Wednesday, August 06, 2008

New Perspectives

There's nothing like interacting with others to see the world in a slightly different way. As old as I am, that happens now and then. This week it happened twice.

Girl Next Door is my daughter's best friend, dating back to their nine-year-old days. She actually lives behind me (back home with her own daughter while she finishes nursing school and re-establishes herself), and I know her much better than I do her parents or any of her other family members. Relatively early in the Iraq misadventure, Girl Next Door's brother was essentially handicapped for life when the jeep he was driving (chauffering a major) was hit by a mortar and his knee was turned into something resembling raw steak on broken pottery. At first, the Army wanted to patch him up and send him back, but when it became obvious that he was crippled, they put him on 100% disability.

Here's the catch: as a 100% disabled vet, he's severely limited to the amount he can work. A certain number of hours a week (a month?) and that's it. He's in the ugliest of Catch-22s; damaged serving his country, he has two choices: live on the inadequate military pension or forego it and hope to earn more money otherwise, despite his disability. In other words, he's almost forced to remain in poverty. I realize there's a good reason for limits -- some would try to cheat the system otherwise. If a man or woman can hold down a job, perhaps he or she doesn't need a full disability pension. But apparently this young man's problems are sporadic. Sometimes he's well enough, out of pain and mobile enough to work. Other times he's not. Bureaucracy isn't flexible enough to handle these fluctuations. He's in his thirties with no real aboveboard hope for financial improvement. He tries to work a little under the table to help care for his family.

Serve your country and be rewarded with a lifetime of poverty. That's somehow a new perspective for me, even though I've heard stories before. I guess it's different when you know the name, face, voice, of he who has been sentenced to poverty.

The other example, short version: my niece was the victim of a home invasion this past week. Signs indicate that her attackers had watched the family closely and knew their routine. Her family lives in a townhouse development laid out in a square. It's lovely, but this means that about 30 homes are visible from any one home. It never occurred to me before how vulnerable this layout makes a family. I thought being so visible would make one safer. Before, I thought my cul-de-sac was vulnerable (and maybe it still is) because we have only seven homes and where I sit is NOT easily seen, providing happy cover for anyone who might want to burgle. However, precisely because it's relatively private, anyone who wants to observe my home can't just blend in. The nosy neighbors would see the outsider and betcha by golly wow would be out asking questions or calling the cops.

I wonder what else hasn't occurred to me before? I look forward to paying attention and learning some more lessons in the coming week.


kkryno said...

Goodness! I'm so sorry for your niece. I hope all are safe now. She may need to talk to someone as there may be a delayed PTS reaction. As for you neighbor's brother; what he's going through is simply government gone wrong (again.) It's a horrible travesty that a young, brave and healthy person can be used and tossed away by the armed forces in this manner, to be forgotten and not taken care of for life. They should be provided for and encouraged to succeed in life outside the service, so they can be made whole again, not de-moralized. Sorry; soap-box again.

Inside the Philosophy Factory said...

I also find it shocking that he is so limited -- but, I'm pretty sure that 100% disabled vets are eligible for some pretty decent re-training funding, in addition to any GI bill money he may have coming. I've had more than a few disabled vets in my classes --they have to do a lot of paperwork (and so do I) but, they say the military pays for all of their education -- which isn't a bad thing.

Of course, the deal may have changed -- but, it isn't quite as hopeless as it seems. I can think of many, many jobs that can be done from a wheelchair -- including my own.

Bitty said...

kkryno, I'm hoping that they're getting her help. The intruders were on the verge of raping her and maybe beyond -- they were "nice" enough to take her 6-year-old son out of the room first -- when they heard noises outside and fled. So I guess the irony is that the heavily-populated area in the end served to save her.

philosophy factory -- something like that occurred to me, but I wasn't talking to him directly, so I don't know what, if anything, he's tried to do to work the system. (Just getting declared disabled was an exhausting adventure -- I well remember when all that was going on.) There's more to the story than I told, and it could be that he's severely depressed.

It sounds like both niece and Girl Next Door's brother could use some good counsel, yes?

Bee said...

The minute you travel to a foreign country you realize just how much "hasn't occurred to you."

I just walk around clueless all the time; I realize that.

The story about the young veteran made me so sad. My brother, who is thankfully uninjured, has been to Iraq twice. My mother was asking him about what he wants to do when he leaves the army, and he merely said, "it would be nice to make some money for a change." Those boys certainly don't get paid much for putting everything on the line.

AMorris said...

They don't get paid squat..especially the lower enlisted guys that you never see on TV. When I was in, the kids on the flight deck had to rotate around their hazardous duty pay. Those kids were on the flight deck around 14 hours a day. If you'll notice on TV, you'll see the hand picked enlisted guys with pressed uniforms for camera filler, but you almost always see some officer (or politician if the officer is above O-3) in a clean and pressed uniform.

GND's brother needs to contact the DAV or his VA DVOP rep and get things rolling. The paperwork (still never got my honorable discharge papers from '94) seems insurmountable, but the folks at DAV and the DVOP can help cruise through it. Usually before you're shipped out of the military, you get a pre separation class that tells you who to go to and how to get in touch with folks. If the VA/Military wants to keep vets from knowing how to access benefits, they just let them out without getting this class. You have to know about it and ask for it.

There were some home invasions here in town a few years ago. The clowns even held a child at gunpoint. I found out today that one of the survivors got 9 whole years for what he did. Some of them got instant justice when the homeowner and parent of the child held separated a few of them from their stupidity with a couple of shots of crackhead repellent from a 12ga shotgun.