Pause, Listen and Reflect

One Weary Soldier:

Everyone must read this.

Originally posted on Reconciling Within:

There comes a time in everybody’s life when we must sit down pause, listen and reflect.  Gawsh to think I’ll allow the world to pass me by in a second or even a minute. It kind of reminds me of a music video I once watched where the person was sitting in a chair and everything was moving around them, I don’t think it was a music video I think it was part of the Twilight series, Eclipse or New Moon. Yep, when Edward leaves Bella and Bella sat in her chair in her room.  Well it was the most boring part of the movie! And no I’m not talking about allowing the world pass by in that overly dramatic sense. Or am I? HAHA Well, I guess I could compare it to that scene… in a way.

For so long I’ve lived by my motto, my code the being…

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One Weary Soldier:

This is a brilliantly written blog by a dear, dear Sister Veteran. Like me, she suffers from PTSD. PTSD doesn’t make us weak. It makes us stronger. Stronger than the average bear you might even say. Don’t mess with us. We will mess you up. That is a promise, not a threat.

Originally posted on Reconciling Within:

702666_10101104135261177_714514493_nI’ve longed to be heard and understood, for a man to appreciate me and be patient with. I’m ready for this, how long have I’ve waited for this to happen yet I feel as if I need to hold back for fear if I let go… will I hurt again?

Being married to a man for 12 years I’ve always felt something was missing, something was lacking. Every time I would try to talk about it I was told how I just doubted myself. Now looking back, I doubted myself for a reason; I didn’t tell him the inner darkest secret… because I knew he was not mature enough to understand what pained me. Sure enough, I was right.

The mockery of being a woman in a society of men still haunts me today yet I built up this courage to fight my fear and face it dead on hoping…

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My first post on WordPress.com

Hello everyone!  The future is in change.  I believe that.  If I didn’t, I wouldn’t keep writing my blogs.  I’m considering moving from http://www.onewearysoldier.blogspot.com to http://onewearysoldier.wordpress.com.  I’ve heard a lot of good things about this host.  Blogspot recently changed their login dashboard and I don’t like it.  It’s not as easy to navigate as it was and one thing I like is simplicity.

I realize this new format is very plain.  I haven’t yet uploaded anything to it.  I haven’t made it “fancy” or eye appealing.  I thought I’d check it out for ease of use.  I also wanted to ask you, my faithful readers, what you thought of the change.  Will it be a problem for you?  Will you make the switch with me?  Will you change your bookmarks and follow me to this new home if I go through with this?

Please take this poll.  I hope I’ve created it correctly.  Thank you for helping me, my friends.

Until the next time …..

Ninth Circuit Court Lifts Stay Barring Enforcement of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell

Ninth Circuit Lifts Stay Barring Enforcement of DADT
LCR Case, on which Servicemembers United Executive Director is the Sole
Veteran Plaintiff, Succeeds Again in Gutting “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
7/6/2011
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Servicemembers United, the nation’s largest organization of gay and lesbian troops and veterans, today enthusiastically applauded the order issued by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals lifting its own stay of a lower court’s injunction barring enforcement of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law. This move once again renders “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” unenforceable by the Pentagon.
“With the wait for certification dragging out beyond a reasonable time frame, the Court has once again stepped in to require the Pentagon to stop enforcing ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ and this time it very well may be for good,” said Alexander Nicholson, Executive Director of Servicemembers United and the sole veteran plaintiff on the case. “I am proud to have worked personally worked with Log Cabin on this case for more than five years now and to have represented the gay military community as the sole named veteran on this lawsuit. Despite the criticisms and years of waiting, this case has yet again successfully eviscerated this outdated, harmful, and discriminatory law.” 
The Log Cabin Republicans vs. U.S.A. lawsuit is the only contemporary successful challenge to the constitutionality of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law, which requires the Department of Defense to abruptly fire any servicemember found to be gay, lesbian, or bisexual. In 2010, U.S. District Court Judge Virginia Phillips found the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law to be unconstitutional after a two-week trial, and issued an order barring enforcement of the law worldwide. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals subsequently issued a stay of that order pending appeal by the government. Today’s order from the Ninth Circuit overturns its own previous stay, rendering “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” once again unenforceable. 
Nicholson added, “Servicemembers should still remain extremely cautious with information regarding their sexual orientation for the time being. The issue remains in a state of flux, although guarded optimism is certainly warranted.”
For more information about Servicemembers United and the gay military community, please visit our new home on the web at www.servicemembers.org
###
Servicemembers United, a non-profit and non-partisan organization, is the nation’s largest organization of gay and lesbian troops and veterans and their allies. Based in Washington, DC, Servicemembers United actively engages in education and advocacy on issues affecting the gay military, veteran, and defense community.
*** Any photos added were not in the original posting.  They were added by me.  Thanks, Wendi.***

The End of an Era by Leo Dougherty

CSM Mellinger

 
 The Associated Press reported on, of all days, July 4, 2011 that Command Sergeant Major Jeff Mellinger (Fort Belvoir, VA) is believed to be the last Army draftee on active duty and is about to retire.  He will have completed 39 years of active duty military service when he walks through the gates of Fort Belvoir for the last time.  It will mark the end of an era.

