The following article is written in the viewpoint of my wife.
Caregiver Support first application (2015)
Texas – 2014 through January 2015
In Killeen, Straight Jacket Material (SJM) contacted the Veteran Affairs Vocational Rehabilitation about his education options with his disability ratings. SJM met with a counselor and they went through several options of career choices. all the first option that was presented to SJM was for a six-month-long certified ethical hacker program that had been set up by the vocational rehabilitation counselor himself. The program was billed at $24,000 and promised several industry certifications as well as job placement assistance. After only a few weeks it became very apparent that the program was nothing but a scam, a degree mill that was pushing people through the program as quickly as possible. SJM contacted the upper management of the program asking for extensions or something, even with his dedication he was not able to retain the material as it was going to quickly. When SJM signed up he was told that he would be able to repeat any class one time for free, so he asked if he could just start retaking all the classes now before getting to the end of the program and having forgotten everything. He was told by the upper management that that is not the way the program works and he would have to complete the entire program and then retake it. With that, SJM began losing interest and within a few days, he withdrew from the program. SJM met back with the vocational rehabilitation counselor and they tried going back and forth between different careers. SJM wanted to go into nursing the vocational counselor said it was not advisable because of his pains. SJM pushes the counselor until he finally agreed and SJM began doing all the paperwork and eventually dropped out of this as well. SJM would call and have email conversations with the counselor about other options to include heating and air-conditioning. At this point, SJM’s counselor started becoming very rude and aggressive and suggested maybe SJM should go to a welding class. This was particularly stinging as the counselor knew that SJM was a tradesman by nature. Tried to report the incident but nothing ever came out of it and we just decided to drop the issue altogether.
Missouri, January 2015 through May 2017 We were at the point that we are very miserable living in the city and decided to make the spur of the moment decision and up to family and move to Missouri, state that we had never been to.
At the time we applied for the Home Caregiver support program (time) in Missouri, I was afraid of leaving my husband alone most of the time. He has mental clarity issues, memory problems, panic and anxiety attacks, mental breakdowns, goes into an extremely depressive state, which we now know is due in part to his Bipolar disorder. SJM has never successfully been able to engage with a civilian or a female psychologist because he feels that they do not understand his situation and immediately causes him aggravation. SJM made a lot of progress with his psychologist at Fort Leonard Wood, who was a male soldier, which SJM identified with best. He saw him for over a year, which is longer than he ever stayed with a psychologist. The psychologist had one treatment that he felt was really important, that SJM should try to not let his disability define him. So we started pushing for SJM to go out on his own and try new avenues of self-fulfillment
SJM signed up for the Veteran Affairs Vocational Rehabilitation program known as VocRehab. When he first met with his counselor he asked for educational guidance to find the best fit between becoming a Social Worker to assist other veterans or become a Fish and Wildlife Biologist. SJM had learned a lot about helping other veterans, he was active in forums on the Internet and talking with fellow soldiers from his past and guiding them through the process of retiring. He also experienced several soldiers who were killed in combat or through suicide, as well as through accidents in the aviation world. This experience and knowledge cumulated to a desire to help other veterans and maybe gain an identity for himself as a healer; which could be tied to his Choctaw heritage which was one item he has cherished since he received the paperwork confirming him as a member.
SJM is an avid nature and wildlife photographer. He started back in 2014 right after he retired and has steadily improved his skills. He was saving up to purchase a high-quality camera which would have cost roughly $3,500. His current camera was damaged, however, so he had to settle for purchasing the lowest cost one he could essentially replacing the camera with the same model. His photography and his hunting, his love of nature, the allure of constantly learning and being able to read the land. These lead us to believe that this could be a good option to make him feel better, so try the education and see if he still feels it is a good fit if it isn’t we will pay for different training or education if I decide to pursue it.
