Last April I built a wheelchair ramp for my father-in-law. With the strength of his legs failing it became necessary to quickly construct it because he was no longer able to negotiate the steps from the house to the garage.
While it was a labor of love, one that cost my in-laws nearly $800 in lumber and supplies, in the end the same thing could have been done for much less and with much less urgency.
Ditto for my brother, who died on New Year's Day, but I'll get to that story after I finish my father-in-law's tale.
My father-in-law is a World War II veteran, a member of the 75th Division that saw extensive action during the Battle of Bulge. In my mind, he and all the members of his generation are heroes for what they gave and sacrificed during that time.
About five years ago, I noticed that a neighbor two doors down had a metal wheelchair ramp installed. When I asked "Red" about it he mentioned that the Veteran's Administration installed it for his neighbor.
Two years ago, the neighbor died and the reason for the wheelchair ramp with it. Family members of the deceased veteran moved in.
So when the sudden need for a wheelchair ramp arose for my father-in-law we turned to the Veteran's Administration for help last year. But under the VA's red tape we discovered that my father-in-law's neighbor was a former Prisoner of War during World War II, which qualified him for the free ramp.
Because my father-in-law was neither on a military disability or a POW, he didn't qualify for the ramp, even though it was sitting two doors down being used by completely able non-veterans who moved into the deceased POW's home.
Every time we go back to Buffalo, it grates me that that "temporary" wheelchair ramp that was erected for a disabled World War II POW remains at a house two doors down from my father-in-law who was denied the ramp because he didn't qualify.
When we suggested (a year ago) that I could simply go down and move the ramp, we were told no, that they were coming to get it. Well, this is March 15, 2009 and the ramp is still there being used by people who don't need it, and certainly don't qualify for it.
Next, my brother, a Vietnam veteran, had a preliminary diagnosis of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder as a result of his service last year. At the time he died, he had a doctor's appointment in February to make the final approval for his military disability benefits.
He had been through a lot and his wife could certainly use the money, so she called to see if he qualified for any retroactive benefits. What she was told was that because he didn't make his February doctor's appointment he would now and forever be ineligible for the benefits.
Do you get the stupidity of that? Because my 57-year-old brother was so sick that he died before he could make his final doctor's appointment he was now forever unable to prove that he was really sick enough to get his benefits. Guess dying isn't enough proof.
I think even the bureaucrats who make these decisions must know in their heart, and minds, how stupid what they say, sounds to intelligent people.