I have probably started this article at least five times. The words I’m seeking are completely jumbled in my head and I’m not being clear when I start to write. I think it’s finally organized in my mind. So here it goes.
I’m an advocate. Specifically, I’m a pediatric healthcare advocate and my primary area of focus is military children. When I look into my child’s eyes, I see this vulnerable little person with a world of possibility laid out before him. I want to make sure those possibilities become realities despite the hardships of military life.
There are two million military children in the United States and overseas locations. Military children will move an average of six to nine times during their school career which is three times higher than their civilian peers.
The majority of military children have experienced prolonged separation due to deployments. Military children are also said to experience more mental health issues than their peers due to the stresses of multiple deployments.
While all of what I listed can seem overwhelming, the prolonged separations, moving, a deployment isn’t what keeps me up at night. The military, each branch, has phenomenal support systems in place to assist with moving and deployments. No, this isn’t the stuff that makes me worry.
So what worries me? What keeps me up at night? This is what worries me: I don’t understand why fully insured military children, Uncle Sam’s kids, need to rely on charities or crowdfunding for medical care.
You didn’t read that wrong. Military children, Uncle Sam’s kids as I like to call them, are fully insured children, and some of these fully insured children need to rely on charities, non-profits, and crowdfunding through GoFundMe for medical care.
Not every military child has difficulty accessing healthcare, or receiving the services they need that is vital to their growth and development. However, there are enough children that do have difficulties accessing care, and those are the children, my son Ian included, who weigh on my heart.
I think about children who have pediatric rheumatoid arthritis and have been denied coverage for their medications and have to drive to another state for medical care.
I think about the children with severe allergies and asthma, whose parents have to beg for consultations to specialty care doctors such as Allergists, ENTs, and Pulmonologists.
I think about the children with cystic fibrosis, I think about children with autism, I think about them all; those beautiful children who can’t help it that they have a special need. Military life, TRICARE in particular, present challenges that no family should ever face. But they do. These children face these challenges and more every single day.
I could give you every instance of children being denied medically necessary care, medications, or therapies, but I won’t.
What I will do is ask you to help us.
I absolutely believe that the military and civilian communities must work together. When we help one, we help all. The National Military Family Association’s motto is “Together We’re Stronger” and we are stronger when we, all Americans, are working together.
But right now, military families are taking hits; one hit after another. The contractual benefits that were promised to our active duty service members are under scrutiny and will be cut.
A common misperception is that TRICARE is free and it’s not. Not only do we pay a fee, but my husband signed his life over to this country. The least we, as his family, can have is access to quality and timely medical care that follows the guidelines put forth by the American Academy of Pediatrics and other medical experts.
“Because of the unique way the husbands and wives, the sons and daughters of our all-volunteer force serve this nation, we have a sacred responsibility to care for them.” Former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates
Do we? Do we have a “sacred responsibility” to care for our military and their families? Yes, we do; however, it’s more than that. We have a sacred responsibility to care for all families.
Children do not choose to be born with a special need, nor do they choose to be born into a military family. They do not choose to be born into poverty, nor do they choose to get sick. They are children, a vulnerable population, that deserve a chance.
Do you understand why we need your help? We’re families, all of us. I’m a mother first, and then I’m a military spouse. We are a family first, and then we are a military family. There is more that bonds us, the military and civilian community, together than tears us apart.
We are one family, we are one community, so let us lift each other up, and care for one another. Uncle Sam’s kids need you.