This is the story of Sergeant William Bee. I spoke to him in November about his struggles since he was medically discharged from the Marines, including the obstacles he met when trying to deal with the VA. Two days after we published his story, the VA got in touch with him. Here is the follow up story where he explains what happened. Read it online here.
The original story is here.
When Daily Mail Online told the story of Sergeant William Bee – a Marine behind one of the most iconic photos in the War on Terror – support for his family flooded in.
Our readers and his supporters raised more than $13,000 for the soldier who struggles to make ends meet for his wife Bobbie and son Ethan in Jacksonville, North Carolina, while suffering horrific flashbacks and angry outbursts.
In his heartbreaking account, he revealed that he is often met with obstacles when seeking help with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).
And just two days after the story was published, the VA got in touch with him and said it would set up an appointment with him and help him with bills.
Staff Sergeant William Bee, without wearing a helmet or Kevlar vest, aims at a window from where he feared a Taliban sniper was positioned. Seconds later his world was plunged into darkness. The sequence of images taken in Garmsir, Afghanistan, on May 18, 2008, would become one of the most iconic from the War on Terror
A military campaigner is even investigating why he didn’t get a Purple Heart during his service.
He is pleased with the help, but has questioned why it took a news story for someone at the embattled organisation to get in touch with him – eight years after he suffered life-changing injuries in Afghanistan.
Even though the VA got hold of him after the article was published last December, the part-time teacher and counselor for ex-servicemen and women only has a mental health appointment set in stone.
In March he will get to see a dentist to finally fix a tooth that has been damaged since 2013.
THE PLIGHT OF SERGEANT BEE
Read Daily Mail Online’s original story on the hero Marine here.
Since Daily Mail Online last spoke to Sergeant Bee, he has moved on to taking 16 pills a day in a bid to combat the side effects of his traumatic brain injury, caused by an IED on his final tour.
It exploded when he was in Afghanistan two years after a picture of him coming within inches of death spread around the world.
‘It’s crazy how quickly the VA gets things fixed once they get placed in the spotlight,’ he told Daily Mail Online.
‘A couple of days after the article was published, I received a call from one of the personnel at the CBOC (VA Community Based Outpatient Clinic), who said he was ‘directed’ to schedule my appointments.
‘He also stated that he had no idea that I had called to schedule mental health appointments, and was completely unaware that I had left messages with the patient advocate.’
Since then, however, he hasn’t returned any phone calls, says Sergeant Bee.
He admits he was stunned when he saw the GoFundMe page set up by his sister just before the article was published.
Two days after Daily Mail Online published his account of the events, a representative from the VA got hold of him to schedule vital appointments. However he has since revealed he is taking a potentially deadly cocktail of prescription drugs
HELP SERGEANT BEE GET THE MEDICAL HELP HE NEEDS
Sergeant Bee and his wife Bobbie have never asked for help from anyone.
They both work in public services, but struggle to make ends meet.
He has mounting medical bills, needs more appointments with psychiatrists and could use simple aids such as a shower bar to improve his quality of life.
A GoFundMe page has been set up to help their family.
‘I was shocked. When I saw the total, my jaw literally dropped, and I was stunned. When I showed my wife, she started crying.
‘The outpouring of support that we have received goes beyond words, and our gratitude goes beyond a simple thank you. I have already been able to purchase some machines to help with my physical rehab, and it has helped immensely. At last check, it was up to $13,000.
‘That may not sound like a lot to some, but that’s nearly half of my yearly income. And if it wasn’t for Wills [Robinson] and the staff at Daily Mail Online, I wouldn’t have gotten any help at all!’
He says that since then, people and different military organisations have been coming forward to offer their help.
‘My wife Bobbie, who is also my caregiver, received a call a couple of days later saying that the VA was going to “take care” of all of our bills that I had incurred by seeking civilian emergency care.’
Carlos Fuentes, the legislative director of Veterans of Foreign Wars, told Daily Mail Online: ‘We agree that it should not take media attention to resolve issues. Veterans must have a recourse to address concerns, that recourse should be the patient advocates at their local facilities.
‘However, we have learned that patient advocates often fail to resolve veterans’ concerns. VA plans to improve this process through the MyVA transformation. We look forward to evaluating VA’s progress in addressing issues like those Sergeant Bee experienced.’
In his heartbreaking account, he revealed that he he is often met with obstacles when seeking help with the Department of Veterans Affairs
Sergeant Bee is CASEVAC’d out of the area after he was caught up in an IED explosion that killed two of his friends. He told Daily Mail Online: ‘My decision to place my Marines in that building, along with the fact that I failed to make my team leaders sweep the building with metal detectors, cost the lives of two Marines, and caused the rest of them to be injured’
Sergeant Bee is now taking medications for nerves, anger and anxiety. He revealed to Daily Mail Online that he has constant flashbacks and angry outbursts that have been steadily getting worse.
