I have always said its easier to die than get help in the military healthcare system. Now I also believe it is probably faster for the Serviceman Group Life Insurance Policy (SGLI) to pay when a service member dies than it is to get a military retirement check.
Since December 2010 I have been going through the Disability Evaluation System (DES) some people also refer to this as a Medical Evaluation Board (MEB). I will not go into the details of each step but give an overview.
I began this process because I have medical conditions that render me non world wide qualified, non-deployable. In Jan of 2011 all medical documentation required for step 1 of this process was sent to Higher Headquarters in DC. In June of 2011 the same documentation was sent again to Higher Headquarters, and step 1 was completed. April 2012, I meet with my Physical Evaluation Board Liaison Officer (PEBLO) and Veterans Administration (VA) representative who oversee step 2. This consists of your medical records being reviewed, medical appointments and more paperwork. Step 2 is completed in June 2012. Next everything goes to Air Force Personnel Center (AFPC), Disability Section in San Antonio. While at AFPC part of the documents are sent to Baltimore where the VA reviews your medical records for service connected medical conditions and provides a proposed percent disability rating. Since the Baltimore offices are so behind, records are being sent to offices in Rhode Island. In October of 2012 I receive notification in the mail from the VA in Rhode Island of my proposed rating and all the records are sent back to San Antonio to AFPC from Rhode Island. My PEBLO notifies me on November 8 that I have been recommended for medical retirement I can either agree or disagree. I have served for 25 years and agree with the recommendation. Step 3 complete. Now part of my records go back to Rhode Island, yes same records to same place for the VA to finalize my proposed rating. As I write this my records are still at VA in Rhode Island. I call daily to get a status. Most days you cannot even get to the point of being on hold for a customer service representative because all the lines are taken. 1-800-827-1000 press 1, then press 0, then press 1. If you are able to be placed on hold to talk to someone my average wait time has been 30-45 minutes. Once you do talk to someone all they can say is it is being worked, they read the appropriate responses but do not have the capability to tell you anything about your case. I would leave a message for the VA representative who has been my point of contact since back in April but he does not have nor ever had voicemail and has been busy moving his office the last two weeks per my PEBLO. He did respond once and ask me for my case number. I would have thought he would keep a record of our case numbers but as I write this I still have not heard from him. What will be my final VA rating is unknown, can I go be seen at a VA hospital now yes but I have to pay out of pocket because they have not finished the claim yet. Not until they finish and update their systems will it reflect that I have service connected disability that the Air Force has deemed me to be medically retired.
Back on November 8 when I agreed with the medical retirement, paperwork was also completed to set my retirement date. My retirement date was set for December 29, 2012. Those papers were sent back to AFPC in San Antonio to do my retirement order, I know the name of the person. She is also responsible for sending documents to the Defense Finance Accounting Service (DFAS) for my retirement pay process to begin. On December 11th I received a call from my PEBLO,he has my retirement order and we go over it. Guess what the rank is wrong. The PEBLO calls the lady at AFPC and informs her the order is wrong. As I write this my orders have still not been corrected. Will that affect the calculations that DFAS does for my retirement pay, yes! DFAS did not get all the documents needed to start the process for my retirement pay until Jan 7, 2013. You will also note that Jan 7th is after my retirement date of December 29th. What did she do with my documents from December 7th, the date my orders were completed until Jan 7th is a mystery to me and my PEBLO. My PEBLO has called and emailed her and her supervisor many times with no answers and no action or sense of urgency. To date no one can tell me at DFAS what I will be paid for retirement because it has not been worked yet. When will I get paid, maybe March DFAS tells me. I call everyday 1-800-321-1080 retired pay, hoping that one day I will find out. We are told our whole career that your retirement pay will start 30 days after your retirement date. Not in my case but I bet the lady at AFPC still gets paid. I have asked what I should do in the meantime until I get paid? I was told to file unemployment, but I am not unemployed I am retired. That is not the purpose of unemployment. To get unemployment you have to apply for three jobs a week. I don't need a job I am retired. I can see now why many veterans end up homeless. Landlords want their money just like the veterans but while having to wait 3 months maybe more one does not have a choice. I have moved out of my apartment and living with a friend. You cannot pay rent without a paycheck. Also, If I don't have a pay check how do I pay for my medications? VA says they will reimburse me once my claim is closed, again no paycheck no meds.
I write this petition to draw attention to a system that is broken, with no accountability and no sense of urgency. I know fellow veterans that have gone through and are going through the same process. One fellow veteran has five kids and her claim at VA is still open three years later. Help draw attention to this issue, for me and those that will follow and be subject to this process. For we military members with PTSD, Depression, Brain Injury, Loss of Limbs, Sight and other physical and mental challenges this take everything we have to keep going.