My Disability Caused Me To Be a Homeless Veteran
I received that note one month after my last day in the Army. I was told that I was going to be able to apply for unemployment since I was ending my military career. My career was cut short because I was shot in both legs by a sniper in 2007 while in Iraq. It took a total of three years just to heal from the surgery and then I was forced with the decision of staying in the Army or starting civilian life. With my disability I couldn't keep up with the physical demands of the Army. So I left and moved back home.
The state asked me for information regarding my disability. I didn't know what to say. I was just in the Army last month and now someone is asking me what can I do, and how long can I do it. To make matters worse, the state wanted all of this information within seven days. I didn't even have a civilian doctor and I am the only person to in my family to join the Army so no one could help me in this situation. After getting shot in both legs and barely being able to walk, I didn't know what my physical capabilities were.
This was a rude awakening. After serving my country, taking two bullets in the name of freedom and this is how I'm treated. I didn't even know how to find a civilian doctor. Yea there were programs to help me transition but when I got home I was lost, confused...disabled. All of this also added to my depression. I was 23 years old and was trying to figure out life. So here I am 23, battling both physical and mental disabilities and not knowing who to reach out to for help.
This is the paperwork that was my doctor was supposed to fill out on my behalf. I joined the Army at 18 and my parents were responsible for my health care before then. So when I got out of the Army I had no dam idea how to find my own doctor. I needed to find out something, and I needed to find it out quick. I made call after call and couldn't find out who could help me. Now my money from my Active Duty was ending and it would be a couple of months before I started to receive my pension from the VA.
With no unemployment coming in from the state, and my Active Duty pay coming to an end things were pretty bad. We all are one or two paychecks away from being homeless...and I was missing two paychecks. I held on as long as I could before sleeping in my car a couple of nights.
This is the last form in the unemployment packet sent over from the state. Look at question 9 "Did you advise the patient it was medically necessary to quit his/her last job?" Really?!?! I'm a soldier, it's my job to go into dangerous places and eliminate dangerous people. Any "normal" doctor would advise me to quit. When I finally got a civilian doctor she told me "I'm sorry, I can't help with this". She did thank me for my service though, which always makes things better.
In the fall of 2010 I enrolled in the Warrior Salute Program in Webster, Ny. I was so relieved to meet with General Robert Mixon, who I met while in the hospital on Ft. Carson. The salute program gave me a place to stay, trained me to work civilian jobs, and helped me start my professional speaking career.