Wednesday, November 19, 2014

We're So Close....

We are so close to our goal of having our forever home's mortgage under $200,000!!! We've been working hard with our builders and suppliers to secure product donations. We were so blessed by the success of "writing on the walls" fundraiser we had. We also have been blessed by some great donations coming in from some great non-profits who want to see Chaz in a safe home that will enable his independence. We are so close to that goal that when 9line offered to be the facilitator for another fundraiser for us, we just had to say yes.

We are so thankful for everyone who has helped us so far on this journey. We want everyone to know that every dollar donated truly counts. Here are a few examples of where money is going in our home.
  • $5 buys 10 electrical covers. 
  • $10 buys a towel bar. 
  • $25 buys the faucet for the girls' bathroom. 
  • $50 buys 5 sheets of drywall. 
  • $75 buys a ceiling fan.
  • $100 buys 17 tubes of caulk.

Here's an October picture of our home! We hope to get there soon and get up to date pictures! But at least with this one you can see we have made progress!!

Back to that new fundraiser we are launching today! By going to you can learn more and can participate.

With this fundraiser, we are tossing in a personal Allen Family touch. With every donation of $50 or more, we will mail you one of our super cute, homemade and full of love ornaments for your Christmas tree. Here's a picture of our ornaments in the making.

We love adding ornaments to our tree. We love to give them as gifts. It is our hope that you will not only cherish our ornament this year, but we hope you will put it on your tree for years to come and remember how you helped our family build our forever home!!!

In 2015, our forever home will be finished and you'll finally get to see where every dollar raised has gone! We just cannot wait to share the joyous occasion with everyone!! I don't think we have been so excited to see a New Year arrive!

Please consider helping us reach our goal by contributing to this fundraiser and by sharing this with you networks! Thank you!!

Sunday, November 16, 2014


What is enough? Most of us think of enough when have had enough food or are we warm enough? What about when someone tells you that your spouse "isn't wounded enough" to qualify for assistance? Did you ever think you'd hear that?

I know you are probably thinking that I am kidding, but I am not. Our friends did a story with a Maryland news reporter about "not being wounded enough." You can watch it here.

I wish I could say Franz and Shannon are the only ones who have ever heard these words "wounded enough," but no Chaz and I have heard it many times. And we are just a few who have heard this statement. Families are told this all the time. We were once told if Chaz had lost his arm instead of letting Walter Reed save it, then we could qualify for more things. I truly wish I was making that up, but I am not.

Yes friends, there's a magical scale out there that determines when our wounded have been "wounded enough." Knowing this should make you very uncomfortable. Knowing this should make you angry and it should make you question the non-profits you donate to. Knowing this should make you angry enough to challenge the VA's Special Adaptive Housing Grant.

I have known Franz and Shannon since the early days of their journey. I have given them tons of big sister style advice. Turns out we grew up about twenty miles apart from each other, but it took war to bring us together.

Franz and Shannon have been turned down by several non-profits because, wait for it......he has both of his legs. Many non-profits who build homes rely on the wounded to get their special adaptive housing grant of $67,555 in order to build them a home. (Please note: The VA states the maximum dollar amount allowable for SAH grants in fiscal year 2014 is $70,465 on their website. We were informed by our TN-VA rep that we will receive $67,555 for our home build.) If you click here you can read why they are not fully qualifying Franz for the VA grant. According to the VA representatives they met with, he has to have loss or loss of use of two extremities. They were denied they VA adaptive vehicle grant because of the same reason.

Franz was shot five times by Afghan troops who were supposed to be friendly. They shattered his hip, and it had to be totally replaced. Walter Reed is still trying to save one of his legs. Franz can walk, but with a lot of pain. The walking pain is Franz and Chaz's bond. Neither of them can walk without horrible pain. So just like Chaz, Franz needs to be in his wheelchair the overwhelming majority of his day. This means that like Chaz, Franz needs a fully accessible home built for him.

Chaz and I have spent 2014 learning all about building your own home. So many think a non-profit is building our home. This is NOT true. Chaz and I are building our home! We secured the construction loan and we have secured donations of products and cash to make his home a reality. But a home-building non-profit is NOT helping us build our forever home.

The first home building non-profit we talked to told us Chaz wasn't "injured enough" to qualify for one of their homes. The second wanted complete control over our bank accounts. The third showed up and had a ground breaking and then stopped communicating with us. It was at this point where we took charge and just have done it ourselves.

