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Financial Assistance for One Disabled Combat Veteran

Organized by: Thomas Yasko

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THE STORY:

In the grand scheme of things, this is not that important. Your contribution won't save a life, won't help find cure for some horrible disease, won't be part of a broader campaign with significant overhead and broad almost unachievable goals.

It is, however, important to me and something I believe too many people take for granted. In search for an expression in the form of a single word, it's Mobility. Transportation. Portage. And absolutely no pun intended- an appeal for one-time financial assistance with vehicles that are a part of my transition to a relatively normal life.

Some background:
In December of 2019, after nine years of service (ok, eight and a half, actually), I was offered a medical discharge from the Army after being diagnosed with permanent nerve damage in my left foot related to an injury sustained in combat while carrying out my duties as a senior line medic in the Infantry in Iraq back in 2008. I had a myriad of other medical issues which had popped up over time, but this single diagnosis served as a tipping point and everything was combined and put forward as a medical discharge- a process which lasted well over one year. A related VA claim for Compensation & Pension Benefits (i.e. disability) filed at the same time took over three years and four months to process.

One the very day that I started my terminal leave, the car I owned at the time sprouted a fuel leak. As I was not in the best financial position at the time, and pretty much terrified to leave my home very often anyway (related to my PTSD), this car sat for over three years. At the time, I had a motorcycle that I could use to run errands, and since I live only a mile or two away from a commissary, I would walk to get groceries. Life wasn't extravagant by any means, but I made my own pasta, baked my own bread and could get to where I needed to be if I absolutely had to get there (groceries, medical & mental health appointments, etc.). With my rent at $950/month, the $1450 I was receiving as my military retirement didn't leave much- but I made due and finally caved in to file unemployment while looking for work.

After my experiences as a medic, working in civilian healthcare was a very distant thought in my mind. Having worked in technology and technology management before joining the Army, I thought I could return to that fairly easily. However, getting out of my apartment without or with a low level of anxiety, was not happening. And my interactions with others? Well, I needed help.

So I started seeing mental health providers at the VA here in Hawaii. A few months later, one of my providers quit and returned to the mainland. A few months after that, the other retired. In each case, I was notified barely days prior and only by chance was introduced to one person from a team of two who would be a part of my care team. This was in December of 2012.

Starting in 2013, I was eager and happy to start receiving care from my new team. And then...

On March 8th, 2013, I went to see a chiropractor I was referred to by the VA for assistance with chronic back pain which was exacerbated by my time as a medic in the infantry. I have not been able to walk without the use of an assistive device since and actually spent six months or so in a wheelchair wondering if I would ever be able to walk again.

(By the way, the VA finished processing my claim in July of 2013, but neither the Army nor the VA recognized any of my service in combat as related to any of my medical issues- even though I had been medically evacuated out of Iraq in 2008!)

Upon becoming a paraplegic (legs), I was no longer able to make my appointments as commuting with my motorcycle was no longer an option. In May I learned of the Handi-Van.... from my Mom!!! (I am single, never married, no kids (yet) and live alone.) It took one month to get an appointment and then three weeks afterward I received my letter of acceptance and ID Card.

However, a spinal cord injury and riding the Handi-Van didn't go together very well, so I appealed to the VA and my VA primary care doctor for alternate transportation. This came in the form of a door-to-door medical van service- which was only available for medical appointments.

In October of 2013, my local VA in Hawaii referred me to a VA Spinal Cord Injury Center in Palo Alto, CA. In three days, they had me walking using a two-wheeled walker. On the fifth day, I was assessed for fitness to drive a car, didn't have any difficulties and was cleared to drive again. While in Palo Alto, I renewed my (California) driver's license- and was able to keep both my automotive and motorcycle endorsements.

Prior to flying to California for treatment at the Spinal Cord Injury Center in Palo Alto, one of my neighbors was selling a car. OK, not just a car, but a used Porsche which needed some work; in brief, a project car that could also be my daily driver. Needing something that I could work on, feel good about driving and could also play a role in my road to recovery- I purchased my first Porsche: A 1984 Porsche 928S (US) L-Jet... a relatively rare V8 front-engine Porsche w/rear wheel drive which came standard with a four speed automatic transmission.

The price was only $1200 and involved signing over the car I had not driven since February 2011 to my neighbor. Sure, the Porsche needed some work, and I've managed to do quite a bit myself- but there are some things I just can't do.

I still owned my motorcycle, too, but haven't even attempted to ride it since my spinal cord injury- and with good reason as- at the time- I could always tell where my feet where and what they were doing. (This is kind of important with a motorcycle!!!)

And now- some good news... I'm starting to get feeling back in my feet. I can take a few steps without my forearm crutches. I can tell when I am stepping on something. And, I can feel pain... and am ticklish.

I managed to register the Porsche just fine. It needed a new safety inspection and some motor work before it would pass, but I had that work done, did quite a bit of repair and maintenance myself to save money and I have been driving it quite regularly since May 2013. (And almost always with a grin on my face!)

