Archive for the ‘Veterans Affairs’ Category

Trench Warfare

December 6, 2013

Hello, Friends.

It has been a while since I posted – I apologize for that. Life has been busy and I have been struggling. As you know – I was not hired for the Peer Support job. I have actually had three other interviews for other jobs in the system…three interviews – three rejection notices.

It wears on me. Even my boss is stunned – she can’t believe no one has “snatched me up.” She admits she dreads that day. What is really disturbing is when I find out that the person who got the job isn’t as qualified or doesn’t have the experience that I do.

I know in my heart it isn’t me – but let’s face it…the brain likes to tell me other things. The brain says, “You aren’t smart enough, you aren’t good enough, your just not anything enough.”

Then things happen like today. I had a visit with a special Veteran who reminded me that I changed his life. I made an impact – I did something special that no one else has ever done. It is moments like those that make me wonder that I am not “stuck” – I am blessed. Maybe I won’t move up until someone needs me. On the other hand, my husband reminded me that if I would just “not be so much of an advocate, if I would just be quiet, if I would not rock the boat.” maybe I would get promoted.

I have also been bummed that some of the Legislation we are working on has been trapped in committee because no one in Washington can seem to get their crap together on the other issues. Nope – no matter how hard certain people are trying…good MST legislation is stuck. It angers me…It makes me weep for those who are waiting.

It reminded me of trench warfare. I have spent time as both a field medic and a hospital medic. Being a hospital medic is awesome! Three squares a day, clean sheets, comfy rooms…no field gear to speak of. White dresses with white pantyhose and white shoes. No time away from family. Being a field medic is sort of lousy – even in peace time. Weeks in the field, cold MRE’s, shitty coffee – when you are lucky enough to get coffee! No sleep, hours of boredom followed by moments of sheer panic when you are called into action, followed by hours of boredom. Or worse – hours of useless training followed by hours of useless training. Dirty boots, dirty face, dirty clothes. If you are lucky you might get to rack out for an hour or two. If you are really lucky – you might even find space that is warm…or cool…depending on the climate.

The difference between the hospital and the trench is who reaches the wounded first. In trench warfare the only ones who can save the “wounded” are those who are in the trench with them – cold, muddy, dirty, tired. No matter what happens in the hospital – it is those on the line that are the ones that will make a difference.

I had a person in a local store the other day – a stranger to me – suffer a seizure. I just happened to be near the customer service desk when they paged it out. Being a small town – I offered to do what I could until the ambulance arrived. The man had cut his face in the fall, was no longer seizing but was very confused and agitated. I knelt beside him and talked to him, kept him still as the pool of blood got larger around us. They brought me gloves to put on and I wanted to put pressure on the wound but anything agitated him further. A woman, a nurse, arrived on the scene. She would not touch him and when she did – she made them get her a hand wipe. She refused the gloves and just slipped paper towel under him. She acted like she cared – but she wouldn’t touch him. There was blood. I held him until the ambulance arrived, amid the blood, and spoke softly to him. Wounded is wounded – either by blood or by spirit.

The trench is a hard place to be – you are constantly reminded of what has happened to you, what is happening to others and the things you cannot change. You know the enemy – you see the enemy – but you can’t touch them…they are in the wire and they practically mock you as you try to stop the bleeding.

I will stay in the trench – I will man the wire – I will hold the line. I will save as many as I can – no matter who I piss off in the process. Maybe I will spend the rest of my life, the rest of my career in the trench. It will be okay – I will be okay. Someone has to stop the bleeding, bind up the wound, minister to the heart and to the hurt.

There are many of us out here – we read one another’s blogs, we send messages and emails. We are the medics in the trenches. I am grateful for you – because you lift me up when I am in pain.

Peace,

Joan

The Interview

May 6, 2013

Hello, Friends,

I am stopping in to ask a huge favor! I am in need of your prayers, positive thoughts and happy energy! After years of being “stuck” in my current job…I have an opportunity for a big interview…BIG – I mean really B…I…G!

