Posts Tagged ‘Compensation and Pension’

Dominoes

May 29, 2013

Hello Friends,

The news just keeps rolling in.  Military personnel in high positions being removed from their positions, being reassigned  or resigning due to accusations of assault.  The root of the problem and just how high it goes is now being discussed among the general public.  “Military Sexual Trauma” is no longer an obscure term whispered with shame among the survivors. 

All in all – it is “good” news…as much as sexual/physical violence can be determined “good.”  The subject matter is horrible – the fact that these individuals are falling like dominoes is “good.”  The fact that people are talking about it is good.  The fact that the victims and survivors may no longer have to feel shame is good. 

I was listening to a radio commercial the other night and the announcer said, “are you one of those people who want something done….or are you one of those people who are willing to do something to change things?”

We, the survivors, are the voice of change.  Everyone who shares their story, publishes their blog, speaks out – even anonymously – is the voice of change!  We are the one’s “doing something” to make the world a better place – and to all of my fellow survivors…I thank you for your courage!  You are the light and the hope for a world without military sexual trauma!

Even the anonymous voices, like myself and Brigid, are important voices.  I have found that, in the real world, I can talk about MST and about the terrible things people experience and never tell that person that I am a survivor.  In fact, in some ways it is more powerful….because they aren’t wanting to hear the gory details or feeling pity.  Don’t pity me!  I survived and I am leading a full and happy life…I don’t want anyone’s pity…I want change!  I want justice for those who are being victimized!

Someone said to me this morning – “Well, you never have a bad morning…do you?”  Yup – she was being snotty.  She is someone who struggles with things and she prefers to live in her perceived “victimhood” than to make a choice to live another way.   I would share her life story and her trauma’s here – because she shares them with everyone else – but I will forgo that woeful tale.   A couple of years ago I did a presentation that she attended on Sensitive Practices and Public Law 103 in regards to MST treatment and compensation.  She ran around the area telling everyone that she was going to get an automatic 30% because she thinks she had MST.  I have never met an MST survivor who could go up to co-workers happy and sing-songing that she was going to get free money from the government.  Worried for her I pulled her aside and explained that it was a long, hard and stressful process and that I would be there for her.  I asked her if she needed help meeting the burden of proof…her response was, “I need to prove it?”  Yes, you will need to prove it and I started talking about methods to gain the proof. 

Her response – “Well, it was just five guys in a parking lot yelling cat calls at me…but it scared me.  I don’t have any proof – but I could really use the money.”

At that point I just about lost it.  I thought of the survivors that I know…whose lives have been shattered, who have lost their careers, many dishonorable discharged.  I thought about all of us with damage to our internal organs – or losing organs – because of our trauma. 

The money doesn’t change much in our lives.  In fact, for many of us it feels more like a slap in the face.  I know that when I first got mine my husband was understandably excited…we really needed a new roof.  All I could think of is how I earned that money…”on my back”…so to speak.  The money felt dirty – like the government was telling me what the Army had told me…that I was some kind of a whore.  Thankfully – I have found ways to overcome those feelings…but it took some time.  Watching those guys put the new roof on the house felt nasty.  That is why I always advocate to people to find something special that you really, really want and use some of the money to purchase it.  It doesn’t even have to be anything big – just something that brings you joy.  That way you can change your perception of the money…it worked great for me!  In fact, it worked so good that the last time I had to see SGT Jerk I rode my motorcycle out there.  Instead of feeling edgy and threatened I just reminded myself that in the end he didn’t win…I won! 

I don’t “win” because I have something I want or because I occasionally buy myself a new dress that I really like (something I couldn’t do after they ended my career because of the financial situation.)  I won because I choose to be the winner!

If I could share anything with my fellow survivors it would be that “Happiness is a choice.”  Choose joy!  Choose life!  Choose to be a force for change in the world.  It isn’t easy…sometimes it forces you to push and pull yourself away from dark holes and into the light of day.  There are days that all I want to do is bury my head in the covers and curl up with a cat and pounds of chocolate – heck…there are days that I do that 🙂  But they are rare.

