Friday, October 30, 2009

I Want to Punch the VA in the Throat!

by 13 Stoploss


Hey, great news everyone. I submitted my Post-9/11 GI Bill application, and they received it!




It only took four weeks, but the VA has accepted my Post-9/11 GI Bill application!




Hey, great fucking news geniuses! The assholes over at the VA were kind enough to let me know how fucking squared away they are.

My school's VA Coordinator sent in my certification paperwork in late August. If you read that interview I posted a while back, you'd have seen that the regents from the University of California had a little tiff with the VA this summer. Had something to do with UC calling "tuition fees" by the name "education fees." You know how it goes--VA didn't like that one bit. UC had to toe the line, and naturally, that took big-shot fucking lawyers to get involved and make some changes in the wording...

So, couple weeks ago, I went online and got that emergency money. Took seven days to reach me. After bills go out today, that money has been reduced to $0.

Fucking zero.

To be honest, I had an inkling of hope that I was going to get paid today, you know, with the 1st day of the month falling on a Sunday, that makes today the last business day of the month. Yeah, I guess that won't be happening until next year now. Way to fucking save Christmas, Veterans Affairs.

Now what the fuck am I supposed to do?

Friday EDIT: This might help. But when? I *wonder* what the story behind this move is...

Saturday EDIT 2: Not going to scan this one, but I got a letter in the mail today from the VA. They wanted to let me know that the per monthly rate for Chapter 30 Montgomery GI Bill has increased. It was dated six days before the letter I received yesterday.

I wonder how much money the VA wastes on redundant paper mailings? Shouldn't there be a list tracking the names of veterans? It should be a giant Excel sheet, and it should be updated to include whether the vet is on Chapter 30, 31, or 33. So, aside from the double mailing I received yesterday, which was received five fucking months after I got the first one, this giant Excel sheet would let the VA know that I don't need to know about the $67 increase to the obsolete Chapter 30 because I'm enrolled in Chapter 33!!

Imagine the savings on postage, envelopes, paper, and ink. That could be tens, or even a couple hundred thousand useless mailings. How much money would that save in a year? Taxpayer money just pissed down the shitter.

Is it time to reform?

File Sharing

by 13 Stoploss



Today, the OC Weekly used one of my photos from yesterday's coverage of the Zombie Protest at UC Irvine. They're looked at as being pretty decent around these parts, especially since the Bush-loving Orange County Register's parent company has filed for bankruptcy.

Pretty cool.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Popcorn

by 13 Stoploss




I was eating popcorn the other night. One of those late night munchy deals where even the pills and the booze weren't helping me sleep. I went downstairs and had this great big green bowl, just filled to the brim with popcorn. Buttery organic shit from Trader Joes.

And then I saw it, stiff-armed like a baby in the bowl. It was too beautiful to eat, and so I saved it. I'll not be the first to start the game...

Bronica ETRSi, Fuji Neopan Acros

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Walk With Me In Hell

by The Usual Suspect

(Quite obviously not directed toward the readers. The people who warrant this post are the same people that will never read it. Let the worms have them.)

To my ungrateful generation,

This world is full of people who demand respect without earning it. That's a commodity that I can no longer afford to give away freely. If I haven't earned someone's respect by now, then I never will, and that's fine. The more I think about it, the more I realize that you have NOT earned mine. Thought you had it for free? I can't believe you're still alive when some of the best men I'll ever know died in someone else's country. As far as I'm concerned, this ain't your land anymore. We earn our keep. You'll always be below me now, not because of what you haven't done, but because of how you conduct yourself despite what you have not done. Don't dare try to cheapen what we go through. Come experience it for yourself.

Roll the dice, take a chance card. Spin the wheel, sit for a spell and let the Russian Roulette begin. Let's do some time in the meat grinder together, THEN you can open your mouth. Until then, you're cattle with an inflated ego and unfounded opinions. Empty, vapid, soulless byproducts of bad TV and shitty rap music.

See the beauty of several 240Bravos lighting up the night with red tracers, some snapping off and bouncing off the ground and high into the sky until they burn out.

Feel the sigh of relief every time you pass a car and it doesn't explode.

Attend a military funeral of someone who isn't old enough to drink.

Make the choice between life and death. Know what its like to spare a life without that person ever knowing. No gratitude, no humility.

Witness true suffering. Smell the third world. Feel the filth on your skin. Know the huge flies on a first name basis.

Learn how different gunfire sounds when its directed at you. Experience mortal fear. Feel blast waves rush through your body and wring your intestines and throw you to the ground. Know what it's like to wonder if you're dead for a couple seconds.

Let someone change your priorities for you. Let someone completely alter your perspective on life. Walk among the people that you're going to "help" (but only as long as coalition forces caused any injuries, otherwise go see an Iraqi doctor, sorry about your baby with severe respiratory problems, the Captain says we can't do anything for him.)