For the last year I have been exploring the Peer Support certification and receiving formal training for a lot of the work I already do with my VSO and here at EitW. Many of you know that this blog began as a way to digest my own therapy…make sense of my own trauma and as a place to spew into the WWW everything I am feeling or thinking.

As time has gone on…and as more people have taken to reading this blog – we have reached out to others as a kind of a “support group.” We are not alone. Our experiences are different – but we have a choice…we can live or we can die. I don’t necessarily mean a physical form of death…but that happens, too….but a psychological death where the bastards win. I have chosen to live.

In just a few days I will be interviewing for a job, at my same employer, that will allow me to continue doing what I love doing…helping others to find their way out of the darkness. I would be doing Peer Support on a full-time paid basis! My tail is wagging! My tongue is hanging out drooling!!!! There are no words to describe how bad I want this job! I want this job so bad I am prepared to fall down on my knees and beg!

I am good at helping people – that is what I have been told. I love to encourage people and to lift them up. I was a “bullied child.” Constantly, every day – someone would bully me. I was pushed, punched, slapped – I was sexually violated. That hurt – but what really hurt were the words. “You are stupid, worthless, a nerd, a dog a squirrel. You aren’t good enough. You aren’t smart enough. You are a failure. You bring it on yourself – ya know…you squirrel. You’re fugly, ugly, four-eyed freak.” Even writing them sends a chill down my back…I can hear them – those taunts still ring in my ears. Sometimes…it still affects me. When I feel isolated from a group, or different – I can feel the little girl in me curl up and try to hide in the corner.

I had a few close friends. Not many. I had a couple of great teachers I really liked – they liked me too! We spent time together. One of them got me through Chemistry class with a C…since I can’t do math that was a huge accomplishment!

I like to make people feel good with words. All of the people that I have met through this blog have been such an inspiration to me! They push the envelope, they reach out, they open their hearts. They have encouraged me to do the same. I was at a VSO event this weekend and this woman walked up to me and said, “you are Joan…right? I hear you help veterans – can you help me?” Of course – of course I can help. I will do anything to help.

This feels like my shot, my chance – the one thing that will make everything okay. I recently turned down a “dream job” with my church. The money was good enough…but I called my priest and said…”Father, I’m sorry. The job is perfect for me…but something is wrong! I don’t think I am supposed to leave the VA.” He laughed…and then he agreed with me. He thinks I would be perfect for the job – but he is concerned that it would require me leaving the VA – he thinks God has a purpose for me right where I am.

We both had the same concerns. We both had the same worries. You know I always say…there is no such thing as a coincidence!

Three weeks later I get an interview for a job that would allow me to do nothing but encourage and lift up my brothers and sisters who are living with mental illness. A chance to offer support to their families..I know what it is like to be a mother of a mentally ill son who has a drug problem. I know what it is like to be a homeless Veteran with three young children. To live in a domestic violence shelter. To fight with the system for benefits, for help, for support. I know what it means for just one person to believe in you. Just one.

It isn’t about money, or paychecks or benefits. That isn’t why I work at the VA. I’m not saying the VA is perfect – I can tell you a long list of bad experiences, horrible flaws, ugly days. It doesn’t even have to be the VA – I can tell you about horrible people and experiences in private medicine! Expensive medicine with bitchy, mouthy, hateful people working there.

I’m far from perfect – but I try to give every patient one thing…a smile and a kind word. That may be the only thing I have to offer in a day. Maybe something to laugh about. A moment of respect, a moment of understanding or just a squeeze to their hand to let them know that I care. Every place that serves customers is built on one thing and one thing only – the people that work there. You can have the most beautiful facilities, the best equipment and state of the art systems – but if the people spend their days sucking on sour pickles…it doesn’t mean anything. People will forget what you did and what you say – but they will never, ever forget how you make them feel.