Choosing to be happy is the greatest revenge of all – you see…when I was raped, when I was beaten, when I was assaulted…I had no choice.  They took away my right to choose, my right to decide, my right to say NO.  By God – I took it back!  It doesn’t cure anything – the PTSI, the depression, the panic, the fear…but it does make it easier to live with for me.

I know that all of the recent news is triggering for some – but try to be positive…try to think of it as good.  The dominoes are falling…and when they all fall down they will lead to something better at the end.  My hope is that they will lead to a world without MST.

Peace,

Joan

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Really Inconvenient Truths!

September 25, 2012

Hello Friends,

I am so glad to see that Jay’s blog is up and running!   His words are so wise and so true and I wanted to expound on comments that I made there. 

In his latest post Jay talked about this difficulty that we Survivors encounter in the VA and the VBA.  How hard it is to open up to a service officer about what we have endured – how, too many times, we are treated like we did something wrong.

I believe that we make them uncomfortable…very uncomfortable.  You see, we are an in their face reality check!  In their heads they can make up any little fantasy world they desire.  They can say things like, he/she probably asked for it or it was just a false accusation.  Then they have to look at the evidence – the destroyed lives, the damaged bodies, the ruined careers (ours…of course…not the perpetrators!)  Now their little world is shattered – and they have to look at the facts.  The facts are, some soldiers rape…they harrass…they abuse their power and they get away with it.  When they get away with it – they WILL do it again.

We are the really inconvenient truth!  (A thousand pardons to Michael Moore for stealing his movie title)

People want to have these ideas about good soldiers who serve with honor and with courage.  They want these pictures in their heads about band of brothers and idealistic bull shit like that.  Yes – there are soldiers like that!  There are people in the military who will always try to make the right choice no matter what it costs them.  They are good people.  Unfortunately, there are really ugly people out there!

Ugly people, horrible people.   They rape for the power and for control.  If they were civilians they would still be rapists.  They would still be the power and control freak boss that you can’t stand to be around.  The military culture just allows them to go as far as they would like to go.

This weekend I had an opportunity to do some special  duty with some guys in my VSO.  We enjoy one another’s company and we enjoy flipping one another shit.  In fact – it is one of the things that we do best!!

I left that day laughing so hard I nearly wet myself.  I serve with some really terrific guys!  I’m that “annoying little sister” they all have to put up with…so to speak.  It creates that warm, fun and enjoyable feeling of brothers  and that was why I loved the Army.  I was still laughing when I drove home.

Then I started to cry.  I cried for everything that I had lost.  For everything that was taken from me.  There was a time when sitting around with my Army buddies flipping one another shit was the best part of any day.  I felt warm, I felt protected, I felt like I was part of a family.  Then I was “shunned” and everything was gone.  The “family” turned their backs on me.

People will ask, “how long does it take to get over this?”  This isn’t something that goes away.  You don’t expect an amputees arm or leg to grow back, do you?  No!  It is an injury, it is chronic and they learn to live with it…but they won’t wake up one morning and discover it is “All Better” and they have two good legs.  PTSI (Post Traumatic Stress Injuries) are the exact same way.  You don’t wake up one morning and all of the problems are gone.

In physical therapy an amputee can learn to live with his/her leg.  They can learn to live without an arm – how to tie shoelaces with one hand.  In Mental Health Therapy we can learn to live with PTSI – we can learn to get up in the morning, brush our little teeth and move out the door.  We can learn to deal with the nightmares, the flashbacks, the fear, the paranoia and the pain – but we can only tie that “shoelace” with half of ourselves – because the rest of ourselves was damaged or destroyed in that Invisible War we are Veterans of.  No one questions that in Combat PTSI – but they sure want us to get over the sexual assaults and harassment!  I don’t get that!

