I’ve imagined the following exchange hundreds of times. It sounds so stupid, but it must be the way things really work in America.
Veterans Administration Employee: “Hello, I’m Bob Hammelflicker. How can I help you today?”
Veteran: “I’m Casey Williams, and I could really use a new leg.”
Bob: “What’s wrong with your current leg?”
Casey: “There isn’t anything wrong with my right leg, but my left leg is missing below my knee.”
Bob: “I didn’t notice you were missing a leg when you walked into the office.”
Casey: “It was more of a severe limp, actually. The Army gave me a prosthetic leg before I was discharged, but it has never fit right and is always painful. I’ve got a civilian job where I have to walk a great deal and this leg isn’t working out. I need a new one.”
Bob: “So your leg isn’t actually missing, is it?”
Bob: “Well, Mr. Casey, you have a leg don’t you. You say it is prosthetic, and I have no reason to doubt that, so it isn’t really missing.”
Casey: “Doubt me! What the fuck, Bob? I lost my original left leg when an IED blew up the Humvee I was driving. I was in the Army for 9 years. I had six deployments into combat. I have two Purple Hearts, the second one is for losing my left leg.”
Bob: “Calm down, Mr. Williams. First we have to get proof that you were even in the Army.”
Casey: “Proof, proof…what do you think, I’m just some one-legged bum that thought I’d go see if I could scam a new leg off of the VA?”
Bob: “No, but we have to make sure you are eligible for a leg before we can help you with the application for a new leg.”
Casey: “Eligible? Eligible…I had two perfectly good legs the day I was sworn in. I had two perfectly good legs for most of the nine years I was in the Army. I was mustered out of the Army with one perfectly good leg and a fake leg. Two legs when I came in and one leg when I came out. Isn’t that eligible?”
Bob: “On the surface, yes, it sounds like you are eligible, but the VA has a process, and we have to stick to the process.”
Bob: “Yes, a process. Assuming you were in the Army and that your leg was removed in a traffic accident…”
Casey: “Traffic accident? My leg was blown into a bloody mist by an IED.”
Bob: “That’s one of the things we will have to determine…”
Casey: “Ask the fucking Army, Bob. They must have written this all down somewhere.”
Bob: “That’s one of things you will need to provide before we can get you examined by VA doctors.”
Casey: “I have to provide proof? I already provided a leg, isn’t that enough? And why in the holy hell does a VA doctor have to see me?”
Bob: “We have to determine the extent of your injury.”
(Casey fumbles with something below the desk top. He lifts a prosthetic leg above his head and slams it on the desk in front of Bob.)
Casey: “There you go, Bob, that’s the extent of my injury.”
(Bob pushes a button on his phone and leans in close to the phone.)
Bob: “Security, please send two officers to my office immediately: we’ve got another one.”
We owe these men and women. We owe all the people that served in peace and in war. There is no excuse for making these people beg for their benefits.
I know a lawyer that spends most of his time fighting with the United States government to get veterans what they were promised they could have when they signed up. That is wrong.
If we can’t take care of our veterans, we are not a civilized nation. They bet their lives on us, and we make them dance like puppets to get their due.
I have ranted about this before. I will rant about this again. We were complicit in fucking up these people’s lives, and we better be complicit in getting them what they were promised.
Currently, waits to be deemed eligible for VA benefits can be measured in years. YEARS!
Someone with PTSD waiting years to find out they can get help is a crime. Telling someone with PTSD that their request for help has been rejected because of some stupid technicality is a mortal sin.
If the United States of America doesn’t have the will to take care of the men and women that have given their bodies for potential sacrifice, we haven’t the will to do anything anymore.
I have a part-time job two nights a week. One of the “kids” I work with was sworn into a Marine Corps delayed entry enlistment on Wednesday. I hope he has the most uneventful, boring career any Marine ever had. I feel that way because I don’t want him to have to depend on us they way we may have to depend on him.