Posts Tagged ‘Veterans Administration’

better is little than great treasure…

May 18, 2010

Originally uploaded by jayfherron


Another Proverb?  No…this is not a bible study…it is understanding what truth is!

A week ago I was in Washington DC-my trip was intended to speak  on behalf of veterans of military service who have suffered at the hands of fellow service members because of sexual trauma.

My fears of large buildings and public restrooms had to be put aside but my anxiety prevented that from happening…that is up until I found the dime in my suitcase when prepping for the trip.

The dime-as many know-has become a symbol to me from an experience some years ago. The symbol of safety and almost as if it were a miniature shield.

The sign of the dime was not perfectly clear until the end of my trip.

I had gone to DC to hopefully draw attention to our SILENT WOUNDED with those who can make a difference-our legislatures. I learned quickly the person I had partnered with was not who I felt very comfortable with-and I departed ways.

The feeling I had been that this was not right and the conversations we were having were not fully in the interest of MST survivors. I could hear the other man speak but my ears were going into a mumble-my heart said to exit this place swiftly and to separate from this other messenger as fast as I can.

Following me to the street was the photojournalist that is documenting several MST survivors, she asked if I felt I had made the right decision? I had and told her I made my decision because of Spiritual guidance and instinct…better is little than great treasure,was my explanation!

That is not hard to understand! It meant to me right then that it was better to cut and run before any more of these meetings took place. I held in my hands the responsibility of the words in statements from other survivors-and I was not going to mingle them in with this individuals agenda!

But…what about DC and seeing the Senators? Or seeing members of Congress? wasn’t this trip about seeking the hope of change?

The DIME! There was a significance in finding that dime! Great significance-which took the shingles from my eyes so I could see the purpose.

Some of the veterans who wrote statements for this trip are also men and woman who I have telephone contact with. I promised I would keep each step of my trip up to date with them. One of the veterans I spoke to mentioned the name of an attorney-her office was right there in the city!

One only needs to do a ‘google’ on the name Susan Burke PLLC to learn the power in what took place! The dime began to shine! is seeking the written statements from Military Sexual Trauma (MST) survivors. Susan Burke is writing a class action lawsuit against the Department of Defense (and hopefully the Veterans Administration) to force them to be accountable for every MST survivors case-properly!

I am invited to sit at round table discussions as to how to express every detail. This will require many more trips to our Nations Capital.

The dime? Ah yes…this was the reason I found the dime! Remember how my story went about finding my first spiritual dime? I explained that when as a boy visiting my grandparents in Washington DC (my grandparents are now buried in Arlington Cemetery) my grandmother would give us ‘car fare’…which was a small hand full of dimes. That is what it cost for streetcars then-and we would catch a car to the museums and travel all around the city. Peculiar to me…Susan Burkes office is directly behind the old street car barn on K Street NW ! Another good sign to me!

Why is this better? Why better is little? Why not the great treasure? Better is little than great treasure!

I could have continued my trip to Washington and The Hart Senate Building and the buildings that house Congress and canvassed through the halls-making unannounced entry to the many offices. It is our right-these are our elected officials, as they say-our employees!  I was also invited to speak at the Congressional hearings-just two days away!

I learned more-just yesterday! I learned more about better is little than great treasure!

In anticipation of being expected to travel back to DC I telephoned Susan Burke and asked if my money was better spent by attending her round table planning sessions-for the lawsuit…or should I come to the hearings? The answer was perfectly easy to understand!

She responded by saying more good is going to come from her firm rattling the very cage that holds the answers for MST survivors-the Department of Defense. Her opinion is that the hearings will be political-she plans to attend but told me that there should be no expectations that any changes will come from them-she said none has come from the previous hearings. Why? Because many of those who sit on these committees are seeking re-election or have other reasons NOT to rattle the cage of the Department of Defense.

I had lunch yesterday with a retired professor from the University of Florida. He is interested in my quest for MST survivors hopes and I told him all about the trip-beginning to end. He affirmed the power in better is little than great treasure! He agreed that trying to sway the politicians will be a long trail to travel…his feelings agreed with what Susan Burke told me-they may listen,but the hope for change from them will be a long way away! Because…they may not want to step on many toes, but Ms.Burke makes it her practice to do so!

She has sued and won settlements for the Abu Garib torture survivors-against Haliburton and Blackwater. No small task there! Yes…yes yes I see the clearer picture now! I see the dime in Susan Brurke-I see the message of better is little than great treasure…I see exactly what is the truth!

