Hi, my name is Eric Smith, President of Veterans For Veterans, let me tell you a little about myself and why I started this Veterans Service Organization.
I joined the Army in 1990 on the delayed entry program, believing that protecting the Awesome People of this Great Nation was my duty. I have family members in service since before this was a Nation, dating back to the French & Indian war through me, who was in the Army through Desert Storm until I had to medically retire after my last deployment in Operation Iraqi Freedom III, where I lost one of my best friends and was injured in a IED attack.
I had spent almost 18 years in the U.S. Army and the Texas Army National Guard. I was hurt on several deployments and sucked it up and drove on. Being a NCO for as long as I was, in a light Infantry Unit, that was expected of you, if anyone can relate to that, which I am sure there are thousands.
All said and done, I suffered from TBI (traumatic brain injury), Cervical Spine Damage, Lumbar Spine Damage, Right Knee Damage, Right Shoulder Damage and PTSI (post traumatic stress injury) or also called PTSD (poor diagnosis). I went to the Veterans Hospital to get treatment for my injuries and was put on a roller coaster of bureaucracy of the Veterans Administration and our Federal Government.
During this time, I had to medically retire from my civilian job as a police officer, due to my service connected injuries and I was still fighting with the bureaucracy of the VA for my claims. At this time, the VA had only processed three of my claims which rated 50%, but was only paying me 30% because of their rating system. Over the period of four years, all of this stress and financial problems cost me two wives, two engagements, a bankruptcy, not eating for weeks at a time and growing more fed up with the VA every day.
I gave up and started on a downhill roll, when my mother came over to my house, that was in foreclosure at the time and said to me “Son, all the deployments, Iraq, Afghanistan and so on, and you came back home through all of that and you are going to let this whip you? Get of your butt and fight for what is owed to you. You did everything they asked you to do, make them come through with everything they promised you, they would do for you.”
I got off my couch and started fighting back with them and vowed to not let them beat me! After getting all but four of my claims taken care of, I vowed to not let any other Veteran that asked for my help, not to go through what I did, almost losing everything, including my life.
I learned how to get things done in this big bureaucracy and it is time that I help other people, with the skills I learned fighting my own battles.