Read between the lines!

Read between the lines!

October 28, 2010 ~ Recently the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) put out a Congressional Report Card to inform us about who in Washington really supports our troops and veterans. I pay attention to everything IAVA puts out as they seem to be spot on when it comes to the issues facing our veterans and the issues that need attention. I check their website frequently, I receive their Daily News Brief each day, and I have come to rely on the IAVA as a powerful resource.

When the Congressional Report Card arrived in my inbox, I immediately began to review it. Having worked very closely with several lawmakers over the past year, I was excited to see the glowing report of those who have spent countless hours fighting the system to ensure that our wounded warriors across the nation receive the best possible care. I’ll admit, I was also extremely anxious to view the failing grades by those who had not put any effort into the issues facing our wounded warriors. One of the main reasonsI dropped what I was doing to view this report is because, as I have already mentioned, I regard the IAVA as one of the most reliable sources to find out what is really going on and I trust that they are completely dedicated to advocating for the best possible treatment for our veterans.

Imagine my surprise when I found that my congressman, Ben Chandler, who has done very little to help my efforts, received an A on his report card. To say I was shocked would be an understatement. I quickly looked to find the grade for Congressman Walter Jones of North Carolina. This man has gone far beyond the call of duty to help my son and countless other Marines based at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. Fully expecting to see an A+, I nearly fell out of my seat when I saw his report card grade was a C.

Once I was able to lift my jaw off the ground, I figured there had to be some mistake. How can a man who has dedicated himself to fighting an uphill battle for our wounded warriors be described in a nutshell as an average lawmaker? Congressman Walter Jones is far from average. Not only does he have at least one liaison for our military and veterans who is 100% dedicated to revealing the truth and solving problems, the congressman has gotten personally involved and has spent countless hours on our case alone. I can’t imagine that the man has time to sleep. I’ve heard that he never takes a vacation and I believe it!

Even harder to fathom is the A sitting next to Ben Chandler’s name. I’ve never spoken to him. I’ve had to fight tooth and nail to get any attention from his staff. How did I get attention? First I wrote a strong letter informing his staff that I would be sure to let everyone know during the campaign of the “real” efforts of Congressman Chandler should anyone ask me for my opinion on how he supports veterans and troops. When I stopped by the office a few weeks later, I was greeted with hostility and a coldness that I regarded as unprofessional. I did not verbally mention my intent to share my opinion, but my letter must have struck a nerve because I was bluntly told, during my visit, that I could just go “vote for someone else!” As the months have passed, the relationship between me and the staffer has actually become more positive, but we both had to turn the other cheek to move forward. I’m pretty sure that the only reason I got any action is because I was seen as a threat, viewed as one who would likely spout off an opinion that would not be positive PR for the congressman. Even more convincing, I am sure, was the relationship that I had established with Congressman Jones office.

There is a difference between Congressman Walter Jones and Congressman Ben Chandler. Congressman Jones really listens. He looks into the situation from all sides. He takes action when he sees the need to do so, and most importantly, he is approachable.

It seems to me that the case workers in the many of these offices are told how to handle a situation, and these people make all of the decisions. If I had to guess, I would say that Chandler has never heard my name before. He probably never got personally involved at all. It is my belief that he would have been a little bit curious about this particular case because of the path it has taken over the past year. His name is stamped on all the letters written for this case, but he didn’t put it there himself. An aide likely made the assumption that this issue was not important enough to bring the the congressman’s attention. The aide was likely instructed to handle things that way the day he was hired. I don’t believe Congressman Chandler can really be described as a representative who is focused enough on veteran’s issues to receive an A on his report card.

I spent months documenting problems at Wounded Warrior Battalion East, Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. I was extremely concerned about the health care my son was receiving and I noticed that his was not an isolated case. I made sure I had enough evidence so that someone would actually believe me, and when I felt I had enough documentation, I finally moved forward. My motivation – I feared for my son’s life.

I approached every senator and congressman sitting on the Armed Services Committees in the House and the Senate. Only a handful replied. Senator Bunning and Senator McConnell must have replied out of obligation since I am from their state of Kentucky, but I know for a fact that they weren’t interested. The grade of D received by Senators McConnell and Bunning seems generous, but those are the most accurate of the four lawmakers mentioned here today. I would guess that neither of these men has ever heard my name or that of my Marine.

Several lawmakers sent an initial inquiry. The Marine Corps did an “investigation”. The report came back with nothing but positive remarks about their incredible program and fabricated answers to all the questions. In every case, except one, I received a reply from lawmakers stating that they were glad to see that the Marine Corps was doing such a wonderful job taking care of our wounded Marines. They stated that they were happy to be of service and that they hoped they could be of service to our family again in the future. Translation: We believe in what the big guy has to say. You must be a crazy mom with time on your hands and we are far too busy to waste our time on an overprotective mother.

With the exception of Congressman Jones, not one of these lawmakers (or their case workers) bothered to ask me for my evidence. Each of them blindly accepted the Marine Corps findings and went on with their lives. During the months that I had waited for the truth to be revealed and for the wounded warriors to get the treatment they deserved, the command was retaliating because they didn’t like the fact that Mommy had opened Pandora’s Box. Things got worse instead of better, and the Marines assigned to WWBN-E gave up on ever getting any real help.

Fortunately, Congressman Jones knew better. He got personally involved, taking the time on numerous occasions to speak with me and my son. He wrote letters and spoke to the highest officials in the Marine Corps many times. He worked for months to present information to the Department of Defense Inspector General’s office and was finally able to convince the IG that this problem must be assessed. He never gave up and the Inspector General’s office finally launched a nationwide assessment of wounded warrior facilities for the Army and Marine Corps.

Almost two years after my fight began, I was seated across the table from two members of the Inspector General’s team who flew to Lexington, Kentucky, specifically to speak to me. They spent three days interviewing me and looking over my documentation. They thanked me for my tenacity, and then they headed to Camp Lejeune to assess the Wounded Warrior program. The report should become available in January.

I can’t explain Congressman Jones voting record, but I know if I picked up the phone right now, I could get an honest answer to that question. He knows my name. He knows the name of my son. He knows the name of many other Marines and family members who are fighting for proper treatment, and he knows something about each of us as individuals. Amongst countless other bills he has introduced is HR 1701: PTSD/TBI Guaranteed Review for Heroes Act which was signed into law in October, 2009. I know he works hard every day to make sure that our wounded warriors, veterans, active duty military, and their families get what is needed and deserved. Maybe part of the reason he gets it is because he, himself, is a veteran.

I’m not here to say any of the information included in this document released by IAVA is false. I’m sure it is accurate. I realize that IAVA’s intent is to inform. and for that I am greatly appreciative of the countless hours that went into the publication. I do think, however, that we owe it to ourselves, our veterans, our troops, and our military families to do more than just look at the information in this report. We need to read between the lines and do our homework in an effort to be fully informed. Our representatives should be doing more than showing up for a vote. Let’s look at the entire picture and find out about the other efforts our representatives are making so we can make an informed decision before we vote next Tuesday.

Originally published by the author at fellednot.com

http://media.iava.org/iava_action/IAVA_Action_2010_Congressional_Report_Card.pdf

 

 

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