Thursday, March 10, 2011

Thankful Thursday: For my Congressman and Senators

I know it sounds weird to be thankful for your Congressman and Senators, but they can be helpful.

Through the years, I have had to use the services of my Congressional leaders on several occasions. My years as a journalist cemented my dislike for asking for favors. As a journalist, you couldn't do it. But, as a citizen I needed to use an odd system that I had heard about as a journalist. Contact your Congressional delegation for help.

As a citizen, a wife and a caregiver, my goal was to utilize their services to help me meet my end goal. I'll explain.

In 2001, my late husband Jimmy had a catastrophic stroke. He was left mute and completely paralyzed. He was a prisoner in his own body. When I contacted my Congressman's office I didn't even have all of those details. I just knew he had a horrific stroke. He couldn't communicate with me and I needed a copy of his DD214.

When I spoke to a VA representative, he said it would take months to get a copy from St. Louis. I didn't have months. I didn't know if my husband would live or die. I didn't have time in the middle of this medical crisis to look for a form that I desperately needed, in case we needed to utilize VA benefits for his care.

A veteran would say, "You should ALWAYS know where your DD214 is." I get that, but I also get that my husband was in denial that anything could possibly go wrong during the procedure to stabilize his aneurysm. No advance directives were signed prior to the procedure. He certainly didn't provide me a copy of his DD214 just in case. We both expected he would be home within 24 hours of the procedure as the doctors suggested.

The Congressman's office was able to help. With a phone call and a faxed signed request seeking their help, Jimmy's copy was pushed to the top of the St. Louis list. Instead of months, I received it in weeks.

I wasn't successful in getting a resolution to my last request for Congressional help. In September 2010, we were buying a VA-owned home. Thirty minutes before closing, we were told there was a problem and we couldn't buy the house that day. They weren't sure when or if, it could be purchased. The closing agent, the Realtors and the bank all told me that there was no one to contact.

I turned to my old ways. I contacted my Congressman's office. It took about three tries to explain the situation, because there was some confusion on whether one of the large banks owned the property or the VA. The Congressman's office tried to help. My basic question was:  We need to know whether the VA will sell us the house or not. I called the Congressman's office, because the VA is a government agency. No one could get an answer for us, so we purchased another home in town.

While it may not seem like a good use of taxpayer money, the system is set up to provide these services. It's amazing how a Congressional inquiry can help you cut through the bureaucracy a little faster.

I like to think of it as a last resort  to speed things up. I have always been pleased with my Congressional office's efforts — no matter what state I live in. I am thankful for these government workers, who become helpful case workers.

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