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United States. Congress. House. Committee on Veter.

Viewpoints on Veterans Affairs and related issues : hearing before the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations of the Committee on Veterans' Affairs, House of Representatives, One Hundred Third Congress, second session, May 4, 1994 online

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43 vear old Vietnam Era Veteran



Karen Anderson 346-42-9990 US Navy March 74 - May
Boot Camp: Florida Tech School: Great Lakes 111.
Studied to become a corpsman



Sgt. Linda D. Alexander 70 - 72 USAF



M. L. Woodruff Coast Guard V. T. S.



153



To the Congressional Committee on Sexual Trauma to Military Women

I was asked to tell my story - a story that has controlled my
every moment of life, so much so that even my sleep is disturbed by
the evasive memories of yesterday.

Japan 1972. I experienced sexual harassment and trauma on a
daily basis. I went to my First Sergeant and was told to go to bed
with my commanding officer and he would leave me alone. I sought
help, daily, to no avail. I had become the joke of the base.

I took leave to go to the American Embassy where I filed a
report. I called a friend at my duty base who informed me there
was going to be an investigation and everyone was really angry.
When I returned to the base, I was charged with prostitution and
shown a statement (signed by 13 men I had never met) stating I had
been running an immoral business. Although my commanding officer
tried to force me into this line of work with visiting officers, I
refused. My punishment for refusing and for filing charges was to
be locked up for 90 days with approximately 100 criminally insane
Vietnam combat vets. During this incarceration, I was sexually
traumatized daily while officials watched and laughed. I was put on
birth control pills. My husband found me via the Red Cross. He
was stationed in another country and had not been informed of my
situation.

I was labeled schizophrenic and because of this, I lost my
children in a custody battle since the court would not believe the
military could make such a mistake. Although I have 14 letters from
14 different psychiatrists and psychologists stating I was never
schizophrenic, the VA refuses to acknowledge this, nor will they
change my records to reflect the proper diagnosis of service
connected PTSD due to sexual trauma.

My whole life has been affected by this misdiagnosis/cover up.
It made me an incredible (hysterical) woman. Because of this, I
use two different names - one for VA purposes and one for
professional purposes - because of the stigma attached to this type
of discharge. Although I have achieved academic success and
professional status, I still must hide this shame under the guise
of two different names.

I am proud to have served my country in its time of need. I
am proud I said "NO" to being forced into unwanted sex acts. But
the price to myself and to my children was (and still is) a great
price to pay. Lily Adams of the San Francisco Veterans Outreach
Program is helping me put my life together again. My vet sisters,
who have similar stories to mine, have formed a support group for
each other. We are putting the broken pieces together and are
getting on with our lives. I feel we deserve the same compensation
for service connected disability our brother vets receive for their
PTSD because we both fought in a war for our survival and we all
served our Time In Hell.

Sgt Linda D. Alexander 70-72

Interestingly enough, the woman I replaced at my Japan base
has the same story.



154



Karen Anderson 346-42-9990 US Navy March 74 - May 75
Boot Camp: Florida Tech School: Great Lakes, 111.

When I decided to go into the service, I thought it was an
opportunity to provide a better future for my children and myself.
Boot camp went off without too much trouble except for a fall the
second day and two or three subsequent episodes of my bad (R) knee
going out without any warning.

I got to Great Lakes very hopeful and expecting all kinds of
challenges to overcome and to excel. In kind, what I got was
continual harassment of a sexual nature on a daily basis. Flirting
with everyone hopefully discredited rumors that I was gay. That
reality got to be too much to handle for me, especially after an
aborted assault by one of our own or by any one of the drug dealers
who came onto the base each and every pay day.

News of rapes and rape attempts came down from headquarters.
There was a murder in one of the barracks. Drugs and/or dealers
seemed common place. Great Lakes, Illinois, where I studied to
become a corpsman, was an open and unsecured part of the base. As
a woman, I always had to be vigilant, fearful, etc. Eventually,
before I left Great Lakes, I became involved with a petty officer
whom I knew to be impotent, but at least he kept me safe from most
of the vultures.

Here it is 1994, almost 20 years since I got out of service
and my whole life is a screwed up mess. I've been homeless since
1989, fairly alienated from my family unless I'm trying to buy
their approval , haven't been able to hold a job for more than 14
months and my personal life is totally out of synch.

