Tuesday, August 30, 2011

"Remembering (and Respecting) Our Veterans"

by Chaplain Bill Bowman (special to Conversations Magazine)

I waited 35 years before applying for my veteran's disability benefits.  I had never heard of the terms Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and didn't know that I suffered from that syndrome/disorder.  When I met with my first VA representative, he spoke down to me because I was not infantry, or a grunt, while serving as a Marine in the 3rd Marine Division in Vietnam during the Tet Offensive of 1967-68.  During that span of time in Vietnam, the US military suffered over 16,000 killed in action.  I was made to feel inferior and guilty for applying for the benefits that I had earned while serving.

While serving in Vietnam in heavy combat areas, I was sent or taken to 8 hospitals in a 13-14 month period.  Two of these military hospitals were out of Vietnam.  Because of the heavy combat within my immediate area, I was suffering from PTSD, but the disorder had not been named by the government until the mid 1980's.  I was sent to a military mental hospital for 8 weeks and, after that period of time, requested to be sent back to my unit in Vietnam.  Permission was granted.

My VA representative informed me that he did not see any combat operations listed in my military records.  However, he did see the name and dates of the hospitals I had been in.  He informed me that he could not see why I was applying for benefits but he would put the required paper work into the Department of Veteran's Affairs, even though he said I would be denied my benefits.  I was denied my benefits three times and it took a three year fight with the Department of Veteran's Affairs before I won my case.  Because of all of my injuries, and the fact that I do have PTSD, I was awarded a 100% disability rating from the Department of Veteran's Affairs.

Many persons, because of how the Vietnam veterans were received upon their return from the war when they were spit on, learned and have an appreciative, positive and supportive attitude.  Many will never support the military and/or their families.  I have a member of my wife's family who will always put me down for serving.  The country, as a whole, does support the military.  The young Americans not serving are too busy playing games and trying to keep up a status (symbol) to care about others.  The important question should be does the government, Department of Veteran's Affairs and those n power provide complete support for these honorable young people who stand tall, serving their country?

A Veteran's How-To Guide was written for the veteran and his/her family and will offer explanations of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and how to get through the VA disability process.  Because the VA representatives are free, they can and will help you.  However, when you are denied this book will also guide you through the pitfalls of the VA process.  It was further written with the intent to guide veterans, whether combat or not, and from any war, through a process established by the Department of Veteran's Affairs, (DVA), Disability Benefits and Pension Qualification System, when applying for veteran's disability benefits.  The process was developed to be long-termed, time delaying, misdirecting and frustrating.  The DVA will require all supportive documentation, want every emotion evaluated and ask for duplicitous medical examination and every bit of historical data that can be presented by the veteran and/or outside sources.

This book offers a detailed description of the veteran's journey from the initial visit to the Veteran's administration facility where the vet meet the veteran's service officer (VSO) to finally receiving his/her first benefit check.  While it is ultimately rewarding, it is a very complex and frustrating system that is not user friendly.  The primary goal of this book is to make the journey "user friendly" and rewarding for both the veteran and his/her family.  Every veteran who applies will need a support team, a knowledgeable VSO and faith in God.  Those three things will provide the tools necessary to get through the DVA disability process in a time efficient and less frustrating manner. 

Frequently, the veteran is unaware that they have emotional problems (PTSD) and/or TBI, or they may be in a state of emotional denial.  What is most important for the veterans and their families to know is to be prepared for an uphill battle.  This book takes you through the journey that Bill, the author, experienced so it is written first hand and warns the vet of every pitfall and every obstacle that has been set up on his/her pathway.  He talks about his personal experiences and offers sanitized versions of the letters he had to write in order to reach his goal. 

Because of the physical and/or emotional ailments that plague so many of our veterans, those who do start this process, are facing a long and demeaning process.  This guide was written in a user-friendly manner and provides a step-by-step method for the veteran to follow to obtain his/her VA benefits, eliminate some frustrations and provide, through Biblical scriptures, a calming force through faith in God.  The wording is such that everyone can understand what is being said which helps when you are discussing your emotional and/or physical problems.

Chaplain Bill Bowman along with his wife Chaplain Anne Bowman are the co-authors of the book A Veteran's How-to Guide: Regarding Obtaining Veteran's Disability Benefits, Dealing with Clinical Psychological Disorders and Problematic Stress Responses.  To find out more Information or to give them your comments on this subject visit www.chaplainsbowman.com or email them at chaplainsbowman@hotmail.com.

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