Category Archives: military

Happy Veteran’s Day! You Don’t Exist!

I received a message on Facebook today (my personal account, not FWD/Forward’s account, which is not currently being updated because *ahem* Facebook seems to refuse to fix their blog importing tool and I can’t keep up with manually posting it every day…but I plan to try… /Facebookrant). It was one of those “fun meme” invitations, asking me to participate.

“Change your profile picture!” it said, “For Veteran’s Day, it would be great if we all changed our profile pictures to a picture of a veteran!”

How odd…said I. I haven’t changed my profile picture in almost a year…

It continued: “It doesn’t have to be a picture of your husband! Just any picture of anyone who has or is currently serving would be great, and a great way to honor our veterans!”

I might have just deleted it except for that last part. It doesn’t have to be a picture of your husband…

I think about how many times I would attempt to do anything official on the phone, and would asked for my husband’s social, instead of the sponsor’s (that is military speak for the military member who sponsors the dependents for benefits).

I think about how many times I would pick my kid up from daycare after PT, in my full Navy PT gear, and someone would ask me if my husband was in the Navy.

Mostly, I think about the way that the VA is still scurrying to keep up with the care that women veterans need. Some put the number from Iraq and Afghanistan alone at 200,000 active duty women, excluding National Guard and reservists. Women are left behind, with no resources, or resources scattered so far and away that they are inaccessible to those who need them most.

Which is why pieces like this one from NPR kind of really irk me, when they seem to mislead broad audiences. Somehow trying to imply that that the VA is some kind of miracle worker, reaching out to every woman veteran who is in need of services, and that they are meeting the diverse needs of women veterans. It is putting up a lovely window dressing on a filthy, dirt covered window, making sure enough of the filth is smeared out of the way so you can see a very narrowed scope of things from your apartment. The fact is they are hardly meeting the needs of their male veterans, in the ways of mental health, or meeting needs in a timely manner at all. Women veterans, however, are not having their needs met. They are missing the same marks with women, but completely whiffing on things like women-specific health, military sexual trauma, and accessible centers. We could ask Ruth Moss about all the extra ways they failed her, or the homeless women veterans with children who have no where to turn because the closest facility that can help them is a thousand miles away, and usually isn’t run by the VA anyhow.

Today I went to a Veteran’s Day Ceremony here on our base. I won’t go into details about how the President — who is here in Korea — was supposed to be there, or how they changed it at the last moment. I watched as VFW representative,s dressed in their various hats, went around and thanked the collected men in uniform in attendance. I stood there, a (friend’s) baby strapped to my chest, while my daughter, in her Brownie uniform, handed out  programs to the guests.

I was just another wife, with a gaggle of girls around me. Taking up space, snapping pictures, getting in the way. It never occurs to anyone that the passel of wives standing around may also have served a purpose in the peace that is being observed. We are unremarkable, though something to be glared at if our baby starts crying while the General is speaking.

The VA is not making progress towards addressing the needs of women. And they won’t because our society doesn’t recognize us. Women — wives — are mutually exclusive from veterans and servicemembers.

We are invisible. It’s like we don’t exist.

Veterans Day/Remembrance Day/Armistice Day: Women Serve Too

Depending on where in the world you are, your nation may be celebrating Veterans Day, Armistice Day, or Remembrance Day today (or yesterday, for those living IN THE FUTURE); I happen to be in the United States at the moment, where we are observing Veterans Day.

There’s a thing I notice, in narratives about veterans. Only certain people are depicted as veterans of military service, while others tend to be erased. Going on statistics for just one service branch (warning, .pdf), the United States Army, I can tell you that 17.2% of the commissioned officers serving are women. 20.9% of enlisted people on active duty are Black. 2.1% of the Army National Guard is Asian.

But I keep coming back to the women, because when I see images meant to evoke military service and veterans, I see a sea of men. I come from a military family, a mixture of men and women (primarily Navy), and to me, the face of the military is not a white man. Yet, to many, it is; take, for example, the Facebook meme making the rounds right now encouraging people to replace their profile pictures with the face of a veteran. I know several women veterans who have received messages about this meme.

They were not amused.

Women serve. Women are serving. Women have served. Throughout history.

And women become disabled as a result of their military service.

In the past week, National Public Radio has reported on two different issues facing women veterans, particularly disabled women, both illustrating the fact that the Veterans Administration is not serving our women veterans adequately.

Women veterans experience psychological trauma and physical trauma. In addition to the signature tramautic brain injuries of Iraq and Afghanistan, one in five military women faces sexual assault and many women veterans are also coming home with mental illnesses. Skyrocketing numbers of women veterans are homeless and struggling on inadequate medical care and benefits. Many VA centres don’t provide women’s health care services and there are tremendous disparities in health care for women in the military as well as veterans.

