Stuck in the Middle With You

Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right, here I am stuck in the middle with you.

We should be nearing the end of the medical evaluation board (MEB) process, emphasis on the word should.  Of course, things are not going according to plan. 

I’m going to post the edited and re-edited version of this one as I just read what I wrote, and obviously I was not a happy girl. 

Long story short, when we went for Sean’s med board appointments in May Dr. M requested a neuro psychological evaluation as the previous one was outdated.  We told him we were trying to have appointments done close to home, so he told us exactly what the test needed to include.  We travelled to the Black Hills VA in Sturgis, SD to have that testing done in April, and Dr. M was given the results of that test within a week. 

In June, we inquired about the NARSUM (narrative summary) which should have been completed by the doctors so we could review and Sean’s case could go forward to the next level and he could complete his medical retirement.  There were still no dictation notes from Dr. M.  We worked with our PEBLO who despite multiple attempts did not get notes from Dr. M.  In fact, in July during a meeting to discuss the lack of progress, Dr. M asked for a copy of Sean’s testing report–the one he was given in April.  Another two weeks passed and we asked Eric Bursch of Congresswoman Herseth Sandlin’s office to make some inquiries.  Following this, we were contacted by the PEBLO and told we would need to return to post and have the testing repeated as Dr. M said the testing was inadequate because it was done at a VA facility and would not be acceptable for the MEB/PEB.  What??  Apparently, only the military can administer the tests properly?  You might have mentioned this in March, or April, or anytime before now. 

We were given three dates, none of them convenient, and told to make it work. I was told by one individual that the MEB should be our priority. . . we jumped through numerous hoops in April and May and did everything that was asked of us.  We know it’s a priority.  I think it should be a priority with the doctors as well.

Then we were told that funding is short, so Sean might have to travel with someone from his unit, or I might have to drive, or they might not be able to pay for the trip. 

How is it that the Army could send my husband anywhere they want at a moment’s notice, put him in harm’s way, and will fund his mission 100%, but when he comes back disabled and suffering from multiple afflictions, well, you’re on your own.  When they want him to travel for an appointment–an appointment that should not be necessary but for doctor’s oversight–there might not money available?

Thanks to Eric Bursch and the support of Representative  Herseth Sandlin’s office, the funding issues were resolved rather quickly.  Funny thing, the people I was talking to regarding travel and orders were MUCH nicer to me after they had spoken to him.  Sad, really. 

I do not understand why the VA and DoD systems cannot work together. Why is it not possible for a test administered by a medical professional at the VA not good enough for the Army and vice versa?

I do not understand why the VA and the DoD want Sean to prove and reprove his injuries.  They are withholding benefits because they don’t know if he might improve?  It’s been four years!  How about a system that supports and compensates without degrading and frustrating servicemembers who put their lives on the line?  How about “taking care of our own?”

As Congressman Phil Roe said at the hearing, “We spend $1 million per year to keep you in combat, to keep you in harms way, we get you home, we don’t have that same commitment to you.”  Exactly!

Completing the med board affects Sean’s Post 9-11 GI Bill, which he transferred to Erin and therefore affects our payments to her college.  Depending on his final rating from the physical evaluation board (PEB), there will be a monthly retirement income from the Army, and health insurance benefit.

We are also waiting for the VA to make a compensation and pension rating that would award him for permanent and total disabilty.  This would allow each of the kids to draw a monthly payment for college under the Survivors’ and Dependents’ Educational Assistance Program (DEA).  With 2 kids currently in college and the third headed there in two years, this is a HUGE benefit.  Sean may also qualify for grants to improve the house and make it more accessible for him, and to replace our vehicle since we travel so much for appointments. 
Why not process and pay based on the actual physical evidence, and if the condition changes, make modifications? Believe me, Sean would be thrilled if his vision came back, and his mind came back, and his pain went away, and he could return to his former life. He would have no problem amending his benefits if his life turned around as they seem to be “waiting to see.”

Did I say I’d make this short?  We will be flying out Tuesday morning and returning Thursday afternoon.  Sean will repeat the testing as asked, and we have been assured that Dr. M will be required to complete his dictation ASAP.  Sean’s case will move forward to the PEB quickly.  For their sake, I hope so, because we’ve learned that a few phone calls is all it takes to turn things around. . . . and my dialing finger is ready!

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