Sounding a bugle.
They also spent time going to the offices of senators and representatives attempting to corner them, or at least a staff member, and explain the importance of a particular bill to either pass or not pass.
The hope is that the presence of many will help raise the volume of the voice of all those other veterans who couldn't be there. You see, PVA provides many services to paralyzed veterans, and although they provide services, don't forget that at the heart of PVA is advocacy.
However, it's my belief that fighting for our benefits and rights doesn't end with the group sent to Virginia. Indeed, the responsibility of fighting for our rights lies within each of us.
Most of us can lend our voices to the ones in our national office and really increase PVA's volume with Congress.
However, I was once told by a long-standing PVA member that we don't endorse individuals. PVA fights for principles, bills and changes in discriminatory laws. So remember, when speaking to a member of Congress that we're arguing about the subject. We don't threaten to lend our support or take it away as a PVA representative.
Now, if you were to simply identify yourself as a disabled constituent who has served his or her country (like I do) then you're acting as a private citizen and can say what you'd like.
I ask you, however, to become informed before making any contact with anyone from Congress. First, read about The Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act of 2014 (The Choice Act). At first glance, it seems like a veteran's dream for health care. But how many of you have been in hospitals other than a Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) facility and found doctors who have no idea how to really take care of you?
I once spoke to a doctor at a non-VA hospital regarding a procedure of wound care and he sounded extremely knowledgeable. However, when I asked him what type of bowel care regimen his nurses performed, he looked at me with a blank stare.
I'm not speaking for or against this act, just asking you to have the conversation with your local PVA leaders and get the whole story.
Along with The Choice Act, there are quite a few legislation point papers you should read, including:
* Expand Eligibility for VA Caregiver Support Services
* Reinstate Capacity Reporting Requirement for Spinal Cord Injury Service
* Provide Beneficiary Travel to Priority Group 4 Catastrophically Disabled
* Provide for Additional Automobile Grants
* Procreative Services for Catastrophically Disabled Veterans
* Civilian Health and Medical Program of the Department of Veterans Affairs (CHAMPVA)
* Protection of Specialized Services
I'm not asking you to become an expert on the entire list. However, if one of these issues interests or affects you, you owe it to yourself to read the point paper on it, then contact your congressman and let him or her know what you think.
Staying On Watch
In my book, Rules of Engagement: A Self-Help Guide for Those Overcoming Major Personal Trauma, I write that the first rule is "You are your first line of defense." The quality of our health, health care and lives is mostly up to us. Yes, there are things not under our control. We have schedules to keep regarding our bowels and bladders and we have to watch our bottoms constantly. But, that doesn't leave us with so little time that we should leave all the decisions related to our health care to others.
I've read those papers and appreciate the effort our national leadership has placed in raising issues that directly influence the quality of my life. So, I took a few minutes and called my senator's office and explained why this issue was important to me.
It was then I thought, "What if every senator's office received a phone call? How powerful would that be?" So this month, no jokes and no uplifting motivational stories. This is a simple plea for my fellow veterans to educate yourself on an issue you're passionate about and join the fight.
I'm not saying all of you aren't fighting the good fight. I'm just sounding a bugle to our newly injured comrades and hopefully re-energizing our old warriors, of which I'm one.
I thought I fought my last war 20 years ago. I now realize some wars are never over and as long as there are veterans in need of service, or a discriminatory law on the books, than this sailor will stay on the watch and be there for those who paved the way, and for those who came behind.
Scoba Rhodes is a U.S. Navy veteran and author of Rules of Engagement: A Self-Help Guide for Those Overcoming Major Personal Trauma.