other people's emergencies: random thoughts of an urban paramedic

For more than twenty years I've worked as a paramedic for the city of Boston, Massachusetts. The opinions expressed in this diary are mine alone, and do not represent the views of Boston EMS. Names, dates, locations, and physical characteristics have been changed to ensure patient confidentiality.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Another Veterans' Resource

A reader recently asked if I knew of any counseling or legal services that could help a wounded soldier, recently returned from Iraq, to get benefits after being denied assistance by the VA.

I've been in Maine for the past two days, helping a Transportation Company prepare for its Middle East deployment. While there, I posed this question to a VA administrator. She told me that some soldiers are indeed denied certain benefits. A soldier who leaves the Army after just two or three years of service, for example, will not qualify for benefits that go only to retirees--despite having suffered injuries in combat--because leaving the service at the end of an enlistment obligation is not the same thing as retiring. Of course, personnel who are forced to leave the service because of injuries may qualify for "medical retirement" because of their injuries, but that's a discussion that goes beyond the scope of this blog.

Anyway, the VA representative went on to say that at a minimum, every soldier who continues to suffer health consequences of a combat-related injury qualifies for VA treatment of that condition, even if he qualifies for no other benefits. If, as EMS personnel, you come across a soldier suffering from PTSD or some other traumatic or health consequence of military service, have him contact the Operation Iraqi Freedom/Operation Enduring Freedom (OIF/OEF) Program Manager at their local VA office. I'm told that every VA office--or at least every VA medical facility--has one, and that they are eager to help veterans get the benefits they need, especially medical ones.


Blogger Renee said...

I will definitely remember what you wrote here, TS. Resources are always good to remember.

9:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Do you know when you are next going on an extended military service activiation? Like the service in Germany last year. I really missed you blog when you were out of the ambulance, I understand that you can't blog about many Army-related topics, so I have a suggestion/request:
When you are not in the ambulance for an exended amount of time, could you tell us some of your stories from MedFlight? I'm sure you must have a lot of interesting experiences from MedFlight, just as you have had so many interesting stories from Boston. Just an idea. So many of us don't know what to do with ourselves when you're not writing! Thanks.

9:52 PM  
OpenID ericjay said...

Another great resource is the VA's Vet Center program. It may seem counter-intuitive to go to the VA about being denied by the VA. However, the Vet Center program is separate from the VA Hospital System, and the staffers there (many are veterans themselves) have experience helping vets access benefits they're entitled to.

Veterans who feel that they've exhausted their options dealing with the VA directly have some other avenues too. I've heard good things about the advocacy services that Disabled American Veterans offers.

11:19 PM  
Blogger TS said...


Glad you found it useful.

11:20 PM  
Blogger TS said...


Wow! That's a lot of pressure!

I think your suggestion is a really good one. Unfortunately, I simply don't have any interesting stories from my MedFlight days. We had a near-miss with another aircraft once, but I've already written about that in a previous post. The other calls were not terribly intersting.

There are two reasons for this. First, I worked for MedFlight long ago. All the way back in 1992, in fact. MedFlight was just getting off the ground, so to speak, and nearly all of their work involved transfers. We'd fly to a small community hospital, pick up a victim of trauma or cardiac surgery, and fly him to a major Boston hospital. Nothing interesting about that. And besides, most of these patients were sedated. That made it even less interesting.

Since then, MedFlight has done a fantastic job of marketing itself. They get called to scenes all the time now, and I'm sure that some of their current flight crews could tell some good stories.

Truth is, I'm having an extremely difficult time finding stories to write about on the ambulance. The evening shift does not lend itself to good stories. Evening after evening, one cardiac call after another. There are only so many things I can say about heart attacks.

You have to remember, too, that I have a life outside of this blog. I want to help coach my daughter's softball team. I want to go on vacation with my family. I need to study the law, because my position in the Army depends on it, and I need to make time to run each day. Plus, I need to work 40 hours a week.

Writing this blog is time-consuming. So are military assignments. These things do not fit well together. I'm leaving in a few hours on a week-long assignment to Georgia, and it sounds like I'll have only a couple of hours each day to myself. As much as I'd like to blog during that time, I really need to use those hours for other things.

I'm not upset that you made your suggestion. Like I said, it was a creative idea. But blogging is not my job, and unfortunately, it sometimes has to take a back seat to more important things.

Thanks for the support, and thanks for the compliments.

11:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry about that! I didn't want to pressure you at all.
Believe me, I really appreciate all the time that you put into this blog. I can totally see why you can't do this.
I just thought it seemed like a cool idea, I didn't stop to consider how impractical it might be.
Thanks for writing, as well as for your service to our Nation

11:49 PM  
Blogger TS said...

I was kidding about the pressure! In fact, I almost attached one of those smiley things to the sentence, but then I said, "No, that person will know I'm kidding."

I realize now that the rest of my response might have sounded defensive. It wasn't meant to be. I just wanted you and everyone else to know that I blog when I can, but that it can't always be a priority.

Thanks for the interest and for the support!

9:56 AM  

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