4 Years

Today, November 20th marks the 4th anniversary for VeteranAid.org.  I am proud to know that in 4 years since beginning this journey that my efforts have changed the lives of thousands, and in return has changed mine far more than I could ever imagined.

Because of the venue that I do this work from, I often fail to realize the impact I have, but a recent event gave me a glimpse into the difference I actually get to make.

I had been contacted by a reporter in the Houston area several months back who wanted to do a story on the backlog of VA claims with the focus being on disability compensation and not on Aid and Attendance.  I was happy to help in whatever way I could by providing some statistics and thought nothing much more about it. She had mentioned that she was referred to me by someone who had contacted her asking her to do the story, and they had told her I had been helpful.

At the end of October, I heard from the reporter again who informed me that she had been given the go-ahead to run the story without an inclusion of a statement from the VA who refused to respond to several request asking for such, and wanted to verify a few more facts with me. The focus of the story revolved around a 91-year old veteran who had been waiting for his compensation award.  What I didn’t know at the time was that the son of this 91-year old veteran was someone I had helped a few years back.

Shortly after the story ran in the paper, I was contacted by another reporter who wanted to contact the gentleman featured in the article.  And then I had that “ah-ha” moment where the name of the 91-year old veteran clicked and I remembered his son. I had an old email from him and was able to contact him and make a connection for the second reporter. A special show ran on the CBS local affiliate regarding veteran’s struggles with dealing with the VA.

After 4 years of dealing with so many faceless people, I got to see Denis Maxson and his 91-year old dad, who due to the article that ran on him in the paper, had “suddenly” gotten his award from the VA.  These were people I made a difference for.  This wasn’t just an email I responded to, a forum posting, or a call I had returned.  This was a veteran who finally got the honor he was entitled to, and I got to be a part of that process.  What I do finally had a face attached to it.

The second reporter who had contacted me was receptive to my suggesting a story be done on Aid and Attendance. He told me if I could find someone who would have the story encompassing the struggle with filing for A&A he would do it.

I put feelers out everywhere, and spent days going back through four years of contacts looking for someone I thought would make the perfect story.

I also contacted the first reporter to ask if in her research she had encountered anyone facing this struggle.  She informed me that there was only one person, and was kind enough to give me an email address to contact her, which I did.

Don’t ever question whether it was the Universe along with my mother that has its hand in this mission for as it turns out, this woman was a regular visitor to the site, had printed off all the forms and followed the step-by-step directions and had read every posting on the forums.  She had been waiting over 2 years for the VA to release her dad’s funds who resides in a nursing home.  For the past two years she has been paying out between $1500 – $2000 a month making up the difference for her dad’s care while waiting on the VA. I knew I had the person for the story.

I had spoken with Cindy earlier in the day getting the background on her situation.  Later that same evening, she called me sitting in her car in the parking lot of her dad’s nursing home sobbing.  My first instinct was that her dad had passed, but when she was finally able to speak, she told me she had stopped to pick up her mail on her way to see her dad and when she saw that yet another letter form the VA was in the stack, she just knew it was going to be another form letter telling her “Sorry for the delay, but we are still processing the application.” What it actually was is the Award Letter informing her and her dad he had been approved for the pension.

After more than two years neither she nor I could believe that the day we spoke for the first time would be the day the long awaited and desperately needed award notification would arrive.  I don’t know who was crying more me or her, but she kept saying “I owe this all to you.  If it hadn’t been for you, I would have given up. If I hadn’t found your site, I wouldn’t have known.”

Cindy kept me on the phone as she exited the car, entered the building and walked down the hall to her dad’s room with that letter in her hand.  Still crying, she stood in the doorway to his room and I told her to give her dad a kiss from this daughter before letting her go to share the news with him.

I know I have helped a lot of people in the past 4 years who I will never meet, but being on the phone with Cindy that night with that letter in her hand has to be one of the most defining moments for me for anything I have accomplished through VeteranAid.org There were a lot of tears that night, along with the understanding of how this had come full circle from a decision I had made 4 years ago to change the ending for someone else. To me there is no question as to the blessing that has been put on my work, and today I stand proud and humbled.

I can’t acknowledge these four years without offering up my gratitude to those who have entered my life through this mission who in their own way showed up just in time to lend their support, expertise, encouragement, and belief in what I do. Ironically all of us have been brought together by more that just a mere coincidence.  It is obvious that a much Higher Power knew the team it would take and the part each one would play. I don’t stand alone this day.

In a category on their own – The Department of Veterans Affairs – Thank you for pissing off the wrong daughter and being the catalyst for this mission

Jay – Without your support none of this would have been possible
Connie
– For your beloved Bill

Denver – My silent hero and the champion of veterans

Mike and Tara – For believing and taking a chance

Chris – For your tenacious spirit and standing up to county officials

Melissa – For sharing a common bond and being a voice

Patty – For your brilliance and determination

Anne Marie – For your immeasurable generosity and goodness

I’m indebted to you all, and I thank you for making this possible and for believing in this effort.