The counselor and SJM went through the options and SJM were leaning towards the Social Worker. His counselor expressed doubt as to whether SJM would be able to be a Social Worker because, “I am worried you might go crazy, you know? I don’t know if you are going to leave here and go to the gas station and have a problem.” SJM was highly offended and stood up to leave, but the counselor assured him he “didn’t mean anything by it.” Eventually, the decision was made to proceed with the Fish and Wildlife degree, and SJM signed up with Drury University in Saint Robert Missouri for that degree. SJM attended one full week, and the next week he had to go down to Columbia Missouri for a VA appointment. This appointment cut into his class time and he felt so overwhelmed by the missing of a single day of class that he eventually dropped out and we had to once again pay back the GI Bill.
In addition to the conditions listed above, he was constantly going through hobbies and injuries. The process of woodworking began inflaming his wrist pain and he developed hand strength problems, as well as asthma which was originally thought to be brought on by the woodworking. SJM would have asthma attacks even when using a dust filter when woodworking. He went to his doctor and had a full allergy workup, and he showed no allergies that would be causing asthma. The lack of answers as well as the increased pains would cause angst over any imperfection, every mistake that was made with his mental fog became a chronic thought. The one that he positively responded to was hunting squirrel and shooting rifles. He became a member of a black powder rifle club in Missouri and purchased a gun. He had used his talents to help the older gentlemen of the club finish building a bathhouse for the local Boy Scout troop. The isolation and comradery of a club virtually filled with veterans, was helpful in making him more stable.
Once the depression hit in Missouri he started to decline rapidly. He spent 6 weeks almost continually locked in the bedroom. He sold off the remaining woodworking tools, automotive tools, his HVAC tools, representing thousands of dollars of investment, with little regards. The same way he abandoned his hunting, fishing, and camping gear, his 4×4 truck, a pull behind RV as well as his coveted ATV.
Unbeknownst to me, SJM informed me that for years his brain revolved around the idea of death. He said he figured it was normal with him having to go to war and having the thought of death on his mind more often than a civilian would. But his thoughts manifested into everything. He spoke about being frozen in fear at the Hoover Dam looking over as he held his 1-year-old son. Over and over his mind would roll a mental image of what would happen if he fell down the dam. From the top to the bottom he followed his son’s tragic fall from every viewpoint, above, below, through his eyes. The different directions his body would take as it hit different features of the dam. He went through his son’s mind, his thoughts, the feeling of free-falling for the first time as a human. Then he added himself to the scenario. Over and over this happened. SJM said he constantly gripped him tighter and tighter during the scenario, but all joy and spirit from the trip were drained away from that.
The drain is not only one day, it was every day. Driving resulted in automobile accidents. SJM was hit by a drunk driver running a stop sign. The truck came out of a blind intersection at a high rate of speed and SJM hit the rear of the truck, sending that truck flying into a ditch and SJM in a totaled car facing the opposite direction of travel. The other driver was transported to the hospital and SJM refused treatment. He also did not try to contact me in any way, and just showed up saying that he had been in an accident after he was dropped off thanks to a bystander. recollections of previous accidents. In all of his previous accidents, the impact came from an unseen direction and no control in avoiding the accident. SJM had been traveling home late because he was tending to another Soldier who was suicidal.
California, May 2017 – August 2017
We tried the experiment with the EMT class as this had been something SJM tried to do as a teenager and had it ripped away by his mother’s abuse. We figured the semi-military structure of the emergency services, along with the long shifts, and with a sense of helping someone, that the program would work. For the first few weeks, it went extremely well. SJM dedicated 4-5 hours a day 4 day a week to studying and tutoring other students. Out of 24 students, he had the highest grade point average of the class. The next two highest in the class was a former Firefighter / EMT, as well as a Navy medical technician.
SJM’s first interaction with the Lancaster VA system was getting his initial labs and intake appointment. SJM begged with the appointment people that he was in serious need of immediate behavioral health help. He stated he was running low on his medication for bipolar and he also not monitored at all with the medication. The appointment system simply told him that he had to wait until his appointment, no mental health appointment could be made without a referral from the primary care.