But, the military, and the veterans system, was originally built by and for men.  That legacy frustrates Kim Rushing, a 20-year veteran of the Navy. From her wheelchair, she scoffs at tables piled with olive drab long johns.

“All this stuff, is all men’s stuff,” she says. “I’m a woman and I served my country, and that’s what I get, is men’s stuff.” (‘Veterans Affairs Scrambles To Serve Female Veterans‘)

Rushing isn’t alone. Women, and their service, are erased and continue to be erased. Because women aren’t officially allowed to serve in combat positions, they aren’t eligible for combat medals, even when they are in combat, for example. But this is about more than medals. This is about a fundamental breakdown in the health care system for female veterans, especially women who are now disabled and served in the military with the understanding that the military would take care of them; this is the exchange, for service, to be provided with care.

Ending up on the streets is a common fate for veterans due to lack of support, and it’s especially stark for women.

Over the past decade, the number of female veterans who have become homeless has nearly doubled to roughly 6,500, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs. Most of them are younger than 35. (‘No Place To Call Home For Many Female Veterans‘)

Many of these women also have mental illnesses, a legacy of their military service. Post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is notoriously underdiagnosed in women, which means that homeless women veterans may also be living without diagnoses and access to medical treatment that meets their needs. This is a travesty.

Writing on this ain’t livin’ today, I said:

I never knew my grandfather. I will never know his war stories because he never told them. I don’t need to know them; I don’t need to know anyone’s war stories, I don’t need to know what people saw and did to honour them. I don’t need to know someone’s politics, I don’t need to know why someone joined the military, I don’t need to know what people think about what they did in the course of their military service. None of this information is my business or is relevant to my own experiences and in this country, where the experiences of others are asserted as property by people who have not lived them, this attitude seems to upset or disturb people, that some things are private and demands to lay them out for inspection are not welcome.

This I do know: That women who have served in the United States military are not getting the things they were promised in exchange for their service. That women serving in the military now face restrictions to access for basic medical care. And that I don’t need to know their names or their stories to know that this is wrong.

Veterans Day here in the United States serves as a reminder to thank all those who served, like Ouyang Dan, who writes here, those who are serving, those who gave their lives in service, although of course you can thank a veteran any time.

It’s, for me, also a reminder that my work, of centreing marginalised experiences; refusing to allow people who experience oppression to be erased; and pushing for equal access in all areas of life for all of us, is never done.

But Really, It’s For Your Own Good…

Overarching Moderatrix Trigger Warning for Strong Language. And by “Strong Language” I mean that I swear a lot.

I pretty much knew that my life was going to get fucked up when my doctor had a Permanent Change of Station (PCS). I knew this, because according to the laws of karma to which I tend to adhere, shit was just going too perfectly for it to continue going my way.

Sometimes, gentle readers, I really just don’t like being right. Sometimes I do prefer to be wrong once in a while.

I would have liked to have been wrong when I had my appointment with Dr. Maybe. I have to see an Internal Medicine Specialist because they are the closest thing we have here to someone who can specialize in treating my condition. They are who I have to rely on to be my quarterback. When I called to make the appointment and explained that I knew that my regular doctor was PCS-ing and I would need to see whomever was replacing her, I was told that this doctor would have to do because he was not yet available. Fair enough. I made the appointment.

According to my pills (I have to count them) I would have just enough to make it that far. I can not run out. Let me repeat that. I CAN NOT RUN OUT. My quality of life bottoms out if I miss even one dose. I know this because sometimes I forget if I have taken my regular dosage or not, and I can’t take one “just in case” because “doubling up” would be worse than missing one. I know within a few hours if I have indeed missed that dose, because life begins to suck some major shit, and the fetal position begins to feel like too much effort.

I made the appointment.

Dr. Maybe greeted me. Told me within five minutes, and without really talking to me during that five minutes, or without really examining me, that I needed to lose weight and watch what I eat. Exercise and a diet change would help that, and that it would make the pain go away.

Just like that! The magical cure! The Bingo Card free space! Dr. Maybe has no idea what my diet at home is like (we make almost everything fresh, because we are very privileged to have a really great commissary and a local Korean market with fresh produce). He has no idea what my exercise routine is like, how much walking I have incorporated into my daily routine, how it makes me pass out from exhaustion at 1930 most nights and how it makes me weep with pain. How I try to swim once or twice a week, even though the Physical Medicine doctor and the Chinese Medicine specialist that I have consulted with both said I need to back off because it is causing more pain. Also, had he read my file, he would see that this condition began when I was active duty Navy, and in the best condition of my life, best shape of my life, and at the height of physical fitness, outperforming women two age brackets below me on Physical Readiness Tests just out of boot camp. It started when I was running seven miles a day on what I was told were just shin splints but were really stress fractures. It started when I had “Seeing Jesus” on a pain scale migraines that five days in the hospital couldn’t solve, but my commander insisted that I be out running again two days after surviving.

