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Article 99

My VA Experience

By: Bob Neener G/2/9 - Lime 3/3  RVN 65 - 66

 

Many of us Veterans have already applied for, and are either collecting benefits or have been rejected by the Veterans Administration. 

There's a ton of War Stories relating to the Vietnam Veterans Experience with the VA, my story is in its early stages and ongoing.

I was wounded on (3) separate occasions and am a Bronze Star recipient. When I was discharged from the Marine Corps in 1968, I went to the VA Office in my home town and registered, I received a letter a couple of months later informing me that I was a disabled Veteran, however my disability rating was less than 10%, therefore I did not qualify for benefits. 

I let this lay dormant for 38 years until I hooked up with Frank Pavone, Frank was a machinegunner with Lima 3/3 and Frank and I were tight.  

Frank Pavone was one of only couple of other grunts who I came to be close to in Vietnam. Frank and I hit it off from the beginning.  

I was transferred into Lima Company 3/3 on 6 October 1965 as a transplacement, having originally been deployed with Golf 2/9 on 3 July 65. 

When Frank first met me, he mumbled six words, six words that most of heard at one point in out tour, usually within a day or so of landing in country, “Oh No, Another Fucking New Guy”.   

I had been in country for four months by this point, and my response to this was direct and to the point, “Ya, I’m a Fucking New Guy with a Bronze Star, Mutha Fucker” 

This set Frank back for a moment, and then a smile came across his face, we were close friends from that point on. 

Frank and I lost touch after Vietnam, both going our separate ways and not making contact, or even trying to make contact, I guess this is typical; most of us have tried to bury our memories of that time. 

Frank found my web site a couple of years ago, and emailed me a short note with a photo taken of us in front of Battalion HQ on hill 55, it was like time stood still, there he was, there I was, and the emotions started flowing.

We exchanged emails, phone calls, and this past February Frank and his wife Joann came to Florida for a week, and we hung out at the pool bar telling non stop war stories, filling in a ton of holes in the old memory banks. 

Frank came back to Florida in late April and we went to the Vietnam Veterans Reunion in Melbourne together, we camped out for 5 days and hung out with a ton of old Grunts, It was one of the most invigorating experiences I have ever had. 

It was during this time that Frank asked me why I had not been to the VA to collect my Benefits, as it turns out Frank has a 100% disability for PTSD, most all based on his experience during Operation Harvest Moon on 9 December 1965, the operation where I received my first Purple Heart. 

From Frank’s prospective this was a very good question, considering we both had received the Bronze Starr, one of the Stressors that the VA uses to rate PTSD, and considering my multiple Purple Hearts, Frank couldn’t understand why I wasn’t yet rated.  

Frank and I talked about this off and on for several days. I wasn’t willing to admit that I had PTSD; I looked at PTSD as a weakness and was in major denial. 

Frank was doing his best to convince me to go to the VA and apply for the benefits I rightfully deserved, and after a week living in tent together, he had me convinced that I had everything to gain and nothing to lose. 

When we returned back to my place after the reunion, Frank was explaining to me the process, he mentioned that the VA would issue me a C Number (Case Number) this jogged my memory, I remembered that I had a paper ID card that the VA sent me, and this card indicated that I was a disabled Veteran and it had a Case number on it or at least a number that began with the letter “C”. 

I went to my fireproof strong box to look for it, but it wasn’t there, I looked all over for it, I knew I didn’t toss it, Where I found it was most interesting, It was in my wallet.  

Well this little card turns out to be worth a lot more than the paper it was printed on. 

I actually opened my case on 21 September 1968, and was rejected. 

Frank has been working with Veterans ever since he became 100%, what Frank does is help with the filing process, and where Frank shines is on the appeals issues, to date he is batting 1000%, having never lost a case, and he has been responsible for some very large settlements where back compensation is concerned. 

So Frank tells me that the VA owes me all the way back to 1968, some 38 years of back pay, and my next step is to go to the VA and reopen my case. 

I went to Tennessee to Visit Frank back in August, and at that time, I still hadn’t gone in to the VA, I guess I was still having a little denial issue. 

While in Tennessee Frank showed me a Movie titled “Article 99” 

This is an excellent movie, produced in 1992, and is all about the VA and the problems that many Vietnam Veterans have experienced with the VA. 

I recommend everyone who hasn’t yet seen this movie, buy or rent it; it’s a real good flick. 

There is a primary character in this movie who’s name is Luther, Luther is a wheelchair bound, Vietnam Veteran who is somewhat of an icon and a go-to guy between the medical staff and the other Veterans. 

Luther has his wheel chair done up with patches and flags, he’s dressed in army fatigues, leather Vest and Jungle hat.  

I loved this flick, and it was instrumental in motivating me to get off my ass and go reopen my case, which I immediately did upon my return home from Franks place. 

Now the VA in general, isn’t as bad as it was when this movie was produced, but it still has its problems. 

I didn’t have any real problems when I went in, the staff was very helpful and when I went to Eligibility, I was welcomed with open arms and told that because of my Purple Hearts, I was entitled to life long, free medical care. 

During my interview with my VA Rep, he was the first one to bring up PTSD, Frank was right all along. 

I’m still going through the process, and because of my upcoming move to Tennessee; I had to put the claim on hold until I get set up there. The good news, I am going to get rated and Frank will be instrumental in helping me with this and obtaining my back pay. 

Before I end this and get it posted, I will leave you with this little tidbit, 

My first trip to the VA was a farce; those guys out right Fucked me. Some two years after I was discharged, I had a friend who was receiving a small pension for Jungle Rot between his toes, and he never saw any combat – go figure. 

My second trip to the VA, 38 years later was very different, I was treated with respect and was left with the feeling that the staff had a genuine desire to help. 

But what was most impressionable was the first Veteran I saw when I walked through the doors of the VA clinic here in Orlando. 

It was a real life Luther; Wheelchair and all. Only this Luther was a Marine, a C/1/9 Walking Dead Vet, missing both legs. His wheel chair was decorated, he was wearing a jungle shirt, jungle hat and leather vest with all the patches and even his medals, he looked like Luther and he talked like Luther. And here I was actually living the movie “Article 99” 

Ya got to see this flick to understand what I just said. 

And if you are having problems with the VA, contact Frank; 

email FrnkPavone@3rdMarines.net  he may be able to help.

 

P.S. if you don’t know what Article 99 really is, watch the movie and pay attention.

 

Semper Fi,

Bob