On December 22 last year I submitted my 24 item disability claim to the Veterans Administration. I had one year after retirement to get it in and still get back pay all the way to the day after my retirement was effective. It took me almost that whole year because I needed to relive all the combat-related things and the “other” things that destroyed my mental health. One of those other things was MST, Military Sexual Trauma, and there were multiple instances of that I had to recall. The worst thing happened to me in 2008. I was deployed and already going through a bunch of other stuff. Facebook was new and I reconnected with a former coworker from my early days in the Air Force. He told me that this kid Fred liked me, which I had known at the time. He said he dared Fred to climb on the roof of our dorm and peek into my bathroom window when I was showering. He said Fred dared him in return and then he told me that they both did it. I didn’t believe him at first, but then he started recounting details that only someone that actually saw my shower and what I used would know. I got upset and asked him why he would do something so messed up to someone he worked with. He then told me I should feel flattered that they would risk their lives to watch me in the shower. I stopped talking to him, unfriended him immediately, and my entire life changed. I stopped going out in public unless I had to, I did not open blinds and curtain in my house once I got home from the deployment, and I started wearing as much clothing as possible to cover up. I gained a ton of weight and felt miserable for years. I pushed it out of my mind and was able to forget about it. Many years later I would remember it and it would again rock my world. I hate this kid. I hate him so much. I hate seeing him with his wife and kids. Does she know what a piece of crap she married? How he felt entitled to violate my privacy and then had the nerve to lecture me on how I should feel about it? But I have tried my hardest to move on from it. Between that and some other assorted sexually motivated trauma that falls under the MST umbrella, I wanted to claim these things to support the non-combat service connection for my PTSD diagnosis.
On April 28 of this year, I completed all the exams the VA requested and my claim moved to “Preparation for Decision.” And there it has sat since. At the end of August, I called the VA and talked to someone who said it hadn’t even been opened since April. I was devastated. It’s just sitting in some black hole. Two weeks ago, after it failed to move after the phone call, I sent an email to the White House VA line. And last week I got the phone call. My claim is stuck in the pipeline for MST claims. Because I had MST in there at all, it can only go to one of 5 offices with specially trained personnel that are the only ones in the VA who review MST-related claims. It must go there first and no other reviewer can pull it until it is reviewed by one of these MST reviewers. So my other 23 conditions that have nothing to do with MST are just along for the ride. No one can review those and assign ratings until after it clears the MST review and rating process. The backlog is significant (12-18 months from the date you file) and claims are reviewed in the order in which they were filed, unless you are homeless or facing a major financial crisis.
I went into the military knowing what kind of things I might deal with. After all, it IS the military. I didn’t expect to deal with any kind of threat from the people I was working with. That alone was devastating but now I am stuck in a long line of people who have also been hurt by people they should have been able to trust. This system is a mess. After 20 years of service, this is what happens. I’m ok and taken care of, but it’s no surprise why so many veterans just give up.
I’m just hoping I get the percentage I deserve this first time around. I submitted so much evidence that I am not sure how I won’t. But I don’t feel like I can trust the VA to do the right thing anyway.
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