I will not be made to feel weird by my own people and my own generation. I'm not going to hide in my own skin. I'm a combat veteran, that's who I am now. I'm going to size you up without thinking about it. Nothing personal. My instincts need to do a threat assessment. You're wrong if you think I can't relate to you. It's YOU that can't relate to us.

You're the one that missed out, you didn't want to be part of the action, and that's fine. Maybe you were smarter than I was at the time. But really, I think you're just too self involved.

I will not go out of my way to accomodate your ignorance. I won't spare your feelings and I don't care what makes your stomach turn. I don't care if you like me. I don't care about you at all. Until you show me otherwise, you're just a suckling pig, ripe for the slaughter, and thank your lucky stars Uncle Sam hasn't come calling yet.

I want you to at least man up and say, "I don't care about what anyone in uniform has done for this country." Your actions already say it, just be honest. I can respect the balls it takes to admit something like that. But you won't. You're going to be the same pitiful, impotent malcontent your entire life, except someday sooner than you expect, you're going to be old. If you're lucky. Tomorrow you might be dead. Or the next day. Regardless, it's guaranteed, you're going to die, buddy. You're fucked. Days are numbered. Borrowed time. I take comfort in that. Nature will run its course and flush you without a second thought.

You want my respect? Walk with me in hell. My family, our readers, and the few remaining friends I have, they already do.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Stoploss Backpay Compensation Update 2

by 13 Stoploss

Got an email this afternoon. By my calculations, this email reached me 5 weeks, 6 days, and 18 hours quicker than the letter the VA mailed me when they accepted my application for the Post-9/11 GI Bill.

Dear Jason Davis,

A Retroactive Stop Loss Payment for Army Service Member Jason Davis has been established as Case Number RSL********.

If you need to submit supporting documents, please send them in as soon as possible.

Mail to:
U.S. Army G-1
Retro Stop Loss Pay
Suite 302
5109 Leesburg Pike
Falls Church, VA 2204



Email to:
RetroStopLossPay@conus.army.mil

REPENT OR HELL!!

by 13 Stoploss



Every morning, Paul Mitchell gets out of bed, and drops to his knees in prayer. The sixty-seven year old retired fireman prays for strength and courage in his ministry to young college students. He prays for them because he knows them, and because he used to be one of them—searching for that next party, those next bong hits, or that next piece of ass. But for the last forty years, since he became a born-again Christian, Paul has been wandering the southern California college circuit with a giant picket trying to win over students’ souls for Christ. According to Paul, the world is festering in a stink of sin, and only Jesus can cleanse us from the desolate wasteland of immorality.

To Paul, nothing better exemplifies the work of Satan than a college. Santa Barbara to San Diego is his Jerusalem, and he likes to catch young adults at the crossroad in their lives, imagining his 3x5 foot vinyl banner as a fishnet for salvation. According to the Old Testament book of Ezekiel, Paul is called to be a watchman, Heaven’s hall monitor held responsible for pointing out the sin in others. He takes serious this responsibility of preaching the Gospel truth to homosexuals and Muslims and covetous money-grubbers. After all, they’re the ones destroying the vision of his Christian America.

As a street preacher, confrontation is a daily occurrence, and there are no smooth days for Paul. Everyday is a clash of words and egos, and Paul is aware that 99% of the people he encounters are going to blow him off. He is continuously mocked, and derided for the hate-filled words of his banner. Sometimes he is spit on. Once, he was physically attacked, and earlier this year, he was arrested for antilocution. Despite daily struggles, Paul cheerfully alludes to everyday being a success because he has never failed as a communicator. As a faithful servant of his master, Paul bears his cross, and leaves a business card in passing: “REPENT OR HELL” is the message, directing visitors to purchase a PDF booklet he has written on his website, PreachTruth.org.

“HEY, YOU BIGOTED PIECE OF SHIT! WHY DON’T YOU SHOVE THAT SIGN UP YOUR FUCKING ASS?!“

Paul is not cool and collected when verbally attacked. Rage reddens his leathered face, and his voice quivers with an awkward, raised response. The scowl on his lips gives his words a sense of pomposity and arrogance. The other kids laugh and point and make fun of him like it was grade school, but his eyes are fiery and alive with unfettered passion. As the fury escapes him, Paul gestures toward the student with his free hand like he was casting out a demon; the kid flips him off, foaming curses and insults before being escorted away by campus police.

Despite the confidence, Paul looks tired and worn out from the same questions and perverted jeering he sees everyday. Those who gather to watch are amused by the entertainment, silently perusing the freak show activity from a distance. Out of curiosity, they smile, and take pictures of the crowd with their cell phones while secretly hoping for violence. Other students engage in a frenzied debate, flailing their arms endlessly about. To Paul, Jesus Christ is the only man who ever rose from the dead. Christianity is the biggest religion in the world, and the Bible is the best selling book of all time. To Paul, it’s a no brainer—just connect the dots. He says people don’t understand because they don’t want to understand. They already have their position, and God is proactive in keeping them blind. They will not have the ability to understand the message, unless they want to understand. Yet, for the same reason, he is hostile to the reckoning of those who argue with him. To those around him, Paul is backwards, close-minded, and intolerant of anything other than himself.

