Monthly Archives: November 2011

Wounded, Ill, and Injured Compensation and Benefits Handbook

DoD Releases Updated Compensation and Benefits Handbook to Assist Wounded, Ill and Injured Service Members and Their Families


Make The Connection

Make The Connection

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Update time!

While reading my notes I realized it has been a loooooooong time since I gave any real updates, so here goes!

Sean’s application to the National Intrepid Center of Excellence (NICoE) that we worked so hard to submit this spring was rejected in July because he is not an active duty soldier and does not intend to return to active duty status.  Sean was understandably disappointed, but by the time we found out he was not accepted I already had a new seed planted in my brain.

We applied with the Palo Alto VA in California for their Comprehensive Neurological Vision Rehabilitation program for TBI/vision rehab.  In September Sean had the last of the preliminary exams done and his referral was complete.  The facility is undergoing a move, so his intake will likely take place in January.  This program will provide Sean with a thorough two-week evaluation for all health issues, including vision, and up to eight weeks inpatient TBI rehab.

We are incredibly anxious to get this placement under way.  Seven + months have passed since we began the application process with the NICoE.  I realize it is a slow process, but this is getting ridiculous.

As part of his evaluation we are hoping to get an accurate diagnosis to *finally* determine if his vision loss is due to his TBI.  As I’ve mentioned before, it has been mentioned in his record that his vision loss might be due to conversion disorder.  His primary care doctor and polytrauma doctors do not agree.  The civilian neuro-opthalmologist we saw last spring does not agree.  The VA psychiatrist who completed his neuro psychological evaluation in 2010 does not agree.  However, it seems every doctor who has evaluated Sean for the purposes of his Army MEB/PEB has jumped on the conversion disorder diagnosis.  Several of them believe so strongly after reading his records that they don’t take time to do any evaluations or examinations in the office until AFTER they have defined conversion disorder and tried to get us to say we agree. It is still my belief that they are trying to save themselves money by not addressing the vision loss as physical.

Now, if it turns out that he really is suffering from a conversion disorder, then so be it.  We will continue to attend his therapy sessions and address it.  There is no real treatment or cure.  It might get better with therapy and time, it might not. 

The DSM-IV-TR states that conversion symptoms will disappear in most cases within two weeks in those hospitalized.  Follow this link to read more about conversion disorder.  According to Med Line Plus, conversion disorder symptoms usually last for days to weeks and may go away suddenly.  In December, it will have been 3 years since Sean lost his vision.

So. . . we have some fears about how this will affect us.

Since conversion disorder is not a permanent disability, Sean would not be able to get his permanent and total rating from the VA.  He would not qualify for the adaptive housing grant, vehicle grant, or DEA money for the kids for college.  We don’t know if it would affect his affiliation with the BVA, but hopefully not unless his vision comes back.  He would not qualify to participate in activities with USABA.  It could affect my status as a caregiver since the primary reason he needs care is for blindness.  It will affect his MEB.  He will not qualify for a guide dog.  

All of these issues are workable and I try not to think about them much. 

Sean already has a list of “failures” he works from.  He can’t get his purple heart and has to prove he was injured (again).  He has worked for four years to get his MEB/PEB completed–he can’t serve, but he can’t get out, and the doctors don’t belive him.  He was denied TSGLI because he did not lose his vision within two years of his injury (TSGLI is irrelevant if he has conversion disorder).  Without his permanent and total rating from the VA he cannot use the housing grant to make improvements to the house and he does not qualify for a grant to replace his vehicle.  He had to fight over and over to get his tandem bike approved from the VA.  He has had issues using his GI Bill for his children.  He  had to give up his job.  I gave up mine. 

All of these issues come together in Sean’s head to say, “Your injury is not important to us.”  He says, “I was promised these benefits in return for my service, but it’s their job to review and deny me unless I can prove I deserve it, so what’s the point?”

Well, not a bright and sunny post, but this is what is on our minds.  This fall has been very busy, so we are working hard to get back on a schedule and have some down time.  The good news is the bike was finally approved and after some prodding, it was paid for and ordered.  It will be ready for him this spring!


The Love Letter Campaign

 

Please share and help us tell the Love Stories of heroes and families (like us!) who are building lives together with the visible and invisible injuries of war in their midst!

Today, on Veteran’s Day (and ending on Valentine’s Day), Family of a Vet is launching The Love Letter Campaign… a campaign to encourage those who love a hero to write a letter sharing their story (where they started, what they’ve faced together, and why their love endures). It’s not just for spouses, but also for parents, siblings, caregivers, and friends. It’s about telling the “rest” of our stories… stories that continue despite PTSD, TBI, and the challenges of life after combat.

Here’s the main page for the campaign: http://www.familyofavet.com/love_letters.html where you can read more about the project and submit your own letter.  Please share your story with Family of a Vet and share this post to help us spread the word
My letter to Sean is here Being Loved By You.


Veterans Day 2011

The willingness with which our young people are likely to serve in any war, no matter how justified, shall be directly proportional to how they perceive how the veterans of earlier wars were treated and appreciated by their nation.” General and President George Washington, 1789.
Sean was the Master of Ceremonies at this year’s Veterans Day Program in Aberdeen.  He did a fantastic job and I am so proud of him for putting aside his fears and speaking in front of a gymnasium full of people.

Colonel Herman, Sean Johnson, Colonel Holzhauser
 My Favorite Veteran
At the airport the morning Sean left for Iraq August 2005
Receiving Meritorious Service Medal from Captain Vetter
SSG Sean Johnson
Welcome Home May 2007
Veterans in Our Family
Melissa’s Family:
Grandfather Harold Anderson US Army WWII
Uncle Brian Anderson US Air Force
Cousin Jason Anderson USMC Iraq
Grandpa Duane Shoemaker’s cousin George Shoemaker WWII
Step-Grandfather Paul Cameron US Army WWII
Step-Father James Cameron S.D. National Guard
Uncle Truman Henry USMC
Cousin Jason Engel S.D. National Guard Panama
David Small US Navy
Cousin Michael Small USMC Iraq
Sean’s Family:
Grandfather Herbert Ring US Army WWII
Father David Johnson US Air Force
Sean Johnson US Army Reserves Persian Gulf, Hungary, Iraq
Brother Jason Johnson US Army Reserves Iraq
My Grandpa Harold was Eisenhower’s flight
mechanic and traveled with him during WWII

I hope I didn’t miss anyone.  If I did, please send me a message or leave a note in the comments.


In Honor of National Family Caregivers Month

Caregiver stress fact sheet from Womens Health
Caregiver stress is the emotional and physical strain of caregiving. It can take many forms. For     instance, you may feel:

  • Frustrated and angry taking care of someone with dementia who often wanders away or becomes easily upset
  • Guilty because you think that you should be able to provide better care, despite all the other things that you have to do
  • Lonely because all the time you spend caregiving has hurt your social life
  • Exhausted when you go to bed at night  

5 Ways to Bring Yourself Back from Burnout by Martha Beck from O, The Oprah Magazine

I believe my stage is “Hitting the Wall.”  I did learn that needing less activity and more sleep is normal in this stage–no more guilt!

Relationships and PTSD from the Department of Veterans Affairs

Post-Traumatic Stress and a Traumatic Brain Injury strain a marriage from Veterans Voices

So sad and so true.


DAV Veterans Day 2011 Poster

Click here to download a larger version of the poster below.  DAV Veterans Day 2011 Poster

Check out the DAV poster and look for the pictures below.