Monday, August 10, 2015

UPDATED: A Native Vet and His Family Need a Hand

Jack and Sierra, their youngest.
Photo copyright Amanda Kato, 2015; all rights reserved.

Just shy of two months ago, I wrote here about some friends of ours, Jack and Amanda and their family. Things were dire; Jack was hospitalized and not in good shape right then, and Amanda had been unable to join him, because the VA hospital was 75 miles away and they were dealing with car problems and the care of their kids.

No, that's not entirely accurate. Accurate would be recalling that Jack nearly died, feeling his spirit slip from his body and  battling to reintegrate it for his family. Accurate would be noting that their fridge was empty, because Amanda needed to pay the light bill to keep the air conditioner running so that her husband could breathe in the oppressive Florida heat and humidity. Accurate would be acknowledging that they were stretched beyond limits — physical, psychological, financial, spiritual — beyond limits that most people can't imagine, and yet they were still fighting every inch of the way.

At that time, we sought to raise $5K for Jack and Amanda. Thanks to two dear friends picking up the baton and running with it at another site, we went from one single five-dollar donation to very near their goal in a matter of days. But they didn't quite make it. Amanda didn't tell anyone, but they didn't reach the $5K outright. On top of that, PayPal and GoFundMe fees sucked up a not-insignificant percentage, leaving them, all told, about 10% short. The car repairs turned out to be far more costly than anticipated, but with Jack's primary care provider, the VA, 75 miles away, a working vehicle is an absolute necessity.

But this is the problem with poverty. You never get ahead; hell, you never break even. All the little built-in and buried fees and costs and taxes and surcharges and other financial dings of daily life that middle-class and wealthier folks simply absorb as the way of things? Those are what break those of us at lower income levels. You start out behind, and you wind up farther behind, because it's not two steps forward, one step back; it's one step forward, and three back. The horizon gets further away all the time.

Before I go further, here's the earlier GoFundMe page. I'll post the PayPal address when I get it. Their PayPal e-mail address is amandakato [at] msn [dot] com.

Details over the jump:

As an aside, I want to be very clear here: I am using the word "poverty" to refer solely to financial and economic circumstances. It is the one word that everyone recognizes, one that is so harsh that it strips away all the pretty veils and veneers of the less explicit and more comfortable phrases our society prefers, phrases like "food insecurity" as opposed to "hunger" and "malnutrition." But poverty comes in many forms, and this society, this country, this culture suffers from a cell- and blood- and bone-deep poverty of the soul, of morals, of ethics, a complete bankruptcy of the spirit that is evidenced by the fact that people are forced into such straits with no safety net and no recourse. But Jack and Amanda? They are rich in spirit, rich in ethics, rich in humanity, in the things that make life something more than mere survival, in the things our society as a whole seems unable even to grasp, much less appreciate. 

They're in a bind, one that living in Rick Scott's Florida continues inexorably to tighten, threatening to choke the life out of their existence. Recent weeks have been marked by flooding rains, and these at the height of the summer heat. The heat index hovers around 110 every single day; when there's a patient in the house with heart and breathing issues, doing without air conditioning is not an option. Still, the rates keep skyrocketing, and their electric bill is outrageous (and yet, very, very normal for the place and time of year). They've been without power at various times in recent weeks, too, thanks to the floods: no electricity, no air conditioning, no phone, no Internet access. The situation has gotten so bad that the nearby woods where the homeless folks sleep has been closed. Amanda knows this because she goes there weekly to make sure they get info about what resources (very few, in Rick Scott's Florida) are available to help them, and any other assistance she can afford to provide.

And Jack's botched surgery from a couple of years ago has come back to haunt everyone (except, of course, for the facility that botched it in the first place). He's been back in the hospital, having an old stent removed and a new one inserted, because two major arteries were 90% blocked, in part due to the failures of the earlier surgery. It was bad — hell, it still is. With this kind of heart problem, and one complicated by his exposure to Agent Orange and its subsequent fallout, there are no guarantees. None. This is where an iron will and warrior spirit take over, because they must, and it is, combined with his family's love, what keeps Jack here with us when modern medicine and society's structures fail, as they continually do.

Jack awakened in the middle of the night with the kind of pain that says, "Go. Now." He knows it all too well. He also knew that he'd never make it if he attempted the 75-mile trip to the VA hospital, so without waking an exhausted Amanda, he got up quietly, got dressed, and drove himself to the local emergency room. Now there will be a massive bill for them to face, looming battles with several bureaucracies that whose stick in trade is their intractability: the private health system, the Veterans Administration, Medicare, the state of Florida under Republican rule. All this in addition to the $150 cash-on-the-barrelhead fee that Amanda tells me Florida hospital emergency rooms are now charging before they'll let anyone see a medical professional.