When Paul was two years old, his father died. At twelve, his stepfather died. Later, in the formative years of his adolescence, he watched his mother wreck her life with an addiction to alcohol. Without much influence in his life, Paul turned to college to have a good time. It wasn’t long thereafter that he dropped out, eventually finding himself confronted with the realities of the world. That is when he turned to Christ. That is when he willingly became narrow-minded to follow the moral guidelines of what he believes is God’s written word.

Through various incarnations of the sign, Paul continues to “preach from the rooftops.” Four schooldays a week, he travels, putting him in position to be martyred for the provocation of hate and intolerance. “One day this will all be over” he says, “and I’ll be in heaven. We’re in a depression, headed for inflation. Obama is an idiot, and we are in a freefall. We are on the downside of the greatness of this country. And when Jesus comes back, he won’t be a little lamb bouncing around. He’ll come back as the lion of the tribe of Judah, ready to execute His judgment.

You better repent.”

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Thoughts on the Stop Loss Backpay Application

by 13 Stoploss



Earlier this afternoon, I was contacted by James Dao, National Correspondent for Military and Veterans Affairs at the New York Times. He had a few questions about the stop loss backpay. This afternoon, his article, for which I am included, was posted online at the NYTimes.

As you know (reported here last night), I applied online using a digital upload of both my DD214, and a DD4. The questionnaire only takes a few minutes, but it asks for information like your SSN, current residence, EFT numbers, and most importantly, the dates and primary location of your involuntary extension.

I imagine that I was one of the first to apply online, and the process went smoothly. Tonight, however, I have been unable to load the web address from two different computers. My guess is that the website is being bombarded by student veterans like myself who have yet to get paid by the Post-9/11 GI Bill...

In the coming days, we shall hopefully learn more. And, it's important to note that the web questionnaire specifically asked for an email address and phone number to keep the veteran up to date on the progress of his applications. Here's to hoping my $6500 reaches me before Xmas--I've got visions of a 50" Panasonic TC-P50V10 Plasma mounted on the wall of my living room...

Anyone got any bets on the dates for the payout? I'll be optimistic and say the odds are 2:1 that I get the money before my Post-9/11 Gi Bill money comes in!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Retroactive Stoploss Pay: GET SOME!!

by 13 Stoploss

edit: took me less than ten minutes to fill out and submit my claim for EFT payment. Just make sure you have a scan of your DD214.

---------------------------

From the man:

Retroactive Stop Loss Special Pay


What is it?

Soldiers, veterans and survivors of those whose service was involuntarily extended under Stop Loss between September 11, 2001 and September 30, 2008 can apply to receive $500 for every month, or portion of a month, they served under Stop Loss. The 2009 War Supplemental Appropriations Act established and largely funded the payment for all military services, but dictated that each service process and pay their own applicants. The Army estimates that 136,000 of the approximately 174,000 eligible servicemembers served in the Army.

What has the Army done?

The Army has created an application process for active-and-reserve component Soldiers, veterans, and survivors of Soldiers to process claims for Retroactive Stop Loss Special Pay. By law, the Army can only accept claims between October 21, 2009 and October 21, 2010. Eligible candidates must submit their request within this timeframe, or the Army will not be able to process their request. The Army has set up an email address to field questions people have regarding the benefit.

How can people apply?

Candidates for Retroactive Stop Loss Special Pay must submit a claim at Retroactive Stop Loss Web site . This Web site is the preferred method for submitting applications; however, other means for doing so, such as by mail or fax, will be available to those without access to computers. Additional communications will provide instructions for alternative forms of submission. During the application process, candidates will be asked to show documentation that indicates the time they served under Stop Loss. The necessary documentation, depending on their type of service, includes the following:

● Enlisted Soldiers need to present their DD Form 214 and DD Form 4 Enlistment/Reenlistment/Extension contract(s).

● Enlisted Soldiers who were in an indefinite status need a memorandum showing retirement/separation request was denied or an approved retirement/ separation was amended.

● Officers need a DD Form 214 and memorandum showing Retirement/ Separation request was denied or an approved retirement/separation was amended.

● National Guard Soldiers need to show DA Form 4187 for Stop Loss adjustment of ETS, separation documentation NGB Form 22, and/or NGB Form 1966.


What continued efforts does the Army have planned for the future?

The Army will review, process and pay qualified candidates as they submit their applications atRetroactive Stop Loss Web site. Candidates who meet the criteria and show the required documentation will receive their retroactive payment in a one lump sum. The Army will not accept applications submitted after October 21, 2010.

