Frustrations Galore; my experience with the VA

For the last 20+ years I have been helping my husband with getting his disability claim and then pushing him to go back to school through the Vocational Rehab program.

I started working on this for him, mostly because he flat out refused to deal with it and still doesn’t like dealing with it. So we started with getting the Form 21-0845 Auth to Disclose Personal Info so that I could speak on behalf of my husband.

My husband was in the Army and for a time was stationed in South Korea on the DMZ. One night on patrol he was shot in 3 places, his left knee, his left hip and left shoulder. The bullet in the shoulder is still fused to his shoulder blade.

In the beginning or our marriage, the biggest issue was his left knee.  He ended up having to go in for surgery the year after we were married for an arthroscopy. At this time the discussions started about applying for disability through the VA. My husband flat out refused. Said he didn’t want to have to deal with them.

I let it go for a while but kept noticing that even with the surgery he was still having problems with his knee and finally, I printed out the forms and filled them out for him, made him sign them and sent them in.

Then we waited…

…and waited…

…and waited some more…

…and finally got a call to set up an appointment with a VA Hospital in Portland. So, we took time off work to drive up there. Went through the evaluation process and then, guess what…

…we waited some more.

Finally, the VA gave a determination of 20% disability.

Shortly after the events of 9/11/2001, my husband was ordered to the VA clinic for a re-evaluation for the possibility of being called back to the Army. We reported to the appointment where the doctor looked at his medical records and looked at his knee and told him that the only place he was going was onto another operating table.

We waited again, to see when this surgery would happen and it never did.

In 2003, we were struggling financially as the company he worked for was sold and he was laid off. He was having a difficult time finding a job. My husband has always wanted to be a drafter, talked about going to competitions when he was in high school for VICA. So, once again I printed the paperwork, filled it out, made him sign it and he went back to college, earned his Associates Degree in Drafting while working part time as a custodian for our daughter’s private school.

We put in a couple more times for different issues he was having with his back and the response we got back was there was no medical history of any injuries to his back while in the Army, while he clearly remembers falling out of a helicopter and injuring his back.

After a while, he discovered the reason that his medical records are missing and they aren’t able to find them. *SIGH*

We move on through life, he works for a few private drafting companies, only to get laid off every few years. After the last one in 2013, he found and applied for his dream job; working on a dam project. In January of 2014, he started work for the Bureau of Reclamation and here we are.

As he has aged over the last 5 years or so, his pain has become worse and worse, he went in a few years ago for another VA mandated evaluation and they upped his disability to 40%, yet he can barely move or walk without pain and on a regular basis his knee will give out and he will fall and when this happens it is generally on stairs.

He does now have the VA Veteran’s Choice, now the Mission Act for those who live in rural areas and don’t have access to a nearby VA hospital or clinic.

While the VA has gotten better over the last several years, it still has its major issues. All of a sudden after nearly 20 years of being able to speak for my husband the Form 21-0845 Auth to Disclose Personal Info is no longer in the system. We fill out another one only to find that 6 months have gone by and it is once again no longer in the system. They are supposed to be good for 5 years.

In June of last year, he was referred to a Neurologist to do an EEG test for Carpal Tunnel. Kept calling the VA again and again, and had to go through 4 referrals to find him a Neurologist. We finally have an appointment next month… It took almost an entire year to get in to see a neurologist. It took 6 months to get him into pain management.

He’s had one steroid injection directly into his cervical spine for neck pain. Then last week he had a test of a nerve block for his shoulders. (If you are squeamish, you might not want to read this next part). The doctor took some very long needles inserting them into his back finding a groove to go underneath his shoulder blades. (Makes me shudder to think how much that hurt). This was done without sedation and he was able to take that pain.

He had 4-5 hours free of pain in his shoulders that day. Being that we drive 1.5 hours to get to the doctor and do our shopping while in the city, he was able to work those muscles and joints as the doctor ordered. On the way home after the nerve block was wearing off, his pinky and ring fingers began to become numb and then he began losing feeling in the rest of his hands temporarily, which was a common side effect of the test.

What we weren’t, but should have been expecting was the severity of the pain he was in after we got home that night. Our 19 year old son came out to give him a hug and just barely touched him. I will tell you that I had my eyes opened at that moment as to how much pain he’s been suffering through over the last several years. Just that slight touch had him nearly in tears. I firmly believe if he had been standing up he would have fallen to the ground.

You know that feeling of wanting to help make someone feel better but there is absolutely nothing you can do. I’ve been feeling that feeling for years, but never as much as I have in the last few days.

Seeing how well the nerve block works, we are now hoping that he will be eligible to have the Nerve Stimulation inserted to help automatically block the pain. First, we are going to have to once again talk to the VA to make sure they are willing to pay for the procedure.

Wish us luck!

2 thoughts on “Frustrations Galore; my experience with the VA

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