirement), medical insurance for themselves and their families continue at no cost to them FOR LIFE.

Remember: 90% of Soldiers, 83% of Marines, 73% of Airmen and 64% of Sailors who were injured, wounded or became chronically ill while in the service received a disability rating of 20% or less. Unless they were covered by an employer or can afford other insurance within say 6-9 months after their discharge, they and their families have no health insurance coverage.

Although the case worker told Noah that they do not count disability allowances as "income" for purposes of the "how poor are you?" test, they DID, in fact, count his VA disability and -- you guessed it -- his application for health insurance WAS DENIED. (He has already been turned down by other private insurers because he has too many combat-connected injuries/conditions -- and he can't afford those premiums any way!)

Next, Noah had applied through USAA (I'm not even linking them!!) for some life insurance because, well, he is a responsible parent (and a great Dad, I might add), and he wanted to be sure that his son would be provided for if anything were to happen to Noah. Now, USAA is a membership association and the single requirement for membership is that you (or a close family member) are or have been a member of the Armed Forces of the United States of America -- active, Guard, Reserve. Now my DH has been a member since the 60's and our children have been members since they got driver's licenses -- before any of the sons even entered the services. Today he received a letter saying that his application for life insurance WAS DENIED BASED ON HIS HISTORY OF (symptoms associated with) PTSD ??

WHAT THE HELL??!! This country has sent more than 1.7 million men and women to war over the past 8 years and as many as 20% of these men and women will suffer symptoms of post-traumatic stress and many of those will develop post-traumatic stress disorder/syndrome. This is a business organization who states its mission is "to facilitate the financial security of its members, associates, and their families through provision of a full range of... products and services;" and "to be the provider of choice for the military community"??? Well, USAA, in this regard you are doing a piss poor job of meeting those needs. Will this be just one more reason NOT to seek treatment for the invisible wounds of war?? I'm trying to figure out how they justify this -- if they're wary of say, suicide, don't most insurance policies limit benefits within 2 years (or some period) or say that benefits won't be paid in the event of suicide??

Golly gee!! I can't wait to see what comes in the mail for him tomorrow!! Seriously, I can't imagine Noah coming home to these things... He just can't seem to catch a break. And I'd venture to say he's not the only young OIF/OEF veteran facing such obstacles. (See HERE, for example.)

Doesn't all this just suck?? As a parent, I am frustrated and angry beyond measure! Already veterans and veterans organizations have had to rant and rail against the new administration to turn them from their proposal of having combat-wounded veterans pay for their care with their own private insurance (if & when they have it). I ask -- as I have asked before -- IS THIS HOW WE TREAT OUR WOUNDED?? IS THIS HOW WE TREAT OUR VETERANS??? Why would any parent now consider encouraging their child to enlist if it means that they will have to fight and claw for any and every benefit they have EARNED or have to fight against discrimination and reprisal for having served their country and been wounded in that endeavor?? Really. Why would anyone volunteer for that??

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Thursday, March 19, 2009

Medical School Class of 2009 -- Congratulations!!!

A little background. Medical school is four years. Four years of a combination of classrooms and practicals, exams and hospital and specialty rotations. A little after your 3rd year, you hope you have selected the areas of medicine that interest you (and de-selected those that you have no interest whatsoever in doing for the rest of your adult life.)

At this point, you begin researching and searching to do elective rotations and interviews at hospitals and in cities where you wish to work and live, respectively. Then you go meet the doctors and, in a single interview, you attempt to impress these jaded old souls that you are, in fact, the best candidate they have ever met and that they would be foolhardy and silly to select any one of the other 100 or so medical students vying for the slots that program in your specialty has open.

After you have concluded your interviews, you rank the places you wish for -- in order -- 1-5 (or fewer than five if you are supremely confident that you are that good...) Then those programs list their choices in order 1-5 -- both the medical school 4th years and the hospitals each hoping to MATCH somewhere on the two lists.

Then the third week of March every year, each of the medical schools has their "Match Day" ceremony. Some do dinners, some assemblies... On match day, the students know ONLY that they have matched somewhere* -- but (for the most past) they have no details. Then they are handed an envelope from the designated medical school official and their future (at least the next 3-4 years) is revealed.

For 4th year medical students and for their families and loved ones, it is a nervewracking time!!!

So the medical student daughter MATCHED HER NO. 1 CHOICE !!! So WHHHOOOOHHHOOOO punch the sky, jump for joy, and shriek in happiness (very soon-to-be) DR. L!! Dermatology in Virginia!!!

And our nephew matched his first choice as well!! So WHHHOOOOHHHOOOO punch the sky, jump for joy, and shriek in happiness (very soon-to-be) DR. M!! (His father graduated from the same school and will have the very emotional honor of "hooding" his son at graduation... it makes my eyes well up just thinking about it!)

And while the daughter's school didn't release the video, HERE is the video of our nephew's Match Day readings (fast forward through the talking heads for the first 10 minutes.) My nephew is in the next 6 minutes... (for privacy, I'll not say which one he is)... it is an interesting hour. Some are totally surprised... some are clearly disappointed... many are just non-committal. I was so proud of the military members (you will know by the military facilities with which they matched!)

But a great day of celebration (and relief!) was had in many households across America!!

So congratulations to all the very soon to be doctors of America!!


* While most students do match at least one of their choices, some don't... but some hospitals don't match with their choices either and those unmatched people/programs get a last chance just days before the Match Day to see if they can "match" somewhere.

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Friday, March 13, 2009

Two Alligators

Two Alligators were sitting at the side of the swamp near the lake. The smaller one turned to the bigger one and said, 'I can't understand how you can be so much bigger than me. We're the same age; we were the same size as kids. I just don't get it.'

'Well,' said the big Gator, 'what have you been eating?'

'Politicians, same as you,' replied the small Gator.

'Hmm. Well, where do you catch them?'

'Down the other side of the swamp near the parking lot by the Capitol.'

'Same here. Hmm. How do you catch them?'

'Well, I crawl up under one of their Lexus cars and wait for one to unlock the car door. Then I jump out, grab them by the leg, shake the shit out of 'them and eat 'em!'

'Ah!' says the big Aligator, 'I think I see your problem. You're not getting any real nourishment. See, by the time you finish shaking the sh*t out of a Politician, there's nothing left but a butthole and a briefcase.'

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Tuesday, March 10, 2009

A New Brotherhood of Heroes

Some men are drawn to service. Noah has joined the brotherhood of those who fight fires. This past Sunday he graduated from the grueling Fire Academy for our county. He is officially a Reserve Firefighter -- called to help fight large fires and to fill shifts at any of the 20+ fire stations locally. Now he's seeking a full time firefighter position.... the local fire departments hire from the Reserve list (fingers & toes crossed!) but he'll consider other locations...

Receiving his certification (on the left)

Receiving his badge from the Chief (in the middle)

Celebrating with Tom

Another step into the future. Proud just doesn't cover it.

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