Oh yeah, don't forget the User Agreement (I particularly like bullet point 2):

User Agreement
You are accessing a U.S. Government (USG) information system (IS) that is provided for USG-authorized use only.

PRIVACY NOTICE: Solicitation of information contained herein may be used as a basis for retroactive stop loss pay determinations. The Military Department describes how your information will be maintained in the Privacy Act system of record notice published in the Federal Register.

AUTHORITY: Public Law 111-32, Section 310.

CLAIMANT: A claimant is the veteran or an eligible recipient of the veteran’s estate of a deceased veteran. If claimant is incompetent, please include conservator documentation with this form. In addition, if payment is being made to the veteran’s estate, proper supporting documentation must also be submitted with this form. Non-submission of this documentation will delay payment.

PRINCIPAL PURPOSE: Requested information is used to determine the claimant’s current mailing address before a check is issued to pay the increase in the amount previously paid as authorized in Public Law 110-181, Section 675.

ROUTINE USES: Used by the Army for verification of eligibility and then by the Defense Finance and Accounting Services for payment of Retroactive Stop Loss payments. The claim must be filed by October 21, 2010.

DISCLOSURE: Voluntary. However, failure to provide information will delay payment.

By using this IS (which includes any device attached to this IS), you consent to the following conditions
  • The USG routinely intercepts and monitors communications on this IS for purposes including, but not limited to, penetration testing, COMSEC monitoring, network operations and defense, personnel misconduct (PM), law enforcement (LE), and counterintelligence (CI) investigations.
  • At any time, the USG may inspect and/or seize data stored on this IS.
  • Communications using, or data stored on, this IS are not private, are subject to routine monitoring, interception, and search, and may be disclosed or used for any USG authorized purpose.
  • This IS includes security measures (e.g., authentication and access controls) to protect USG interests--not for your personal benefit or privacy.
  • Notwithstanding the above, using this IS does not constitute consent to PM, LE or CI investigative searching or monitoring of the content of privileged communications, or work product, related to personal representation or services by attorneys, psychotherapists, or clergy, and their assistants. Such communications and work product are private and confidential.
  • The Retroactive Stop Loss system requires use of Social Security Numbers (SSN). SSN is needed to match your records for deployment, benefits and tax reporting. Executive Order 9397 (3 CFR (1943-1948 Comp.) 283-284) requires all Federal components to use the SSN "exclusively" whenever the component finds it advisable to set up a new identification system for individuals. The Retroactive Stop Loss project takes its responsibility to protect the privacy of personal information very seriously.

Fall is Coming

by 13 Stoploss







See the colors. See the campus.

Despite two days of rain last week, we still have the A/C and ceiling fans turned on. Even that is not enough to sleep sweatlessly through the night...

Rolleiflex Automat 3.5 Zeiss Tessar Opton, Kodak Portra 400NC - For details on the photos and camera, click here.


Monday, October 19, 2009

A Small Start

by 13 Stoploss

Got my first "feature" published in the school paper.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Through The Eyes Of My Enemy

by The Usual Suspect

I think I have the answer for a question that has bothered me since the beginning of my deployment. "What are these guys REALLY fighting us for?"

Now it's simple. The cycle of violence. I look at my own people as if they were my enemy, "just in case". It's like meeting Death, and Death turning out to be a very intriguing person. The kind that you aren't finished talking to. Conversation isn't over. Death is out of my life right now, and like a fool, I'm looking for my Weird New Friend. Like understanding it will somehow remove you from the human condition.

Life and Death. The elusive paradox. It's this huge mystery. And when it gets in your head, it stays, because you can't answer the questions your mind throws at you, not for sure. Are you going to get cancer? Diabetes? Fail to look both ways before crossing the street? Choke on a Mentos while shrugging a bank robbery off?

Death. It's final. There's no rebuttal, no appeals. It's a threshold for man. We can cause it, but after that, fuck, we don't know. We have a few ideas, but we're still killing the people who think otherwise, not because God told us to do so, but because it WORKS. Kill someone and they will never wrong anyone else again. Kill someone and they'll never stab you in the back. Kill kill kill. Shove that other life form off the mortal coil. No matter what you believe, you know that killing gets shit done, CONCLUSIVELY. Guard yourself, you who would fall in love with the premise of killing. There's always someone who's willing to kill you while believing that what they are doing is right. And because it's in our blood. Yes, yours.

When you aren't the same color, the same religion, and speakers of the same language, it is so easy to simplify. Unconditional hate is SIMPLE. Killing is SIMPLE. Complicate situations with emotions and empathy, and then our justifications for trying to kill each other start to fall apart. Then everything is just too confusing.

And both of us are saying, "They've murdered so many of us, we can never let them get away with it. I understand the way things work, in the simplest terms. Nothing can stop me now."

