Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Update: End of Terminal Leave (MedBoard: Joint Base Lewis-McChord)

Wrote the following message on Facebook today:

“Today I am officially out of the last day of terminal leave was yesterday. While I could mention hundreds (OK...maybe thousands) of negatives about my army experience...instead I’ll focus on the positives:

• Made it through basic training at twice the age of most of the young bucks
• Graduated at the top of my AIT class
• Stationed in the middle of Seoul, Korea and was able to take in quite a bit during this experience
• Ate all kinds of interesting food
• Experienced Korean culture and took advantage of every opportunity available to see the country and historical sites
• Visited the DMZ and even stood a few feet on the North Korean side of the border
• Saw a communist
• Stationed in Germany...right in the middle of Europe
• Met a lot of great people & was able to visit all 3 of my former exchange students
• Visited a number of historical and just plain cool sites in Germany
• Visited England, Luxembourg, Spain, France, Italy, Switzerland, The Czech Republic, The Netherlands & Greece.
• Drank a lot of good beer
• All my first line supervisors were great supervisors…and just good people
• And finally…I was able to complete a long time goal of mine…I finished my bachelor’s degree using tuition assistance from the army

I Made a lot of memories and friends that will last a lifetime.”

After the little bit of reflecting on Facebook, I took a break from work and headed to the naval sub base outside of Silverdale. Once there I went to the DEERS & ID office. I brought my paperwork (DD214 & orders) and had them input me correctly into their system as retired. Once that was done they had to issue me a new retired ID card. Seemed a little strange because I already had a retired ID card that I was issued at Ft. Lewis, but because of all the mess-ups this was the only way to do it. I have a big ass beard at the moment, so my photo looks a bit funny…but I don’t give a damn. I’m just happy to finally get in the system correctly. I am officially retired now!

I then drove back to work and called Tri-Care to get myself and my family enrolled into Tri-Care for retirement. My first attempt ended up getting half way through, then all of a sudden a dial tone. I was a little pissed off, but took a breath and started the process all over. Dial the number, listen to the recording, speak to a computer, state social security number, name and birth date. Once a real person gets on the line I then have to give all that same information again (social security number, name, & birth date). I then explain to the person that I’m trying to enroll myself and my family into Tri-Care for retirement. The person transfers me to the agent that will help me…I then have to once again give my social security number, name, & birth date. I was a little irritated, but a sweet girl on the other end was really helpful and got me all setup and enrolled finally. The lady was very patient and helpful, I couldn’t have asked for a better person on the other end…especially after getting a little pissed off earlier. I had to make the first 3 month’s payments while on the phone, which was fine. At $45 a month, 3 months payment is still cheaper than what I would have to pay on the civilian side.

I’m now completely set…I don’t have to stress out about getting all of this done now. My next step will be getting my actual army retirement check. If all goes as planned, this should happen on the 1st of July. I will hit the retirement system on the 1st of June and then the first check comes on the 1st of the next month.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Lab Results & VA Award Letter (Life After The Army)

Life has been back to normal since leaving the army, which is what I pretty much expected. I was a civilian a lot longer than I was a soldier and because of that I think I had a totally different mindset the entire time I was in the army…and probably why a lot of things bothered me. I really did feel like a civilian in an army uniform throughout my army career. I have been working my I.T. job and actually doing I.T. work on a daily basis (you know…actually doing the job I was hired to do).

I received my lab results via a letter from the VA. The paperwork shows a bunch of numbers and results from each test that was done. My blood counts and chemistries with a bunch of numbers including hemoglobin Alc, cholesterol liver, thyroid and vitamin D. Not sure what any of the exact numbers mean, I’ll have to do a little bit of internet research I guess. In the comment section the doctor said I had a high level of SGPT and that I need to abstain from drinking alcohol…I don’t drink much at all now, so no problem. My guess is that any liver damage I have is because of too many over the counter pain killers and all the meds I’ve been prescribed. I also have a vitamin D deficiency…well I do live in Washington State where it rains a lot! - Advice: a vitamin D supplement. I also have elevated bad cholesterol - Advice: diet and exercise. I have an elevated blood glucose level - Advice: diet and exercise.

