Monday, September 27, 2010

Day 850 - Sep 26, 2010

Today I am going to share with you the letter that I sent last week to the VA Inspector General. The letter only shows a tiny amount of the hell that the VA has been putting me through for nearly ten months now. There are those that say this is all due to my going to Washington D.C. last year and discussing the treatment at the Tampa VA, but there is no way we will ever know for sure. There are also those that feel I am too strong in that I am willing to fight whomever I need to to make sure Kevin is treated well and gets what he needs. Honestly, I can't imagine any parent not doing that, but I know there are those that are just quiet and then there are those like me ;-)

So anyway, it all boils down to money. The VA has been trying to accuse me of all kinds of things - from stealing an education grant, to spending Kevin's TSGLI on myself (I'd love to know what kind of goodies I now own and about the vacations I must have taken), to purchasing the house without court approval, to not filing a VA audit - while Kevin was still active duty no less, and to spending Kevin's other grants (Specially Adapted Housing, etc).

At first, I was nice and allowed the field rep into our home to show him I had done nothing wrong. It's a good thing for me that I am an honest person and would never even dream of spending Kevin's money. Matter of fact, not one cent came out of his bank account for almost 8 months after he was wounded - it was only when he purchased the house that his money started to go out. And let me tell you - I had no less than 2 generals yell at me for not spending Kevin's TSGLI to pay for myself, Breezy and Kevin to live on while he was in-patient. It just didn't feel right to me - in my eyes that was Kevin's money and only Kevin should spend it.

So anyway, the VA really doesn't have the right to question how Kevin's personal paychecks and any other monies are spent. They can only audit VA benefits and when I realized that, I stopped being nice. The funny thing is that they have never once asked to see how his VA benefits are being spent - they are only worried about the money prior to him being discharged from the Army. Don't you have to ask yourself "WHY?" I sure do.

So once again, there is a whole lot to the story, but here is the letter I wrote. I can only hope someone steps up and starts looking into what has been going on.

Oh and before I forget - just so no one feels the need to start any problems - while in court a couple of weeks ago the judge agreed with me. He has our audits and nothing was ever done wrong on my part. My books are to the penny and there are no discrepancies whatsoever. Matter of fact - here is what my attorney wrote:

Make sure you note that in the determination of the VA page 5 they
specifically state there is no questionable expenditures, no misuse of
funds and no disparity between income and expenses. Furthermore, they
give no reason why the Fiduciary is necessary except to maintain the
integrity of the fund. The integrity was never breached per their own

In case it wasn't made clear, the VA has canceled Kevin's direct deposit for me to pay his bills and is forcing him to pay $300 a month for some attorney (and I use the term loosely as this atty uses a gmail email address - doesn't sound legit to me and he takes care of over 50 vets already!!) and there is absolutely no reason for any of this to happen (unless someone is getting a nice little kickback? Hmmm...)

What makes it even worse is that the judge even clearly states in my guardianship papers that the VA should allow me to remain his fiduciary as I have done nothing wrong.

Anyway, here is the letter:

September 22, 2010
VA Inspector General Hotline (53E)
P.O. Box 50410
Washington, DC 20091-0410

To Whom It May Concern,

My name is Leslie Kammerdiener, mother and full-time caregiver to my son, Corporal Kevin Kammerdiener, U.S. Army-Retired who was severely wounded in Afghanistan on May 31, 2008.

I am writing to inform you of a situation involving the VA that has become unbearable and request your immediate attention. I have been harassed for roughly nine months by the VA Fiduciary Units in St Petersburg, FL, Pittsburgh, PA and Houston, TX at the instigation of Cynthia Lewis in the Washington D.C. Office. I am writing this letter to request that someone help me to battle the VA and get back control of my son's funds.

I also feel this whole situation with Ms. Lewis should be thoroughly investigated as she seems to have a personal vendetta against me and has been taking great strides to try to find something that I might have done wrong in order to take control of my son's benefits.

The St Pete office first accused me of stealing a $26,000 education grant that turned out to be my son's Van Modification Grant that was coded incorrectly by a VA employee. A field rep was sent to our home last December to pour over my son's bank accounts and my own personal accounts as well. He found nothing.