I have had some really terrific success stories drawing blood. I know, clerking and drawing blood doesn’t sound like much – but it is where the rubber meets the road. A link in the chain for how people “feel” about the time they spend here. I told one gentleman, who served in Vietnam, that I felt that he was a “hero.” Three months later he came back with a beautiful letter for me. It said that no one had ever called him that, no one had ever thanked him for his service like that. He was driving one day and it just hit him and he bawled so hard he had to pull off the road. We stood in the clinic hall crying our eyes out. I have that letter and I will never, ever part with it.

Let’s face it – the one thing that all of us have in common, as MST Survivors, is the way the perpetrators made us feel. The way the military made us feel – like we are worthless, nothing, that we are the crazy ones! They all made us feel like we were dirt…rags…something to be used and kicked aside. Then – they told us we were crazy, we were nuts! I was diagnosed by a civilian shrink as a “borderline personality disorder with Cluster B traits.” Talk about nuts. Cluster B traits essentially mean that you are a “drama queen” and that everything revolves around you. Like I was paranoid and accusing others of things that didn’t happen.

You know what is funny – “borderline personality disorder with Cluster B traits” has many of the EXACT SAME SYMPTOMS of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Paranoia…check, worried that people are going to hurt you…check. It is partially defined as: extreme “black and white” thinking, instability in relationships, self-image, identity and behavior often leading to self-harm and impulsivity.

In other words – he was saying…”you know, you are bringing a lot of this on yourself.”

What did the VA therapist, psychiatrist and comp and pen people say about it…because I asked my therapist outright!!! She said – no, Joan…you are not borderline personality disorder with cluster B…you are a classic PTSD. Although it took me a really long time to describe myself as having PTSD.

That was quite the moment – I must say. The moment when I realized that it isn’t my fault. That I didn’t “ask for it” or “bring it on myself.” The moment that I realized that I was “normal” – as normal as anyone else that survived this shit. They were the screwed up ones. I’m okay – they are pieces of shit!

Wow – I hope the staff interviewing me doesn’t see this ūüôā Might be the end of the job interview :-)!!

Actually – I’m not afraid of them seeing any of what I have ever written. I care. I care about the Vets I serve. I care about making things in the world right. I may not be able to do much…but I can make it right for the few people I see in a day. Please keep me in your warm thoughts!

Peace,
Joan

Assumptions

November 5, 2012

Hi All,

I wanted to share what happened¬†last Friday. I called the main VA in Iowa City, to set up my follow-up appointment. The woman who answered the phone had absolutely no personality, and acted like she was very irritated she had to answer her phone. Tip one for this lady, if you don’t like answering the phone to schedule appointments, get another job. Duh!

Anyway, she proceeded in the gruff tone, this is the conversation we had:

VA: NAME?

Me: B****

VA: What’s his last 4?

Me: 1234

VA: Oh this isn’t working, was that V as in Vern, or D as in Dog?

Me: B as in BOY

VA: What’s his first name?

Me: (I gave my first name, which could be considered androgynous)

VA: His middle name?

Me: CATHERINE

VA: Oh

Might I state there is no way anyone could ever guess I was a man on the phone, I most definately have a high-pitched, woman’s voice. She never went on to say she was sorry or anything, just seemed even more irritated that I was a woman. I did make the appointment, but did this whole thing just piss me off. I texted Joan and told her, she wasn’t too happy either. I didn’t read in the rule book, or the guides I got from the VA that ALL VETS ARE MEN. I swear, I put up with enough of that crap while I was in, I sure don’t need it now. And I am not all that thrilled to be going to the VA to begin with. I told my co-workers about her, and they were kind of pissed off too. I said with her personality, she was more like a grouchy old nun teaching school 30+ years ago.

Never assume anything. I am going to lodge a complaint when I have my next appt, maybe get her some sensitivity training or another job. I have figured out there are only a few times EVER that anyone is safe to assume the sex of the person the appointment is for. Setting up an OBGYN appointment, or a prostrate exam. Other than that, and you are at risk for making an ass out of yourself, which is what happens when we assume.

