Posts Tagged ‘VA treatment of MST’

September 13, 2012

I was speaking to a veteran yesterday and he was explaining how his conversation had gone with his DVA officer-this conversation was about the veterans claim for post traumatic stress and directly connected with MST. I could not help to remember my first meeting with a public paid DVA officer in my home county. The man had no clue any more than a rock would have about what I was telling him!

I sat across from a former Marine. The office walls behind his desk were crowded with decorations from active military duty and Congressional awards because of his dedication to US Military veterans.

I have no doubt of this mans experience and success in aiding disabled veterans filing claims. He just had limited experience only capable of understanding the needs of a veteran that has legitimate injuries…as for this desk Marine-he lacked understanding!

No-there are no legitimate injuries! But speaking to this particular former Marine he would have never been able to accept the fact that ‘military sexual trauma’ exists in his military! He made jokes, his staff made jokes-there was no seriousness taken in what I had opened up to tell him.

The VA mental health clinic had made the suggestion to report my rapes to the DVA for validation. What happened at the DVA office was unacceptable for any survivor.

So when the veteran was talking yesterday my mind kept drifting into my local DVA office and getting a visual of whom my friend was trying tell his story to in his home area. This has been what I have felt is insensitive treatment to this type of claim and to expect any sexual trauma survivor (we actually just limp along) to go to ‘any ol’ Joe’ to fill in the details of the criminal act of rape!

This is re-traumatising…and this is not right!

Honestly my friend was not complaining but you could sense the reserve in his voice as “what are you going to do”? but it isn’t just him or me alone, it is the countless silent wounded who have  the same concerns-after all, this is not an injury one easily speaks to anyone about-especially if ever trying to report the crime in the first place and being told to “snuff it up” or “not in my battalion”! From the moment of the attack the victims self-esteem is shoved into the dirt…it keeps on being pushed into the dirt from then on! So-who is welcoming going into the office of the local DVA and follow VA procedure on filing PTSD disability claims?

There needs to be a more sensitive solution to ease the burden of filing a claim for post traumatic stress when the filer is a survivor of MST! We shouldn’t have reason to file at all-sexual trauma is not how the enlisted person expects to be injured and no one expected to gain a lifetime of suffering-silently! We stood up to defend our flag and our national security-and we are veterans, but it is not the same sense of being a veteran who can speak proudly of their service-because there is a very black and missing piece that cannot be told! I know this is so because I can never erase that I spent time in the military-and wish that I could erase all of it-but in fact, it comes up in conversations here and there and especially in unexpected moments. I have to leave the blank every time and so often I am so ashamed. And, I am not the one who should be ashamed! I am a veteran from a war-time and I enlisted months before my legal age… I should have a different story to tell. All of us should!

But-what troubles me is when we do want to talk about our military life, and what happened, when will there be someone the veteran can feel confident the person they are telling this history to is quailified to understand the trauma?


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.




I miss the view of solitude

March 1, 2010

little window Pete

Originally uploaded by jayfherron

I am missing a space. Odd to think-it is about the most peaceful place on earth.

Sometimes I bring home a six pack of beers-a good dark style beer…and I go out and sit in the cab of my truck and listen to the music and drink. I don’t drive anywhere-but do sit with the engine idling just as if it was a semi truck. Looking out the windshield at a clearer way to think.

Many times in my last days of heavy haul trucking I would be sitting somewhere in a empty field waiting to load a piece farm equipment. I would find these places so restful-to just be out in the middle of no where…no nothing, just the open air (hmmm…that is if you got out of the truck).

I chose the heavy haul part of trucking just for the main reason-most of the hauls were machines such as bulldozers and excavators or cranes or some type of mobile machine. We would find find these things and load them and move across country with them until unloading some where else…all with out seeing another living soul.

Yes. Some might pass a road grader sitting on the side of the interstate somewhere-and we would be hired to find it load it and move it to another location. There is always a key hidden somewhere on the rig…that always amazed me.

This past week I was subject to a hearing. It was gently titled an ‘evaluation’…an evaluation to determine if my PTSD has made any improvements. This,I understand,will give the VA control over the adjustment of my level of disability-and reduce my benefits along with that. I told the interviewer I wish I never brought this up ever in my life-meaning allowing someone to know about my being raped in barracks D. I should have lived out the rest of my life with out saying a word. I managed to adjust to a way of life in the big trucks. A way of exile from being attached.

I found somebody I once thought I could trust-the first ever such person,and then all of a sudden that person is gone. It was my first therapist at the VA.

After that separation I resigned from being a patient. I have never felt like a veteran-I have never felt the right to be seen at the VA Hospital was something I deserved-I always felt each person there that had a computer screen saw the same things I knew…this man is not a proper veteran. I failed my country-that is the shame I feel…I failed the men I should have been injured next to-in combat where these things would make better sense.

The doctor that interviewed me the other day will never grasp the way my life has been-from then in 1969-70 to this morning just shortly after waking from another violent dream of being in a prison…I am so tired of them.

Ever since  I opened up to the VA about my injury I have had to explain it to newer people…and newerr people after that. Much with a strange sense of doubt. Perhaps the doubt comes from the reaction I was given 40 years ago…”get used to it!” was the comment made by the officer I reported the rape to.

I was able to escape in the big trucks. I was able to go and not form bonds and not be in a click or not become involved in some way in any way that would cause me a period of incarceration-by keeping out of trouble. The truck was a freedom-perhaps THE FREEDOM.

It is so abusive to sit yet with one more stranger and say what it is that describes barracks D. Equally abusive is the shuffle how we are treated at the VA Hospital period! It is not health care. They do not want to deal with us or our strangeness.

I was told two weeks ago I am not receptive to therapy. I want to know when the therapy was going to begin?

I spent three years trying to learn to trust someone finally and the VA health care system shuts that down. I was finally able to trust and was about to tell the person the fullest of it all…all in hopes to get help.

My past experience a few weeks ago had nothing to do with health care-had nothing to do with anything …except I broke a rule-and brought a pair of journalist with me to my scheduled appointment. The doctor has never fired anyone before-she put the frosting out before the fire came…it was so impersonal. She brought up the journalists first-then I was told I was not receptive to therapy.

That might be so-it took too long to get there anyway. Sorry that you can’t understand-it is not easy to pack 40 years of torment into short monthly sit downs.

I don’t know why this is. Why did I have to let them know? No one cared for all these just seems so strange. I was pissed because of  alprazolam-a drug! That is what started my big mouth rolling about being raped! My alcoholic past and mixed with the years of drug abuse…kicking those habits only so the VA can give you one of their own!

After writing this journal for these past years I have come to learn that I am not alone! I am NOT the only one!

I have commenters that have come in contact with me beyond this forum-speaking by telephone and hearing the treatment and the way the system shuffles each aside and never up. The stories come from Washington State-from New Mexico-from Michigan-from men and from woman who have never met each other but by seeking justice with in the VA system have found each other by the greatness of the Internet. We all have the same story-suffering from PTSD and above that-shame,because we were raped. So-I know it is not just me.

I looked at my doctor this past week and pity came to my mind-I pitied somebody that could achieve a degree and not even have anywhere to use it.