Wednesday, May 27, 2009

I need some advice

Okay, my friends, I need some advice. I'm trying to decide if Marc and I should support a new charity (he generally lets me handle these things). We support a number of good charities, including some that help members of the military, because we believe in helping the people who are defending our country. It doesn't matter if we agree with the particular actions the military is ordered to take (the Iraq war comes immediately to mind)--we still support the troops who are going in harm's way for the country.

So here's why I want your opinion. This weekend, watching a TV show, I learned about something called Operation Mend. This is a program that provides surgery to try to repair some of the horrific damage done to our troops by things like roadside bombs. Horribly disfigured military personnel have the opportunity to get plastic surgery to make their lives more liveable. This is complex stuff, usually taking many surgeries to get to a decent outcome. For people so terribly injured, the damage will never be completely gone, but it's definitely made better.

So you may now be wondering why there's a question about giving to this program. Why the hesitation? Well, here's the thing: I've read about the program online, and I'm not sure exactly what difference my money will make.

I haven't seen anything that says the number of surgeries is dependent upon the amount donated, or that UCLA (where this program is based) is losing lots of money on the program, or that the surgeon is taking no pay (or less than his usual pay) for this work. Not that he doesn't deserve to earn a living, but I can think of more needy people to support.

I also feel like this is something the government should pay for--how can they not, since these are people who were wounded in service to their country? Even so, we've never let that stop us before--we regularly give to the USO and also have given to the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund, and the government should have those covered but don't.

Really, the question is whether we're helping the wounded with this one or just sending money to people who already are well paid. There is government involvement (the program info says it's "a unique partnership between Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas, and the V.A.-Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System"). Even so, the program asks for donations, saying the donations help cover related costs, like travel, counseling, etc.

I'm just not sure if I buy it. What do you think? I'm especially interested in feedback from military families, like a certain blogger I know, but I value feedback from all of you. So what do you think?


Tuna Girl said...

First, let me say that my husband's job in Iraq was to seek out and dispose of unexploded IEDs. (Yes, his trainng in his aircraft actually relates to finding hidden bombs.) So, because at my very worst moments my biggest fear wasn't of losing him, but of losing PIECES of him, I would think that this could be a charity I would support.

But, I would really want to know more too. It looks like your money would in part go to help transport and house spouses or parents so that they can be with their loved one during such a difficult time. I think that is huge. Even with Tricare paying for all of the surgeries, we would quickly run out of the kind of money we would need for me to travel repeatedly and stay near the hospital with him. And we're in a much better financial position than your average soldier.

Speaking of that, though, the Operation Mend site mentions Fisher House quite a few times. That's my pet charity (think Ronald McDonald House for the families of wounded soldiers). So if you're on the look out for a new charity to support, that might be a good one.

Joey7777 said...

I don't have any advice, but just want to say I admire you guys for choosing such worthwhile charities, AND for being smart enough to be so careful about where you donate and for doing so much research. Very cool.

Footed Pjs said...

In my experience dealing with the VA and Military hospitals I can see a need for organizations like this. When I left the Marine Corps in 1992 I had an injury that took me years to get through the system before it was finally taken care of. The pain and frustration I had to go through for them to finally do something was worse than the actual injury. There are just way too many people trying to get help. Should the Government pay for this and take care of this sort of thing. It should but reality and politics get in the way. The only way I got my injury taken care of was to involve politicians. It sucked and I probably suffered more damage because it took so long for it to get taken care of. I guess you can tell I don't have faith in the system.

Jess said...

Tuna: I remember when he was over there. We were worried for him! (We even packed up a box of stuff to send to him--I wonder if any of it proved useful! Perhaps it's the thought that counts. But I digress...) Your idea is fabulous! I just looked up Fisher House and that seems very well run financially (very low admin and fundraising costs), and donations there should accomplish what we want! THANK YOU!

Joey: Thanks. We're just trying to do as much good as we can--you know, what our parents probably told all of us, to leave the world better than we found it. Besides, we're both working and have our health, a roof over our heads and food on the table. So we think we should be helping others.

Footed: I forgot that you lurk around here these days. I had gotten used to seeing you on Facebook, but I should have remembered that you're keeping track of the blog, too. Anyhow, yes, we know the government doesn't do nearly enough for wounded veterans (or others in need, for that matter), so we're fine with supporting various causes that help vets and others. We just didn't want to help line the pockets of wealthy surgeons unless it was going to mean we were contributing to another serviceman/woman getting help. If the same number of people were going to be helped no matter what individuals donate, then enhancing UCLA's (or the surgeon's) bottom line isn't a priority for me/us. And I just couldn't be sure if we could help make a difference with this.

Fortunately, you guys have come through, as I knew you would!

With my thanks to all of you, I will now go make a donation to Fisher House.

Pua; Bakin' and Tendin' Bar said...

When I read this, I knew that TG would provide the best answer. As the daughter of a wounded veteran, I just want to say thank you. When my dad got injured, we didn't see the kind of help we thought would come from the government. I was very young at the time, but I do remember the stress level in our home and my parent's frustration. I think Fisher House is worthy of your support and a great choice.

Joey7777 said...

Yeah, Jess, but I think a lot of "comfortable" people don't think that way. It does feel good to help people out, right? That's greatly what life should be about.

Todd HellsKitchen said...

Thanks for the heads-up on this charity... Never heard of it before!