Gig Line: Difficult but necessary

Published 5:36 pm Wednesday, November 3, 2021

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

When a veteran or his/her family member who reads Gig Line reaches out to me, I’m always happy to hear from them. Many times a vet calls me to inquire about obtaining their free Dare County Veteran Discount Card; sometimes their widow calls to say they identify with my heartache over losing the one true love of my life over five years ago due his exposure to Agent Orange in Vietnam.

When they do, sometimes they cry and sometimes we both cry; sometimes a vet calls just want to talk about their frustrations with V.A. delays or the fact the V.A. denied their claim years ago or about a new medical problem they’re experiencing now, at which time I always refer them to Patty O’Sullivan, Dare County Veteran Service Officer (V.S.O.). Not because I don’t care, not because I’m too busy, but because I do care and I want them to get the very best advice possible to help them and because I know Patty will listen to their concerns and do her very best to explain their options, the process of submitting a claim seeking possible V.A. disability compensation on their behalf. She is the most up-to-date and informed point of contact, and she will help any veteran who calls on her for guidance or assistance.

When I talk to a veteran, I soak up their words like a sponge. I respect their thoughts, their feelings, their anguish, their pride in having served this great nation and their resistance to even reach out to the V.A. “not wanting to ask them for anything.” I get it, I’m not a veteran myself, but I still feel their pain having shared 48 years plus of my life with a man who fortunately made it back home to America, later dying with a service-connected illness.

Get the latest headlines sent to you

In a conversation with Patty this past week, she explained how difficult it was to realize that many deserving veterans who become extremely ill and require hospice care unfortunately wait with sluggish responses when help is much deserved and needed, especially at a critical, heartbreaking time for a family. Patty explained that filing a pension can be a lengthy process and that it’s important – if not critical – when it is likely that hospice care might be required to attend to, console and comfort a veteran and his/her spouse that a claim process begin as soon as possible. Patty will always expedite claims on behalf of our veterans, it’s just that not doing so well in advance of a serious or life-threatening illness could result in not receiving any compensation or V.A. response until after the veteran leaves this world. That is incredibly sad and unfortunate because all veterans who have service-connected illnesses with grave consequences deserve acknowledgement and the peace that their spouse may be subject to financial support as a widow or widower.

Personally speaking, I’ve been there, done that. Though Billy had finally been awarded V.A. disability compensation for his diabetes II (18 months after initially filing the claim), his passing occurred only four months after we came to know he also had an incurable brain cancer, glioblastoma multiforme IV. He didn’t know anything about the cancer, only that he had diabetes II and hypothyroidism when he filed the claim.

The fact that he submitted the claim even being doubtful anything would come of it though resulted in the fact that he finally realized his service in Vietnam was noted, as well as his suffering as a result of it while he was still alive. Once the brain cancer reared its ugly head, it would have been too late, especially because of the delays often in dealing with the V.A., to have things in order prior to his passing. My husband’s having made the effort resulted in the fact that as his widow, I now receive just a little less than he had been receiving before he passed. The monthly check? I don’t care about the check. I’d so much rather have my husband here with me, but since that wasn’t meant to be, I am grateful and blessed that his sacrifice and his perseverance resulted in his continued support to me, to help take care of me, which he would be proud to realize.

Once a veteran has reached the point of needing hospice, it could mean that filing a claim will go unanswered for too long or to be challenged (if necessary) prior to a veteran’s passing. Talking to you straight, my point is this: please don’t wait!

If you read my weekly Gig Line column (even occasionally), you’ve heard me say that I love you and that’s because I do! I care about you and I care about your wives or husbands that could face what I and others like me have been through. It’s hard enough to have a broken heart day after day when you lose someone you love with every fiber of your being, but to deal with financial burdens when your spouse’s retirement income and your Social Security is no longer a contributor to your monthly expenditures compounds it even more so. In my case, the V.A. benefit that my husband earned, sacrificed for, deserved and even died for, is a help. Without that provision, it’s possible I could have lost our home.

Every single month when the V.A. deposits Billy’s compensation into the bank, I thank God – I thank God I had the privilege and honor to have been Billy’s wife, to have loved and been loved by him, protected by him and supported by him even though he’s not here to hug and kiss and hold and be held by every day.

Truthfully, I wish no veteran ever got sick, that none of you suffered like many of you have, but that is even more reason I harp on learning the list of “presumptive conditions,” some of which you could be experiencing right now. Perhaps you haven’t considered that you might be eligible for a benefit or entitlement. Patty is a dedicated V.S.O. eager to help our veterans and she will discuss your medical concerns with you; help you submit a justifiable claim and stand with you through the process. Vietnam veterans especially should consider investigating the list of illnesses/conditions by checking If you don’t have a computer, please call Patty at 252-475-5604 or you can call me and I’ll look up the list and read them off to you and if any sound familiar, you should contact Patty and determine the potential and start the ball rolling.

Next week in Gig Line, Patty will submit information that could be of immense help to you, so please read next week’s column. In the meantime, if you have a question of me or wish to just talk, please don’t hesitate to contact me. You are my Billy’s brothers and sisters, in spirit and comradery – I care about you. My cell number is 252-202-2058 or my email address is Personally, I’m not a V.A. representative or a veteran or a medical professional. What I am, though, is a proud veteran advocate who wants each of you to be honored in every way possible. I’m just plain ’ole me, but as sincere as the day is long. Out of respect and love for my husband, I’ve written this weekly column for seven years now, initiating it in 2012 long before Billy went to Heaven (if you’re interested, is where you can find many stories you may have missed). I thank our good Lord for you all and I pray for you whether near or far, to be healthy, safe and happy.

Until next time, be proud of the men and women that you are. You are a real blessing to all of us and we need you in our lives. God bless and – as I’ve said often – I love you. Stay tuned.