Change can’t come fast enough,

Brigid

The War On Terror

September 11, 2012

I remember the exact moment I heard about the Twin Towers. I was at work, and someone had heard about it on the radio. I thought it was awfully late to be playing an April Fool’s Day joke on us. Then more and more people started talking about it, so I turned on my radio, because I was sure they were all messing with me. It was like a really bad dream. Shock, disbelief, worry, fear. That is what we all felt. Then some of my co-workers went to the fitness room to watch it unfold on the only TV in the building. I couldn’t will myself to go, I didn’t want to see it. I wanted to crawl into a ball and hide under my desk. How could this happen?

Then I thought of my daughter, and called the school. I suddenly wanted to leave work, so I could go and get her, and wrap my arms around her and hold her until we all woke up from this horrific nightmare. The school informed me that several parents had called, some had come to pick up their children. But they encouraged me to let her stay. They promised me the children were all protected from this news, that they felt it was the parent’s right to tell them about this attack. But what they didn’t know was my little girl was in the library, and they were watching it on the TV there. They were just as confused and frightened as we were.

Then President Bush declared The War On Terror. Those words have been drilled into our brains for more than a decade since the anniversary of 9/11.¬†The War On Terror. What is that really?¬†For me, I fought in my own war on terror. The nightmares, the anxiety attacks, the depression, anger, hoplesness. I fight the war on terror daily in my mind. I was terrorized for more than a decade by several of my fellow soldiers, long before this ‘war on terror’. Why didn’t someone¬†come to rescue me, and stop my terror?

I don’t want to take a single minute away from all of our wonderful¬† troops (non-predators) who¬†fought in Iraq and Afghanistan.¬†¬†I never supported this war, but always supported our troops. Think of all the resources we spent on this ‘war’ and how many lives were lost. How many lives were ruined due to injuries/trauma? What did we gain by fighting this war? I don’t think we did. I think we lost more that we can calculate. The predators really were working overtime these last 11 years. So many MST cases, so many VA Claims.

I just wish President Bush would have ended the war on terror in the ranks. He could have, being the Commander-in-Chief. So could President Obama. What is it going to take?

Praying for change,

Brigid

I’m On A Mission

September 7, 2012

About 2 weeks ago, I wrote a letter to Governor Branstadt¬†of Iowa, asking him to make a change in the Iowa National Guard. I pointed out that he was the Commander-In-Chief, like the President, and had the power to stop letting these predators keep on abusing us in the National Guard. I¬†told him the statistics, how this has been going on for years, and how the Iowa National Guard is the worst offender. I begged him to do something, and asked what would he have done if his son had actually served, and been raped. Maybe that is why he hasn’t responded, I do not know. But that isn’t going to¬†discourage me. I plan on writing him again and again and again, because I am just so stubborn, and pissed off.

But I have decided to take it a step or two farther, because that is just how I am. I have decided I am going to start an email campaign, and write all members of the Senate and also the House of Representatives, both state and federal. And then I am going to do the same thing for all states, including governors. I hope I can start some kind of movement, and encourage others to do the same thing. Remember, one voice in a storm can go unheard. Many voices in a storm cannot be ignored forever. Please join me in my mission.

You can find the email addresses and fax numbers for ALL Congress Members and Governors at the following website:  http://www.conservativeusa.org/mega-cong.htm

Below is the letter I wrote to Governor Branstad:

Dear Governor Branstad,

I would like to bring your attention to an article that was on the front page of the Cedar Rapids Gazette on Thursday, August 9, 2012. I am providing the link to it, in case you didn’t. It was titled ‘Local Veterans Speak Out About Military Sexual Trauma.” http://thegazette.com/2012/08/09/local-vets-speak-out-on-military-sex-assault/

I am a veteran, who tried valiantly to serve my country in the Iowa National Guard for over a decade, in spite of the fact that I was repeatedly raped, harassed and discriminated against. I am not the only one. In fact, I know of at least 20 women who suffered some of the same things I did while serving right here in the great state of Iowa. Nothing was ever done, we were all told it was our fault, we all were punished and branded as trouble makers, and Godd***ed Females. I lost my career over trying to make it stop. I even caused my unit to be investigated by the Inspector General’s Office. I attend a Female Veteran’s Retreat every year on the English River, and guess what the #1 topic is? Military Sexual Trauma and PTSD.

