Monday, June 8, 2015

Army Friendship (Life After The Army)

I seem to write quite a bit about the negatives I've had while in the army and also dealing with the VA. So let me change it up a bit and write a little about some of the positive experiences from the army...

Yesterday I spent the evening with a soldier I met back when I was first stationed in Korea. He was a co-worker of mine and pretty much showed me the ropes. I referred to him as SPC Roy in my journal. Not only were we co-workers, but since he was Korean American he was able to take me out quite a bit and show me a lot of Korea. He now just moved to Tacoma and came to visit me yesterday. We had a good time catching up and talking about everything that’s happened since our time in Korea. Now he’s a civilian and looking for a job, he should be able to get something in the area…the job market is pretty decent right now.

I also have a friend & co-worker I met while stationed in Germany that is driving to my house as I write this. I referred to him as SPC Mac in my journal. We worked in the same shop, did some touring around Europe together with our wives, and also ended up going through the medboard process with me. He’s making the cross country drive from South Carolina to my house in Bremerton. He’s going to stay with me until he gets his feet on the ground and can get an apartment. He has a job lined up at one of the local navy bases and will start shortly after he arrives.

I’m really glad both of these former co-workers and friends of mine are both local now, it will be pretty cool to hang out with them after all this time. I'm also still in touch with "PFC Metal", my battle buddy from basic training and AIT. My wife and I are hoping to make a trip to Seoul and visit them now that they have been stationed there. Of course I am friends with a lot of guys I've served with from basic all the way through Germany on facebook. We keep in touch via comments and messages. The friendships that are built in the military can be pretty special. There is a special bond that develops with people that have to deal with all the crap and idiocy together. These are friendships that will last a lifetime.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Why the VA Gets a Bad Rap (Life After The Army)

This weekend I went and watched my oldest daughter graduate from high school. This right of passage marked the end of school for my daughter and her entry into adulthood. This reminded me to check the status of the VA claim I made almost a year ago. My daughter turned 18 during her senior year, but was still living at home. I mentioned in a previous post that I submitted a claim stating that my daughter is still living at home and attending high school until June. I logged into ebenefits to check the status of this almost year old claim, here is what it states:


Status of claim on 6/6
Status of Your Claim
        Submitted: 07/28/2014 (Dependency)
        Estimated Completion: 01/04/2015 - 05/25/2015

Your claim is still being processed by the Regional Office. We generally process claims in the order received.
We recognize that your claim has exceeded the projected completion date and remain committed to completing our review as quickly and accurately as possible. Thank you for your patience.

The time it takes to complete you claim depends on factors like the type of claim and the type of disability claimed.
The estimated dates are based on a statistical analysis of historical processing times for similar claims. Some things you should know:

    •    Historical data may not accurately predict current conditions. Your claim may take longer.
    •    Dates may change as the statistical analysis is updated.
    •    Some claims will take longer than the range of dates given as they are based on an average.


This is complete bullshit! What should take a matter of seconds (verifying that my child is indeed still in school) has now taken the VA almost a year to resolve. I submitted the claim the summer before my daughter’s senior year and now she’s graduated and the claim is still “under review”. It’s no wonder everyone hates the VA. I feel sorry for the folks that have bigger claims that require much more research…those will probably take a decade or more and why people are dying while waiting for the VA!! I just envision a bunch of idiots and incompetent morons working in the VA offices. This is just absolutely pathetic!


**Update** (8/11/15)

 Out of curiosity I logged into the ebenefits website and checked my claim. All I can do is just shake my head. I submitted the simple claim on 7/28/14 and it now has an updated estimated completion status of 10/17/15 to 5/7/16!

Are you kidding me? Something that should take a couple of minutes at most to verify that my child went to a high school while she was 18 is now going to take almost 2 years to complete!! It's no wonder the VA has such a bad rap. It's also no wonder why everyone thinks the VA is a joke. I'm really at a loss of words right now.

Status of claim on 8/11/2015
Status of Your Claim
        Submitted: 07/28/2014 (Dependency)
        Estimated Completion: 10/17/2015 - 05/07/2016


**Update** (8/26/15)

Normally I wouldn't post an update so quickly after the previous update, but I received an email from the VA patting themselves on the back. The email titled "How VA is providing a record level of service" goes on to say "A Historic Success for Veterans Service, This week we reduced the disability claims backlog to 98,535 claims - an 84% reduction from its peak and a historic low". It goes on and on and they continue to pat themselves on the back. So I decided to log in and check my claim's the exact same as mentioned in the previous change. While I'm glad they are trying to get the number of claims down, it just makes me shake my head when I think this stupid little claim of mine that would take 5 minutes to complete is now well over a year and counting.