So, I’m gonna go with, no. The weight loss will not magically take the pain away, and my diet is just fine. What he can get me is a nice re-hashing of an old eating disorder battle, some nice body dismorphia, and a scorching case of shattered self-esteem. Not to mention no chance whatsoever that I will ever make an appointment with him again. Ever. Dr. Maybe is definitely a Dr. Won’t.

The pain was there before the weight. If diet and exercise is your answer, you are solving the wrong problem, doc. Fuck you very much.

I did receive a nice letter in the mail today from Medical. The Deputy Director of Clinical Services would like me to know that she has reviewed my file and decided, that for my own safety, she noticed that I have been receiving too many controlled substances from too many different providers over the last few months. As a result, I must now get all of my prescriptions written by Dr. Pre-Approved, and if she is not available (and since she is pregnant, as I found out, this might be a problem soon), I can petition to have Dr. Also Pre-Approved write them and have it approved on a case-by-case basis. These doctors are presumed to be not my primary care managers, and my PCM must get all of my scripts approved through one of them (in that order) before I can have any scripts. Ever.

Now, it already takes me almost 30 days to make any appointment with a doctor I see regularly, and this new rule is basically forcing me to somehow fit another appointment into my schedule, balancing the 30-day schedule. I am only allowed two of my meds in 30-day allotments due to hospital policy even though TRICARE approves them for 90-days at a time. Fun. Scheduling is tight. The schedule doesn’t allow appointments to be booked more than 28 days out, and most providers are booked 30 days out already. I am already having to call daily to find out if I can even schedule appointments at all.

Also, over the last two years — repeat for fucking emphasis — TWO YEARS NOW the same doctor has treated me and written all of my scripts. I have not had any prescriptions written by any other doctor during the time I have been here in Korea with the exception of the time I sprained my ankle and was seen in the emergency room. Now, my doctor PCS-es and four days later this letter is drafted now that she is no longer here to advocate for me? Raise your hands if anyone else finds that odd or convenient.

I go immediately to the hospital’s Patient Advocate, who is supposed to liase between patients and medical staff. I explain all of the above about as calmly as I can and I am somewhere between barely controlled panic and simmering rage, with my partner filling in what he can. I ask to see what from what information they have based this claim. She asks me about two referrals I’ve had in the last two weeks, both made by my departing doctor (the referrals are all signed by her). Neither one of them gave me controlled substances, and I sought out their care to avoid increasing my narcotic usage specifically to avoid any impression of drug seeking, even though my use of controlled substances is very low, lower than even my departing doctor was recommending. I even try to ignore pain to avoid taking extra meds, which we know doesn’t work for chronic pain, but I live in a fairly scared state. The military deploys doctors often, and it is hard to make the switch easily for chronic pain patients. I have to walk a careful line. I wouldn’t even let the Physical Medicine doctor, who ordered my TENS unit (at my urging) and tried acupuncture, refill my pain meds because I didn’t want this exact thing to happen.

I demanded to speak with the Deputy Director who made this call. To confront her directly. I am told that she makes these calls to protect patients like myself from becoming addicts. I point out that first meeting with a patient and reviewing cases — speaking to humans — could avoid the harm such a thing as this situation is causing. Throwing a targeted policy at a person you don’t know could potentially harm a patient and is adverse to good patient care, and violates my rights as a patient. In my case, I was already doing, in theory, what is being asked of me. I simply want the chance to choose the doctor for myself and to have the doctor who treats me be the same doctor who prescribes my meds. Dr. Also Pre-Approved was the next doctor recommended to me, by my departing doctor, to try. He was the doctor briefed on my particular case. This should be my choice to make, irrespective of what list he falls on. Some arbitrary person who knows nothing about my case is not better suited to choose this than I am.

I demanded to have this letter removed from my file. While the PA insists that the language is ambiguous and doesn’t call me a drug seeker, I adamantly insist to her and point out all the ways that it in fact does, and explain why this will make my life more difficult. Why it places more burden on me. Why it creates more hours in the Second Shift for the Sick. How it has already created mistrust between patient and doctor for me, leaving me in severe amounts of “super legit” pain for hours while a Chief Corpsman (HMC) read through my record, one page at a time, to make sure I wasn’t seeking drugs before coming to the novel conclusion that I was a chronic pain patient in — wait for it — chronic fucking pain.

It is little things like this, little notes printed off by someone who has never met a patient, signed by someone too important to give a damn and too busy to be arsed to make time for people skills, that make life nigh impossible for PWD every day. We are not trusted with our own care. We are told how things are going to be, who is going to provide it, and how often it is going to happen. We are sideswiped with half-truth information, and always, ALWAYS thought the worst of.

We are vulnerable.

I guess this is why they have to crush us with these ableist policies.

