Sick Veteran and His Family Need Help

My husband, Jared Gooze, proudly served 5 years in the U.S. Military including a year long deployment to Afghanistan in 2011. He ETSed back in November of 2013 and started attending Rochester Institute of Technology full time thanks to the G.I Bill. He has several health issues though and has been going to our local Rochester New York VA hospital since December of last year.

My husband's health suddenly got worse in March. He was having constant stomach pain, vomiting, and diarrhea for 2 weeks so he called the VA hospital for an appointment. He was told that he could not be seen until his first assigned primary physician appointment which was scheduled for July 7th and to try taking over the counter stomach medication. He tried to hold out but the symptoms worsened until he was missing college classes. We then received a letter from the VA dated April 4, 2014 that his July 7th appointment had been canceled and to call to reschedule. He did reschedule.... but was told he could not be seen until August 15th. That would have him waiting over eight months to be seen.

Unable to ignore his illness any longer, Jared went into the VA hospital May 16 for a scheduled appointment but also begged to be seen by someone for his stomach problems. He finally did see a doctor, but was told only his primary physician could refer him to a GI specialist and was simply given a prescription for Omeprazole, better known over the counter as Prilosec. They also ordered blood work and a stool analysis but all the tests came back negative.

A few more weeks go by, and my husband manages to soldier on but he is losing weight, not eating well, and getting weaker. Desperate, we ask around enough at the VA hospital and a caring staff member tells us we can drive to the Buffalo VA Hospital Emergency Room. On June 16th Jared's symptoms become severe so we make the one and a half hour drive to the Buffalo VA Emergency Room. Its a very small waiting room with many other veterans waiting long periods to receive care. Everyone is so kind and eventually my husband is seen. They give him IV fluids to treat his dehydration, up the dose of his Omeprazole, and send us home with a promise he will get a call to see a GI specialist. The next day he was able to make an appointment to be seen by the specialist on June 30th.

The appointment couldnt come fast enough and we were so happy to talk to the doctor. It was only a quick consultation however and we had to make the three hour round-trip again today, July 1st, for a colonoscopy. (not an easy trip to make with a three year old and a 7 month old) The doctor said that the symptoms look like Jared has a form of Irritable Bowel Disease, Crohn's Disease or Ulcerative Colitis. It will take up to two weeks for labs to come back and he may need to have another longer colonoscopy before we will know. Even with treatment IBD can have life-threatening complications and my husband can not get treatment until he finally gets a diagnosis. He has been waiting over 6 months already.

Also, the VA normally offers travel vouchers to people who have to travel long distances for aid, but Jared is not eligible. This is because when he signed up for VA aid, he was on unemployment, so he made $24,000 a year, putting him in the category of having to pay co-pays on medication and not eligible for travel vouchers. When he went to get his status changed because his unemployment ran out, they said nothing can be done until the end of the fiscal year. So we had to sell our Jeep and downgrade to a small Scion to save money on gas and on our car payments, but we still cannot afford to drive an hour and a half both ways whenever we need aid. He is unable to work as well but can not start filing for disability until he is diagnosed.

We just received yet another letter from the Department of Veteran's Affairs stating "Jared's primary physician appointment on August 15th has been cancelled. Please call to make a new appointment."

Things have gotten even worse. We also received a letter from our old insurance, Tricare, stating they will not cover medical bills from the birth of our now 7 month old son who was born on the day of my husband's ETS date, the date when our coverage ended. The hospital keeps calling but we just dont have any way to pay them right now. They have payment plans but we have lost our only income.

We had been living off my husband's unemployment benefits since he filed paperwork with the New York Department of Labor for the 599 program which extends your unemployment benefits while you are enrolled in school full-time. Last week we never received our benefits so Jared called to find out what was wrong. Not only did they have no record of Jared signing up for the program but they told him it didnt matter anyway because the program had run out of funds. 

Jared's unemployment benefits have ended, he is too sick to work, cant file for disability, and he has to maintain college full-time in order for the G.I. Bill to continue to pay our rent. If we can not get help, he will have to quit college and try to find work full-time despite his illness. We need help and dont no where to turn anymore.
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Katelynn Gooze 
Rochester, NY
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