Joe’s Story
“Eating better has really changed my life. I used to be on about eight medications. Now I'm only taking two pills.”

Joe, Montana

Joe Gaston, age 45, is a disabled veteran living in Bozeman, Montana with his wife and two children. He joined the military in 1988 because he otherwise would not have been able to afford to pay for college.  When Joe was forcibly discharged from the Navy in 1998 after being diagnosed with a mental health disorder, a friend informed him that he may be eligible for benefits through the Veterans Administration, and encouraged him to apply. It took two long years for Joe to be assigned only a 10% disability rating. In 2004, he was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, and again chose to go through the arduous VA application process. However, without anyone to help him, he was denied any additional benefits. “Even though the VA knew about our financial problems, and my medical needs, no one ever mentioned any other options for assistance like SNAP or WIC. We didn’t know they even existed.”

After moving to Montana in 2008, he decided to try yet again for a higher disability rating through the VA. This time, with the help of a VA counselor, he was eventually assigned 100%. Finally, after 10 years of financial and health-related hardship, Joe is now better equipped to provide for his family. “Eating better, has really changed my life. I used to be on about eight medications when we moved here, and now because the quality of food we are eating is better — more leafy greens and fruits, and almost no processed food — I am now only taking two pills, and I’m actually managing my MS better than I was before when I was on all of those medications for MS.”

Because his quality of life has finally improved, he hopes that others won’t become so discouraged that they give up before they make it through the paperwork. “I want people who are going through financial difficulties to know that there is hope, that the resources are out there now, and that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. But you can’t just sit there; you have to go and seek out help. There is a light at the end of the tunnel, but it needs to be a shorter road to get to that light.”