Battling ALS and the VA: Where Semper Fi loses all meaning

Bob Taylor, a Marine Corp. vet is learning the meaning of Semper Fi when it comes to asking for help from the VA. Marine Corp. recruit training was way easier, and in the end you lived through it.

VA Healthcare, Charlotte, NC

CHARLOTTE, NC, March 26, 2017 – The wheels of progress frequently march too slowly when you are dealing with something that requires expediency. At this stage of my ALS, I have been investigating the possibilities of receiving health care and/or some amount of disability from the Veterans Administration since I am technically no longer able to work.

It has been an eye-opening process to say the very least. The first leg of the journey was to apply for my military records and obtain a copy of my honorable discharge from the United States Marine Corps.

Once my paperwork had been gathered, including half the records of another Naval officer which accidentally made their way into mine, I was told to go to the local VA office for an interview.

Battling ALS with help from a double-haloed angel

During that meeting, I learned there are two segments of assistance to apply for: healthcare and disability.

Next, I was told to fill out the forms regarding healthcare and take them to another VA office for another appointment, approval and an assignment to a military doctor.

That afternoon, out of the blue, I received a phone call from Kansas City from some anonymous soul in the VA. The man was extremely nice, but I could tell immediately from the questions he was asking that he was inquiring about the medical information I had been told to fill out and take elsewhere in Charlotte.

When I hung up, I must say I was quite surprised that the military I knew back in the 1960s had become considerably more efficient. I was wrong.

Thinking I had already gone through the process of applying for health care, I was surprised again the following week when I had another call, this time from Charlotte, informing me that I needed to fill out my paperwork in order to be considered for medical services. I explained about the call from Kansas City but that didn’t count, so I made my way to another office to get a doctor assigned to me.

The gifts of ALS: generosity, kindness and compassion

I explained about the call from Kansas City but that didn’t count, so I made my way to another office to get a doctor assigned to me. After a few minutes, I was called in for yet another interview where they informed me that my paperwork had been filled out in Kansas City and that my request had been denied.

Further investigation, this time face to face, proved that I did indeed qualify for health benefits due to my time at Camp LeJeune. Apparently, there had been some type of water contamination problem at the base for approximately 30 years. Anyone stationed at Camp LeJeune for more than 30 days during that period was automatically qualified for healthcare.

Whether the contaminated water had anything to do with my current condition is still unknown, but the health benefit does exist.

Then it was back to the original VA office to determine whether I qualified for disability. After that session, I was told it would be four to six months before I could see a doctor who could determine that aspect of my illness.

I actually received a call within roughly two months, so I trudged to yet a third facility for testing and providing more information.

Before I even sat down, the doctor said, “Now I want you to know there is absolutely no question you will receive funds for this ailment. It is simply a matter of how much. Of course, the compensation will increase as you deteriorate until your ultimate demise.”

“Deteriorate” and “demise” were not quite the vocabulary I had anticipated, but the thought of monetary disbursements quickly overrode my discomfort.

“You see,” the doctor continued, “it all has to do with your exposure to Agent Orange in Vietnam.”

Oops. Time for me to speak up.

“But I didn’t go to Vietnam and I was not exposed to Agent Orange that I know of,” I replied.

“Ahhh, I see,” said the doctor. “Well then I’m not sure what your status will be or if you will even qualify. Did you bring your papers with you?”

“No ma’am. When I spoke on the phone and scheduled the appointment they said I wouldn’t need them.”

“Oh no, my dear. I will call the neurologist’s office and have them sent over. They will be here by this afternoon,” said the doctor with confidence.

That was early in the week. Still no news.

The gifts of ALS: generosity, kindness, and compassion

In the meantime, I returned to the healthcare department to schedule an appointment with a doctor. “First date we can see you is 2 pm on May 4th,” they said. I took it and left with my calendar almost full.

By late Tuesday, I had another call from the health division.

“Sir we’ve had some cancellations and we can reschedule you if you like.”

“OK,” I said, “when can I come in?”

“Well the end of this week is open or sometime next week.”

“Great. What day next week is available?” I asked.

“All of them,” said the voice.

So when Monday morning rolls around, I will make another stop at the VA to find out who my doctor is and what my health benefits will be.

In the meantime, I am still waiting to find out about disability and any chance of remuneration. I fear, however, my “demise” may overtake me before I get to that resolution.

Contact Bob at Google+

Bob Taylor has been traveling the world for more than 30 years as a writer and award winning television producer focusing on international events, people and cultures around the globe.

Taylor is founder of The Magellan Travel Club (

Read more of Bob’s journeys with ALS and his journeys around the world

Editors Note:  Support Bob’s GoFundMe to give him a hand up

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