I even wrote a letter to The Adjutant General, pleading with him to make a change. Nothing has. Since I left the Iowa National Guard 14 years ago, other women veterans I served with told me of their rapes & harassment. I was so angry to find out my sacrifice accomplished nothing, and that it only got worse. I work with a man who served 20 years in the Army Reserves here in Cedar Rapids, and I asked him one day why he chose the Reserves over the Guard. He said it was because he couldn’t stand the way they treated the women, that the National Guard is the worse branch of the military for how they treat women. Unfortunately, I have heard this many times.

Pardon me for being so bold, but are you NOT the Commander-In-Chief of the Iowa National Guard? And as such, have you no power to make this stop, and stop immediately? Or do you agree with most of my own chain of command, that if a woman wants to be in the military, she gets what she deserves? Do you know in the military 1 in 3 women, and 1 in 10 men are sexually assaulted? What if your son served, and was raped? What would you do? 

What will you do now?

Thank You For Your Time,

Brigid

Spoils of War

August 20, 2012

What does that mean to you? How many times have you heard that term? Think about it. What three words ALWAYS proceed that statement?

RAPE AND PILLAGE

That was the reward for winning the battle. Take whatever you want of the enemy’s and rape as many women as you want. Make them slaves, kill them, it didn’t matter. They¬†were just women anyway.

Some of the greatest military leaders of all times adhered to this. To reward the soldiers for doing a good job. Napoleon, Ceasar, Alexander the Great, Ghengis Kahn, the list goes on and on and on.

What about the Vikings? Do you know what Viking means? To go a-viking means simply to go and rape and pillage, and decimate the opponent.

Oh, let us not forget about our own history here. The Civil War. Didn’t matter which side you were on, but if you were lucky enough to march up to a nice plantation, or a farm house of nothing but women, chances of at least one of those women being raped was pretty high.

World War II, Korea, Vietnam. Yes, our soldiers did a lot of raping in those wars. Lots of raping. And it wasn’t always raping the enemy. They were raping the male soldiers back then, and what about the female staff of nurses?

Desert Storm, Iraqi Freedom. These last two wars changed everything. Now our soldiers stop raping the enemy, and started raping ONLY their fellow soldiers. Men and women being raped by the people supposed to cover them in the fox hole, or to be their backup, raping them.

During The Invisible War, there was a statistic that made me almost vomit on the spot. They say a sexual predator in the military will go on to assault/abuse 300+ soldiers.

300+ soldiers. And there is no sex offender registry for them, unless they are actually convicted AND spend more than a year in prison. And that is rare. It is about 1% of all REPORTED military rape cases that actually result in a conviction with jail time, and only a FEW of them are for over a year.

After the film was over, a gentleman in the audience said none of this went on while he was serving. Joan’s husband was beside me and said, “Oh yes it did, you just didn’t notice.”

Last week was the anniversary of the first female Marine. Pvt. Opha Mae Johnson became the first woman to enlist in the Marine Corps Reserve Aug. 13, 1918. But rape in the military started even before then. The Revolutionary War, women like Florence Nightingale and others who tended to the wounds of the soldiers, many were raped by the soldiers.

All of these examples caused my boyfriend to say, “That’s why women just don’t belong in the military!” I don’t know why I allowed him to keep his manhood after that, or why I didn’t lay him out flat. But we should feel sorry for dumb animals and men. That is NOT why women should serve. Women have EVERY right to serve. We also have the RIGHT to NOT be assaulted/raped/harassed/abused.

But how are we going to stop it, when the whole basis of the military since time began was rape and pillage?????

