I've spent the past couple of hours (!) walking down memory lane-- the VA has an online portal where I can download my medical records, which includes the notes from all of my medical and psychiatric appointments. The portal also includes the notes entered by the social work person who manages the veterans homeless program in Madison, and the times I talked to the patient advocate's office about the problems I had while living at Porchlight. Her view of the situation was that everything was my doing, that I failed to participate properly in the program, and that I was just there for a free bed and a free meal.
Of course. It had to be that, because that explains why I kept working at my job, and put so much energy into taking online classes for no credit to get prepared to go back to college. It explains why I went back to college, both to better myself and to learn what I need to get a job so I can support myself. It explains why, instead of doing any one of a number of other things, I decided to stay in Madison and keep fighting to make my life a better one. Freeloaders-- people who just want to suck on the government's teat-- they do that kind of thing, you know. They strive to improve themselves, they work hard, they get up and dust themselves off and try again (and again) when they fail. They stand up for themselves, too. That's what I am, one of those no good freeloading people.
Thanks for explaining that.
I'm working with a new Vet Center person; she's helping me to work through some of the problems I'm having just getting through normal life things like getting bills paid and college related paperwork done, and especially things like rescheduling appointments. My brain's going so fast with all of the normal stuff, plus I'm having trouble still dealing with everything that happened with Porchlight. I had an appointment in December that I missed to do all of this, and I missed it because it was at 0930 on a morning after I'd been at work until after 0100. It's also at a satellite clinic that's about 30 minutes away by bus, and honestly I'm not that anxious to talk about diabetes and medication and all that. So I missed the appointment, and now I can't take any of my medications because I get nauseous soon after I take them-- so Vet Center person helped me by calling and getting a new appointment set up.
I stopped taking my meds-- all of them, psych drugs too-- when I started throwing them up on a regular basis. So I need to talk to my psychiatrist about the psych drugs, but she's on maternity leave. Vet Center person called to make an appointment about that too, but on the phone I got quickly triggered and didn't want to deal with it. Before making the phone calls, Vet Center person hit me with some bad news.
There's this thing called the Wisconsin GI Bill. If you entered active duty in Wisconsin and saw combat, you get to go to any state school in Wisconsin and the state picks up your tuition. It's an awesome program, but as of January 2014 it doesn't cover your tuition if your GPA is under 2.0, which mine is, considering that I failed both of my classes when I was evicted from Porchlight. I was on academic probation anyway (from 2011) when I returned-- but if I'd have done well in spring 2014, I would have been off probation by now.
No Wisconsin GI bill money for 2014 means I'm getting the bill, and it's several thousand dollars that I don't have. I'm in classes this semester, but I can't pay the tuition bill. I managed to stay in my classes this semester, but I can't register for summer or fall classes at UW, and that means that I can't bring my grade point average up at UW by taking more classes at UW (even if I did get good grade). Unless, of course, I want to take on additional student loan debt, on which I'm already defaulted so I don't know if that's even an option.
I can go back to Madison Area Technical College and take classes, and if I take the right classes the credits will count towards my bachelor's degree at UW. The kick is that UW doesn't transfer in grades, so I can ace classes from now until Judgement Day at MATC and it won't help me boost my UW GPA.
Essentially, after this semester, if I can't find a way to either take out more student loans or get a shitload of scholarships and grants, my academic career at UW is over. If I want to finish my bachelor's degree I will need to transfer to another school, and if things really do reach that point I don't have an answer for what I'll do next.
I have to be honest, things haven't gone so well for me at Wisconsin.If I transfer somewhere else (hello California!) I'll still have to find a way to pay for it, and out of state tuition will be crazy-- but it doesn't do me much good to just take random classes at MATC if I'm never going to be able to add them up to a bachelor's degree.
UW won't release my transcript if my tuition bill isn't paid, so there's that, too.
