If this story makes you mad about the VA . . .

If this story makes you mad about the VA . . . contact your Representatives in Congress and the Senate, or the Veteran's Administration and let them know how you feel about the way the VA treats our vets. You can reference my blog or or the stories of many other vet's and their treatment by the VA available on the web.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Time for an update . . .

Well, it's been 2 1/2 months and everything continues to go well with the new hip.  I've walked Pilot Butte a couple times and I can do just about anything I want to . . . except jog, and I haven't tried to run yet.

As for my appeal, I still haven't heard anything back from the DRO, but John from Congressman Waldon's office, put a bug in their ear.  I also contacted the VA and was added to the cancellation list, for an expedited hearing.  They're suppose to be contacting me with a date and time, for an "informal" telephone hearing, in the up-coming months.  I requested the phone hearing, as I still don't have permission to travel from Doc, and Stu doesn't want to drive to Portland either.

I was informed that the current backlog for DRO hearings was well over a year and to be frank, I'm almost to 25 years in the fight now.  It's time for the VA to admit they screwed up not once, but 3 times, in denying my claim.  It's truely hard to believe they ignore the Army Doctors findings and rule that it isn't possible that Arctic Infantry, Light Infantry, Air Assault, etc., could irritate a persons hips and knees . . . let alone the 2 medical drops from Airborne because of my knees.

Next post will be when I hear a date and time for my hearing.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Okay, surgery is done and I'm home!

Everything went well and I haven't had any painkillers since surgery.  Progress has gone well and I got to leave the hospital early.  Already driving and been into the shop to sit at my bench and relax for a few minutes with eating a frozen yogurt.  Drove home and climbed the stairs to my computer, took a nap laying on my stomach, back up and at the computer again.

More later!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Surgery in the morning and what caused the VA to get it done!

Tomorrow morning, July 20th, I check-in at ST Charles for hip replacement at 0545.  My Doc will be DR Tony Hinz of the New England Patriots fame and he'll be assisted by CPT (P) Mike Wulf, (3 weeks back from Iraq).  YUP!  The VA is paying for the hip replacement in Bend, instead of the Portland VA Hospital.

Why Bend and not the VA Hospital . . . well, it seems that back in 2002, the Portland VA Hospital got caught for having a 3 year + waiting list for hips and knees.  Congress called them on the carpet for the long waits back then, and they had to jump and correct the problem.  Well, when I went on the list for hip replacement May 20, 2009, they told me it would be 6 months (the lying bastards).  May 20th of this year, they still had no idea when it would be.  Then, in June I get a call that the wait list was over 3 years for hips and knees again, and that the Portland VA Hospital found some funds to contract out hip and knee surgeries at a number of hospitals around the state of Oregon.  Lucky for me, when they chose Bend, OR, my name came up at the top of the list.  I'm not complaining mind you . . . I'm happy to be getting it done!

On a side note, Stu should be back around the 22nd, so we'll be pushing for the DRO hearing shortly after I get out of the hospital.  Doc says I'll be in the hospital for 3-5 days and out of work for several weeks.  I've got a bet with the boss, that I'll be back to work after 1 week.  Doc and I are working on an agreement that would allow me to write my own PT again and if progress is good, I may still win the bet.  We're also working out a deal that would get me out of the hospital in 2-3 days . . . (last hip replacement saw me home the second day after surgery).

Took my last Oxycodone around 1530 today, cold turkey time is here.  I should be in a fair amount of pain by morning, but I'm scheduled for surgery at 0730 and then I should only have a slight irritation when I wake up . . . at least that was my experience the last time.  Will update from the hospital bed later.  (Yeah guys, I'll have my laptop with to continue to hound some of ya'!)

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Hip replacement is about to happen!!!

I received a call from the Portland VA just now . . . they have received additional funding to outsource some of the joint replacements on the list.  (I also found out the list is now a 3 year wait . . . )  Anyway, my name came up for St. Charles and I should have a surgery date by next Friday, 18 June.  That will take care of the replacement of the right hip and hopefully buy me a little time before I have to replace the right knee.

The best part of it, is that I hopefully will be able to get off the Oxyccodone!!!  The surgery will be at St. Charles and I'll be able to rehab at home.  This call just made a beautiful June day a beautiful GREAT June day!

