Posts Tagged ‘military sexual trauma VA claim’

veterans parade

June 13, 2011
veterans parade by jayfherron
veterans parade, a photo by jayfherron on Flickr.

I am inspired by a conversation I had this weekend with a fellow MST veteran. He said things to me that helped me tremendously,he told me things I had not considered fully. I did not realize how many I have reached,not for me,but to find a hope for a change in how Military Sexual Trauma (MST) veterans are received,and treated,when they are returned to civilian life!

I expressed to my friend that my blog had taken a dip from my own interest because I have no more connection with the Veterans Administration Hospital and therefore have no ground to raise issue . I’m not a real brite guy!

There are still issues! Serious issues!

I am very proud of this veteran,the man who inspired me. His conversation lifted me back on the track I was trying to leave!

Why I am proud for him is because independently this veteran appealed to the VA for disability due to ‘post traumatic stress disorder’ related to injury directly related to MST….and he was awarded 100% disability.

There is some justice,in fact!

But then in this case the VA holds re-evaluation rights every so many years. There are still issues!

This veteran and I both agreed that this was an insult. We both agreed the damages to our souls were too deep to ever heal, and PTSD is forever.

Of course the veteran can appeal and hopefully will. But why? Why should this ever be? We were the victims! This veteran was a victim to a crime where the only convictions were always on him, never was anyone convicted for the crime,never was the crime taken seriously, and as typical the blame was placed in the veterans direction…and it stands there! In the veterans possession is a paper saying “after some 40 years of your suffering steadily and full-time we finally agree you have been 100% injured,but might improve in a few years”!!

What an insult to think that could ever be so. While a criminal walked free the victim has to continue to defend themselves? It is hard to comprehend how we can say there is justice in these decisions as many of them have come years too late. And that perhaps all will change in a few years. I wish I could encourage somebody to hope for that, but I can’t.

I spoke to a lady from a non-profit group that is gearing up to expose more of the facts of MST. She gave me praise for my courage. I have no courage-it is more anger…but, I don’t believe it about the courage. You see, even if the VA approves a claim for disability in your favor it does not mean you are finally free of the past that disables you! I am in a life long battle to remain sober,and yet my knees still have scrape marks from the times I fall down. And,I fall down. And then reality glints a ray in my heart and I try to pick back up again. And I do…for a season,maybe two! But I fall. I have been determined 100% disabled due to PTSD related directly to MST. Still…everyday,even this days beginning I remember the events that led to my rapes as if they took place yesterday. Why the reel must play over and over and over is something I can not answer. I don’t want to be drunk. I don’t want to be drugged. But I do indulge in these manners of escape…thankfully now not as frequent as once was, but then there comes a trigger of some kind that causes me to seek escape.

It is an insult to any survivor to assume things have gotten better! On the last day of 1969 I was told by the officer who saw my injury from being beaten up while being raped to “get used to it”. He did not offer any help, he merely chuckled at the fact of my demise, and expected me to just live with it. I have never been able to live with it.

So much was taken from us. We intended to serve our country, to defend the Constitution of the United States and our Flag. It was a ‘boy-hood’ must in my era! We grew up playing Army games with great pretend wars. We were enlisting to share the freedom of democracy to lands that had none. Freedom! And rights! It add’s to the power of the damage to us because we were there to be defenders, instead we are sore with shame. It is nearly impossible to speak of my military time without feeling the shame. Many of my friends served in combat, real combat unlike anything we could imagine as kids at play. One of my friends disabled from stepping on a land mine.

It is hard explaining our military time with veterans like that.

No. It won’t go away, and it won’t get better.

But despite it all…here is an MST veteran who lost a career and went through the mishaps of life because of PTSD’s help, who after many years of suffering has taken on the VA on his own, and was successful in at least the recognition of MST being a valid connection to PTSD.

All MST veterans should applaud the courage that took! And…should take the same issue in their own lives, because this veterans achievement is powerful.

Peace

 

 

some suggestions…lay statements!

February 5, 2011

owl
Originally uploaded by jayfherron

 

I have had more contact with MST (military sexual trauma) veterans through this journal’s span asking how they could prove they had been criminally assaulted when they have no direct witness’s or evidence to prove their claim. You might be wrong.

