Toby Dorr
Episode 21

Episode 21

Toby Dorr: Hello and welcome to Fierce Conversations with Toby, the podcast that’s not afraid to tackle the tough stuff. Our mission is to address the topics we often shy away from. Bringing them into the spotlight because it’s these unseen issues that often hold us back.

Toby Dorr: I’m your host, Toby Dorr. In today’s episode, we’re going to talk to a power couple here in the veteran world in Washington, DC, uh, Geoff and Laura Spetter and Geoff and Laura host a. radio show called the Ve C. B. M. 6 80 out of Balt from 6 to 7 p. m. On satur

Toby Dorr: I think you’ll enjoy our conversation.

Toby Dorr: Thank

Toby Dorr: you so much for joining me on this episode of Fierce Conversations with Toby. Today I have two guests, Geoff and Laura Spetter, who run a radio show. They’re actually both veterans themselves, but they’re on a mission to support veterans and we’re excited to hear more about them, about what they do.

Toby Dorr: So before we start, Laura, can you tell me what your favorite color is and why?

Laura Spetter: Um, it’s all of them. Why pick one?

Toby Dorr: That’s a pretty good answer. How about you, Geoff?

Geoff Spetter: Mine’s green. It’s the color of life.

Toby Dorr: I like that. Yeah, that is a good one. That’s a great one. So I know that you guys have both servedmin the military in two different branches, I think. Why don’t you give us just a brief background of your military service? And Laura, let’s start with you.

Laura Spetter: Oh, okay. I served in the Air Force. I served from 1998 till 2011. And it was 14 years and I was a personalist, so I got paper cuts for a living. But I, I loved my job. I felt like I was pretty good at it because I like the regulations and I like helping people. So, if I can figure out a way to use a loophole to help somebody, that’s, that’s my bag.

Toby Dorr: How about you, Geoff?

Geoff Spetter: I did just shy of 21 years. The first seven years, I was a forward observer for field artillery. I was the guy on the ground that went and marked targets with lasers and made sure that the Spartans didn’t hit the targets. I adjusted the artillery and made sure they hit the targets, or I adjusted the close air support. Fixed wings and rotary ring aircraft. And then lost my hearing. then In 2003, I changed over to IT and then I did that for the last of the rest of the career.

Toby Dorr: Okay. So were you in what branch were you in?

Geoff Spetter: I was in the army. In the army.

Toby Dorr:  Okay, cool. Well, my husband is a Navy veteran. So, you know, veterans are near and dear to our hearts too. And my stepson’s a Navy veteran and my brother is a Marine and an Army veteran. So, we always love it when people, you know, my husband wears a hat sometimes that says desert storm veteran, and we go out in public and it always just touches my heart when people will stop and thank him for his service. I don’t think that happens enough and it really means a lot when it does happen.

Laura Spetter: It is nice when it happens. I think, it is, but it’s a conversation starter too, to start.

Toby Dorr: Yes, yes, it is. And you guys have a radio show and your radio show is called The Veterans Show and it airs on WCVM, which is station 680 out of Baltimore, Maryland. It airs every Saturday evening from six to 7:00 PM And tell us a little bit about how you got started hosting that show.

Geoff Spetter: Well, this is something that she fell in into really. And she’s been picking up and doing most of the work for it.

Laura Spetter: It really did fall into our laps. I had met the previous host, last year sometime, and in January, they called me and said that their sponsor pulled out and would we be willing to sponsor and it just so happened we had a little bit of extra money left over that was the same amount that the person needed to sponsor.

Laura Spetter: And when one door opens, you need to walk through it. And so my only thing was we asked the host, you know, the previous host to just kind of show, show us the ropes. Um, if we could sit in and see how this works, just, I don’t know why we needed to, but, you know, we just thought. Why not? And, then in May, the previous host left and the radio station called us up and asked if we would like to host. And we warned them that we had no communications experience doing this, but they said that was okay. And they’ve been really tolerant and helpful. And so, uh, we’ve done 11 episodes.Well, we’ve done, we have a guest host too that fills in when we can’t do it. So we’ve done 10 shows and Joe’s done one show. Um, but It’s just, it literally fell into our lap.