My mistrust and dislike of men because of what happened to
me has left me with a self-loathing. The men always managed to
convince me that there was something wrong with me. The VA,
basically run by men for male veterans, has left me, a sister
veteran, anxious and afraid because of their lack of support,
compassion and recognition of we as female veterans. We are due
all the respect and benefits afforded our male counterparts.

We, as women vets should no longer have to be exposed to
indifference, aggressive behavior and the sexual innuendoes men so
often use to deal with us.

Even though I've had suicidal thoughts while in and out of the
service because of the treatment I received as a female vet, with
the support of my counselor, Lily Adams (SF Vet Center) and our
very special women's group, I've managed to keep my suicidal
thoughts at bay.



155



Patricia A. (Morthrop) Ahlstrand DSAF 29 Aug 69-23 Sept 76
066-44-3657 Honorable Discharge SSgt/E-5

Basic Training: Lackland AFB, Texas

Tech Schools: Keesler AFB, Mississippi - Adiin Specialist

Lowry AFB, Colorado - Photographic Dark Rooi Tech
Penanent Party Assignients: Ent AFB/Pete Field, Colorado
Naba AB, Okinawa
Grand Forks AFB, North Dakota

I ai a 43 year old Vietnai Era veteran who has been asked to write about soie of ly experiences in the
■ilitary, naiely the sexual assaults I've endured.

I worked at ly first penanent party base under a feiale, civilian supervisor. Several lonths had
passed when TSgt Russell P. Seel was assigned to replace her. I had been an Outstanding Honor Graduate froi
tech school and was progressing guite satisfactorily with the OJT required for ly next proiotional grade. At
this tiie, I was an 18 year old Ainan First Class (E-3). For soie reason, TSgt Seel decided I was not
progressing satisfactorily with ly OJT and ordered le to participate in private tutoring with five other of his
subordinates at his hoie. The day arrived for the first tutoring session and all of a sudden "the other five
subordinates" had to back out, yet I was still required to go to his apartient with hii alone. No tutoring took
place.

Dpon arrival at his apartient, I was offered a drink (Crown Royal) and that's the last thing I reieiber
until I regained consciousness to find hii fucking le on the hallway floor. Soiehow, I found the strength to
push hii off le, sending hii slauing against the wall. I stood up to dress only to find ly unifon blouse bad
been torn and ly slacks had been ripped. I tried to leave his apartient at that point, but he wouldn't allow
■e to go. I was able to escape only after he fell asleep.

I was so afraid to go to work the next day, but I had to because you can't just walk away froi an
offensive or threatening situation in the lilitary, never to return, as you can in civilian life. AWOL and
desertion are very serious offenses, punishable by discharge or iiprisonient. I had to face hii daily and was
forced to participate in several lonths lore of sexual encounters to include witnessing the rape of another MAF
by his roonate because TSgt Seel wouldn't allow le to go to her rescue.

I didn't know I could go to anyone to stop his advances. I didn't know I could refuse to have sex with
hii. The only thing that put an end to this sexual torture and trauia was ly assignient to another base. Yet,
that wasn't the end of sexual assault and rape for le in the lilitary.

I was subjected to it again by another supervisor, Donald E. Birts, MSgt (now deceased), at Grand Forks
AFB. HSgt Birts continually caie to le while I was on duty as the alert photographer at the base Photo Lab.
I tried to fight hii off the first tiie to no avail. He chased le through the Photo Lab, picked le up, carried
le back to the alert photographer's bed, I'd get away and the saie scenario was repeated over and over until
I finally gave in out of sheer exhaustion. The first tiie was a rape. Each subsequent tiie was practically
a repeat of the first in that he was ly supervisor and could lake things hell for le if I failed to subiit.
I could not leave the Photo Lab to get away froi hii because I could have been charged with deserting ly
assigned duty station without authorization.

At one point, I was sent to Scott AFB, Illinois to participate in a 28 day residential alcohol treatient
prograi. Lt. Col. Edward Bailey (-who had perforied ly abortion two years earlier) discovered I was in the
prograi and looked le up. Before I knew it, we were having sex on the floor of his office and continued to do
so several tiies lore.



156



I was then sent on to Sheppard AFB, Texas for further counselling following the alcohol treatient
prograi. During ny stay at Sheppard AF3 hospital, one of the psych techs raped ae in ny room, one evening,
while the other staff were off duty. I had ay first suicide attempt two days after that assault.

