Updated: Aug 19
*Field training A Co, 1st BN 3rd Marines Hokkaido, Japan
I’ve been retired for 9 months at this writing. In those 9 months I can honestly tell you, my disability checks made a difference. But I’m not going to tell you about the money aspect. Disability from the VA isn’t about the money. It’s not about paying me back for breaking me physically and emotionally. Receiving disability is about the government fulfilling their obligations under the contract we BOTH signed when I joined. Don’t forget – contracts go both ways, and both parties have obligations. I agreed to selfless service, and they agreed to take care of me.
I had a dream of taking a job overseas and seeing the world as a contractor when I retired. I wanted to do all of the things I saw civilians doing while I was stuck on post during deployments. Those dreams came to a screeching halt with my chronic pain, medical issues, and medication lists. There just isn’t a company out there that can accommodate me with all of my medical needs overseas.
It’s not just overseas either. If the job requires lifting heavy objects, walking more than 15 minutes, standing long periods, or working in the heat, I’m out. I just can’t do it. I’ve turned down well-paying jobs because my body just can’t handle it. My disability helps to bridge the gap between what I could be making if I wasn’t so broken and what I am making.
My disability also means that the VA will take care of me when they get worse. When I left the Army, some of my medical conditions got better and some worse. No matter how small or insignificant it seemed, I claimed it. Some of my claims got a 0% rating which means they are covered if they ever get worse. I have a harder time walking now than I did last year. One day I’ll be in a wheelchair and need to make changes in my home to accommodate the new me. The VA will help with both of those issues thanks to my claim and that 0% rating.
The VA will also pay for all of my medications needed for my disabilities and any that I may need in the future due to them. This is a resource I am entitled to, but haven’t used since I have a civilian doctor and purchasing medications through my health insurance is easy. But if the day ever comes that I can’t use my insurance or afford my meds, the VA will take care of me.
Going to the VA didn’t mean I was weak or looking for a handout. It was a benefit I earned through 20+ years of selfless service. I know of people who got out after 1 year and got 100% disability as well. They earned it too. As a community of Veterans, we need to support each other and not judge. The reason a Vet has a certain percentage is between them and their doctor.
If you served in the military, it’s never too late to start a claim. Just remember contracts work both ways; when you signed on the dotted line, you put your life in the government’s hands. When the government accepted your contract, they agreed to support you through the rest of your life; active support while you are in, and the Department of Veterans Affairs when you leave. You held up your end of the contract, the government will do the same, but only if you apply.