The point is, all the confusion, the uncertainty, the hesitation, the guilt, everything, it all goes away when you just SIMPLIFY everything. And revenge....the need for revenge is like the withdrawal, the addiction, without ever touching the drug. "I'd sell my SOUL for one more shot at that motherfucker."

When a society is in a state of chaos, the people revert to their basic programming. My guess is that the mind does the same thing.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Budget cuts “domino effect” delays education benefits to Veterans

For my Reporting class.

This is the revision. The original got a B-.

------------------------
16 October 2009

On May 1, 2009, the Veterans Affairs began accepting applications for the Post-9/11 GI Bill. Under this program, and in return for their military service, veterans and their dependents would receive thirty-six months of tuition to the equivalent of their states most expensive public school, as well as $1000 yearly to cover books and fees. But most important to veterans was the inclusion of a personal living expense enabling student veterans to focus on their studies instead of worrying about bills (the living expense rate for 92697 is currently $2152 per month).

Authorizations to begin paying students and their universities began on August 1, 2009. Unfortunately, implementation of the tuition, fees, and allowances lagged due to government undersight, and a vast shortage in claims processing personnel; for veterans in California, and as a result of the state budget cuts, the news only got worse.

As a veteran and student affected by the VA’s mishap, I sat down with Adeli Duron, the Program Coordinator for UCI’s Center for Service in Action (formerly the UCI Volunteer Center), and current UCI Veterans Services Coordinator, to get the scoop on the UC budget cuts, the VA, and what UCI’s 120 student veterans need to know about the delay in their Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits.

Q. How did you end up working as the Veteran Services Coordinator, and what did you do before this position?

A. Before this position, I was doing admissions for UCI. I was an admissions counselor, and before that, I graduated from UCI. I was hired on this position, mostly because of the other part of this position, which is the Center for Service in Action; my volunteer stuff, and my background as a student helped as well. I was interested in the veteran’s position because, well, they went together. But also because a cousin of mine had just joined the Army, so a part of it was just self-interest in relation to family.

Q. As a UC employee, I imagine you are familiar with the UC budget cuts. How are you personally affected by these cuts?

A. On a personal level—all employees have been furloughed. So, yes, I am receiving a pay reduction.

Q. And how has your department, or office been affected by the cuts?

A. In terms of department, budgets are usually a year behind. So by the time we get our budget, we don’t officially get our “real budget” until January of the following year, even though it’s on an academic year. The fiscal year is July 1st through June 30th. So, we’re working on a fake budget right now. Our department has 15% in proposed cuts this year [’09-‘10], on top of 8% last year. It’s inconclusive where the department can afford to cut, and it doesn’t necessarily happen evenly, especially since some of our departments have federally funded programs that are mandated, like “International Center,” and “Disabilities.”

For us, I know that there were specific programs that could possibly be cut. As it is, our office, the Center for Service in Action, aside from salary, only has $3000 in permanent funding for programming. That comes straight from the UC system. So, technically, if we get cut [15%], it will come from that $3000.

The other funding that we work off of, mostly through the Center for Service in Action, is money coming from student fees. There is a portion of the overall student fees that are reallocated to different departments. I don’t know what our Department’s whole budget is, but when there are things we need, my goal is to simply find them for as cost effective as I can. That can include food or supplies for any events that we might be doing. On a regular year, we normally had leftover funding, like a rollover, or carryover. This is the year that all the money we’ve been saving—well, if it isn’t spent, we’re not going to get to keep.

Q. What happened to it, or, where is it going?

A. The UC takes it back, and redistributes it. So, there’s no longer any guarantee that a department will get to keep any extras. In the “good times,” I guess you could say we got to keep it. Even last year, for ’08-’09, when we knew that things were looking bad, we were lucky enough to be able to keep our extras. This year, we’re counting on not keeping it.

Q. Are the UC budget cuts affecting the Veterans Services portion of your job?

A. Only 50% of my salary [Program Coordinator for UCI Center for Service in Action] is funded for Veterans Services. That comes out of the UC budget. For some reason, that aspect of my job is funded through Judicial Affairs, for whatever reason, I don’t know. Maybe the Veterans position was originally allocated to them? So, that is where half of my salary comes from.

The only money we get from the VA to do all of this is a stipend that pays $7 per file that I process. So, for every given person… okay, when I work on your file, I am only given $7, and that is to be used for ‘professional development.’ We get it in one lump sum, technically, at the end of the year, for the previous calendar year, but it doesn’t really come in until March.

Q. So, you could potentially spend several hours, or a whole workday on a single file, and the VA is only going to pay you $7 for that whole file? That’s less than $1 an hour!

A. That generally checks out to about $8800 a year, paid by the VA for all of this work. However, the intent for that funding is not to do the work, but for “professional development,” like going to conferences and other stuff.