If you are 40 or older the chances are you remember a time when conscription was an accepted part of a teenager’s life.  You expected to be drafted into the Army if you did not enlist in one of the other branches of service, unless you were medically disqualified.
CSM Mellinger then and now
            In 1973 however, partly or perhaps mostly in response to opposition to the War in Vietnam the draft was discontinued.  Like so many things our government does that are prompted by politicians reacting to political winds of the times, it seemed like a good idea at the time.  I was not drafted and was not even eligible to apply for a draft card when I enlisted so the draft didn’t mean a lot to me.  I didn’t think it was such a bad idea to discontinue conscripting young men into serving our country.
            Now, almost 40 years later, I believe we could have done a better job of managing the draft following the end of the War in Vietnam.
            Why do I think we could have done a better job managing the draft, rather than discontinuing it?  First, the likelihood that we would have more representatives in the House of Representatives and the Senate with military experience is greater.  That military experience would very likely result in greater consideration by elected officials of when and where our government would send our troops, our money, and our wartime resources before making a military commitment.
            Equally important, far more members of society would have experienced military service and thus their families would have a much greater understanding of the stresses loved ones must endure during deployments.
            Finally, and maybe most importantly, today’s military personnel and their families would not have to endure multiple deployments while the majority of America’s citizen’s continue with their lives as if nothing was going on in a country thousands of miles away. 
            The Selective Service System still exists today.  Our government could schedule a draft if it wanted to but in my humble opinion it lacks the political courage to do this. If it did schedule a draft out of necessity it could also stop a draft when the necessity ended.  Under such circumstances it would be interesting to see how quickly our elected leaders would be to involve our country in war when their constituents would be keenly aware that everyone would be invested and engaged in such a war. 
            I believe that if American citizens felt a war was just and necessary we would see the kind of national commitment and unity seen during World War II.  I also believe we would see much more thoughtful debate about wars that essentially involve policing, nation building, or interceding in civil wars of other countries.
            One other thing I think we could have done and should have done when we ceased drafting young men to serve in the military is provided a choice; serve two years in your choice of a military branch or serve two years in a program created to better America at home.  Had we done this we might not have a society that expects instant gratification, a society that seems to no longer have room for opposing opinions in its national discourse, and a society that seems to think it’s OK for others to do the work of representing and defending our national interests around the world.
            But, I’m just an old man who still thinks it’s an honor to serve my country.  I still believe the best experience any young man can have is to learn discipline, to learn self-worth, to learn team work even with some people you may not necessarily like or get along with, to learn pride, to learn leadership as well as following, and most of all to learn just what honor really is.  These are the characteristics I believe come from civic service and should be required learning for all young people. 
            According to the Associated Press, Command Sergeant Major Mellinger told the draft board in 1972, “I don’t need to go into the Army, I’ve got a job.”  His job was hanging drywall.
            The era of a 19 year old drywall hanger being required to serve America in some way and along the way learning about honor, commitment and all the other character traits that come with military or civic service ends with him.  Maybe I’m out of touch with the reality of the 21st Century but I remember when it was a source of pride for a family to say their son or daughter served in the military or in some government service program that made us better not just in the eyes of others, but in our own eyes.  I remember the pride I felt every time I returned home on leave or liberty.  And I remember the sense of accomplishment I felt as I walked out the gate of the Navy base in Newport, RI that last day.  It’s sad that so many young folks may never know those feelings.  And it should be unacceptable to society and elected officials that such a small group of American families have to shoulder the burden of serving and defending our country.  
CSM Mellinger will probably have this same smile on his face when he walks out the door for the last time.  I sure did.

Proposed VA Service Dog Regulation — Comment Period ends August 15, 2011

Hello my friends,

I come to you today bearing good news.  That’s a change, isn’t it.  Are you ready? 
Are you a disabled Veteran with a service dog?  Are you considering getting a service dog?  Than you definitely want to read this article published by Occupational Health and Safety, entitled VA Expanding Service Dog Benefits.  The title itself is a bit of a misnomer.  The VA isn’t exactly “expanding” anything.  Not yet.  Read on.

This is a PROPOSAL to change to a current regulation already in place.  It will add SERVICE DOGS to the current VA regulation which currently covers only Guide Dogs.  Yes, some of you out there have had service dogs approved but as you know all too well it’s been a real battle.  This will (should) take the battle out of it for most of us with service dogs.  The proposed regulation will define service dogs.  It will spell out exactly what is covered by VA Prosthetics.  It is also supposed to spell out the steps for applying — something which varies from VA Hospital to VA Hospital.  Wouldn’t it be nice to have a standard?
READ THE FULL TEXT HERE: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2011-06-16/html/2011-14933.htm  I suggest each of you take the time to read this carefully.  It describes the proposed changes to the current regulation.  Take notes if you have to of things you don’t agree with.  It will help you to better prepare your comments on this proposal.

HOW CAN YOU HELP? It’s easy and it will only take a few minutes of your time.  Go to Regulations.gov.  There you will see a search key.  In the box above it, enter the following, “VA-2011-VHA-0017-0001: AN51-Proposed Rule -Service Dogs” (minus the quotation marks).  You have until August 15, 2011 to make comments.  State facts.  Leave emotions out of it.  We all know the VA doesn’t care about our emotions or how broke we are.  Remember to compare it to a prosthetic device.  State why you can’t use a standard prosthetic device and why a SD is better for you.  The VA will replace and pay to repair our prosthetic devices.  Why shouldn’t they pay to maintain our dogs?  These are working dogs, not pets.

SPREAD THE WORD.  Share this blog with every service dog organization you know.  Ask them to comment on this proposed regulation.  We need to get the word out.  Share this with every Veteran you know who has a service dog.  The more comments we have the better off we are.  We want the VA, particularly Neal Eckrich, to know that we are paying attention.  In your comments, tell him what type of service dog you have, not the breed, but what the dog does to assist, as in mobility, seizures, balance, etc.

WHAT THIS IS NOT.  This is not for PTSD or mental health dogs.  Let’s be clear about that.  The VA is currently conducting a three year study on the effects of PTSD dogs and their “value” to those of us with PTSD.  This is strictly about service dogs that assist us with mobility issues, seizure issues, etc.  Read the proposed explanation for further details.  
Good luck everyone.  Remember, spread this blog far and wide.  Encourage everyone you know to comment on this proposed regulation.  Let the folks at VA HQ in DC know we are paying attention and we’re not going to let this one get by us without our comments.  This is too critical for all of us to do nothing.

Until the next time I leave you with these photos of Rocco and me out on the town.  I couldn’t have done this without Rocco.  Thanks to Service Dogs of Florida for helping me train and certify him!





Stanley Robinson, Update. Corrective Action at the Tampa VA Hospital

Hello my faithful friends and dedicated readers.  I’m glad you’re here today.  I’ve got a story to update you on.

If you read my previous blog than it’s no secret what happened to me when I went to my appointment on Tuesday, June 14, 2011, at the Dermatology Clinic at the James A Haley VA Hospital in Tampa.  If you haven’t read that blog, you should do that now before reading any further.  For the rest of you, here is what I hope is the “rest of the story”.