**Update** (10/08/15)

I received a letter today from the VA stating that they have "received my application for benefits". Well I hope so, it was sent in almost a year and a half ago! It goes on to state that it is their sincere desire to decide my case promptly. "However, as we have a great number of claims, action on yours may be delayed". This is pretty much the same thing I've been seeing and hearing ever since I did the first submission. Not sure if this means I'm closer to a decision or what...I guess time will tell.

**Update** (10/14/15)

I received another letter from the VA stating that my application for benefits was approved. So 4 months after my daughter is out of school and well over a year after I filed, I find out that they have approved my application. So I'll receive back pay from the time my daughter turned 18 until she graduated (about 9 months). This whole ordeal wasn't even a lot of money, but it just shocked me how a 5 minute verification process could turn into such a long drawn out process.

As before I'll go to my yearly VA checkup and get my prescriptions from the VA, but I'll try and use my civilian insurance for everything I can. I'd prefer to stay away from the VA as much as possible.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Magic Tape (Life After The Army)

I’ve been heading to the local YMCA and working out with my wife pretty consistently after work every day that we can. For the most part I do a lot of walking around the rack and using light weights on the universal machines with a lot of reps. I’ve been feeling good physically, but of course the pain is always a constant. As I mentioned earlier, I’ve been taking a lot of Vicodin to compensate.

My wife has been using something called KT Tape to help with foot pain after hearing about it from a co-worker and it’s helped her out quite a bit. For those of you (like me) who had never heard of KT Tape, it’s “a lightweight, comfortable to wear, and can be used for hundreds of common injuries such as lower back pain, knee pain, shin splints, carpal tunnel syndrome and tennis elbow, just to name a few…according to the KT Tape website (

My wife suggested that I try it on my neck to see if it helps…and so I could try and play a little basketball. Yesterday she applied it to my neck as shown on their website ( and then we headed off to the YMCA. I did my normal walking and then instead of any weights, I went down to the gym and just shot around. I have to say it felt good just shooting jump shots and layups. I haven’t touched a basketball in so long, and it used to be such a huge part of my life. I was feeling good, making shots and working up a sweat.

Unfortunately I could tell by the time we got home that something was wrong. I could feel the pain in my neck and shoulders start to come on in earnest. I had my wife rub on some cannabis cream I had, which usually does a decent job of helping out with the pain. I then took muscle relaxers and went to bed. I had a horrible night’s sleep because of the pain. I ended up getting up and taking some Vicodin…then later on I got up and grabbed an ice pack for the back of my neck. I’m not sure how much I slept, but it didn’t seem like much.

Now I’m up and moving about the day after and still in a lot of pain. I took more Vicodin and will probably end up taking it all day long because I’m in so much pain. It really sucks because I had put a lot of hope into this tape and thought for a bit that I might be able to at least shoot around off and on, but now I know that basketball…even just shooting around is something I just can’t do anymore. I know the tape works for somethings, but just not for my neck injury. Click here if you're interested in buying some to try out yourself.

It just really sucks that something I loved, something that was such a big part of my life has been taken away from me. The closest I can get is watching my kiddos play or watching basketball on TV.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

A New Year…A New Resolution (Life After The Army)

I’ve been struggling since I’ve been back over balancing working out and pain. When I’m in pain, I have no desire to work out at all. If I’m not in pain, usually a workout ends up putting me in pain. It seems like a freakin’ no win situation. My wife really wanted to start using our YMCA membership and I agreed that we definitely need to hit the gym more. So like many others we started going regularly to the local YMCA after work multiple times a week. I’ve just decided to bite the bullet and start taking more of my pain medication to offset everything. A month has gone by and we’ve done a good job of hitting the gym regularly. I don’t go when I have massage therapy or chiropractic appointments after work. When I workout I pretty much stick to walking around the track, while my wife hits various cardio machines. I’ve just started using the mechanical (universal) weight machines as well. I’ve been sticking to a lighter weight with multiple repetitions. So far it’s been working out as expected, but it seems like any physical exertion ends up causing me pain. I’ve had to increase the amount of pain medication I’m taking quite a bit, but I do feel better physically now. I guess we’ll see in the long run how my liver feels after all the pain medication I’ve been taking. I’m popping Vicodin like candy and taking muscle relaxers every night.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Follow-Up Appointment (Life After The Army)

This morning I had a follow up appointment I made because my prescriptions (pain killers) were running low. I called about a month and a half ago and this was the first date I could get. Luckily I had just about enough pain killers left by my calculations. My pain is pretty much a constant these days. I do have some good days, but I average about 2 to 4 pain killers a day. I am continuing to see a massage therapist once a week and a chiropractor twice a month both using my civilian insurance.

