Dear Elected Officials,
We desperately need your help. This is about a hero’s dignity and respect. I am the wife of a US ARMY Staff Sargent. His name is Rafael Gutierrez. He retired from the Army last November with 22 years of active duty military service under his belt. He wasn’t planning on retirement, but he was found “Unfit for Duty” by the ARMY after being injured in theater. Even though his retirement date was Nov. 27, 2013, on February 6, 2014, he was told by someone at the Florida VA office that he still needs to wait anywhere from 2 to 15 more months to start receiving his pay. Add this to the months we’ve already been waiting.
We were told at the time of retirement, that the entire process would take 45 days and we planned financially for 60, just in case. When we called the Florida VA, 71 days had passed. We were told his processing hadn’t even started and had to wait 2-15 MORE months because they were backed up.
This was disheartening and EXTREMELY infuriating.
We have 2 kids, 16 and 18, and our son is in the Autism Spectrum, anxiety, and depresion. The medications and medical appoitment co-pays are getting ridiculously high. WE CAN'T WAIT ANY LONGER!
Let me tell you about my husband, and why he is a HERO.
SSG Gutierrez has been deployed and/or away from us so many times that of the 20 years we’ve been married, we’ve actually been “together” less than 15. Through his deployments he suffered from severe PTSD and constant headaches but was told that it would all “go away” with time, and did not receive treatment for either. This first started back in 2004.
He VOLUNTEERED for his deployments. He could not sit by and watch in the News his military brothers & sisters fighting and barely getting by, and do nothing to help. Ask anyone who has served with him and they will testify to this. He knows damned well that in order for his family to be happy, they must be free, so he went and fought, as was his job, for the freedon of his, YOUR, our Country. You are reading this because of heroes like him who have always protected our rights.
His last deployment was to Afghanistan. His headaches got progressively worse until one day he lost consciousness at the wheel of a Humvee. The vehicle was a total loss. He suffered injuries to his neck, shoulder, back, hips, knees, and head. He was medically evacuated from Afghanistan to Germany on Oct 2009, from there he was sent to Ft Gordon, GA. They told him in Germany that they couldn’t perform the required tests.
In GA he spent months seeing doctors but not given any physical therapy and was told not to exercise without medical supervision. This resulted on a man who previously weight a healthy 235 pounds with a 7% index body fat, accustomed to physical labor and exercise, to gain 75 pounds sitting in a room, taking medications that made him gain weight (he wasn’t receiving a medical/hospital diet and had to survive on take-out), waiting alone is a room for someone to do something and give him answers. Needless to say, none of this helped his already set and untreated PTSD and depresion.
He was NOT a person. He was NOT treated as a hero, with respect. He was just another patient to fill with pills. Nobody gave a rat's behind.
This resulted in high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and worsening of the injuries mentioned above, still, no one attended the extra problem that weight gain represented. Of course, this led in more pills. It was a something out of a horror story.
After a while, and by our request, they transferred him close to home to the Warrior Transition Battalion in Orlando. Having him home made a big difference, specially in his diet, but the weight caused by the medications wasn’t coming off. Still, it wasn’t being addressed. As to why he lost consciousness and the reason for the headaches, which had by now become severe migraines (about 5 per week, each lasting anywhere from 16 to 48 hours), no answers.
We finally DID get an answer, 9 months AFTER the accident, at the National Intrepid Center of Excellence, at Bethesda, MD, where he was finally examined extensively by a group of specialists. They discovered he had suffered 2 brain injuries during his first deployment to Iraq in 04 when he was told that everything would “go away,”and/or his vehicular accident in 09.
After returning home, everything went back to private doctors prescribing pills. The communication between his doctors was so bad that he almost OVERDOSED and had to go through a week of cold turkey detox. The symptoms were ten times WORSE.
This went on from 2009 to 2013 where he was hospitalized at the VA Hospital in Tampa for 3 weeks last September. There, his weight problem had finally reached an all-time danger high with diabetes.
He was told once too many times that he was the most difficult case they’ve seen, because no matter what they tried, the migraines would not go away, and there was “nothing we can do.” He still has them. He needs help on daily simple things like driving, getting dressed, remembering his meds (over 15). He has trouble concentrating, remembering, getting organized; he still can’t exercise as before and he’s still dealing with losing weight. Since Tampa, he has finally been able to lose 40 pounds just by switching his medications and the times when they were taken. THIS is the DIFFERENCE that a CARING doctor makes.
Needless to say, this has been a very disappointing journey. Once the military finally decided that he was unfit for duty, he was given his retirement date with a disability percentage of 90%. The VA gave him 100%. This brings us to the right-now.
While we are still under the ARMY’s umbrella, waiting for the first VA check that was supposed to take 45 days from November 27, 2013, we’re being paid a lot less while, of course, still having the same expenses.
Our emergency savings are gone, yet we still have to wait 2-15 more months?! I stay home for my soldier because he needs a 24/hr caregiver, he can’t hold a part time job for OBVIOUS reasons…what are we supposed to do while the people who are supposed to support their heroes the most just say “it will go away,” “there’s nothing we can do for your pain,” and “you have to wait” even longer?
My husband has never been treated with the respect a wounded soldier deserves and now it has come to the unthinkable, we have to borrow money from relatives to pay for our kid’s graduation, braces, the normal simple stuff that goes on everyday like food, rent, utilities. Our electric service was discontinued twice since this all hit the fan. This is humiliating.
God forbid we have a real emergency while living check to check, AFTER giving SO MUCH for this country.
Guess what are the worst triggers for his migraines? Stress, high blood pressure, depression, anger, frustration. He’s back to the severity of when this all started years ago. YEARS! His progress is not only STALLED but REGRESSED!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Seriously? This is why our government spent so much in trying to get him better? Paying medical expenses and hospitalizations through 5 years, just to go back to where we started ---- no, I'm sorry, WORSE than when he started.
We are DONE waiting and going along with excuses. We DEMAND the respect and the benefits we deserve NOW, not in 15 months! We CAN’T wait, and we shouldn’t have to, but we can’t do it alone. We need the backup and the help from our elected officials; from YOU.
How can we get my husband back his dignity? PLEASE HELP!!
in desperate need,
…and remember…not all of our fallen heroes have passed away, the one that need us most are still among us. DON'T let them fall any deeper.
Gretchen Gautier started this petition with a single signature, and won with 31,670 supporters. Start a petition to change something you care about.