Feeling Bad About Being Disabled
While working on a blog post for a new feature, I was watching “The United States of Al” and I was surprised on Episode 13 of the first season. The Marine character, Riley (Parker Young) was having a problem with Tinnitus. His family was suggesting that he go to the VA and seek compensation for Tinnitus.
The tinnitus just seems to be getting louder and louder and it is causing problems sleeping and concentrating. It has been a problem since he returned from Afghanistan, and at one point in the episode his family recommends “At least he could be getting a disability check from the V.A.”. The other main character of the show is Awalmir Karimi (Adhir Kalyan) who is called Al in the show, who was an interpreter for the Marine Corps unit that Riley was assigned to. Al was asking Riley about compensation and wanted to know if he could get it, which of course was a big “no”.
Riley’s father, who is a Marine veteran, said that the money is free, and that Riley is leaving free money on the table. As the episode progressed, we learn that Riley also has chronic back pain, arthritis in the knees (a given) and migraines, and he broke his pinky (slamming it in a Humvee door, wicked) and it didn’t heal correctly.
It becomes a sore subject and Al is asking him why he doesn’t apply for disability. And Riley responded with, “Cause I don’t want that money. I did what I signed up for and I came home.”
Al said, “But it’s just sitting there.”. Riley responded with “No, man, that money isn’t free. Every time a check comes in, that’s the world telling you you’re a disabled vet. It’s humiliating.”
Riley heads off to a local bar to drink away his demons, and while there he runs into a friend called “Tater” (Nicholas Christopher). I loved how they had Riley and Tater playing a game on the car’s pool table. I am exactly a game that a Marine would play. Basically, Tater hit the ball to the far end of the table, where Riley had his knuckles, I’m not sure of the rules, but Tater hit Riley’s knuckles and it was hilarious.
A little later in the scene, Riley, Tater and two others are doing fireteam pushups again, something that Marines would do. At the same time, Riley’s father and Riley’s 11-year-old daughter are camping in the back yard and she is asking grandpa questions about her father and being a Marine. Grandpa explains to her that every Marine has a different experience and for him, it straightened him out, it made him a man and taught his accountability. She asks why her dad isn’t that way, and grandpa explains that her dad went through some stuff that affects even the toughest guys.
Al arrives at the bar and picks up Riley and on the way home, Riley explains that he is asking the V.A. for help would take it away from those that need it. “I’d just be one more body taking up space in an already broken system. No different than someone wanting to park in a handicap spot just because they want to be closer to the front door.”
In the end, Riley agrees to go to the V.A. and to file for disability through the V.A.
I felt very much the same way as Riley, and I applaud the writers and whomever the advisor (reported as “military war veterans”) is. This is a very difficult problem for many of us Veteran’s, me included. It took me a long time to file for disability with the V.A. and I have yet to step one foot into a V.A. medical center. I’m currently 80% disabled, which means that I left around $50k on the table. It sucks having to feel like this.