He booked the appointment and on the day of the appointment he went into town and called to see if he could be seen earlier in the day. The appointment clerk asked if he had been fasting and SJM said that he had. The clerk said that he needed to come in immediately to get the blood work done since his appointment was not until 2 PM, his lab should have been scheduled for the morning. When SJM arrived the check in for the labs the receptionist told him that his later appointment had been canceled due to the doctor had a medical emergency. SJM asked if he could see another provider and she said, “probably not.” At the same time, SJM had been overhearing another veteran talking the next window over. He was an older gentleman with an oxygen tank and SJM only caught part of the conversation but it was the appointment clerk telling him that he had to go to another clinic to be seen. The older gentleman said that he was homeless had no transportation and no way to get down to the other clinic. The clerk said that there was nothing that he could do and the older gentleman said, “do you guys expect me to just die?” It was at this moment that SJM was told the news that the appointment had been canceled. SJM began screaming that the type of treatment that was being given was the reason why veterans are killing themselves because there is no care concern. SJM stormed out of the clinic pushing the glass door as hard as possible desiring for to be broken. He went back to his car and began driving away. A woman who identified herself as the manager of the clinic called saying over and over that he needed to return to the clinic. SJM attempted to explain the situation, why he felt the way that he felt, and explain all of his frustration with not being listened to as a patient. The manager would not listen to anything that he had to say and simply kept repeating that he needed to return. SJM indicated that he did not want to return because he was afraid he would hurt somebody if he came back due to being so angry.
The VA called me saying that SJM was “very angry, upset, and violent.” She asked me if I lived in the state and if we had kids in the house. She finished with stating, “I wanted to warn you that SJM is homicidal and suicidal and that you should be careful.” She kept pressing for SJM to return to the hospital, but she also clearly called the Kern County Sheriffs to report the incident. The only reason I could believe she wanted him to return so much was so that they could have the sheriffs pick him up and force him to the hospital on a 5150 (suspect with altered mental status and poses a possible threat). Even after a 30-minute trip by the time SJM arrived back home he was still extremely red, sweating, trembling, crying, breaking out in hives and barely able to compose his thoughts or sentences. All classic signs that SJM receives during times of high stress. Immediately following he began having severe abdominal problems and widespread pain throughout his body. SJM did not state this to me until after the second VA situation, but he said that the first thought that he had was wishing he had a gun so that he could “join the ranks of veterans who have blown their brains out in front of a VA clinic, trying to make any statement for someone to notice the problems faced by the veteran community. He said that the three things that stopped him, his family, the fact that no one would really care, and that the government could take away the payments to the family since he committed suicide.
The feeling that the VA wanted him arrested or shot is further backed up by the second VA incident in which the doctor followed SJM around the clinic screaming for him to “Leave the facility immediately.” When SJM tried to talk to her she kept repeating “You need to be careful with what you say.” and finally “He needs to be removed from the facility.” This incident was sparked somewhat by the response to the first. When SJM arrived, he signed in and had his vitals taken by the nurse. He stated that he was not upset or agitated. When the doctor arrived, the first statement she made was “Am I going to have a problem with you?” SJM responded by saying that he was not upset at her, he was upset at the situation that with being rated with 70% for his PTSD, it was ridiculous he had seen a Primary Care Provider to get the referral to access to a psychologist and psychiatrist when he was having problems and running low on medications. The wait time was several weeks. SJM would have to go to the Emergency Room at Antelope Valley Hospital to refill his medications due to this delay in care.
Once he made his statement, she repeated the same question in an even more disrespectful tone. “I was not here because I had an emergency, sometimes people have emergencies. If you drop a car off with a mechanic, and he is sick, you couldn’t possibly expect him to have the car fixed. If I am going to have a problem I want someone in here with me to keep me safe.”
