At this point (after 3 years of disability), I now have a 50% service related disability benefit (with an increase possibly around the corner). Social Security Disability has been approved (and benefits will be deposited within the next 30 to 60 days). Social Security Disability Dependent claim has been filed (a decision within 90 to 180 days). These benefits were not given (as all of them were reviewed by either an Administrative Law Judge or by a Physician's review board looking at all of the medical records and listening to Medical / Vocational experts - and the service related disability was in black and white in my VA medical records on file). The fact the VA didn't follow-up with me regarding my medical conditions after I left the Marine Corps was something many veterans experienced. The last issue is Penny's SSDI hearing coming up soon (she already is SSI approved, this only ensures she is eligible for Medicare if approved).
We are in the middle of the Dave Ramsey "Financial University" course, so we will be have the best advice we can get to be financially independent for the foreseeable future. We will continue to throw everything at Penny's medical treatment to ensure she has the best chance one can have to keep the cancer in remission (there is no treatment that won't be tried if it is recommended). We are pretty certain our home will remain ours for a long time at this point. We'll be able to "Pay it forward" to others down the road (as we have received over the past 3 years) and that giving back will start once the benefit checks are in the bank and the taxes are paid.We are hoping we'll get to know our grandchildren better (we have three, with a fourth on the way). And we are going to be working on our long term nest egg to ensure our family will not be without down the road if something was to happen to us.
My days of working are long over (and the doctors say it is permanent), so one must acknowledge and accept one's limitations. I worked 35 straight years (7 of those years in the Marine Corps), and I worked a tremendous amount of unpaid overtime for the last 13 of those years in Information technology support (so now - it is time to deal with the medical repercussions of that time). That experience will culminate in the effort to start helping other Vets and people with medical problems (I've also learned a lot these past 3 years regarding how to pursue benefits - with a lot of help from Robin Alford's "The Expert's Guide to Veterans benefits - and I am hoping what I've learned elsewhere will help her in the future regarding any revisions).
According to TLS Veterans, my blog is a story of persistence that they can tell other Vets about (who are dealing with much of the same issues and who are in much the same situation)..... and as I move from the fire.... over to helping others in need, this blog will evolve into a Veteran's one stop shop of info. There are quite a few "dark" blog posts when it looked like I had given up - and I am still here. I've been told it has been helpful to more than a couple of Vets (and if anyone gets any spark in the right direction, this writing will have been worth it). There might even be a book regarding these experiences down the road (we'll see), but it will need an editor (and I have a few friends who are willing to help me parse my tendency to be verbose).
We are also noticing that more and more Vets plus those with medical crisis' are turning to fund-raising sites given the chaos that is Obama-care and the present non-paying insurance company issues. Also - being transparent about such efforts is always the way to go (and working with one's Church is highly recommended in order to keep one's head on straight if one is religious). TLS veterans and my church helped saved my life (and I will never forget that). TLS veterans is also going the online fund-raising route (and I believe other Veteran organizations are discovering such solutions to deal with budget gaps also). If we hadn't fund raised, I haven't a clue where we'd be at this point. But now, we can start the process of giving back (and the goal is to give back much more than we ever received - that's where the Dave Ramsey course comes in).
To me, this has been a long journey of pain, but also one of discovery. We found out just how much people cared for us. Yes, there are also a few internet trolls who wish otherwise, but they are irrelevant in the grand scheme of things (and are not even worthy of any more mention - they get lost in the anonymous fog of time). Thank you google analytics for what you do.
We thank everyone who has helped us get this far and it is incredible just how bright our future is.
This is just the beginning.......... =)