Sunday, July 31, 2011

Operation Mission Vision

The U.S. Association of Blind Athletes is working with 15 veterans who are blind and visually impaired so they can participate in the 2011 Rocky Mountain State Games.  The association provides sports clinics with instruction in judo, wrestling, track and field, swimming and other sports.  Sports clinic scheduled for blind veterans to prepare for state games

Blind warriors compete in state games

45 seconds in you will see Sean's blue/white shoes and at 1:19 you can see him in the white cap/shirt behind the speaker.  It's a stellar performance. *grin*

Sean left on Wednesday and will return tomorrow afternoon.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Don't Put All Your Eggs in One Basket

Don't put all your eggs in one basket. . .

(insert appropriate four-letter word) Too late! Since I resigned in December, all but 16% of our income comes from the United States government, and they are making me nervous.  I suspect in the end it will turn out to be scare tactics, but then again, who knows? 

Fortunately, Sean's SD Retirement will not be affected (that's the 16%) as it is a program he paid into during his employment.  However, it is still a government body paying it out. 

Yep, we're screwed.

Finding the VA Information You Need

Overload: Finding the VA Information You Need

Vet study links brain injury, dementia risk

Vet study links brain injury, dementia risk

TBI: the gift that keeps on giving.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Congressional Hearings--Putting the VA in its Place

The caliber of veterans and caregivers we have standing up for those left behind is outstanding!  I loved watching these hearings and reading their written testimonies. 

Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs Hearing: VA Mental Health Care: Closing the Gaps
Insightful testimony from Daniel Williams and Andrea Sawyer regarding the continuing mental health crisis within the VA system.

Iraq vet tells Senate committee of VA gaps
Article from Politico

Veterans wait too long for mental health services, reports say
Article from the Washington Post

House Veterans' Affairs Committee Subcommittee on Health hearing Implementation of Caregiver Assistance: Moving Forward
Testimony from Debbie Schulz about the recently implemented Caregiver program at the VA that highlights inconsistencies as the program gets up and running.

VA's caregiver payments not enough, critics say
Army Times article

More Than One Year Later, Caregiver Support Finally Available
Article from HCVA

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Kind of Random Musings

So here's what I can't get past.  Sean competed at a national level as a tandem cyclist.  He raced against men who have held national and world titles.  He rode for two weeks last summer, but has only been seriously training since December.  INCREDIBLE!! 

But. . . he gets stuck.  "I wasn't good enough."  It's disappointing to see him so down after an experience that should have left him feeling very proud of himself. 

A year ago, he would not have done this.  I had to insist he go on the trips he took last year and stand with him during check-in to make sure he got on the plane.  Two years ago, unheard of!  Sean did not do anything without me, and had full blown panic attacks even then.  Two years ago, he was barely off the couch or out of bed. 

Sean has been spending a lot of time at the VFW.  He and another member are doing maintenance around the building.  He is also part of a committee to hire new bartenders and a manager.  He has worked diligently on job descriptions and interview questions.  I am so proud I could burst my buttons!  Sean is happy to be there, but frustrated that he doesn't work as quickly as he used to. 

Still I'm a little jealous that he has new adventures while I'm wondering if my life will ever feel like my own.  Is it weird that I'm jealous? 

We are back in therapy and it's going to be a long road.  This last trip Sean was extremely agitated with the doctor and was mad at her all the way home.  The trip wore me out.  We spent three hours on the way there processing his camp experience and trying to help him feel positive about it.  Then we spent an hour in therapy where Sean was angry and stubborn and resistant to everything she had to say.  Then another three hours in the car with me helping him process everything the doctor said. . . and Sean cannot be wrong.  His brain gets stuck on the only point of view he sees--his. 

It's exhausting!

I apologize for dragging you through my depths.  I've been in the snake pit lately.  I suffer from depression and anxiety and these last few months have been extraordinarily difficult for me.  My anxiety attacks are coming more frequently and at times when I'm not feeling excess stress.  I blame facing my feelings.  Seriously, I have always done better when I repress.  Once I open that floodgate, all hell breaks loose. 

I found this article on WebMD and damned if I don't meet almost every sign of caregiver burnout.
Tips for Coping with Caregiver Stress

I need new attitude and outlook.  "Who cares?  I'm just happy to be here!"