I will post my surgery date when I get it.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

One year after hitting the hip replacement list

Well, it has been a year since I went on the hip replacement list with the VA Hospital in Portland and still nothing.  Still no date scheduled and that means it will be 1 1/2 years at the soonest.  I'm still on the Oxycodone and they've even quit the monthly blood tests to see how much damage the pain killers are inflicting on my kidneys and liver. The edema continues to worsen in my lower legs and I've gotten to the point of sleeping with my legs elevated to help reduce the swelling.  What more can I say, the VA is definitely going the way of delay, deny, delay, and hope the Vet dies.

Stu will be back from Afghanistan in July and then we'll try to speed up the DRO hearing.  I'll just have to wait and see what happens.  Looks like nothing is going in my favor and it's obvious that the VA doesn't give a damn about Vets.  Not much else to report at this time.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Update to the fight!

Well, I've sent in my disagreement with the findings of the December 2008 denial and requested a DRO hearing.   A couple weeks ago, I received a letter stating that the VA had gotten my letter and that my case has been assigned to a DRO.  Haven't heard anything since.

On the meds side, Doc is keeping me on Oxycodone.  My last tests showed high liver enzymes, so that isn't good.  Doc stated she was going to continue bugging the Portland VA Hospital as to when I would be scheduled to have hip replacement.  Seems they aren't talking to Doc either.

The DRO can end this fight at anytime . . . or schedule a hearing.  (I've been told that hearings are scheduled 9 months out.)   We'll have to wait to see if the DRO throws out the previous decisions or decides to take it to the hearing.  

Will post as things change.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

War on the VA has been declared and plans are coming together!

The initial plan of attack started with this blog.  Yup! we're going public.

After watching CBS: 60 Minutes report titled "Veteran's Benefits - Frustration", I contacted 60 Minutes with my story.  I also contacted another reporter about a possible "human interest" story, about my fight with the VA.  Today, I received an  e-mail from the reporter, stating he was going to check my story out and do a little poking around . . . we'll have to wait to see where this goes.  I also contacted an Ol' friend in Washington, D.C. and asked him to command the second prong in the attack.  He's heading up a nice task force, but I'm not at liberty to disclose who he is and what he's doing at this time.  He briefed me last night and I will say that he has my deep heartfelt thanks!

I've got a couple other things in mind . . . and I'm working on them as time permits.  We lost one of our techs at work and I went to 6 day work weeks last week.

If anyone knows of a couple of Orthopedic surgeons, willing to look at my medical papers and provide a letter, stating their professional opinion of whether my military duties could "more likely than not" aggravated my per-existing condition, please let me know.  I'm trying to find my contact info with a possibility here in Bend.  (NOTE:  Some SO's recommend a "Nexxus Letter" at this point.  There are two problems, 1st is finding an Orthopedic Surgeon, with the knowledge of  what an Arctic Infantryman does and goes through, and is willing to review your records and then provide the letter.  The 2nd is paying for the Doctor to review the 2" think pile of records.  This is on the Vet.)

Will provide more updates as I get them and can.

Friday, January 1, 2010

The current battle heats up

The VA clinic here in Bend is pretty good to deal with.  YUP, it's time to replace the right hip.  The clinic puts me on NSAIDs to help and when that no longer takes the edge off the pain, they put me on Vicodin.  On May 20th, 2009, I got checked out by DR. Vigland at the VA Hospital in Portland.  After a large number of x-rays on my hips and knees, I'm added to the hip replacement list at the Portland Hospital.  But, because I'm not listed as "service connected", my name goes to the bottom of the list.  (As of today, January 1, 2010, they still have no projected surgery date.)

While this was going on, I was referred to a VVA Service Officer and start the process of challenging the previous VA denials.  The first problem was getting copies of all my medical records.  The requests were submitted to the San Diego Regional, San Diego Veterans Hospital, Fargo Regional, Fargo Veterans Hospital, Portland Regional, and Portland Veterans Hospital.  (By law, they each have 20 days to respond of whether they will support the request or not.)  The Portland Veteran's Hospital ships out their files within a week.  Five months later and several calls by my SO have gotten us nowhere.  

