Sunday, January 10, 2010

Failure to Comprehend

Follow-up to: Commanding Officer Prevents Navy Corpsman with TBI, PTSD and Dissociative Amnesia from Getting a Service Dog, 12/14/09

Terry Henry, The paws4vets Advocate
Round Hill, VA

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I have an overwhelming desire to refrain from responding to Captain Cox’s letter, dated December 24, 2009, (which was posted to this blog on January 9, 2010) for it may appear that I am engaging in a “tit-for-tat” with him. We are also about to meet face-to-face this coming Tuesday and there is a sense that to pour more fuel on the fire may be counterproductive to the ultimate goal of successfully placing a Psychiatric Service Dog with HM2 Kloppenborg. However, the “Assistance Dog Advocacy,” and the “Disabilities Advocacy” side of me compels me to respond to Captain Cox’s letter.
I cannot allow his obvious “Failure to Comprehend” to stand unchallenged.
Disclaimer: Before I go any further I to want to state, for the record, that I have an agenda. I want to place a Psychiatric Service Dog with HM2 Kloppenborg to improve the quality of his life and to possibly keep him from hurting someone. I also want to do everything I can to ensure that the next person who needs a Service Dog does not have to endure the ordeal that HM2 Kloppenborg has had to go through and is still going through. This being said, I will forego my personal desire to dissect and counter almost every line of Captain Cox’s letter and focus on 3 main areas of concern:
Failure to Comprehend 1: The “Quote”
Background: My first article began with the sentence; “Tell him to get a f * * k’n Shih Tzu and he can pet it when he’s sitting at home,” said the sharp, dismissive and flippant voice of U.S. Navy Captain, Gerard R. Cox, Commanding Officer, Naval Hospital Camp Lejeune, Jacksonville, NC.”
Referencing this sentence in his letter to me, Captain Cox states: “Moreover, your assertions that I used profanity and acted in a disdainful, dismissive manner are wholly false and inflammatory.”
The Captain does not dispute the content of the quote; he simply claims not to have used profanity or expressed the quote in a disdainful or a dismissive manner.
The Captain, clearly, DOES NOT recognize the level of INSULT and/or DISREPECT his comment delivers to every person with a working Service/Assistance Dog; people who depend on their dogs for their independence and recovery from various physical, psychiatric and/or emotional disabilities, as well as to those who dedicate their lives to providing these dogs to people with disabilities.
The Captain’s comment, with or without the use of profanity, is INSENSITIVE and DEMEANING to people with disabilities who have a Service Dog/Assistance Dog; while a very small “minority” constituency, they should still be respected. His comment is analogous to making a disparaging “minority” slur, comment, or analogy.
However, it is apparently acceptable in Captain Cox’s view, to disregard the value of a Service Dog. It is also apparently acceptable to disrespect the hundreds of Veterans and Active-duty Service Members who have to rely upon Service Dogs as having no medical, psychological, or emotional need for their Service Dog other than to have “something to pet.”
The use of profanity is simply an “exclamation point” to the comment. Whether it was used, as my reporting indicates, or whether it was not used, as Captain Cox claims, is a minor, irrelevant point. The content/meaning of the quote is what is important – not the adjectives and punctuation utilized to deliver the quote.
I have also discovered that one can often times learn more by analyzing what is not said versus what is said. The silence in Captain Cox’s letter regarding the assertions that “he has nothing but contempt and disdain for Mental Health” is quite telling. A reasonable person could conclude that only a person with less than total/complete respect for and/or understanding of Mental Health issues, such as PTSD, C-PTSD, TBI, etc. would be capable of uttering the “Shih Tzu” quote. The “Shih Tzu” quote would not have even formulated in the mind of a person with such respect and understanding, let alone come out of their mouth.
Failure to Comprehend 2: The “Gift”
The Psychiatric Service Dog HM2 Kloppenborg will be receiving does not come with a ribbon and a bow. It is not being given to him for his birthday or because someone in the paws4vets organization likes him. The dog is not being given to him because he is a combat veteran or a hero. HM2 Kloppenborg will be receiving SALLY, a certified, Psychiatric Service Dog, with full ADA public access certification, because SALLY is a highly trained and sophisticated therapeutic resource that is custom-trained to assist HM2 Kloppenborg with his specific psychiatric disabilities. In HM2 Kloppenborg’s case, SALLY is the only augmentative medical device that can provide him with the psychological and emotional benefits he needs; a fact that has been substantiated by his Navy medical treatment team.
SALLY will be placed with HM2 Kloppenborg under a Conditional Custody Agreement and, as such, will NEVER belong to HM2 Kloppenborg. Legally, SALLY will remain the property of the paws4people foundation. HM2 Kloppenborg will be allowed to use SALLY and benefit from her unique skill set for as long as he needs SALLY’s assistance. In exchange for SALLY’s services, HM2 Kloppenborg must maintain and care for SALLY, educate as many people as he can about SALLY’s role in his life, and (hopefully), his recovery from his psychological disabilities. He will be expected to assist other paws4vets Clients, Veterans or Active-duty Service members, when they get their Service Dogs. [Note: HM2 Kloppenborg and SALLY will not only serve the role of a paws4vets working Client/Dog Team, but also as a paws4vets Veterans’ Advocate and Service Dog Ambassador, educating others about the role of Psychiatric Service Dogs with military service members on behalf of paws4vets.]
