Thursday, February 27, 2014

Missing the Legs....

Yesterday I spent my entire day at Ft Campbell helping their wounded, ill and injured with a variety of things. My day ended with me speaking at the WTB's Town Hall about our life and what I do with YRF. It went very well. I truly love being able to help the 101st. They have been so great to us and I just love being able to pay our blessings forward. But while I was there, I couldn't help missing it all.

I was actually texting with my hubby when my eyes caught sight of a lot of combat boots. I realized that I really miss those boots tracking mud into my home. I miss the stinky socks that come from them. I miss seeing my hubby in that uniform standing so tall and being an Infantry solider. I miss our Army life.

Trust me no one wants to be a caregiver. It is exhausting. It's actually beyond exhausting, but I don't know the word for that feeling. It doesn't matter what we want, because we are drafted into this.

I find caregivers to be an amazing group of people. I am inspired daily by the caregivers I meet and their stories. We are all so different, but we are all bound by one emotion and that's love.

We stay by our veteran's side because we love them. It is really that simple. The love of my family and knowing God wants me in this role is what gets me through everyday. I know so many feel the exact same way. We get up and are driven by love everyday. We get through all the drama that we cannot avoid, because love sees us through.

No matter how filled with love I am, I cannot help but miss the world I once knew. I miss Chaz's legs. I miss being able to go out to dinner and not worry about if Chaz can get in and out safely. I miss being able to go wherever we wanted without physical limitations. I miss my hubby being able to go play sports in the back yard with our kids. I miss standing hugs. I miss the simplicity of the life I took for granted.

Now before my friends freak out, I am fine. I tell people all the time you have to take the time to mourn what you've lost. Catastrophic injuries take a lot away from your life, but it never seems like you can have actual closure. It seems like you deal with it, but without any notice something stirs it all back up again, so there you are dealing with it again. You cannot close the book on catastrophic injuries you have to welcome them into your daily life and you just deal with it.

Every once in a while you have to sit and acknowledge your losses so you can move on. This is my once in a while. This is my little pity party that needs to be shared.

I have had too many caregivers ask me how to I stay so happy and positive. I have been told multiple times that I really don't have anything to smile about, so why do I smile so much? The truth is I can be the way I am because I have the faith that this is where I am supposed to be. The truth is the love of my family and friends enables me to be so happy and positive. I feel that I now have more than I did before Chaz was hurt. I had a pretty darn good life before Chaz's injuries, but now I know what unconditional love is and that is more valuable than anything you can buy. That unconditional love has made my life so much better.

I also am able to stay happy and positive because every so often I allow myself a little bit of pity. I allow myself to sit and cry and even be mad that my life is now so difficult. And I allow myself to be angry that I didn't truly appreciate what I had before that IED blew up our the life we knew. I allow myself those moments, then I wipe my eyes, blow my nose and move on with my day. I acknowledge those thoughts, but I don't let them win. They get their five seconds of fame and then I tell them to shut the Hell up.

I know my methods my not work for every caregiver, but they work for me. I wish I didn't miss Chaz's legs. But I can't help it, I do. I will always miss them. And when I have these pity party moments I will try to recall the smell of the stinky socks from the feet that came out of those boots that were attached to those legs to help me get through the mourning a little faster.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Our Red-Tape Diary Entry #1 (aka VA Story #1)

For those who have seen the video of his injury, you can completely understand why Chaz has a back injury. For those who spent years in the service throwing a ruck on their back, you can understand why Chaz has a back injury. For those who were in combat and know that you have to duck, run and cover, you can understand why Chaz has a back injury. However the Paperwork Gods in the VA cannot.

The VA rated Chaz's back as a 0% as he was medically retiring. Apparently along the way one of the raters decided since he was rated as 100% for missing the legs, his back rating was irrelevant. (Again, please note I cannot make this stuff up. I am simply not that creative.) We were told that as long as it was on there we would be fine. Well that is kind of incorrect. You see they will still treat him for his back, but they will not accept real responsibility for his back injury. Confused yet? Wait there's more.

Last March Chaz was hospitalized because of a flesh-eating bacteria he contracted in Afghanistan at some point. We tried to get into the VA that day, but they were full and we were told to use our private insurance. When we discovered the seriousness of what was going on, we were told that the VA would refund any of our out of pockets expenses because it was an emergency, life-threatening situation. We finally heard back recently and the out of pocket reimbursement was denied.

The claims adjuster informed us that since the incision was on Chaz's back and he has a 0% rating on his back then the VA is not responsible for paying for things that happen post service. And if we didn't want to incur costs, we should have had Chaz transferred to the VA instead of using our Tricare. (Which would have cost the VA even more in the end.)