I was subseguently kicked out of the Air Force and have been unable to hold a job since. I have had
twenty eaployers in seventeen different career fields. I aa currently on social security and have not had a
job since August 90.

I have not been able to laintain a relationship with anyone else. Hy carriage has failed and I have
lost a daughter to the child welfare systei. I was hoieless for two years because I could no longer participate
in the world as I perceived it. I now have an apartient, but continually find lyself longing to go back to
living in ly van.

I have had seven lore suicide atteipts since ly discharge froi the Air Force and have been hospitalized
for lany extensive periods of tiie. To this day, I have difficulty justifying ly existence on this planet.
It has becoie a never ending, day to day struggle for le to laintain ly sanity and to refrain froi any further
suicide atteipts. Only now, after 17 years as a veteran, has a safe environment been provided for le to discuss
and process ly Military experiences in a healthy way. That is the San Francisco Vet Center's therapy group for
woien sexually assaulted in the lilitary.

I ai also a survivor of years of incest with ly father, two brothers and three lale cousins. Through
■y individual and group therapy at the vet center, I have learned that I've been suffering froi PTSD practically
all ly life and that ly experiences in the lilitary profoundly exacerbated this condition within le. Only now
ai I beginning to understand why I didn't have the tools to defend lyself in the lilitary and why ly life has
taken the turn it has. Only now ai I beginning to see a gliiier of light at the end of the tunnel and ai
beginning to accept ly life as one worth living, not one I lust end. Had it not been for this prograi, I'l
convinced I would still be a lost soul and would surely have succeeded in couitting suicide.

We woien veterans need HB 3013!



Thank you,



..^ April c///



157

Sexual Harassment

Editor — I departed the military a
few months ago after years of sexual
harassment. I too tried for years to
get help before I was sexually as*
laultdd. The more I tried to get nelp, ,
the worse It became. That is why
when I saw the front page of The
Chronicle last week, I could not be-
lieve my eyes. Was h o misprint?
f 'Admirals Face Discipline Over Sex
Assault Probe")? Maybe there is a
God after alll Then I realized and
became so sorry that Specialist Alex-
Is Martinez Colon f 'Woman Soldier
Harassed to Death?") didn't hang in
there to see that there Is some justice.
If not for us, at leost for the 26
women at the Tailhook Convention.

For those who have to stand
alone, don'tl Try not to be found
alone when you know that the person
who is harassing you Is going to be
around. If you have to soy **no"
more than once, you're In big trou-
ble. And when you go tet a military
civil rights officer, and/or your com-
manding officer, please, always take
a friend as a witness. As soon as you
"rock their boot" (just ask that the
person leave you alone; you've tried,
and they won't) and the "seas start
to get really rough" (more harass-
ment, assault), then don't hdtltate to '
get outside help. There are domestic
violence, rape/ rape prevention and
other hotlines to help women (includ-
ing women from the military). You
don't have to be alone. H took me so
long to find that out, and H can
become a tragedy for some women
v/ho depend on a system that ^Hakes
care of hs own,"

M. I. WOODRUFF
San Francisco



158



Mr. Chairman, Honorable Committee Members,

My name is Antonio Molina Cabrera, President/CEO of "El Universal
Newspaper" in Boston, Massachusetts, an Hispanic weekly journal serving the
communities of Massachusetts, Rhode Island and New Hampshire. I am a
Vietnam veteran, who served in the United States Marine Corps during some
of this country's most difficult times. The Cuban Missile Crisis, President
Kennedy's Assassination, and last but not least the war in Vietnam.

I was conferred the dubious honor, by the Viet Cong, of being the first
Hispanic wounded in that conflict in April of 1965. After spending over 3
months in VA hospitals from Japan to the West Coast to the East Coast I was
honorably discharged.

The last official words said to me by a Lt. Col. were "a job well done
marine" "you have made your country proud of you". That was in 1965, those
words are engraved in my mind to this day.

28 years later, my colleague 1st Sgt. Gumersindo Gomez, Executive Director of
the Puerto Rican Veterans Association of Massachusetts, came before this
honorable body to advocate for assistance for veterans from our community.