I believe ALL of us who have survived MST will agree that monetary payments will never suffice to return our lives and our piece of mind and spirit…no payment can ever heal the trauma my mind endures each day from an event 40 years ago,so I know it most likely can’t heal yours.

What will make a difference is if WE can create a movement to change the values of the Department of Defense and the policies that have shoveled our cases aside into a corner-if we can change the way MST veterans are responded to through the Veterans Administration-if we can change this for future survivors! Yes,sadly human nature and the deviance of others will never really ever change. There is no way our society will ever see an end to these crimes…even in our military. But we can change the way MST survivors are responded to!  We can force the Department of Defense to handle every MST case with sensitive care for the victim-and we can force the Veterans Administration to uphold its end too…we suvivors have a legal right to permanent treatment-they do not give us that,and WE CAN change this!

 Write Susan Burke-add your statements in testimony and believe me-this IS the correct path to follow! Be a WITNESS against this crime and be a part of the change!

Proverbs 15:16

on the wire

May 2, 2010

Originally uploaded by jayfherron


Now the countdown begins. Already my anxiety has kicked in-it began the moment PayPal accepted my payment for the airplane tickets. I am so stressed from thinking about it-Washington DC…and the buildings and the fear of  public restrooms-the worse.

I have these past postings place my personal address and email contact-I am wanting for MST survivors to write in their own words what this life is like for them-being assaulted,most likely being told to get used to it (like I was told) and the troubles with stigma and more so-the troubles with the VA (Veterans Administration) and the disabilty-claim process…especialy with how the process is set up for the veteran to proceed.

Last week I received a contact-from a reader…but I sense the writer has only read snippets of what I have been saying over the years. The writer expressed disappointment seeming that I am only about male MST survivors…which is incorrect.

My journey to Washington DC has been inspired by a young veteran who I have never met-except by telephone conversations. This young veteran was raped while serving boot camp-this young veteran read a post I wrote in 2008 regarding the arrest of an ROTC instructor in Sarasota Florida. This man was arrested for the rape of a student in his charge-an ROTC recruit. My young veteran was raped by the ROTC instructor during boot camp-the rapist was this veterans drill instructor!

There are too many sexual assault cases where ROTC instructors have stepped out-of-bounds.

My fellow veteran and I began our conversations several weeks ago-his calls to me encouraged me to take this trip.

I began writing this journal because the Florida Department of Veterans Affairs officer who took my statement as a rape survivor…a ‘military sexual trauma’ survivor (MST) looked at me in total amazement and said “Gee…you never think homosexuals have a need to rape each other”- and he could not get over the fact that he was wrong to assume the men who raped were not black men. I became disgusted then.

I became more disgusted learning about the ROTC arrests-do a GOOGLE search and learn for yourselves…the numbers in 2008 alone were staggering.

I suffer from PTSD directly resulting MST. My life has been affected by this-my family has been affected…I am a troubled person-as my anxiety shows,and it is directly connected to the rapes. I was a kid then-and I think about it…I was not much older than the ROTC students assaulted by the instructors. Who helps these kids? The Veterans Administration has nothing for them…after all,they are only prepping to be leaders-but are civilians otherwise!

My journey to Washington DC has come. In one more week I WILL be sharing thoughts about how the VA disability claim process must be changed for the ease of MST survivors to appeal for VA benefits. There must be an end to require MST veterans to appeal at the local DVA…and being heard by n advocate that has no understanding about MST-o being a survivor. No more having to report to those who are unable to grasp-sexual assault is not fun.

We also intend to present the need to change legislation for ROTC recruits. Some VA rights should cover these young students…most especially if there is an MST case involved.

We? The young veteran who read my piece about Lt.Busby-the ROTC rapist,and began to agree with me…who helps these students? Included in our small group will be two photo-journalist (they have been covering my story and the stories of 11 other MST survivors) who are independantly working on a documentary about MST.

We? We are scheduled to meet two Senators-Specter and Lieberman…as I said the other day-it will be believed fully when I witness this myself,but-I have faith.

Why? Because it is time the men and woman who serve our country and met with the dishonor of MST deserve the freedom to be able to come forward and appeal for a disability as freely as a legitimately injured soldier with out concern the VA advocate will not be making bigoted remarks.

And-what else? To express deep concern for he ROTC-MST survivors. We need to see they receive help too.

Man or Woman-if you served in the United State Armed Forces-you are a veteran.

Man or Woman-if you have suffered as result of MST -we are going to Washington DC for you!!