They are, after all, for our own good, right?

Right?

I Wonder If I’ll Get Delay of Game…

I received an email from my Primary Care Manager the other day.

She responded to my message that I needed refills even though it wasn’t time for me to come back in for a visit yet to let me know she had arranged for all of my scripts. At the end was something that winds up keeping me awake with worry.

“I’ll be leaving [the hospital] 10 September.”

Fuck.

“I’ve told [new doctor taking her place] about you to make sure he is up to speed.”

*panic begins*

“I wish you well.”

I’ve made bad sports metaphors about the way that good health care goes when you have a chronic condition, and your doctor leaves. Basically, my center is out for the season. The thing is, pucks just started flying in from all directions as very slight things have started to go awry, and we’ve been trying new things to fix them. I’ve agreed to a few new referrals that I’ve declined in the past (such as seeing the Neurologist when in the past I’ve been shamed and yelled at by them), some alternatives to my current regimen.

Now, I feel not only ill-prepared for the season, but naked on the ice for the game.

A change of doctor, especially when it is unexpected is alarming. When things have been going well for so long. When my current doctor has done so well advocating for me. When she has insisted that I not be ashamed to ask for more pain medication. When she has listened, not only to my medical concerns, but to my life concerns, because she really believed that they were equally important.

Perhaps the new doctor will be just as wonderful. Perhaps he will storm onto the ice and intercept the puck and make a saving play, and find answers we didn’t see before. Perhaps things will continue and I will notice little or no difference. I might get lucky and this new doctor will allow me to email him for prescription refills to.

But what if he isn’t?

It’s the “what if?” game that is causing the voice inside to shriek that everything is going to fall apart. If for some reason this new doctor turns out to be a nightmare the process of finding another one is not simple. It takes time. It takes spoons. It takes a calm place in my mind that I am not sure I can achieve during this stream of events.

*The title refers to this hockey penalty. In keeping in the spirit of my bad sports metaphor, for fussing about a new doctor…

Signal Boost! The Fight For Reproductive Justice

Some of you may know that most of us here are FWD/Forward lurk around at other places doing other things when we are not toiling on the backend here at the humble blog. I happen to spend a bit of my time writing under my actual name over at Change.org’s Women’s Rights blog as the Military Beat Girl.

Two issues involving reproductive justice have passed over my RADAR here and there, and I hope you all will humor me in bringing the issue here to you all, in the hopes that you will give them the appropriate attention, and also in hopes that you might boost them where you have the opportunity.

First: As you may have heard, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) recently decided to pull a Stupak and have collectively taken the decision regarding abortion out of the hands of people who may need to seek coverage in the so-called High Risk Insurance Pools.

[Action Item at the link.]

Basically, it means that, aside from a glaring disregard for women’s health, and no nod whatsoever to the fact that a woman is capable of making decisions about her health care, women who are already medically vulnerable. This rule cuts them off from receiving any abortion coverage whatsoever even if they attempt to pay for it out of their own already strapped pockets.

In short, they do not trust women.

High-risk pools are meant to provide coverage to people who have been denied insurance due to pre-existing conditions, such as cancer, HIV/AIDS, diabetes, and a slew of other chronic illnesses, conditions, disabilities, or diseases. These conditions could make pregnancy potentially harmful, exacerbate the condition, or just plain more stressful to an already stressed body, or even mentally hurtful (though, Obama has made it clear that mental health does not count, eh?).

s.e. smith wrote an excellent post about high-risk pools that I recommend, if like me you don’t fully understand high-risk pools.

Second is a fight that has been dear to my heart for quite some time. It is the ban on abortions in military medical facilities.

[Action Item at the link!]

Illinois Senator Roland Burris introduced an amendment that would repeal the current ban barring women in uniform and military dependent women from procuring abortion services in military facilities, even if they pay for it with their own money except in the case of incest, rape or imminent threat to the woman’s life. The committee approved this amendment and plans to introduce it as part of the Defense Authorization Act.

Currently U.S. military women in countries like Iraq, Afghanistan, Djibouti, and the Republic of Korea (to name a few) are barred from getting abortions by the nature of where they were ordered to go. They are not available in military facilities except in extreme cases, and the the countries where they live have laws against them in most instances. The law discriminates against those women by first ordering them to a country where a service that is safe and legal in the U.S. is inaccessible and then denying them the care they could seek out if stationed there.

Further reading on the military abortion ban.

I now return you to your regularly scheduled reading.

Recommended Reading for 26 August 2010

Warning: Offsite links are not safe spaces. Articles and comments in the links may contain ableist, sexist, and other -ist language and ideas of varying intensity. Opinions expressed in the articles may not reflect the opinions held by the compiler of the post and links are provided as topics of interest and exploration only. I attempt to provide extra warnings for material like extreme violence/rape; however, your triggers/issues may vary, so please read with care.