We have had several non-profits approach since we began our build. They all wanted to fire our builders and refuse the products we had been given and take complete control of our build. My favorite was the one who said we needed to stop our build immediately, apply with them and they would guarantee our home would be build within two years. Or the other one that said for us to stop building and they would build for us within two years in another state. Or the other one that said if we would give them all the money we had raised they would make sure our build was finished and finished correctly.

Franz and Shannon have watched our family go through all of this BS for the past two years. TWO YEARS!!! For two years, we have had people dangle carrots in front of us with their magic promises so we would follow their lead, only to not return emails or phone calls. Or they finally come back and say they can't help us because Chaz "isn't wounded enough" or that we have done "enough for ourselves to where we really don't need assistance."

In the hopes of being good friends, Chaz and I have shared our entire journey with Franz and Shannon. It is our hope that rather than being told they are not enough of something that they know that some people actually care and won't help them with crazy strings or criteria attached. But the one thing we cannot help them with is the VA. We cannot make them "grant accepted." Only the VA can decide if Franz can have that $67,555.

He will need that money to build his home. An accessible home includes wider door ways, lower counter tops, special features in the bathroom and throughout the home. The booklet of tasks you must complete for the VA to give you that $67,555 is huge. The good news for Franz and Shannon is if they can get grant approved, Chaz and I know the VA rep that will be approving their build and we will be able to help them there. 

Our forever home will cost $430,000 by the time it is finished. I have chatted with several families over the cost of their homes. Many that we have chatted with share the price range we are in, we know of several who have homes way above our price range.

You might say that is too much, but the non-profit who held the groundbreaking....the house they proposed to us had an estimated cost of over $600,000. Chaz and I cut out over $170,000 in our home and then we had to actually make it fully accessible. Yes the people who were supposed to build us an "accessible home" did not provide us with accessible plans. We had to sit with the VA and adjust the plans before building. Then we, with the help of our builders, set out to get as many product and cash donations as possible for our home.

As a nation, we are failing our wounded, ill and injured. We are making them continue to fight for benefits they should receive. Franz should not have to fight for his grant. Just like Chaz, Franz has paperwork to show he was deployed to Afghanistan, then medically evacuated out of the battlefield, to Germany and then to Walter Reed. Just like Chaz, Franz will have an enormous medical record substantiating his injuries from the war he fought in. But because Chaz lost two legs and you can visibly see his struggle the VA will give him a grant. Because they can see that Franz still has legs, they ignorantly assume he is "not wounded enough" to warrant the grant for his home. Franz just like Chaz fought, bled and almost died for our country. Our VA system should provide him the same benefit.

Just like Chaz, the VA benefit of $67,555 will not be enough to build Franz and Shannon's forever home. They will need us all to step up and help wherever we can. Chaz and I are helping by sharing information of all sorts with Franz and Shannon. It is our hopes that once we build our home, we can then help them build theirs. A Go Fund Me account has been set up for them to get this home built. Please consider helping them. You can visit their link by clicking here.

If you want to learn more about Franz and Shannon, you can visit their facebook page by clicking here. Please lift them up in your prayers and support them however you can!

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Oh No!! We've Been Caught!!

This article caught my eye last night...Veterans Caught Triple-Dipping on Benefits

I thought, what? Veterans Caught?! What's this?!

You know what this is? This is the sensational writings of someone with a little bit of information. Of course I read it and think well Hell we've been caught...That's right my Cat 2 rated, 100% permanently and totally disabled husband triple dips...Then my brain paused and realized he isn't doing one thing wrong.

Thanks to legislation passed years ago, Chaz is able to collect VA disability, CRSC (Combat Related Special Compensation) and Social Security. And I don't feel like he's doing anything to warrant the statement of "being caught."

You know what upsets me the absolute most about this article. This will drive civilians further away from our veterans. We, as a country, need to understand our veterans better and appreciate their service and sacrifice; instead this article promotes resentment from civilians towards our veterans. This article makes it look like they are a big drain on the government because of their disabilities. This article makes it look like we are all rolling in money, let me assure you we are not. 