When I got home on Tuesday, I had a migraine that didn’t finally go away until I woke up this morning.  It took a dose of imitrex on Wednesday night to finally be rid of it.  It was no doubt brought upon by my encounter with Stanley Robinson, LPN.  My Dermatology appointment had been rescheduled for yesterday at 1:40 and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t frightened just thinking about it.  I dreaded going back there just knowing there was the chance that I’d run into Stanley Robinson, LPN, once again.  I knew I was obsessing but I couldn’t help myself.  I kept replaying the events of Tuesday over and over in my head.  Could I have avoided that situation somehow?  Was there something different I should have done?  What did I do wrong?  I was getting more and more anxious as the morning wore on.

There was a phone call.  Isn’t there always?  The phone rang at 9:47 yesterday.  I know the exact time because I checked my call history.  Thank goodness for modern technology, right?  It was Patient Advocate Patty calling to ask me to meet her and the “Director of Nursing” before my Dermatology appointment.  She said that the “Director” was anxious to meet me to discuss what had happened on Tuesday.  My regular followers know that I no longer drive due to the number of medications I’m on.  Couple that with the fact that concentration is a huge problem for me.  I have the concentration of a two year old.  If I told you how long it’s taken me to write just these few paragraphs you probably wouldn’t believe me.  That makes me a HUGE road hazard.  I told Patty that my wife was driving me to the hospital that afternoon and I wasn’t sure when she would be getting home from work or what time we’d be leaving our house.  We agreed it was best to meet after I saw the doctor.

Oh yes … you read it right, my friends.  Terri took the afternoon off to take me to the VA Hospital.  All I can say is thank goodness for my wife.  She is truly a blessing in my life.  You’ve never met my wife, have you?  For starters, Terri and I both grew up in Chicago.  Okay.  That’s not entirely true.  Terri calls herself a Chicagoan.  Have you ever heard of Mount Prospect, Illinois?  You have if you are familiar with Chicago suburbs.  For the rest of you, unless you know someone who lives there or you’re from there, it’s a bet I’m willing to take that most of you have never heard of Mount Prospect.  For all intents and purposes, most Chicago suburbanites will say they are “Chicagoans”.  I am a true Chicagoan.  I was conceived there, born there, raised there and stayed there until that day on October 5, 1976, when I boarded the plane to leave for Fort McClellan, Alabama, for WAC basic training.  BUT … this is about Terri, not me.  I just felt obligated to explain the difference between a “real” Chicagoan versus a “faux” Chicagoan.  (Terri is going to kill me when she reads this “explanation” …. she WAS born in the city of Chicago.)

Terri is protective when it comes to those she loves and cares about.  She was furious when she heard what happened to me on Tuesday.  I was almost relieved that she wasn’t there.  If she had seen how I was treated by Stanley Robinson, LPN, I have no doubt she’d have attempted to tear him to pieces.  Seriously.  Terri hates a bully.  Stanley Robinson, LPN, is a schoolyard bully.  That’s the best way I can think of to describe him.  On the other hand, I knew that between Rocco and Terri, no one was going to hurt me yesterday.  Rocco doesn’t bite but Terri does.  I’m glad Terri is on my side.  Still as the morning wore on, I was getting more and more anxious.  Terri got home from work, changed into civilian clothes (she works for the Pasco County Fire Department) and off we went with Rocco at my side.
We arrived early for my appointment (it’s a habit of mine developed in the Army) and when I checked in to the Dermatology Clinic I noticed an immediate change in attitude.  The same woman who checked me in Tuesday, checked me in on Thursday but her demeanor was completely different.  She actually smiled at me and looked me directly in the eyes.  When I said to her, “Please mark my chart “No males”, she immediately responded with, “Yes, no problemo!”.  Okay, I can handle the Spanish.  I understand simple Spanish.  I told her we’d be waiting outside and she said, “Yes, yes” and out the door we walked.  A couple minutes later, a female nurse walked outside and told us that “Robin” (the PA I was there to see) had just started her 1:20 appointment and would be with us next.  Terri and I just looked at each other.  I told Terri I’d never been treated this well before.  It was apparent that someone had actually talked to the staff in this clinic about my complaint.  I was pleasantly surprised.

Ten minutes later, another female nurse came out to get me and escorted Terri and I back to the exam room to see PA Robin.  PA Robin was, as always, amazing.  She brought in Dr Baldwin (a female) to consult and together they took care of my issue like the professionals they are.  I’ve never had a problem with PA Robin.  She’s always taken spectacular care of me and Rocco likes her, too.

After I was seen and treated, we were escorted to the front desk to make a follow-up appointment.  I was shocked at the VIP treatment.  This was the first time I been treated with such respect by all the staff in the Dermatology Clinic.  Once that was completed, we were escorted to the conference room where our meeting was to take place with the Patient Advocate.

Terri and I walked in and I was a little taken aback to see three women in the room.  I was expecting Patty the Patient Advocate and the “Director of Nursing”.  I was introduced to Loreen Doloresco, MN, RN, NEA-BC, Associate Director, Patient Care/Nursing Services and Pamela H. Smith, MSN, ARNP, Women Veterans Program Manager.  I introduced them to Terri, “my wife” and none of them blinked an eye.  They welcomed her like a long lost friend.  

Once again I was asked to tell the story of what happened to me on Tuesday and I did that.  Yes, it was upsetting but I had Terri with me and the ever present Rocco at my side.  They got to see first hand how Rocco responds to me when I get upset.  Rocco jumped up in my lap and began to kiss away my tears and lick my face as if to say, “It’s okay, Mom.  I’m here for you.”  They asked Terri what he was doing because I had stopped speaking and Terri explained it to them.

I can’t tell you how much time Terri and I spent with those three women but I assure you it was quality time and it was productive.  They didn’t just hear me.  They listened.  They were interested in what I had to say.  Not only that, they were interested in what my wife had to say.  Terri told them that the kind of day I have at the hospital effects her, too, and she’s right.  She doesn’t know which Wendi she is coming home to after I’ve been to the VA Hospital.  If I’ve had a “good” day, she’s going to have a good night.  If I’ve had a day like Tuesday, she’s going to spend the next few days trying to calm me down, pull me out of a hole, she’s going to try to reach into my darkness to try to find me, she’s going to stand by with a box of kleenex.  She knows she can’t touch me when I get like that because I can’t tolerate it.  The slightest touch and I’m jumping clear out of my skin.  She has to speak before coming up behind me so I’m not screaming in fear.

