I'm writing mostly to explode with the news that despite out raging waves of doubt and our deep animosity for all that the VA has done wrong to us, and despite how much help we've tried to get since my husband was placed on TDRL, recc'd for permanent retirement, and then merely discharged, and despite how many connections we've made with others who swore they could help but once they knew the full of the situation could only scratch their heads, and despite how much our faith has been agonizingly tested and tried, I have to tell you that God can do whatever He pleases, and He does.
We recently, as you know via my blog here, had his TBI re-evaluation for the service-connected claim we placed earlier this year, since it was never put into the VA system, though his service record indicates he had a injuries to his head from explosions in theater. You also know because I blogged it that his claim was approved to be expedited back in June due to financial hardships that were NOT going away. You know that both of us were so fired up about constantly having to fight for everything, how every organization we sought help through (except for our church and Shepherds for Lost Sheep and the Vet Center) played with our minds and told us in order to be helped we had to essentially pretend we were white trash and mooch off the system and be irresponsible with what little we did have. You know that our brains were fried and that the stress of all of that was causing ridiculous escalated PTSD symptoms, depression leading to numerous suicide attempts, two miscarriages (however I firmly believe there were other contributing factors to that, factors I won't get into here), job loss, a test of amounts of patience we did not think we had, isolation, the selling of items in our house and a vehicle to pay a couple bills, and really, a level of humility (more like humiliation) and discomfort that few others know of in the "first world." We don't HAVE first-world problems, you see. Well, I suppose we have some, but we are not your typical Americans regarding much.
Here's what I want to spit out before I become a complete train-wreck of joy here:
I struggled with feeling badly about praising God so much for something so good. I checked myself and thought "Oh dear, did I praise God this much in my pain and struggle?" But I was quickly countered in my own mind by, "You would have been the only one in your house who was mentally ABLE to praise God in your struggles for a long time, had you not taught your son also to partake."
The conversations we have.... right? We, I, and myself, I mean. I do a lot of self-evaluation and checking where I am at mentally so that I can be there for others, because at least recognizing on my OWN scale of health where I am at, I can better serve whomever God has given to me.
Ok. Ready? To the best of my understanding and limited skills, I gathered the following:
My husband received mail from the VA yesterday stating that he was granted Individual Unemployability and his rating went up, which it has to in order to get IU, since IU counts as 100%. This was after a day of trying to keep him up and doing things around the house and moving furniture with him despite how both of us should not be lifting, because we wanted our house to feel like a home. I got the mail and BURST into tears and jumped into his arms. Over and over and over. Had to console our son who was so taken by my flood of emotion he got upset. My husband and I reminded him that no no, it's okay. Girls cry when they're happy, too! Mom Mom (that's what our son calls me, so cute) is not sad!!!! NOT AT ALL!!!
Collectively he's rated now at 100% (for PTSD, major depression, and migraines) and will be treated as 100%. He's also going to be getting back pay. Between his migraines and his PTSD and major depression alone, (it's that serious, yes), he's at 100%, but according to their tables it's a combined of 80% or something. It does not all make sense to me but I will learn more.
The odd thing is the Idaho VA review board did not find his TBI and seizures from his TBI to be service-connected, which they absolutely are (and I'll talk to our VSO about that today since we're heading in that direction this morning), but, they have them written as valid for concern and therefore must treat all that ails him, and are doing future workups for his hips which are arthritic. His shoulder is having as many issues as before he had surgery in January of 2010, and his new VA dr isn't the most helpful so I have to talk to them all about how next to best help him, and I'm going to look into vestibular therapy and a hyperbaric chamber for him too, and he's now agreed to get counseling at the Vet Center from a Marine Veteran, as CPT, Cognitive Processing Therapy, took a back seat while the stress got outrageous because he didn't like the lady who was doing it, nor did he enjoy the depression and anger and old habits he fell back into because he was reliving so much. It made things around here considerably more rough, and I know that when he was thinking clearly, he hated tearing his family apart because he was (in his words) "too f'ed up to keep the past from ruining his life."
