Navy Rape Survivor Mary Kay McCollum received the above letter yesterday, June 22, 2019. It informed her that she had missed her benefits hearing before a Veterans Law Judge of the VA’s Board of Veterans Appeals. The hearing was scheduled for June 10 in Washington, DC.
McCollum missed the hearing because she didn’t know about it. She didn’t know about because the VA didn’t inform her of it until yesterday, nearly two weeks after the hearing date.
This is how the VA clears injured veterans like McCollum from government benefit rolls. It’s how VA saves American taxpayers from the actual costs of military service and war. It’s the kind of crime lawless insurance companies commit when they fraudulently deny claims. This is why the VA has the blood on its hands of the thousands of American veterans who commit suicide every year.
Here’s the deal. It’s not complicated: the business of the military is war. War is organized violence. Violence, if it doesn’t kill and maim the body, physically wounds the brain. Like an ice bullet, it leaves the hidden physical injury that cripples McCollum: PTSD.
McCollum’s injury is such an ordinary consequence of military service that in 2007 Congressional testimony Penny Coleman put the blame for America’s military suicide epidemic on cold hearted government policy that intentionally covers up inarguable truth: military trauma often does central nervous system damage that makes normal human function impossible and life itself not worth living. That’s why we shouldn’t call the self-murders of our veterans “suicide,” Coleman testified. Their deaths are more like “executions” or “euthanasia.”
Translation: America’s military suicide epidemic is more like the industrialized extermination of the Nazi death camps than the random casualties of war.
The ugly facts embedded in the letter McCollum received yesterday expose why. Those facts amount to nothing less than an indictment of the VA for mass murder.
The facts in McCollum’s case show why there are actually two VA medical systems. There’s the VA that provides largely very good physical health care. And there’s the VA mental health system that denies the holocaust of PTSD.
If you can spare five minutes, here’s McCollum summarizing her experience in her own words.
If you want the hard evidence in McCollum’s case you can find it in The Strange Fruit of America’s Veterans, VA Continues “Institutional Rape” of Navy Veteran, The VA’s High Crime, and Raping Mary Kay.
Here’s an executive summary.
* The Navy discharged McCollum in 1983 because her sexual assaults and serial rapes by superior officers destroyed her mental health. McCollum’s serial rapist was convicted at Court Martial. Under the VA’s March 2016 Military Sexual Trauma Disability Compensation Guidelines this proves that McCollum has been as disabled by her military service as if she had lost a limb in the 1983 terrorist bombing of the Marine Corp barracks in Beirut. Under VA rules she has been entitled to disability compensation since then.
* In 2004 a VA mental health counselor diagnosed McCollum with PTSD, told her she was qualified for benefits, suggested she file for them. She did.
* In 2005 VA denied McCollum’s claim, writing her what she called her “slut letter,” blaming her rapes on her.
* Some eight years later a second VA mental health counselor also diagnosed McCollum with PTSD and urged her to appeal the VA’s 2005 denial.
* 2014, after a year of no action, VA admitted it had lost McCollum’s appeal. She submitted another appeal.
* 2015, VA admits its 2005 denial was wrong, awards McCollum 50% disability, but ignores evidence of her 100% disability. That evidence, again, is that the Navy discharged McCollum in 1983 precisely because her mental health was totally destroyed by her Military Sexual Trauma. McCollum appealed again.
* 2016, VA admits the error of its 50% disability rating and awards McCollum 70% disability. It still ignores evidence of her 100% disability. McCollum appealed again.
* 2017, VA finally admits McCollum’s total disability and awards her a 100% rating. However, violating its own compensation guidelines and federal law, it rules her total disability didn’t begin until 2016.
* 2017, with the help of her Veterans of Foreign Wars Service Officer, McCollum submits two more appeals, asking that her benefits award obey the law and be properly backdated to 1983. Again, under VA guidelines and federal law, that is the date established by her Navy discharge because her Navy rapes left her totally disabled.
* January 2018, again with the help of her VFW Service Officer, McCollum appeals to the Veterans’ Board of Appeals to expedite her case. At this point, she has been lost in the VA system for 14 years since she first applied for benefits.
* March 19, 2018, McCollum’s VFW Veteran Service Officer, Will Sampson, requests that she be granted a live videoconference before the Board of Appeals to avoid having her travel to Washington, D.C. to testify.