There were numerous conversations with HM2 Kloppenborg’s medical treatment team, command officers, and senior non-commissioned officers, explaining that SALLY, would, in fact, NOT be considered a “gift” several weeks before Captain Cox claims to have become involved in the situation. There are many Active-duty Service members who have Service Dogs, including several serving at Camp LeJeune. If these Active-duty Service members have Service Dogs, then by Captain Cox’s logic, are they all in violation of “gift” rules and regulations???? When are their Service Dogs going to be taken away???? When are they going to be prosecuted for these violations???
And since when is there a situation within the Military where a Commander, or his Commander, etc., CANNOT get something done if they want it done??? Even the “gift” regulations can be waived if the appropriate level Commander wants them waived. It may take some work, but there is nothing that cannot be done within the Military if an appropriately motivated Commander wants it done. Getting an individual like HM2 Kloppenborg a Service Dog that may prevent him from hurting or killing someone sounds like a pretty good reason to remove obstacles – at least to me.
Failure to Comprehend 3: The “Definition of Prevent”
To date, the best known debate concerning the definition of a word is the infamous: “Well, I guess it depends on what the definition of ‘is’ is.” Now, the debate concerning a definition of a word can also be stated as: “Well, I guess it depends on what the definition of “prevent” is.” In my mind, the standard definition of “prevent” in fact, applies to this situation, as HM2 Kloppenborg still DOES NOT have his Service Dog, and it’s NOT because paws4vets is not ready to provide SALLY to HM2 Kloppenborg.
HM2 Kloppenborg is still trying to cross all of the “T”s and dot the “I”s. He has had personal leave denied, he has had convalescent leave denied, and he has had TAD orders denied. He has submitted request after request and justification after justification; he was even told, at one point that he was going to be discharged from the Navy within the next eight days so there was “no need to worry about it (the dog).” He has been told, on at least two occasions, that he would be allowed to travel to meet some potential Service Dogs, only to be denied those travel requests at the last minute.
I have talked with, answering an untold number of questions, numerous members of the Hospital staff including Doctors, Lead Petty Officers, Chiefs, Master Chiefs, Lieutenant Commanders, Commanders and Captains. Other members of the paws4vets staff have talked with Hospital staff including Doctors, Lead Petty Officers, Chiefs, Master Chiefs, Lieutenant Commanders, Commanders, and Captains, answering these same questions. Mr. Clay Rankin, AW2 Advocate, and an expert on Service Dogs within the military and the Veterans Administration, including their utilization and presence inside hospitals, has talked with Master Chiefs. All of these conversations were conducted trying to answer questions and concerns on the part of “the Hospital Command” as they related to HM2 Kloppenborg’s attempts to get his Service Dog. All of this activity took place between September and November 10th.
How long do you think it would be before HM2 Kloppenborg had SALLY permanently by his side if I were the Commanding Officer, U.S. Naval Hospital, Camp LeJeune, a Navy O-6, and gave the following order to my subordinate staff; “I want HM2 Kloppenborg to have his Service Dog as fast as humanly possible. Get those paws4vets people here for a meeting. I want the fastest timeline they can deliver. I want each of you to part the Red Sea if you have to in order to eliminate any/all bureaucratic roadblocks. HM2 Kloppenborg has waited long enough – get the problem fixed.” How long do you think it would take?
I still maintain that the title to my first article is correct. When the situation changes and merits a new title - I will write and title the article proclaiming the event and I will be one of the happiest individuals around.
If I have written too much to this point, you may stop reading – I must set the record straight on one more point:
Captain Cox made the following statement in his letter: “I regret that you did not agree to meet with me this week to discuss this information in person.”
Captain Cox has seriously and blatantly distorted the facts.
I was telephonically contacted and had conversations with Mr. Raymond Applewhite, the Public Affairs Officers (PAO) for the U.S Naval Hospital, Camp LeJeune, during the period of December 17-18. During these conversations Mr. Applewhite related that Captain Cox had expressed a desire to meet with me to discuss his perspective on the article and HM2 Kloppenborg’s situation. I explained to Mr. Applewhite that I was headquartered in Round Hill, VA, and that a trip to Camp LeJeune within the next week (Christmas week) would be impossible. I related to Mr. Applewhite that myself and our paws4vets team were planning on being at Camp LeJeune during the week of January 11-14, and that we would welcome the opportunity to meet with Captain Cox during that time period. Mr. Applewhite subsequently relayed that Captain Cox was made aware of the geographical situation, our travel restrictions for the week of December 21-24, and he informed Mr. Applewhite that he would meet with us while we were at Camp LeJeune during the January time period. Of course Captain Cox did not offer to travel to Northern Virginia to meet with me, during Christmas week, either – did he?
Update: I am still awaiting confirmation that HM2 Kloppenborg will be allowed to travel, on TAD orders, to West Virginia to begin his “official” transfer training with SALLY during the week of February 1-4.
So the saga continues.