That is why we are a really inconvenient truth – we have been changed for life – we have been wounded for life.  We aren’t going to “get over it” and “move on.”  Sure – just like an amputee we can lead regular lives – but we will never just “get over it.”  That is what makes them uncomfortable.  You see – if we just “get over it” they can just forget about it.  That is what they want to do.  If we are in their faces – they can’t forget about us – and then they have to deal with us! 

And that – my friends – is a really inconvenient truth!

Peace

Joan

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

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

The Beginning of the End Part 7

October 4, 2010

68. While I was at the armory turning in my gear, I saw SPC H. She said that she was told to turn her stuff in the next day, I told her thayt I already knew about that. She also said that she was told to do her PT Test the next day. I said no, that this was just one last chance to mess with her, that she was already being discharged, and they had no right to force her to take the PT Test. And there was absolutely no reason at all to take a PT Test, since she was being discharged. She refused to take the PT Test.

69. I finally received the official notice of the Review Board. I saw CPT O’s comments (I had asked MAJ F to find out for me what CPT O’s recommendations were). I found out that the permanent profile said that I could life a 40 pound ruck sack and that there were no weight restrictions, but CPT O had recommended that I be reassigned because I occasionally might have to life 67-100 lbs. Now this is complete BS, I am a waitress, and have to lift heavy stuff all the time. I never asked not to lift something-only not to do sit-ups. Also, in every single safety briefing, we are told that if something weighs more than 50 lbs, it is a 2-person lift. Over 100 pounds, no lifting at all-you get a forklift, bobcat, or a cart. I was so mad when I found this out, because he had violated our agreement to recommend my retention.

70. I am not out to get anybody. I just will not sit by and watch these kinds of things happen over and over again, and no one stopping them. I want to ensure that a major change takes place, something has to give somewhere. I only hope that I am strong enough to stick to the courage of my convictions. I already know that I will be made out to look like a slut who brought all of this on herself, and I am ready for that. I also know that I am prepared to go as far as I have to, to ensure that changes will be made, no matter what. I will say that I hope 1SG Wags fries for the torment I have had to endure at his hands, and that I don’t think he should be rewarded for what he has done, by being able to retire with a pension. I hope he is feeling as uncomfortable as he made me, and several other women feel, throughout his tour in the National Guard. I am a firm believer in the cliché, “What comes around, goes around” and someday, this will all come back to haunt him.

The End,

Brigid

The Beginning of the End Part 6

September 27, 2010

66. I went out to the Armory 31 January 1998 to turn in my gear. I took  my friend Joan, because I was frightened by what might be done or said to me while I was there. SGT B asked if he could speak with me privately, and I agreed. He said that there were no hard feelings on his part that I had disobeyed him. He said that CPT O had informed him I was leaving, and proceeded to ask him of my poor work habits. SGT B said that he went to bat for me, and would continue to do so, that I had excellent work habits, and that he had never had a ny problems with me. I thanked him and told him that I had no hard feelings towards him either. I also spoke to SSG K and told him that I was sorry that I couldn’t take it anymore, and was getting out. He said that he understood, but was sorry to see me go (he had convinced me several times not to give up or try to get out). He said that I had to do what was right for me, and I said that being there was not right for me anymore. I asked him what he knew about my leaving, and he said that he knew nothing. I said that he might as well know, because the office and SGT B knew already, and it wouldn’t be a secret for long. And I told him about going to the IG for a Medical Discharge. I said that I didn’t understand why SGT B should know and not him.I said that I had become to tried to fight anymore, and I gave up. SSG said that it explained why SFC M had been asking about my lousy work habits, and SSG K informed him that I didn’t have any poor work habits. He said that he told FC M that when I came to Tech Supply, we sat down and reached an agreement, and I never violated that agreement. I told SSG K that I was sorry, and said that he wouldn’t understand until later, but I just wanted to apologize in advance. He asked if it was because of something that might be coming, and I said yes-but tha he had nothing to worry about. I thanked him for being one of the few who ever stood up for me and supported me, and never held my past (1SG Orange) against me. I said that I could never thank him enough for always treating me with respect, and that I would miss him. Then I gave him a hug in front of my husband.