Since then, Ms. Lewis has called the guardianship courts in PA (where my guardianship is held) and accused me of purchasing my son's home without court approval (didn't need it) and she also asked for a review of my guardianship. She then knowingly supplied the courts with an incorrect address for us, ensuring I would not be notified of the hearing and therefore would not be present.

During the court review, the VA was present and mentioned to the judge that they don't know where all the grant money my son received went. The judge then suspended my guardianship giving the VA carte blanche with my son's money.

I should point out here that the VA does not pay out grants to the veterans themselves. The monies go directly to the institutions and my attorney spent days getting this info – at $200 an hour. All Ms. Lewis needed to do was pick up a phone and make an internal phone call.

In the interim, Ms. Lewis has repeatedly asked for more and more from me. Kevin has mostly been in the hospital for nearly 2 ½ years and in just the past 6 months has had multiple brain surgeries, infections and hospital stays. While all of this has been going on, Ms. Lewis has demanded that I turn over the deed to the house, the titles to the cars, certified audits, every bank statement from every account and every single receipt from every purchase I made since Kevin was wounded. Everything is in FL and we are in TX and I was told to leave Kevin and go get everything. My response? And who's going to watch my son?

Frankly, it also upsets me that none of the requests are pertaining to VA funds – all of these things had to do with his active duty pays and his TSGLI – the VA has no right to question what was done with Kevin's money prior to his discharge from the Army. I was told this multiple times by various VA fiduciary employees. They all agree that either Ms Lewis is after me personally or is trying to make a name for herself.

So on September 9, 2010, we were finally able to have another guardianship review and both Kevin and I flew to Butler, PA for the hearing. Kevin just had brain surgery 15 days prior, but we had no choice – there is no one I can leave him with.

At this hearing, I was given papers by Ray Jones from the Pittsburgh Fiduciary Office stating that the VA has canceled Kevin's direct deposit of benefits and has assigned them to an attorney here in San Antonio beginning Oct 1, 2010. This was even before the hearing took place as they were so sure they could make something stick. Cynthia Lewis' name is all over this paperwork and even the VA attorney that was present couldn't believe how ridiculous the file was.

At the hearing, the VA threw many possible scenarios at the judge trying to keep my guardianship suspended, but our attorney was able to show the judge that everything the VA said was completely untrue. The judge then granted me back my guardianship and urged the VA to allow me to stay Kevin's fiduciary.

The VA has refused and told me that I could appeal their decision, but we all know that could take months, if not years.

What I find most sad about this is that this hearing cost my son almost $7,000 in attorney fees and the cost of the trip up to PA. Not to mention how many nights I didn't sleep due to the stress or how many times I just cried all night long. I have always tried to do the right thing and I may have failed in not filing one audit with the courts, but I did it as soon as I was informed that I needed to. I have to admit that paperwork was not my priority over the last 2 ½ years – keeping my son alive was.

So about two months ago – when I clearly realized that this was never going to end, I contacted my friends at the Military Officers Association of America (MOAA) in D.C. Their organization has tried multiple times to help, but to no avail. I will be enclosing a timeline of steps (among various other files) they have taken to aid me in trying to find out how I can appease the VA and as I mentioned, their efforts were ignored as well.

To reiterate, I am requesting help in keeping my son's funds in his/my hands. I have done nothing wrong and even a judge has requested the monies be allocated by me. There is no valid reason that my son should have to pay an attorney close to $300 a month to do something that I can do for free. I am also requesting a refund of the $7,000 as Kevin should never have needed to spend this money.

I also request an opportunity for a personal meeting with VA Secretary Shinseki and/or with yourself so that you can hear the rest of the story (at the VA's expense). There is much left unsaid and I think the whole story needs to be heard.

I thank you for your time,

Leslie S Kammerdiener


Here's hoping that someone listens and investigates. I finally finished writing to all of the congressmen/women and have begun to talk to some of them as well. It is just appalling how these folks have treated Kevin and me. So unethical...

I just think it's sad that the VA is the organization that is supposed to protect my son, but this part of it anyway is whom he needs protection from.


Anonymous said...

OMG! This is a gross misuse of power! Everyone, write letters, please.

Flee said...

