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 sharing resources and manpower and now look at us. A fine ship indeed with the best crew a skipper could ask for. Together, forward shipmates, we will sail. Gathering any that want to join our crew and work toward our common 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 want 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
HadIt.com the website domain registered Jan 20, 1997. The domain is registered and paid for thru Jan 21, 2023, at which time I plan to register it for another 15 years, Lord willing and the creek don’t rise.
I guess the best place to start is Jan 1991; I had gotten out of the navy Dec 1990. At my separation seminar, there was a DAV rep who told us to bring our medical records in and 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. I would not file the PTSD claim, nor even discuss it. I didn’t even understand what PTSD was then.
By Feb 1991 I had moved to the San Francisco bay area and was staying at a friend’s apartment and pretty much was just a puddle. In desperation one night I called the suicide hotline. I had no job, no idea about going to the VA. They talked with me for a long time and explained to me that I could go to the local VA hospital even if I did not have insurance. Now I know what you are thinking if I was 50% why didn’t I just go to the VA in the first place? Two reasons, 1st, this was Feb 1991 and the 50% didn’t come till May and secondly, even if it had come thru it is unlikely that I would have had the mental acuity 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 and 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 how to do 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 on and so forth. Of course this was 1991/1992, I was living in a tiny studio apartment in a particularly bad neighborhood, working in a sheltered workshop where I earned a nickel per envelope I stuffed, throw in PTSD and 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 finally a positive one 🙂 It seemed only natural to me that surely there must be a website that contained 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 was a lot of stuff 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. 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 start 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 starts to grow, I can’t tell you how many times I had to switch servers for space and features. Emotionally I continue on a downward trend and in 1998 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 and 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. At some point 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. 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. At 21 years old, she is established and going strong, I couldn’t be more pleased or proud. Thank you to everyone who has supported her growth.