04 February 2017


by Andy Weddington
Saturday, 04 February 2017

We have illegal immigrants that are treated, by far, better than our veterans. That's not going to happen anymore. Donald J. Trump, 45th President of the United States

This morning during coffee my wife brought a Marine's story to my attention. 

Appalled and angry, it has taken a few hours to calm and think before sitting to write.

Still I aim to be blunt.  

Today is a spectacular day! Vacationing, I could be outdoors painting - boats and others things of nautical interest - but in good conscious cannot pick up a brush until the writing is done and published. 

Full disclosure ...

I know the Marine. I have know her about 14 years - we served in the same command but she did not report to me. What I did not know, because she is of such fine character, is her story. And I sure did not know about the hell she has been going through for I'd have engaged sooner. 

President Trump campaigned on taking care of our veterans. He vowed the best of care, including health, for sacrifices and service rendered to country.

Damn right! And that cannot happen soon enough. 

Well, here's a veteran who deserves the best - and the best is not what our VA provided. 

Following is an excerpt from a VA letter ...

"Please limit your status inquiries to once every 6 months so we're not distracted from our work by having to answer your questions."

For however many cases the VA gets right, one afoul is too many. And a sentence such as the one above, in any letter to any veteran from the VA, or any government outfit tending to veterans, is not acceptable.

I kindly ask five things - actions, of Marines, of anyone reading ...

1. Help get this commentary to President Trump. If you enjoy access to senior Marines - General James Mattis (Secretary of Defense); General John Kelly (Secretary of Homeland Defense); General Joe Dunford (Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff) - who have our President's ear then by all means. Surely they will be equally appalled and angry;

2. Please read Jennie's note (provided below);

3. Please read the detailed scenario written by Jennie's friend on the active GoFundMe site (link following Jennie's note);

4. Pitch in, if you can;

5. Pass this along. 

For President Trump ...

Mister President, Sir, as you can certainly appreciate, it is an abomination that a veteran (in this case a Marine with 14 years service) resorted to using Gorilla Glue to repair broken teeth - an ad hoc measure to temporarily correct the superficial masking of a serious underlying condition. Not to mention the disgraceful manner in which her complicated healthcare problems have been (mis)handled. 

As Jennie notes, this is not just about her. By going public her intent is to preclude other veterans from having to go through similar nonsense. 

Though it seems Jennie has finally garnered an advocate and is on a path to remedy, there's clearly much to do - for her, and other veterans. 

President Trump, you campaigned to address nonsense and get things done. Here's a textbook example as to veteran's healthcare. 

Semper Fidelis. 

Jennie's note (as sent to me) ...

"The Congressman has a scheduling conflict and would like to see you in his office Monday at 5:00 pm instead of Tuesday at 2. I'm sorry to move the time again, but know he's incredibly passionate about your mouth... about this case."

And so Monday, if you need me, I'll be in the Rayburn building with my awkward x-rays in hand, NOT making cleft palate jokes to the congressman I've never heard of who has a cleft lip and palate as well.

Thanks to those of you who've shared the GoFundMe, donated and reached out behind the scenes to connect me to organizations who might help. As much as this is about me getting the care *I* need, it's about making sure other veterans don't spend three years spinning their wheels begging for the care they've not only earned, but desperately need. Regarding my VA claim, this is about more than my mouth; it's about my back,my brain and my mental health, too.

I had the incredible opportunity to meet and be evaluated by the founder of Operation Smile two weeks ago.

Midway through our two hour meeting he picked up the phone and called a congressman; a personal friend.

I listened as he shared my story and heard the congressman say "Send me a letter, Bill. Whatever she needs I'll move heaven and earth to see she gets it."

That letter reads, in part:

"She requires someone who is well connected into a wide variety of specialists, who are excellent at what they do. She has the need for orthodontics, plastic surgery, maxillofacial surgery, and likely others. She will require a team that understands completely how to treat double cleft deformities. Ultimately, she will require closure of her fistula palate, expansion of her maxilla, advancement of her maxilla, (possible reduction of her mandible), some work on her nose to improve breathing, and structural revision of her lip.

Her dilemma is that her only insurance is through the VA system and the expertise she greatly needs transcends that of what the VA could produce. This is incredibly unfair to a woman that was in the Marines for 14 years, medically separated for breaking her back, not to have access to the people that are best able to care for her."

I sat there and fought tears while he dictated that and told him I wasn't certain the VA had the right doctors, anyhow.

He said, "Oh, I'm certain they don't and the Navy did you no favors with that last surgery. You need experts; I'm on your team now, Jennie, no one will ever put their hands in your mouth again unless they're at the top of their field."

And so. He said it's an expensive, 2-3 year path ahead of me and he's excited to see me "whole" on the other side.

I've never (don't use definitives unless they're accurate, Haskamp) EVER had someone advocate for me the way he did moments after meeting me.

Ever. #hopeful #humbled #notquiteasmyopic #nottotallyjadedeither



Scotty Scott said...

Andy, I've forwarded messages to President Trump and the VA Inspector General. I hope this effort gets Jennie the support she deserves. Thank you for bringing her deplorable situation to my attention. It makes me very angry!

Carol Mutter said...

Forwarding to someone I know high up in the VA Women's Health office. So sad to have our veterans go through this! I'm hopeful but not optimistic that things will change soon. The bureaucracy is a big ship that needs turning around, not a little speed boat.