Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Army To Civilians: Be Less Productive-WTF?

Alright. I know I promised I'd blog about this maybe the next day, but I'm getting incredibly busy with working on Winter Soldier. If you haven't checked it out recently, you should go there, it has updated. Denis Keohane over at Obiter Dictum is having kittens about this change, but I think he's mostly annoyed in a 'kids, get off my lawn' sort of way. Having been part of IVAW and seen all the leadup to Winter Soldier, I can tell you that Winter Soldier has always been envisioned as veterans telling their stories, and has never been intended to be only about crimes they had witnessed. The website may have sucked previously, but Denis, I do not think it means what you think it means! Personally, of course, I think it's going to be awesome.

And remember, guys, blogger spots are still open for Winter Soldier. Vets are getting to the point where they may not be able to cover the entire weekend if they want table space, and those willing to cooperate/trade out time are going to the top of the list, but active duty, reserve, or National Guard servicemembers still have top precedence. Also, if you have questions, you know where to email them!

Now, to the actual story that had me all pissed off for the last week: controversy at Fort Drum, which has had an awful lot of issues popping up with it. Apparently, VA people at Fort Drum were helping soldiers fill out their disability paperwork when they were requesting Army disability. The Army and the VA calculate their disability ratings differently, but the Army one is the one that gives the money, and is generally known for being stingier. There was a great study a few years back about how the higher rank you were, the more likely you were to get better disability ratings for the same injuries. A possible cause of it might have been the byzantine forms and procedures that soldiers needed to navigate. VA people were helping them turn the descriptions of the injuries from "hurts like a SOB" to "Pain in left blah blah doctortalk"-at least, that terminology change is my guess. Anyway, great! Civilians taking initiative! Awesome!

Not so much, said the Army. Apparently Fort Drum vets were receiving higher disability ratings than elsewhere, and they sent a Tiger Team to investigate. The Tiger Team told the VA to stop helping out, and the VA complied. The Army Times has the details of what happened next: apparently some Congress members are getting involved, and a board of inquiry may be called. I'm just horrified for my Army, personally. I mean, everyone knows in the Army that it's like pulling teeth to get the civilians to do what they're supposed to. Here they do what they're allowed, above and beyond, and they get shut down? What a message to send to the rest of their counterparts. And what a message to send to Fort Drum.

This ties into my great and abiding rage that monetary concerns are affecting how soldiers are getting diagnosed and treated, especially when it comes to disability time. The monetary concerns are why we first started seeing "pre-existing personality disorders" in record numbers, amazingly enough, often in combat troops! Why, someone might almost be fooled into thinking they had PTSD! Except that PTSD forces the Army to pay money and acknowledge responsibility for medical care.

Hopefully all of these eyes looking at the situation will let the civilians with initiative get back to helping soldiers, if it hasn't been choked out of them. Also, anyone injured who's almost to getting-out time: steer clear of Fort Drum, until this thing gets fixed. There are lots of places that will help with paperwork, often vet groups. I know that IVAW has some connections to vet groups, and the DC chapter in particular is reading up on the law to help out soldiers.


Thus Spake Ortner said...

Was gonna see if I could get a WSII slot, but you seem to have disappeared from our site lately. Also, if it is not about crimes, I really wouldn't have that much interest. I hear war stories all day, every day.

Anyway, just stopping by to say hey since you seem to have disappeared.

Army Sergeant said...

Sorry, I've just been really busy. It's not all about crimes, but I believe some will be talking about them. It's just not the primary focus, and the focus is not on blaming the soldiers.

You're more than welcome to get a slot, though, if you've changed your mind. Drop me an email, scan a copy of some paperwork, you know the deal. :)

libhom said...

A friend of my uncles was denied medical benefits after Vietnam. I just don't know how the military expects people to join up when the VA does crap like that.

Anonymous said...

Higher ranks probably are better equipped, due to training or just years of expereince, in handling the "bureacracy". Basically it is "what are the rules" and "what are the facts". Apply the facts to the rules and anyone can get the answer. So higher ranks being more likely to get a better resolution of their claim probably isn't a "class warfare" thing.

I had a relative get a Social Security Disability claim rejected. Being an amputee, they ranted they'd beat the doctor with the artificial leg as their chosen form of appeal.

In fact there are rules, and a trip to the library gave us a couple of books with the rules. In the appeal, we put all the facts that supported a disability appeal in the letter. We even listed the facts in the order in which they appeared in the rules. Bottom line, appeal was successful.