Army vet and child hood friend, Chris Riker can use more voices…
The below letter was written by the wife of a childhood friend of mine (Chris) whom I have not seen in nearly 30 years. Chris is a veteran for whom the complications from a blood clot has left him struggling.
Because of the complications of our health care insurance system(s), he is left without insurance to cover the conditions and medical issues related to the brain injury stemming from complications with the blood clot suffered while on active duty.
Take a look, and do two things:
1) ask if this is the kind of bureaucratic crap that we envision our vets facing every day (not just Chris)?
2) if you can spread the word and see if any officials might get involve, that would be great.
Kristi’s Letter to Senator Grassley
December 27th, 2012
Dear Senator Chuck Grassley;
I am writing to you for help.
My husband, a medically retired Army veteran, had a stroke on Tuesday, December 11th, 2012. While we were at the hospital I was told, unbeknownst to me, that he did not have medical insurance coverage. He is a young father of 3. We work very hard and are not destitute, but not having insurance for this medical bill is unfathomable to me and completely frightening for the future of my children. Please bear with me, and I will give you the entire story.
In 2009 my husband, Christopher Riker, was on active duty as the head defense council for the Army JAG Corp. working out of Fort Lewis, Washington. On April 18th, he had a blood clot that completely blocked the main artery to his heart and caused a cardiac arrest. He was without a heart beat for 37 minutes. I gave him CPR to keep him alive at our home. The EMTs were able to start his heart again, and after 10 days in a coma, over 45 days in 3 different hospitals and a year of rehabilitation, he was doing very well. He suffered a severe anoxic brain injury and had to learn to walk, talk, swallow, and everything else all over again. The fact that he even lived was a miracle. Due to his permanent brain damage, he had short term memory loss and some cognitive issues and was unable to return to his work, but we were doing ok. We switched roles, I work full time now and he took care of our children and our home.
When we were in Washington we had TriCare medical insurance, which is the Army insurance. Our family went through Madigan Medical Center for all our care. Once Chris was retired, we returned to Iowa. I am an Iowa native, born and raised in Decorah. Prior to his active duty, Chris had a private law practice in Decorah, Iowa. He was well respected and loved. We are friends with Republican, Chuck Gipp. In fact his wife, Renee, was my kindergarten teacher. We love this state, and we were beyond happy to return. We currently live in Waukee, Iowa (right down the street from my Mom and one of my sisters).
Once here, we went to the Des Moines VA where our social worker told us we needed to sign up for Medicare B. We continued to pay our TriCare insurance coverage. We were NEVER told that we HAD to have both Medicare B and TriCare or Chris didn’t have any insurance coverage. In fact, this past Friday, I spoke with a different VA social worker, Brandi Austin 515-699-5999 ext. 94373, and she said she has been at the Des Moines VA for 4 years and didn’t know you had to have both coverages. I am 45 years old, and although ignorance is no defense, I still don’t know the difference between Medicaid, Medicare A, Medicare B, etc.
At the beginning of this year, we received a letter from the Social Security Administration, stating that our premium was going to increase for the Medicare B coverage. I asked Chris why we were paying for this, since we have TriCare. He called SS and they told him he could “disenroll” if he wanted to. Social Security sent him the paperwork to sign on May 8th, 2012. We called our VA social worker, Gloria (whom is no longer working at the VA) and were told that we shouldn’t fill this out. So we DIDN’T.
I have the original UNSIGNED letter. We just folded it up and put it in our desk. Then, apparently since SS did not hear from us, they sent another letter.
As I stated, I work full time, and Chris took care of our 3 kids and our home. He got the mail every day. We received letters from Social Security often, and many of these I never saw, he just threw away. His and the kids social security disability money was direct deposited into our account, so we don’t receive checks. When he received the second letter this summer from SS, he signed it and sent it back. I did not know he did this, I never saw the second letter. He didn’t remember that he was not supposed to sign this. We received a letter from TriCare the beginning of September of this year, saying he was “disenrolled” in TriCare. I told him this was NOT right, I had just paid the premium. We should have full family coverage. So he called TriCare the NEXT day. He was told that he had full family coverage. What he WASN’T told, or what WASN’T explained to him, was that for TriCare, full family coverage just means the spouse and the dependents are covered. NOT THE SPONSOR, and that Chris HAD TO HAVE Medicare B in order to also have TriCare. So he had no coverage and we didn’t even know this until the day before he was released from Methodist hospital, in Des Moines. During this time the VA TriCare employee, Diet Petry – 515-699-5739, told us that the VA had us listed as having both TriCare and Medicare B — both SS and TriCare had never even told the VA that they had disenrolled Chris.
I went to the Social Security office in Des Moines immediately and then later talked to a representative, Kathy 866-585-9531, from Ames. I was basically told, “Sorry”, he signed the paper. This is absurd. He would have NEVER signed that paperwork, had he known it meant he had no insurance coverage. He has not only, short term memory loss, but a brain injury and was on disability for this exact reason. When I asked the representative, what about Alzheimer patients? Has this never happened before, where a disabled person signs the paperwork and doesn’t know what they are signing. I was told, if they sign it they are disenrolled. They will not reverse this disenrollment mistake. On top of it all, I was told that he cannot get resigned with Medicare B until the open enrollment period and his coverage won’t even start until July of next year.
Is this really how we, the people of Iowa and the United States, would treat not only a disabled person, but a veteran that honorably served our country. It’s heart breaking, it’s frightening for my family and it’s just wrong.
I was told that you are a very honorable man and that you could help me. Please, please, please HELP ME, my husband and my children.
Thank you for your time.
Kristi A. Riker
155 Aidan Street
Waukee, Iowa 50263