Disposable Soldiers: Medical Command Given Congressional Order
(Author’s note: In 2007, Michelle Obama said to America that if her husband were elected, “our lives would never be the same.” What follows is one soldier’s story, and his life will certainly never be the same.
In July of 2011, my non-commissioned officer friend and his wife knew something was coming down. Then just five weeks ago, he mysteriously lost his job and his military pay. His wife has been dealing with major medical issues and he suffers from wounds received in battle. They face an uncertain future with no income and no return of loyalty from the Obama administration. Now his wife is having reservations regarding the military’s sacred commitment to their soldiers.
How could this administration suddenly cut this loyal patriot’s military pay after 28 years of devoted service to his country? Where is the loyalty from their Commander-in-Chief and the Pentagon?
My non-commissioned officer friend wishes to remain anonymous for this article. His state’s National Guard is still working with him to resolve his issues so I am also leaving out the name of his stateside location. We discussed at length the effects on his family’s lives as a direct result of the Obama administration’s never-ending spending and proposed military cuts. The thing that impressed me the most while talking to him was his overwhelming concern for his fellow soldiers, especially the ones that were under his command.
What follows is a transcription of my interview with my non-commissioned officer friend. It is our intent to help give an understanding as to what we are enduring with the government, the U.S. Army and the National Guard—and what my friend and I are both hoping is that his insider’s information will motivate all of us to start a letter writing campaign to Congress and to our state representatives.
By the way–if you think this story is a nightmare, wait until ObamaCare kicks in for all of us. Lainie Sloane)
“In July of 1976, I started my military career in a State National Guard after I graduated high school just months before. I entered infantry training in order to help me develop self-discipline and to find a path way to my hidden strengths so that I might better serve my Lord Jesus and become stronger and a person of commitment. I figured if I could become a good infantry soldier I would be able to withstand the hardship of mission work in a foreign land. Little did I know that this would be the vehicle many years later to ministry. Also, as a guardsman I could get all my college paid for, an expense I knew my parents could not handle.
Two years later in August of 1978, I married and then in 1983 we entered the active duty Army. Due to my initial entry being so far back, I had to complete basic training and advance individual training a second time and trained as a Reconnaissance Scout. After that, my wife and I were transferred to another state. We stayed here many years and eventually, under the Clinton administration, got out of the service on an early out to continue pastoral training at a church in that same state.
The key to this period was a training accident that seriously injured my back in about 1986. This is noted in my military medical records.
After getting out in November of 1988, I received a call to standby for Desert Shield in the winter of 1990. I told my wife I was going and packed my bags. She reminded me of the obvious—that I was out, so we went on our planned Christmas vacation home to the Midwest. When we arrived back home, there was a letter waiting for me. Basically it said (paraphrased), You can come now and pick your fight, or you can come later and be cannon fodder, so I went to Desert Shield/Storm.
Thankfully, God answered the prayers of a praying nation and this war did not go as we thought it would.
I got home in April of 1991. After many adventures, my wife said she wanted to go home and in November of 1999, we finally figured out where that was—with her mother in her home state.
In January of 2000, I rejoined my state’s Army National Guard as an Infantry Team Leader. As the years passed, I went on to serve as a Squad leader, Infantry Instructor, Company Heavy Weapons Sergeant (Non Commissioned Officer—in-Charge—NCOIC).
My mother-in-law died of cancer in March 2004, after which I was deployed to Afghanistan in April of 2004.
At the sake of being tedious, I believe it is necessary that I present my credentials. Upon return I became the Trainer/Evaluator and Validations for deploying units (instructor/overseer), Heavy Weapons/Scout Platoon Sergeant, Rear Detachment Commander and Casualty Affairs Officer while my unit was in Iraq from 2007 to 2008, followed by Reconnaissance Cavalry Troop First Sergeant in a Battlefield Surveillance Brigade (BfSB) (trained for deployment to Iraq in 2010 and2011), deployed as Headquarters Company, Brigade BfSB First Sergeant to Iraq with over 252 soldiers in my care which included the Brigade Commander and his staff.
This is a very quick overview of my career. I had over 300 combat missions in 2004 and 2005 alone. Hopefully, this helps you to see a little of what my wife has had to endure and why her trust issues with the military is so severe at this point. There is an old saying, Soldiers sign up and their families are drafted! Very true and they get the short end of it all too many times.”
“As a combat infantryman, my load in combat varied from 135 to 185 pounds. That, along with all of the vigorous training, has taken a toll on my knees, back, shoulders, and finally, Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome (PTSD).
