By Gerry Emery – We hear of so many instances where our Veterans Administration drops the ball so frequently, but here we see an example that it is not just them.
It appears to be a problem that pervades all branches of our armed forces. Our wounded warriors are not all treated equally it appears, nor are they all treated properly.
Please read the following example in this wounded warrior’s own words, Matthew William McElhinney:
“This the story of my son in his own words. Please get the word out. Thank you!” – Mark T. McElhinney (Please go to our Facebook page here.)
I am a United States Marine who was poorly treated after I was wounded in Afghanistan.
In 2010 my platoon was ambushed in Marjah. I was shot in the back.
After a vicious firefight, and the efforts of my fellow Marines and corpsmen, I was stabilized and med-evaced to Camp Bastion, where I had life-saving surgeries. I was transported to Germany, then to a hospital in Bethesda, Md., where I had more surgeries and then given a month of convalescent leave at home in Vernon.
When I returned to base, I was placed in the “remain behind element” of my unit, consisting of 20 or so Marines who had either returned from deployment or hadn’t deployed for one reason or another. No one had any idea what to do with me as far as doctors or administration on Camp Lejeune. I assumed I would be placed in Wounded Warrior Battalion, which is set up to care for Marines as they adjust to their new disabilities and enter a new phase in their lives, then have an expedited medical out-processing. I was incredibly wrong.
I soon realized there was no one to lead me to the next step, so I took it upon myself to make appointments to see the regimental medical officer (since our battalion medical officer was in Afghanistan for the duration of our deployment). I eventually had several appointments for post-operative check ups but when I asked for a doctor’s assistance with getting into WWB, no one had any idea how to do it.
After months of no intel, a case manager informed me that only my battalion medical officer could recommend me for WWB. This was a problem because he was still in Afghanistan dealing with the horde of wounded Marines and sailors operation Moshtarok produced. It became clear that I was stuck until they returned stateside. I waited 5 months, watching as the stateside portion of our unit filled with wounded Marines in the same limbo I was in. Together we pooled our intel and resources because we realized no one else was going to help us. The WWB didn’t even know we existed.
I spent those months in limbo following leads about obscure medical administrators that could possibly help as if I were hunting some elusive mythical creatures.
Eventually my medical officer returned stateside and started my paperwork to enter the WWB and place me on a medical board to be evaluated and eventually medically retired from the Marine Corps. This was the beginning of an absolute disaster that almost ruined my life. I started my med board and was told it could take two years to be medically separated from the Marine Corps.
But what other option did I have? I went to all the VA appointments, and awaited my placement into WWB. But that was denied because it’s impossible for anyone on a medical board to be accepted. My battalion and regimental medical officers along with my chain of command did everything in their power to find a loophole for me to no avail.
My only option was to sit in my unit and wait for my medical board to process. This may not sound all that bad but infantry units are well oiled machines with no place for the wounded; why would they be? That’s what wounded warriors is for.
There were constant conflicts with getting anything done for a wounded Marine because training and mission readiness take obvious priority over paperwork. I spent the next YEAR in this endless loop of trying to expedite my medical board dealing with the most incompetent people I have ever met.
I would have people dodge my phone calls or tell me bald-faced lies. I finally contacted my congressman. His inquiry led to the discovery that my paperwork had been stuffed into a filing cabinet and no one had ANY intentions of doing anything. The congressional inquiry restarted the process and I resubmitted my paperwork.
After over a year of waiting, my medical board findings came back and I learned that the Marine Corps’ intention was to separate me with no medical care and a VA disability rating of 30 percent. I’d had a bullet hit me in the small of my back, go through my pelvis and then get pulled out of my abdomen. At 20 years old I’d made peace with God on a helicopter ride to Camp Bastion and again on a plane to Germany. I hobbled with a cane for almost a year, I have to have back injections every six weeks just to walk, and the possibility of getting a decent job is slim. After all this these people decided I was unworthy of even medical assistance after they kicked me out the door.
So of course I appealed and after four months I eventually got my disability ratings bumped up to 40 percent.
I took a bullet for this country and these people repaid me by flushing two years of my life down the drain. I’m crippled; my life’s in a shambles. I was afforded none of the opportunities that WWB Marines receive.
These are the ugly truths about the inner workings of WWB and I’m angry. When you think of Wounded Warrior Battalion, you think of selfless young men wounded horribly in combat brought there to transition into the rest of their lives. But in reality most people in WWB don’t even have Purple Hearts; a lot have never even seen combat. There are Marines who, through some perverse loophole, found a way to enter WWB without being wounded in combat!
There are people there injured in motorcycle crashes, DWI accidents or because they have some vague chronic illness. All the while Marines wounded in combat are turned away. With all the corruption, I don’t even understand how it hasn’t been dissolved.
I don’t know if sharing this will accomplish anything, but I’m the kind of person who stands up for what’s right. I don’t care if any of this has an impact on my life, but my friends are still trapped in this endless hell while the Marine Corps does nothing.
Matthew William McElhinney
Here are some images of Marine Matthew William McElhinney: