The letter in my inbox confirms that a paper copy of my official rejection letter will be sent to me as soon as possible so I can add it to my medical and employment history. The VA office here has found that I am unemployable, not rehabable, not worth spending tax dollars on, so I am not eligible for their program at this time. Incidentally, they made this decision in January, told me they sent me the letter in January, and are only now getting around to resending it.
There is another VA office in town, Disability Compensation and Pension (Comp & Pen). This office is tasked with taking care of veterans who have been disabled by their service; and by 'taking care of' I mean 'giving money to.' This is the branch that gives out disability payments, which are scaled based on the severity of disability from almost negligible, something like $110/month, to completely disabling, over $2k/month. If your disability is so severe that you can't find any kind of employment, you are officially entitled to the full 100% disability payments, which gives you about $25k a year to live on. It's not money that anyone would call riches, but at least it's above the poverty line.
You would think, that since the branch of the VA responsible for helping veterans find employment has found that I am unemployable- and this particular office is the fourth in two states, on the state, federal, and nonprofit levels, to find this- the Comp & Pen branch of the VA would be obligated to also find me unemployable, and therefore give me disability payments that I can live on. Well, you would think that IF you don't know the way the VA works. So here I am, poking at my library account online, bored because someone else has all the Buffy DVDs checked out and I can't afford to buy them so I must wait, contemplating the day when I am no longer able to access the internet from my home because my savings will have run out and I will no longer be able to afford internet access. In my bleaker moments, I contemplate a day when I will no longer have a home from which to not access the internet; but I know that this will probably never happen, because I have family. But if I didn't have family... it already would have. The VA provides me with enough to have a nice car to live out of.
All of which leads me to comment on this article that's been floating around, from the Christian Science Monitor: "Homeless: Can you build a life from $25?" Basically some former athlete white boy with a college degree and rich parents went out to prove that it's possible to go from being homeless to renting a place, even if you're ... a young, healthy, rich white boy with a college degree. Some choice quotes:
To make his quest even more challenging, he decided not to use any of his previous contacts.
Ten months into the experiment, he decided to quit after learning of an illness in his family.
"I was getting by on chicken and Rice-A-Roni dinner and was happy."
"I had a credit card in my back pocket in case of an emergency. The rule was if I used the credit card then, "The project's over, I'm going home.""
[In response to a question about whether his game would have been more difficult if he had child support payments or was on probation] "The question isn't whether I would have been able to succeed. I think it's the attitude that I take in."
"This isn't a "rags-to-riches million-dollar" story. This is very realistic. I truly believe, based on what I saw at the shelter ...that anyone can do that."
Speaking as someone who doesn't have the luxury of "quitting" my life when someone gets sick, who doesn't have an emergency credit card or any "previous contacts" that would do me any good, I just have to say that eating chicken and Rice-a-Roni for dinner sounds like the lap of luxury to me (meat is expensive, even chicken), and I deeply resent the implication that the reason I'm in the situation I'm in is because my attitude isn't focused enough on tugging at my own bootstraps. Yeah, I made some stupid decisions. I joined the Army- that was, in hindsight, blindingly stupid. But I'm not sick and unemployed because I'm lazy, and this kid's condescension makes me want to punch him in the face. Knowing that in the future people are going to point to the book he wrote as "proof!" that poverty is a choice that the government shouldn't subsidize with things like food stamps makes me want to puke.
There's a more eloquent takedown of this at Resist Racism: Playing at poverty.