Posts Tagged ‘veterans rights’

Civil Rights for MST survivors

March 1, 2009



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!


January 27, 2009

empty stairs-drawn by jay herron 2006

Originally uploaded by jayfherron

Sunday began as any usual weekend day. Then came the pain. It was a horrible pain from the lower right side of my gut-I’ve been having uncomfortable pain from that area for several years-nothing like what was searing through my body on Sunday.

It worsened. I believe I began to hyperventilate-I know I got scared…I dialed 911.

The 911 operator stayed on the line with me as I writhed on the floor-I was literally crying from the pain and fear.

I made the decision to be taken to the VA (Veterans Administration Hospital) Emergency Room. By the time we got there I had some what calmed down,the pain had stopped it’s agony and I was feeling less afraid.

I have never felt right about being a patient at the VA medical center. Because of my ‘duty’ in my few months in the military was so disgraceful I never felt right standing and waiting to visit a doctor next to men who lay in the dirt and mud and misery of war. I always felt I was not rightfully a veteran-other than boot camp my only actual service to my country was the short time I was on board ship,and that wasn’t very long. My duty was lost in a detention barracks.

I was not comfortable going to the VA Sunday. I had not planned to try to resume care there until everything has been settled with my newly awarded ‘service connection disability’. The only thing I had to prove I could legitimatly be a patient at the VA was my papers from the VA judge that state I am-so I carried them with me.

My presence there was less than welcome. By the time I adjusted myself on the ER bed my pain had subsided and my treatment was as if I was taking up space. I was asked to give a urine sample-but the space was open and the front wall was partially glass with the office staff on the opposite side…I am entirely uncomfortable in that much activity to pee, a phobia I’ve had since barracks D.

I explained to the first medical tech I have difficulty peeing in such circumstance and explained my issues with PTSD with hope to get help to go to the privacy of a toilet-his response was that the drape would offer me privacy. I could not pee,so I laid down.

A girl game  in and inserted an IV. They did draw blood. They never checked my blood pressure-it was very high in the ambulance,no one seemed concerned, just bothered that I was there. I laid there for a long time with out any attention. Then the pain returned. I tried to relax myself but the pain was intense and I began to ask for someone to help-no one came. I began to cry-the pain was that severe.  Finally a nurse does show up and asks why I am crying and I replied that I was in pain-and that is why we were here.

I was given an injection of something to calm me down.

My son got me home around 8 o’clock Sunday evening. We spent the ride home talking about how they had treated me there, his word was ‘rude’-he said they weren’t even listening to what I said. The doctor that finally saw me said I “keep walking to the bathroom” as if I made multiple trips-he dismissed anything I said and dismissed me too.

Around 10 o’clock it happened again. I tried to relax-but it wouldn’t stop. The pain was awful and relentless-I called my son and told him something was wrong and he knew it from how I sounded. He called 911 this time.

The ambulance crew told me if they took me back to the VA a second time that the ER will make me sit in the lobby and wait all night and I had made up my mind never to return to the VA again. They took me to a hospital across town.

I waited in their waiting room too-but not all night. By midnight I was in a room with a wall and privacy to pee. They listened to me that I have issues with PTSD-they dimmed the lights because of my eyes.

I was given an exam with what is going to end up costing me a fortune-something I have no money for. They did discover a cyst on my kindney was pressing against a part of my stomach where it appears to be a part of my gut has something stuck in it-to say it as least gross as I can.

They treated me with morphine to ease the pain and sent me home with medications that will ease the pain and some that will work on the problem in my gut.

My son and I talked about it as we drove home from the hospital-the ride was slow because of the early morning Florida fog so we had more time than usual. He remarked how notable the difference in the care that was given. It seems my attacks of pain weren’t life threatening-at the moment they seemed just that. But the difference in respect that was shown-why does it seem missing at the VA Hospital?

I was embarrassed by the treatment I was given by the physician that discharged me. He dismissed me in a way one would shoo a fly from a sandwich-I was speaking to him and my son told me that the man was completely ignoring me. I was relieved that he saw it that way too. My son said he noticed it because a part of his job at the Sheriffs Office is transporting convicts to medical care and that I was being treated like I was one of those convicts.

I had thought that since I recieved vindication from the VA judge that I had an equal right to medical care at the VA Hospital-I see that it is my mistake.

jumping the gun!

November 7, 2008

Originally uploaded by jayfherron


Yesterday I wrote about ‘patience’….it seems I could have exercised more. If I could have waited one more day.

I actually find myself with out the words. I am in awe of the news that came yesterday at noon. I awoke this morning feeling different for once, so much can change in a moment.

The news that came told me that I am an injured veteran,injured during active duty-and that the Veterans Administration agrees that I was wronged 38 years ago…they agree with the facts and admit that I was raped in barrack D.

There is so much missing. The years…and my father. I will never have them the way I would have liked.

The energy in me is depleted. Yesterdays news had me on an high that had me completely exhausted by the time I fell in to bed. I woke this morning trying to think of what happened, and then I remembered the envelope that came from the Veterans Administration in Washington DC. The envelope contained the decision that had been hoped for since a year ago today. I have been given the truth in a just way.

It hasn’t sunk in all the way. I still feel the high that I felt yesterday as the news grew on me. I had to read the papers several times over to fully comprehend. The most important part-I feel like a legitimate veteran now…it has been officially agreed  that I am.

What this means is now we can go into a new direction. The decision by the VA Judge opens the door for others. We all have been given something by the letter in my mail. By ‘all’…I mean every survivor of MST (military sexual trauma).

This is good news for each of the silent wounded-that we can hold the military accountable for this violation of a persons rights and body.

