This transition process has managed to quite literally defeat so many that were once the faces of ultimate bravery.
Ian and I started this journey 2 years ago because we are driven to make a difference for Veterans, First Responders and their families. As Veterans, we have had similar experiences, and we know people who have encountered their own struggles along the way.
Not everyone struggles to receive the support they deserve, however we’ve had many conversations over the years with other Veterans and First Responders who can relate to Chelsea and Randol’s experience which you will read about in the paragraphs below.
We want to thank Chelsea and Randol for taking the time to share their story with us because we believe it’s important that more people understand what is happening as our Veterans transition from a life of military service to the civilian life.
Although I cannot comment on the process as a veteran, I can as a spouse, a friend and an observer. There are many areas in which the release/retirement process can be improved, but I want to highlight those surrounding a medical release.
One of the issues that need to be addressed first and foremost, in my opinion, is the process. You have these members, these men and women, who are being faced with the fact that their career, their life as they know it is coming to an end. This is rarely their own choice. This is, in some cases, all that they know, the only family they have. The process impresses on to them that because they sought help for their injuries, they are no longer useful. These wounded warriors are being shuffled away from their teams, their brothers and sisters, their support. In most cases they will be posted to units where they essentially sit stagnant, feeling almost totally alone, facing their own battles. No longer needed, no longer wanted, their dedication and sacrifices seemingly for nothing. Yes, some can and do have the opportunity to learn other jobs, but I’m talking about those who aren’t ready for that part yet.
This transition process has managed to quite literally defeat so many that were once the faces of ultimate bravery. There is mass confusion in regards to what needs to be done, very little knowledgeable and seamless support to assist. There is panic and confusion as to when documents need to be completed and who/where it needs to be submitted to. The email addresses and phone numbers handed out to releasing members are often met with the “not in service” response. This starts the ball rolling with critical documents not being received or completed, disability forms not being submitted, post-release medical coverage not being allotted. This process should be smooth, but instead it’s nothing but frustration, causing so many to give up on what they are entitled to.
There should be a designated team that works with a member over their release transition, helping compile all of the documents, helping complete them and in some cases, helping submit them. There are so many members releasing for Traumatic Brain Injuries, PTSD and many other mental and physical health reasons, and all of these time-sensitive tasks become unbearable. Having a team in place to smooth this transition would literally be a step helping our veterans realize that they are still valued.
The next issue that should be addressed, and is GROSSLY understated, is turn-around times with processing. Because of the chaotic process mentioned earlier, there are many veterans who are not receiving the treatments and care that they should. For some this means mental health appointments, or physical rehabilitation, and medications. The public is told that Veterans face a 14-16 week turnaround time. If you talk to any released veteran, it’s more like 4-24 months, WITH all information being submitted on time.
Until these applications are processed, our Veterans are not able to receive their medications, treatments and medical appointments that would normally be covered. There is a serious lack of communication between SISIP/Manulife and Veterans affairs – with each other and most importantly with the vets. We have members being told to save 2 months of finances for the transition, when in fact it takes more like 4-12 to see benefits kick in fully. We even have some veterans being told by SISP representative to claim bankruptcy, or that they are ineligible for assistance because of their posting location. This is resulting in homes being lost, families being broken and our veterans losing, once again, all that they fought for.
I know it isn’t as simple as putting a team together for the transition process, or hiring and training more people to work with SISIP and VAC, but that seems to be where the issues stem from. It’s time for us, family, friends, spouses, to step up to the plate and be the change we want to see for our Veterans. It’s events like the 22km Ruck March For Remembrance where although daunting, we are given the chance to show our Vets that we not only remember, but we will continue to fight for them at home, while so many have fought for us and our country over the decades.
-Chelsea Drangsholt (spouse of retired/medically released Cpl. Randol Drangsholt)