My wife, Rose, and I were at the nursing home the other day and ran into a woman who was the widow of a veteran and wasn't collecting any veterans benefits. She didn't know she was entitled to any. Her husband had never collected any VA benefits, and since he never did, she figured she never could.
Guys, wake up. A lot of people apparently feel it's demeaning to ask the government for help, or it's too much trouble. This is foolish. You're the guys who dug the foxholes and ducked the napalm and low-crawled through the monsoon muck and sweltered in the desert. You deserve whatever you can get out of this country. You should make sure you're getting all you deserve, and you should really make sure your spouse, children and parents know that they're entitled, too.
Michael Scheibel, the Veterans Service Center manager at 130 S. Elmwood Ave., says some 460,000 veterans reside in Western New York, and not quite 11,000 are receiving VA benefits. "We could be serving a lot more," he said. "Some don't know they're eligible; a lot think [erroneously] they'd be taking benefits away from some other vet who might need it more. Every week, somebody comes in here and finds out they could have been collecting for 20 years and never knew it. It's sad."
A nifty little pamphlet titled "Federal Benefits for Veterans and Dependents" is available for $5 from the Government Printing Office (http://bookstore.gpo.gov or toll-free at (866) 512-1800). It offers a simple, succinct, readable synopsis of what's available to veterans, their spouses, parents and dependents.
If you're a veteran, you should read it; if you're the spouse, or the widow, or the child, or even the parent of a veteran, you should also read it, and then nag the vet unmercifully until he or she reads it. Most VA benefits have been extended to include those who have served in the Reserve and National Guard.
The best way to find out what benefits are available and if you're eligible is to contact the VA at www.va.gov or toll-free at (800) 827-1000.
The Jan. 26 column on colonoscopies generated quite a bit of sometimes-heated phone calls and e-mails. A reader named Dan called and said he was in Stage 2 renal failure. That means his kidneys were going. He had done a lot of research into kidney failure and discovered that his problems may have stemmed from earlier colonoscopies; more specifically, the preparations he underwent the day before the procedure. The solution he drank the night before, Dan said, "is absolutely toxic to the kidneys," can do irreparable damage and is cumulative. That is, you might not see any damage after the first time, or the second, but over time, the damage builds up.
So I contacted Jerome Bailey, communications manager for the American Association of Kidney Patients (www.aakp.org), who consulted some experts, and concurred with Dan, sort of. "Chronic kidney disease patients who get colonoscopies are at a higher risk of dehydration," Bailey said. "Colonoscopy preparation medication containing phosphorus can cause acute kidney failure, but kidney function will return." But Dan contended that his damage was permanent.
Another popular prescription colonoscopy preparation -- polyethylene glycol solutions (PEG) -- does not appear to be associated with similar risks.
E.W. was a bit more blunt in his e-mail to me: "I think this was a disservice to your readers. ... There have been many recent reports of serious issues with oral sodium phosphate, and the FDA recently recommended much stronger warnings for these products. In addition, there have been reports indicating that many bowel cancerous lesions do not protrude from the bowel wall, and are thus not normally detected via colonoscopy. Finally, there are other ways to perform bowel scans using non-invasive methods, such as sonograms."
All true, E.W., but my problem with "virtual" colonoscopies is that, if they find a polyp, they have to go in with the tweezers and snip it out anyway, so why have two costly procedures when one will suffice?
Several lessons are to be learned here: Colonoscopies are good, but not for everyone; do your research; ask questions about procedures, prescriptions and side effects; and don't get railroaded into anything, especially actions that can ruin your life.