Via Corporal Kevin James Presmyk
Thanks to overwhelming support, I have decided to release this. I wrote a letter to the President! Tell me what you guys think:
“January 25, 2012
The Honorable Mr. Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500
Dear Mr. President,
My name is Kevin Presmyk. I am twenty three years old and a veteran of the United States Marine Corps. I served two tours in Afghanistan with 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment. I am writing to you to inform you of the current state of the Department of Veterans Affairs as seen from a veteran’s perspective, and to increase public awareness and support for veterans. Although our nation is facing many major issues today, the media and politicians are barely recognizing veterans as an issue this election year even though this election takes place during the longest war in United States history. Considering my own experiences with Veterans Affairs and the experiences of my fellow veterans, this is absolutely unacceptable.
Every aspect in which I have dealt with Veterans Affairs so far, compensation, education, and healthcare, has been completely inadequate. I have been waiting for my compensation claim for over one year. When I call the VA they have no updated information on my claim for me. When I check the e-benefits website it still tells me my attention is needed for an issue that I corrected seven months ago. For the GI Bill, I was told it would 100% cover a flight school program I wanted to take. I was guaranteed this by the VA hotline and the VA representative at my school. I moved halfway across the country from Chicago to San Diego only to be told I would have to wait an additional four months before the program would be covered. Three months and three weeks later I was told the program would not be covered by the GI Bill under any circumstances. I had no income and had to move back to Chicago. I wasted four months and over $15,000 in moving and living expenses. I considered attempting to sue Veterans Affairs for my financial losses, but I knew any money I was awarded surely wouldn’t come from executives paychecks, but that it would come from the funds used to help veterans. What is most troubling is an article I read in the military.com news from November 15, 2011 titled ‘Vet Organizations Hit VA Executive Bonuses’ in which it states, “Carl Blake, national legislative director for the Paralyzed Veterans of America, said the VA paid out bonuses averaging about $14,000 to some 240 Senior Executive Service employees last year.”
Healthcare is the worst of all. With the little income I am currently receiving from unemployment and the GI Bill while I attend a community college I do not wish to go to but need the money, I cannot afford any health or dental insurance whatsoever. The majority of my income goes to my mother who was laid off two years ago. When it comes to service connected issues, to say that nobody at the VA cares is completely unfair. I have met several amazing VA employees who have helped me tremendously. However, it is difficult to find many people who actually care. For example, during my PTSD exam less than one month after discharge from active duty (two months after returning from my second deployment to Afghanistan), I was handed a one page questionnaire by a VA psychiatrist. After filling it out, the psychiatrist proceeded to spend less than 5 minutes speaking with me. For the most part, they simply repeated the questions I had just filled out. I was told although I showed many symptoms of PTSD, I did not show enough for a diagnosis. I was then prescribed psychiatric medication after specifically saying I did not want psychiatrics. Based on this experience, and the experiences of fellow veterans I have kept in touch with, the VA healthcare system is more concerned with prescribing drugs than helping veterans. These drugs are often prescribed in experimental combinations to people already suffering from mental illness. It is no wonder suicide among veterans has skyrocketed. Although I did not take any of the medications, I would have taken my own life several months ago if it were not for one thing: A very close friend of mine named Jonathan Porto did not come back from Afghanistan in 2010. He left behind his wife and newborn daughter. I can think of nothing more selfish than to take my own life when I know he would give anything to have his back.
Like most United States Marines I did not enlist for the benefits. They were nothing more than an added bonus to something I already knew I wanted to do regardless. To be promised no benefits would not have changed my decision to join the military whatsoever. However, if I’m going to be promised these benefits, I’m going to make post-military plans that depend on them. By not receiving the benefits that I was promised, my plans were clearly severely and adversely affected. But that’s okay, I am not concerned with my own problems right now. I will adapt, overcome, and succeed. My concern is for the next generation of veterans that will follow me. I absolutely refuse to let the Marines I trained be discharged from active duty only to face the same issues I am now facing. It is my responsibility and my duty to do everything in my power to make sure future veterans have the smoothest and easiest possible transition from the military to civilian life, and to make sure that they are taken care of as well as possible. It is the responsibility and duty for every veteran to do this. Like the “Bonus Army” that assembled in Washington, D.C. in the summer of 1932 over World War One veteran’s benefits, I urge the public whether you’re a veteran or not, protect those that protect freedom and individual’s rights. With social media and today’s technology, veterans can communicate and organize like never before in history. Your voice and vote CAN make a real difference.
Corporal Kevin James Presmyk, USMC”