Sunday, April 30, 2006

On being a Disabled American Veteran

Some twenty-odd years ago, I joined the Navy to see the world and get a college education. Mostly, I got to see a lot of Florida. But the point here is that during my service to my country, I injured my back on the job, which screwed up any plan of making the Navy a career. The good thing to come out of this was that college education now came free as part of my voc-rehab. The bad part would be I would find out how much the VA discriminated against women for the longest.

I was told upon discharge from the Navy that I should go directly to the Veteran's Affairs office and apply for that system. I did just that, getting an appointment for a C&P exam. I was also told that I wouldn't have to worry, the VA would up my disability rating, they always do.

Nothing could have been further from the truth. I went in for the evaluation, and the doctor there asked me questions such as "Are you married?" "Who does the laundry?" "Who does the shopping?" "Who does the housecleaning?" It appeared that if I was married, I had a husband TO TAKE CARE OF ME and therefore didn't need any compensation for an injury that usually gave a man a 100% rating. They "gave" me a 10% rating, patted me on the head and sent me on my way.

I did get into the VA hospital system; they could not deny me that because it was a service connected disablility. Twenty years ago, the way that the doctors handled someone who complained of pain was to give them enough drugs to make them a zombie, then they wouldn't squawk. I was given enough stuff to make me stupid, and I found I had little choice other than bear the pain of everyday living or take the drugs and forget about everything else. I chose not to take the drugs. I like to be able to find my ample backside with both hands.

After several years of no monthly compensation because I had drawn severance from the Navy, I found the Disabled American Veterans post, and joined. One of the local chapter members had been a National Service Officer at one point, and he kindly showed me the ropes of reapplying for increased benefits. (Even though it was painfully obvious that the old boys' club that was the DAV would rather have me sitting out with "the little women" of the Auxillary.)

My benefits increased to 40% with no problem, and the doctor who interviewed me this time was appalled to hear what the first doctor had said. But not appalled enough to raise my benefits above the 50% mark, which makes a huge difference in your standing in the VA pecking order.

A couple of years later, I went through the evaluation again, this time pulling 60%. I would have been very happy had I not known that one of the fellow vets from my post had just been awarded 100% for the very same injury I have. One the way home from the evals, he was bragging about the new boat he had just gotten, and how he really had put one over on the VA finally. I was fairly steamed.

The point of telling all this, I suppose, is to point out how the odds can get stacked against a person who is trying to get benefits. Just being female kept me from getting the same as someone else.

Today I drive a car with disabled plates bordered by a "DAV Life Member" frame. I still get countless dirty looks when I get out of my car, and people assume nothing is wrong because I don't use a chair. (Or they assume that my husband is the disabled vet. Funny now, because I don't have a husband any more.) They have no idea what kind of pain I deal with when I go shop for necessities. If I didn't have the plates, I would avoid places with large parking lots, because it would be all I could do to get into the store, much less spend a great deal of time shopping. As it is, I am dragging at the end of a grocery shopping trip. I hate it. But I am ABLE to deal with it because I did get the plates. (P.S. I never park in the "van" spaces. That just wouldn't be right.)

All is not bad, however. I would like to say that overall, the care I have received from the VA is very good. It's much better now that I have a 60% rating that makes me eligible for prescriptions without copay. Services for women veterans are also much more available. But I do see a lot of things evaporating as the government pulls money away from the VA healthcare system to pay for other budget shortfalls. That's no way to treat those who gave of themselves in service to the nation.

Thank you for reading.


wonda said...

People can't tell or believe that I have a partial visual disability because my eyes look normal to them. The same with your case. I know how people can be hard on "partially abled" women like us. I am not entitled to any welfare or benefits because I am not "labelled" under complete vision loss.

Gimpy Mumpy said...

Hello Alice, I know exactly what you mean. I worked for years and paid into the SSDI system but as soon as I became injured everyone (EVERYONE) went into damage control mode. My job found a way to drop me. My disability insurance through that job found a loop-hole too. But I thought, if this thing doesn't get better with surgery (it didn't, it got worse) then at least I can count on the feds right?? Well counting is all I do these days. It's been 3 years since I applied for SSDI.
I've been told that it is because I am young and hold a college degree. Hmmmmm....

Kathy said...

