From the Ranch

From the Ranch

Friday, May 20, 2011

Warriors in Transition

The above image is shared by John Gariano, USMC Recon, I think it is really befitting the upcoming Remembrance Day.

As my husband has returned from war we have discovered that while on the battle field as "Man of Steel," the body of the human being was taking a beating.  He is the kind of Soldier never to complain, first to faithfully perform PT, and work until the work is performed with excellence.  Seems that is hard on your thyroid, your back, and especially your knees.  I was horrified to read an imaging report with the phrase, "bone on bone with bone marrow exposure."

Of course, he first had issues with his left knee back in 2005, but when the VA doctor who did his physical did not make any recommendations, he, being the good Soldier he is, took that to mean, "Soldier on," that's just the way it is, and so he did.

As so many of you know, navigating the system to receive the benefits due  a Soldier is no small or easy task, and it takes sometimes years.  The government has admitted this is unacceptable and is struggling to up-grade an over burdened system.  My husband was sent the following excerpt from The Washington Post, and if you know a Soldier in need of information, especially one who was wounded early on in this conflict, encourage them to contact their VA representative again.  If that doesn't work, give us a shout, we will be glad to pass on our contacts and the latest information as we receive it.  

Memorial Day is coming up soon, my husband will be giving a speech in Sealy, Texas, located on I10 outside of Houston about an hour, and directly under heaven, so if you get a chance, catch his speech.  He never fails to disappoint, as he is a man of few words, and much more action, and when they speak, it is always worth hearing.

Here's the excerpt, it is encouraging, but we must all lobby for our Service Members.

Excerpt from Early Bird News

Washington Post

May 19, 2011
Pg. B4

Benefits For Wounded Vets Still Lag

New system is an improvement, officials tell Congress

By Kimberly Hefling, Associated Press

A new system to help wounded troops get disability compensation more efficiently has instead kept them in the military longer than intended, preventing some from taking job offers and starting college as they wait on average more than a year for a claim to be processed, Congress learned Wednesday.

William Lynn, deputy defense secretary, and W. Scott Gould, deputy secretary at the Department of Veterans Affairs, told the Senate Veterans' Committee that the new program is significantly better than the old system, which they say took on average 540 days to complete.

But they acknowledged improvements are needed. Lynn said it could take a year or two before the average processing time goal - 300 days - is met.

"It has not reached the goal we've set of 300 days so we have further distance to go, but we don't plan to stop there," Lynn said.

The system is called the Integrated Disability Evaluation System. It started as a pilot in 2007, but has since been introduced at nearly 80 military installations. By this fall, about 140 installations are expected to participate, completing the rollout. It works by consolidating the required medical exams and ratings, so that a service member doesn't have to go through the disability claims process first in the military and then through the VA.

Congress pushed the system following the 2007 scandal over poor living conditions at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, which highlighted the complexities of the disabilities claims system. Some wounded veterans were left in dire financial straits as they waited for compensation from the VA, and there frequently were inconsistencies in how troops' injuries were evaluated in the two systems.

The new program's goal is to get warwounded troops and others with disabilities through the system in a little more than nine months on average. But March figures show it only met that goal about 15 percent of the time for active-duty troops, 28 percent for those in the reserves and 40 percent for the National Guard, according to documents obtained by the Senate panel. It is taking nearly 400 days on average for a service member to go through the system.

More than 5,800 troops have completed the new system, while more than 13,700 are currently using it.

Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), chairman of the committee, said she was concerned that troops lingering in the system are falling through the cracks and aren't able to move on quickly. She said 13 troops going through the system have committed suicide or died from drug overdoses.

Sen. Richard Burr (N.C.), the committee's ranking Republican, said he couldn't help but wonder if the old bureaucratic system has just been replaced with another.

A staffing shortage appears to be one of the challenges. The goal is for each case manager to manage 20 troops, but the ratio at some bases is one manager for every 130 service members, documents show.

Gould said that for some service members, remaining in the military longer with access to many of its resources isn't necessarily a bad thing. But, he said, it was important for troops to be discharged at a time that works best for them. Despite improvements still needed in the new system, he said it is absolutely better " than the one we're leaving behind."