Please note that I am not looking for sympathy; I do not need it! I relate the following facts for one reason and one reason alone, transparency. We need more of it, and right now, the liars and thieves have a rum hold on honest people’s lives, and it is time honest people started fighting back. Transparency is the best tool to fight back; that’s right, sunshine disinfectant is the only tool an honest person needs to fight the liars and thieves.
Well, here is some well-earned sunshine:
The main character in our story is one HMC Delacruz. HMC Delacruz was the Independent Duty Corpsman (IDC) for most of my tenure onboard the USS Barry (DDG 52) from 2000 to 2004. Time uncountable, a person would see HMC Delacruz handwriting a medical record in pencil (the instructions on the form claim black ink only), for patients, placing those medical records in blue folders, not the brown medical jackets, but blue folders. Then at some future date, you would need to refer to those records, a big show of looking for them would be made, piles of medical records would be evidenced outside their blue folder jackets, and the subject would change, or HMC Delacruz would assure the patient the files are “here,” and he would find them later. None of my medical documents in blue record file jackets made it off the USS Barry (DDG 52).
I can attest and affirm that medical events occurred, I have scars from several of those events, and I can relate that I went to medical to be seen, but none of the paper trails is evident. I saw the medical records filled out and the documents filed; yet, I never received any blue jacketed medical records when I left the ship. During one conversation (circa 2010) with HM2 Abeld, HMC Delacruz’s junior IDC, I was informed that when HMC Delacruz made Senior Chief, it was discovered he was throwing medical records over the side and was “encouraged” to leave the service. I cannot affirm or attest to hearsay; I simply state the facts. The records were there, and now they are not, and the person at fault is HMC Delacruz, and the US Navy does not appear to care!
There is a single central injury around my spine that the VA declares has no records to support. To whit, on or about 30 July 2003, DC1 Rowe pushed me in the Repair 5 office while I was moving D-Cell Batteries into the several Repair lockers. I had 60#’s of batteries in my arms using proper lifting techniques and had moved two loads before our encounter. DC1 Rowe came into Repair 5 screaming about an incident where he had been proved wrong by the XO during a training scenario. Because I, as the Repair 5 Scene Leader, was proved right by the XO, he accused me of being at fault for his embarrassment and that making decisions above my pay grade was disrespectful. When DC1 Rowe pushed me, I felt and heard a “Pop” emanating from my lower back; a warm sensation flowed down the backs of my legs from the lumbar region of my spine. Think hot water tap opened and pouring down the backs of your legs. This warm sensation continued without a stop for 10-14 days. After three days of this sensation, I went to medical, saw HMC Delacruz fill out a paper record, and HMC Delacruz marked me “Fit for full duty.”
Since there was no pain, just the warm sensation, no further treatment was ever prescribed or discussed; HMC called this “Lucky” and further remarked, “No pain, no injury.” From this discussion until Spring 2005, the “warm sensation” continued to flow intermittently and was usually brought on by stretching, lifting, or vigorous/strenuous exercise or activity. When climbing vertical ladders, I would lose breath and strength in my legs, and when this was brought to HMC’s attention, he claimed it was due to being overweight, denying the spine injury was involved. I changed my diet, started trying to exercise more when in port, and my weight began ballooning—creating a cycle of weight loss and balloon that continues today.
Because I was not experiencing the “warm sensation” when I filed my initial claim (2004) and thought the medical records were in my jacket, this injury and the lingering symptoms passed from my mind. When coupled with my ignorance of the VA, this injury was not mentioned again until September 2011. When I checked my medical records in September 2011, I discovered these records are not in my file due to continued lower back pain and aggravated leg/foot pain. According to the Congressional letter received, the medical records I had obtained, circa 2005 (August), came through a Congressional Inquiry and showed the official medical file for Michael David Salisbury XXX-XX-1962.
March 2005, while doing the prescribed stretches for my feet, my back (lower lumbar region) popped, and something shifted. The warm sensation running down my legs intermittently became constant pain, with intermittent burning sensations. Whole-body shakes/tremors/involuntary movement increased from several times a month (2002-2005) to weekly (2006), then daily (2007-2010), now constantly (2010-present), bringing reduced stamina and chronic pain & fatigue, as well as shortness of breath, low lung volume, and other difficulties.
