Hello Friends! It's been a long time since I caught you up on what's been happening with me. I've been so busy trying to take care of business that I've really fallen behind on keeping you up to date. I've made progress in some areas, had set backs in others.
I find myself bored lately. My life is at a stand still. I've finally completed my PTSD claim. It's taken me over two years to complete that friggin' claim. If anyone tells you that filing a claim for PTSD is easy, they are lying. While it's true they have relaxed the rules for PTSD due to combat, they haven't relaxed the rules for MST (military sexual trauma). For those of you who have been with me from the beginning, you'll know that I had a ton of evidence to go through. Very personal evidence. Letters that I had written home to my best friend over my twenty year career. I was unaware that she'd saved those letters until she passed away. One of her sisters found them when going through her personal things and she returned them to me. I didn't look at them until after I had my first flashback and started searching for what had happened to me. It was all there in the letters I'd written home as a young soldier. My friend had saved all that evidence for me. Who knew I'd need that evidence 30 years later?
I filed my PTSD-MST claim last June, 2010. It took almost one year and a phone call from a Women's Trauma Counselor from the St Pete Regional Office to finally get me off my ass enough to get moving to finish my claim and send in all the evidence I had. I had plenty. I had my letters. I had buddy statements. I had a Nexus letter from my treating psychologist. I had evidence from my SMR showing that I had two pap smears in one weeks time. I have a current diagnosis. And I have three years of treatment records. But every time I looked at those letters, written in my own hand, describing everything that happened to me, they triggered me so badly ... well, those of you with PTSD know what happens. Nightmares. Panic and anxiety attacks. Isolation. Everything, and I mean everything scares the shit out of you. The slightest noise, the lightest touch and you are jumping clear out of your skin. Forget sleeping. If the nightmares aren't keeping you awake, insomnia is. You detach from everything you know and love. Your mood is like a pendulum. It swings back and forth. Up and down. Does this sound familiar? Sitting in a dark house, shades drawn, only the dogs for company. Not caring how you look, how you dress or if you ever leave the house again.
I was determined. I persevered. I got it finished and two weeks ago I finally sent the completed packet off to the ST Pete VARO, certified with a return receipt. Now, I will wait. Like the rest of us caught up in the 1,000,000 claims backlog, I will wait.
While the PTSD claim is processing, I'm still waiting for a decision on my service connected right shoulder, temporary 100% claim that I submitted last June 2010. What a joke that has been. Per eBenefits, which I trust about as much as I trust Iris Inquiries or calling the 800 number, it's in the "Decision Phase". According to the eBenefits website, "The Decision Phase is completed on most claims between 16 and 28 days. The number of days provided is a national average of time claims spend in the Decision phase based on data at the end of May 2010. Please be advised that a claim may take longer in this phase based on the specifics of your claim." Mine has been in the "Decision Phase" for almost two months. I think they need to update their statistics. I'll continue to wait.
Last but certainly not least, there is my appeal for IU. To refresh your memory, I submitted my claim for it in October 2008 and was denied in October 2009. I hired an attorney after a very long process and the appeal went in. We asked for a DRO review. To date, we're still waiting. The review still has not taken place. My attorney is confident we'll win so I consider it money in the bank. I'm at 80% now, I draw SSDI (the decision was based solely on my service connected conditions) and VR&E refused to send me back to school and/or retrain me. How can I lose is the attorney's theory. I hope he is right.
In the meantime, about two months ago, I received a letter from my attorney, Sean Culliton, withdrawing himself from my case. I have to admit that I was very, very pissed when it happened. I felt abandoned by someone I had let in to my circle. He was not a Veteran, he'd come highly recommended and I reluctantly allowed him in. I trusted him to do right by me. In retrospect, I understand his decision to let go of my case. I'm no longer angry. I've hired a new attorney, recommended by Jim Strickland, and I believe he'll do right by me. My former attorney has gone back to his civilian clients and I wish him well. He turned over all my files to me, even going so far as to burn everything onto a disk so that I can pass them along to my new attorney. He also signed a letter which has been sent to the VARO waiving all rights to any fees and backpay. He's a straight up guy and he did right by me. I'm sure my new attorney will take my case and run with it. In the meantime, I'm still waiting.
So what do I do now? I've been so consumed with working on all my claims that I no longer know what to do with myself. I've spent day after day, month after month, for almost two years, trying to get this damn PTSD claim done. Now that it's finished, and I've hired a new attorney to work on my appeal, I'm stuck with nothing to do. I sit in the house all day, monitor Straight Talk, answer emails, take the dogs out to the yard for potty breaks and clean up their shit, watch my soaps and poke around on the internet. That's my day, and night, 7 days a week. I can't drive anymore so unless my wife is here to take me somewhere, I'm stuck at home. Don't get me wrong; home is my "safe place". I'm more comfortable here than I am anyplace else. I'm just bored. I need a new challenge. What to do? What to do? And how to do it from home?
Service dog update. There is none. Sort of. I got word from VACO to resubmit my packet instead of appealing it. I got some static from the fine folks in Tampa Prosthetics. No surprise there. An email to my POC at VACO in D.C., took care of that problem. I'm just waiting now for my backlogged primary care physician to resubmit my packet. It's being resubmitted with a focus on Rocco's mobility tasks. I gave my social worker a list of mobility tasks that Rocco performs for me that can't be done by "prosthetic aides". That should push my request over the edge. Keep your fingers crossed for me. And for you. If this works for me, it will work for you, too. As always, I'll keep you informed.
Speaking of service dogs .... I'm trying to put together a blog of reputable service dog schools. If you have one that you recommend, please send it to me at WendiG@vawatchdogtoday.org. I prefer to list non-profit schools that will give dogs to service members and Veterans at no cost but I will list all schools. Thank you.
And finally ... the Independent Living Program. If you qualify, you really should apply to this program. I've been in it for just over two years now. It's taken a while for me to get everything that was written into my plan, but it's finally all coming together. I no longer have to worry about using those beat to hell store scooters, or paying outrageous rental fees, when I go out. I have the "Cadillac" of mobility scooters and finally, last week, I had the lift installed on our pick-up so that we can take it with us when we go out. Have scooter will travel. I can now exercise Rocco properly. He loves to run along side it. I'm still waiting for an adjustable bed, but my counselor assures me it's forthcoming.
There's the update, my friends. I'm bored to tears. I've spent two years working on claims and now that they are finished I don't know what to do with myself. I have all this spare time on my hands. It's Spring time in Florida. The beach is out. I can't drive there. That means fishing is out, too, because I can't get myself to the water (& that's only 15 minutes away). I guess I'll have to get with my partner, Jim Strickland, and see what kind of trouble he can find for me to get into. I am fairly certain he's got something in mind. You may want to keep an eye out for some changes in the format here. I'm just sayin'.
Until the next time.......