FTN. A fond acronym that anyone that’s done time (or is the spouse of someone who has done time) in the Navy knows well. Along with BOHICA, which also applies here…
When I was in the Navy, I was on a ship. I did back-breaking work the entire time I was there because I thought I was tough, and I didn’t want to be thought of as the “weak girl” in the division (I was the only girl, so it was even more important that I pull my weight). Anyway, after a while I started to hurt. A lot. Everywhere. My knees and back especially. And I got check out by the doctor and lo and behold – I had tendonitis caused by arthritis in my knees, and three ruptured intercalated discs in my lower back. Brilliant. Just lovely. So I was taken off of the ship, and sent to a LIMDU assignment on shore duty. I hobble around with a cane, was on painkillers, muscle relaxers, sleeping pills, antidepressants, and all manner of physical therapy. I was at Medical about every other day. This was just before Christmas, 2011. I was on a six-month LIMDU, and when June rolled around, and I wasn’t better, I marched (well, hobbled) my butt into Medical again and said “I’m not better, I need another LIMDU period, please!” and they said “okay, we’ll do another assessment, come on in, Petty Officer!” So I did. And I failed the fit-for-full exam, which says I need another six month LIMDU period. Then they saw my EAOS was in two months. “Have you reenlisted?” they ask, “no,” I say “I was denied PTS because of a mistake my Command Career Counselor made on the ship.” “Ah… Wait one moment, STG2…”
So I waited. And I waited. And finally my PCP comes back out and says “STG2, we can’t give you a second LIMDU because it conflicts with your EAOS, I’m going to have to give you FFD…”
I was flabbergasted. My jaw hit the floor. I was standing there, leaning on a cane, and they were telling me that they would have to put me FFD?? “Don’t worry,” she said with a sincere (though now I know it to be naive…) smile, “the VA will make sure you’re taken care of, everything’s in your record, right?”
Uh, yeah, but isn’t that still messed up, lady? Apparently not, because that’s exactly what she did. She wrote that I was just fine, and that I was fit for separation with no medical issues.
I walked back to my office in a daze, I went straight into Chief’s office and placed the paper on his desk and stood there. He saw my face and didn’t say a word until he read the report I’d put right next to his sandwich.
“Fit for Full? Are you kidding me??” He looked up at me, his blue eyes blazing. I shook my head, and I felt tears welling in my eyes.
“I don’t know what to do…” I said meekly, sitting down and wiping my tears with the cuff of my NWU’s, I’d just about had it. “Neither do I…” he said, sitting back and staring out his window.
That was a rough day.
So I immediately started my VA claim and made absolutely sure every little thing I could get compensation for (and probably a lot of stuff I couldn’t get compensation for) was in my packet. I did everything I could to make sure the VA knew that I had been discharged a very, very broken little girl.
That was seven months ago, and I still haven’t gotten the results of my claim. And I just got a letter in the mail informing me that I needed to register with the Individual Ready Reserves or face revocation of my Honorable Discharge and my Post 9/11 GI Bill.
I’ve been trying to call everyone I can think of, the base Command Career Counselor, the one that signed me up for IRR, but didn’t understand it because if he had he would have realized that me signing on the dotted line with a pen in one hand and a cane in the other was a mistake. Allow me to explain that particular debacle:
An e-mail was sent out just before I got out about IRR Severance Pay, and I had kept it as an LPO because I knew as soon as I deleted it, some idiot would ask me for it. I hadn’t given it much thought since I was under the impression that my enlistment would be extended for me to finish my LIMDU and get a Med Board. Silly me. When I found out that I would be discharged anyway, I began to panic; what the hell was I going to do? I couldn’t work, any job I could take wouldn’t hire me with a cane, and I hadn’t finished college yet, so my options were severely limited. I remembered reading that E-5 over 6 get a $20k severance for enlisting in the IRR, so I jumped on it, if only as a temporary solution.
What they don’t tell you is that if you take a severance, and then apply for disability, you have to pay the severance back before you can collect said disability. The Navy says it’s being compensated twice for the same period of service. I call it fucked up.
A fellow from the VFW where my mother works told me this little tidbit and said “do whatever it takes to get that paperwork stopped, do not spend that money!” I quickly tried over and over to call PERS-93 with no answer. I left messages. E-mails. No response. When I didn’t receive the bonus, I was confident that they had taken care of it and just hadn’t contacted me about it. So I relaxed.
Stupid. Stupid. Stupid!
So now I’m stuck: register with the IRR by Friday and stay out of a metric fuck-ton of trouble, or don’t register, have said ton fall on my head, and be totally screwed for the rest of my life.
I guess I’ll register then, eh? Hopefully I can get this shit sorted out later. I’ve tried to contact the base, PERS-93 (again), the VA, the VFW, no one will take my calls! But I refuse to give up. I served my country honorably for six years, goddamnit. I will get my just compensation, if I have to knock on my Congressman’s very front door, I will straighten this shit out.
Put the word out: anyone seeking disability from the VA should not file for IRR and severance pay – DON’T DO IT!