After I returned in late 2010, I ended up in the V.A. Hospital on the orders of a retired Colonel, friend of the family. It was there they diagnosed me with PTSD, severe bacterial pneumonia and they found cysts in my pancreas.
Throughout the beginning months of 2011, I was a basket case. I was kept on orders by the Colonel whom I served in combat with, who just happened to be the new commander of the Camp I was assigned to.
I received treatment from the V.A. and my Camp. Then in July of 2011, talks of cutbacks and loss of positions were rampant. Unbeknown to me, my position was one that would be cut.
On 26 September 2011, a new chapter started in our lives. I was ordered to the Warrior Transition Center at a Base in another state. I had heard some good stuff about this place, but mostly heard horror stories of the mistreatment of soldiers.
My orders were based on multiple medical conditions, which my Camp diagnosed. I needed continuing treatment. Just to mention a few, treatment as a result of the diagnosis to do a biopsy to rule out pancreatic cancer, both knees need therapy or surgery, severe low back pain, a left shoulder injury and PTSD. If any or all of these issues deserved merit in the mind of the military, I would have been considered for a medical review for disability evaluation and medical retirement.
Upon entry to the unit, I presented documentation of all of these issues and more as regulation defined. During my time there, medical treatment was slow due to 1) the number of soldiers that needed attention and 2) budget cuts that kept cutting services and service providers to the soldiers.”
Two Issues: Medical Care and Command
“On one side is the medical care. As an example, during my time there I was supposed to be treated for PTSD, but in my six month stay, when I finally did get to see a doctor, there was no continuum of service. In fact, I ended up seeing four different behavioral specialists.
It is going to get much worse with this administration’s view of the military!
It took a month in the program before I saw my primary care provider, a doctor who is a retired Lieutenant Colonel. She was very good, but she had strict guidelines to which she had to adhere. She put together a good care plan, although I never saw the plan for whatever reason, triaging my needs—pancreas, knees, back, shoulder, PTSD, etc.
I also had a nurse case manager who was very excellent with managing my appointments and doing everything possible to meet my needs and follow the regulations.
On the other side was Command. The Warrior Transition Center Command is the Commander of the Army Hospital at an Army Hospital. He is a Colonel and has a staff of officers and doctors who work under his charge. The Battalion Surgeon is an active duty Lieutenant Colonel, the Battalion Commander (LTC) and his Command Sergeant Major is at the Battalion level. The company level commanders take care of the every day administrative duties. All of the soldiers/patients are divided into companies for administration regardless of rank. This meant I had a Staff Sergeant two grades lower than me and many others who out-ranked him. He had the charge of and instruction of what they should do. This is not a good model—we can do better.
Initially I was being seen for my pancreas, but the going was so slow and it was possibly cancer. When the V.A. at home finally came forth with an appointment for a biopsy that had been requested months earlier, I took it with the blessing of my doctor and command. This was in November of this year, just before Thanksgiving.
After the Thanksgiving break, I returned to camp and appointments for MRIs for my back and knees continued. Once in a while I would get in to be seen by a behavioral health specialist. In December, my orders were waiting for a doctor’s letter so I could officially start a care plan for my knees and back. It did not happen in a timely manner, and it ended up causing my pay to be messed up. This personally cost us over $1800 just before Christmas. Merry Christmas…
After the Christmas break, I returned to camp, still awaiting the letter based on my care plan. It would affect a new set of orders to extend my duty so my medical issues could be addressed.
During this time, my doctor proceeded with treatment and referrals to orthopedic specialists. The MRI on my left knee came back. The finding on it was that the entire cushion in the knee joint was gone. In fact, not only gone, but the joint of the femur had been ground down, leaving a hole from which bone marrow was being forced out into the joint as I walked and ground it down further. It was knee replacement time. My right knee had some ligament damage but was responding well to therapy, so the doctor ordered pool therapy. My left knee has excruciating pain.
As for my back, I was referred to surgery. The doctors looked at the MRI and determined I was not a surgical candidate at this time; however, pain management was in order. I had one appointment with a civilian doctor. The Army did not have anyone. He determined I should be receiving spinal injections.
All of sudden the battalion (BN) surgeon determined my care was complete. She had not consulted my primary care manager (PCM) or my nurse care manager (NCM)!
I had been assured that my new orders were coming since my out date was the 23rd of January. New orders would not be an issue. The new orders would allow treatment of my back, care for my left knee and treatment for the PTSD or the determination of a medical board for Retirement. What?
