Sunday, April 30, 2006
On being a Disabled American Veteran
Some twenty-odd years ago, I joined the Navy to see the world and get a college education. Mostly, I got to see a lot of Florida. But the point here is that during my service to my country, I injured my back on the job, which screwed up any plan of making the Navy a career. The good thing to come out of this was that college education now came free as part of my voc-rehab. The bad part would be I would find out how much the VA discriminated against women for the longest.
I was told upon discharge from the Navy that I should go directly to the Veteran's Affairs office and apply for that system. I did just that, getting an appointment for a C&P exam. I was also told that I wouldn't have to worry, the VA would up my disability rating, they always do.
Nothing could have been further from the truth. I went in for the evaluation, and the doctor there asked me questions such as "Are you married?" "Who does the laundry?" "Who does the shopping?" "Who does the housecleaning?" It appeared that if I was married, I had a husband TO TAKE CARE OF ME and therefore didn't need any compensation for an injury that usually gave a man a 100% rating. They "gave" me a 10% rating, patted me on the head and sent me on my way.
I did get into the VA hospital system; they could not deny me that because it was a service connected disablility. Twenty years ago, the way that the doctors handled someone who complained of pain was to give them enough drugs to make them a zombie, then they wouldn't squawk. I was given enough stuff to make me stupid, and I found I had little choice other than bear the pain of everyday living or take the drugs and forget about everything else. I chose not to take the drugs. I like to be able to find my ample backside with both hands.
After several years of no monthly compensation because I had drawn severance from the Navy, I found the Disabled American Veterans post, and joined. One of the local chapter members had been a National Service Officer at one point, and he kindly showed me the ropes of reapplying for increased benefits. (Even though it was painfully obvious that the old boys' club that was the DAV would rather have me sitting out with "the little women" of the Auxillary.)
My benefits increased to 40% with no problem, and the doctor who interviewed me this time was appalled to hear what the first doctor had said. But not appalled enough to raise my benefits above the 50% mark, which makes a huge difference in your standing in the VA pecking order.
A couple of years later, I went through the evaluation again, this time pulling 60%. I would have been very happy had I not known that one of the fellow vets from my post had just been awarded 100% for the very same injury I have. One the way home from the evals, he was bragging about the new boat he had just gotten, and how he really had put one over on the VA finally. I was fairly steamed.
The point of telling all this, I suppose, is to point out how the odds can get stacked against a person who is trying to get benefits. Just being female kept me from getting the same as someone else.
Today I drive a car with disabled plates bordered by a "DAV Life Member" frame. I still get countless dirty looks when I get out of my car, and people assume nothing is wrong because I don't use a chair. (Or they assume that my husband is the disabled vet. Funny now, because I don't have a husband any more.) They have no idea what kind of pain I deal with when I go shop for necessities. If I didn't have the plates, I would avoid places with large parking lots, because it would be all I could do to get into the store, much less spend a great deal of time shopping. As it is, I am dragging at the end of a grocery shopping trip. I hate it. But I am ABLE to deal with it because I did get the plates. (P.S. I never park in the "van" spaces. That just wouldn't be right.)
All is not bad, however. I would like to say that overall, the care I have received from the VA is very good. It's much better now that I have a 60% rating that makes me eligible for prescriptions without copay. Services for women veterans are also much more available. But I do see a lot of things evaporating as the government pulls money away from the VA healthcare system to pay for other budget shortfalls. That's no way to treat those who gave of themselves in service to the nation.
Thank you for reading.
Posted by Darediva at 11:20 PM