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10 Comments

  • Posted April 30, 2011

    Susan Kerr

    I found you; now my husband, a Vietnam War vet with health issues, will benefit from your mission. Thank you, Debbie.

  • Posted June 2, 2011

    karen kimbrell

    Hi Debbie, Thank you for creating this site! I am just now beginning the journey of getting A&A for my 85 yr old father and have already run into the “backlog” you speak of! (waiting in a room with gobs of people for 4 hrs waiting to be seen, just to discuss eligibility!) Your words encourage me to move ahead and push for what my precious Dad deserves! Thank you!

    • Posted June 2, 2011

      Debbie

      Karen,

      You are so welcome, and truthfully everything you need is on the site and the forums to get you through this. If you run into something your are not sure about, you can email me through the site, or join the forums and post there. I also moderate the forums, and they are a wealth of information.

  • Posted October 12, 2011

    Paula

    I am trying to get my dad A&A I am having trouble!!

    • Posted October 12, 2011

      Debbie

      Paula,

      I would suggest you visit the site and forums. You can send me a direct email at vethelp@veteranaid.org as well as join the forums and post you situation there for additional imput and insights.

  • Posted October 20, 2011

    Nancy Crocker

    Do you know what the max income level is for eligibility for the Aid to Veterans? My sister is the caregiver for her husband and we would both like to know. Thank you

  • Posted October 27, 2011

    Carole Burkhard

    Dear Debbie:

    As your 6th anniversary approaches, I wanted to take a moment and thank you. I am just beginning the process of filing for Aid & Attendance benefits for my 82-year-old father and 81-year-old mother, who are moving into an assisted living facility on November 5th. I had a “checklist” that was provided to me by someone about 8 months ago (my father has been receiving 24/7 care at home since last December because he broke his neck in a fall the previous October), who thought we should apply to offset the cost of 24/7 in-home care. With everything going on in our lives because of the changing needs of my parents, I had not yet started the process. The one thing we have accomplished is the Physician’s Statement for both. I started this process in July, knowing of my parents desire to move to assisted living. On 9/28, I finally received the completed report back from their doctor.

    I have been hounding my parents since to provide me with their Marriage Certificate, DD214 and financial information. They have finally done so, so I decided to review the checklist again before submitting all to the VA. So, I decided maybe I’m better go online and review the requirements directly from the VA’s site and did a search for “aid and attendance”. Your site came up FIRST and I decided to check out the information on your site. I’m so happy I did! I now realize that had I submitted the information I have gathered, it probably would have been returned (or worse yet, ignored for many months and then returned), because the Physician’s Statement I have in hand is not on the VA’s form!

    So, while I have yet to begin this journey, your wonderful site has already helped me immensely by providing the correct forms. I can’t thank you enough for creating this site for all of us who have or will embark on this journey.

    And, yes, we did not know about the Aid & Attendance benefit even though my father was career military (a Lt. Col. in the Air Force – a pilot who flew missions in Vietnam). We found out from the lady who provided the checklist. Since 8 months have past, I don’t remember her name, but she was an elder care advisor who provided the names of in-home care provider services.

    My parents have been approached by a service telling them that they will provide “free” help in applying for this benefit, but as you’ve described on your website, they wanted to sell my parents an annuity or something else (I didn’t attend the seminar, which was held at a restaurant; my parents didn’t invite me, but gave me the brochure afterwards). Also, in the conference room of the assisted living facility in which they are moving, are brochures from multiple individuals and companies who will “help” with applying for these benefits. Until I read your website, I didn’t know it was illegal to charge, so I would have contacted one of them for help. Thank you for “heading me off” of this nowhere service. I’m sure just reading your website today has saved me countless hours in various ways.

    Thank you from the bottom of my heart,
    Carole Burkhard

  • Posted October 27, 2011

    Debbie

    Carol,

    Thank you for your very kind words. I am also glad you found my site, and getting comments such as yours ensures me that my work does make a difference.

    I wish you the best of luck with your application, and be sure to use the site’s forums if you have other questions, and you can always email me at vethelp@veteranaid.org.

    Warmest regards,
    Debbie

  • Posted February 22, 2013

    Jena

    Dear Debbie,
    I am the wife of a Marine corps Vet who has been dealing with the aid and attendance application for almost a yr now. This morning I recieved a call from the New Mexico Regional office saying they want to declare him finacially incompetent and appoint me as his fiduciary. Since I am the one who handles all our finaces anyway I have no issue with the appointment. What I do have an issue with is that it took nearly 10 months just to schedule an appointment for the aid and attendance needs. I have been unable to work outside the home for over a yr now because he requires my assistance in order to make it through the day. We are overdrawing our bank account every month just to feed and house ourselves and this wait is unconscionable. The VA didnt wait a yr to train and send him to Vetinam but they can take a yr to complete the simplest request. Thanks so much for your site and your words of encouragement. I just recently found your site and will be following it daily now. Keep up the good work and thanks for fighting for those who can’t fight for themselves
    Jena Carver

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