I want to be sure you understand that the things I write here should be verified independently,I am not a legal advisor…I am just telling you what I have learned along the way of my own experience.

Each of us have an individual experience in our lives,nothing is the same,except many things have similar foundations. I happened to write about what had happened to me in barracks D when I was 19 or 20 years old. The experience was as fresh as it could ever be then.

My neice (the young lady often comments calling herself BJ) had read this manuscript on a visit when she was just a college student at a school in South Florida.

Her mother was my brothers wife…she was with my brother during the trip from the ship to my family home in the DC area. There was once a dispute from the VA saying the detention barracks I was put in,where the rapes happened,never existed. BJ’s mother was able to validate that such a place did exist and that I was there.

These two woman became what is refered to in the disability claim evidence as ‘lay statements’!

BJ visited here five years back and just a coincidence (no I do not think so,more Spiritually arranged is my belief) that the process of filing my claim for ‘ptsd’ disability was just beginning.

BJ was able to appear at the VSO (veterans service officer) office and explain that she had read the book I had written…thus a testimony from a ‘lay witness’ ,or someone who was aware the events happened and thus aware for a long length of my life. Meaning,my discussing my assaults was known to from a long time back,and not something new.

BJ also currently serves in the USAF and has extensive experience reading military records. Reading mine she noted so many errors in typing (this was pre-computer days when I served) that actually made no sense and showed more fault on the military’s behalf that led to my being the truthful one in this case.

Reading every page of your military records (use a yellow highlighter pen) can prove to be interesting and may even serve as proof in your favor.

The one thing I know about truth is it is the easiest to remember. Truth cannot ever backfire,except in some cases like telling a friend they have bad breath or something…sometimes that doesn’t go over very well,but the truth of your life and what has happened is so valuable to protect and defend.

Never sway from the real facts to embellish things to make them sound or look worse.

I was equally worried when the VSO officer wrote something on my initial papers when I first filed for VA disability. I have access to the world news but I hear it on the radio or read it in the newspapers but I do not have cable or any source of commercial television attached to my house. I have lived television FREE for almost 13 years…I even have said so on national television…”I do not watch TV”…and the VSO officer wrote it on his papers that something I saw on television triggered my PTSD and that is why I was appealing for a disability claim.

I was NOT TRUE!

He said it sounded better!

I did not care….it was not true.

After the visits ended with this man I was introduced to a VSO officer at the VA hospital. He too wrote a statement that was in a degree a portion of what might have happened,but it was not a fact. My therapist telephoned him and asked and he told her it sounded better. It did not sound better to me,and how is one supposed to remember something like that?

The point is that to take sexual trauma and mingle up the facts with enhanced wording to appeal more to a reader somewhere is defamatory to what has happened to the victim/survivor. Our truth,our lives,and our experience of trauma deserves the respect of truth.

I found an attorney.

But…the fact is that one or the other of us have a likely no chance of finding any witness to the actual rapes. So the VA allows ‘lay statements’ as evidence. These can come in the way of letters written by family or friends or maybe an  employer or former teacher. Anyone who can attest to the notable changes in your life before you enlisted and afterwards when you returned. Anyone that can say “my friend was a clean-cut good soul but when they came back you could see something was wrong”….something like that,something not coached…something from the writers own perspective of you. The writer never needs to know if you had been raped,it would be better for an actual statement that the veteran has told this friend or family…but just the same,an honest statement that a person who knows you well knows that there is a dramatic change.

Also,any record from past visits to therapist or social worker…I’d say minister but the one I told about being a rape survivor told me Christ forgave me….forgave me?? for what?? This kind of person would not be my choice to write a lay statement.

The truth is always foremost in this.

I would suggest if it is possible for you to get lay statements to have the writer keep it to two pages and to be certain they understand their own natural thought is what you want them to say.

These statements can be submitted as evidence.

I hope some of this is helpful. Like in my life,there were some people actually able to tell the truth…it is all hard to grasp in my heart that they were able to do so. I am hopeful each survivor can look back and discover there is someone there too!

Peace