I have always been good at rolling with the punches (after a preliminary rant) as things come up and it has served me well as something is always coming up. 

I have faith that we will come out on other side, but what will it look like?  And why do I need to know?


I would like to thank the VA for making my life easier, and by easier I mean *more difficult*.

Wednesday's response from the VA regarding the Post 9/11 GI Bill: 


It appears the problem with your file is that you are attending a program that is classified as a non college degree course. These courses are not payable under CH33 until later this year; October 1, 2011. Please contact your VA Certifying Official at your school regarding this issue.


My response to them:

Why were we never informed of this?  Not when we applied for this school in January, not when we received certification in March, not when the school submitted the certification in April, not any of the times I called in May or June.  It would be apparent to anyone in this situation that the VA has an obligation to inform applicants who are entitled to benefits when those benefits might be paid at the time of acceptance to the program.  This is not acceptable.

I had a deposit on Friday morning.  Now I just have to see how they will pay the remainder

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Epidemic: Over 400,000 Traumatic Brain Injuries for Vets Coming from Iraq and Afghanistan

Epidemic: Over 400,000 Traumatic Brain Injuries for Vets Coming from Iraq and Afghanistan
America faces a huge challenge in caring for the shocking number or traumatized war vets.

VA Officials Issuing First Payments to Caregivers

Read more about the Family Caregiver Program at the U.S. Air Force site.

VA officials issuing first payments to caregivers

Thus far, the program has worked according to its guidlelines (surprising for the VA) and caregivers are receiving their stipends, including back pay to the date of application.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Off to the Races!

Last week Sean participated in a training camp and competed in the USA Cycling National Championships in Augusta, Georgia.

Sean spent a week training at Ft. Gordan with other paralympic cyclists and hopefuls.  They learned about cycling, training, equipment, and teamwork.  Sean was paired with pilot Art Van Noppen from California.  This was the first time they rode together.

On Thursday the riders competed in the Time Trials where they raced toward a standard instead of against each other.  Sean said it rained the entire race.  They rode 19 K or 11.43 miles in 33 minutes 24 seconds.  Sean was just two minutes shy of reaching the military time standard which is the first of four levels (military, emerging, talent pool, and national standards) he needs to meet to be considered for the paralympic team. 

I had the wonderful opportunity to fly to Augusta on Friday with our friend Mark to watch the race.  We had a fantastic trip!  Sean was thrilled to have us there to support him and cheer him on. 

Seventy-seven disabled men and women turned out ot compete in the road race on Saturday.  There were riders on single bikes, tandem bikes, and handbikes.  Sean and Art rode a 72 K course (45 miles) over extremely challenging hills with scarcely a second to rest their legs.  The weather was humid and hot, hot, hot!  It was overcast as the race began, but slowly the sun took over the sky and was beating down up riders and observers.  Art and Sean completed the race in 2 hours 44 minutes 1 second. 

As we watched the riders we were impressed by their strength and determination.  No one gave up, and they all showed support of each other following the race.  It was a remarkable experience!  I was so proud to see Sean out there cycling after watching him train in our basement--finally some road experience!  He traveled without me, spent a week training, and then competing, and he did it on his own.  I wanted to cry seeing him so independent and determined.  It showed me a different side of Sean, one that has been missing for quite some time. 

Pilot Art Van Noppen and Sean

Sean and Art before the Road Race

Sean and Mark

Melissa and Sean

5 Piece Brass Ensemble at the Start/Finish Line

Color Guard

Ready to Start the Road Race

Crossing the Finish Line

Art, Sean, and Melissa

Sean and Coach Rick Babbington

It's Ten Thousand Spoons When All You Need is a Knife

While the VA continues to stonewall with the Post 9/11 GI Bill payments, I did receive my first check as Sean's caregiver through the new Caregiver Program implemented by the VA this May.  Have to say for a VA program it has all worked according to schedule.

I now make more as a stay-at-home Caregiver than I did as a teacher.  Don't know whether to laugh or cry. 

Sean believes that since I'm now getting paid and "contributing something to the family again" that every thing is hunky-dory and I should automatically feel better about our situation. 

Honey, it's nice for them to finally recognize the work I've been doing, but this does very little to fix our lives.  We have a lot of hard work, learning, and healing yet to do.