*August 24, 2018, McCollum receives a letter from K. Osborne, the Board of Appeals Deputy Vice Chairman, telling her her case may be settled after 90 days.
* April 2019, 13 months after asking to advance her case on the Board of Appeals docket, McCollum receives another letter from K. Osborne, eight months after Osborne’s last letter. “In compliance with this action,” Osborne writes, “the Board will take prompt action to issue a decision in this case. You will receive a copy of the Board’s decision as soon as it is issued.”
* Yesterday, June 22, 2019, McCollum receives a packet of letters from the VA telling her that it has been trying to contact her since May 7, 2019, informing her of her scheduled June 10, 2019 hearing in D.C. The letters are dated, May 7, May 30, and June 19. All were sent to the same address. The June 19 letter, with the earlier delinquent correspondence included, reached her yesterday, on June 22. The May 30 letter informs McCollum that the May 7 letter was returned on May 14 to the VA by the US Postal Service. The May 30 letter informs her: “The above address has since been discovered.” That makes no sense, because all of the addresses are the same. There is no explanation for why only the June 19 letter came through. There is no explanation for why the VA made no other attempt to contact McCollum regarding her scheduled June 10 hearing. The May 7 letter states: “If you fail to appear for your scheduled hearing and no request for postponement has been received or granted, your case will be processed as though your request for a hearing had been withdrawn. No further requests for a hearing will be granted in the same appeal…”
There you have a scene from the VA theater of the absurd that causes veterans to blow their brains out in VA hospital parking lots.
I find it interesting that during the time McCollum has been lost in VA’s PTSD gulag, Board of Veterans Appeals Deputy Vice Chairman Kimberly E.H. Osborne has been a highly compensated attorney in the system. In 2015, for instance, a year that found McCollum homeless and living in her car, Osborne’s salary was $182,107; she earned a bonus of $2,784 that year.
Is it unfair to consider Osborne and her VA colleagues as workers in a death camp? We don’t have Osborne’s compensation figures for 2018 and 2019, but between 2004 and 2017 she apparently earned a salary of $2,173,700 and bonuses of $34,684. Setting aside her medical benefits, during McCollum’s VA wilderness years Osborne’s compensation was $2,208,384.
I just can’t escape Penny Coleman’s conclusion. To me, what those numbers add up to is that Osborne and her VA colleagues are being paid to kill America’s service members. They’re part of the final solution of military suicide to bury the truth that military service often destroys mental health.
Look at it this way. At the conservative veteran suicide rate of 20 per day, in the 15 years that McCollum has been waiting for the VA to obey the law and properly compensate her for her PTSD, 109,500 American service members have been “executed” or “euthanized” by suicide. And all that time a grateful nation has been chanting: “Thank you for your service.”
In the 13 months alone that have elapsed between the time McCollum asked that her case be “advanced” on the Board of Appeals docket and the time that Osborne informed her it would be, only God knows how many veterans and active duty service people have committed suicide.
Again, accepting VA’s questionable lipstick-on-corpses suicide body count, that means about 7,800 military suicides while McCollum has been waiting on Osborne to make good on her promise to “expedite” a decision on her case. There’s simply no way to avoid the conclusion that U.S. military service, and the VA bureaucracy that covers up its true hazards, are orders of magnitude deadlier to our defenders than the “enemies” we send them to fight.
8 responses to “Letter From The VA Death Camp”
Franz Kafka, eat your heart out…
Ms. McCollum’s experience is beneath what we owe our veterans. I am tired of politicians doing photo ops at military cemeteries, touting their support of the military, when they use a slight of hand to trick Americans into believing they care. They don’t. My husband, who lies in Arlington, had 2 Purple Hearts (among many other medals) and was denied access to the VA. FYI- having 2 Purple Hearts automatically qualifed him. He died of a massive heart attack less than 2 weeks later. These aren’t unusual examples: they are the norm. Money is being directed to support rich defense contractors, not to the protection and care of our soldiers and veterans. Sickening.
Typical VA and government BS. A bunch
Of lost bureaucrats trying to cover the
lies and crap they spew on a regular
basis. Hurting innocent people that are
Just trying to get what is owed them from
VA neglect and cover-ups!!
I have said this many times, when an American soldier or veteran commits suicide, the U.S. Government ought to put the American flag in the casket with the dead soldier, because they both died.