67. This brings me to the questions, why in the world would I be asked time and time again by SFC M or CPT O, to put in extra RMAs in the orderly room if my work habits are really that bad, and I was so lazy? This just doesn’t make any sense to me. I feel that CPT O and SFC M are just trying to discredit me, to try to save themselves. I spoke to MAJ A, and he said that he heard no negatives about me during his interviews at the unit.

The Beginning of the End Part 5

September 22, 2010

61. On 20 January 1998, SGT  called me to inform me about next drill. I asked if we were going to split-train Sunday, so we could go to Des Moines for 3 days in February. He said that I wouldn’t be going back to Camp Dodge or the EMC-C again. He said that because I had failed the PT Test, I would have to stay here. I got mad and said that SFC M promised me no retribution. He said that it came directly from CPT O. He told me not to feel bad, because SPC H would not be going, and not to tell her that she was being processed for discharge. He said she was going to have to turn in her TA-50. I was still upset, and he told me to take it up with SFC M.

62. SGT B called again and told me to bring my PT uniform Sunday, because I would be taking the PT Test again 1 February 1998. I said that this was it, I had absolutely had it. That I was tired of all their mind games, and I would be going to the Inspector General. SGT B said not to, and that I would need to talk to him and SSG K at drill first. I said no, that I was done, and wanted out. SGT B told me to go through the motions a little while longer, and that I needed to play their game. We both said simultaneously that I had been playing their game for years. Then I said I didn’t want to play anymore. I told SGT B that I had reached my limit, that I was done and wanted out, that I couldn’t take it anymore. He told me to calm down, and I said no. He said that SSG K and he would talk to me at drill, but not to go to the Inspector General. I informed him that I did not need his permission to speak to the Inspector General, nor did I need to utilize my chain of command. He agreed, but said that I did have to speak to him and SSG K at drill first. I said, “Whatever.” and I hung up on him.

63. For the last year or so, SSG K and I have had may discussions of the way I have been treated in the unit. He informed me that several times he has went to the Senior NCOs and told them to just leave me alone. That I was happy in Tech Supply, and they were happy with me, and the Senior staff should just stop trying to mess with me, because they lose almost every single time. He has told them just to let me be, and let me do my job, but he was overruled, and they just tried harder to find something else to do to me.

64. I had a friend, SPC Joan, from another unit in Iowa City. She went to her unit and got the number for the Inspector General’s office for me. I knew that it would not be possible for me to get it from my unit without a very hard time. That number is not posted anywhere that I know of. I finally called COL P 23 January 1998. I told him that I wanted out of the Iowa National Guard, that there was nowhere that I could go, where my reputation as a troublemaker wouldn’t find me. I started telling him all of this, and wrote it all down and sent it to him, along with the tapes. He said that I could press charges against my unit if I wanted, but asked to wait to do so until after his investigation was complete, because it might interfere with his investigation. He also told me that he could send me to any unit in the state of Iowa that wanted, just to let him know. I told him I would not be safe anywhere in the whole state, that I had pissed off too many important people along the way. He told me that he needed to check on a few things, and would call me back in a few minutes. About 15 minutes later, MAJ F called me back, and said that I was right, that there was nowhere in the state that I could go, where I would be safe, and that they would not be able to protect me. 27 January 1998, COL P and MAJ F told me that their investigation is pretty much over. All they are going to do is send the recommendations from the EEO forward to Battalion and Brigade, and they would consider the case closed. I now want to follow through on pressing charges against the unit.