His major argument was the fact that Hispanic Veterans have been devoid of
economic empowerment because of the lack of access to technical assistance
and the total neglect of the V.A. towards us!

Here we are a year later before the same body going over the same issues,

requesting the same opportunities that other honorable American Veterans
have been able to obtain.

1 come to you as a Vietnam Veteran, who has had to continuously struggle
during the past 30 years with my small businesses because of my inability to
access the power structure of our system to achieve some means of economic
stability for myself and my businesses.



159



In order for any of us small business owners to obtain a loan with SBA
guarantee, we must first have attained a certain level of success. That being
the case, an SBA loan becomes academic. If we can survive without it during
the hard times, then obviously there is no need later!

But many have been the small Hispanic businesses that have failed because a
"helping hand was not there when the\ need it most". The back bone of this
great nation is precisely our small businesses, particularly as they provide
more job opportunities especially for minorities, than any other sector of the
economy. We must strengthen and continue to nurture the notion of small
business development. We should, and must help the Veteran Community in
order for them to feel useful to their families and to society.

We Hispanics continue to have the highest unemployment rate in the nation.
We continue to be the poorest community. We continue to receive the least
benefits from the VA and other agencies of the Federal Government yet we
continue to serve our Country with fervor and pride!

I want to reaffirm very strongly that our Veterans Small Business Community
can be a strong advocate for our society. We can be self sufficient. We can
be a catalyst for economic empowerment for our respective communities. But
we need \our support, we cannot do it alone. 1 strongly urge this honorable
body to advocate for us with the VA and SBA as well as other federal
agencies such as the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
It is in your power to do so. It is in the nations best interest to do so. I
truly want to believe that what 1 was told 30 years ago by a US Marine Lt.
Col. was really meant. That my country is as proud of me as 1 am of my
country!

THANK VOU!



160



Servicemembers Legal Defense Network

• P.O. Box 53013 • Washington, DC 20009 • (202) 328-3244 • Fax: (202) 328-0063 •



Testimony of Michelle M. Benecke
Co-Director, Servicemembers Legal Defense Network

Committee on Veterans' Affairs

Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations

U.S. House of Representatives

May 4, 1994



Good morning and thank you. Chairman Evans and Members of the Subcommittee on
Oversight and Investigations, for the opportunity to testify on legal issues of particular concern
to gay, lesbian and bisexual veterans.

My name is Michelle Benecke. Along with my colleague Dixon Osbum, I am an
Executive Director of Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, the sole national organization
existing to provide legal assistance for military members harmed because they are, or are
perceived to be, gay, lesbian or bisexual. I am an attorney and a veteran, having served on
active duty for over six years as an Army Air Defense Artillery officer before attending
Harvard Law School.

As an initial matter, we should note that the gay veterans constituency of the Committee
on Veterans' Affairs and the Veterans Administration is substantial. Last year's debate over
gays in the military revealed that numerous gay citizens have served their country honorably
and well. Exit polls conducted in the last Presidential election found that approximately eight
percent of veterans who voted are indeed gay or lesbian. ' I think you will find that the gay



' According to Munay Edelman, Director of Voter Research and Surveys (VRS), which
conducts exit polls for ABC, CBS, CNN and NBC, the polls conducted by VRS found that gay
men are 3% of the 1 8-44 age group of male veteran voters; lesbians are 8% of female veterans
18-44. In the younger age group of 18-29, gay men are 8% of veteran men; lesbians are an
even larger proportion of female veterans in the younger age group.



161



veterans community is not only a community that deserves attention but that it can be a
substantial resource as well.

While the primary mission of Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN) is to
serve active duty military members, we receive numerous calls from gay veterans needing
assistance. They share the concerns of their straight counterparts, with whom they have served
in every branch of our armed forces.' My comments today, however, will focus primarily on
those issues that have a disproportionately negative impact on gay veterans. These areas
include Department of Defense (DOD) recoupment actions against veterans discharged for
homosexuality; DD Form 214 annotations regarding homosexuality; discharge characterizations;
and, health issues.

Recoupment of Scholarships and Bonuses

Issues

SLDN's recent cases indicate that the Department of Defense has reinstated efforts to
recoup scholarships and bonuses from veterans who have been discharged for homosexuality,
a practice it gave up in 1988 under the Bush Administration.

