This is a story that began in October 2008. I've written a couple of blogs about my fight to get into the Independent Living Program. You can find those blogs in the archives. The last time I wrote about the ILP was in August of last year when I thought I was going to Orlando to sign off on my plan. How wrong I was.
My Voc Rehab counselor has spent the last several months giving me excuse after excuse after excuse telling me why my plan has not been completely developed. She's given me excuses why she's not given it to her boss for approval. She's given me excuses why it's not been sent to the St Pete VA Regional Office for approval or disapproval. Her excuses have been that she's over worked, her office is under staffed, she's been sick, they don't have contracts approved, she's been busy on site visits and she's asked me to be patient. I have been very patient. I've tried to be understanding. I've been in her office and I've seen the files stacked on her desk. I know how heavy her case load is.
That said ... I finally reached my breaking point. This has dragged out long enough. I was approved for Voc Rehab benefits in November of 2008 and here it is February 2010 and I don't have a firm, signed plan. I have received zero benefits from Voc Rehab. Recently, I sat down at my computer and I wrote my Voc Rehab Counselor an email. I told her that I am tired of waiting for help. I told her that I am starting to believe I will never receive help from Voc Rehab and I told her that I have lost all faith in her and "the system". I told her I couldn't understand why OIF/OEF Vets were receiving their GI Bill money and I couldn't get my benefits, too. I asked her, was there nothing left over for Voc Rehab? Was my request being ignored in favor of returning Vets? I told her that I was tired of her excuses and I told her to "quit blowing smoke up my butt".
The next day I received an email from her. Within one week, my packet had been sent to St Pete VARO. It's been approved and finally, this coming Friday, February 5, 2010, I have an appointment to see my Voc Rehab counselor to sign off on my Voc Rehab Independent Living Program Plan.
What does all this mean? It means I will finally get a laptop computer. I sit on my PC all day long right now and by the end of the day my legs look like sausages. Not good. I'll be getting one of those recliners that lifts you up into a standing position. The recliner means I can work on the laptop all day with my legs elevated ... no more sausage legs. And, no more struggling to stand up from a sitting position. I'll be getting a new, therapeutic bed. I have arthritis in all muy joints and when I wake up in the morning I hurt like hell. Hopefully the new bed will help me to sleep better and make it less painful for me in the morning. I'm getting a mobility scooter and one of those fancy carriers for my car. No more using those cheap ones in the stores that die 5 minutes after you get into them because the store personnel failed to charge the batteries. I'm getting other stuff, too, but those are the most important items.
The ILP isn't all about getting items to make my life more comfortable. It's a two fold program and I think I explained that in my previous blogs. The second part is to get you back out into society. Sometimes that's putting you into a part time job .... if you can handle it. Sometimes it's doing volunteer work. For me, we've opted for a volunteer track. I want to take a course and train to become a certified Veterans Advocate. It's a hefty goal but it's something I can do at home at my own pace. Voc Rehab will pay for that. Pretty cool, don't you think?
I'm excited, Invisible Reader. I've waited a long time for this. My counselor said to be patient and for the most part, I have been. That patience has paid off and now I'm going to reap the benefits of the ILP. I'll keep you posted, Invisible Reader. In the meantime, if you have questions, feel free to contact me. I'll do what I can to help you.
Until the next time ....