When I started Hadit.com, I was adrift in a vast sea on a small raft I had cobbled together. The winds were rough and the sea unforgiving, but I drifted on.
From time to time, I would see another raft drift by, “Tie on, we will go the rest of the way together,” I would say. That is how we began. A few rafts tied together, we shared resources and manpower, and now look at us. A fine ship indeed with the best crew a skipper could hope to have.
Together, forward shipmates, we will sail. I spent years gathering anyone that wanted to join our crew. Working towards our shared goal of helping veterans to that final port of call where they receive the compensation they earned. Some will leave us at this port, and others will sign on as part of the crew.
I tell you this veteran,
“Any veteran who sincerely wants help with their claim or sincerely wants to help veterans with their claim will find a berth on this ship.”
– Theresa Aldrich “Tbird” US Navy E-6 1983 – 1990
I guess the best place to start is January 1991; I had gotten out of the Navy in December 1990. At my separation seminar, a DAV rep told us to bring our medical records in. He would look through them for us and let us know if we should file a claim with Veterans Affairs.
Well, bless his heart, he opened my medical file, read the first insert, looked me straight in the eye, and said, “You will be 50% for the rest of your life,” and that he would file the claim for me. 50% was for surgery I had in the service. True to his word, he met with me and talked with me for a long time, filled out my paperwork, and urged me to file for PTSD. But, of course, I would not file the PTSD claim nor even discuss it. I didn’t even understand what PTSD was then.
By February 1991, I had moved to the San Francisco bay area. I was staying at a friend’s apartment, and pretty much was just a puddle. I had no job, no idea about going to the VA. In desperation one night, I called the suicide hotline. They talked with me for a long time and explained that I could go to the local VA hospital even if I had no insurance. Now I know what you think if I was 50%, why didn’t I go to the VA in the first place? Two reasons, 1st, this was Feb 1991, and the 50% didn’t come till May. Second, even if it had come thru, it is unlikely that I would have had the mental understanding at the time to put the two together.
I relay this here because it is where so many of our brothers and sisters are coming from, perhaps where you started. Fuzzy, unsure, in pain, and sometimes homeless, they come to the VA hospital for help. And that is where I ended up. Up to the psych ward, I went, blah, blah, blah, a few days later, I was released with a promise of a call from the out-patient program, which I would soon be entering. Blah, blah, blah, after many miscommunications and no callbacks, I was at the Day Hospital every day M-F. And this brothers and sisters is where I began to learn and formulate my plan for HadIt.com.
Veterans, veterans everywhere. I spent a year in the day hospital and about another year at a sheltered workshop before I got back on my feet. So I just talked to veterans every day, waiting for appointments, waiting for prescriptions, waiting for a vet rep, and I started to learn about the system.
While in the navy, I was a data analyst. I had to learn a 5 volume manual, and just about anything you were supposed to do was in that manual. So I figured there must be a manual on making a VA claim or, at the very least, regulations. So I found out about the Code of Federal Regulations, United States Code, Veterans Affairs Manuals, and so forth. Of course, this was 1991/1992; I lived in a tiny studio apartment in a bad neighborhood.
Working in a sheltered workshop where I earned a nickel per envelope I stuffed, throw in PTSD. You will see that it was a difficult task for me to get somewhere where they had copies of these, let alone that they would let me look at them. There was so much knowledge around me. It was like the gold rush in those days. I could just sit on a bench where a veteran would sit down next to me; a little conversation later, I had another nugget. I made copious notes. Phone numbers to call, ask for this guy or that guy, he’ll give you the straight scoop, and they’d slip me a piece of paper with a number on it. You want to read this regulation or that one and another slip of paper into my hand. I spent a lot of time on those benches watching the squirrels as they gathered their nuts, and I gathered mine ????.
So I’m thinking I could put a little handbook together, print it out, and hand it out at the VA. Or perhaps flyers. Still formulating, time goes by, 1994/1995 I am being treated for PTSD regularly and doing and feeling much better. I go to work for a company as a marketing systems analyst, and I discover the internet. Well, let me tell you, that was perhaps one of the most significant life-changing events I have ever experienced. And I might add, a positive one finally.
It seemed only natural to me that there must surely be a website containing all the knowledge I wanted. As it turned out, not so much. Lots of stuff, but I wanted to get straight to the claims information, and there were many things to wade through to get to it. So taking my lesson from the squirrels earlier, I started to gather, gather, gather. I learned HTML and worked as a marketing systems analyst, and worked on my claim. 1996/1997, a major PTSD cork blows, and unemployment follows. I was working on my claim, working on the website.
January 20th, 1997, I register the HadIt.com domain name right after getting off the phone with the Veterans Affairs and saying, “I’ve had it with this.” As fate would have it, the old DAV board went down just as mine opened up, and folks started to wander in.
So HadIt.com has two main components, the website and the discussion board with links, articles, research resources, etc., that support it. The website started to grow, and I can’t tell you how often I had to switch servers for space and features. Emotionally I continued on a downward trend. In 1998 I ended up back home in St Louis, living in my sisters’ basement in therapy and working hard on pulling myself back up.
The website continued to do great during this time, I just stayed in the basement, bought new software, new books, and learned how to make things work. I continued to use this knowledge to make HadIt.com better.
My 100% finally came through from the Veterans Affairs. I have a friend Patrick Heavy who is an advocate who helped me through my SSDI claim. He was literally at my side through the entire process. For him, I am grateful.
My therapist and sister continued to try to get me to leave the basement but to no avail. In 1998 or 1999, I put a counter on the website and was shocked to discover how many visitors we were getting. Time goes by, my sister gets married, and I move from the basement to the upstairs. There is much celebration that Aunt T is living in the light again. More time goes by, and I settle into my life in St Louis and spend more time on the site trying new things and finding more information.
Finally, in 2003 I bought my own home with my VA loan. For years now, I have just considered HadIt.com my purpose in life. And so goes the story of the conception and birth of Hadit.com.
HadIt.com will have had your back for 25 years in 2022, she is established and going strong, and I couldn’t be more pleased or proud.
Thank you to everyone who has supported her growth.
I want to give a giant Thank You to Amanda, my niece, as close to a daughter I will ever have. Her care and compassion for decades have allowed me to continue to work on the site. Finally, in 2021 we fulfilled our hopes and dreams. She and her hubby bought a home and moved me in. She has two little ones that keep me laughing.
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