Kayla, St. Louis County

Kayla was raised in foster care and when she aged out of the program at 18, she found herself suddenly cut off from all government assistance programs, including her healthcare. She lived in her car for a year and a half before deciding to join the military so she could receive healthcare benefits. In the interim of foster care and joining the military, Kayla had no access to her mental health and pain medication she had previously relied on. She also had an emergency room visit that landed her with a $20,000 bill that went to collections that wasn’t forgiven until many years later.

Kayla is thankful to the military for providing an opportunity for medical care but feels people should have the ability to receive healthcare without signing up for the military. While in the military, Kayla notes that all of her physical health problems worsened significantly. She was also involved in a car accident while working that left her with a brain injury. She was denied the opportunity to see a doctor by her commander because she was scheduled to a posting during the time of her appointment. She eventually left the military and applied for Disability through Veterans Assistance, a process that lasted a full year, leaving her and her family uninsured and struggling to make ends meet. During this time both Kayla and her husband worked two jobs to provide for their two children. Kayla’s abrupt disruption in medication led to a spike in her depression which she was unable to receive care for as she was uninsured and unable to take time off work to find affordable medication and counseling. Kayla feels passionately that all people should have access to mental health care and states, “we need to allow people to get the care they need. Hard working people need a break, working your body like this with no care for your health can turn into unhealthy coping mechanisms like substance abuse. I’ve seen it happen”. In addition to having to dismiss her own medical needs, Kayla had to pay large costs for her children’s doctor’s visits while they waited for her case to be approved. This included a $500 visit for the Well Child immunizations her children needed in order to enroll her children in childcare.

Kayla took special precaution to document doctor’s visit and interaction she had regarding her health while in the military and eventually submitted around 2,000 documents to prove her need for Veterans Assistance. After a year of waiting she was granted full coverage; a welcome surprise as she states that most people are denied coverage the first time they apply. Kayla and her family’s medical care is now full covered at VA approved hospitals and while she is grateful for that, she is unhappy with the way these systems are set up. As Kayla states, “I shouldn’t have had to join the military and wreck my body permanently just to receive medical care. If people want to join the military it should be because they believe in the choice they are making, not because they need it to get off the streets. I hope my children never have to make choices like the ones I did. To have to choose between my medicine for my mental health and feeding my children is a choice no one should have to make”.