Q. How many people in the Center for Service in Action actually does VA related work?

A. Just me and my boss. Her position isn’t funded to do the work, but she’s well versed in it because she actually used to hold the position I am in now. But, she hasn’t actually worked on VA files in the last two years, or so. She’s caught up on some of the newer procedures, like the Post-9/11 GI Bill, but she doesn’t do any of the applications and filing [certifications to the VA]. When I’m not available, she can do some of the advising, but I generally have more of the answers for the VA students.

Q. How have the cuts affected the rest of the non-veterans related personnel in the office? Have there been cuts in positions, increased workloads, and longer hours to complete a day’s work?

A. I haven’t experienced an increase in work because of the cuts, but because of the Post-9/11 GI Bill, which includes more work than before. My work takes a little bit more time to track and file, and because there are only two in the department working to help veterans, it’s hard to make a cut there as opposed to other places. In the department, most of the “layoffs” are not real layoffs, but just a decision that those positions vacated by transfers will not be refilled. So, those old positions won’t open up, and there won’t be new hires. That has actually happened a lot in our department, and we have a lot of empty positions. Some people now have a staff of two people, instead of the usual four.

Q. Have the UC budget cuts affected any of your VA students? Are there any specific ways a veteran student might be impacted differently than a regular student not receiving VA educational benefits?

A. Yes, and no. In terms of the UC budget, there was never any money for the veterans specifically. There are some conferences this year that Student Veterans of America put on. This would be their third year, and our students have gone each of the last two years on funding provided by the Student Affairs. Usually, Student Affairs splits the cost with our department to send the students to the conference. This year, we won’t be able to help fund interested students for conferences and travel.

Q. In August, there was a delay for veterans receiving Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits because of terminology differences between the VA and UC. Was the holdup due to the VA, or UC, and what was the issue?

A. Both. The part that the VA caused… we couldn’t submit paperwork [GI Bill certifications] because we had to put ‘tuition and fees’ as part of the electronic submission. If the UC fees [for ‘09-’10] were not finalized, we would not be allowed, by the VA, to put in approximate fees. The proposed budget was not a finalized fee, and could potentially change. The VA wanted to know the actual fees charged, and since they weren’t finalized, we couldn’t put them in.

[Here, Adeli is referring to the state budget being passed in mid July. At the time, the VA was not accepting the UC’s bill because of terminology differences, and because the UC per-unit fee had not, at that time, been finalized.]

Q. How did these issues affect VA students? Did this delay your work and your ability to submit the new Post-9/11 GI Bill claims for your VA students?

A. It did back it up. My goal originally was to finish and submit the applications by July 6th. Since I was going on vacation on July 21st, my goal was to submit everything that had been turned in [GI Bill certifications] before I left. Because of everything, this obviously didn’t happen. When I came back two weeks later, it still hadn’t been finalized.

The holdup was in the terminology. Everywhere else [different states] uses ‘tuition and fees,’ but we use the term ‘education and fees.’ Because of that different distinction, the UC had to go back and change everything. They basically redid whatever legal stuff to change the terminology for the VA. When they were finally able to change the terminology, then they were able to finalize with the real numbers.

[Because of the budget impasse, Adeli was unable to submit the GI Bill certifications in July. Waiting for the UC to finalize per unit fees and fix terminologies meant that GI Bill certifications were not even submitted until September. Thus, the certifications for veterans in UC were parked at the end of the long, national backlog at the VA.]

At this time, Adeli went into great detail describing the process by which she submits the paperwork for every veteran’s Post-9/11 GI Bill certification. She talked about the two different online programs that she uses to connect with the VA, and the quarterly process for certifying student veterans’ classes so that they can receive their benefits and allowances on time.

Today, a majority of UCI’s veterans have not been paid, and might not see that money (and backpay) until December. With UCI granted deferments on tuition, many veterans are cutting classes, working overtime, and expanding their debt to make temporary ends meet. And though the overlying responsibility for delay rests squarely on the backs of senior officials at the Veterans Affairs, late summer squabbles in Sacramento played no small part in further delaying the benefits certification and submission process.

“That,” said Adeli, “is the domino effect from the state budget crisis.”

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Got A Letter In The Mail

by The Usual Suspect

No, not that one. The other one. The one from the VA.

It was in a manilla envelop with a stack of double sided pages stapled together. It features phrases like "compensation" and "direct deposit" and "post traumatic stress disorder" and a disability rating of 30%. That's something like $370.00 every month. Definitely a start.

Thank you all at the VA. Now let's talk about that direct deposit. I got bills.

It's One oh Two

by 13 Stoploss


I hate not sleeping. This thing just doesn’t shut off, damn perpetual tick tock racket inside my head. I’ve been sick since Saturday, and for the last three nights, I dipped not in spirit, instead relying on drowsy, sick pills that work too slow. Tonight, with half a dose remaining, they don’t work at all.