Westborough News: Marines shoot calendar for male breast cancer research

They are the few. The proud part has been a bit more of a struggle.

“Most guys don’t want to reach out, don’t want to tell anyone they’ve got a woman’s disease,” Pete Devereaux said yesterday as he talked with fellow male Marines who’ve been diagnosed with breast cancer.

INCITE! Blog: Reflections from Detroit: Reflections On An Opening: Disability Justice and Creating Collective Access in Detroit

We would not just think about disability as separate from class, age, race, queerness, family, children, gender, citizenship, violence, but we would understand it as intimately connected.  We would think, not just about “conference and workshop time,” but we would also think about social time and what social spaces were accessible and how we would make sure no one was isolated or left out.  Because in our movements much of the relationship building, socializing and bonding is done in very inaccessible ways in very inaccessible places—we know this all too well.

New York Times: When Battlefield Humor Backfires (Extra Trigger Warning)

And so the doctor’s determination not to lose a contest of wills undermines the opportunity to have successful discussions about treatment. The patient instantly senses that the doctor distrusts and dislikes him, and this, coupled with the patient’s lack of respect toward authority figures, leads to a rapidly deteriorating situation, often ending in a discharge against medical advice — much to the team’s relief.

NPR: Administration To Appeal Ruling in Stem-Cell Case

The Justice Department said an appeal is expected this week of the federal judge’s preliminary injunction that disrupted an entire field of science.

Judge Royce Lamberth on Monday threw the research community into disarray when he said a federal law invalidated Obama administration guidelines on human-stem-cell research. He concluded that two researchers challenging the Obama stem-cell policy stood a good chance of success as the case moved ahead in the courts.

The judge said any scientific projects using human embryos required their destruction, which flouts a longstanding federal law.

Something More Than Sides: Dear Doctor: Actually, I *Am* Sick

Let’s completely ignore the actual health concerns in exchange for shaming a young girl. Classy. And let’s not forget the fact that, were I suffering from an eating disorder, this is not the way to broach the subject. I left that appointment feeling shamed and humiliated, and with no answers.

If you’re on Delicious, feel free to tag entries ‘disfem’ or ‘disfeminists,’ or ‘for:feminists’ to bring them to our attention! Link recommendations can also be emailed to recreading at disabledfeminists dot com. Please note if you would like to be credited, and under what name/site.

I’ve Got Your More Responsible Pain Management, Right Here

Not many of you would know this but I had my first experience with acupuncture the other day.

I went to see a physical medicine doctor about a TENS unit because my current dose of my narcotic pain medication for breakthrough migraine and body pain is no longer sufficiently covering the amount of breakthrough pain I am having, and as a personal preference I have decided to seek alternative methods before I agree to increase the current dosage (which honestly, I am already trying to squeak by with as little as possible because the hospital here is so stingy with it, and I am trying to be Model Patient). The physical medicine doctor, for whom I would make up a name for him, but in all honesty, I have, currently, three Dr. Kims and two Dr. Lees  so I don’t feel the need to do so, agreed quickly to get me set up with the TENS unit. I just have to come in to see the physical therapist to try it out, and they will order it for me. In the week between, Dr. Kim asked if I would like to try acupuncture.

Now, I have a very high level of phobia surrounding needles, and the thought of acupuncture, being pins, doesn’t stray too far from that for me. This is not the first time I have been asked to try acupuncture. But Dr. Kim wasn’t pushy. He offered it casually, mentioned that he is licensed and certified, and that he could start right away, if I wanted to. He smiled in an understanding manner when I explained that I was afraid that any benefit might be canceled out by my anxiety.

He spent ten minutes calmly explaining to me a slightly different method, more commonly known to military doctors as “Battlefield Acupuncture”, where pins go in my ears and stay for a week or so, at its most basic form. I agreed to try it, not wanting to have another doctor click their tongue at me for not trying everything and not wanting to give anyone a chance to call me a drug seeker. But when I say “pins” I tell you that these tiny things felt like thumb tacks piercing my non-pierced ears, five in each ear with two in the inner part (ten total). I was instructed to sleep in a supine position, which would screw up my sleep, since I am a side sleeper. But he told me to keep them as long as I could stand them.

I lasted two nights of thrashing around. And The Guy told me he was proud of me for sticking it out that long. I felt like I was in agony the whole time. I could think of nothing else.

I have seen noticed that the military is leaning towards pushing acupuncture on troops, which I think is odd, since getting other “alternative” care (things as innocuous as chiropractic care) and getting it covered by our insurance is like getting a root canal. I believe that more options is better, but it was the framing of these alternatives that bothered me.

