Once in awhile, a project comes along that demands attention, no matter what else a writer might be doing. The subject seizes you, calls to you, and insists that you bring it to a waiting audience. In the process, you realize that you’ve not only taken on a subject out of the comfort zone, but one that can impact a great many lives.
I’m watching the results of one such project now. In May, financial services planner/advisor Galen Maddy came to me with ten pages of notes, two media packages, a cumbersome tome on military veterans’ benefits, a few newspaper articles and a half-dozen phone numbers. Galen wanted a book fully describing one such benefit, the Veterans Non-Service Connected Disability Pension — the Aid & Attendance benefit. He told me how up to 2 million wartime veterans and their surviving spouses were eligible for a lifelong monthly stipend (of up to $1,801 per month) to help with ongoing medical care…but they likely didn’t know about it. Only about 143,000 were receiving it. The VA wasn’t promoting it, and few people were qualified or patient enough to navigate oft-elderly applicants through the mountain of paperwork and 6- to 9-month waiting process.
As the son of a U.S. Marine Corps veteran, I understood how vets deserved the best their country could give them—no matter what side of a particular war’s politics I stood on. So, even though military writing is hardly my forte (though I wrote a lot of military articles in the 1990s), I took on the ghostwriting project.
For the next four months, Galen and I put together the book “In Your Service” (now available through http://www.amazon.com and http://www.brannpublishing.com). We broke down the benefit, told stories—good and bad—of veterans’ experiences with and without benefits, and looked at a variety of ways in which qualified applicants can receive the benefit…which, in countless cases, spells the difference between good assisted living or in-home care and a sorrowful ending to a life that deserved better.
As I wrote this book, I thought of how we, as writers, become all-consumed in our own works — justifiably so. After all, emotional and creative consumption are the parents of completion when it comes to writing a book, especially a novel. Then I thought about how, if each qualified writer would step out to write one book — one small book or e-book! — on a matter of social concern, we’d change the world in so many wonderful ways.
Take “In Your Service,” for example. Every person who reads this book will either be a spouse or relative of a qualifying wartime vet, a friend, or know an acquaintance or associate who is trying to find assistance for the veteran of his/her concern. According to Galen’s math — which comes from a Spring 2007 NBC News report on the benefit —there are more than 1.8 million people who may be eligible for this benefit. That number is growing daily. The benefit could save their lives, prolong their lives and allow them to die with greater grace, dignity and comfort.
I came away from this unscheduled ghostwriting job with a new appreciation of creating books that not only help others, but change lives in the process. In Your Service is one such book. All working writers will have such an opportunity cross their desks at some point. I hope we each write one such book, completely removed from our own agendas or publishing plans, that simply reaches out and touches others — big-time.
You can order “In Your Service” for the veteran in your family or circle of friends and acquaintances by going to http://www.amazon.com or http://www.brannpublishing.com. For $9.95, you could well be opening the door to your veteran receiving thousands of dollars in badly-needed assistance benefits.