Even though the VA acknowledged that they could not have treated him for what was going on with him. They even acknowledged he would have been transferred to at least one if not two hospitals before surgery would have occurred to remove the pocket of fluid that was building up. Even though Infectious Disease was able to obtain a clean sample and positivity identify what was in his back and trace it back to Afghanistan, the VA is not responsible for reimbursement. This incident was deemed to be 100% on Tricare and subsequently on us. You are probably asking yourself, "Why?" According to the adjuster the claim denial was based on where the incision was on his body, not what the actual problem was. Are you really confused yet? Hang on, I have more.

If we want to have any of our medical expenses reimbursed from that incident then we must have Chaz's back reassessed by the VA and appeal the 0% rating. We were informed that if we were lucky he'd get 30% and then we'd only have 30% of our expenses reimbursed. How long will that take? It takes approximately 12-18 months at a minimum. (Let me translate, 12-18 months really means 2-3 years in the VA time warp.)

We have decided we will have his back reassessed to help us in future occurrences, but we are done with this particular adjuster. I understand money saved is money saved, but sometimes you just pay your stupid tax and move on. This is totally a stupid tax situation.

Here's what I wish more people could understand. Occurrences like this happen everyday, multiple times per day to our veterans everywhere. This is not an isolated incident. This is just one of our incidents.

Here's the additional knowledge I wish everyone had. The staff members that we deal with on a constant basis at the Murfreesboro VA are amazing and caring and we love them like family. But those in the VA who will never see, nor talk, nor touch my veteran are the ones who hinder the healing of our veterans. They see a 0% and close the book and do not do any further research. The Paperwork Gods make the jobs of those who actually assist my veteran even harder. If you want to fix the VA you have to fix the system itself.  From our experience, I suggest you start with the Paperwork Gods who sit in offices and have little to no contact with the group they are actually serving.

Monday, February 24, 2014

I Got to Drop a Ball....

It's been a month since I have had a chance to actually sit and write. It feels so good to sit and do this again. I woke up this morning excited and ready to blog.

Chaz and I have had so many things come up in the past month that I have only had one night of really good sleep since his Alive Day. I personally think I was so exhausted that my body made sure I got that night of sleep. Today I started my day truly hopeful things will get a little easier. Why? What happened, you ask? Yesterday I officially got to drop a ball that has been in my juggling set since Fall 2010.

My degree is in Political Science and History, but no one in Clarksville would hire me when I married Chaz. I married the Army, that meant I would move. And I had a degree that meant they had to pay me above minimum wage. It was a very frustrating situation.

I saw an advertisement to learn how to do taxes with H&R Block and decided to go for it. I ended up loving it and worked for Block for 7 years. In 2008, I felt that Block was taking a different course from what I wanted for myself. At the end of that tax season, I had a delightful conversation with the IRS (yes those exist) and began my own tax company. I knew that I wanted to do more than tax returns. I wanted to help people develop plans to help put their lives on financially positive paths. I started taking classes on topics like IRAs, investments and all things financial. In the Summer of 2010, I accepted a fellowship with the FINRA Foundation, AFCPE and the National Military Family Association. Here's the link for those who want to know more.

I started the fellowship in September 2010, just months before Chaz was hurt. Of course I put the fellowship on hold when I heard he was injured, but I have been trying to complete the fellowship this entire time. It has been hard work, but it was totally worth it. My deadline for completion of the fellowship is February 28, 2014. Over the past thirty days I really studied and crammed a lot of knowledge into my head and I passed the final exam yesterday. I am now an Accredited Financial Counselor (as soon as the AFCPE acknowledges my test score). I can finally drop the ball I have been juggling with everything else for the past three years. 

Today I got to wake up with one thing completed. One thing that can come out of the juggling set permanently. One less thing looming over me. It feels so amazing!! Now I find myself this morning looking for other things that can be completed and taken out of my set.

Our evening last night was so splendid. It was our 13th anniversary. I took my test in the morning and then had the rest of the day to just chill. I found myself so relaxed, yet energized with that one ball out of the set. Healing a Hero is so hard and exhausting. Then we chose to homeschool. I chose to continue working two jobs. I chose to lead a Girl Scout troop again. But knowing I can juggle everything and still accomplish a goal I set for myself years ago is empowering.

I never thought being able to drop a ball would be so relaxing and bring so much peace. I have been working so hard to keep the balls in the air I never stopped to think about how it would feel to throw one down.