Before dawn on a Wednesday, Becky Queen was dressed and drinking coffee alone on a lawn chair in her garage. It’s the only time of the day she has for herself. In a few minutes she would have to start getting clothes, food and books together for school, not for herself, but for her 26-year-old husband Ray.
Ray Queen was deployed to Iraq as a smiling Army infantryman. He returned with traumatic brain injuries, post-traumatic stress disorder, a shoulder injury, tinnitus and infertility. He slept through two alarms Wednesday. Groggy before his morning medications kicked in, Becky brought him his socks and combat boots he still wears every day. She asked if he had brushed his teeth. They walked out to the car only to go through a verbal checklist and discover he left some of his camera equipment behind. She went back to get it and he rolled his eyes.
Ray has tried to do it all himself. There are some days when he tells Becky she’s not his mom . She’s back helping again pretty quickly. She drives him to classes at UT Arlington where he has found an interest in art and photography. He has high praise for the Veteran’s Administration that pays for his schooling. His disability payments help the couple pay the bills and they fought hard to get it Ray said. After first losing track of the paperwork, it took another 22 months he says for the VA to grant his disability. Getting his physical needs met or treated though, has been a different story.
“You shouldn’t have to fight for your healthcare, after fighting for your healthcare,” Becky said.
The Queens said they’ve experienced the long waits, cancelled appointments and difficult access to healthcare that dozens of veterans have told CBS 11 are plaguing the VA North Texas Health Care System.
Ray calls the standard treatment “treat and street.” He’s prescribed pills, and he’s out the door. He has pills for sleeping, for being alert, for depression, for headaches, for pain. What he does not have is an answer to the constant pain in his muscles, or a way to stop it. He says he could even live with that, if the VA was willing to help him with his fertility. Becky was pregnant once before he went to Iraq. She miscarried, and they have not been able to conceive again.
“I was capable of having kids before I left. Period. End of story. And now I’m not,” Ray said.
Becky, adding “nurse” to her titles of wife and caregiver, gave him a shot Wednesday. It’s supposed to encourage his body to produce testosterone. Ray said sometimes he wishes his injuries were visible, even a lost limb. At least then, it would be visible, the VA could see it, and maybe could offer help.
“I wish someone could look at me and say, that’s what happened.”
Written by Jason Allen, and published at CBS/DFW, October 24, 2012.
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