They promised me that corrective action would be taken and judging from the way I was treated when I walked in the door of the Dermatology Clinic, I believe them.  They seemed sincere in wanting to rectify the situation.  For that they have my thanks and gratitude.  It may just start in one clinic but hopefully, with expanded training, it will spread throughout not just “my” VA Hospital, but other VA Hospitals across the Country.  No Veteran should suffer the humiliation that I did last Tuesday be they male or female.

The Women Veterans Program Manager told me about lunchtime seminars she is trying to get started at the Tampa VA Hospital.  I’ve promised her that I will help her spread the word.  Her goal is to get 100 female Vets to show up for the seminars.  I’ll start attending.  Will you?  Let’s show her there are 100 women Vets in the Tampa area willing to listen and learn about programs that can help and educate us.  Stay tuned to this blog for further updates.  I believe the next one will be held in August or September.  I’ll announce it here and on the new VAWATCHDOG Facebook page.

Let me tell you about the power behind those three women.  When we met, they repeatedly mentioned that they’d read my blog.  I had given the Patient Advocate, Patty, one of my business cards and it lists the URL’s to this blog and to VA Watchdog Today dot Org.  I was impressed that they had taken the time to read what I had written.  How many of my blogs they have read I can’t say, but they’ve definitely read the blog prior to this.  AND … they took action for me.

Do you remember my rant about the cancellation of all my psychology appointments?  Someone with the power to change things at the VA read it.  I got a phone call this week regarding those cancellations.  I now have appointments with my psychologist scheduled every week through the end of October.  In my heart I know that came from my meeting with those three incredible women.  Thanks to all of you for making that happen.  You’ve probably saved my life.  I am sincerely grateful to you for making that happen.

I’ve learned some valuable lessons from all this, my friends.  In my case the system worked.  I had a dear friend with me on Tuesday who witnessed my humiliation.  She refused to let the offender get away with it and forced me to go see the Patient Advocate.  I had the good sense to get the offenders name.  Without that, there’s nothing the Patient Advocate can do for you.  The next time you have a run-in with a VA employee, it’s okay to get angry.  Don’t scream and yell.  That won’t do any good.  As difficult as it is, do your very best to remain as outwardly calm as you can.  I was in a barely controlled rage, I admit it, but somehow managed to hang in there long enough to get his name.  Stanley Robinson, LPN.  Take that name and go straight to the Patient Advocate.  Do not pass go.  Do not collect $200.  Don’t scream at the Patient Advocates.  They are there to help you.  The more information you can provide to the Patient Advocate, the better off you are.  If you are complaining to the Patient Advocates at the Tampa VA Hospital than you are damn lucky.  They care.  They really do.  Just look at how quickly they acted on my case.  Look how quickly changes were made.  Look how quickly I got all those psychology appointments.  Yes, they care, Friends, they really do.  They went to bat for me and I got help.  Does the Patient Advocate help in all places and in all cases?  Probably not.  I’m sure you all have your “horror” stories to tell me.  Where are those of you with success stories?  I know you’re out there.  I can’t be the only person in the history of the VA that the Patient Advocates have helped.  Speak up.  Let me hear from others the Patient Advocates have helped.  Let’s give these hard working folks some credit that I know they deserve.  Email your stories to me and I’ll publish them here in this blog.

I’m also blessed to have a wife who stands by me no matter what.  Thank you, Terri.  You are my angel and I love you.  I don’t tell you that enough.  For those of you out there lucky enough to have a spouse or significant other as wonderful as mine, take the time to say “thank you” and “I love you”.  I don’t do that often enough.  Through thick and thin, Terri is always there for me.  It hasn’t been easy for her.  Those of you with PTSD know how difficult we can make it for our spouses.  If you’re a spouse, you know first hand how rough it is living with one of “us”.  I owe a lot to Terri and every day that she stands at my side is another day that I am grateful for.  Even though I have my days that I can’t stand to be touched; I don’t want to be next to her; or she frightens me just by walking up behind me, I know that she loves me and she’s here to support me through the best of times and the worst of times.  I am loved.

Until the next time …..

I’m in a rage today. Stanley Robinson you pissed me off.

Today started out like any other day that I have to get up and go into Tampa for an appointment at the VA Hospital.  The alarm went off at 5:00 a.m.   Rocco, my service dog, began pawing at me to make sure I didn’t roll over and go back to sleep.  He is trained to do that.  He keeps me from laying in bed, day after day, when my depression and PTSD gets the best of me.  Rocco won’t let me hide in my bed.  He paws at me until I get out of my bed.  When you have an 80 pound Doberman pawing at you, you respond … especially when he doesn’t stop pawing at you UNLESS and UNTIL you respond to his “request”.

I had two appointments this morning at the VA Hospital in Tampa.  The first one was uneventful.  A nurse by the name of Charlie (short for Charlotte) in the Specialty Clinic gave me an IV infusion of Reclast.  She did a great job and I barely felt the stick of the needle as she hooked me up.  Thirty minutes later I was done and out of there.  Thanks, Charlie for making my appointment quick and painless.

My next appointment didn’t go quite as well.  That was where I met Stanley Robinson.  I didn’t meet him right away nor did I know his name until after my encounter with him.  I went to the Dermatology Clinic and checked in early for my appointment.  Like I always do, I told the clerk that “I don’t see male healthcare providers”.  This one particular clerk in the Derm Clinic, (sorry, I can’t remember her name) has checked me in before.  She always looks at me like I’m nuts (and yes I am) when I tell her I won’t see male healthcare providers, but she always puts a note on my chart after she makes me repeat myself two or three times.  I sometimes wonder if it’s a language thing.

