Posts Tagged ‘Levy County Florida veterans affairs’

Civil Rights for MST survivors

March 1, 2009

img0122

 

There is a class of military veterans who have no civil rights. These are the ‘military sexual trauma’ (MST) survivors.

How can I say that-every one under the Flag of the United States has civil rights? No-not everyone.

In my dictionary-under the heading of  ‘civil law’ it says it pertains to the rights of private individuals and to legal proceedings concerning these rights as distinguished from criminal,military,or international rights,courts-or legal proceedings. Under the heading Civil Rights it says RIGHTS belonging to an individual by virtue of his/her status as a citizen. Under the heading Civil Law it says the body of law dealing with the rights of private citizens in a particular state or nation,as distinguished from criminal law,military law,or international law.

I am not a lawyer-I am a civilian…my dictionary says that means I am a citizen not connected with the military

I believed I have a right to a lawyer to represent me in any legal matter. I have found that this is wrong.

I am a MST survivor. I have have suffered life long residual mental health issues because of my being a ‘military sexual trauma’ survivor.

Because of my life as a survivor had finally come to the attention of the Veterans Administration (VA) Hospital in my region of Gainesville Florida I entered the PTSD-MST clinic for evaluation and treatment. I once thought I was alone. I learned there that there are thousands of MST survivors…some known,some like me who kept silent for many years.

During treatment I was advised to seek validation-to enter a claim against the VA system,I was told I met the entire page of criteria for PTSD and deserved benefits offered through the VA system. These benefits included medical care and perhaps financial compensation.

To apply for a claim the law required me to report my rapes to a local ‘veterans advocate’…this had to be done in my home county in Florida-Levy County. These veterans advocates are hired by the county under the direction of the Florida Veterans Affairs Office.

The advocate I met with was a former ‘gunny sargent’ well versed in combat injury-he had even won awards from Congress for work to aid veterans to obtain what is rightfully theirs. He had no experience-nor knowledge of how to care for  MST survivors. The fact is-when I told him my story he looked in amazement and said “Gee…you’ never think homosexuals have a need to rape each other”…he also assumed my attackers were black. Both statements were no where near the truth,nor did they hold any valid reasoning.

I declined any further aid from the Levy County office,instead I sought the help of an attorney. I had to travel to Jacksonville Florida to find legal counsel-and the attorney took my case on an old fashioned handshake…she too was an MST survivor. She understood my pain-and understood the need for justice in these cases.

We attended a hearing in November 2007 at the regional offices of the VA in St.Petersburg Florida. My hearing was over two hours long-a length of time I understood was unusual,they say a hearing only lasts about 20 to 30 minutes.

It took one year to nearly the day for a decision-my papers were signed by the VA Judge on November 3,2008. His decision said that I am indeed suffering from PTSD and the results of why are directly connected with my military service-directly connected because I AM a MST survivor.

Yesterday a letter arrived via US Postal  carrier. The letter says that my attorney is not an approved VA attorney…the question is-will my service connected disability be reversed because I chose as a citizen to find a person versed in law to represent me? My attorney is dis-qualified to represent me in the VA court (of law).

This letter not only affects me-it affects every MST survivor in the United States. It says to us-we have NO RIGHT to find legal counsel on our own! It says we must be bound by the VA system…we must use counsel which is approved by them-I understand a list of attorneys is available who are approved by the VA.

I know only about myself-yet I can only assume that every veteran chose to volunteer for military service…why? To defend our nation-to defend our flag…to defend our rights as citizens of the United States. I guess I am wrong…the letter I received yesterday surely proves that. I have NO RIGHT to select an attorney of my choice of my free will to defend me or represent me in/at a national institution-the Veterans Administration.

Our rights are being violated!

In my effort to bring justice for every MST survivor-and even every veteran have been returned in vain. I have written countless letters and emails to Congressman-and Senators. Only two have responded (unless you want to count the form letters under the heading ‘newsletters’).

Of those two-one actually set an appointment for me to meet personally with her-Congresswoman Ginny Brown-Waite from Florida. The meeting never took place…the Congresswoman is no longer on the veterans sub-committee. I’m talking about CIVIL RIGHTS…and a member of Congress-an elected official of our Untied States is saying…this is not my job?? Our meeting was canceled  just one day before elections in 2008;and two weeks ago her office called to say “not our job”.

I know we are being wronged. I know when I enlisted at age 17 into the United States Navy I was enlisting to serve our country-OUR COUNTRY! Not merely the region where I lived-the entire United States. War was going on then-the Viet Nam War. Many of my age group refused to serve-instead they fled to Canada to be safe from prosecution,and to be safe from war. My desire to serve was so strong that I had tried to enlist in the United States Marines-a choice which would have guaranteed my duty being in the battle grounds of Viet Nam. The recruiter said I was too skinny and sent me to the Navy recruiter instead. It did not matter-Army,Navy,Marines-any branch of the military service would have been the honorable thing to do!

I’m not fully sure how government works-but I do feel that regardless of where an elected official comes from he or she should want to take up the banner and fight for the justice and rights of an American citizen…and right what wrongs exist. In this case-fight for the rights of MST survivors.

My self-personally…I never expected to seek justice for the rapes that qualify me as an MST survivor. Like many MST survivors I chose to live with my wounds in silence. I never thought anyone would care since the first day I became a survivor the officer in charge whom I reported my attacks to said “get used to it”. Once the 35 years of silence ended and I learned there were as many as 32% of female veterans and 6% of male veterans that are also MST survivors I became angry…angry that they too might have to report to a bigot such as the one I met at the Levy County Veterans Affairs Office. I decided to fight for these other ‘silent wounded’ and speak out for the RIGHTS we have had hidden from us…if not even taken away.

Yesterdays letter nearly defeated that effort. I went into a state of shock…I even wept. The hurt from ALL of my life as a survivor collected inside of me-almost allowing me to cower in retreat,the pain was that hard to bare.

I will not quit! I will continue to stand up for MST veterans rights. Our CIVIL RIGHTS! We are citizens of the Untied States. We volunteered to serve our country to defend equal rights and freedom….yet our freedom is taken away from us if we are NOT permitted to seek our own legal counsel-our CIVIL RIGHTS are NOT available to  the MST survivor if we are restricted to seek defense in the offices of men who disregard us as ‘homosexuals’ or cannot understand that no matter what race a person is-that if a man is black he is automatically deemed as the culprit in a crime.

If you are reading this than you have a responsibility to assist in righting this wrong-I beg you to write your Congress and speak out against this wrong. Stand up for us as we once went forward to stand up for you. The fact of MST exists today…there are many more survivors returning to civilian life-silent wounded. Help us obtain our CIVIL RIGHTS!