The first time I had heard that acupuncture was being offered to troops was in an AFN commercial. AFN is the military’s overseas entertainment network, both on television and radio. They offer commercial free programming for military families. But they have AFN sponsored spots and informercials. One of those was for acupuncture, celebrating the troops who were asking for it, choosing to treat their pain in “responsible ways”, which clearly spoke to me that people who received no help from such methods (such as I discovered I did not), or where it was not available, or who chose not to, were irresponsible for choosing narcotic pain relief methods.

And that just doesn’t sit well with me. I will defend against screeds like this writer at Forbes, who are just simply dismissive of methods that have helped actual people, because the author is deliberately dismissing their experiences. That would be like someone telling me that all chiropractors are quacks because they don’t ever help anyone, when I know for a fact that the last doctor to give me actual, long-term relief that didn’t require daily narcotic care was a chiropractor specially trained in treating patients with fibromyalgia. At the same time, however, I know that suggesting that because I use certain medication to manage my pain doesn’t make me less responsible. I am pretty sure that managing my pain makes me responsible for my pain. Certain people may not like how I am choosing to do it, but it is still up to me how I choose to do so, making it my responsibility. No one but me gets to make a moral judgment on that.

It isn’t widely available. I am fortunate, were I willing to give it another go (and possibly, I might be talked into the more traditional style). Acupuncture is widely practiced in Korea, so it is readily available. But not every military medical center is so well equipped. In fact, I think your chances of getting chiropractic care are better. They’ve hit the big ones, like Walter Reed, and it seems Fort Hood, which has a high deployment rate, has one as well. I am unclear how many other branch facilities are joining…but that is hardly accessible with so many needing it. I am also unclear if this is widely available to family members, or if this is another perk to my medical record still being messed up because of Dick Cheney’s privacy law funhouse or whatever it was that has left me listed as still active duty and of a higher rank than I actually was (and yet, with my hyphenated post-married name, which I never used while active duty…).

Often times it is being coupled with Chaplain care and yoga, which isn’t going to help everyone, and you shouldn’t be forced into one in order to get the other. Nothing adds to my needle phobia like you praying for my soul. And sometimes people with chronic pain shouldn’t be forced into certain types of exercise, which really is the Military Way, I know, but they need to understand that it can do more harm than good.

It’s a big Catch-22 of hope. I hope to see a broadening of options opened up for the masses of troops coming back from battle hurting from a decade of two wars (why, yes, I do say that a lot), or even as a way to help troops still in combat zones who have to stay and carry on. I hate to see it being set up as another way to shame people into using it if they aren’t ready to be the shiny happy Model Patient.

…And At This Point, I Don’t See It Stopping Anytime Soon

Courtesy of amandaw I bring you this stellar article that once again rubs in my face how brilliantly miserable the VA is scratching the surface of realizing what is wrong with they way they even see women veterans. If you read along carefully you can even see the lightly sugar-coated condescension artfully woven in TIME writer Laura Fitzpatrick’s story. It really is a piece of work, from the dismissive way she re-counts the testimony of the “presumed” treatment of a victim survivor of sexual assault at the hands of a medical professional (because they NEVER do THAT) down to the detailed description of the very girlie attire of the staff at the impressively mostly women-run facility in Palo Alto. I crave to read the way a man’s shoes click-clack on a hospital hall’s floors in such a manner. But it is a very cliche description etched in the halls of descriptive-writing history, INORITE, so who am I to argue with the laws of good writing. I am, after all, only an amateur.

The news isn’t that the VA is failing women veterans. I’ve known that for quite some time. Really, I have. I have encountered some of the treatment described to some degrees first-hand:

I remember having to hunt around for a toilet in an ill-fitting paper gown at my own exit screening, past several other open, occupied exam rooms. I was the only woman there. They had no sanitary napkin to offer me and it was an embarrassing scene trying to find a place where I could insert a tampon. I was fighting back tears when I finally found a (presumably) unisex bathroom.

So My Dear Friend Ms. Fitzpatrick’s dismissal of Anuradha Bhagwati’s story, the one she gave as testimony before the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs is ill-received. It isn’t too far-fetched for me to imagine the way she recounts “the ham-handed manner in which a male gynecologist, upon being told by a patient that she had been sexually assaulted, left the exam room and — presumably to beckon a female staff member — yelled down the hall, ‘We’ve got another one!'”. I can easily see the inept professionals at the inadequate facilities just stumbling over how to even grasp a way to provide basic courtesy to a patient who isn’t like them. And failing. Miserably.

The news here is that they seem to have no idea how to fix it, and no set, immediate time line in mind for seeing progress. Sure, Secretary of the VA, Eric K. Shinseki recently, at a forum at the Women in Military Service for America Memorial in Arlington, Virginia, has said that he hopes to have the VA ready to serve 100% of veterans in 25 years, but what is going to happen to this generation of women veterans who are already being ignored? To the women veterans of the wars past who have been fighting for help all along already?

