Dear President Trump and Secretary Shulkin,
As a United States Marine Corps, Vietnam era veteran, that served our country ‘honorably’ and was discharged with a ‘service-connected’ injury; I believe I have a unique perspective on the V.A. I have to write you to tell you just how dysfunctional your Veterans Administration hospital is.
I would have been on the phone to your ‘promised’ hot-line, but sadly with all of the battles you have been dealing with on other levels, it appears that you have not had time to deal with this issue.
During the Vietnam campaign, the Marine Corps trained the women as they trained the men. I believe this is why there was such a high rate of attrition, as there were only 2,700 women Marines that served during the peak of Vietnam. We are truly the ‘fewer and prouder’!
The Marines slogan during Vietnam was “Join the Marine Corps and become a man” … During boot camp, my bunkies and I would joke that the Marines were trying to turn us into men! Believe me sir, it was tough! But for some of us, our love of country was even stronger! I was never so proud as the day that my ‘eagle, globe and anchor’ were pinned to me. And to this day, that same ‘eagle, globe and anchor’ is tattooed to my heart. The saying “once a Marine, always a Marine” is very true! It is literally drilled into us!
Because of the rigorous training it took a physical toll on my body, particularly my knees. To my dismay, I was only able to last one year and one month in the Marine Corps, as that is as long as my knee would hold out. I was medically discharged, under honorable conditions, and had to say goodbye to my beloved Corps. While my ‘Oath of Service’ lives on in my heart, sadly, my Marine Corps injury, as well, lives on.
My first job out of the Corps was lost due to my knee injury. It has been a problem that has plagued me all of my life. I have now had to take an early retirement, because that injury still persists. However, if I had to do it again, I would! As I know it was women Marines like me and those that graduated with me that morning, on the sunny parade deck of Parris Island, that blazed the trail for the 12,000> current woman Marines.
Because of losing my first job, due to my knee, I filed for my military disability. Rather than honoring my claim, the V.A. put me in a full leg cast for six months to stabilize my knee. That worked for some time, but did not heal the injury. I went about my life and tried to work around it. Now that I have had to take an early retirement because of it and because of your campaign promises that were made to veterans, I refilled the day after the presidential inauguration.
Mr. President, let me tell you my experience so far … Yikes!
Approximately three weeks ago, I received a letter from John Pershing V.A. I presumed the letter was about my ‘disability claim’ but when I discovered the real reason I was not only astonished, but am now very gravely concerned.
In 2009 I had a procedure done at the John Cochran V.A. Apparently they ran some blood work during that time. It appears that I had contracted Hepatitis C. I was being contacted by another V.A. EIGHT years later that I had , potentially, a deadly virus! I was astounded! In ‘private industry’ I believe this would be considered ‘malpractice’ for not disclosing this information in a timely manner.
This last week I had my appointment at John Pershing, V.A.
FYI, Mr. President, I had read that some of the V.A.s where not posting your photo, so I searched for it and found you in a position of prominence ,as was V.A. Secretary Shulkin. But let me state Mr. President, clearly you and V.A. Secretary Shulkin have your work cut out!
I was on time for my appointment and had my labs done, only to wait for almost two hours on my physician. When I was finally seen I was not in the best of mood, as I make it a point to be on time and I believe that the V.A. should do that as well. It was explained to me, by one of the nurses, the ‘wait’ is due to being short-staffed due to budget. I believe the doctor understood my frustration, but was confused as to why I was there. I informed him that I was there to get an x-ray of my knee and to have a blood panel done for Hep C. He asked, who told you that you had Hep C? Well, of course it was the V.A.! He then directed his attention to his computer and started to ‘chuckle’ … stating that the lab had not run a test for Hep C, but rather they ran a test on my ‘prostate’ … Mr. President, I do not believe that the Marine Corps succeeded into turning me into a man, I am pretty sure my daughter is good proof of that! The doctor then ordered the appropriate test and said he would call me, that day if it came back positive, and sent me on the way to have my knee x-rayed. I received no subsequent call.
Relieved, that I did not have a life-threatening virus, but yet cautious about the V.A. I decided the following day to call and verify. Sadly, Mr. President, they now state that it is positive and want me to get another test.
I have since been researching Hepiitus C, as I have no clue how I could have contracted it. But my research has shown me that, it appears, that the Marine Corps keeps on giving …
During my time in the service I was inoculated with what we termed the ‘cattle gun’ as it was a pneumatic ‘Jet Gun’. I remember very well standing in line and concerned that we were being inoculated as ‘cattle’ might be. It was very painful and left many profusely bleeding, as it used air rather then needles. I personally never saw the use of any type of sterilization between uses.
“Of the total number of persons who were hepatitis C antibody positive, and reported an era of service, 62.7% were noted to be from the Vietnam. The second most frequent group is listed as post-Vietnam at 18.2%, followed by 4.8% Korean conflict, 4.3% post-Korean conflict, 4.2% from WWII, and 2.7% Persian Gulf era veterans. It wasn’t until 2012 the Department of Defense began to test recruits entering and exiting the service. The figures for the War on Terror lack accurate research and expected to exceed the stated claim.”
Mr. President, this clearly is an epidemic among Vietnam era veterans and it is killing them! The above website that I addressed: HCVets.com is a website that specifically addresses this issue. One of the administrator of the site, was like me, a USMC Vietnam veteran that was inoculated in Parris Island with the ‘cattle gun’. Sadly, Mr. President, he has now died due to this virus that he received from his military service.
“Military Marine Corps Veteran, Corporal Gary Lupole, 61, co-founder of HCVets.com, Educational Website . passed away suddenly on Thursday, February 2, 2012. His death was caused by cardiac arrest related to terminal liver cancer due to the hepatitis C virus that he contracted during his military service.
The Vietnam war has never ended for Gary, or for many Veterans and Retired Military members with service incurred disabilities like HCV disease. Please tell a friend that 1 in 5 Vietnam Vets have HCV disease.”
While some enlisted to fight for ‘Old Glory’ and our Constitution because they believed in our country, they did not sign up to contract a deadly virus because of incompetency! I am sure, President Trump, you will have to agree with me — This is unacceptable!