Lana Vail (not her real name), a homeless, disabled veteran, served honorably in the U.S. Army from 2006 – 2010. As a Combat Medic, she provided emergency medical care to injured soldiers and civilians. This exposure to the devastation and human casualty of war took an emotional toll on Lana, causing her to live in a state of constant fear and anxiety.
“While deployed I treated Army soldiers and Iraqis… I tried my best and did what I could for those who were injured, and I feel a deep loss for those who died under my hand or because of injuries they received that were too severe. I don’t regret deploying to Iraq. I learned a lot. I have pain physically and mentally from this specific deployment and would like some help in healing from it all.”
Still, she continued to serve and save lives, earning, among other awards, the Iraq Campaign Medal, National Defense Service Medal and the Combat Medical Badge.
Compounding the trauma she experienced on the front lines, Lana was sexually harassed and raped by a fellow soldier. Her psychological distress became so intense, Lana contemplated suicide.
“I thought about committing suicide every day after this happened. Just turning my own weapon on myself, I know I wanted to die, but there had been three suicides and I saw the impact it had on the other soldiers and I didn’t want to do that to them.”
Although she sought and received mental health treatment during service, her struggles continued, and even worsened, after separation from the Army. To cope with flashbacks, nightmares, agoraphobia, depression and anxiety – all signs or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Lana began to self-medicate. Eventually, she became homeless and even lost custody of her three children.
Denied benefits for what was clearly a service-related disability, Lana came to ICLC in 2014 for help. Melissa Tyner, Director of ICLC’s Homeless Veterans Project worked to get Lana the benefits she so desperately needed and deserved.
Melissa filed with the VA and proved that Lana’s PTSD was service-connected. Being a homeless vet, Lana’s case qualified for expedited processing, and she soon had the benefits she needed to build a better life for herself and her children. Thanks to ICLC, Lana received over $100,000 in retroactive benefits and $3,000 a month in disability benefits.
Lana now lives in a condo with her kids and can finally enjoy her life. “It is because of you and what you did for me and my children, that I can provide a better life for them and for me,” Lana told Melissa. “Thank you. Thank you so very much.”