I am speechless though I do not know why. I do not understand how one woman can do this to another woman who is just trying to take care of her son who gave so much for his country. Please let me know if I can write any letters for you. What is so scarry is all the owther wounded heros who do not have such strong parents looking out for them!

Tina said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tina said...

I had no idea...we (my husband and I) had our fair share of fighting with the VA, but nothing like that
Please let us know how they respond!!! I would go so far and send the same letter to the news stations if you have to!!!
Good luck and as always hugs from El Paso,
Tina Dwyer

Anonymous said...

In my parents' hometown there is a mother who used her wounded son's VA money for her own personal benefit, so I can see why they need to check.

But obviously in this case the VA even acknowledges that Leslie has done NOTHING wrong so it really does sound like a vendetta!

bearlythr said...

Sounds like a personal vendetta to me too and I agree with Tina...let the media in on this. There have been so many stories about Kevin, surely one of those reporters would be interested in VA abuse of wounded warriors and their families. Keep fighting Leslie, and let us know how we can help.
God bless and keep you strong,

Anne Van Atta said...

This is appalling, Leslie. You have given up so much to care so perfectly for Kevin; the VA should be applauding, not harassing you. That so-called woman obviously has targeted you. If there's anything we can do, anyone we can write or call please let us know.

Tammy Duckworth is the Assistant Secretary for Public and Intergovernmental Affairs at the VA. She lost both legs piloting a helicopter in Iraq; perhaps you can contact her-she may be a more sympathetic ear. Good luck, dear.

karen said...

It's a good thing that you have kept this public online journal. It clearly records the day-to-day struggle that a mother has undertaken to care for her service-injured child. If you haven't already, I would most definitely print your blog out to add to your records.

My husband was trained as an engineer, and they keep records of their day-to-day activities, mostly I believe for legal purposes. I am allergic to recording my activities to writing (ironic for someone who earns money writing) but this issue you are having just serves as a reminder of the importance of daily records.

I hope this gets seen by the appropriate people and things get sorted out soon.

In the meanwhile, things with my three small ones have been crazy over hear and I have not got a lick of stuff done (you know, aside from 2x dental surgeries!!!). I will contact the software company about the trial software as we discussed earlier this week, next week latest. Sorry for the delay.

karen in vancouver.

Amy said...

I'd get this in the hands of a 60 Minutes or Dateline, or 20/20! Ridiculous!!!

Anonymous said...

have read blog all along. totally agree that kev always get shafted. please keep the pressure on...most vets have no support so you, unforturnately, are stressed for more than yourselves.

Anonymous said...

Is there anyone we can write to or call on your behalf that would help?

Please let us know. I think I can speak for most people that read your blog by saying we would write or call whoever we could to get this taken care of for you!!

Hang in there. You are doing the right thing not only for Kevin but for all of those families that aren't as strong and outspoken as you are!!

Heather, Army Wife

GrannieEv said...

Definitely sounds like a personal vendetta. Give some people a little bit of power and they think they can do whatever they feel like doing. In my experience with some other wounded warriors, the VA as a whole needs a serious overhaul from the top down. I do not know how you've coped but thank God for Kevin that you have. That direct deposit thing is unbelievable. Is there a reason you're not going public with this?

Anonymous said...

When people can't handle the truth, they often try to make it go away. They want you to shut up. They don't care how they shut you up.

They can't even think that perhaps you're right and they are compounding the original problems (exponentially). They just want to make you shut up.

They don't get that people who are screwed and then complain are not going to shut up with they get screwed again for complaining about getting screwed.

You go, girl.

Long-time RN said...

Ugh, I'm so sorry you have to deal with this. It certainly sounds like it's personal and they're out to get ya. I hope the media picks up on your battle causing the powers that be to back off. You've worked so hard in all you've done for Kevin, this is just outrageous.

Anonymous said...

Why don't you talk to the guys over at Blackfive? They have a broad network to publicize this sort of thing ( and have been fighting for veterans'causes for years. Go get 'em!


Anonymous said...

Here is another person who may be able to give you some good advice--Major Chuck Zeiginfus. He was wounded in 2005 and knows very well what you are going through. He is an active milblogger and veteran advocate as well.