Just before Christmas, a Lieutenant Colonel, a good friend, told me his story. He needed pain management care for his back or Medical Evaluation Board (MEB). Command decided he would not get either and determined to send him home, off orders, with the determination he was not fit for duty and unable to work a civilian job! He confided in me he had fought this all he could, all the way to the Colonel that commanded the hospital. It was there he was told that Medical Command had received a congressional order to get all composition 2 (National Guard) and 3 National Guard and Reserves out of the Warrior Training Center (WTC). We are still looking for this congressional order!
When he left, a memorandum was sent to his state (or the State Command) stating that he was fit for duty—an outright lie! He did find a way to get orders elsewhere and is still fighting his fight.
I could not believe this would happen to me—-I was wrong.
A memorandum from the BN Surgeon was sent to State Command stating, First Sergeant (insert my last name) is fit for duty—another outright lie! When the State received this, they knew it was not true due to their involvement with me earlier in 2011. I called the Command Sergeant Major, my former boss, a very good friend and a battle buddy, who in turn informed the Base Commander, another comrade-in-arms.
In a week, the Lieutenant Colonel I worked for at Camp came to my Base with his staff to try to get the problem worked out and to get details. In the meantime, I contacted an Ombudsman; hopefully he could negotiate for me. Not even!
I also contacted the office of my Congressman, Todd Rokita (R). His staff is still working on this and after consulting with me, they pushed this forward to the Pentagon. The State National Guard is doing everything they can to assist me.
The day after I was to leave, the General’s Staff from my state came to my Base to get to the root of the issues.
- Why are soldiers being sent away without all issues noted in their records being addressed?
- Why are soldiers who meet criteria for MEB (Medial Evaluation Board) not being boarded?
- Why are soldiers not being involved in their plans of care?
- And most of all, if you are doing these things to my Senior Enlisted and Officers, what are you doing to or for my privates and specialists?
They did try to intervene on my behalf, but to no avail.
This is a nationwide problem. There are over 14 Warrior Training Centers (WTCs) in the nation. National Guard and Reserve soldiers make up over one third of the Army’s force and have fought side-by-side since September 11! Now, when they are broke, wounded warriors—the wounded, sick, and injured from combat, big Army refuses to take care of the soldiers!
At this point I cannot work a civilian job due to my left knee. My doctor has said I have to limit my walking, use a cane and no work! The Army states that I am fit for duty.
As of today I am off active duty orders with no pay check, and all my medical care is at 80/20 now; otherwise, if I was on active duty, it would be taken care of 100%.
The state has a program called Incapacitation Pay. Incap pay was developed to pay National Guardsmen who are injured in the line of duty while they heal and cannot go back to their civilian job. The rate of pay is based on their civilian pay. The National Guard is supplying me with Incapacitation Pay at this time. That amount will cut my family’s income by two-thirds.
They can get me back to my Base and then they will state that I need an evaluation by the Medical Evaluation Board (MEB), which would once again mean the cessation of treatment until retirement. The process is slow and can take anywhere from nine months to a year for the MEB, but it is paid. After that I would be in the care of the V.A.
…or while I wait, the National Guard may find a way to get me the surgery I need for my knee, but that still leaves a lot undone.
And what about retirement? A medical retirement would mean pay and care now.”
What about the Veterans’ Administration?
“The V.A. is there to take care of all branches of the military once they retire. They will care for all injuries determined to be in the line of duty, and if a soldier is determined to be .50% disabled due to LOD injuries, then all medical care is taken care of.
But it is not the V.A.’s charter to care for soldiers. It’s the Army’s Wounded Warriors divisions (by definition I mean the wounded, sick, or injured) who have not received the full care of their branch of service first.
I am not special. There many other men and women who have given much more and paid the ultimate price. My prayers are with all of them and their families.”
Why Do We Fight?
“Soldiers – why do we go to war? Yes, because we are ordered; yes, for God and Country, but even more than that, we go to war for each other—to help each other and be there for each other, and to gain experience. We also go to mentor the younger soldiers and to maybe save lives! That is why we go to war.
While I appreciate the thanks I get from people for my service, it actually means so much more to receive thanks coming from a fellow soldier who has been there.
That is why I take up this course of action. To ensure my soldiers, for that matter all service members, the less than 50% that serve in our nation’s armed forces, receive the care they need and deserve of a grateful nation.
This issue is not limited to my Camp or base. It is a nationwide issue that should concern all Americans.”