I’m really pissed off. Stop giggling—it’s true.
I know what you’re all thinking, for me, that’s probably the equivalent of a well-timed frowny brow. But, I assure you, in this case—I am most certainly and completely ‘riled up.’
Many of you know me simply as ‘some author’ at elephant journal. But, those who are just a bit closer still might tell you a few things, most unexpected.
For instance, did you know that I was an Army veteran? Can you believe that? I know. But, it’s true…at one point, some many years ago, this rambling, peace loving Buddhist could only be found behind a mask of camouflage. And although I didn’t quite ‘fit’ the Army soldier model, I believe, most of the boys tolerated me pretty well. Remind me to tell you the story of my first grenade course…
And, digging a little deeper still, you might learn that I am a pretty hip Mama Bear of two beautiful kids—and most proud, that through all of these years of challenges and upsets, we have always remained so forever close.
That’s not always easy when life tosses you that ‘cosmic curve ball.’ Like, this past year, for instance—these heart issues have darned near fully and completely kicked my spiritual ass.
But, to all of you, I am a writer, and that means I have a voice—a very small sort of Piglet voice, but still a voice nonetheless. I think that also means that I have a little bit of a responsibility to share those stories that others may be unwilling or unable to tell.
So, why am I so riled up?
I’m upset over a letter that has been sent out to many of my veteran friends under the guise of ‘offering help’ with their Veteran’s benefits. They are receiving these letters because they are now ‘officially’ considered disabled—a result of their many years of battle-riddled service in our Nation’s military.
The letter goes on to say that the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has conducted a ‘review’ of their medical records and based on the information received it has been deemed that they are unfit to handle their own VA benefit payments as a result of a medical and/or physical disability.
For those who are unfamiliar with VA lingo: it’s a formal letter of incompetency.
What does that mean?
Well, immediately it means that the VA could appoint a ‘financial adviser’—someone (a stranger) who will receive and process their VA disability checks on their ‘behalf.’
Can you imagine how you might feel if you received a similar letter? Perhaps, related to your tax return?
“Dear Mr. Smith,
Based on information we received (but won’t share with you) we have decided you are incompetent and unfit to cash your own check. Therefore, this guy—we hear he’s from a pretty reputable temp agency—he’ll cash it for you.
P.S.: Oh yes…thank you for your “service.”
I’ll bet you would be pretty pissed.
Oh, but it gets worse.
The letter goes on to say that due to this review and subsequent ruling, they are now ‘prohibited’ from purchasing, possessing, receiving or transporting a firearm or ammunition. And, if they knowingly violate any of these prohibitions, that they will be fined and/or imprisoned pursuant to the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act.
Think I’m making this up?
Just ask thousands of U.S. military veterans who have been disabled in defense of this great Nation; they’ll show you their letters. And, if that’s not enough, you can see for yourself, as I’ve uploaded a copy of the letter right here.
But, you probably won’t find this story on the front page of any of the major news agencies. In fact, these letters are going out via regular mail, with no ‘proof of receipt’ required.
I have a confession: I get so many of these ‘offers’ from the VA, that I end up tossing them out in the trash, unread.
I wonder if that’s what the VA intended?
Look, I’m not a violent person—I approach each day with as much love, compassion, and understanding that I able to carry in this currently malfunctioning heart. And, truth be told, I get kind of twitchy around the true ‘gun nuts.’
But, I am a military veteran. And, many of my dearest friends are veterans.
And this? This is just wrong.
Sure, we all signed up for it. We swore an oath ‘to preserve, to protect, to defend’—and, without a moment’s hesitation, any of us would have given our own lives to protect those we’ve never met.
How many of your own family would do that for you?
Sure, we all knew the risks, but never could we imagine that a day would arrive that we would receive a letter like this.
Constitutional Attorney Michael Connelly, J.D. writes that it makes it “Sound like something right from a documentary on a tyrannical dictatorship somewhere in the world. Yet, as I write this, I have a copy of such a letter right in front of me. It is being sent by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to hundreds, perhaps thousands, of America’s heroes.”
Many of the veterans receiving this letter are physically and terribly disabled. Most, however, are suffering from post traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD)—a topic that until recent years, would cause even the most seasoned VA representative to look the other way.
Because of the massive financial burden of associated health care—an estimated $40 billion dollars per year. With roughly 30% of our soldiers returning from combat with a diagnosis of PTSD, you can imagine why there has been such a push back over the years.
And, that’s the low end of the estimate.
Sadly, there is a stigma still associated with PTSD and, as a result, many cases go unreported. For some, they are simply unaware of the signs of PTSD. My own father, a WWII combat veteran, was unaware for many years of his condition. I remember growing up, it was never a good idea to have friends sleep over, as my father would always be in this heightened state of hyper-vigilance.
So, as you can see, I have a very personal connection to this topic. And therefore, I am really, rather pissed. In my heart, I can’t help but feel a sense of rage; how dare we disarm our Nation’s heroes?
Likewise, I am devastated, as I know this letter will have a much greater and farther reaching implications.
I mean, if you were a veteran and you already knew the potential fallout from your ‘condition’—would you really want to seek out the much needed medical care?
I think there are two stories here: one, in which the rights of our veterans are being compromised and one in which they are potentially being ‘bullied’ by the Veteran’s Association, in an effort to alleviate the cost of overall care.
And, now? I worry over my own military records and the connection they may have to my future civil rights. Will someday, someone, that I have never ever met—and who is probably not as ‘tuned in’ as my current health care provider—look to my medical history and make a quick determination of the same?
Will I lose just as much, because I did what in my heart felt was right?
Look, I love my country—I am a proud American and Veteran. And, given the choice to do it all once more and all over again—I wouldn’t, not once, hesitate to serve this great Nation (except, the grenade course, because, I throw like a girl).
I am also 100 percent in support of more effective gun control measures; I just don’t know that this is the way to achieve that.
But, I have faith that if we engage in these types of dialogues in some way, it may help guide our Nation’s future decisions.
But, I’m just a writer (and military veteran). And, I’m curious to know just how you feel?
If you want to really help a Veteran, speak up and get involved.
“Dear Department of Veterans Affairs,
Good luck trying to pry a weapon from a U.S. Marine Corps veteran’s hands. Yikes!
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Ed: Kate Bartolotta
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