I sit down to write this on election day in hopes that our country will once again find hope. Right now, I’m feeling rather hopeless about the entire situation.
You see, the rhetoric has been “military families matter,” “our soldiers can’t do their jobs without their families behind them,” “we must support the families behind our soldiers,” etc. Actions, however, speak volumes to the contrary. I don’t want to hear how the Republicans do this or the Democrats did that. Frankly, they’re ALL guilty. EVERY last one of them. There are no party lines here. Political figures from both sides, and even from within the military community itself are horrendously guilty of saying how much the families matter and then kicking us to the curb. Of kicking our soldiers to the curb.
Budget cuts are already happening. Forget the billions that WILL happen if Congress goes into sequestration in January. We’re already feeling the effects. An already poor health care system is getting even worse. We’re having to fight tooth and nail for even the most basics of care and treatment. Special needs families? Forget it. You’re just a burden.
We had respite care. The program was working beautifully. We had people who cared for our boys and were great with them. I was actually getting a break from being the primary caregiver. My husband and I were getting the chance to be a couple again. To work on our marriage, which is the glue that holds this family together underneath it all. Then the DoD decided changes needed to be made. That the respite care needed to go to a contractor. Like all things that once worked and then go to a contractor, the respite care system no longer works.
Oh no! We are not cutting family programs. Noooooooo. You see, we’re just making them more economical by paying these contractors to run them so the program still exists on paper, but the families can’t actually utilize it. Let me lay it all out for you.
#1 Our EFMP Manager in the ACS office retired in June. There is no replacement as of yet for our special needs families in the area. Since this is the “full service” MTF for the state, EFMP cases come through here. Our EFM families are now left without support. Even our EFMP person in our clinic feels like there is no support. People are coming to ME with questions. I don’t get paid enough for this.
#2 The contractor the government hired to take care of our respite program (not the ECHO respite as this would take away from precious ABA hours), has sent me now TWO home health care agencies who cannot administer an asthma inhaler or an EpiPen should my children need them. Beyond being autistic, both of my boys are asthmatic, and my younger child has severe food allergies. If someone has taken the Red Cross course, it is my understanding they are covered under Good Samaritan laws. It’s not like I’m going to be mad at someone for trying to save my child’s life. Alternately, my children can administer these to themselves while these agencies supervise. Also, one company would not take a child not potty trained. How they work with special needs families is beyond me.
#3 I don’t think the contractor the government hired knows what they’re doing. Based on who they’ve sent, I have a feeling someone is just using Google and sending us people in our area. The second company even told me that they told the company they could not administer an EpiPen. Why all of our time was wasted is beyond me.
#4 This all comes from your friendly people at IMCOM. This is who our family programs fall under. So, whoever had the good idea fairy visit them at IMCOM and thought this was a good idea? #Totalfailure.
#5 The contracting company called me in the middle of Hurricane Sandy to check up on the situation acting like they never got my irate voice mail from the previous Friday. They stated they would call the second failed company. I had to reiterate we were in the middle of a HURRICANE, and that they were probably closed or closing like everything else in the area. *headdesk*
#6 I fear for the future of our military families. If this is what it’s like now for our special needs families, what is going to trickle down? We all know shit rolls down hill. If the military wants to know why divorce and suicide rates are so high, here’s one reason. The stresses of being a soldier and/or a military spouse plus caring for special needs family members, plus the stresses of fighting local schools, PLUS the stresses of programs that WERE WORKING, and are now NO LONGER WORKING is a recipe for a mental breakdown.
I’m not asking anyone to reinvent the wheel. I’m not asking anyone to put more money into programs. I’m just asking that the programs we already have, and NEED, work before the military goes around trying to create new ones. Instead, I’m met with silence when I voice how broken the system is, even though we’re told these DoD agencies want to hear from us. I get the feeling that no one really cares because on paper, everything is taken care of while in practical application, our families are left to flounder.
*Editor’s Note: The 3rd try is a company in Michigan, subcontracted by the original company in Maryland, to provide respite services in Pennsylvania. Makes complete sense rather than keeping this in house like it was, right?