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Thursday, October 13, 2011

Senator Patty Murray and the VA... Now hear this. By Jenny McClendon.

The following letter was written by Veteran Jenny McClendon.  I am proud to call her my friend.  I am also honored to publish this for her.  The letter will be sent to Senator Patty Murray on behalf of MST Victims everywhere. I've done no editing other than to add a few pictures that weren't a part of the original letter.

Thanks for reading.  Feel free to share this with everyone you know.  Until the next time.   Wendi.


Dear Senate Committee on Veteran’s Affairs Chairperson Patty Murray:

This letter is being written to expose a problematic behavior that appears to be rampant at the Department of Veterans Affairs. The letter is lengthened by the groundwork that is necessary to put this obscene practice in its proper light.

To begin this letter I want to thank you for your steadfast efforts on behalf of those of us that have served. A sailor, soldier, Air person, or Coast Guards person never forgets the people that they served with. The collective “We” never forget what those that we serve with mean to us. Moreover, we never forget who fights for us on that enchanting and alluring law making “Hill.”

From the core of my soul, I thank you for all that you do.

There are a few other things that soldiers and sailors never forget. The incredible solidarity and the unity of purpose within the ranks is something so special that it evades description. Unfortunately that unity of purpose is often lost to the strife that is generated by a prejudice that has long haunted this great nation.

To borrow a phrase that one of my undergraduate professors used to describe the road to Abolition, “There is a cancer that is eating away at the stability of our troops and that cancer is sexism.” Dr. Stevens said “A young nation and slavery” but the shoe still fits.

That cancer has been resistant to the radiation therapy of bi annual regulations training and cultural diversity training that begins in boot camp. That very cancer is expressed in sexual violence against women and men in order to dominate them.

Many great Soldiers, Sailors, Air persons, and Coast Guard Personnel are lost to the effects that follow Military Sexual Trauma (MST). Some survivors are lost to medical discharges and countless others have their futures scarred by “Other than Honorable” discharges from active duty service.

Those personnel that are lost often have no choice related to their discharge. There is little legal recourse if you are raped and less recourse if you are illegally discharged.

This unimaginable, indescribable, and reprehensible horror is only trumped by the fact that some of us are murdered and lost to suicide during or after service.

This takes me close to my point.

The Department of Veterans Affairs is supposed to be a place where mental health and general health services are available to veterans. An atrocity that exacerbates betrayal in the ranks beyond measure is betrayal at the Department of Veterans Affairs (The VA).

Treatment for MST and PTSD at VA trauma clinics is misrepresented as a series of “Evidence Based Therapeutic Practices.” This is an unsettling euphemism for “Express line therapy.”

These therapies are not unlike a therapy car wash where the VA gets you in and gets you out scrubbed down and washed up. When one out of every five national suicides is a veteran, therapy in the express line may be ill advised at best.

Eighteen suicides a day among veterans is alarming. Five losses to suicide per day by veterans under VA care cannot be described with accuracy. Are we sure that the VA should be running a therapeutic car wash?

Veteran suicide, in your own words, “Has had a tragic impact.” This letter is about to report a sinister problem that compounds or illuminates the tragic impact.

The VA has an “Out” for the treatment of MST survivors. If a survivor is also a survivor of child hood sexual trauma, the VA often dismisses the need for MST treatment due to a “Pre-existing condition.”

I fell victim to this practice. My father raped me when I was 14. He is a purple heart earning combat wounded Marine.

I made the tragic error of reporting this to the VA when the intake resident asked me. When I had some trouble in Cognitive Processing Therapy -the car wash- I ended up being pushed away from the trauma clinic.

I wanted desperately to stay in Trauma Services” just to stay with my psychiatrist. If the psychologist needed to take her leave of me, this was one thing but I needed some stability and I did not want to lose a connection with my psychiatrist. I did not have a choice; I was given the VA version of an other than honorable discharge from trauma services.

The given excuse was that I was bad for the group and that the group had to come first. I was allegedly “Bad for the group” because I had been offended as a child and that complicated treatment. I have found this to be common and not isolated to a single VA trauma center.

MST survivors are familiar with both of the excuses that I have listed. “The good of the group over the needs of the individual” is used to suppress rape reporting within the ranks. I wonder how many of the five people that we lose each day while under VA care are ostracized in similar ways.

Historically, the “Good of the group” mentality is a common excuse to ignite genocide and/or rank and file McCarthyism.

How we end up with some veterans being less valuable or less deserving than other veterans is an alarming question that probably does not have an answer worthy of the power of the question.

The “Pre-existing condition” excuse is used by military doctors limit the efficacy of medical boards for MST survivors that are trying to salvage their careers. We are more or less discharged for being raped “Again.” I do not have to qualify this with an adjective. I think that you have a word in mind by now.

When the VA is guilty of heinous behavior toward veterans we scratch our heads and wonder what to do and where to go. Whether this is for a clinic or clinician’s exoneration from duty to veterans or something else, this is repulsive to a power of ten. I ask for your action on this letter.

I am writing to you to report this problem and ask for legislation that prevents the VA from asking the question, “Were you a victim of childhood abuse.” There is a moral obligation to “Do no harm” among doctors. This is not the only ball that is dropped at the VA.

VA therapists will push back by saying that they lack the ability to treat the whole person without full disclosure. This argument would have traction if the VA operated by treating “The whole person.” They do not; they put us in a car wash. If we have a carwash for some veterans and dismissal for other veterans, then we have betrayal. Upon a premise of betrayal and another premise of express line therapy, the “Whole person” argument fails muster.

With all due and well delivered respect,
Jenny McClendon

Veteran, mother, wife, ethics and logic professor.

1 comment:

  1. If you think Patty Murray is any friend of veterans with service dogs, just wait until you hear about the language she just sneaked into legislation passed 2 days ago, at the very last minute... I'm making a flyer and creating a page for my website on this issue...


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