Since June, however, I have needed to get some brake work done. Which, unfortunately, I cannot do on my own. Being relatively competent- I researched and learned it needed new brake lines (all four wheels) as the 30-year-old original lines were no longer as flexible as they used to be. My right rear caliper would apply as I pressed on the brake pedal, but would not always release. Now that I have purchased new rear rotors, new rear brake pads, and new brake lines (all around), my right rear caliper doesn't seem to be releasing... at all. But I can't afford to get the brake work done. And it's only September 10th!

In August, also quite unfortunately, my motorcycle, which had not been registered since 2012- also experienced a decayed hose- one which connects between the fuel tank, fuel pump and carburetor- spilled a gas & oil mixture and was written up by my Apartments security & management for both the leak and expired safety and registration... and my Apartment building, which had previously offered motorcycle parking free of charge, is now charging motorcycles for parking too (which took effect September 1st).

To avoid having my motorcycle towed by the Resident Manager, I had it towed to a nearby motorcycle shop for repairs, general maintenance (which I would usually do but currently cannot). And it is now running well again and ready to be safetied and re-registered. And dare I say, ridden.

On riding a motorcycle- when living in the San Francisco Bay Area, I purchased my first motorcycle and promptly put over 27,000 miles on it in my first year of ownership before taking it to "open" track days for non-competitive riding. And that was back in 1997 so you could say I'm a fairly experienced rider.

Since Iraq, there have really been only four situations which convey a true sense of peace, tranquility and freedom to me:

(1) riding my motorcycle
(2) driving my car
(3) swimming
(4) scuba diving

Ideally:
(1) I would like to be able to ride my motorcycle again. I'm not sure I am there yet, but I am quite confident that it's time for me to find out.
(2) I would love to continue driving my car- safely, with working rear brakes (fronts are fine, btw) and to do so without the screeching, crowd-turning metal-on-metal grinding sound that my rear brakes are currently making.

And the two destinations I would most like to get to?
(1) The pool (at the military base near wear I live)
(2) To start SCUBA diving again

(I recently read an article on NPR about Veterans with PTSD finding respite in SCUBA diving... this makes perfect sense to me and would help me get out and socialize too!)

Why Am I Here on CrowdRise:
(1) I obviously do not have the finances to take care of current maintenance costs for either vehicle at this time. Even on October 1st- I may be able to afford one or the other, but certainly not both.
(2) I have looked at other crowd-funding type sites and this one seemed to make the most sense to me.
(3) Any other way of securing any kind of funding- for example, through resources available to Veterans or as a Retiree- would require certainly more legwork (pun intended) than I can afford right now- and would most likely be rejected as I am not needing any assistance for taking care of children or a family. (Just my opinion, but when one considers the fact that I do not have kids or a family of my own- and I would be asking for financial assistance as a (recovering) paraplegic to drive a car and/or ride a motorcycle, I would think most agencies would say, in a word, no.)

What I Am Asking For:

Strictly financial assistance specifically for current maintenance/repair bills for both my car and motorcycle, and for registration of my motorcycle.

For the car, I always over estimate repairs and have so far been fortunate in that I have indeed overestimated. As an example, I generally estimate repair to be $1000.00, but it will most likely come in around $600.00- especially since I have already purchased and am providing the necessary parts. The shop I use is called Motor Werkes, is located at 518 Cummins Street in Honolulu, HI 96814. A popular phrase with maintenance & repairs on a 30 year-old Porsche (or similar vehicle) is "While You Are In There" or WYAIT... an example of this would be replacing a transmission seal and related parts while the car is up on a lift. If at all possible, there are a few WYAIT items on the to-do list- which I also have parts for and would essentially avoid a separate visit- or visits- to the shop. In the spirit of overestimating, I am appealing to raise $1500.00 just-in-case.

For the motorcycle I have two invoices- one for maintenance and one for new tires (as the old tires were dry rotted), my local motorcycle shop is Hawaii Rides, located at 651 Kilani Avenue, Wahiawa, HI 96786. For the motorcycle, what I hope to raise is $1084.77- which is total for each invoice ($579.01 + $505.76 = $1084.77).

A quick review: $1084.77 (motorcycle) + $1500.00 (auto) = $2584.77

I should add that the estimate I have on registration for the motorcycle- from earlier in August- is $396.00. I am expecting a slight increase due to time- but can and will pay this amount on my own as I can do so and still, well, eat.

So... in closing, pretty please... I ask for your assistance with the aforementioned items for the aforementioned reasons. I should add, too, that I am open to repayment or making a like donation to the charity or cause of your choice as soon as I am able to (in time for Christmas) as a gesture of sincere gratitude for your assistance. All I ask is that you message or contact me with your request- including contact info- such that I can follow-up properly when I am able to. Likewise if any additional information is required.


Thank you for your assistance and support!

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MONEY RAISED
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Organized by

Thomas Yasko

This is a direct to organizer fundraiser.

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