Thursday, May 22, 2008

Me and the Veteran's Administration

I'm 40% service-connected disabled. The disabilities are not that big a deal. One example: 10% of that rating is for ringing in my ears. I would prefer that I not have ringing in my ears, but some hearing damage is part and parcel of going to wars.

My disability rating is high enough (over 20%) that I'm eligible for job training. One way that the VA can provide job training is by footing the bill for college. I would like to be a high school science teacher which requires a degree that I don't have. The VA's help could go a long way toward getting me into the classroom.

Well, dork that I am, I didn't apply for benefits until this month. Today, I just got tentatively approved for my education goal. There are tests to take, advisors and counselors to meet and stacks of forms complete but my objective has been conditionally approved.

The process is far from over, but it's off to a good start. What a huge load off my mind.

Friday, May 2, 2008

About damn time....

Military Stressing Veterans' Counseling - "Applicants for government security clearances will no longer have to declare whether they sought mental health counseling after serving in combat zones, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates announced yesterday."

Well, it's a baby step in the right direction.

The wording is still lame "strictly related to adjustments from service in a military combat environment" is not going to reassure many folks who are still on active duty. I'll give you an example: Airman Wingwiper deploys to the sandbox for 180 days and his marriage self-destructs when he comes home. Why is he seeking counseling? Does that meet the criteria? Will everyone think that? I'll tell you why that's important. The one absolute sure-fire way to get your clearance denied to to get caught in a lie on your SF86.

The effect of the current policy on security clearances and other special-access programs is that it drives folks to the chaplains. Some chaplains are excellent counselors. Some chaplains are not up to the challenge. (And some chaplains are rapists.)

I have a friend who took a bad shot in a war zone. He did not join the military and did not make the sacrifices he has made in order to kill innocent civilians. He went were he was sent, he did what he was told to do and the results were tragic. The USAF moved on and he didn't. He was saddled with nightmares and anger issues. He went to a chaplain for help because a chaplain's help was the best he could get without risking his career.

My personal take is that chaplains should stick to their area of expertise: religion. I would no sooner see a chaplain about battlestress issues than I would a fry cook.

I appreciate Secretary Gates' intentions, but he's still way short of the mark.