The waiting area was packed with male Veterans, something that makes me very uneasy, so I told the clerk I would be waiting outside.  Rocco and I turned around and went outside to wait in the heat and the sunshine.  Oh, I didn’t mention I had Rocco with me?  Oh yes.  He goes everywhere with me these days.  Like American Express, I never leave home without him.  He is my constant companion.  He keeps me steady on my feet, he keeps me from falling when my knee goes out, and he calms me when anxiety, panic or PTSD rage kicks in.  He also “blocks” and keeps people from getting in my space.
I had been waiting outside for maybe 15 or 20 minutes when a man in blue scrubs came outside and called my name.  I immediately went on the defensive.  Why did a man have my chart?  He wasn’t supposed to have my chart.  It was marked “females only” and this man was clearly NOT a woman. He may have been a woman in a previous life, but in this rendition he was all male.  I was having none of that.  I said, “I’m Wendi Goodman.”  He told me, “You’re seeing Dr. ‘X’ today”.  I asked him if the doctor was a female because my consult was for a woman doctor.  Apparently he had read my history and knew why I was there because he said to me, “No, the doctor is a male.  We have two males on today.”   I told him, “I don’t see male doctors.”  In that instant, that split second, I felt myself slip from MST Survivor to MST victim.  I let him intimidate me back into the victim role.  Friends, this was the Dermatology Clinic but I had a gyn/derm issue I was being seen for.  He was trying to get into my personal space and Rocco immediately jumped in front of me to “block” him.  Every time I stepped back, that jackass took one step forward towards me to intimidate me.  It was working.  Once again, I felt like a MST victim.  I wished that Rocco was an aggressive dog.  I would’ve loved for Rocco to have taken a chunk out of that SOB, but a good service dog isn’t aggressive nor do they bite.
Our “Hero” then said the one thing that caused me to almost completely lose control.  He said, “there are male gyn doctors and female gyn doctors, there are male derm doctors and female derm doctors.  A doctor is a doctor and it doesn’t matter who you see.”  That was when I felt the switch flip.  Those of you with PTSD know that switch.  You feel the rage come on instantly.  You can hardly control it.  One minute you’re annoyed and the next you’re in a full blown rage.  Rocco knew it.  He leaned into me and I felt his body tense up.  He started nudging me with his nose as if to say, “Come back, Mom, come back”.  I took a very deep breath, unrolled my fingers which were already rolled into fists, and told this idiot, “Look, I’m trying very hard not to get angry and I’m not having much success.  You need to understand something.  I was molested by an Army doctor.  Do you know what that means?  I don’t see male doctors.  Doctors aren’t doctors and I am not seeing a male doctor.” 

He turned around and walked back inside mumbling something about getting me rescheduled.  I was beyond angry at that point.  I was in a rage and barely in control.  Thank goodness I had my friend, Donna, with me.  Between Donna and Rocco I knew I was going to get through the rescheduling process.  After I rescheduled the appointment WITH A WOMAN DOCTOR, I inquired about the man who’d been out to talk to me.  I asked the clerk who he was and she replied, “Rob”.  She was copping an attitude with me, too.  I wanted to scream but I also wanted to get his information and not get thrown off campus.  I asked for his full name and she gave it to me.  Stanley Robinson.  I asked, “Aren’t VA employees required to wear ID badges with their job titles on them?”  The clerk wouldn’t give me a straight answer.  It was obvious she didn’t want to get her buddy in trouble.  She just kept repeating, “I’m wearing mine.”  She was. It was turned around so that I couldn’t see her name.  Then I asked her what his position was.  She replied, “He’s a nurse.”  “What kind of nurse,” I asked, “LPN or RN?”  She told me he’s an “LPN”.  Finally I got at least one straight answer from her.

Armed with all the information I needed, Donna, Rocco and I headed straight up to the Patient Advocate’s office.  If you ever have a complaint about someone or something at the Tampa VA Hospital, go see Patty.  She was kind and compassionate and listened carefully to everything Donna and I told her about Stanley Robinson.  She assured me that she would be contacting the Chief of Dermatology with my complaint about Stanley Robinson.  As I spoke she took very detailed notes.  She was pleased that I had his name.  She told me part of the problem is that they get a lot of complaints about staff, but patients often don’t have the offenders’ name.

One interesting thing she told me is that she doesn’t get many complaints from female Veterans about patient care.  I told her that I could’ve reported many male employees over the last four years with this same type complaint but I’ve never done it because of the intimidation factor.  In fact, had it not been for Donna’s encouragement and support,  I would’ve been a victim again today.  I never would’ve reported it had I been there by myself.  I would’ve just let it go and chalked it up to being a victim again.  Thanks for being there, Donna.  I told her that across the United States that’s a common theme with women Veterans.

I have to go back to that clinic on Thursday.  Am I afraid to go back there?  You’re damn right I am.  I stood outside and announced to everyone within earshot that I was assaulted by an Army doctor.  I told it to Stanley Robinson.  I’m almost positive he got a good laugh out of that one.  I don’t expect to be coddled but for cryin’ out loud, when they put on my record that I don’t see male healthcare providers, I don’t expect to be questioned or told that “a doctor is a doctor”.  There’s something called “patient rights” and I will see ONLY the providers I want to see.  If that means I see only female nurses and doctors, that’s my choice and who the hell is Stanley Robinson to tell me “a doctor is a doctor”.  Just walking in that hospital is a trigger for me.  What happened to me today … well, it didn’t help any, that’s for damn sure.  And what happens if I see Stanley on Thursday?  I think I’ll just drug myself up on anxiety meds and hope for the best.  Wish me luck.

In the meantime, FUCK YOU, Stanley Robinson.  I hope you get what you deserve.  (Pardon my french to those who might be offended by it).

AND THEN I COME HOME TO READ THE FOLLOWING:

A Marine combat veteran who suffered a mental breakdown as a result of war-related trauma said he might have received earlier help if his disability pay had been contingent upon his getting treatment.

Daniel J. Hanson, 27, who said he spent his disability checks on “booze and strip clubs,” said he needed a push from the Veterans Affairs Department to get help that never came until he attempted suicide and ended up in a faith-based program called Minnesota Teen Challenge.