I had hoped for more response to my ‘write and say it in your own words’ campaign! The need to express your thoughts regarding your being a survivor-the need is so important.

Please write-please permit me to hand deliver your words to hope we can make a change!


March 20, 2010

Originally uploaded by jayfherron


The following words came to me by email-from ONE MORE – MST survivor seeking justice:  “It is always great to hear from you, more so knowing that your support is genuine and from the heart. The Attorney didn’t take my case because the VA changed the entire scenario concerning claims, he said that unless the claim was denied the Attorneys can’t take cases, therefore I would have to wait until then in order to get legal advice,…go figure! My life hasn’t been easy, alone, scared most of the time, can’t sleep cause of nightmares, anxiety, etc…..more so not having a close friend to take to makes it even worse…..that’s why I appreciate your friendship, your support and kindness means a lot to me, even if it’s through the Internet”.

This is another veteran-who enlisted in the United States Military to PROTECT and SERVE his fellow countryman-and to defend the Constitution of the United States.

Read what he is telling us! He has been wronged-criminally abused by fellow military personell…and is being told there is a rule that says he cannot seek his own representation against the Veterans Administration? What is WRONG with this picture America?

I too have been told this-I have in my hand a letter sent last year-it came from the Veterans Administration…it says the attorney that I selected to represent me was not approved by the VA and therefore disqualified to represent me in my disability claim for PTSD. So-I am supposed o trust the system to provide me with unbiased legal counsel…the same system I an any of us are going against-and yet forced to use their attorney lists? I don’t get it-please…someone explain this to me.

We were proud to serve our country-in my generation we were taught we were defending democracy….but what is democratic if we cannot find a person who we trust to defend our rights?

I said this the other day….how can we sit back and let this happen? I DID NOT enlist to suffer the way I do because of MST…I would be more proud to have been wounded in combat than to be wounded in the way we survivors have been wounded-and our wounds are unlike those received in combat…they are wounds of shame as much as they are wounds in our physical being and souls.

I did nothing wrong-why should I be treated as if I did? Why should we be isolated into a line of insensitive rules that do nothing to ease the pain-instead multiply it?

We need to stand up-fight those who attacked us and strike back…or we can just sit back and take it!

This is wrong…read the fear and pain in this mans words-and also see how his rights are also gone.

what’s next…?

December 27, 2008


Originally uploaded by jayfherron

We come to the end of the year. To those of you who have read my writings you already know that the marking of the new year know that my life was changed forever on December 31,1969-about 0200 in the morning. New Years eve.

The things I relate in my story here are about my life as a male rape survivor. They aren’t just a journal about the attacks-there was life in between then and now….it just wasn’t particularly normal. What I hope for them to be is to express what it is like-to educate about one mans life with PTSD.

I never intended to come this far-to write about it. Once upon a time I vowed there would never be a computer in my house. I see that has changed. Still, I never meant to come this far. It seems it is not over.

What stayed silent in me for 30 plus years came out by anger over being prescribed drugs for my having bouts with depression. I had spent much of my adult life fighting drugs and alcohol-trying to be sober…mostly because I found the drugs and drinking my way of hiding my life,yet each morning-there it was. I had spent too much time trying to live life more clearer-to work at being drug free and free of drinking every day.

I was prescribed anti-depressant after a routine visit at the Veterans hospital in my area. They asked a question…”are you depressed”? and I answered “sometimes”. They gave me a bottle of pills-those pills made me feel high.

I wrote a letter to the VA Hospital explaining that I was not going to take the medicine-I told them why, just like I said here-why hide the problem with a drug? That was the first time I ever mentioned being raped.

My rape and continual sexual assaults happened while I was in the US Navy.

Because of this connection-the VA offered therapy and through that therapy I learned that I should appeal for disability benefits. I was told that I deserved them.

When I met the Veterans Affairs advocate who was to represent me in finding  justice-the man made comments that concluded being raped and male made the whole scene a homosexual event-he commented that it was “surprising that homosexuals needed to rape each other”…he also concluded my attackers were black and showed surprise when I said that was wrong.

After that I could not remain silent. I felt  violated once again. I remember the officer that interviewed me the morning of my rape saying “get used to it” when he discovered that I had been attacked. It wasn’t hard to notice-my uniforms were damp with urine-my face bruised and obviously afraid.

I could not believe the ignorence that came across from a man who was supposed to be my advocate and stand up and speak for me. How could he be sincere-he knew nothing of what I was telling him.