Because their concerns are already being swept aside. You can already see as things like their urinary-tract issues being categorized as simple “gender differences”, because women react to the desert differently. Sure, possibly. I’ve seen this intimated a few times. People looking to explain away womanly behavior in high stress situations. Oh! They didn’t want to stop the convoy! Well, why is that? Maybe because we know that women are far more likely to be killed by their fellow servicemembers than by combat in combat zones that they learned defense mechanisms, as confessed to by Col. Janis Karpinski. Women tended to drink less water, as little as they thought they could get away with, to avoid using latrines or having to stop roadside alone with men out of fear of sexual assault. And it killed some of them. If you remember, though, Karpinski was even dismissed as a woman scorned because of the Abu Ghraib scandal, anyhow, so we can’t win for losing. She was just ratting out her old boss because she got in trouble.

Some of it is true, though. Most of the VA’s 144 hospitals do not have the proper facilities to even offer privacy to non-men patients, let alone provide gynecological care, or as I mentioned above, pads. The TIME article notes a hospital in Salt Lake City which announced that it delivered its first baby this past October (the article mentions that its average patient is 78 and male), but the day after the little girl’s arrival they didn’t know how much she weighed (I cringe to think how much more they couldn’t provide) because they didn’t even have an infant scale.

Women veterans are spiking in numbers. They, funnily enough, are not the same as men. That means they are not the same as the average patient, such as that the Salt Lake City hospital are used to dealing with, and their health care with be different. Even if you line up the matching parts, the treatment for heart disease and blood pressure, to my lay knowledge, is not the same. The numbers have been growing since The Great War, and surged after we had the need to call the next one World War II. It took until 1988 for the VA to start providing even limited care to women veterans.

Today, women veterans in need of help from the VA are of an average age far younger than the average male veteran (for obvious reasons) and have different needs. They are at least twice as likely than civilian women to be homeless (with only 8 facilities in all the U.S. available to help homeless women veterans with children). They are likely to be mothers when they are. Many of them returning from combat zones — yes, combat zones, why do you ask? — are coming home to families and are more likely than their male counterparts to get divorced following combat connected tours. They are really damned likely to get asked if that is their husband’s or boyfriend’s shirt they are wearing, or asked for their husband’s social by a thoughtless agent on the phone. They are the forgotten in war. Doubly so if they served in a branch of the military that isn’t on the forefront of the public’s mind as “really the military” (as slave2tehtink has said, Aircraft carriers tend to not be zipped around by civilians, yo). Extra-specially so if you had a thinkin’ job, like “nuke” or “spook”, and your Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), or Military Sexual Trauma (MST) didn’t happen “In Country” (Iraq or Afghanistan), the only sanctioned places where these things can occur, you know.

It’s frustrating as hell. And while I don’t believe that the VA is intentionally forgetting about us, I don’t believe that they are doing everything that they can to make sure that it gets better faster.

And honestly, I don’t think writers like Ms. Fitzpatrick are helping. But maybe I am jaded and have been at this for too long. But the VA needs an overhaul, stat. Pretty words from the Secretary of the VA and promises that it will be better in a couple of decades just aren’t good enough.

Recommended Reading for 23 July 2010

Warning: Offsite links are not safe spaces. Articles and comments in the links may contain ableist, sexist, and other -ist language and ideas of varying intensity. Opinions expressed in the articles may not reflect the opinions held by the compiler of the post and links are provided as topics of interest and exploration only. I attempt to provide extra warnings for material like extreme violence/rape; however, your triggers/issues may vary, so please read with care.

Cube: Modern Warfare 2: Gaming with a Disability, Junkyard talking with Ian (MW2 Gameplay/Commentary)

I was able to get an opportunity to talk with Ian who is paralyzed from the middle of the chest down. Not letting his situation dismay him from playing video games he has been able to adapt and come up with a solution to overcome his disability.

Sustainable Diet: Common Ground Organic Farm & Veteran Cooperative

[donation solicitation at the end of article]

The model-of-care has been successfully demonstrated with over 60 Marines, veterans and military families at the current program called Operation Recovery.  The model-of-care is now positioned to expand and serve hundreds of active duty, veterans and their families through a financially sustainable program called, The Common Ground Organic Farm and Veteran Cooperative. Mr. Bornt has a lease-option and an opportunity to purchase the ideal property for the expansion – a 70-acre farm with existing residences and infrastructure within 40 miles of downtown San Diego and 28 miles from Camp Pendleton.

The potential of the veteran farm cooperative has generated collaborative interest from Camp Pendleton Marine Corps command and Chaplains, Balboa Hospital ASYMCA, Alliant University, Palomar Collage, the VA PTSD clinic and many other local and national veteran service agencies. The farm will provide a safe, familiar decompression zone, immediate veteran employment, veteran short-term housing, and peer-to-peer treatment training and veteran micro-enterprise development.