Pray for change

Brigid

The Best Revenge

August 9, 2012

Hello All,

The Prodigal Brigid has returned, at least for today. I am sorry I haven’t posted in a while. I can’t begin to tell you all the things I have gone through since I last wrote. I got very, very sick, and almost died. It has taken me a¬†several months to recuperate. But being the fighter that I am, I am still here. My daughter tells me I just refuse to die, and I hope she is right. In the middle of my illness, we welcomed my beautiful grandchild into the world. I have been stealing her almost every weekend, so my time is very limited these days. Enough of the excuses, time to get¬†down to business.

I finally did get my decision from the VA for my Comp & Pen. I got a whopping 30% service connected disability for PTSD. They didn’t want to give me even that much, because they said I was too happy. But they had to, because it is the minimum they can give for PTSD stemming from MST. And it didn’t help my case that I am not an alcoholic. Too Happy. Let that sink in a little. I have severe anxiety attacks, have extreme startled responses. I deadbolt my door every time I come home, and check it constantly through the night, to make sure it is locked. But I am too happy. It took me reaching out to my congressman several times to finally get my paperwork going. So now I get $392 a month in compensation. I swear, I feel like a cheap $5 whore, except I don’t get even that much. But it isn’t about the money, and it never was. Having CID admit that I really was raped in Ft Gordon was probably the best thing that came out of this. That they actually admitted it. The only negative thing in my plethora of pages of the decision was that I was too happy. Wish I actually was too happy. But I have always said the best revenge is living well. And the entire time I was a soldier, I had a mantra. NEVER LET THE BASTARDS WIN. So¬†I refused to let my chain of command see that they were winning the war against me. I learned to paste that fake smile on my face and pretend they were not getting to me. Guess I got too good at it.

On to current news. Joan and I were on the front page of the newspaper today, and even though we were photographed¬†so we wouldn’t be recognized, a couple of people still¬†knew it was me. I can’t tell you how scary that is. We did the interview, to try to bring in awareness for the film we are showing tomorrow night in Iowa City.¬†I thought we would just be a fluff piece in the entertainment section. I can’t repeat the slew of¬†profanity when Joan called and said we would be on the front page. Can you say PANIC ATTACK with me?¬†All of the responses have been positive, however, and we are hoping the message encourages more to come forward, seek help and compensation, and become survivors instead of victims like Joan and I have done.

Speaking of Joan, can I tell you what a wonderful woman she is? She is relentless, getting donations to have the film brought here. Her goal is to have every community see The Invisible War. It is amazing how quickly this is taking off. So it was worth it to be in the paper. To bring this issue to the front, and maybe not only help others find the courage to come forward, but to possibly effect a change in the military.

Joan, I have to tell you that you are such an amazing woman. You have done so much. How did I ever get so lucky to have you for my bestest friend in the whole wide world?

I told Joan that I believe the article has done more for the cause than the failed lawsuit Burke Law attempted. And don’t get me started on Burke Law PLLC. I don’t have anything nice to say about them, but I could run on for days on the cold hard Brigid-like truth about them. I will only say that someone really needs to take a stupid stick to them and beat some common sense and sensitivity into them.

I will stop here, and try to write more often. If you get a chance, please see The Invisible War. Spread the word. One voice in a storm usually goes unheard, but when you had several voices, it gets much harder to ignore.

Stay Strong,

Brigid

Don’t Ask…Don’t Tell?

March 14, 2012

Hi, Friends,

I had a situation come up last night at the VSO meeting that has me wondering…what do I do now?¬† By the time my husband told me about the conversation…it was too late for me to take immediate action.

Our current VSO Commander, who I consider a good friend, told my husband and another individual that he spoke to a couple of OIF/OEF Veterans about joining our VSO group. 

They asked, “Is Joan still involved?”¬†

¬†He replied, “Of course.”¬†

They stated…”Then I want no part of it.”