Toby Dorr: Excellent. I think it works so well when it’s not really scripted and it’s just kind of a natural conversation. So actually I think that’s an advantage that you’ve come in there with not a lot of polished skill because people can relate to it better that way. So we try to make a difference. And I know you talk about veterans and some of the issues that veterans face. So tell me a little bit about that stage. I know there’s a lot of different things that veterans face, but give me a little bit of information about what you find.

Laura Spetter: The way we say it is that it’s a show sponsored by veterans for veterans, and we want to help people navigate the VA system because it’s big and it’s huge and it’s confusing. And we have both been in the VA system for many years, and we’ve dealt with everything it feels like we also want to help people navigate the charity, the complex, veteran charity programs out there. Because that is just a huge web, and we’ve been in the charity area for a while with our combat veterans motorcycle association, but then we also want to highlight stories of our fellow veterans.

I think everybody’s story is extremely important, especially veterans. And so, uh, we want to highlight the good and the bad, you know, the war stories, if they’re willing to tell them, we have some Vietnam vets, on the 19th, we actually have a story coming out, or our show has a gentleman that was awarded the distinguished flying cross in Vietnam, so that was pretty neat, but we also have, difficult stories, we have a lot of veterans who are stationed in Uzbekistan, and they were just poisoned, and the government is pulling the same plausible deniability that they did with Agent Orange and with burn pits and everything.

And attention needs to be brought to it. And some people have brought attention to it, but they don’t stay on it. You know, like they put the story out and then they leave it. And you know, while they leave the story, these people are dying of cancer and nobody’s listening. Yeah.

Toby Dorr: And you know, I think what the veterans have given to the country is priceless. You can’t put a price on it. I mean, they went into places nobody else wants to go, and they did it willingly, and they did it with a fervor. And I think sometimes, you know, when they get out and they move on and out into the regular civilian life, some issues follow them, and it can be hard to fit in.

I did some time in prison, and when I got out of prison, I found it really hard to just assimilate back into society. And I talk a lot to my husband about some prison stories, and he tells me about his Navy stories out on the ship in the middle of the ocean. And, we both agree, they were the same thing. They were the same thing in so many respects. And I know it’s difficult to get back into society and just pick up and act like everybody else. You can’t because you’ve got experiences that everybody else hasn’t brought along with them.

Geoff Spetter: Well, it’s not, it’s not only that. I mean, it’s, it’s one of the things that, especially with army guys and ground troops who we did. I mean, when we signed up, we signed up and we basically wrote a blank check to our country to include in up to our, and to include our lives. And with the understanding that the country would take care of us when we came back with our medical problems, and it’s that issue. We upheld our end of the of the contract and we’re just waiting for the American people to uphold the rest of theirs.

Toby Dorr: I think that makes sense. You know, and we’re really blessed that my husband’s in the VA system because for many years of our marriage, we didn’t have health insurance, but he did. And that was a real blessing, but there’s also a lot of cumbersome hoops you’ve got to jump through to get that service. And it’s kind of a trade off. And then there’s some people who think, well, why should they get free medical care, I don’t get free medical care and I think they forget about the price they paid for that. Right?

Geoff Spetter: Right. Like with these, uh, these troops that were the country sent them to a Russian munitions dump Where they knew the Russians had dumped not only chemicals but also nuclear waste. And so, I mean, Why shouldn’t they be getting given free medical care for the rest of their life?

Toby Dorr: It’s true. So tell me about a turning point in your life that propelled you in a new direction. And I’m, I’m sure it’s going to have something to do with your military service, but give us an idea of something that really sticks out in your mind as a turning point.

Geoff Spetter: It was really after we got married and, and they found the tumor in her hip.

Toby Dorr Yeah, health things definitely will do that. That’s for sure.

Laura Spetter: That’s what, you know, the one of the things that makes us want to do this show as well, because I’ve been in the medical system for so long. I’ve seen, you know, the nitty, the gritty, the hard, but I’ve also dealt with really wonderful doctors.

I have learned how to, I always call it train doctors. A lot of doctors, like I said, are wonderful, but a lot of them are very book smart, but very human stupid. So I’ve learned, you learn a way to talk to the doctors to get your best medical care. I know the VA system, I know the TRICARE system, everything. It’s been an intense learning experience, but it’s also, I think we have a problem on how we treat veterans. Um, there’s a lot of people, or the DOD, the VA is just pushing medications on us instead of, and telling us we have a disorder, a PTSD disorder. And there’s no disorder about it.

We have natural emotions to things that happened in our life, and we just need help navigating through those feelings. We don’t need pills for all of them. And yet, that’s what’s happening. And then those pills are making a lot of us much worse. And we’re having to deal with the repercussions of it. And there’s not a lot of information out there.

There’s charities that are trying to help with this. But there’s a really huge… disconnect, you know, like it seems like everybody wants to do the right thing, but they’re just talking past each other. Right.

Toby Dorr: Sounds kind of like Congress. Let’s have a congressional hearing for 52 years and never make a decision.

Laura Spetter: That’s literally what Uzbekistan and the people at K2 are dealing with. I mean,

Geoff Spetter: why is it that the PACT Act is the most significant health legislation for the VA in the last 30 years? But it’s wrong.

Laura Spetter: The PACT Act is wrong. They didn’t include everything. And my thing, here’s my thing about the PACT Act or any of this. The government puts the requirement on us veterans to prove that they got us sick. I think the government needs to prove that they didn’t get us. Yes. Yeah. And the second that we get out, we should have full-blown medical care. We’re not asking for tons of money or anything like that. We’re just asking when we get sick, we go to the doctor.

We don’t have co pays or anything like that. We just want to be medically taken care of. That’s it simple. We’re not asking for hundreds of thousands, millions of dollars. It’s just, I don’t understand why it’s such a simple solution. that they just refuse to do. Um, you know, they’re telling people this paperwork. They want to, backdated for a year. These people separated 15, 20 years ago and they got sick almost right after, you know, they got out. So it shouldn’t just be backdated to a year. It should be backdated to your retirement or separation date. They put too many, everybody’s proud of the PACT Act, but there’s too many loopholes in it that are able, the government’s able to get out of taking care of us. And it’s just the same thing over and over again, with the Agent Orange, with the burn pits, with now this, it’s just, and now you start to wonder, it seems on purpose. It truly seems on purpose at this juncture.

Toby Dorr: Yeah, that’s interesting because, you know, I wonder if it is on purpose, that’s one thing. If it’s just that it’s not important enough and they’re discounting it, that’s a totally different thing. And I think you have to kind of figure out what’s happening in order to be able to solve it. It

Geoff Spetter: almost seems… It almost seems that as we are, um, since we moved from, well, before abstinence Vietnam, and we’ve become a all volunteer force, it’s now that we are, um, almost considered disposable citizens.

Toby Dorr: And yet what would you do without your military? I mean, they are so critical to our country.

Laura Spetter: So how we’re finding that out because of the recruiting rates and all of that. I mean, we’re finding it out. And, the thing is, is that the military, we are less than 1 percent of the American population. There’s 331 million people in America, and we are 1 percent of that. And you’re telling me you can’t take care of us? Like the K2 veterans. There were less than 16, 000 veterans stationed in Uzbekistan, but we can help millions of other people who haven’t done squat for this country. The K2 veterans are dying of cancers and crazy, the guy that I interviewed, uh, Mark Jackson last week who was on the show, he even helped get the PACT Act started and he’s getting shunned too and his medical care is not 100 percent covered because it’s not cancer yet.

They want, they’re waiting for it to die and then once we, we do die, then we still have to fight for benefits. It’s sickening really,

Toby Dorr: Since I’ve known my husband, it’s been about 14 years and we’ve lived in Boston in Kansas City and here in the Washington DC area. And it’s amazing to me how different the VA care is in different places. I can’t believe how so. The best care was when we were in Leavenworth, Kansas. It was it just doesn’t even compare to here and here, you know, we have to drive an hour to see a doctor and that’s kind of ridiculous, I think, and wait, you know, forever to get in. And it just seems like there should be some consistency. It’s the same system. Why can Leavenworth, Kansas be so outstanding and caring and Washington, D. C., which is in the center of the government and the, the whole military’s base is out of there. And the care isn’t nearly as great. So I think that’s kind of sad.

Geoff Spetter: Right. There’s no, and that’s the fact that there’s nothing in the Northern Virginia region for health care for veterans. You either have to go into DC or you have to go to West Virginia.

Laura Spetter: And we have in Virginia, we have some of the biggest population of veterans.

Toby Dorr: I was going to say, there are so many retired military people I run into who are doing contract work for the government now, and they’re all right here.

Laura Spetter: And what’s weird is that there’s so much networking. I mean, these people are all different levels of what they used to be in the military, working in the, you know, what they are in the government now. So why aren’t they able to pull some strings to get a, you know, clinic or something here other than in this smack dab in the middle of D.C.? And it just makes you wonder. Well, since this show, there are a lot of questions that I am beginning to ask. Um, and it seems I don’t want them, I don’t want to be cynical and I don’t want them to be nefarious, but there’s some legitimate questions that need answered. Um, you know, why isn’t there hospitals here? Well, does it have to do with money and clinics around this area are making more money from government contracts, taking care of veterans? Building a new VA system. I don’t know.

Toby Dorr: That’s interesting. That’s an interesting question because, you know, we did have to go to an emergency room once and we went to a UVA here and, uh, you know, maybe that’s part of it.

Laura Spetter: Imagine getting the charge. I mean, they’re getting the charge, the U S government, uh, probably a huge upcharge. Um, it’s just, it’s not about the veteran. It’s about money and all about money.

Geoff Spetter: And one thing that we’ve noticed is that the states that we’ve been into been to the lower the veteran population, the larger the benefits are is because they have more money to spend.

Toby Dorr: Oh, interesting.

Laura Spetter: Yeah. So we were in Idaho and Idaho

Geoff Spetter: Almost every single one of them is a veteran. Yeah, you would think they would let the state would offer these amazing benefits to the veterans. And basically here’s your free park pass and here’s your free fishing license. Oh wow. Maryland, in the state of Maryland, we’re technically residents of Maryland. Maryland gives their veterans that we have free Vehicle registration for life. We don’t have to get our inspection done. And why is that? Why, why can’t it be across the board? That’s my thing. Why can’t you just take care of veterans across the board? Any hospital that we want to walk into is covered. Any benefits like the vehicle registration or, you know, tax incentives, not our retirements, not being taxed or anything like that.

Laura Spetter: It should just be across the board. We served this country and what’s crazy. We’re paying our own taxes into our own paychecks.

Toby Dorr: And we’re supposed to be great. Yeah, that’s true. So what is one thing that you, um, feel a push to make a difference in? I mean, we’ve talked about the medical care, but is there something else that’s something small that maybe the listeners could have an impact on?

Laura Spetter: Um, yeah, there’s so much that you can do and you know I used to sit on my couch and wonder what I could do I sit here looking at the world and thinking that I just don’t have the right gifts or I don’t have enough money or I don’t have this and none of that matters. It’s really just about helping. Ask somebody how you can help them. But when you do, make sure you follow through. It costs usually nothing to help. And most people who need help just need it for a second. They just want somebody on or standby for a second. And, uh, I think that’s the lost art of, uh, what’s been going on is people have forgotten how to have a conversation and how to say, can I help you?

And how can I help you? What do you need?

Toby Dorr: I think we’re so busy and so focused on our phones that, you know, people walk around and it amazes me. I was in Target this week and this woman’s having a full blown phone conversation on her phone on speakerphone in the middle of Target. And I’m thinking. Can’t you just shop without talking on the phone? I mean Can’t you just be aware of what’s around you and I were so distracted by our phones I think that we truly don’t notice who passes us on the sidewalk and that’s sad.

Laura Spetter: I think You know, my opinion is, is, um, I think we’re distracting ourselves with our phones and everything else. That way we don’t have to talk about the hard subjects difficult things, because if we start to have a difficult, if we have to start to deal with the difficult honesty of the reality, that’s actually around us, some people are not strong enough for that, but let’s teach you how to be strong enough. You know, I, I, that’s my, so many people don’t feel like they have a voice.

Laura Spetter: And so with this show, we want to give you a voice. Your voice is important.

Toby Dorr: Everyone has a voice. We just have to learn where we can use it to get the most impact. And I think it’s just beautiful that you guys are doing this radio show and, you know, kudos to you for taking this risk and stepping outside of your comfort zone and doing something because I’m sure you reach so many more people on that radio show than you ever do just talking to people on the street or in the VA hospital. So. You definitely seized an opportunity and are doing something great with it.

Geoff Spetter: Yeah, it’s about it’s about building community, you know And helping out your neighbor. At the end that’s who you got to count on.

