Monday, April 30, 2012

Good Communication Works! (Follow-Up to Last Blog)


A quick update to share that appropriate communication and follow-up bring positive results!  After last week’s wounded warrior accident at Walter Reed, calls were made, and today we received word that the construction contractor in charge of the open pipe has been advised to do routine safety checks.  Any noted construction hazards will be clearly marked to avoid future accidents.  Even though this sounds like simple common sense (it definitely is!), we believe it is also demonstration and affirmation of good communication, persistence, and sound follow-up.

Also, the service member is recovering well from the additional injury from falling into the open pipe, and that is excellent news. 

When in Doubt – Reach Out!  Let’s keep working together to lead and act by example, using sound communication from beginning to resolution!

Linda & the VCG Team

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Communication and An Accident...

Most things in life that go well are generally simple concepts well-communicated.  In fact, good communication may well be the key to anything related to people, relationships, and good quality of life.

Walter Reed National Naval Medical Center is a world-class hospital and recovery center in Bethesda, Maryland. Our wounded warriors and their family caregivers reside here for many months and years as they heal.  Our veterans come here for routine and specialty medical care.  Warrior Caregivers live here and learn to adapt and to communicate; reaching out for education, information, and support. 

Good communication in life is key, and even more so when warriors are in recovery.  Slight change in perspective now.  Below see an uncovered pipe at Walter Reed.  This isn’t a pipe opening at the edge of a field.  It’s in the middle of the parking lot.  Was this opening marked?  How long was it there?  Was this potential hazard reported?  Did anyone communicate this potential problem? 

Well, no.  Silence.  Not until one of the wounded warriors fell into it last week while walking through the parking lot.  Pretty good shock to the system, don’t you think?  The injured service member was seen at the emergency room, and thankfully did not break a leg, though the incident left bad scrapes and bruises on that previously injured leg.  And, as most of you know, that description covers a nearly four-hour wait in the ER, an X-ray, and a tetanus shot.  The caregiver and wounded warrior leadership were contacted and this avoidable injury was documented.  If only reasonable communication had been used to avert this incident in the first place. 

The next day calls were made (good communication) and the property authorities were contacted and asked to fix or mark the pipe opening so others were not hurt.  But then, silence reigned again.  In the week since this occurred, neither the service member nor the caregiver has been contacted for follow-up.  

Finally, ask yourself how any able-bodied worker at this elite medical facility could view warriors and veterans day in, day out, in wheelchairs, on crutches, with canes, some with very visible amputations and injuries and leave this hazard in place?  It all boils down to good solid communication.

Let’s make a commitment to reach out and communicate well – it may become contagious!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Final Honors, the Flag, and Courage!

Greetings,  we have such a good story to tell you! 

There once was a very brave soldier who suffered extensively from debilitating PTSD and an extended, rugged journey to recovery.  Very recently, through an usual and very effective team effort, an alternative, comprehensive PTSD program significantly changed her perspective, her health, and indeed her life.  Throughout the long PTSD journey, however, nothing had ever gotten in the way of honoring her fellow battle buddies.  She volunteered her time as a bugler for Military Funeral Honors Corps, met with families, reached out to veterans at public events, and each time overrode her own severe discomfort with being among crowds.  Even with occasional setbacks, she always persevered and stretched to do the right thing.

Yesterday was one of those days.  In her home state of Missouri, a soldier had died in Afghanistan and Governor Nixon had ordered that all flags were to be at half-mast to honor him on the day of his funeral.  This was a law enacted in January 2011, and was to include all flags on all properties to include federal properties. 

The funeral of the fallen soldier was held yesterday 1300 hours at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery, and though other flags were at half-mast throughout the state, the one at the VA post where the funeral took place was not.  This appalled her.  So, she went into the VA building and asked who was in charge of the flag?  A man answered that he was.  She asked why the flag wasn’t at half-mast?  He answered that it was federal property and “go tell someone else your problem”.  She left the building, went out to the flag pole marking the Path of Honor (where several veterans were sitting) and personally lowered the flag to half-mast.  She did this as a gesture of respect, honor, and in keeping with protocol.  The veterans present applauded her efforts.

However, the VA police were called and they said they would have to arrest her.  She asked, what law did she break?  She was told again that the VA was federal property and didn’t need to comply with the Governor’s request, though this is untrue.  The police repeated that she would be arrested – in fact, five  policemen surrounded her.  Remember, she suffers from severe PTSD.  She held her ground, deeply upset. Words were exchanged, but one of the policemen said he was also a veteran, and told her he understood honors and respect for a fallen comrade.  She agreed to leave and was not arrested.  Moments later, the flag was again raised to the top.  Her mission was accomplished - Corporal White was honored through the actions of this faithful soldier.

In our opinion, this veteran, a former Volunteer of the Year by the city Police Department, one of four buglers in the state of Missouri to assist at military funerals, and a solid battle buddy to the core deserves a commendation for this patriotic action.  She has been deeply effected by her service to this country, but she put herself at considerable health risk to provide honor and dignity to one who had paid the ultimate price. 

This blog posting is dedicated to Bonnie Casler, MSG, USA (Ret). 

Very respectfully,


Friday, April 13, 2012

How Do You Keep Going?

Good evening,

It has been a very tough week.  And, somehow, it’s harder to manage the emotional turmoil when the weather is beautiful than in the cold of winter.  We are always, always glad to help Caregivers and their families, but it’s becoming more difficult to understand why the multiple calls and connections we make on behalf of families isn’t being done by those whose jobs exist solely to assist Veterans.  No system is perfect, but the dysfunction seems epic.

Ask yourself if any of the following surprises you?
·         Veteran cannot get a replacement motorized scooter for broken one when completely immobile without it
·         Caregiver cannot obtain monthly pain meds for husband with over 5 days notice, and goes without meds over weekend (31 days wreaks havoc)
·         Veteran has two orthopedic surgeries (one corrective of the other) and is sent home without assistance nor coordination with Caregiver
·         Rehabiliation specialist tells the Caregiver to “Shut Up” when explaining the downward spiral of immobility of her husband
·         Families buy hospital bed/toilet/assistive devices/crutches/etc off Craigslist because cannot obtain after months of waiting
·         Veteran told his wheelchair is denied because his injury “isn’t service-connected enough”
·         Veteran told no admittance to PTSD program because “you need to be physically and mentally well first”
·         Veteran told by emergency line that “I see you’re a ‘frequent flyer’ on this line – what do you want this time?”
·         Caregiver and Veteran not heard when they explained that a med he took was causing him to be physically violent (they stopped it anyway)
·         Delay upon delay in ratings, mental health appointments, approvals, referrals, treatment
·         Calls and emails to VA care teams and coordinators not returned in two days, four days, a week, ever…

Thank goodness Caregivers and Veteran families are strong, well-spoken, and determined.  They have to be.  This VCG Community will continue to listen, respond, provide contacts and a warm hand-off to caring resources, and will find you that battle buddy, someone to help, and stick with you until the issues are resolved as far as possible.  We only wish that the indignities, the disrespect, and the undermining of the Caregiver and Veteran would dwindle and cease.  We look forward to the day when no one is surprised that we are asking for help for what you earned, that those that are paid to do so readily provide it, and then -- make it their responsibility to follow-up and care.

As a very old song goes:  Wishin’ and hopin’ and thinkin, and prayin’,

The VeteranCaregiver Team