After calming down-my anger about this remained. How many other veterans-survivors of sexual trauma-have experienced this bigotry and ignorance? How many stay away and never say a word all because of the fear this would happen?

My anger made me buy a computer and learn how to use it to reach others-to tell my story, and to tell the story of countless others. I also learned how to use the computer to reach those who should hear us…the silent wounded.

We have made strides in our goal. I look forward to see how the coming year will turn about-how since I first bought this computer three years ago has found being invited to Washington DC. It is in Washington that I am hopeful to convey our story to those who can make change.

Just three weeks ago I spoke with Joan Esnayra who founded PsychDogs, an Arlington Virginia based foundation that teaches veterans with PTSD to train service dogs to assist them in daily life. I explained to Joan my experience with rape and PTSD and the experience I had with the Veterans Affairs advocate-I told her my ideas for change and how wrong it is to know there is a large number of military veterans suffering because of PTSD resulting from sexual trauma. Military Sexual Trauma-MST.

I also explained to Joan that I am hopeful to meet with Congresswoman Ginny Brown-Waite and her Chief of Staff to discuss this and how those survivors who are silent and suffering – have also had their civil rights violated.

Through this conversation Joan introduced me to Steve Robinson-via telephone. Steve understood everything I said-and hears us! Mr.Robinson will prove to be a valuable helpmate in our battle-he is the former aid to Donald Rumsfeld (former Secretary of Defense) who exposed the scandal at Walter Reed Veterans Hospital in Washington DC.  Mr Robinson has promised to pick up the rod with me after the holiday season returns us back to normal-and after the hub bub of the inauguration is over in Washington.

What is hopeful in all of this is that we can make a change in the Veterans Administration to provide those who are the silent wounded a sensitive ear and advocate to assist the veteran in getting what is rightfully theirs-justice, and equal rights!

To be among the silent wounded-to know the shame and guilt that comes along with the memories. I never thought my hurt would work towards this direction. I always thought it would be my secret-kept shut up with in. I never knew my anger would erupt like this-from the very facility that’s in place to help veterans came hurt.  But it has made me see the need to change this for every survivor of the humiliation of MST.

the Gainesville VA lie-or-let us ice a stale cake

July 21, 2008

my kind of design
Originally uploaded by jayfherron


I finally heard it on the local news this morning-the Gainesville Florida Veterans Administration Hospital broke ground Saturday for the new BED TOWER.
They lauded it as an improvement to better serve veterans.Can’t be so… to have to ad a 250 BED TOWER is not an improvement-it is a sign of what is coming back from our problem in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The funny part of this story is that I’ve known about this BED TOWER for well over a year…my  connections in the local construction industry have brought it up adding that the entire strip of buildings on Archer Road surrounding the VA are all medical towers-the construction of these over the last few years have kept the trades busy.
The construction pal’s I have are not the sole source of the fact the VA building was being added to,besides the fact I have been treated there I also have long time friends that work in various parts of the hospital.
The grumbles from some of them are how the moves have interfered and complicated many of the routines…because to make room for the construction the VA has leased outside buildings around the city. Some of my friends had many extra miles added to their morning drive.
The local story’s on the radio have been icing on a stale cake.
They applauded the opening of a ‘new’ center on 23rd Avenue as an ‘advancement’ in health care for the veteran….it is a lie-it is not an advancement when the move is temporary and only to get one floor of offices out of the way to ad a BED TOWER.
And…it is not just one floor!
Prosthetics-which was once in the basement,where it has been for years….it is now way out on the edge of the city on a street behind a nearly derelict shopping center.
Tell Care-which was once up on second floor…moved to the same location,which makes better sense because ‘tell care’ is a telephone contact only service-so the vet from out of town hasn’t got to spend a part of his day trying to find the place. The other places for the out of town veteran are a trick to find if you are’nt familier with the city.
Mental Health….it too has moved-and was the move that received all the attention several months ago of how great the stale cake was-how ‘wonderful’ it was they were offering such an improvement to the veteran.
It is wrong to hide behind a cheesy false smile like that and expect the rest of the city and nation to believe it…and they do! I had one of my committee members point out what a wonderful job the VA has done to expand as they have…growing,and spreading out to better serve the veteran.Cheesy smile…
They never seem to look at it as where a veteran comes from…what has made the veteran who he and she is….it was such a cheery news report this morning…it too lauding the champion job the VA is doing.
That is NOT an improvement-it is a sign that we are soon to see the influx of returning wounded.
That is NOT an improvement. It is a lie! It is icing on a stale cake.