The pain takes my breath away, my feet flared, and anything involving my back, every movement, suddenly requires new dimensions of effort. The pain radiates from my lower lumbar into my tailbone and runs down my legs into my feet. In the first quarter of 2011, I saw a Chiropractor and explained my symptoms to him. He took X-Rays and declared several injuries to my spine, probably adding to the pain and problems in my feet. He prescribed mechanical decompression and wanted MRIs of my spine. The VHA has those chiropractor records as I submitted them to my Primary Care Provider and the VBA as part of my spinal claims. The pain has increased exponentially every year since 2005. Until my conversation with the VSO in Wyoming regarding this injury and pain (2011), I had no idea the records were missing or that the situation I found myself in required VA assistance (VBA and VHA).
The only remaining record I have found in my US Navy Medical Jacket is my out-processing physical from December 2003, where I mentioned back pain. HMC Delacruz and I spent more than 2 hours discussing the nerves, the spine, the injuries, the foot problems, the shin splints, etc. The only record of that conversation is the out-processing questionnaire I completed before the exam. When discharged in April 2004, HMC declared all my records were in my medical jacket. I did not need a new out-processing physical, which medical determination is also not in my medical file and should have been documented.
Thus, I left the US Navy without a medical examination from the medical record when I did have an out-processing medical examination. That event occurred while underway and those records are not in my medical file. Both HMC Delacruz and HM2 Abeld knew of my back pain, clumsiness, stumbling, lack of stamina, decreased energy, chronic pain, breathing problems, and other issues suffered while onboard the ship. Some of that proof is indicated in the repeated prescription of Ibuprofen; I had a running prescription for the largest Ibuprofen dosage available, taking as needed for pain, usually every 2-4 hours depending on the operational tempo and how often, along with how long, I was wearing an SCBA.
Several other items are missing from my medical files where problems occurred, and HMC Delacruz made a record, but the files are not in the medical record jacket I possess.
- My hands were crushed in a falling pipe incident while working on an assignment I shouldn’t have been assigned to while underway. Because there was nothing broken, the skin was not torn, I was marked “Fit for full duty,” prescribed Motrin and Ibuprofen, with the understanding in my command that my hands might be sore for several days and less difficult maintenance should be assigned for a week or so, my command complied and my watch standing doubled to make up for reduced maintenance.
- The prescription and work assignment came from HMC to my current chief. This (apparent) collusion between HMC and the other chiefs onboard was common practice. Many lower enlisted people, especially engineers, had similar treatment related or overheard during conversations as I roamed the ship as a watchstander.
- The standard operating procedure (SOP) was a “Gentlemen’s Understanding” among the chiefs that reduced duty was necessary. Reduced duty chits were not written because no reduced duty looked better on HMC and the command.
- The lower enlisted, especially Engineers, were returned to work “fit for full duty.” It was understood that no reduced duty chits would be written. I remember no injured engineer receiving limited duty or light duty chits during the entire HMC Delacruz service period.
- No X-Rays were ever taken of this incident as it occurred while underway. Upon returning to port, my hands were not as sore, so no X-Rays were ordered then.
- None of my trips and spills when my feet gave way are in my file, including one that occurred during a GQ Drill (2003), right in front of HMC Delacruz, that left my hands and wrists hurting enough to send me to sick call the following day at HMC Delacruz’s insistence. My SCBA hit a particularly tender spot on my spine, my legs collapsed, and I hit the floor like a lead sack. The first of many collapses to date exactly fit this same pattern. Including the six falls experienced during a Compensation and Pension exam, Phoenix, AZ., where the examiner collapsed me intentionally (I forget the exact date/time, 2012-2014), claiming this would help document the problem for my claim. My VBA claim has no change from this collapsing, and I can find no documentation from the examiner collapsing me.
- HMC Delacruz asked how long I had been falling, and we spoke about my feet and the arch problem (2002) that had been ongoing; we discussed the spine issues from being pushed and various other medical concerns. HMC Delacruz documented the medical file. No records from this visit survived.
- HMC Delacruz also asked how my hands were doing after my fall and skid on the non-skid decking, checked for infection in the “Road Rash” on the palms of my hands, and marked me “Fit for full duty.”