I have to say that I have gone a little crazy since getting out of the army when it comes to being lazy and eating all kinds of crap. I can’t really do any strenuous exercises because of my pain and issues, but I will do a better job of eating. I’m going to add fish to my diet at least once a week and cut back on all the junk food even though my sweet tooth will be a little upset. I am 40 now and I can’t just eat everything I desire like I used to. I also downloaded a free app called “Breeze” which tracks the steps I’m taking. It sets goals and reminds you to get your butt in gear if you need to. I’m using my lunch break to go for a walk each day (weather permitting)…this will also help with the vitamin D! I’m also trying to drink a lot more water. These are my first steps to a healthier me. I have to get all the tests done again in 3 months, so I’m sure they will be better this next time.

I received my VA Award letter in the mail today. I thought everything was already done, but this one is the official final letter showing basically the same thing my initial results showed me with the percentages for each of my claimed injuries. What’s nice about this letter is that it shows the exact monthly entitlement amount that I’ll be receiving and the date that it starts. I’m in the system as of June 1st, so I’ll receive my first payment on July 1st. The letter also breaks down each date that my kids turn 18 and my monthly entitlement is reduced. It turns out to be a difference of about $30 to $40 until all my kids are off, then it goes down about $60.

As far as my pain and injuries, I’ve been using my civilian insurance to see a chiropractor twice a month and a massage therapist weekly. Luckily I’ve also stockpiled quite a bit of my pain medications from my time in the army, because I’m still waiting on the VA to prescribe me some. The doctor told me I had to wait until after my blood work was done, but didn’t tell me what to do to actually get the prescriptions. I called the local VA clinic and was routed to my team nurse…well, routed to her voicemail. I left a message and heard from her the next day. I told her I need to start getting my prescriptions. She said she would check with my doctor and get them filled. They are mailed out, so she said if I don’t hear from her everything should be done and on it’s way. Now I sit and wait I guess.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Update: College Graduate (MedBoard: Joint Base Lewis-McChord)

Thought I’d write a little update now that it’s been a little over a month since my last post. I’m still technically in the army and enjoying the life that is terminal leave. I started my new job the day I went on terminal leave and it’s been great. I’m actually doing I.T. work once again, unlike my time in the army. I work for a great company full of some awesome people. The company actually makes a difference in the community as well. After this first month of working there, I know I made the right job choice and I see myself working here for a very long time.

One of my big goals when joining the army was to get my bachelor’s degree. I’m happy to say that as of today I am now a college graduate. My last two classes officially ended on May 6th, then they did an audit to make sure everything was in order before the graduation was official. It’s been a long long road to get to this point. A lot of hard work taking one class at a time and working on schoolwork most nights, but it is a really great feeling…and a large weight lifted off my shoulders. I’m feeling pretty darn accomplished…and happy. I’ll be taking a little while off before pursuing any more certifications or anything, it will be a welcome break.

As for army news…as I mentioned earlier, I’m extremely happy being on terminal leave…I really enjoy the freedom of being a civilian once again. I have a nice beard I’ve been working on since the first day of terminal leave. I’ve loved being able to wear whatever clothes I deem appropriate for weather conditions or how I feel. I also have been taking advantage of the nice weather and riding my motorcycle to work everyday…unlike the army I don’t need any special training or have special meetings with my boss, I just ride!

I did go on Ft. Lewis a couple weeks back and received my retired military ID card, but it turns out they messed something up. In DEERS (Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System) they still had my active duty status as November of 2015 and also forced in my retirement date of May 28th 2014…both cannot coexist. This has prevented me from being able to sign up for Tri-Care Prime for me and my family that is provided during retirement. Tri-Care still sees me as being active duty with no retirement date. Leave it to the army to screw things up. Since I’m closer to the naval bases here in the Bremerton area, I drove to the naval sub base near Silverdale and visited their DEERS office with my DD214 and orders in hand. They were able to remove my active duty status, but said I had to come back on the 28th of May in order for them to input my retirement status. This is a little bit of BS because right on the Tri-Care website it states that we can enroll up to 90 days before our retirement date as long as it’s in DEERS. I’m not going to get too stressed out about it. I’ll just take a break at some point during the 28th and make the short trip to their office again. I’m too happy to be out, finally have my degree, and have a great job for this stupid crap to get me down!