At this point, I contact my Congressman and both Senators.  Congressman Walden responds within 48 hours, giving me a point of contact named John.  Within 24 hours of getting John's contact information, he's got the ball and he's on the job.  On a Wed., I'm in my SO's office when he calls the Fargo Regional Office to try to get my records.  They denied having the records and made a number of excuses that both my SO and I know are BS.  The following Monday, I get a call from John, telling me that I need to fax the request to the Fargo Regional Office and to tell them that Congressman Walden's office had verified that my records were in deed there.  The fax goes out immediately and 10 business days later, I recieve a large 2.25" thick envelope, with everything in it.  Copies of all my Active Military records, civilian records, Boeing medical records, and VA records are in the package.

A big THANK YOU to John and Congressman Walden.

Four weeks later, I get a letter from Senator Wyden's office and I contact the point of contact in the letter.  Still haven't heard anything more from him or my other Senator.  Obviously, my Senator's don't give a s#$% about me or Veterans.

We finally get all the paperwork together and file the claim . . . and another denial.  Funniest part was the opening statement.  "You are a Peacetime Era Veteran" . . . WTH?!?  I go down in the field, overseas, during war time training, while my radio's are being jammed by the Soviets . . . and that's the way the VA looks at it???  (NOTE:  This is the third time that the VA has failed to recognize the aggravation of the "pre-existing" condition, that is clearly documented in my military records, which they have had, all three times!  There's a problem here . . . how to solve it, is the answer.)

I've got several things in the works right now.  I've contacted my SO, who's currently over in Afghanistan to let him know that he was correct in his prediction and that we'll need to file for a hearing when he gets back in a couple months.  And I've got a couple other things in the works that I can't talk about yet.  I'll post as these come to bear or I hear back from the VA.
It seems that the fact that I went down in the field, while on Active Duty, means nothing to the VA.  But, they seem to have no problem giving me drugs to shorten my life and make it as miserable as possible.  I'm currently on 50mg of Indomethacin and 2,000mg of Vicodin  a day.  These drugs tend to destroy the kidney's and the liver, especially at the doses I'm on.  It's also getting to the point that these drug doses are starting to fail at taking the edge off.
More as it happens!

The final battle with the VA begins in Oregon . . .

First move was to Klamath Falls, OR.  While there, I worked for Adobe as a tech for Photoshop and Illustrator, then to People PC as a Team Leader in Customer Support, and finally with Intel, as one of the three 24x7 International Team Team Leaders.  When I could no longer deal with the management, I moved on to work at Staples, as a computer tech.

I stayed there until my oldest sister had a heart attack and my oldest Bro was having medical problems.  So, I left Staples and moved to Bend, OR.  I worked at Staples here for a while and then left on friendly terms.  After working for another company for a summer, I had to get off my feet.

Four years ago, I started losing circulation to my left leg.  After checking it out, DR. Foggerty decided the best option was hip replacement.  The surgery went very well and I was getting some activity back.  So I went back to work as a computer tech for PHD Computers.  That's when I learned, as did my boss, that I was un-insurable in the state of Oregon.

With my right hip and knee now giving me grief, the only place I have left to turn to is the VA, yet again.

The fight with the VA moves to Fargo, ND

While in Minnesota, I worked as a Courtesy Clerk at Doug's Supermarket for a while, then was asked to take over the Research and Development Department at Heatmor.  Once I had completed getting the department up and certified their stove design with CSA, I left and went back to Doug's as one of the 2 Closing Store Managers.

During this time, I decided to try my fight with the VA again.  This time I filed at the Fargo VA Office.  Once again, the decision came back denied.  I asked for a hearing and I was shocked by the hearing officer.  One of the first things he told me, was if he had been the entrance Doctor back in '75 or again in '80, he would not have allowed me to join the Army.  When I asked him why, he stated that because of the nature of the history of SCFE's, it would have lead to my current condition.  (NOTE:  The point the Hearing Officer is missing, is he wasn't there . . . the Army doctors who were there, found no medical reason to bar me from joining the Military.  These hearings are to be based on documented fact, not the opinion of the Rater or Hearing Officer.)