Testifying on Tuesday before the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee, Hanson said he never asked for help in the Marine Corps, and VA’s help wasn’t enough. In the Marines, Hanson said the fact he was an administrative specialist surrounded by infantrymen made him reluctant to speak up. “In a battalion of 1,000 Marines, I didn’t think anyone wanted to hear my complaining,” he said.

  CLICK ON THE LINK ABOVE TO READ THE REST OF THE STORY

 I’m not yet service connected for PTSD but I am service connected for major depressive disorder.  This Marine thinks our disability checks should be tied to getting help from the VA?  That’s CRAP if you ask me.  Pure, unadulterated crap.  He’s obviously never tried to get on a regular schedule with my psychologist at the Brooksville Community Based Outpatient Clinic.  I had an appointment last week with my psychologist.  She wants to see me every two weeks and has been trying to get me set up on that kind of schedule.  It took a long time to do it but she finally managed it.  I was scheduled for every two weeks in a new clinic they set up for her patients.  Well, guess what.  They cancelled that clinic and along with that, they cancelled all my appointments.  When I got the call that my appointments had been cancelled I asked, “so when is my next appointment?”  I was told, July 22nd.  I was told this at the end of May.  I screamed at the clerk, “I can’t wait that long to see my doctor.  I’ll kill myself!”  In that moment, I meant what I was saying.  I was in a very depressed state and needed to talk.  I must’ve scared the scheduling clerk.  She gave me back all the appointments she’d cancelled but at different times.  A few days later I was back at the VA Hospital (yes, I practically live there) and I received an updated appointment list.  Once again, all my psych appointments in Brooksville had been cancelled.  It turns out that the clerk had put me in at times that the doctor wasn’t available!  No one had called to tell me my appointments had been cancelled.  Again.  I only found out because I’d gotten an updated appointment list.



When I read the article about disability pay being tied to VA healthcare/psych treatment, all I could think about was how difficult a time that I have getting in to see my psychologist.  What kind of demands would they put on us for treatment?  How often would we have to see our doctors?  Would they require inpatient treatment?  That brings up an entirely different subject … at least for me it does.  I can’t go to an inpatient program in Tampa.  They don’t have an all womens program or an all womens floor.  It’s well documented in my records that I’m terrified of men.  I have told my doctors I will go to the women’s inpatient program out in California at the VA there but they won’t spend the funds to send me.  They won’t fee basis me to a local women’s program either.  Too expensive.  Every time they’ve talked to me about admitting me to the Tampa VA Hospital, I’ve had a complete meltdown.  They won’t let me bring Rocco and they can’t promise me that I’ll be placed in a room with a lock on the door.  And that’s supposed to make me feel safe?  Yeah.  Right.  Tying treatment to my disability check?  What a freaking joke.  We were soldiers, sailors, airmen, marines and coasties.  We were responsible for millions of dollars of equipment.  We were responsible for the lives of our buddies.  Now we’re Veterans but we still have that discipline that was drilled into us when we served.  I believe that we should each take responsibility for our own care.  It isn’t up to the doctors or the VA to push us into care.  WE applied for disability pay because WE knew we had a disability.  No one twisted my arm to file a claim.  How about you?  Did you think that meant take the money and run?  Did you think you weren’t, at some point, going to be called back in for a re-exam of your disability(ies)?  Think again.  The VA doesn’t want to keep paying you.  They want you to get better.  They will do anything to stop paying us.  We all know that.  So go to treatment.  If you happen to improve over time and stabilize, expect your disability rating to decrease, especially if you’re fool enough to apply for an increase when you’ve gotten better.  If you don’t get better, if you get worse, than apply for an increase.  Just … go… for… treatment.  I believe it’s our responsibility to ourselves.  Just because some of you choose to take your money and drink it away doesn’t mean the rest of us should suffer for your mistakes.  Am I wrong here?  What do you all think?  Am I blowing this out of proportion?  

The final thing that has me pissed is this.  I have an old friend.  We’ve been friends for over 30 years now.  We met while we were both stationed at Fort Leonard Wood back in ’79.  This woman is one of the kindest, gentle women I’ve ever met.  She never asks for anything and would give you the shirt off her back or her last buck if she thought you needed it more than she did.  When we were young troops back in the day, we rented a three bedroom apartment in Buckhorn, Missouri, just off I44 a few miles from Ft Wood.  We paid $125 each month to live in WWII barracks that had been converted into apartments.  They had no insulation.  We roasted in the summer and froze in the winter.  We survived on hot dogs, bolgna and mac & cheese.  We lived off post and we were in paradise.  It was a struggle but we made it through some really hard times; financial, emotional and physical.  I PCS’d to Germany in December ’81 and my friend PCS’d six months later.  She was stationed in Landstuhl and I was in Vilseck.  It was a short drive so we were able to see each other often.  

Over the years our lives took different twists and turns but we’ve always been there for one another.  We’ve been there for each other through countless relationships both good and bad, illnesses, the deaths of family and friends.  Whenever there was news to share, good or bad, we both knew who to call for a sympathetic ear without judgement.  We had each others friendship since 1979.  No questions, no judgement.  Just a sympathetic ear.  I remember driving home to Chicago from New Mexico in 1993.  I was going back to Chicago on emergency leave.  My mother had just been diagnosed with a brain tumor and was going in the hospital for brain surgery.  I was desperate to get to Chicago before my mother went into surgery.  I was going to be driving right by my friend’s house on the way to Chicago so I called her from the road to tell her I was on my way.  I was tired and I needed a shower and a couch to sleep on for a couple of hours.

When I arrived at my friends house and walked in the front door I smelled something familiar.  It was the smell of chicken and dumplings, one of the favorite things she used to make for me.  She knew me well enough to know that I was frantic to get to Chicago and hadn’t stopped to eat while I was on the road.  After I called her from the road, she had put on a pot of chicken and dumplings just for me.  She fed me when I arrived, sent me to take a hot shower and then put me in her bed while she and her husband slept on the couch.  That’s a true friend.

My friend called me this past Saturday morning at 8:00.  I didn’t know it because I was still asleep.  I get my best sleep starting 4:00 a.m.  By then, I’ve been awake most of the night and I pass out from exhaustion.  During the week, Rocco wakes me by 8:00.  On the weekends, my wife wakes up first and she takes Rocco out of the bedroom so that I can sleep in.  That’s why I missed my friends first call.  My wife didn’t want to wake me at 8:00.  She doesn’t know my friend as well as I do and didn’t understand that a call from her at 8:00 a.m. meant she was reaching out for help.

