Joe came to work with Goodwill Manasota through the AARP Foundation as a way to supplement his Social Security Income. He was a retiree who needed to go back to work to pay his bills. However, working was hard for Joe due to injuries he sustained during his time in Vietnam. As time went by, those injuries began to catch up with him. For example, he got out of breath just walking from his car into the office.
Joe needed a sedentary job that did not require extensive digital literacy skills – those kinds of jobs were hard to find. His biggest concern, however, was PTSD. He felt anxious and depressed much of the time. He had great difficulty being around large groups of people. He had participated in counseling in the past but not recently.
He wanted to retire for good but he could not afford to do so. His Supplemental Security Income payment was not enough to cover his car loan payment plus food, medication and his phone bill. With his job at AARP, he was making about $800 per month and just barely getting by.
Joe met Todd from Goodwill Manasota Veterans Services and they began talking about the services available for veterans through Goodwill. Todd asked Joe if he had ever considered filing a claim through the Veterans Administration so that he could get benefits for any disability he had incurred that was service connected. Joe was hesitant because he did not think he was likely to get benefits but, with Todd’s encouragement, he decided to give it a shot.
Todd helped Joe complete the extensive paperwork required for submitting a claim. On the application, Todd described Joe’s military service and the problems he was dealing with due to his PTSD. Once the application was submitted, Todd explained, the next step would involve an in-person interview with a doctor from the VA. He gave Joe examples of the types of questions he might need to answer. A short time later, Joe got a call from the VA with an appointment to report to an office in Tampa for the interview and assessment.
After the assessment, Joe was more certain than ever that he would not qualify for benefits. He told Todd that the assessment had not gone well. He had been anxious and he did not think the evaluator appeared to be especially empathetic toward his plight.
Fortunately for Joe, Todd had done a very thorough job on the paperwork for the claim and, despite Joe’s concern about his evaluator, a few weeks later he received a notice that he had been awarded 100% disability based on his injuries from his time in service. The letter explained that now Joe would get a VA disability check each month in lieu of the SSI check he was accustomed to receiving. The difference between the amounts of the checks was substantial.
The letter from the VA was a game-changer for Joe. Now he has the financial freedom to take the time he needs to focus on getting better rather than working. Joe plans to become more intentional about addressing his mental and physical health. Todd spoke with him about the Lutz Buddy Up Manasota program – which brings together veterans who are living with and working to manage PTSD – that Goodwill Veterans Services provides and Joe plans to attend future meeting with this group.
Joe is glad that he had someone to walk him through the process of qualifying for the benefits he so rightly deserved. He is glad that Todd was there to encourage him and to help him get the resources he has needed all this time. It’s what we do …