Okay . . . this is interesting!  It seems that the natural progression of corrected SCFE's is DJD.  But, according to medical journals, that usually takes several decades to happen.  In my case, while serving as an Arctic Infantryman, it took less than 2 years. (NOTE: at the Active Duty entrance medical in '82, my hips were rated better than normal.  Two years later, I'm in the advanced stages of DJD.)
I then talked to the IG of the Army, LTG Hale.  He was kind of puzzeled at their reasoning . . . but there wasn't much he could do.
With my wife and kids not getting along with my mother, it's time to move again.
On to Oregon.

The fight with the VA begins in San Diego, CA

Upon leaving Active Duty, with a permenant 3 profile on my lower extremities and a 2 on my hearing, I filed for VA compensation with the VA in San Diego, CA in February, 1986, and received their denial decision in April of the same year.  In issuing their denial decision, they claimed that they believed there was no way my Military duties could possibly aggravated my "pre-existing" condition.  No matter what I argued, they wouldn't budge.  (NOTE:  This becomes a key to my case.  The VA's in-ability to recognize and admit that the "pre-existing" condition had been corrected and was then later aggravated by my Military service . . . even though it was documented throughout my medical records.) 

Now I'm stuck learning a new career, because you can't get a job as a physical education instructor when you are limited to less than 5 minutes on your feet and unable to lift or carry more than 10 pounds occasionally.  I found odd jobs and then joined the USAR's 1394th USADCU (United States Army Deployment Control Unit) as a Team Chief of Air and Rail Load outs.  While in this position, I became qualified as a Load Master for C-130 and C-141.  As well as teaching rail loading to units in CA, AZ, and ND.  I also graduated from the USN School Treasure Island, as a Hazardous Materials certifier for domestic and international shipment of hazardous materials.

I also got married and we started having children.  This meant I had to leave the USAR, because I was traveling too much and missed the birth of our first child and all the memorable first events that go with it.  I ended up going to work for The Boeing Company on the B-2 project in Palmdale, CA, as a Manufacturer's Helper.  During this time, I missed the birth of our second child.  I was on mandated over-time, ordered by the USAF in completion of one of the bombers. On the bright side, Boeing decided to pick me up and transferred me to Everett, WA, as a Post Production Planner on the 747.

Once I got to Everett, I went through the Boeing Manufacturing, Tool and Planner course.  I did a short time in Business Management, then went to the Liaison Change Commitments Board (LCC) for the 747 and 767.  After some time doing this, I was chosen to be part of the O&IR Change Commitments Team (OCI).  From there, I went back to the LCC and worked my way up to the M.E. representative on the board.

My legs were now giving me a lot of trouble and I met Dr. John Gould.  Dr. Gould was a well noted Orthopedic surgeon in the Pcific Northwest.  Because of my young age, they don't want to replace joints if at all possible.  Dr. Gould put me on new meds that helped, yet didn't have a history of destroying the kidneys or liver.  He also told me that I needed to slow down and try to evade having my hips replaced as long as possible.  Yes, my hips rated replacing . . . but let's wait as long as possible.

While in Everett, our third child was born.  At three years of age, "John" still couldn't talk and the Mukilteo School District refused to help until he turned 5.  Finding this unacceptable, I moved my family back to Minnesota to get my son the help he needed.

When my medical problems with my hips began

While I was with Co. B, I applied for the AGR program and active duty. While participating in our unit's 2 week active duty for training in 1982, I found out that I had been accepted to both. Decision time!!! Our BN was assigned as the back up or USAR round-out BN to the 172nd Infantry Brigade (Alaska) and BG Vail and our evaluators were from the 4th BN, 9th Infantry Regiment, out of FT Wainwright. BG Vail and COL David RE Hale (4/9) were impressed with my knowledge and expertise with mortars, pulled me aside and asked me if I would be interested in becoming the 4/9's Combat Support Companies (CSC) Battalion Mortars Platoon Leader. After thinking about it . . . I chose active duty and as a 2LT, was assigned as the BM Mortars Platoon Leader of the 4th BN, 9th Infantry Regiment "Arctic Manchu's". (This was quite an honor, since the position is usually reserved for a senior 1LT, and there were a number of them trying for the position.)