I called my friend back and the first thing I asked was, “What’s wrong?”.  She told me.  I won’t relay the whole sordid story.  My friend, even though she will remain nameless, deserves to keep the story between us.  What I will tell you is that for the first time in all the years I’ve known her, she asked me for help.  She got into a financial bind and needs help.  She didn’t ask me for a dime.  She would never do that.  She asked me to help her find a Veterans program that would help her out.  She’s 100% disabled and draws SSDI so that knocks her out of traditional cash assistance programs.  I started digging and found there really isn’t a whole lot out there for Vets to get immediate cash assistance on a one time basis.  

As an Army Vet, she does qualify to go through the Army Emergency Relief fund to apply for help.  That’s one route we’re trying.  I hope it works for her.  But this is what pisses me off.  This all happened on Saturday, 11 June.  I’m writing this blog on 14 June.  On Saturday I composed an email and sent it out to the VFW, the American Legion and the DAV.  I explained her situation in great detail and told them all she needs is cash assistance to get her through just this month.  A grant would be great, a loan is acceptable.  I gave them my phone number and asked them to call me if they had further questions.  Thank you for your time, blah, blah, blah.  As of this morning, I hadn’t received a single response from any of the organizations.

Was I surprised I hadn’t gotten any responses?  No.  Everyone told me I was wasting my time.  Everyone told me that unless I was a card carrying, dues paying member, none of those organizations would give me the time of day.  After checking email this morning, I was ready to admit the naysayers were right and I had wasted my time.  I was pissed.  They send us emails, they solicit us on Facebook, they advertise everywhere you can think of to try to get our money; to try to get us to become members.  Yet I tried to get help for one Veteran and none of them had the balls to even tell me to go to hell.  Yeah, I was pissed.  I was all set to sit down and write a blog about how rotten all of them were and how they all ignore the plight of needy Veterans.

This afternoon something happened to change my mind about ONE of those organizations.  I got a phone call from the VFW in Iowa which is where my friend lives.  The gentleman who called me, Mr. Stark, normally deals with family members of deployed service members.  The State AG passed my email on to him rather than a service officer, he said, because he’s got more time than the service officers.  He’d made some phone calls before he contacted me and they were going to do their best to assist my friend.  He said my email was detailed enough that he knew what he needed to get assistance going for her.  

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing!  After the shit I’d gone through at the Dermatology Clinic with Stanley Robinson, and then having to retell the tale to the Patient Advocate, I needed something good like this to bring me back to reality.  My friend was going to get some help.  I don’t know how much help, but she’s going to get SOME help and it’s coming from the VFW in her home town.  I couldn’t thank Mr. Stark enough times.  I called my friend and I could hear the relief in her voice when I gave her the news.

I still haven’t heard back from the DAV or the American Legion.  I don’t expect to.  They can kiss my ass.  Having said that …. I now say this.  Thank you so much to the VFW in the State of Iowa for helping my old friend.  It means a lot to both of us. 

Now that I have all that off my chest I think I can finally say this:

Until the next time, my friends …….

News Update Concerning Straight Talk Forum -We’re Closing 10 June 2011. Say Goodnight, Gracie.

Hello, Faithful Readers.  The last time we discussed Straight Talk on this blog, I was bringing you the news that the Straight Talk Forum had moved from Google Groups to our current home located at http://www.straighttalkforveterans.com.  In June 2010 (in case you don’t want to click on the referenced link) I wrote:

I have news.  I’ve been telling you about Jim Stricklands’ Google Forum, Straight Talk for Military Veterans since we opened it last October.  It has grown tremendously and I’m proud to say I’m sure we’ve helped a lot of Veterans along the way.  The beautiful thing about Straight Talk is that all the advice doesn’t just come from Jim Strickland.  It comes from the members.  Veterans reaching out to Veterans and it’s a beautiful sight to behold.  The moderators, Jim, Womenvets, Painter &; myself have an easy job.  We just sit back, approve new members, moderate messages and occasionally get rid of members who can’t/won’t abide by our simple rules:  no bashing of other members and no cussing.  Be respectful of everyone.  How hard is that?  We chip in and offer advice, too, but the board runs itself and isn’t dependent on any one singular person.  In my opinion, Straight Talk is an overwhelming success and I’m not just saying that because I like Jim Strickland and call him my friend.

Today I come to you with different news.  We’ve outgrown our current location so we’ve decided to shut our Straight Talk doors effective June 10, 2011.  
I want to thank everyone who has been involved in this project for the last year.  Jim, Leo — I couldn’t have done it without you two.  My thanks also go out to the “regs” who gave so generously of themselves to other Veterans.  I appreciate all of the time that you donated so freely to Straight Talk.  And to the (literally) thousands of subscribers, thank you for being there, day after day.  I know who you are even though you never introduced yourselves.  You see, I had access to all the names behind the scenes. I know who the lurkers are and I know you were there, reading and learning.  To everyone who shared, you have my everlasting appreciation.

Not to worry, faithful readers.  You can still reach us in many ways when you are in need of assistance.  Jim has his mailbag open on VAWatchdogToday dot Org.  To submit something to the mailbag, email Jim Strickland at Jim912@gmail.com.

If the mailbag doesn’t work for you, Jim can be reached through his Q&A Forum on Stateside Legal at http://www.statesidelegal.org.  Stateside Legal, if you haven’t checked it out yet, is a terrific site with a load of resources for your every need.

And then there’s me, Jim’s faithful sidekick and partner in crime.  You can contact me at WendiG@vawatchdogtoday.org .  If I don’t know the answer to your question, I’ll point you in the right direction.  I’ve found that Jim has answered most of your questions on VA Watchdog Today dot Org  but most people just don’t know how to do research.  I know how to search for your answers and I’ll be glad to assist you.  You can also post your questions as comments to this blog and I’ll be happy to post the answers here. 