My stomach grumbles, and I’ve been munching like a stoner. No more chips. The 12 Grain Mini-Snack Crackers are all that’s left. They’re loaded with Inulin, a prebiotic fiber that supports the digestive tract. Water is stale and tastes like sick. My eyes bleed a winking daze, weary and restless from several sickness-induced day naps.

Stop thinking.

Stop thinking.

Turn off.

If I find Benadryl, I’ll surely be unable to get up in six hours when it’s time to take the boy to school. If I don’t, I’ll surely be awake another two. Maybe three.

Reading doesn’t help. I’m trying to turn off.

I don’t want Bourbon, or Rum, or Wine. I want sweet, peaceful, easy sleep.

And some chips and salsa. Or nachos. Greasy gas station or ballpark kind where the cheese broils in a festering rot of itself in a thick pan over a stove. And a Root Beer.

I probably should not have had that cup of coffee this afternoon.

Feels like High School all over again.

No trazodone.

Just need to shut off by myself.

-------------------------

*Continuation

It's twelve twenty-nine.

At seven thirty-six, an audibly blurred line of goodbyes and I love you's fluttered upstairs like a butterfly floating through a violent concerto wind.

Had I dreamt that?

It had rained all night, and a medicated dizziness circled my half-open eyes. My lips were parsed, and ears plugged.

The door slammed shut. The garage door automated itself downward, grinding and vibrating and falling.

Then, it was eight fifty-two, and all was quiet, except Dennis Bartel's talk on Tittle-Tattle and Antonin Dvorak.

The drugs don't put me to sleep, but they keep me asleep--and that isn't the issue.

--------------------

It's twelve forty-three, with two and a half more pages.

Still dizzy.

Taco Tuesday with tri-tip asada becomes leftover Wednesday.

And, I think I want to be CJ Chivers. Or, to do what my Journalism instructor and his photographer do.

I get jittery when I have caffeine after ten oh oh. So, I won't.


Saturday, October 10, 2009

The Walking Dead

by The Usual Suspect

I wanted out. I wanted out bad, and I got it. Started chomping down on the fruits of freedom, til my eyes grew wide and I retched, maggots, worms, and rot at the core. This heart is healthy, no one's firing guns around here or setting off bombs.

Maybe we thought that something magical was going to happen when we got out. You know, the President lands on your lawn to shake your hand, have a beer and tell a couple dirty jokes, then salute and fly off, loudly complimenting your gi-fucking-normous balls of adamantine. Then you drop off a resume. ONE resume. It lands on the desk and sends the shrapnel of all other bullshit flying. The guy interviewing you hires you on the spot (this actually did eventually happen to me, well...I got hired on the spot, but we'll get to that), the pay is good, the work gratifying, THE AMERICAN MOTHERFUCKIN' DREAM finally handed over.

Now I know that no one is entitled to everything and there is no such thing as easy street. Just stop making it fucking SOUND like the Army will make the rest of our lives perfect.

I'm a dishwasher. I wash dishes. I stand up all day and wash dishes, and I watch them come right back to me like a boomerang. My feet and knees and back begin to hurt, and I spend 20 minutes scrubbing, spraying, and contemplating going out to my car and getting a pair of desert boots to wear. And that's when I spend the next hour washing more dishes and thinking about Iraq. Thinking about the guys. Wondering if my unit is back in Iraq or not. Where, or what they're doing, how they're doing. And then I remember how it was for me when I was in their boots. I was worlds away, kicking it with guys I loved, pissing and moaning about the rigors and bullshit of our job, but on some kind of adventure nonetheless. And I didn't want to talk to people back home. I didn't want the pain. I didn't want the questions, I DAMN sure didn't want all the concern. I didn't want to think about home. They don't have time to be missed. They need to have their head in the game.

Friends from before the Army lose touch, they change, or just never cared as much as you let yourself believe they did. You start to see the selfishness in everything. Everyone. When you feel like a stranger around everyone you know, you start to feel isolated. Then it turns into anger or depression, back and forth. Self-loathing, hatred for everyone on the road. Someone throws trash out of their window and it hits mine. I want to chase him down and pull him out of his car and stuff the paper in his mouth. Then I let off the gas and exhale.

"Just be yourself" doesn't apply when your SELF isn't appropriate for normal people. The chasm grows wider. Then you start sending resumes out to private military companies. Toying with the idea of making some insane money and playing soldier-boy again. But if it was the right answer, every vet would be doing it.

You don't get a response anyway.

