Lawful Exchanges

The primary output of government is law. The point is the creating of a structure within which different people with differing ideas can coexist. It is often said that without law, there would be no order, But the law is not a perfect thing; not by any means. Law can be downright stupid and quite often is. That’s why every state has laws which they don’t enforce. In my state, Washington, We have a thing about Sundays.  In my state you cannot buy meat, mattresses or televisions on a Sunday, or at least, that’s what it says in the Revised Codes of Washington, the bible to which my state’s lawyers attend. It is also illegal to purchase lollipops in my state on any day. Of course, it is also unlawful to drive a motor vehicle in the state of Washington unless you are preceded by a flag man who walks in front of the car waving a red cloth to warn horses of your approach.

In Oregon, you must drip dry your dishes after washing them, may not whistle while under water, nor used canned corn as fish bait. In California, it’s unlawful to shoot game from a moving vehicle unless it’s a whale or to set a mousetrap without a hunting license. In Arizona, it’s illegal to refuse anyone a glass of water, and any crime committed while adorned with a red mask is automatically a felony. All in all, there are some pretty peculiar laws on the books.

A friend of mine is trying to entice her husband to go to the VA for help. He has, reportedly, a condition which causes him severe pain no matter what. He cannot even lay on a bed, because doing so is painful. Ergo, he sleeps in a chair; his life revolves around a battered old recliner from which he commands his ever shrinking world of what he can reach. I relate to this type of pain, after all, my situation is made of the same agonizing discomfort.  But unlike me, he dislikes the VA to such a high extent that he refuses to go to them for help and thus providing himself with relief. Worse, it affords my friend no relief as his wife; she must carry the burden of providing for their little family. Of course, all I know of the guy is what has been reported in exchanges between me and my friend, but what she reports is both saddening and infuriating.

Knowing pain on a first name basis has made me sensitive to the pain of others. In my case, I find myself more concerned with the pain and frustration his attitudes wreck on my friend –in spite of it being he who is in actual constant pain. The reason for this is because he could make a change in their life circumstances so sweeping as to make their current life unrecognizable. The pain needn’t continue, the strain on my friend having to do all for her mate could end, and their lives could comprise consistently improving, rather than merely treading water as they do now. But he would rather seethe in agonizing pain, watching his bride work the night shift somewhere seedy and exhausting, rather than dealing with the frustrating regulations of the VA. As I was pointing out, there are peculiar laws and rules everywhere, the VA merely being one of them. But no matter where you go in this land, you’re going to find rules that are annoying to those they are enforced upon.

In Arkansas, a man is only allowed to beat his wife once a month. I’m sure this appeals to a lot of Arkansas women, but might seem inconvenient to guys who wish to express their displeasure at being served spaghetti again when they had it last week. In Florida, it’s illegal to have a dream about another man’s wife or another man’s cow. Life is full of situations where regulation can be downright inconvenient. But that’s no reason to shun the regulating agency. There comes a point when that amounts to cutting off one’s nose to spite their face, which by the way, is illegal in 16 states.

I have found the VA rules and procedures to be pretty darn frustrating. It’s a place where, as if controlled by quantum physics, one step forward equals two steps back. But unlike the point to Matthew Broderick’s posit in War Games, the only way to win is by not playing the game is as foolish as the dumber laws which ride the books of American jurisprudence. And there are some pretty strange laws out there. Did you know that in Hawaii it’s unlawful to appear in public attired in a swimsuit or to put pennies in one’s ear, and that it’s also illegal for a resident NOT to own a boat?  Like Hawaii, there are a lot of rules that might cause one to wonder about the sanity of the architects of VA rules, but they are overridden by the pleasure derived from visiting. Personally, I find being relieved of chronic and disabling pain to be better than a stroll on the beach, but that’s just me.

I guess I find it very difficult to understand why it is that someone might be so frustrated and frightened by the monolithic VA policies as to prefer to suffer and cause the suffering of another. It doesn’t help that the lion’s share of complaints about the VA come from those individuals who do not qualify for their assistance. Just being in the military doesn’t automatically qualify one for the full range of VA help. It does guarantee one medical care, but there will likely be a copay involved if one’s military service didn’t include participation in a combat area. In fact, qualification for VA assistance can be one hell of a catacomb of twisty little passages, all alike. It’s very easy to lose one’s way. But a bit of fortitude and perseverance usually gets things back on track. The thing of it is, that the majority of those who seek help from the VA are in desperate need of the assistance. So I just don’t understand how one could choose to live a life of such total discomfort over one of relief, albeit at the cost of being confused.

As I mentioned, the VA policies can be intimidating. It’s difficult to understand how an administrative aide can be eligible for war resulting privileges when they never, ever came close to any fighting or threat, yet men in ships of the merchant marine who serviced the ports and found themselves under fire and injured and disabled are disqualified. There’s nothing fair about the rules, they are simply the rules that exist. Like in Idaho, romantic gifts of candy must weigh in at greater than 50 pounds. In Indiana, it’s unlawful to bathe during the winter. No matter where you go, there are going to be rules that make no sense. To deny one’s own comfort out of distaste strikes me as a lot more peculiar than the rules under protest. Yet here is my friend’s spouse, doing just that.

It makes me wish I could reach out and provide them with everything they need, which is pretty much what the VA does when it is asked, and all of the columns in some table somewhere line up properly. The VA does say no, but it usually does it with reluctance while at the same time making suggestions of alternatives –where there are alternatives. The VA will also compromise, much as do the courts who preside over the stranger laws languishing in the various state law books. A veteran who maintains an open mind and employs a little common sense will come away from the VA richer for the experience in just about every case. It’s not like being in Maryland, where it’s illegal to mistreat oysters, no matter the provocation. There’s give and take which is, more often than not, results in veteran gain.

The point here is that in many case, the VA can be an annoying attribute to ones existence. But there is benefit to be found here, and quite a bit of it at that. But one has to qualify for the benefits being requested and then make application for the benefits sought. The VA doesn’t comb the streets looking for vets in trouble. Okay, I guess that’s not true. The initiatives to find homeless vets and help them does just that. But the focus here is that there is a lot of help available to veterans who can get over themselves and work with the various programs. While the VA does many thing which might indicate the opposite, the agency exists to provide living assistance to veterans. If one takes on the big picture, the VA is much more likely to be a help than it is a hindrance.

Don’t get me wrong. I find that many of the things the VA does to be problematic and I have had my patience drawn to the breaking point in working with them. But the truth is that I am much, much better off for their help than I am without it. Their requirements can be confusing and even irritating, not unlike Massachusetts where one cannot wear a goatee without a license.