Never mind the fact that if she was so concerned with what SJM would do to her, why would she
A: Provoke him on initial contact B: Not just bring in an assistant or nurse, to begin with, alleviating the fear.
SJM started to quiet down because he was becoming angry but needed the appointment. He simply repeated that he was not mad at her. The doctor began going through his files, her back turned to him, again why would she display this behavior if she is so concerned with her safety? She engages in no talking outside of medical questions, which she asks in a very rude and demeaning manner. She finally asks, “Why are you here?” SJM asked for her to clarify due to his multiple medical conditions. She repeated the question in the exact same manner, not considering his request at all. SJM asked, “Could you please provide me with some proper bedside manners?” With this statement, the Dr. pulled out her computer access card and walked out of the room, with her back turned to him, and down the hallway and that is where the story ends with her screaming that he was a crazy deranged veteran. Just as the first VA incident in Lancaster, SJM stated that the very first thought he had was to commit suicide outside of the VA clinic, stopped again by family and a general lack of impact on anything.
It was at this point that we decided to go against SJM’s original psychology suggests that we do not make SJM’s disabilities a part of his life and that I would accompany SJM to all of his appointments at all times.
These incidents began the current decline in SJM’s focus and attention in the EMT class. Additionally, he later became disheartened by the things he was seeing in the EMT field with working on his ride along, such as the lack of care for patients and the way most patients are treated like a burden, exactly the way that he felt as a veteran. He no longer felt it would be the military like approach filled with like-minded people that we originally thought it would be.
A few weeks later, SJM had an appointment for neurology, to reopen his TBI claim. According to the VA, TBI only occurs when you lose consciousness. SJM always claimed there was no loss of consciousness during his explosion exposure. Nonetheless, I am unsure how one is to lose consciousness and be able to recollect such happenings. Additionally, new studies show that an explosion, even a bullet fired from a rifle, is enough to cause micro-TBI’s and are affecting brain chemistry. He is proved itself time and time again to be very slow at accepting new medical treatments and diagnosis. This is plainly shown with the still ongoing battle with Vietnam era veterans and agent orange symptoms. This matched with everything else continues to push the feeling that the VA does not care for veterans and only views them as a burden.
SJM was able to focus less and less on the EMT class, he began studying less and being less of an active student. With an extreme amount of effort, he was still able to score above 90% on all of his tests. His demeanor inside the classroom change to the point that several students were able to pick up that he was feeling different.
A final straw was broken during our son’s birthday. We received a combination of harassment from SJM’s mother as well as my own parents. We discovered that the two were messaging each other on Facebook back and forth gossiping that we “have not been telling the truth as to why James (my son and SJM’s stepson who he has cared for since he was a year old) went to live with Jimmy (the biological father).” They have also been talking very disparagingly about us to the point that one person is blackmailing the other with screenshots of what the other said about us. There was enough power in the blackmail because it caused the one being threatened to reinstate Facebook friend status. Everyone over the age of 35 in this family acts like a complete child. This event was not the first time it had occurred. We also became increasingly worried about leaving our children with my parents due to how scared our daughter acted around them. These facts along with my parents laughing at SJM as a series of balloons were popped by our children at the end of the birthday party. He was obviously bothered and everyone in the family has been told numerous times about how he is. He was just recanting the story about the VA to a family member before the balloons were popping.
SJM had to take a day off as he did not trust himself anymore around people. The week leading up to it was when SJM felt the worst. He left early a few times, something out of character as he almost always stayed in class until 9:00 pm unless he had a specific reason to be home. SJM also discovered yet another one of his wartime acquaintances was stricken with severe PTSD, alcoholism and an attempted suicide after his church rejected him based on his sexual orientation. One simply cannot make up this story, it is hard enough believing it is real and we are the ones living it. Added to that person, another veteran classmate and the only other Army soldier, lost his girlfriend in a tragic automobile accident.