So, yes, I bailed in the middle of the phone call to the psych team at the VA hospital and just said "Fuck it, call me later and we'll set something up." Vet Center person: "You got really triggered all of sudden, what's up with that?"
Oh nothing, it's just that the very thing that kept me going through two years of being homeless, part of that time sleeping either in or outside of the very building I'm trying to earn a degree in-- the dream, finishing my comp sci degree and graduating from Wisconsin -- that dream is now essentially over.
You could ask, as my Vet Center person did, why I'm so quick to bring up and blame Porchlight in all of this-- in response I'll ask "are you new here?" Homeless Program Manager could have looked into the situation when I moved out, and discovered that for the months rent didn't get paid, there was a form with my signature authorizing Porchlight to take rent money from my account every month. Case Manager neglected to take it over to the main office two blocks away, even though she's there several times a week. Porchlight Accounting took out too much money once the withdrawals started, which overdrew my account-- nothing ever was done about that.
Porchlight didn't have to call the Sheriff's Office and have a deputy visit me with a summons to vacate the premises. They could have said, "Hey, what's up with the check? We know you're getting your first Social Security Disability Payment, so we know you have the money and we don't want you back out on the street."
No one-- not VA Homeless Program Manager, not Case Manager-- ever did anything to support my being back in college. The only time anyone ever asked about college was when Porchlight tried to claim that since I was getting money for school (I wasn't, I was getting (or at least supposed to be getting) tuition remission), Porchlight considered it income and subject to 30% being taken out to pay rent. That's what they Porchlight cared about, and VA Homeless Program Manager and Case Manager did nothing to change that.
Porchlight wasn't concerned about my well being, or finding permanent housing. No one followed up when I left Porchlight. No one cared to even make a simple phone call to see if I was okay. Instead they put a sign on the door with a policy that made sure I wouldn't ever come back looking for help.
Once I found an apartment-- on my own, by the way-- no one from the VA cared to follow up to see how I'm doing in my own place. During the entire time I was at Porchlight they wanted to run and control my life, and in VA Homeless Program Manager's final report about me she says so-- if I'd given them control of my money, none of this would have happened. Yet once I found my own place, suddenly I was 100% fine even though I'm still at risk for homelessness and still have PTSD (in fact, worse now than it was before Porchlight). If I become homeless again in 2015 I'll be considered chronically homeless. What if that happens?
VA Homeless Program Manager also mentions that I left my room without cleaning, and left stuff behind when I moved out of Porchlight. Of course I did-- a Dane County Sheriff's Deputy showed up at my door with a summons that was very clear that I was to leave the premises immediately. Had I been a dick about it I'd have been arrested on the spot. The deputy's words: "You don't have to leave right this second, but if Porchlight calls the Sheriff's Office and says they want you out right now we will have to remove you. Physically, if necessary." So yeah, I didn't stick around to clean. What would you have done? Porchlight refunded my security deposit, so my room being dirty wasn't all that big a deal, was it? (Sounds good in the report though. Nice job on that.)
Was it Porchlight's fault that I failed those classes? They'll never say so. It was a challenge for me to pass them anyway, as it is for every class I take-- PTSD makes it hard to be a successful student, which is why this blog is even here. Still, try this. Take having a disability, plus being in an environment that makes your disability harder to deal with, and then try sleeping on the street for the couple of weeks right before (and during!) your final exams. Let me know how that works for you and get back to me.
You could also ask, "Dude, what's your end game with this stuff about Porchlight?"
Writing about this stuff gets it out of my head, because to write about it I have to think about it, organize it, arrange it. I'm trying to move on from all of this, to begin to recover from recovery.
Maybe someone will read all of this and get the idea that "Hey, you can't make this shit up. There's gotta be some truth to what this guy is writing about", and maybe they'll tell the right person at the VA and something will get done. Nothing happened when I wrote my senator, maybe someone else will have better luck.
Finally, because my story needs to be written