I need to correct a something from my earlier post . . . It was at this time, that I had my second medical drop from Airborne school, when my right knee cap dropped and locked up my leg.

During my time in this position, we participated in Brim Frost '83, during which time we spent many hours in the field at temperatures ranging between -40F and -62F. Our packs averaged 125+ pounds and we covered many km's on foot, shoe shoes, and ski's. As Arctic Warriors, we did it all in the cold . . . surviving on the tundra, to the mountains and the glaciers. We trained hard and we learned that the Soviet's were extremely impressed with our abilities and the speed of our movement in the field, from an intercepted Soviet intelligence report. (They believed that we had to be using wind sleds, when in reality, we were on foot, show shoes, and ski's.)

While on a training mission late in '83, I went down in the field. I had to be medivaced back to main post and Bassett Army Hospital. At BAH, they thought I had fractured both hips, but after sending me to the hospital in Fairbanks for an MRI, it was discovered that I was in the advanced stages of De-generative Joint Disease.  (NOTE:  This is documented in my Military Medical Records and shows an aggravation of the pre-existing condition.  This is important to note for future postings, as the VA will try to claim that my Active Military service could not and did not aggravate the pre-existing condition.)

I had since been promoted to 1LT and since I was no longer capable of leading an Infantry unit in the field, I was transferred to FT Greely and became the Operations Officer for FT Greely. While at FT Greely, I went before the Medical Review Board (MRB) and was found "Fit for retention on Active Duty, with limitations of find a new career. After 36 months on Active Duty, my contract was over and I PCS'ed and was discharged from Active Duty.

The fight with the Veteran's Administration began at that point.

History and background to the fight.

As a 9th grader, I developed Slipped Capital Femoral Epiphysis (SCFE), which went bilateral when I was in the 11th grade. This was corrected and I went on to play football my Senior year.  (NOTE:  pre-existing condition is documented.  It is also documented that the pre-existing condition has been successfully corrected.)

Upon graduating high school, I joined the Army and was sent to New Mexico Military Institute to get an AA degree and be commissioned an Officer in the United States Army. Prior to ROTC Basic Camp at FT Knox, KY (1975), and ROTC Advanced Camp at FT Riley, KS (1976), I went through Orthopedic consults and found to be normal to better than normal in my hips.

During my 2 years at NMMI, I was a member of the Orienteering team, Team Capitan of the Judo and Karate teams, Marching Band, Drum & Bugle Corp., orchestra, and Traffic Detail.  I had no medical problems and continued to be very physical and active.

After graduating New Mexico Military Institute in 1977, I turned down my commission to continue my education at Moorhead State University (now Minnesota State University, Moorhead), while being assigned to North Dakota State University as an assistant instructor of Advanced Military Science.   I also taught Advanced Red Cross First Aid and Emergency Care at MSU, while a student.  During this time, I also became an Emergency Medical Technician, National Registry, through East Grand Forks Area Vocational Technical Institute.

In 1980, I received my BA Degree from MSU in Physical Education and Athletic Injuries.   While at MSU, I was involved in cross country skiing and racing.  This included several races, including the Maplelag Ski race.
I then accpted my commission as a USAR 2LT in the Infantry.  I completed Infantry Officer Basic Course-Mechanized (IOBC) at FT Benning, GA, and was assigned to  Co. B, 3rd BN, 3rd Inf. Regiment "The Old Guard", at FT Snelling, MN.  I was the new Weapons Platoon Leader and commanded 3 81mm mortars and 2 TOW's.

While I was with Co. B, I completed numerous other courses, to include the Infantry Mortar Platoon Officer Course (IMPOC), Air Assault, NBC Officers Course, and Northern Areas of Operations (Winter phase).  I carried numerous other additional duties, to include setting up, commanding, and instructing in the Combined BN Mortars Training Committee.  (I should mention that this assignment was Light Infantry.) I did attend Airborne School for the first time, but had medical drop when my left knee popped.  (Once for the left knee and once for the right knee later on.)  Funny thing is -- I completed and graduated from Air Assault in between the 2 attempts at Airborne.

Then the problems began . . . continued in next post.