He survived the trip, the fee, the surgery, the installation of the new stent. He's home again, with two new and expensive prescriptions (one over $300 a month), and no guarantees that he'll continue to get the latter. When I talked to Amanda on Saturday morning, the VA was still refusing the latter, and Medicare was claiming that it was not their problem. $300 a month out of pocket? Out of the question for them.

The good news is that, in the meantime, the VA reversed course and overnighted the scrip, but has informed Amanda that she has a 20% copay that will come out of her pocket, despite the fact that it is supposed to be covered. Whether they will continue to provide it, copay or not, remains an open question.
For now, the power needs to remain on, so that Jack can breathe. Groceries need to be bought, not only for the kids and Amanda, but for the specialized diet Jack must now maintain. And all the usual expenses continue apace, and they are always, always one catastrophe, medical or otherwise, away from everything imploding.

It's an infuriating thing, feeling helpless to change the circumstances of good people who are doing what they can every minute of every day, frustrated in the knowledge that whatever we raise will still be only a stop-gap measure, a Band-Aid over the seeping wound that is poverty in 21st-Century America.

Still, a Band-Aid is better than no aid at all, and it's what we can do. So please: Hit Amanda's PayPal account and stuff some bills in it. We've raised thousands of dollars over the years off what are largely small-dollar donations. $50, $25, $20, $10, $5, $2 — each is a drop, and the drops pool together to make it rain, and the rain becomes a flood (an apt metaphor right now, considering their flooding there and the flash flood watch we're under here for the next two days).

Forego a pricey coffee, a beer, a pack of smokes, lunch out today. Take the money you would've thrown into that Lotto ticket and put it here instead; at least here, you'll know it's being put to good use. And if you can afford to do more, please, help us give them a bit of a safety net, a little breathing room. Because I know Amanda's exhausted, and it's a daily battle for Jack to breathe anyway.

Help us get them back to better days, days that look like this:

Jack and the kids.
Photo copyright Amanda Kato, 2015; all rights reserved.

Here's that GoFundMe link again. The PayPal e-mail address is amandakato [at] msn [dot] com. You know what to do.

Thanks, from both Wings and me.

All text copyright Aji, 2015; all rights reserved. Nothing herein may used or reproduced in any form without the express written permission of the owner.


  1. Thank you Aji... I paid the 538 light bill and got hit with another 560.00 one ....Best I can figure after checking out the house electrical system is the people of Florida are keeping their AC on 79. We really can't do that... People are saying that we are paying for Duke Energys failed Nuke plant.. I can believe that. With the heat and humidity, it has been brutal... LIHEAP ran out of funds long ago. Thank you , The Fundraiser helps so much as we sure did not see the new heart procedure and hospitalization coming head on...

    1. Yes, VetWife, in some states LIHEAP doesn't get much funding, as it does in some others like NJ where there's plenty.
      Not in FLA. So sad and wrong; that in a place like Fla, where it's summer 10 months out of the year, people cannot get energy assistance.


  2. Just The Links Man. Well Almost. ♥Social Services Links For Civilians And Veterans.

  3. ps I sent this post to Pres Obama and asked him to help Jack.

  4. I had no idea Jack was so sick.

    I remember last year VetWife said he was upset at the VA hospital. They had fox news or something like that on the tv.

    He told them to change the channel or turn it off.

    I said "Good for him."

    This is way worse than I ever imagined.

    Then besides being sick, there's no jobs, no social services ie no medicaid, no energy heating/cooling assistance, food stamps must be minimal too.

    Having to choose between eating and paying the electric bill. This should not be happening to anyone in America. Especially, to a Veteran and his family!

    It's just my accident I saw your post, too. I started looking at my stats lately.

    I'm amazed. Have almost 50,000 views since I started in 08'! Google calls it "desk top publishing". For sure.

    I leave all my blog posts, in comments on too. Will start over there tomorrow,with this one for VetWife. I get a lot of views from That's where I'm from Bayonne, Hudson County, NJ.

    I wrote this diary for VetWife and Jack. Posted it on Dkos Fri night and all day and night tonight. Will re-post again tomorrow Sun so just updating and decided to re-read, your post.

    I Saw Aji's Blogspot Post About, Jack and Amanda (VetWife) and their family.