My VA doctor is nice enough, but I felt rushed the entire time. I’m not sure if it’s because he just has too many patents to see, or maybe because it’s the day before Thanksgiving. He did put in a refill for my pain killers and after looking over my blood work from earlier this month and said I should be taking 2000 IU of vitamin D daily. I gave him my medical records from the army, which he asked me to bring in. After that he said I need to have my blood work done again in 6 months and see him again in a year. He then got up and opened the door for me to go. I was a little shocked, I guess I just expected a little more time to go over how I’m feeling, maybe see if there is something better than Vicodin for pain killers. I just expected a little more personalized attention after waiting so long for the appointment. Instead I felt like a number that just needed to be checked off. Prescribe more pain killers and move on to the next.

Luckily I work for a company that is very understanding. At least once a week I end up having to leave early because my head is killing me. A few times a week I’m able to take an hour or so and just lay down on the floor in a vacant office with the lights off & ice on my neck, which is usually enough to help me get through the day. I guess I was just hoping for the VA doctor to have something that would help me out a little more. Now it will be a year before I see him again. So I guess it’s the same ol’ same ol’ for another year. I’m thinking about using my civilian insurance or my Tri-Care insurance to see another doctor. Maybe I’ll get some better service and some more individualized care.  

Saturday, November 1, 2014

To Say the VA is Slow is an Understatement (Life After The Army)

I noticed my last couple of deposits from the VA were a bit smaller. I wasn’t even sure where to start checking in order to find out why. I logged into the eBenefits site ( which is where I can see the deposits made, but that is about all it shows. I then happened across the claims portion of the website. It was there that I realized what the heck was going on. Back in July I received a letter from the VA stating the dates each of my kids turn 18 and the drop in my compensation each time one of my kids turn 18. The drop isn’t much (around $30), but it is noticeable. The letter also included forms that I could fill out if my kids will still be going to school after they are 18, which is the case of my oldest daughter. She turned 18 in September, but is still only a senior in high school. I filled out the forms and returned them with all the required information stating when and where my daughter will be attending high school. I wanted to make sure she was still covered under my insurance even though she was 18. I didn’t care too much about the drop in the monthly payment. Mind you that I filled out and returned these forms the moment I received them in July.

Now it’s November and I see in eBenefits that my claim is “under review” and the estimated claim completion date is 1/4/2015 to 5/25/2015! By the time they get the claim processed my daughter will have almost already graduated! To say I was shocked was a little bit of an understatement. I can’t believe a simple form like the one I sent in is going to take so freakin’ long to process. It should only take a matter of minutes, but this is the VA we’re talking about. I really hate dealing with any government office!

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Careful Review (Life After The Army)

It’s been a little while since I’ve posted an update. Not a lot has happened in regards to the army or the VA. I’ve been living my normal civilian life and loving it. I really like my job, I do I.T. work all day everyday. I also enjoy the fact now that it’s getting a little colder outside I can decide if I want to wear a sweatshirt, long sleeves or even a coat if I want. I don’t have to stand around in a stupid morning formation freezing my ass off in shorts and a t-shirt because some NCO decides it’s not really cold enough to wear winter PTs yet.

About my health not a lot has changed. I’m still in pain almost every single day to some degree and I’m popping pills daily. A little over a month ago I asked my VA doctor if he could write a referral to a local massage therapy establishment so I could use my civilian insurance and start utilizing their services. My VA doctor said they do not do massage therapy referrals, but they would write up a referral for chiropractic care. I was already going to the chiropractor on my own, but I gave them my chiropractor’s information and didn’t think too much about it.

It turned out that I didn’t need a referral from my doctor to use my civilian insurance for the massage therapy. So I have been getting a massage once a week and going to the chiropractor twice a month. I totally forgot about the my VA doctor’s referral until I received a letter in the mail from the VA. The letter stated that after “careful consideration” they have rejected my VA doctor’s referral for chiropractic care. The reason…because I’m still active duty. LOL. That is some “careful review” from the VA. I’ve been out of the army for 5 months! I then sent my local VA doctor an email letting him know about the letter and stating that it seems as if the right hand doesn’t know what the left hand is doing. The local VA clinic said that I need to call the VA to get it all straightened out…I think not, I didn’t even ask for the referral for chiropractic in the first place. It doesn’t really matter because I’m using my civilian insurance, but it just makes me glad that I don’t have to depend on the VA for much. In truth I try to stay away from the VA as much as possible. Dealing with them is similar to dealing with the army…so much paperwork and so little common sense.

When I think back now about my time in the army from a professional and technical standpoint, I see that I really fell behind. When I joined, all my peers in the I.T. industry kept moving ahead, while I actually moved backwards. With technology, you have to be hands on and in the middle of all the ever changing trends. When I got out of the army and started my civilian I.T. job, I had to do quite a bit of catch up in order to get back up to speed. It’s been about 5 months now and I’m finally feeling like my head is above water. Instead of hitting the ground running, I had to crawl for a while, but I’m getting back up to speed slowly. Luckily I landed a good job with a great company.