But the pills reduced his testosterone, which means he has to get an injection to bring the levels back up.
He has been prescribed 100mg of Sumatriptan Succinate or what is commonly referred to as Imitrex to be taken twice a day along with the 16 other pills he already takes daily for conditions ranging from nerve pain and seizures to high blood pressure, vomiting and migraines.
One prescription, Paroxetine or what is known as Paxil, is an antidepressant used to treat depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress.
The FDA has warned that mixing common migraine drugs, which he takes, with antidepressants can cause serotonin syndrome, which increases the chemical levels of serotonin in the central nervous system.
The human body naturally produces serotonin in order to regulate nerve cells, body functions and brain activity.
But, if serotonin levels are too high, it could be fatal. His wife Bobbie has to keep an eye on the medications he takes and fears one day he might not wake up.
Mr Fuentes said overmedication is a general issue the VA is trying to address ‘but would not be able to completely eliminate if it does not have the capacity to provide veterans timely access to health care’.
John Cooper from Concerned Veterans 4 America also said Bee’s case highlights how ex-service members deserve much better.
He told Daily Mail Online: ‘Bee’s story is a stark example of the VA’s systemic limitations in offering care to our veterans. Whether it’s failing to schedule timely appointments, overprescribing medications or denying necessary mental health treatment, the VA has shown in far too many instances that it cannot be trusted to offer quality, timely care. This despite massive funding increases, specifically for programs like mental health care.
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‘Veterans should have the option to seek care from a provider who will be responsive to their needs. The concept of ‘choice’ defines almost all other veterans’ benefits, and medical care should be no different. If a veteran wants to use the VA, he or she should be able to do so, while also having the ability to choose care outside the VA if the department cannot offer the care that veteran needs.
‘Delayed care is denied care. Our veterans deserve so much better.’
It wasn’t just the VA that got in touch with Sergeant Bee – other support groups also contacted his family and offered their support.
He explained: ‘A mental health clinic specializing in PTSD contacted my wife via Facebook, and we will be flying down in February for a week of treatment.
‘They are sending my wife and son as well, because they help with coping mechanisms for the family.
‘My wife and I understand there really is no fix for multiple TBIs (traumatic brain injuries), but teaching me and my wife how to deal with issues that arise is treatment enough.
‘The SemperFi Fund also contacted me – which is an organization created by a group of Marine spouses who offer help to any post 9/11 wounded veterans.
‘I have worked with them before – they had even provided me an iPad to help maintain my schedules and appointments – and specifically brought up the Mail Online article.
Bee said he and his wife Bobbie were stunned at the outpouring of support they received after their story was published. It’s helped them go some way to improving their lives. He is also pictured with his son Ethan
The fact that someone is putting the effort in to help out is incredible.
‘The VA counselor took one look at my situation and basically said: ‘If you quit your job, then we can help,’ whereas SemperFi Fund essentially says: ‘Hey, you’re a wounded vet. How can we help?’
‘My wife was also contacted by Zachary Hearn, the Deputy Director of Benefits for the American Legion’s Veterans Affairs & Rehabilitation division.
‘My wife and I both were surprised, because I was not a member of the Legion. He explained that he had heard about my case and had some questions.
‘I’m not 100 per cent positive but I believe he had something to do with my appointments being made and my bills getting paid. He is now investigating my Purple Heart situation and why I did not receive it.
‘He is also looking into why I was not medically retired. While this may not seem as important as rehabilitation and getting help with my treatment, if he was able to retroactively medically retire me it would potentially open up a completely new avenue of treatment to me under the Department Of Defense medical system, TRICARE.
‘What really impressed me, however, was the passion the Legion has for veterans, even though they may not be part of their organization. They saw a veteran with some issues, and immediately jumped in to help.’
Sergeant Bee also said he and his wife had both been contacted by numerous marines – some he know and some he had never met before.
‘This is what I love most about Marines. As soon as they see another brother in trouble, they offer anything they can to help right away.
‘Even if it’s simply a shoulder. They don’t have to have shed the same blood in the same mud, they don’t have to have had the same job, or even served during the same wars. We are always there for each other.
‘We’ve also had Marines that are in the same situation I am in. The nice thing is, I’m in a unique position to be able to explain the benefits the VA offers.’
The VA would not comment on Sergeant Bee’s specific case due to privacy laws.