(115) Fickle, Pickles, and Tickles: Veterans’ Choice and Puppy Love

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Golly, Miss Molly

A Blog about a Service Dog and her Veteran with PTSD

(Supporting the Veteran and the Family Caregiver)


Molly rushes to the door when Josh knocks. He takes care of our yard, which is too much for us toDakota kisses William handle. Molly lavishes attention on this young man, abandoning William when Josh arrives. Payback motivates her fickle nature, as William broke the bond by falling in love with Dakota, a friend’s Siberian Huskie puppy.

I see William and Molly’s relationship much like pickles. Pickles are a staple for William. He may tire of them occasionally but then he rushes back to the pickle William tickles Molly's tummyjar, lavishing layers of pickles on his sandwich. Although his and Molly’s heads may turn when tempted by another dog or human, they always come back to each other with a refreshed zeal. Molly rolls over on her back and William tickles her belly as a renewed sign of their bond.

John McCain—Advocate for Veterans

John McCain*, US Senator from Arizona, initiated the Veterans’ Choice Program adopted by Congress in 2014. The temporary program allowed VA eligible Veterans to seek private healthcare through 2017. To access the program, the Veteran either must live more than 40 miles from a VA hospital or face a waiting time of more than 30 days for the medical service. A fickle VA left many eligible Veterans in the cold with a failure to inform eligible Veterans of the program and creating obstacles in accessing authorization to use Choice.

Just like William and pickles, McCain went back to the Legislature with dogged determination, deciding the program was not working as it should. McCain relishes the thought of helping Veterans, seeking to recharge the original program. Now, he tackles every hindrance to make the program permanent, removing current restrictions.

Under his proposal, referred to as ‘Choice Card,’ all VA eligible Veterans would have access to private healthcare with the VA paying for medical costs similar to health insurance. He deems the program necessary because Veterans are not getting the services they deserve. As well, in a recent VA scandal, over 34,000 Veterans lost eligibility and access to healthcare because the VA sat on their applications until their eligibility expired, according to rt.com.

“More than a year after the VA scandal first came to light and a year since VA reform legislation was signed into law, wait times are still too long and veterans are still not getting the care they have earned and deserve.”

John McCain, US Senator (rt.com)

There are skeptics about Choice Card, including Veteran organizations, which expressed concern that this is a privatization of healthcare for Veterans. Privatization could lead to abandonment of VA facilities and loss of healthcare for services that the VA excels at such as PTSD, TBI, and prosthetics.

VA Secretary Bob McDonald does not support the privatization of veterans’ care—definitely no tickles in this story.

So, Where are the Tickles? 

John McCain rises to the surface as an amazing war hero—how can that do anything but tickle one to the core?

*US Senator John McCain was a Naval Pilot shot down over North Vietnam in October 1967. He spent nearly six years as a Prisoner of War. He refused early release on two occasions, which the enemy offered because of his father’s position as a Navy Admiral. McCain said he would not take advantage of his father’s position and would not displace another prisoner from release. Consequently, he spent several more years as a POW. He and other POWs endured torture for years at the hands of the North Vietnamese before their release in March 1973, following the Paris Peace Accord in January. (Kelly)

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About the blogger 

Dr. Penelope “Penny” Culbreth-Graft is a retired city manager and graduate professor. She lives with her disabled Vietnam Veteran husband, William, and his service dog, Molly, on Cheyenne Mountain in Colorado. She writes, paints, cares for her husband, and spends time with her granddaughter.