65. After I was done talking to COL P and MAJ F, it took only 8 minutes for my unit to call me. SFC M asked what I had said to the IG, and I said that all I had asked for was a Medical Discharge. I called the IG back, and told them this. MAJ F said to stick to that story, and I said that I was to turn in my TA-50 31 January 1998. I have now had several conversations with the Inspector General’s office, and I have been told that there is a definite problem in the unit. A few other people are more than willing to come forward with some of their own problems, SPC A has also been sexually harassed by 1SG Wags, and she came forward, and was also talked out of pressing charges by CPT O and 1LT B.

The Beginning of the End Part 4

September 14, 2010

57. On both 15 and 16 January 1998, I had repeatedly told SGT B that I would not be taking the PT Test, because it wasn’t worth it on a sprained ankle. I said that SFC M had said that it was my choice, and no negative action would be taken against me if I didn’t take it, or fail it. SGT B would not listen to me, and forced me to take the PT Test. One-third into the run, my ankle gave out, and I quit because of the pain, and I limped for 3 days after that.

58. No one passed this PT Test, and only SPC R actually finished it (1 1/2 minutes over his time). Everyone quit before the test was finished, but I was the only one who failed. SGT B changed the times on everyone else’s cards, and failed me. I really didn’t care, because I was told that this test would not count against me. I didn’t want this to come out, because I knew SGT B will get in trouble, and PVT C, PVT B, SPC and SGT B will all have to retake the test, and will probably blame me.

59. On 17 January 1998, SGT B and I were talking about something, I can’t remember what. I was tired of all the crap the unit has done to me, and I was tired of them messing with my mind all of the time. He said that it wasn’t all that bad. I told him that he just didn’t understand, but something really big, and really bad had happened a few months earlier (meaning my charges against 1SG Wags), but I couldn’t talk about it. But I would say that I had really pissed them (the Cadret) off this time. He said that he already knew, because he had heard the rumors about 1SG Wags and me. I asked him what he had heard, but he would not comment. I said that I was not able to talk about it, but I said that he knew me, and I wouldn’t come forward for something petty. I said that when I felt threatened, and those I love are threatened, he had damned better believe that I wouldn’t  just take it lying down-or go quietly away. I had no choice but to come forward.

60. During the time that we were at Camp Dodge, I took PVT C under my wing. I explained things to her, and tried to share some of my wisdom with her. I explained how important it was that we used our professionalism and military bearing at all times while we were at the EMC-C, because it was a great privilege to be there in the first place. I told her that we had been trying for years to be allowed to train at the EMC-C, because there never was a mission for us at home. I also explained to her that we would have fun while working, because I would see to it. I was a firm believer that you are more productive if you are enjoying your work. Our little catch phrase was ‘gotcha covered,’ because I made sure that she had everything she would need while she was there. I always come prepared, and brought extra clothes, blankets, toothpaste and so on, because there is always someone new who does not know how to pack. At one point, SGT B told us that it didn’t matter, because once we got back to the unit, they would de-Brigidtize her. I said that once you go Brigid, you never go back. We all believed this to be a joke, but several people have been warned to stay away from me, because I am a bad influence, because I teach people how to stand up for themselves.

The Big Step

September 12, 2010

It has been about 1 1/2 years that I knew I was going to file my claim with the VA, but I kept putting it off, because I just didn’t want to dredge up all those memories again. But the last few months, I have pretty much relived every single, solitary, horrible, moment of it, trying to prepare myself for it. I went through everything in my accordion file, talked with my therapist, and decided it was finally time.

Thursday Joan made the journey up to my house, and took me to file my Comp & Pen. She had been in contact on my behalf with the woman who was going to fill out the forms and file the claim for me. In the process of all this, Joan somehow gave the impression that we were lesbian lovers, but that is another whole story. Because Joan had been through this already, we were able to bypass several steps, and all I had to do was fill out the claim, and Powers of Attorney for Joan and the American Legion. The woman was kind of surprised by how I had everything else all typed up, organized and ready to go. I had spent Wednesday at Staples, copying 256 pages of documentation for my claim.

