Army Veteran Shelby only came to VA to get a break on his property taxes. But once he was in the system, his experience with VA health care totally changed his life for the better.
When did you first come to VA?
I first accessed VA about January of 2010. I found out that if you’re a Vet, you can get a cut on your property taxes if you have the rating. And after I got that piece of paper, a couple weeks later I got this other piece of paper saying I was just recently awarded a VA disability rating… [and] all the benefits and, I’m like, why did I wait 35 years for this?
Do you now uuse VA health care services now that you’re in the system?
One of the first things my counselor said was, “You’re approved for VA services, for medical services. Go over and get a physical.” And it turned out I was diabetic. I weighed almost – I’ve got some before and after pictures – I weighed almost 290 pounds at that time.
A year and a half later, through the medications I was on, the nutritional counseling that I was put through, the correspondence care that was involved with people following up with me and everything, I dropped from 289 down to 238 pounds.
What is your care like?
Based on my weight, the fact that I didn’t know I was diabetic, the fact that I was even having to deal with it, they would come back and say stuff like, “OK, you know, your diet, from a nutritional standpoint, you need to really cut this back.” And after hearing all that, I’m sitting there kind of thinking “Why? What is going to force me to do this?”
Because obviously I hadn’t been doing that up to now. How am I going… where am I going to get the incentive to do it? And I remember just as I was thinking those things, this nurse comes in and she taps me on the shoulder and she says, “You know, right now you can think of 1,001 reasons why you should not have to do all the things that you’re talking about, that we’re talking about you needing to do. But I saw your family out in the lobby out there. Those are the two things that should give you all the incentive you need to be able to do it.”
What would you say to another Veteran, maybe of your generation, who, like you, hadn’t accessed VA care?
I had a six-year-old daughter and we would go out to the amusement parks. And there were a lot of rides I couldn’t even get on because they go in to put the bar around you and I wouldn’t fit. And now I can ride all the rides with her. What it’s done for my personal life, from a family standpoint, allowing me to enjoy being around my daughter and going out and doing the things that she wants to do, is just tremendous.
Go for the long term fix. Go for the one that’s going to help you overall in your life from today forward. And that’s where VA comes in. It’s really painful for me to try to imagine where we would be right now if it hadn’t been for all the opportunities that VA had presented to me.
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