DOD's tactics in pursuing gay veterans for recoupment have produced severe
consequences. Among others, the IRS has dunned veterans' tax rebate checks and DOD has
reported veterans to private collection and credit agencies, thus ruining their credit ratings or
forcing them into bankruptcy. As a direct result, some of these veterans currently are facing
the specter of homelessness; many have already been turned down for consumer credit; some



^ See generally, Randy Shilts, Conduct Unbecoming (1993); Allan Berube, Coming Out
Under Fire (1990); Mary Ann Humphrey, My Country. My Right to Serve (1990).



162



have even lost their student loans and, thus, their only chance to improve their lot in life
through education.

Those veterans who have contacted DOD in an attempt to ascertain the reason for
recoupment and to contest DOD's actions have run into a bureaucratic brick wall. In one
typical case, a veteran sent five letters and made numerous phone calls to DOD regarding its
actions. DOD's only response, before dunning his tax check and turning his case over to a
private collection agency, was to issue three form letters demanding repayment of the entire
debt in one lump sum.

Pentagon spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Doug Hart contends the military's renewed
efforts to recoup funds from gay veterans protects the military from fraud by those who know
they are gay when they enter service.^ As a factual matter, this claim does not withstand
scrutiny, as DOD is seeking recoupment from numerous veterans who did not come to
acknowledge their sexual orientation until well after their entry into service.

More importantly, gay veterans appear to be the only category of persormel from whom
DOD seeks recoupment for reasons unrelated to job performance. The veterans we are
assisting are ready and, as shown by their excellent service records, more than able able to
serve their country. It is the actions of DOD, and not these veterans, that has prevented their
continued service.

Recommendations

We think former Defense Secretary Richard B. Cheney had it right when he agreed this



^ Hanna Rosin, "The Fallacy of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell,'" The New Republic, May 2,
1994; John Lancaster, "Discharged and Dunned," The Washington Post, March 11, 1994, at

A23.



163

practice was "vindictive" and, according to Randy Shilts' groundbreaking book. Conduct
Unbecoming, ordered the Joint Chiefs of Staff to back off." Shortly after Secretary Cheney
reportedly gave his order, DOD ceased all recoupment actions against Rob Bettiker, Jim
HoUobaugh and Dave Carney, three gay former ROTC students.'
Annotations on DP Form 214

Issues

A major problem confronting gay veterans is the DOD practice of annotating DD Form
214 with the reason for an individual's discharge. This aimotation system has a devastating
impact on gay veterans discharged for homosexuality, as it effectively "outs" them for life.
The consequences are particularly harsh in the area of employment, as numerous civilian
employers, including law enforcement and government agencies, typically require veterans to
present a copy of their DD Form 214 with employment and benefits applications. As a result,
gay veterans discharged for reasons related to homosexuality experience significant job
discrimination, often in the very fields for which military service has best prepared them. It
is cruelly ironic, in light of the "don't ask, don't tell" policy's emphasis on sexual orientation
as a "personal and private matter" and the mandate of silence it imposes on gay military
members, that the United States Govenmient is the largest "outer" of gay people in our nation.

Current aimotation practices are particularly ignoble in light of the circumstances that
typically have led to the military's discovery and discharge of homosexuals. Many of the over
1 7,000 gay military members discharged from the service because of homosexuality during the



Randy Shilts, supra note 2, at 709.
Id.



164



last decade are victims of forced outing by military investigators. The military's investigations
of gay, lesbian and bisexual servicemembers have been ~ and continue to be ~ characterized
by particularly offensive investigatory techniques. These have included threatening personnel
with discharge and imprisonment if they did not confess and implicate other servicemembers,
denying them access to attorneys, threatening one Navy Petty Officer with the loss of custody
of her six-month old child, locking an Air Force Sergeant in a broom closet for over ten hours
to solicit a confession and denying him access to the toilet, and attaching sensors to an Army
Lieutenant's head with pins instead of the customary tape to test for "neurological damage,"
causing blood to pour down his face.' The military ban has even led to the discharge and
resignation of heterosexuals, particularly women accused of being lesbians in retaliation for


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Online LibraryUnited States. Congress. House. Committee on VeterViewpoints on Veterans Affairs and related issues : hearing before the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations of the Committee on Veterans' Affairs, House of Representatives, One Hundred Third Congress, second session, May 4, 1994 → online text (page 19 of 23)