Saturday, June 28, 2008

Cold Hard Reality

In the past couple of days I've read Molly Ivins' Bill of Wrongs and John Grisham's The Innocent Man, and I think I've had my dose of cold hard reality for a little while. But before I retreat to my hammock to read pulp fantasy novels, I just have to comment on this post at Obsidian Wings, "Unless a Solder Has a Personal Fortune...". The post quotes an Army Times articles to emphasize how little disabled vets are left with after they're discharged; it amuses me that the article gets it so wrong, like while the writer wanted to bring some light to how vets are treated, she couldn't bear to actually admit just how bad it can be. Hence, this quote:

(I)njured service members are discharged on just a fraction of their salary and then forced to wait six to nine months, and sometimes even more than a year, before their full disability payments begin to flow. (...)

Most permanently disabled veterans qualify for payments from Social Security and the military or Veterans Affairs. Those sums can amount to about two-thirds of their active-duty pay. But until those checks show up, most disabled veterans draw a reduced Army paycheck.
It gives the impression that a disabled veteran, upon leaving her military base with discharge papers, receives a reduced paycheck until the VA and/or SSA get their shit together to evaluate that veteran. And once the VA does evaluate that vet, which happens within a year, she can expect to actually get two-thirds of her active duty pay. And this is supposed to be an example of the system failing- which I guess it is. It makes me wonder if the writer even realizes that this horrible scenario of hers is orders of magnitude better than what happens to many, many vets.

Just to be clear: I have never heard of a vet receiving a reduced Army paycheck after discharge. Maybe that happens if you get a certain disability rating from the Army on discharge; when I was discharged, I got a zero rating from the military board although I was only able to work part-time at a civilian desk job at the time, and I was told that the military board often gave soldiers zeros when they deserved much higher disability ratings. The policy was to give soldiers as little as possible from the Army and just let the VA deal with them. So maybe you get a bit of an Army paycheck if you're a combat amputee or something, but your average disabled vet doesn't.

So you get out of the Army with maybe some severance pay, a few thousand dollars or so, and it takes the VA 3-4 months to get you into the system so you can apply for disability benefits from the VA, and then the VA takes a year or so to decide your claim. But the VA also has a policy of minimizing payments for disability, and so its quite likely that if the VA even admits that your medical problems are service-connected, they'll minimize your symptoms, and therefore your payments, as much as possible-or more. (The most recent example of this in the news was the hearing on VA administrators directing their subordinates to find that vets with PTSD had "adjustment disorder" in order to save on compensation costs.)

So you've been out of the military for a year, not working because of your disability, and you get a disability rating of 30% or 40%. So you appeal, but appeals don't have a time limit at the VA- they have no incentive to process your claim, so it gets tossed on a pile, and maybe a couple years later someone looks at it. If you're lucky, that someone will take the facts into account and get you the compensation you need; if you're not lucky, they won't, so you appeal again and the wait starts all over- and you're still living on $512/mo.

This is what really happens, this is how vets are really treated. It destroys people's lives and is an absolute disgrace; it irritates me that all anyone talks about are best case scenarios.

1 comment:

Elizabeth McClung said...

Thank you, I am ALMOST starting to understand, but not really, but starting to understand the system which unfortunately has a large say over the stability of your life.

As an american (surprise there, eh?), I feel a shame that the government speaks one thing and does another (I know...nothing new), but if you can't trust the government to do the right thing. Let me try again, the government desperately needs people in the military right now. It gives a talk about patriotism and whatever but to me, how an organization, including the military treats the most vulnerable, the most in need tells me a lot about them. And that the military or whomever has decided to treat humans who believed in helping the country to the point of dedicating part of thier life itself to it, and then they are treated like a financial statistic instead of being given the benefit of the doubt, and the assistance they need, whether the person helping thinks that is the "military core" way or not.

What I mean is, some senator's aid gets coffee handed to him/her by people who hate them, and have cars waiting and people can't wait to be sympathetic about an incident that made them tramatized. What is different?

Sorry, I am not explaining myself well today and I hope I have not offended. When I find the words maybe I will try again.