We’ve often thought the returnees from Afghanistan/Iraq deserve vastly better government support during the MEB/PEB process. These brave men and women went to war without debating the wisdom of the conflict. They willingly did precisely what was asked of them.. They are heroes!! Yet they often return, broken in body and spirit. “thank you for your service” is hardly enough…….
Among our numerous concerns:
- Many returnees are unable to cope with garrison military life. Those with serious traumatic brain injuries will sometimes experiment with “medical marijuana” to alleviate their suffering. Or they will squirrel away medications for a time when they are really hurting; that can violate military regulations against possessing “stale” medicine. In such cases, the establishment will often threaten a court-martial, then “settle” for a UOTHC discharge in lieu of trial. For first termers, the undesirable-type discharge will typically deny VA benefits. Only ‘old timers” who already possess an honorable prior discharge are exempt. There are a couple of exceptions to the rule — a wide-open VA ”insanity ” definition, or even an independent VA determination of the case. But loopholes generally are insufficient to fully help these anguished individuals.
- Often, the dedicated military attorneys lack sufficient medical know-how to meet a real difference. Of course they do their best — but how can a military attorney without medical training – however dedicated — contest the voting PEB doctor? That individual may advocate a minority or outdated position, be hopelessly pro-government, or simply out of his/her depth. We strongly advocate independent review by a board-certified doctor with expertise in both medicine and the VA Schedule of Disabilities. [We have both a world-class doctor and a legal nurse consultant/retired military nurse on staff].
- Families often fail to understand their now-bewildering loved one. Those involved with returnees may not recognize the horrific pressures that come with traumatic brain injury or PTSD. Those who have not been to war may not recognize the specific incidents, triggering veteran concerns. Firecrackers on July 4th or sudden noises of a plane or helicopter? Fear of driving under a viaduct or past a paper bag on the ground? Discomfort at seeing someone in a turban? Concerned over sitting in a restaurant without their back to the wall… These worries are not new; they can be found all the way back to ancient Greece or Rome. Author Anne Perry wrote movingly about such matter in WE SHALL NOT SLEEP, a novel with deep insight from a far different time and place — World War I England and military chaplains in battle.
- The medical boards often seem hopelessly pro-government. Legitimate cases of PTSD are minimized as mere anxiety. To get around Congressional guidance, we have seen veterans first placed on the Temporary Disability Retirement List – then, after time, their confirmed PTSD has magically turned into a mere adjustment disorder, worth severance pay and not a full pension.
Our offices are in Bethesda Maryland, where the “new Walter Reed” is located. We’re in the process of actively expanding services for the wounded warriors. Our prototype, medical booklet is available at the start of this blog.