Wheelchair Diffusion Blog: Marine Veteran Invents Powered Beach Wheelchair

Blaker states that he was inspired and motivated by his Marine buddies, some of whom suffered injuries that made mobility difficult.

“I worked on cobras and hueys the avionics systems, so that’s where I got all my understanding of electronics and what not,” explained Blaker.

Blaker served six-years as a Marine, and was stationed all over the world, and after finishing his service, he now spends his time building wheelchairs that work on the beach. He was inspired to extend the freedoms non-handicapped people enjoy to those who still want to experience the beach.

Rhivolution (Dreamwidth): Practicing my dropkick skills: OCD

So I saw the book Saving Sammy at the public library, and after picking it up and skimming the inside cover, I sort of couldn’t bear to read it, mostly because the subtitle is ‘Curing the Boy Who Caught OCD’.

Caught. OCD. Cure.

Now, for those of you not aware, a few years back, the US National Institute of Health concluded that in some children with sudden onset OCD and/or Tourette syndrome (henceforth TS), the conditions appeared after the children had had a strep infection, and that this could possibly be causal. Your bog standard OCD and TS are, apparently, slow onset in pre-pubertal cases, and these cases came on rapidly, like a switch was thrown. This proposed condition is called PANDAS, an acronym for something I’m too spoon-less to write out here involving strep and pediatrics and psychiatric disorders and stuff.

Teach Me Tonight: CFP: Fat Studies Edited Anthology

CFP for fat studies edited anthology

Julia McCrossin and I were approached at the PCA/ACA Conference by a publisher and asked to put together a fat studies anthology. The result is the call for papers listed below. Please feel free to distribute far and wide with our thanks.

If you have any questions, please feel free to email either Julia or me. Our addresses are listed below. Huge thanks, and I look forward to hearing from many of you! 🙂

~Lesleigh Owen

If you’re on Delicious, feel free to tag entries ‘disfem’ or ‘disfeminists,’ or ‘for:feminists’ to bring them to our attention! Link recommendations can also be emailed to recreading[@]disabledfeminists[.]com

From Sea to Shining Sea: Bad Ass Disabled Vets Refocus Their Military Training

Military personnel learn to apply their earliest military training to many parts of their lives. From the first moments of boot camp our lives are broken down and that training is ingrained into our very being. We take that training with us long after the uniform hangs unworn in the closet and the neckerchiefs lie in the drawers. Even today, I can write a business email in all acronyms, because it is still the most formal and proper way I know. One time we “tossed racks” because Kid couldn’t find something and insisted it wasn’t in her room. I can fit many t-shirts in a drawer or suitcase, thanks to a certain Chief, who, incidentally was not my division chief, but who seemed to think the sun shone from my arse nonetheless.

For some, it helps to pull us through the unexpected twists that life hands us. I am sure I am not the only person who will endure more pain than is required before complaining because I believe it is expected.

For Marc Esposito, a 26 year-old Air Force Sergeant and member of a special tactics squadron until his humvee hit a roadside bomb, his training helped him focus trough the year of rehab at two separate medical facilities, including the Walter Reed Medical Center, where he re-learned how to walk.

Now he is using that focus — that training — to ride with Sea to Shining Sea, to raise awareness for the Special Operations Warrior Foundation for wounded veterans, and in his own words,”[T]o hopefully show any kind of disabled American you are still capable of doing amazing things […] and hopefully change the perception of what it means to be an athlete.”

Sea to Shining Sea is a group of 17 cyclists, most of them disabled veterans, who started the journey of some 4,000 miles from San Francisco on 22 May, by dipping their wheels in the Pacific Ocean, and plan to end it by dipping their wheels in the Atlantic in Virginia Beach on 24 July. They have averaged about 50 miles a day.

Some people don’t understand that the training doesn’t leave you. It isn’t something you take off, and in some cases, this is a very good thing. The drive it takes to recover, the intensity it takes to stare illness and injury head on, the nerve it takes to accept that your career may be forever ended or changed … all of that comes from the part of you that is broken down and rebuilt ahead of time. All those weeks, months, years ago when you step off the bus and dress to that line for the first time. They rebuild you up, and it becomes a life skill that you use to accept, use, and build upon.

And it allows you to meet any task head on, using whatever you have left.

Sometimes all you have left is enough and you have no other desire but to give it.

Because that is all we know.

We know to take what we have left, and give something back.

Sea to Shining Sea is nothing short of Bad Ass, and I am not doing them justice, because I have struggled over days to write this post. I have wept a little at what these people have done with what they have kept and done. I am so proud of them, and so humbled to know that they, through their hardest, darkest times, have pulled through because of a common link and have spun it around to something positive, and to something healing, and are finding a way to use it to raise a positive message for disabled veterans everywhere.

Thank you to s.e. smith for the link, because ou is always looking out for me.