Syracuse Veterans Writing Group April 2018

The VA Is Where Veterans Fight the War of Percentages (or Letters as Artillery)

The VA was an annual letter informing my grandfather that he was now 5% more disabled this year than last.

It’s another letter telling my father that is disability claim has been denied. He isn’t more disabled this year than last. A year-over-year net gain compared to his father, but a loss still.

“Deny until you die,” he says over the phone. Then he asks how he can prove to them that he’s depressed. My mother’s listening in the background. Is there any information I can send him? I do. He was surprised to find out that he really is depressed. But that doesn’t matter much unless the VA thinks so, too.

More white bags of pills in the mailbox: he gets 90% disabled pills in the mailbox. He’s convinced if he took them, he’d be 100% dead.

The VA is a letter to my brother telling he’s 100% disabled and another letter instructing him to return to have his disability status verified. He’s married now and has never hurt his wife. Is he less disabled this year than last? What’s the percentage difference between homicidal and happily married?

The VA is where my father’s thyroid was removed and where he took radioactive iodine to cure him from the cancer caused by Agent Orange and depleted uranium munitions. It’s also where they removed his kidney after the radioactive iodine defoliated his kidney and gave it cancer, too.

The VA is where my brother spent 30 days as an in-patient to prove his sanity to Union County College after they expelled him for having a flashback. He showed the administration a letter stating he was 100% sane. But he was still 100% expelled.

The VA is car rides for my father to Tuskegee, other times Montgomery, most times to Columbus, where he sits in group therapy sessions so he can prove to the VA that his percentage is too low.

The VA is the calculator that tallies the debt a grateful nation can never repay to those who swore to uphold its Constitution.




Posted in SYRVWG, veterans studies