David Brayton is a staunch individualist, a loyal friend, a family man, a fierce patriot, and a Vietnam-era veteran.
He’s also dying. He’s literally suffocating, as pulmonary fibrosis effectively turns his lungs into rock.
David was diagnosed with end-stage pulmonary fibrosis in December, 2015, and is in desperate need of a double lung transplant – a transplant he’s been battling with the VA for 18 months for permission to obtain close to his Los Angeles home instead of being forced to move thousands of miles away from his family. There are only two VA Medical Centers that perform lung transplants, and the VA expected David to relocate before they would even do tests to confirm that he is a good candidate for a transplant.
Yes, you read correctly. David and his wife, Courtney, are small business owners in a Los Angeles suburb and have one son still at home, in high school. Yet the VA wanted him to move – just David and his wife, not their 16-year-old son – to either Seattle or to Madison, WI, to have tests performed and then wait, wait, wait, for lungs that may not ever become available.
David finally – as of about eight weeks ago – received approval to be treated at UCLA Medical Center. After more than a year of begging Ann Brown, the Greater Los Angeles VA director, to approve essentially out-of-network coverage, Brown refused to communicate with David and Courtney (not shocking after this report). She simply sent word through lower-level bureaucrats that David was to be in Seattle (traveling in a medical transport plane due to his condition, at great cost to the government) by May 6.
It took the concerted efforts of Courtney, their friends, their Congressman and his staff (Rep. Steve Knight), and an army of conservative new media warriors to force the VA to give in. As a “Hail Mary,” Courtney organized a phone/email/social media blitz from May 2 to May 5 to pressure on the VA to approve David’s request to have treatment at UCLA. The VA leadership felt the pressure and on DAY ONE raised the white flag of surrender. As Courtney says (emphasis added):
“THANK YOU ALL who made phone calls, emailed, and shared via social media. EVERY SINGLE ONE made a difference. The VA and leadership in Washington DC felt the pressure. So much so, that they called after the approval and asked us to basically “call off the hounds”! THIS is how we get stuff done! Thank you for joining the effort. We couldn’t have done it with each of you!”
The Braytons are both vocal that this issue isn’t just about David’s transplant. It’s also about the hundreds (or thousands) of veterans who risked everything for their country and are now dying waiting for transplants. It’s about the massive management failures at the VA and lack of accountability. And it’s about ensuring that the promises our country made to its military men and women are kept.
Though David got his approval, he still plans to advocate for veterans and VA reforms with every ounce of energy he’s got.
Now David’s on a new journey, and he and his wife, Courtney, will be documenting it (along with me) on RedState. So, this is the first installment in what will hopefully not be a very long journey, but one that will end with health and happiness for the Brayton family, who are personal friends of mine.
I first met David and Courtney when I moved back home to the Los Angeles area in 2012 and started attending “secret” gatherings of conservatives working in media or entertainment.
Since I worked with conservative sites, there was no need for me to be “in the closet.” Many of our friends, however, had to remain silent as conservatives because their livelihoods at the studios depended on it. This was a lesson David learned painfully – which will be covered in our next installment – but in these secret groups he found the people who would be there when he needed them the most, and who helped turn the tide in his battle with the VA.