Of course, this leaves him with a lot of questions.¬† I can’t be sure exactly who they are – but I can tell you what unit they are from and I can tell you that they were probably in the unit when I went after Sgt. JERK.¬†

I was up a large part of the night thinking about how to handle this.¬† The other individuals response was – screw them…we got her and she isn’t going anywhere.¬† I have to say that I am pretty well liked in my VSO – if being tasked for Post, District and State duty is any indication.¬† This morning my thoughts are still racing and I feel like I can’t get enough air.¬† It is my quicksand feeling.¬† I hate that feeling.¬† I know that it is simply a minor panic attack – but I know that it can last for hours…even days.¬† Yes…I know that they say that panic attacks don’t last THAT long…I say – bullpuckey!

Now the question becomes; how much do I tell my friend?¬† Does he have some right to know the situation with my discharge.¬† After all, he is out there working hard and trying to recruit new members.¬† On the other hand, how much of my person do I have to sacrifice to continue to serve in my VSO?¬† When I say, Don’t Ask; Don’t Tell – I am not talking about the policy for homosexuals in the military – I am talking about the fact that MST Survivors don’t want to be asked…and certainly are taught not to tell!

Do I believe that this individual will be respectful of the information that I share.¬† Yes, I think I do.¬† After all, he is a man…and I have little trust in them.¬† However, he has proven over the years that he is an honorable person.¬† He isn’t out for his own gain in the VSO work that he does – for the most part.¬† Have I had multiple arguements with this man?¬† Yup, more than I can count!¬† However, he has usually been respectful, even when we fight like an old married couple.

How much do I tell him?  There are times that I have stepped out an told Рin an effort to encourage people in positions of power to do more to stop MST.  Normally, I get that look of sympathy, pity and a dash of unbelief.  I hate pity! 

I suppose I have to do something.  Either give an explanation or quit my VSO.  Once again Рthe perpetrators are trying to blame the victim.  I just hope that one day this will all end.

Thoughts and comments are appreciated.

Joan

Brigid’s Comp and Pen

April 21, 2011

Well, friends, yesterday was Brigid’s big day.¬† It was her comp and pen appointment with¬† the local VA.¬† I went with her so she wouldn’t be alone.¬† I remember how bad it was…being alone.¬† Not having any idea where you are going in a strange building with strange people.¬†

Since I work at this VA –¬†I couldn’t go here for my Comp and Pen – so I had to go to that strange building.¬† I had to sit with strangers and tell them the most shameful and intimate details of my life…my pain…my anguish.¬† I was afraid that any word taken out of context was THE word “those people” were looking for to call me a liar.¬† A liar, just like the Army said, so dishonorable.¬† As everyone knows, the VA believed me, and I was granted a 50 percent rating.

Brigid got to go to my building’s Comp and Pen.¬† I have heard so many people say very good things about the hospital I work for.¬† I’ve also heard nightmares!¬† In fact, I’ve had some of those nightmare days as a patient.¬† I was so proud of our Comp and Pen people.¬† They did such a terrific job.¬† In fact, the Psychiatrist started with the statement – “just so you know, I’ve read all of your records, this is really just a formality, I see you have a diagnosis of PTSD.”¬† Well, that certainly took the stress right out of Brigid!¬† It also took away a lot of my stress.¬† My stress was two-fold.¬† One, about taking care of Brigid and two, about not being horribly embarrassed by my own VA.

I will let Brigid tell the rest when she is ready.  I do have to say I was really proud of her!  She did a great job!!

Joan

Playing the Claim Game

November 18, 2010

I know that my posts have been sporadic and far apart lately. I have to say, that filing my Comp & Pen claim took just about everything out of me. With all of the real life, day-to-day drama that is this fiasco I like to call my life, I just had nothing to give. So many emotions and turmoil, that I just didn’t know how to put it into words.

