Beyond the Front Lines: Randy

Chasing the System

"We were driving a main road in Iraq when our truck got hit by an IED (improvised explosive device). It sent shrapnel to the face and severed my leg," recalls Randy of the ambush attack that cost him his eye and leg. "There was so much damage, the doctors cut it off," he says of his leg. "I looked at myself, and I didn't even really want to be alive. You lose an eye and a leg " I was just so bitter, so angry."


"My son and I made a promise when he left. When he first saw me at Walter Reed, he said to me, ‘See, Mom, I promised you. I didn't die there,'" says Tammy, Randy's mother. "He was gangrenous, he was pale, and he just looked so broken. He just started to cry and said, ‘I'm a monster, Mom.'"


Randy says seeking medical help was a struggle from the beginning. "When I first came home from Washington D.C., the VA down there hadn't even forwarded any of my medical records," he says, adding that he eventually met with a psychiatrist. "The only thing he told me was, ‘You have anger issues.' He told me to basically Google post-traumatic stress."


"If I had to summarize the way that I think the military took care of my son: they lied to him, they used him, they broke him, and they threw him away," Tammy vents. "It took us weeks to even be able to get an eye patch. He went for over six months without even being able to use a prosthetic."


Randy's spirit has been broken. "Every day, I wake up thinking I'm waking up from a nightmare. I look down, and my leg's still gone, and I still can't see out of my right eye," he shares. "It makes me feel ashamed, embarrassed."


Tammy is at her wits' end. "We spoke to them at Walter Reed [Army Medical Center] about fixing his eye, and he was very rudely told, ‘What do you mean fix your eye? It's damaged. It's always going to look like that. Don't worry about it.' You don't tell a 20-year-old young man, whose girlfriend took one look at him, and ran and never spoke to him again, that that's the best that's going to happen for him," she says. "The bureaucracy of getting any kind of treatment is ridiculous. This young man served our country, almost gave his life for it, did give his leg and his eye for it, and we have to fight for everything that he needs?"

"You feel like a contract has been broken with your son," Dr. Phil says to Tammy.

Tammy reiterates that her son almost gave his life for his country. "He gave his leg. He gave his eye, and it's not enough," she says. "Now we have to struggle to get services." She explains that there's a satellite VA clinic 45 miles from their house, but they can't go there unless they travel to the regional VA to get consent. "How does that make sense?" Tammy asks. She adds that they have received no information from the VA as to what doctors they can visit for medical attention. "Why can't I have an insurance card that tells him, ‘This is what you have for coverage. This is who participates with the VA. Whatever you need, go there, get it done. We'll take care of it'?"

Dr. Phil questions if this problem is widespread.

"You talk to any member of the VA who doesn't live right on top of their district VA, and it's the same bureaucracy," Tammy says, noting that the process involves making numerous phone calls and forms to fill out. "Hopefully by the time you get the paperwork, it isn't outdated, because everything has an expiration date on it."


Dr. Phil tells Randy that he is suffering from a damaged self-image, anger issues, nightmares and withdrawal. "You have all kinds of problems associated with this, and you've got to have help for that," he says. "And we owe it to you to make sure that you get that, and you shouldn't have to chase people around like you're asking for something that you don't deserve in order to get it."