Toby Dorr: And your radio show now you are also releasing it as a podcast as well, correct? And we’re going to provide a link to your radio show station and a link to your podcast in the show notes so our listeners will be able to follow you and see what you’re doing and hopefully, we’ll reach some people out there who maybe have some ideas to contribute that you all can work on together to make a difference in the world.

Laura Spetter: That would be fantastic. Networking, networking, and more networking.

Toby Dorr: You know, my husband and I always said, one plus one, we’re talking about ourselves, the two of us together. One plus one doesn’t equal two. It’s more like 11 because when you work with someone else, it just exponentially multiplies the work that you do because you feed off of each other and you build better ideas and stronger ideas. And so that’s the power of community.

Laura Spetter: Love that.

Toby Dorr: So what’s one question you wish I’d ask? Is there something that you’d like to talk about or share that we haven’t brought up? So

Laura Spetter: I can talk all day, so it’s hard to set me up. How’s your bird?

Toby Dorr: So, Laura’s talking about, I would go to Chick-fil-A every morning. I had this habit and I would sit in the parking lot, eat my Chick-fil-A biscuit and I would feed this bird. And I got to the point where he would fly and sit on the roof of my car and even sit on the side mirror. So I could feed him  biscuit and then I had a total knee replacement in March and I wasn’t able to get out and drive to the Chick-fil-A like I used to and, and now when I go, my bird has forgotten me. I don’t see him anymore. So I’ll have to start over.

Laura Spetter: Hopefully he’s just tending to his nest or something.

Toby Dorr: I do see him still, but he just doesn’t come to my car. I actually think my bird is a she, and I think she did build a nest and had babies this year.

So, you know, but one of these days, maybe she’ll come back and sit on, maybe she’ll sit on my finger someday.

(side note: my bird is now back and waiting for her scrambled egg each morning. Guess we just had to get breeding season over with.)

I think that’d be so cool. That would be neat.. So what’s one word that inspires you?

Laura Spetter: Courage. Trust. Courage.

Toby Dorr: Courage and trust. I love those. Words are so powerful. And you know, if I have a book that I think is something I want to think about for a while, I always have to get the physical copy and I underline it and write in it and I collect words because they’re so powerful.

And I love that. I love courage and trust. I think that’s great. And that’s how Fierce Conversations with Toby got its name. Because at the time I was considering doing a podcast, the word fierce was just stuck in my head. And it was like, I got to do something with fierce. I, I have to use this word in some way. And then I ended up starting a podcast. Now I’ve kind of got audacious stuck in my head. I’m going to have to do something audacious now.

Laura Spetter: Those are good words. I do like the title of your show though. it flows. T

Toby Dorr: Fierce conversations. Where we talk about things that we don’t usually talk about in public. We talk about the difficult things because I think it’s in the difficult things that we really grow and can make changes in the world.

Laura Spetter: I could not agree more. We need to have more difficult conversations, more fierce conversations.

Toby Dorr: Absolutely. Absolutely. We need to start a trend.

Laura Spetter: No, they’re not hard. Once, you gotta get through the little bumps, but once you get through it, it will be well worth it.

Toby Dorr: I found that when you start to talk about the hard things, it is so freeing. You know, it just is like a breath of fresh air. And it gets ideas out there into the world where something can happen with them. So I love that. Well, thank you so much, you guys for being on our podcast and I can’t wait to share your episode with the world.

Laura Spetter: Thank you. Thank you for having us.

Toby Dorr: Thank you for listening to Fierce Conversations with Toby. We appreciate all the support you can give, and I’d like to share four ways that really help our show. One, subscribe to our Patreon channel at patreon. com slash Fierce Conversations, where 10 percent of our proceeds are used to provide workbooks to women in prison.

Toby Dorr: Two, Like and subscribe to this podcast wherever you listen and watch by clicking the plus sign, the thumbs up or the heart button. Pressing subscribe on YouTube as well helps even more. Three, share this episode with your friends and family by telling them about it and post about it on your social media accounts.

Toby Dorr: Four, write a review on whatever platform you are using to listen to this episode. Your support is truly what keeps this show going. The show notes contain links to all the ways you can support us, as well as links to information for our guests today and links to purchase my books. Fierce Conversations with Toby is created and hosted by Toby Dorr and produced by Number 3 Productions, a division of Grace Point Publishing.

Toby Dorr: Music created and arranged by Lisa Plasse, owner of From the Top Music Studio. This is Fierce Conversations with Toby. Escape your prison.

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