Being a disabled veteran does not necessarily mean the wound is physically visible. Scars can run internally deep and many times have a more serious effect than those of a visible nature. Many people look at me and say, “He does not look disabled, he looks perfectly healthy.” To me, that is a very unfair and inaccurate assessment of me. Disability is not just a physically visible appearance. It has internal challenges that affect all parts of the body. I can say that I have learned a great deal about being disabled. I for one, struggle to admit that I am disabled. I did not want that label. I wanted to get back to work. I wanted my life back. I wanted to rejoin the United States Navy and get back on an Aircraft Carrier and serve our nation once more. I tried my best to talk to Naval recruiters, but constantly ran into roadblocks. Those roadblocks were service connected disabilities in my lower back and the Lymphoma disease I have been battling since returning home from Iraq in 2003.
How should we embrace our disabled veterans? We should acknowledge their sacrifice and service to our great nation. We should honor them, not judge them and we should implore Congress to pass more legislation to improve Veterans Laws, like the VA Choice Program, which allows Veterans to receive local care if their VA Hospital or Clinic cannot provide medical services in a timely manner. There is a loophole in the VA Choice Program, not all medical services are provided locally.
“I should not have to explain myself, nor should I have to prove myself.”
If you are a Veteran and you need a stem cell transplant, or a major heart surgery, then your local VA will send you to Nashville, TN, San Antonio, TX, or Seattle WA for these procedures, leaving your families and support system behind. You, the veteran who traveled thousands of miles to war zones overseas in the Middle East, must now travel to other locations for these procedures, and that is outrageous. Congress must improve the VA Choice Program to allow all veterans to receive local medical procedures big or small. Our veterans deserve the best care, not broken care. I have been a Veteran for 12 years, and I have always demanded to receive the best care, and today I feel very confident that I have the best care. I have worked with doctors, nurses, and scientists from the Phoenix and Miami VA Hospitals, City of Hope in LA, The Mayo Clinic in Phoenix, University of Arizona Cancer Center in Tucson, Arizona, and Banner MD Anderson Cancer Center in Gilbert, Arizona. The success I have had with my fight against Lymphoma has had to do with my faith in God, the best medical care in the world, and my determination to WIN!
We should not judge any disabled veteran who has served our nation. I should not have to explain myself, nor should I have to prove myself. My actions are confirmed by my service in Japan and Iraq. When I have a Chief of Staff at the Phoenix VA Hospital tell me that the cost is too high for me to get approval for my stem cell transplant, I take issue with that. No veteran should be told that the cost of their health care is too high. That is a conversation that the Phoenix VA Hospital Chief of Staff of the VA should have with Congress, not the veteran. To the credit of the CoS at the Phoenix VA Hospital, she was able to get my stem cell transplants approve locally, but not without a fight that I was more than willing to have. Many disabled veterans cannot fight for themselves because of their age, lack of support, or no will to fight at all. These are the veterans that end up losing and giving up on life. The best advocate for yourself is YOU! I demanded the best care I felt comfortable with, and I never gave up, because I have 2 beautiful kids that deserve a dad who will be their dad for a long time. Never give up or ignore our disabled Veterans. Do not just look at their outer wounds, but pray for their inner wounds too, both are to be taken seriously and respected.
“With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow, and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.”
– President Abraham Lincoln