I am curious how my friends who work there feel-almost like going along with the charade.


March 18, 2008

my kind of design
Originally uploaded by jayfherron

Wanting to stay on the course why I began writing on the internet like this ( excuse me….Internet)…
I am finding myself distracted from the actual point why I have started writing as I have.
I’m not your typical person-I haven’t watched commercial television in over 10 years ( yes…I suck it right in when ever I’m in front of one) and don’t care for what it is I’ve might of missed. So far as I can tell-I’m not missing much.
For me to have a computer….well,lets just put it this way-if you were to say two years ago I would have a computer here in this ‘camp’ of mine any one would have said you were crazy.
Here it is. And due to lightning,this one is number two.

Up to lately I have found the computer a means to speak up. All of a sudden I find myself distracted by whats to come and by what has been.
It seems now it was about five years ago on a visit to the VA hospital I was asked if I ever felt depressed.
You can see that because of my having a stroke and the Americas Most Wanted person ‘Rose’ and my ‘rattlesnake bride’ and coming to grips that she left me hanging high and dry and with no wheels (it’s nearly 7 miles to the nearest town) and the fact that I was broke as one could be….I answered yes.
I was given some pills and sent on my way.

The pills were smile makers-they made me feel good-actually as if I was on mescaline…and after a few days I dumped them in the toilet and that was that.
Shortly after a notice came from the VA to meet in a group to discuss this medicine…and I told them the stuff made me feel that way. The social worker who was convening this group sent me to the phsycyatrist and he asked me the classic questions….are you going to hurt somebody? No,I am not…..are you going to hurt yourself? No,I am not….Then you need to give these pills a try-you didn’t give them a chance.

So I took the pills and drove home and dumped them in the toilet and then I wrote a letter to the VA saying how stupid it seemed that I went through the things I did and tried my damnedest to drink them and drug them out of my life-and then went through the battles to quit the drugs and the drinking…and then here’s the answer? More pills?

Why I trusted it once again is uncertain. I guess it just comes from wanting to.
I guess about four months went by when I wrote the letter-that’s when an appointment was made and I met Charlotte.
I learn to trust the system again after meeting her-and after about a year she suggests I file for a claim…to validate that this happened to me. The rapes in barracks D.

I find I’m supposed to report to a local veterans advocate-in my county. I don’t live in a county where most men appear to be sensitive about males being assaulted by other men…I did find this veterans advocate to be no different. His remarks were rude,vulgar-and bigoted .
Soon after I quit seeing that person as an advocate I read where he had retired-the story I read in the newspaper about his replacement told me she had no education-worked previously in a fish market and at nights as a janitor. The article said nothing about her being trained in sensitivity to a sexual assault report. Her former boss surely had none.

I figured it out after searching the Internet that through out Florida the requirements for the veterans advocates is slim in professional training-and more towards the veteran who has been injured during duty-perhaps even in battle,but not those who have been sexually attacked-and also injured during duty.
I got this computer to write about that-the  unjustness of the system that doesn’t give proper support for all veterans-and is biased to those who are injured in more understandable ways-in battle,but please…there needs to be attention given to those injured in sexual assault incidents. They know they happen.
It is almost as if our civil rights are taken from us.
My story-what happened to me,it stayed inside of me for years…until I trusted.
All of that has been let down. After three years of steady therapy with Charlotte-it has stopped,she stepped out of the system programs loop and the clients she had are no longer able to see her. I don’t know about the rest of them-but I surely can’t go through that again. Because of the therapist being a human and helping one of her other ‘vets’ we all see punishment.

So I’m rambling-I guess I can do that! I kind of feel like some cartoon character that walks out into the highway and a big Mack truck comes and blams right over him…and then he gets up and ‘beep beep’,another Mack truck blams over him again.

I am unable to stay amused by the events-the broken trust…we did try. Why didn’t I leave it alone?
I am amazed at how quickly I have begun to feel bad. I guess I can claim I socked it in the face for nearly eight years…this pain in my gut-maybe perhaps the thought of being validated by the ‘system’ has helped keep me going,but now that appears mute.
Some one needs to keep saying these things I’ve been trying to say…to announce to any one possible that sexual assault exists in the military-men are assaulted too….and the Veterans Administration needs to clean up its advocacy program and put people in there who are sensitive to this fact-sexual assault is an injury as much as it is a crime. Maybe then there will be validation.