- The “Road Rash” was from an incident where I tripped over a ship-to-shore connection, I fell on the non-skid decking and primarily injured both hands and knees. No medical records of this incident exist in my medical record jacket.
- All the prescription records in my medical jacket from the rash developed onboard the ship. I see some of the records, but these are primarily from HM3 Abeld and none from HMC Delacruz. He prescribed various drugs, salves, pills, and treatments, but the records are missing.
- December 2002, when my arches first fell and the pain in my feet was excruciatingly fresh, HMC Delacruz marked me “Fit for full duty,” prescribed Motrin and Ibuprofen, and colluded with my chief to let me off of running or lifting for a week.
- In the files, there are no medical reports about my feet from 2002.
- When HMC Delacruz rotated off the ship, his replacement sent me to Podiatry at the Naval Hospital Norfolk, where a medical case review discovered and documented my actual condition.
- These records were not in my medical file received from Congressional Inquiry, but the x-rays and medical records should have been stored in the Norfolk Naval Hospital as that is where I was sent and where an initial diagnosis of shin splints and flat feet originated. Yet, I can find no records in my official medical jacket presently, but the VBA claims they have these medical records. Leaving a series of questions about what medical records exist.
- The tinnitus worsened during naval service to the point it is at today. After several head injuries, neck injuries, and a 5” Gun Shoot that began while I was under the gun in Repair 2, in the overhead counting inventory without hearing protection. The inventory assignment during a gun shoot was a prank pulled on the new guy (September 2000). I left Repair 2’s overhead with the inventory counted but was so disoriented, hard of hearing, and “compression shocked,” I could barely stand. Only later did I learn that when a 5” Gun-Shoot occurs, Repair 2 is supposed to be unmanned and closed as the only separation between Repair 2 and the 5” mount is plate steel. The prank was courtesy of DC1 Smith and DCCS Cloud, my direct chain of command.
Important to note that the VBA and VHA have both been kept abreast of the spine deterioration, pain increases, mobility decreases, falls, and a host of peripheral nerve issues. The VHA has been particularly apprised of my nerves, making me look like a “bobblehead doll.” The VHA claims they cannot diagnose the problem until the VBA claims a service-connected problem. The VBA claims that until there is a medical diagnosis and proof of injury during service, I cannot obtain VBA admittance that there is a service connection to the problems or even a problem exists. Two bureaucracies act like opposing teams on a tug-of-war, and the patient is stuck suffering in the middle.
What was the prescribed solution? Find a non-VA physician, have them document the injury, then obtain a letter from that physician as “new and material evidence” for the VBA to consider. None of the costs of this are covered by the VA. I was also told to find a lawyer to handle my appeals, all of which cost money I do not have. It’s funny; I had none of these problems in the US Army (active duty), did not have these medical concerns upon entry into the US Army National Guard, and had none of these problems during inprocessing into the US Navy (2000). Yet, the VBA claims these cannot be service-connected to time in the US Navy because no medical evidence is recorded in my medical jacket. Logically speaking, how then did I become injured?
Hence, I detest liars. I hate “gentlemen’s agreements,” “skullduggery,” and secrecy in all its forms and mutations. I consider bureaucrats’ actions to be nothing more than lies to promote job security, and hiding behind ever-changing processes is the most detestable bureaucratic tool to waste time and abuse the customer. Under any circumstances, I cannot condone practical jokes and pranks on the job site that breach safety or play upon ignorance to harm others. Call me if you find yourself in the throes of villains, knaves, liars, and thieves. I have no problem fighting to help you out!
To my fellow shipmates from the USS Barry (DDG52) 2000-2004, please contact me through LinkedIn.com if you need help to corroborate the medical maltreatment and record problem. HMC Delacruz’s actions are a blight on the US Navy, and the USS Barry (DDG 52) and the VA bureaucrats only perpetuate the abuse. If anyone has ideas on getting injuries sustained in service documented after the fact, don’t hesitate to contact me through LinkedIn.com. I am in the fight deep with the VA, and all assistance is greatly appreciated.
© 2021 M. Dave Salisbury
All Rights Reserved
The images used herein were obtained in the public domain; this author holds no copyright to the images displayed.