Army Medic Viet Nam
I have followed Larry’s reporting on this since his 21 Jan 2018 account in Raping Mary Kay. The institutional violence that defines our militaristic system of social organization and control has significant roots in a founding document of Western Civilization (WC): the Old Testament. WC’s collective past PRIOR to recorded history was archeologically unearthed in the 20th century going back more than 8,000 years.
I am at present halfway thru Riane Eisler’s 1987 book, “The Chalice & The Blade – Our History, Our Future” and wrote about some of this in “Shifting from Domination to Partnership – Success and Survival in the post industrial world requires an accelerated shift towards partnership” (https://ratical.org/ratville/JFK/DtoPviaXR.html#s4-SfDtP).
Entire book is online. The segment on the Old Testament is covered in Chp 7 (https://ratical.org/co-globalize/TheChaliceAndTheBlade.pdf#page=116). Anthropologist Ashley Montague called this work “The most important book since Darwin’s Origin of Species”.
The theft of Mary Kay’s life, summed up in her 4:47 youtube testament Larry links to just before his executive summary, encapsulates the toll of suffering caused by the unending nightmare of Military Sexual Trauma: “I’m sharing my story because the scariest part of PTSD is feeling alone. I work hard to manage my PTSD because I have to. It will kill me if I let it; just as it causes thousands of my fellow veterans to kill themselves each year.”
As Larry writes, “The history of this tragedy shows that neither the VA nor the military will ever stop it. It will continue until the public demands that it stop.” Massive non-violent non-cooperation is the antidote to the expanding dis-integration of our globally hegemonic civilization, industrial growth capitalism. Our dominator system is advancing further into its terminal apex. As Dr. Rosalie Bertell stated our situation in 1986:
“At some point or other if we survive, there’s going to have to be a massive non-cooperation with our society which is producing death…. And if we are ever to break out of the militaristic society that we live in—and that is what I think is our basic aim, because that’s what distorting everything—it’s going to have to be through an across-the-board non-cooperation effort…. [I]t’s going to require massive non-cooperation; it’s going to have to be non-violent because you can’t violently choose life, you kill it. So it’s going to have to be non-violent. And it’s going to have to be basically people-to-people networks built on trust because you’re trusting the future and you’re trusting your life.”
Recent instances of increasing public demand and pressure to change course away from the yawning dead-end future we daily sink further into are evidenced in eXtinction Rebellion in the UK, massive non-violent outpouring of people in Hong Kong, and the School Strike for the Climate. This scratches the surface of the way we must go if our single, irreplaceable human family has any chance to survive, much less further evolve: Respect the Earth as our Mother and have a Sacred Regard for All Living Things.
The VA treatment, or lack thereof, represents an institutional evil that has been there for a long time. It is not just an individual bureaucrat that is evil. Many of the VA health personnel are decent, good people. It is the institution of war and its consequences that is evil. That evil needs to be identified, named, unmasked and confronted. St. Paul writes: “Over come evil with good.” Jesus invites us to “love one another” and “do unto others as you would have others do unto you.” It is not rocket science to know how to turn this around. George Taylor, US Navy veteran who suffers from PTSD
Stay strong Mary Kay
Thanks to Larry Shook, Mary Kay’s story is well documented and heard. Only because “it takes one to know one” has Larry had the capacity to sniff out PTSD and then passionately help those in need. Through my relationship with Larry and Mary I have been able to own the symptoms resulting from PTSD in my own life.
When we are denied and our PTSD wounds are neglected, this can be just as detrimental as the trauma that developed the PTSD in the first place. Living with shame over our disabilities leads to suicide. Relationships with other PTSD victims helps keep me afloat the way that an AA sponsor keeps an alcoholic alive.
All I have are understanding friends. Therapy often lacks understanding and the VA mostly denies and neglects those suffering. Larry and Mary have made me feel more human because they have the same ugly inner scars as I do. I continue to root for Mary Kay, because she shows me how a rape victim can begin to heal and become whole. She is now a compassionate victor in my eyes, though I cannot comprehend the inner demons she still battles.
Unfortunately, there are countless MST victims and other PTSD victims of military training and war, with no documentation of their trauma… many of these people have lost hope and taken their lives.
I wish every victim had their very own Larry Shook!