I have been in a serious depression/funk for weeks. Of course that is to be expected, but it is hard to deal with. My daughter officially moved out about a month ago, and I have been going through the Empty Nest Syndrome on top of everything else. I still haven’t been able to pack up her stuff, I just look at it and want to cry. My baby girl is all grown up, and making so many mistakes, and I can’t save her. I just have to let her make them, and be there when she needs me.

In the midst of all of this, I got a letter from the VA during the last week of October. They stated that they had received all of my detailed statements, evidence and medical records (256 pages worth), but they needed more information. Let me state again, they said they had received my statements, medical records, buddy statement, and medical records. And I do have killer evidence, if Joan does say so herself.

So, what was it they needed further from me? They wanted a detailed statement, giving all of the details of the MST, and how it caused the PTSD, anxiety and so forth. Did I mention they said they already had this? They wanted any evidence I could give in regards to the rape in Ft Gordon, but she told me on the phone she already had all of that. Then they wanted my medical records, that they stated they already had. They wanted detailed accounts of how all of the episodes of MST had affected me, and it would be beneficial if I had ever been reported for child abuse/neglect or been committed for substance abuse or anything of that nature. That was honestly in the letter. Luckily for me, my dad and sister DID try to have me committed for substance abuse long before I had my daughter, but they were unsuccessful in that mission.

Joan told me to calm down, and just write another statement, answering the 3 page letter point by point, and warned me not to take a tone. Oh she knows me too well. So, on Halloween, I set aside the entire day, and responded, point by point. It took me 6 hours, and it was about 6 pages when I was done. The life was just sucked right out of me after that. I am sure there will be more letters, and more repeating myself in return statements, but that is the price I have to pay.

But the thing that really got me, and it got Joan too, was when a harsh guy from the American Legion in Des Moines called, and left a horrible message on my answering machine. I need to explain that Joan is my 1st power of attorney in dealing with the VA, the Legion is secondary, but they bypassed her. The message was asking for Mr Brigid (you would understand if you knew my real name, but that is my secret). Then the message went on to state that they were calling, because the VA wanted to know why it was I was filing a claim. I listened to the message 4 times, and each time I got more angrier. I called Joan, played the message for her, and she got even more mad than¬†I was. She called him the next day, faxed him her copy of my POA, and explained that in the future, he needed to be sure of the sex of the individual. And also, due to the ‘extreme sensitive nature of the claim’ that his message was very disturbing to me. He immediately¬†caught that I was an MST survivor, and felt like a cad. Joan was very kind to him, and educated him to make sure he also checked what the claim was about before attacking the next poor soul. THANK YOU JOAN.

My therapist is gathering all of my 10+ years of treatment records to send to the VA, and I have now requested all of my oncology records and hospital records. We decided to add the cancer to the claim, as the stress factor contributed greatly to my cancer, and reduced my chances of survival, so I need all of those records as well. The nice part about that is in those records, it references my suicide attempt while I was in chemotherapy (which is also in my military medical records).

My therapist decided that it was time to send me to a hypnotherapist, because I have had severe intestinal issues since February, and all tests have been done that can be. It is stress, but is debilitating at times. As luck would have it, the hypnotherapist is just like me, it is like talking to myself. Just imagine, 2 of me in the world? SCARY! This woman does what is called medical hypnosis, which is used as pain management. I will reiterate that I am not on any medications for anything, those pesky little paradoxal side effects do kind of scare me too much to try anything.

Would you like to know what my hypnotherapist does as a side job? You won’t believe it, because I couldn’t. She does Comp and Pen analysis here for the VA. Of course, she can’t do mine, because it is a conflict of interest, but the VA has already contacted her about a female MST victim in the community who recently filed a claim, and wanted to set up an appointment with her. We are fairly certain that would be me. Much to both of our chagrin, she can’t do it, but she said if she could, I would get full benefits if it were up to here. That is somewhat comforting and promising.

That is about all I have to say right now, I was just feeling a little guilty for not posting lately, but it was just too painful. I promise to post more regularly, and try to go into greater detail of this Comp and Pen process. But I ask for your patience if I slack off again.

Brigid