But these moments of clarity are so helpful for me, and to hear him voice his thoughts and communication is a major improvement, even just this week. For five long years we waited and fought relentlessly.
What I understand is that IU makes him incapable of going to school, which means now that I would be the one to use up the GI Bill remains. It also means that maybe our family can get on CHAMPVA insurance and I wouldn't have to deal with getting all of Nicholas's help from the VA necessarily -- could seek civilian opinions, therapies, and treatments. It might also mean that I would have insurance other than Pregnancy Medicaid. It most definitely means that although I was denied for the Caregiver Program, I can now have a reevaluation for that, and since my husband has proven that he cannot be gainfully employed due to his injuries sustained in combat, it will be easier to be evaluated and hopefully, finally, actually be paid for what I have been doing all this time. But make NO mistake about this: I am not here for money. Even from the beginning of our marriage I said that. I did not marry a Lance Corporal of the Marine Corps for wealth. There isn't any. I did not stay married because I hoped for financial compensation. I am not staying married because I want to steal his paycheck and do things for myself that I feel I deserve from having put up with so much complete crap over the years. In fact, when my husband asked me yesterday what I'd like for the house once back pay from February kicks in, the only thing I could come up with was "It would be nice to have another floor lamp so we can both read books at the same time." That was IT. I'm frugal to a fault. It was him who then said later, "Well I want you to have some new clothes." And both of us want to take our son on his first train ride. Heck, it'll be amazing to be off of state food assistance! WE HATE THAT! Every day we'd wake up thinking "Except for our hearts and our grievances right along with the Holy Spirit and the fact that we pray and trust in God that this is temporary as everything in life is, this is not FOR US. This is for those who deserve it, yes, but we don't want it. We'd rather be off the grid, making our own everything, self-sustainable." But sometimes, that's just not possible. At least, it isn't yet.
Do you know that the first thing we both decided we want to do is simply pay bills and tithe? We just want to give back. We want to volunteer ourselves and preach the gospel. We want to focus on the Lord and let others know that He is faithful.... even when we don't know what that means or what that looks like.
As I was in choir last night, the words of a sermon our pastor preached echoed in my mind:
"God is your caregiver. Caregivers here, those who take care of children and those who take care of the elderly, and the sick, and the disabled, listen. Think of how deep your heart runs for the one(s) you care for. And you're only human. Think about how much you do for the one you care for. Your efforts and sacrifices are not to be overlooked. Now think about how much bigger God is. God is your caregiver. Don't EVER forget that. And don't dismiss however He sees fit to care for you. It's better and more wholesome and more direct and more loving and more healing and more provisional than any other type of care you'll ever receive. Remember that so that when you serve, you serve not only unto the Lord, but you serve the Lord Himself, as He is in 'the least of these.'"
And now, my friends, I have so much more I could say about growth and hope and perseverance and more hurdles that must be jumped over and relief and Thanksgiving surprises and the baby name we've chosen for our son's little brother due in April (Yes, it's a boy!!!!! AGAIN!!!!) and how much emotional support the bonding and training experience with my little pug has given our house and especially me, and how much support I am gaining finally from stepping way out of my comfort zone to entrust the ugly inside my heart with a counselor and with other caregivers and military spouses at my Vet Center's support group, and what marriage counseling is looking like these days, and what my husband's prayer life has been looking like these days and how I am a soloist for my church's Christmas Cantata this year, and and and and AND.....
but instead I will enjoy the rest of my early morning, shower, hug my precious family, finish my coffee, and get ready to remove all doubt from our counselor's eyes. I can't wait to see his reaction and response when we show him what we got in the mail. We did not think good was coming. Not for us. After all, "who are we," right? Wrong question. The proper question is, "Who do you say I [the Lord] am?"