Jim and I are both on facebook.  I haven’t been keeping up with my page as well as I should lately so the best way to get my attention on facebook is to private message me.  I’ll leave it up to you to figure out how to join facebook and add the two of us as friends.

What does the future hold?  That depends, faithful friends.  We are considering other options but we haven’t decided on anything firm.  A lot depends on how all of you react to the closing of Straight Talk.  Will you miss us?  Do you want Straight Talk resurrected?  How would you improve it if we brought it back?  What changes would you like to see?  Straight Talk was for you.  Tell us what you thought was the best and the worst of Straight Talk.  If we bring it back, we’d like to incorporate your needs, suggestions and ideas.
Keep your eyes on this blog and on the Front Page of VA Watchdog Today dot Org for further updates … if there are any to be had.  ;-)

Until the next time ……

Are You a Disabled, Service Connected Veteran, Legally Married to a Same Sex Spouse? I Need Your Help Now!

Hello friends.  I’ve been coming to you for just over two years now.  We’ve discussed all kinds of topics; everything from my claims to military sexual trauma to service dogs to my joining Jim Strickland at VA Watchdog Today dot Org.  You got married with me.  You went to California with me.  Now I’m asking you to join me in a fight for civil rights.  This won’t be an easy fight.  Nor will it be a quick one.  This promises to drag out for at least a couple of years.  At least.  

I first brought up the idea for this fight when Terri and I got married last year.  By the way, wish us “Happy Anniversary”.  Yesterday we celebrated our one year anniversary.  I look forward to spending many years with her.  The first year has been great.  My wife continues to be a powerful source of strength for me.  I can’t imagine going through the daily struggles without her.  No matter how down I get, she is always there for me.

If you look back at the previous two blogs I published about adding Terri as my spouse, you’ll see that the VA denied my claim.  To briefly summarize in case this is your first time reading my blog, I applied to the VA to have Terri added as my spouse in June 2010.  In record time, three months, I received a denial.  I was denied based upon the “legal” definition of a spouse which is: “a member of the opposite sex”.  With guidance from my friend and business partner, Jim Strickland, I filed a Notice of Disagreement (NOD).  The reason for the NOD?  The denial is a violation of my civil rights.  

Then I turned to my blog and started recruiting.  I turned to Facebook and started recruiting.  I turned to my friends and asked them to repost my blog everywhere they could think of.  I thought to myself, “the community will come out and support me.”  I know there are other couples out there like Terri and I.  Gay & Lesbian Disabled Vets, legally married, who want their same sex spouses to get benefits from the VA if they die.  I know they could use the extra money.  I sure could, though that isn’t my point in adding her to my claim.  We fought to repeal DADT.  We are fighting to repeal DOMA.  Why is this any different?  We are out of the military now.  We won’t lose our VA benefits if they find out we’re gay.  Federal civilian employees get some (not all) benefits for their same sex spouses.  Why aren’t we entitled to them?

I’m baffled by this.  Totally baffled by the lack of support for this call to action.  In the year I’ve been recruiting for this project, I’ve had a few inquiries.  I’ve sent out detailed instructions on how to apply.  To my knowledge, only one couple followed through.  That couple lives in California.  They will now become our first test case.  The Veteran filed and as expected, she was denied based on the definition of a spouse.  I sent her a sample letter for her NOD.  She filed it.  Lo and behold …. she has a hearing date set for the end of June.  We are shocked at how quickly this is taking place.  

Our test case will be denied at the hearing.  There is no doubt about that.  A Decision Review Officer does not have the power to grant this request.  “Why?”, you ask.  I’ll let Jim Strickland answer that for you.  The following is from an email he wrote to me recently about this test case.

“The DRO will continue to deny no matter what she does. A DRO will not come close to having the authority to approve the benefits when the law is so very clear. Decisions at the Regional Office level are
administrative and have little force of law behind them.

Remember…when the rules were written they came from a legislative body..Congress writes law, law is turned into rules and regulations. Rules and regs can be modified by the Secretary within the scope of powers granted to him but there are many things the Secretary does not have any authority to change. When the law is so specific as to describe marriage as a union between a man and a woman, the law can only be changed one way…legislatively.

So…the DRO hearing is necessary for the record. This is how courageous people make positive change. It’s never simple or easy so not many have the grit to step up and do it.”

Having read that I’m sure you’re asking yourself, “If they can’t approve it, why go through it?”  The answer is simple.  You have to start somewhere.  If we aren’t applying for benefits for our same sex spouses, who will know that we want them?   We wanted the right to marry.  We’ve been fighting for that and we’re making progress.  My wife and I are living proof.  We wanted Don’t Ask Don’t Tell to be repealed.  All we are waiting for now is for it to be certified.  We fought for DADT and soon it will be a thing of the past.  We’re fighting for the repeal of DOMA.  We’re fighting for Equal Rights.  That’s all I’m asking for here.  A fight for Equal Rights for me and my wife.  Don’t you want that for you and your wife/husband?

I challenge you, faithful readers.  If you are legally married to a same sex spouse, I challenge you.  I challenge you to have the courage to fill out VBA Form 21-686c, Declaration of Status of Dependents. I’ve provided you with the link to the form you need so you don’t have to go searching for it.  Next, I challenge you to have the courage to send it in to your VA Regional Office, certified mail with a return receipt of course, and wait for your denial.  Once your denial comes back, email me at WendiG@vawatchdogtoday.org and I will provide you with a sample letter of the NOD that I sent in when my request was denied.  

There really is power in numbers my friends.  I’m asking you to help me with this fight.  It won’t end tomorrow or the next day or the day after that.  This is going to take a long, long time.  I expect it to go on for many years, much like the battle for DADT or even (gasp!) DOMA.  I ask you to join but I also ask you to have patience.  I ask you to spread the word about this project.  If you are still reading this blog, I ask that you share it with your friends.  If you know any gay and lesbian, service connected, legally married, disabled Veterans, please recruit them for this cause.  We need as many couples as we can to join this fight.  This is an important civil rights fight.  This is no joke, my friends.  This is serious business.

If you have further comments or questions, feel free to comment here or email me at WendiG@VAWatchdogToday.Org.  I’ll get back to you as quickly as I can.  

Until the next time …..