The cycle of dumping and depression with every event that happens which triggers a problem, all improvements made to that point is almost instantly wiped away. SJM has improved somewhat with being able to hold onto his improvement compared to where he was in 2014. This improvement is only on the scale of a few extra days of managing at a level above the depression being most of the day. Eventually, things will start to get better and it would seem that something even worse than the last event would occur. Somewhere in this new low, the realization is made by SJM as to how severe his situation was with the last depression. He also realizes how much worse the newest cycle is compared to the last. The crushing weight of the depths of the impending depression just pushes him further, creating a cycle that has been going on for years. It is the fact that SJM pushes out most of the worst things as a defense mechanism, which results in him not realizing how bad things actually are. This has severely impacted his ability to have marked improvement or resilience. SJM commonly misses his medical appointments and has on more than one occasion left an appointment and progress due to his frustration. When he does this he states that he feels judged and respected, and as if nobody cared about his medical conditions.
SJM stopped taking pictures, caring about tools, taking out the trash and doing normal household chores. His bird feeders hung empty, he stopped leaving the house to do things for himself and going to the gym. I have to remind or force him to eat often. Most of the time I am afraid to leave him alone. I fear that he might hurt himself. His physical ailments often require assistance from me as he is unable to do a certain task. His problems can be triggered out of nowhere and onset immediately. He feels that he knows when he is having a good or bad day, but that is only in relation to how he feels, not the situations that he becomes involved in. He frequently mentally rehearses arguments or violent actions in his mind.
Education and Vocational Rehabilitation History
The following is a short list of programs that SJM has either enrolled in or paid money towards enrolling in and completing at least some enrollment paperwork.
American Military University (Online college) – Dozen of courses signed up for and then dropped. The major plan changed often Emergency and Disaster Management, Electrical Engineering, History, English, Law Studies, Transportation and Logistics Management.
Park University – Psychology
Brandman University – Social Worker
New Horizons – Ethical Hacker (certificate program). SJM was devoting three hours more a day to the program then it required, and he was still struggling with it. Everyone in his class was. They said they could retake any course once, but they didn’t say they could not do it until the whole program was completed. SJM was three classes past what he was studying for and failed it. The coursework was overloading and he dropped.
Mary-Hardin Baylor – Laboratory Technologist.
Drury University – Fish and Wildlife Biologist. SJM attended one week of classes. When he missed a single class, SJM dropped the entire program.
Waynesville Career Center – HVAC program. SJM was 4 months into the program, had five months to go and had already achieved all certificates and training that was required and more so, was kicked out due to conflict with the administration. They went back and forth as to whether they would accept his medical absence time and he was only two hours away from being removed from the program.
Master Samurai Tech Appliance Repair. Online technical school, completed the final test while waiting SJM got into a fight with the owner over pricing practices for new students and he was dropped from the program.
Antelope Valley College – Airframe and Powerplant
Embry Riddle University – Airframe and Powerplant
The University of Antelope Valley – Emergency Medical Technician.
Missouri Science and Technology – Aviation / Mechanical Engineering
Following is a few examples of the kind of soldier SJM was In the Military
Promoted from Private First Class (E3) to Specialist (E4) in 15 months, prior to the minimum of 18 months time in service.
Awarded “Battalion Soldier of the Quarter,” after winning the “Battalion Soldier of the Month.”
Ranked highest in his class during his aviation mechanic school.
Promoted from Sergeant (E5) to Staff Sergeant (E6) in 11 months, typically the aviation field was 3-5 years between E5 to E6. Was forced into the board by First Sergeant.
The following is a list of jobs SJM has been offered and had to decline due to his limitations both physically and mentally since he retired from the military.
Boise Products in White City – Safety and Scheduling Manager
Sears Appliance Repair – Appliance repair technician
American Medical Response – EMT (Told specifically to apply with my military background)
Organic Farm in Oregon – Farmhand
A lone Joshua tree, Yucca brevifolia, stands in the Mojave Desert against the hazy San Gabriel Mountains in California.