I wrote yesterday about patience. Patience is easy to practice when it is waiting for something that you have never had. Patience is more valid when you use it to wait and trust in something for a long long time-when you believe in yourself, and you know the truth-and know the truth is always,and cannot change,then you will be rewarded by faith in the end.

I’ve always known the truth about my life. I’ve always known the truth about what happened. I did not know that the truth would prevail 38 years later-I just knew it was so. I’ve woken up everyday with the memory of barrack D for 38 years with shame and guilt in my soul. This morning I feel different-almost as if I’m somebody else.

I am unable to find words as this moment has me so emotional just thinking of what has happened. It is so long over due, why that had to be I am not sure….why any of it had to be, I have no answer.


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.

indicators,signs and birds and dimes

June 9, 2008

kachina-made from odd things

Originally uploaded by jayfherron

The past month and the past week have been an interesting and motivating season.
I attended the ‘sexual asssault’ conference in Gainesville in the last week of May and there I heard a speaker-another survivor who told her story and how she took her life as a survivor and turned it into a full time job. Although she is a public person,I limit my saying that who she is is the deputy director of the division of victim services and criminal justice programs in the State of Florida. Her story is quite an experience to hear-even being a survivor myself,I had an emotional reaction to what I heard.
I managed during a break in the conference to hand her husband a paper I had written up regarding my feelings as to how veterans are treated as survivors in civilian life. We managed to have quick chit chat that lasted about as long as it took to eat a cookie…and that was the end of that.

Last Tuesday I was in a hospital waiting room drinking one of those solutions they use to see you better in an x-ray…some kind of deal that you had to drink a cup every 30 minutes-and my nerves are tense because the waiting room had several people in it. My cell phone rings…and it is this lady from the Attorney Generals (Florida) office-which is where the lady I met was connected to. It was her.
I guess I neeed to mention that when she was attacked-her eyes were taken,and she is blind.
So I am waiting and drinking my bottle of solution and my phone rings and it is this lady and my heart was so thrilled that she had called-yet here I was stuck in this waiting room with my solution bottle and as we are talking the fire alarm goes off and a recorded voice comes out of the PA saying “condition red” “condition red”….but no one seemed to care-the nurses at the station,they stayed put,and there were patients on gurneys and no sense of urgency.
Of course-the lady I’m speaking to hears this and and I just kept talking saying this had to be from God personally because of knowing I am uncomfortable in buildings and on the telephone and when speaking with people of authority-and jingle jingle comes the alarm….just some humor from above.
We had a perfect conversation-I am in awe.

One week to the day-the previous Tuesday-a friend had inspired me to visit a ‘seer’ in Casssadaga Florida. Cassadaga is famous for its spiritual readers,and since I never had it done….sure!! We did it!
I got to say that everything the seer said was tight and to the   ‘T’ . I was impressed with what I heard.
My friend had business with a couple who had just recently bought a house in which my friend has some estate connection with-the estate of a very well known writer and spiritual reader-Eloise Page. So after my reading we drove to see this couple. I had never been there before.
In the entrance of the house was a bronze sculpture of a raven.The raven is a bird that brings great significant signs to me that God is present in what I am doing. It was the first bird Noah released from the ark.
I  immediately sensed a goodness was beginning to happen-the raven was a sign that what the reader had told me earlier was good words-of peace,and of good guidance soon to come.
So when that phone rang in the hospital waiting room and the caller was this person of great importance to help in the legion of steps needed to get to where my hope for the other survivors-the silent survivors of Military Sexual Trauma….is met.
And then the fire alarm goes off!
How clever and cool and spiritual I think that is…a sign!

I recently began a painting. The paintings all begin themselves-the idea comes from the canvas and then my help follows. For some reason the scrabbles of brush marks I made appeared to be Kachina dancers and so I continued with that and sure enough the dance of the Hopi Kachina was what the canvas was saying.
And then…all of a sudden came this incidental happenings with Kachina dancers-the dolls,I kept seeing them here and there….so,they aren’t as incidental as I brush them off to be.
The Kachina is a contact-a spiritual contact that the Hopi Nation use to heal and support and plead and thus speak to the spirits. That folks is my feeble explanation of such a phenomenal people and the practices they survived with.
Last week I bumped into this piece of magic-all glued up from small little cars and trucks and pieces of Lego and things found…but yet,it is a Kachina dancer,and it is a spiritual sign.

I got an energy from my conversation with the deputy director of victim services and criminal justice programs….I feel a burst of lightning coming out of me-almost as it appears to be coming from the branch this Kachina holds.
My connection from the Attorney Generals office has advised me to contact Senator Bill Nelson-my chore for today,to write him (which involves going into town-no printer here). And I have learned that I can write a hand delivered letter to Congress-the fee is almost $9.00 (…which strikes me as funny)

I felt this feeling running through my spine-that odd chill and tickle we get when something good is happening.
Hearing this woman’s voice and hearing her say I was absolutely correct-my agenda is right on track and she said to keep on stoking the engine because I am saying things that are important.

There is a thing-once upon a time I was concerned about meeting an attorney that was coming from Washington DC to see me. I was trying to find a common ground to talk to him about-to break the ice,and I was meditating in prayer about how to do this.
I’m out in the woods-a mile or so from anything…and in my mind comes these dimes-our grandparents used to gives us dimes to catch the street car with (just to get us out of the house-they’d send us to the museums-they lived in DC, thus the connection) and those street cars and dimes were in my head….and ZOOM ,there on the ground in the middle of the state forest was a dime! A great and shining dime!
That dime was there because it was Gods doing,a sign.
The telephone call last week- during the fire alarm…that was a dime and a raven and a sign!
Things are going to happen.