If you follow me on Facebook you know what changes have gone on in my life. I won't spell them out for you here. I'm not going to replay all that drama. It's just not worth it. Suffice it to say, my life has moved forward and I am much happier for the change. My younger sister is now living with me. We have not lived together since that day, October 5, 1976, when I left for Basic Training. I was 17 and she was 14. We are now 54 and 51. It's actually been less of an adjustment for either of us than we figured it would be. We are shocked almost every day when we discover all the little things we do that are just alike. Silly things from the way we pair socks and fold underwear to larger things like how we clean, do laundry and even sleep at night. It's uncanny. We love living together. She brings me peace. I hope I do the same for my sister.
The big news that I have to share with you is that after two and one-half years of waiting, my PTSD Claim (for Military Sexual Trauma aka MST) has finally been settled and approved. I followed my own advice, my friends. I filed for it in June 2010. I prepared my own claim using the guidelines set forth by two greats; Jim Strickland and Susan Avila-Smith. Those two know their stuff. I sent my claim via "certified mail" with a "return receipt requested". I kept copies of everything. I did not call to inquire about the status of my claim. I did not give anyone my power of attorney. I did not submit any IRIS inquiries. I sent in every bit of evidence that I had. I kept all my appointments and I continued on in therapy. I did not call the Regional Office to bitch and/or complain about how long my claim was taking. I did not contact to my Congress Critter. I stayed at home, took my meds, responded PROMPTLY to the paperwork sent to me by the VARO like a good little Veteran. And then I waited some more.
Finally, two and one-half years later my patience was rewarded. I was awarded 70% service connection for PTSD due to Military Sexual Trauma. My overall rating was increased to 90%. I am already 100% due to Individual Unemployability (IU) and that award is, and remains, Permanent and Total (P&T). The effective date of the PTSD award was backdated to June 2010; the date I filed my claim.
I know some of you are thinking, "Wow, that's some backpay." Not really. They did "readjust" my service connection. I had been 30% service connected for major depressive disorder as a secondary condition to all my other service connected conditions. They got rid of that and awarded PTSD as a primary condition. However, I've been at 100% IU P&T since October 2008 so there won't be any backpay. That's fine with me. I didn't file for the money.
Why did I file if not for the money, you ask? I filed for the validation. That was the reason. Plain and simple. I wanted someone in the Government to look at the evidence I had; not just "look" at it, but really EVALUATE it and say, "Yes, this Soldier was sexually assaulted. She didn't make this shit up." And though the decision letter reads "benefit of the doubt", that works for me. I'll take that as proof they believe me.
What next? Nothing. I am done filing claims. I am 100% IU P&T. That covers everything. Medical, dental, spousal benefits (if I were straight, that is), educational bennies for my kids and so much more. I'm still fighting for my spousal benefits since it seems that even though we are separated, it's damn near impossible for Gay and Lesbian couples to Divorce. Funny, we can marry but they won't divorce us in "their" courts. But that's another blog for another day. But what the hell, as long as I am stuck married to her, I will fight for benefits for her. She deserves that for putting up with me and my PTSD for as long as she did.
There are so many people to thank for their roles in helping me through this horrendous wait and period in my life; Jim Strickland, my friend and mentor. I love you, Brother. Susan Avila-Smith for your awesome guide available to anyone willing to look it up - it's also posted here in this blog roll. My wife for putting up with me all those years; I wish you well and I will keep fighting for bennies for you just as I promised. Like I said, I feel like I owe you at least that much. My VA doctors who have taken such great care of me. Sure, you run into a bad seed every now and then, but I've had some of the best there are. Dr Miller at the Brooksville, FL CBOC, Dr Dana Glenn at James A Haley VA Medical Center, my current therapists, Kristen Lahey, & Dr Beckner, at the Houston VA Hospital. I would be remiss if I didn't thank my many friends who have helped pick me up when the going got rough. Donna Smith, you have been there for me since the very beginning. You gave me the courage to file my claim. I love you, Sis. The "Oy Vey" Women. They know who they are. I can't wait for our Retreat. I hope we can make that happen this year at "The Manor". To my good friends Chris and Marion (& Chris' 'rents) who took care of my new home in Houston until I could move here from Florida. You are amazingly good friends. I love you so much. Deena and family -- for storing my pop-up and just being there with hugs...love you! Di Manning for your ever-loving kindness, friendship and constant support and giving me a "new nephew". What would I ever do without you? You're a strong woman and I am so glad we met. To my own family; thank you for not doubting me when I finally broke down and told you what happened to me. I needed you to believe me and you did. Lauri, my dear little sister... you have given me back some of my strength. That was something I thought was long gone. You taught me that I really can stand up for myself if I just dig deep enough to find that "younger Wendi who was within". She wasn't dead she was just "aseepin". You managed to stoke the fires to wake her. That was when my life started to changed for the better.
There are many others I know I should be giving love and thanks to. I just can't pull their names out of my rattled brain right now. OH!!! Kathy, Terry Two and Roy!! Three of my closest friends in Hanau! Mickey B & the Bloody Buddies!!! How could I forget to name you? Bless you all. You were instrumental in me getting through that first tour in Germany. I would honestly be dead were it not for your love, friendship and strength. Jody and Chris-Chris (wherever you are Chrissy) I love and miss you both. Polly, my friend. You kept so many of my secrets. Nina, Nelda, Jami, Pip and the rest of my "Buckhorn" Family. The Browns; my Peoria Family. The Garcias; my Albuquerque Family. The Almond/Piessens/Arnold Family Clan. You were my family when I needed you. I am forever grateful to you. You unselfishly shared your parents with me when I needed parenting. You let me into your family and gave me guidance and a home when I needed direction. You will all, always, be in my heart. My children. All of them and that includes all my "adopted nieces and nephews". I love you so much. So many others... and the one who is gone... My soulmate, my best friend, my "Sister" Sandy, the keeper of my letters and my memory... Sandy preserved my memory in writing. She saved every letter I wrote to her from the day I left for Basic Training until her death in May '93. I miss you, Sandy. I hope you are proud of the MST work I am doing now.
Forgive me, the rest of you, whose names I have left out. I promise you it is not intentional. So many people have touched my life in many different ways over the last 30+ years. Each of you has left a lasting impression in my life and on my heart. You've all been there for me and I can never repay you. Just know that I am here for you. Always.
What do I do now? Nothing. I'm finished. I use the benefits I have. If something else crops up I don't see any reason to attempt to service connect them because I'm at 100% already. Anytime you apply for another service connection you take a chance at losing what you already have. I know this for fact. Yes, I gained 70% for PTSD-MST. I also LOST 30% for my right shoulder. It's been service connected since 1995. I damn near had reached that magical 20 year mark. I haven't spoken to my Attorney yet to see if he wants to appeal that. I'm reluctant to do so (submit an appeal or a DRO Review or anything of the like) because I don't want to chance losing my P&T status. Remember Friends, just because it's P&T, doesn't mean they can't look at you again. It's a chance you take when you submit a new claim. BEWARE. Consequences have actions and reactions. Don't push your luck. You will only screw yourself over if you try to out-think the VA.
And that my friends is all I have for you today. I will try to come back soon. I'd like to get in a pattern of writing again. Do you have a topic you'd like me to cover? Drop me a note. I'd love to hear from you.
Until the next time.....