Here's the truth for this household, we are financially better off today than we were prior to Chaz's injuries. Do you know why? Um because I now have a full-time job! We are now a two income family. It's not a secret that having two incomes makes a big difference in a household. Wait, I guess we've "been caught" on that too now. I guess I should stop confessing.

Most people will read that article and blame Senator Coburn, but I blame him and the author equally for their misreading of the GAO report which you will find here. If you click in the story it won't take you to the report it only takes you back to the article, funny huh?!

Take the time and read the facts in the report. Senator Coburn and this author sure as heck didn't.

One thing they did get correct SSDI is running out of money, but they seemed to have forgotten that the veterans we are speaking of who are drawing that income....wait for it....paid into SSDI by working. SSDI is based on the person's career earnings paid into the Social Security System. Not making this up and yes, I even found it in the GAO's report.

Then I found this lovely fallacy in their article, "But Social Security rules don’t treat military retirement or VA disability payments as regular income..." um...did they check with IRS publication 17? No form of retirement or disability payment is considered regular income. This has been the law for decades and is not exclusive to the military payment system.

The article mentioned a few numbers that they took the liberty of estimating, but they left out a few other facts but you can find in the GAO Report. Here's one example.

Out of 1.9 million DOD nondisability and disability retirees, we identified 59,251 individuals who received concurrent payments in fiscal year 2013 from DOD retirement, VA disability compensation, and SSDI. The payments totaled over $3.5 billion.

Characteristics of 59,251 individuals:

  • A total of 40,179 (or 68 percent) each received between $25,000 and $74,999 in total compensation. 
  •  A total of 2,304 (or 4 percent) each received concurrent payments of $100,000 or more, with the highest beneficiary receiving $208,757 in fiscal year 2013. 
  • The age of the individuals receiving concurrent payments ranged from 19 to 66, with almost half (28,626, or 48 percent) of the individuals age 60 or above as of January 2013. 
  •  The combined benefits for these individuals age 60 or above totaled $1.7 billion. 
  •  A total of 48,127 (or 81 percent) had a VA disability rating equal to or greater than 50 percent. 
  •  A total of 10,289 (or 17 percent) received compensation due to a combat related disability.
I read through that and immediately holy moley these guys went on a negative fishing trip. Did you know the GAO found the average VA pay out for FY2013 was $13,131 and the average SSDI pay out for 2013 was $11,953. So the average disabled veteran pulled in $25,084 from those two sources.And you know what? I am totally ok with my tax dollars going there. I hope that income helps those families.

Here's my bottom line, it appears that this author is jealous some of our disabled veterans have a higher income than he does. I am not sure what the Senator's excuse is, because we all know he makes way more. I think that the Senator wants some attention, well he's got mine that's for sure. I don't really care for people who get attention by telling a tenth of the story. The great state of Oklahoma elected him to serve them and in my option he needs to go find another fight to fight. Here's one....Senator go take care of your state's VA hospital system. From what I hear, it needs a lot of help.

Let me assure the author and the Senator that every caregiver I know including myself would happy hand over every benefit check to the government to have a happy healthy service member back. Absolutely NO amount of money can ever fully heal anyone. I do appreciate the income coming in, because we have a house to build to suit his needs and we sure can't do it on my salary alone.

I really would love for the author and the Senator to visit with my Oklahoma born and bred, disabled veteran hubby and his father, who is also a disable veteran, and tell them they didn't earn their benefits. We'll make the time for that conversation, I can assure you.

It is beyond ignorant to accuse our veterans of being caught doing anything beyond serving our country and sacrificing for our great nation. And if I was registered to vote in OK, I sure as heck wouldn't vote this guy back in. 

It is also beyond ignorant to paint a picture of disabled veterans rolling in the taxpayers' dough. If we are we so financially well off then please tell me why so many are veterans homeless? Why are so many veterans dependent on non-profits to build them homes to suit their disabilities? Why are so many veterans on the verge of bankruptcy? And why oh why are we paying out of pocket for things the VA is supposed to provide?

I read the report and you know what it actually makes me feel better knowing that our disabled veterans have income from various sources to help them and their families. I only wish the GAO had a report on the gap the non-profits have to fill because the government is not doing enough. Something tells me the Senator wouldn't read that one, oh wait he barely read this one.

One last thing for the Senator, if you don't want to pay for our veterans and their disabilities then perhaps you should stop voting to send them to war. Just a thought to toss out there.