In September of 2012, Andrew suffered a right side temporal/occipital ischemic stroke. Short one day of a month later, I once again I started the arduous task of gathering records and “evidence” to submit a new compensation claim to the Buffalo, New York VARO (Veterans Administration Regional Office). Apparently it’s been approved because a small monetary amount suddenly appeared in his bank account from the VA and a new letter arrived telling us he might be eligible for life insurance. He has not yet recieved the “Big Brown Envelope” explaining the rationale in rating or exactly what that rating is yet, however.
I knew going in that the only good reason to submit it was that a stroke is life threatening and that I needed to be able to get him emergency care quickly if it should happen again and since his high blood pressure is service connected, so should a stroke caused by that high blood pressure be service connected. The nearest VA Medical Center is 70 miles away. The nearest hospital is 5 blocks away.
Andrew is already service connected at 100% schedular permament and total. The only financial benefit that could have occurred if the claim was rated as I believe it should have been would be to grant him Special Monthly Compensation (SMC) for being housebound (I am not positive and would have to check, but I believe that amount to be around $300.00 extra a month). I know that he is basically housebound now. When the VA granted his PTSD claim and his Hypertension claim, they denied his hearing loss claim. Andrew is completely deaf in one ear and only has about 30% of normal hearing in the other ear. The stroke caused him to lose the top left quarter of his vision in both eyes. It also caused him to have a continuous headache, hypersomnolence (he now sleeps 12 to 16 hours a day), balance issues that create a fall danger, and periods of intense confusion.
Knowing what I do about Andrew’s “brand” of PTSD, I know that before his stroke, the worst thing a person could do was walk up behind him and say something, or worse yet, touch him. PTSD makes a person startle easily and triggers the whole range of fight or flight reactions. Now, add partial blindness to the equation and consider what that might do to an already hyper-aroused PTSD veteran. Add confusion to the equation and tell me who would survive the repercussions of such a situation. Andrew knew that he could be a danger to others before the stroke and he was isolating himself to keep himself out of situations that could lead to an “incident”. Not only is he isolating himself now, it is no longer safe for him to be out of the house without supervision. I can’t even suggest that he go somewhere by himself anymore and I’m not as afraid of him getting involved in an unnecessary altercation as I am of his becoming confused and not being able to find his way home or remember his phone number. Honestly, I am afraid if he wanders to the cellar or the garage by himself. Who knows what he might do when he’s around power tools. I’ve seen what he can do in a kitchen and it isn’t pretty and it is sometimes rather frightening.
I do not wish to portray myself as some kind of martyr. I’m not. I don’t want to feel like I have another child to raise. I hate that I sold my business to watch him. I hate that he needs to be watched in the same way that my grandchildren need to be watched. I hate that he has to be told that an event is going to happen over and over again only to find out that when the event is underway, I have to explain it to him again. I hate that I have to “nag” him to check his blood pressure and remind him to take his medications, then sneak around behind his back to count pills only to have to tell him to take his meds again. I hate having him read something to me out loud, then having to correct him because he left out words or simply mis-reads words that are there enough to completely change the meaning of what he reads (this one is especially problematic to me because knowing that he often responds to my feelings with anger, in the past, I’ve written out my feelings and let him read them when he’s alone.) I hate that he has to be demasculated in this way.
I’ve said it before and will repeat it now and will probably repeat it until I can no longer speak or type. I would take a vow of complete poverty if I could have my husband whole again. I don’t want VA money. Having my husband whole is not possible now. My heart aches for him.
I have told countless numbers of his doctors as well as psychotherapists that he doesn’t leave the house except to go to the VA appointments and to see his 92 year old mother. Andrew has told his doctors the same thing. I read and re-read all his doctors notes and only rarely does one write down that “he isolates”. Never has one written down that he doesn’t leave the house or can’t leave the house. In 4 months, Andrew and I will have been married for 42 years. Do doctors that see him for maybe 20 minutes honestly believe that what they see in that 20 minutes in a controlled environment is really what goes on for the other 23 hours and 40 minutes of each day. I did lose it with one of his doctors recently and while on the verge of tears said “You take him home with you. Keep him with you for 24 hours then tell me he’s doing well”. It’s simply not true that he is doing well.
And so, my question: What does it take?