Before we went to the VA, Joan grabbed my supporting evidence, and just happened to flip to my 1997 retention physical. In that, it states that I had been seen by a psychologist for 4 years for PTSD, anxiety and depression. We couldn’t believe it was on that form, which recommended me for retention, just a few months before I was forced out on a medical discharge. I looked, and in 1995, it also had my PTSD and depression and anxiety.  Same in 1994. I always believed in being honest, and held nothing back for those physicals, and the military doctors documented those illnesses.

Then Joan just flipped to another page in my medical file, and happened to see my suicide attempt in October, 1993. I said, “Oh, you found that, huh?” It was not one of my finer moments, having to be put in ICC for an overdose. But Joan said it was a good thing. I asked her when is a suicide attempt a good thing? She said that in this case, it was a good thing. Then she told me how she had seriously thought about it when things got bad for her years ago. I pointed out that thinking about it, and actually trying to do it are a little different. Then she jumped up and did a suicide cheer. You just would have to have been there to see how it was funny. I pointed out that my suicide attempt is also in my medical file, since I believed in full disclosure at all times, and I put it in there myself.

We were very happy to realize that one of the last things ever placed in my medical file was my retention physical, and the fact that the military doctor had documented it. With that, we thought it was time to head to the VA. I was nauseous the whole time, kept thinking I was going to puke at any moment. She kept telling me that I couldn’t, because she never lets anyone vomit alone in her presence. I was able to keep it all down, and we got to the VA and met the woman who was going to process the forms for us.

Three different times the director came to her desk, and I froze. Joan saw him coming each time, and touched my leg to warn/comfort me (this did not help dispel the misunderstanding that we were lovers). The last thing I really needed that day was to see a man in that office, but I did. I just looked at the floor, not at him. We sailed through the forms, and then it came to assigning a security Question for Joan to answer when acting on my behalf. There were about 7 of them, but when she got to father’s middle name, we started giggling. We chose my dad’s nickname as the security question. That was just another way he showed me he was there that day, and proud of me standing up and saying NO again. Then he started tickling Joan’s neck, and made her face turn red, and she was laughing. Have I mentioned he died a month before I finally got my medical discharge? But his presence is still here when I need him.

When we were done with filing the claim, we got outside, and I just wanted to breath. I smoked 2 cigarettes before I could get in the car. The hardest part was over, but I was quite shaky. I had told the woman that I wasn’t expecting anything to make me better, and that I am afraid of all male veterans now. I just want to be able to have a man come in my house, and not terrify me. I don’t think that is going to happen anytime soon, but maybe someday. Maybe someday I won’t cringe every time I have to be around veterans.

While I was smoking, I told Joan that although combat related PTSD is very bad, I still think that MST PTSD is so much worse. At least with combat, you know who the enemy is, and why you are fighting. That in combat, you know the person in the foxhole with you is there to protect you. But for us, the person in the foxhole with us could very well be the one who is going to harm us. Joan said that is why our blog is enemy IN the wire. There is no escaping the enemy when it is MST. Funny thing, I grabbed a brochure on PTSD, and the middle of the brochure is all about MST. So, when you open it, it goes right to the middle, and there is MST PTSD. How great is that?

We went out to an early dinner, and wouldn’t you know who came in and sat just 2 tables away facing me? The director of the VA. Yep, how messed up is that? I was on edge, and Joan kept trying to tell me maybe he didn’t recognize me, but we both knew he did. He didn’t approach us or anything, I just found it a weird series of events, which always seem to happen to me. After that we went home. And I gotta say over and over, thank you Joan. Thank you thank you thank you. No matter the outcome of my comp & pen, I am ready to help others with their claims.

Now we wait, and pray.

Brigid