The Appeal of Charles Michael Wilson

Above photo: Somewhere in Song Be: Shake ‘N Bake, Jim Dumb, Mike Wilson, Papasan. Vietnam, 1970

It happened in Cambodia: the first Chicom grenade blew up the machine gun, the second landed among us, Mike Wilson—last on top of the scrambling men who threw themselves upon me, getting it worst.  For a time after the war he’d been homeless, drank, lost all his possessions, fell into despair. He refused to give up, found sobriety, married, worked for VA.

Twenty-seven years later I spent a week with Mike in Monroe, Michigan. In a dusty cornfield not far from the Fermi nuclear reactor we talked about Mike’s disability rating. The need to appeal it. Mike said that twice a month he saw a VA psychiatrist in Detroit who prescribed pills for nightmares and stress. He was coming along, the doctor said. Where my anger came from I do not know.

“Mike, you have the CIB, three Bronze Stars, two Purple Hearts. You have nightmares, startle reflex, flashbacks, depression. Spend a lot of time alone. VAs giving how much? Thirty fucking percent? Request an increase, Michael. Get fifty. Seventy. Maybe a hundred percent, I don’t know. Get a good therapist, too. Not some VA pill pusher. You talk, after a while you see things you forgot or don’t want to hear. Maybe you cry, Michael. I know you’re afraid of that. Maybe you let out your rage. That’s how it works. You work on ways to let things out.”

“I’ll think about it,” he said.

Months later, Mike told me the VSO [veteran’s service officer] who represented him at the apeal hearing made a poor showing of his case. He said the two written statements in support of his claim, one by Medic, were more helpful. Eventually Mike was awarded a 100% disability rating. Below are the transcribed hearing and my statement.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Charles Michael Wilson died on November 28, 2016. He was 66 years old.