Very awakening post Alice. I have to admit to not thinking of women as DAV's myself. A lesson has been learned today. Hopefully other women DAV's have or will benefit from your advocacy for yourself.

Docmitch said...

Hi Alice, I served in the USN for 17 years. While on active service I was raped at Camp Lejeune, NC....then I was the MDR at the Navy and Marine Corps Reserve Center in Charlotte, NC. While there my CO beat the hell out of me. I went to the CO of REDCOM in Charleston. His aide saw me and immediately knew what happened. I was put on basket leave until my bruises healed. I was transferred, he was allowed to continue in his reckless way. Because of his other crimes, he was eventually investigated by NIS. I was questioned during that investigation. I have tried to get a copy of that investigation on numerous occasions. The first time it was denied because it would impinge on his right to privacy. Now I'm told it doesn't exist. Though I was seen in the emergency room at the naval hospital in Camp Lejeune, no record exist of that visit. I need either or both. I suffer PTSD and it is a nightmare. I get a 50% disability but not related to either of those incidents. I have no home but have recently moved with 2 friends who have been wonderful. I moved from an abandoned RV which had no heat or water, but at least I wasn't outside. I am so tired of trying to fight the system I constantly pray to die. I loved being a corpsman and it filled me pride to wear my uniform for my country. We can't change our history, but if I could veteran would not be a word describing me. I now discourage young women from going in the military. There is still resentment from the good old boys. I absolutely hate being a woman veteran. Many vets have gone to war, but the real war begins in the VA system. I hope things are going well for you now.

USMC said...

Disabled veteran asks help 8-13-07
Peter Macdonald 465 Packersfalls rd Lee NH 03824 603-659-6217
A disabled Veteran is put in jail for refusing to stop free speech. The Loeb school is well aware of the case because I send them a copy of my letters every day. For Mr. Karlon, Fahey or Sullivan to teach others about free speech they must learn it themselves. The opinion of the people unedited is an important part of U.S. government. For a newspaper to praise cops that harass or kill citizens and degrade those that oppose government crimes is wrong. The news is biased against the Brown’s in Plainfield. Articles tainted to discredit the Brown’s are published every day, while letters supporting the Brown’s are censored. I very seldom see any articles or letters that question NH Congresswoman Shea-Porter’s performance. Shea-Porter filed a false police reports against me to get me arrested (Dover Police file 7002-942) She had VA Dr Biswas sign a involuntary commitment order to have me taken of the street. The Dover or Lee NH police refuse to allow me to file a complaint. When all her illegal efforts to stop my letter to the editor fail, my VA medical is stopped. It has been 6 months with no medical. I was injured three times. Two of my services connected injuries I received in separate combat missions. I live in a mental world that every day I flash back to my first kill. I live every day with serious head pain, the left side of my face will just go numb yet my letters exposing criminal government actions is censored. Does free speech exist when the news media censors a 100% service connected disabled United States Marines letters documenting and stating such crimes.
NH Supreme Court case 2003-0477 clearly states and documents constitutional crimes committed by Madbury NH selectmen and Judge Peter Fauver. The NH Supreme Court refused to hear a case that questioned the integrity of the NH judicial branch. I volunteer to help this Madbury NH family since 1999 and The State of NH criminally violates the law to stop me. Free Speech and Free Press do not exist when the news media censors the opinion of the individual. The news media may not like the person speaking or what that person is exposing. Free Speech is when the news prints the facts. The truth is told no matter whom it may hurt. For a lawyer or an editor to teach this subject they must be willing to defend it at all costs. Every United States citizen must have equal protection of the law. I may be a 100% disabled Marine but I got this way for our country. This letter questions the very core of the trust that the American people place in the news media. Will any small or large newspaper, TV news, blogs have the ability to print this letter that questions their very ethical standards. The First Amendment and Free Speech are why our children become military veterans. You do not have the right to teach it if you allow the words of this disabled veteran to be censored because he is a nobody. I had never met this Madbury NH family before they asked me for help. NH has taken my life and health to stop me from volunteer helping this family. My country comes first and the news media must learn this before teaching others. Censoring this disabled veteran’s letters is just as bad as NH declaring me a terrorist, putting me in jail, then 4 days before the trial dropping the bogus charges.
Peter Macdonald Sgt USMC Semper Fi.