So the days come and go, and you deal with the VA here and there. Go to appointments, answer questions, whatever, and then you go back to your life (see you in a month). You go home and look at your pill collection. Anti-anxiety pills. Little ones that dissolve under your tongue for rapid deployment to stem off those pesky panic attacks. Oh, and these ones here are for nausea. Those ones on the right were from a minor injury. Good for treating inflamed joints and muscles. And THESE, these are the pills that the achievers just love. These are your A.D.Dipshit pills and when one of those NORMAL people take them, they get tweaked son, fuck yeah, they can study ALL night AND clean EVERYTHING AND THEY LOOK GREAT CUZ THEY DON'T EAT! Consult your doctor if you have any heart or psychological conditions.

"You live in a college town. Why not sell them?"

1) It's illegal and I hate even INTANGIBLE forms of confinement.

2) Half the fucks dumb enough to take any pill to get fucked up are dumb enough to find a way to to screw up royally.

3) I don't WANT those assholes studying like cyborgs and getting kickass grades. Future leaders of the world all fucking tweaked out. Then the cocksuckers will send my kids off to a war that they'll later admit was "poorly planned". Fuck you. Drop out and wash dishes.

Oh, and here's some antidepressants. They only work if you take them EVERYDAY....EVERYDAY.....EVERYDAY....EVERYDAY....EVERYDAY. You have to have it in your blood constantly.

"Well Suspect, this generally goes unsaid but you could try *other* *alternative* *natural* *herbal* *appetite-stimulating* *medicine*."

1) This state does not list PTSD or any form of anxiety as criteria for medical marijuana.

2) It's only legal on the state level. If for ANY reason, Federal Government wanted to, they'd be able to raid my place. Throw me in prison. "Not so hungry now, are ya Suspect? Three hots, a cot, and a nice big teddy bear for a cellmate." Probation. That means piss tests. Remember those, army kids?

3) What about MORE IMPORTANT things, like bills, food, rent?

"Duh, Suspect, you can just grow your o-"

Hold the motherfuckin phone a second. A grow operation. Felony? I heard it's a felony.

[TAKE YOUR PILLS, I'LL SEE YOU IN THE MORNING.]

4) If you're a REGISTERED POTSMOKER, will they allow you to own a gun? [Hahaha, he said ALLOW, like people are property, that's funny!]


Yeah. Oh well. Alcohol is legal. I can walk across the street and get beer or wine. A few more blocks if I want liquor. That's a nice time-honored method of decompressing. I see commercials now and then. Oh fuck! There was a game today! At the college! that I dropped out of. They advocate alcohol consumption at those. Maybe I'll get shit-faced and look at some pictures of me and my buddies while I clean my gun.

[I don't know how to type the sound that a scoff makes.]

Yeah, no booze for me, thankyouverymuch. I hear its a DEPRESSant. I hear bad things can happen. I hear it's involved in a lot of deaths and accidents and domestic disturbances. KEEP ON ENCOURAGING THAT SHIT, AND TiVO "COPS" FOR ME! I AIN'T GOT CABLE!

"Dude, quit fucking crying and play your guitar or something. Oh, ha, wait, I forgot that your power flickers on and off all day. Ha!"


Too long? Didn't read?

The Army told me I'd be back in six months if I got out. That the real world just wasn't right for us anymore. That we couldn't handle it. I said "Bullshit, man. Not me. It'll never happen to me. Nothing can happen to me now, everything from here on out is going to be ok."

The Universe is trying to prove me wrong. To this, I say, "Present....arms!"


If Iraq didn't kill me, the "American Dream" sure as fuck won't.
















(The STUD in the photograph is wearing a mask so that the entire female population doesn't fall in love with the same guy. -Management)

Monday, October 5, 2009

Interview

by 13 Stoploss



So, I'm interviewing this guy for a character sketch in class, and hopefully to submit for the school paper. Anything you want to know?

Sunday, October 4, 2009

The Story

by 13 Stoploss

I have an opportunity to submit some work to a publication through my Journalism major at school. I decided to go back over some of the first work I did at 13stoploss.com, deciding to re-rewrite some old material. As some of you may not be familiar with my story, I thought now might be an appropriate time to get you acquainted. Here is part 1:

On the evening of March 7, 2003, I led my wife out the front door of our small three-bedroom home, up our slightly sloped driveway, and into the middle of two empty, intersecting streets that met into a perfect, perpendicular cross at our driveway. The asphalt beneath my toes was cool, and jagged. The distant streetlamps were blown out like matches in the cruel wind, and the twinkling stars that shone through the streaking clouds above provided the only light. The air was crisp and the night was quiet, like the stillness of an early morning pond. It seemed that normal life in our usually bustling neighborhood had ceased to exist—for the week that led to this night, cars were not driven, children did not go outside to play, and wives refused to leisure in the gardens of their half-empty homes. We lived in an off-base neighborhood dominated by military families, and I was the last to leave.

With my wife’s hand in mine, I pointed into the sky at whatever recognizable but unknowable groups of stars were visible above us. Robyn turned to look into my eyes; I told her when she was unbearably lonely at night, and missed me, to look into the sky at the stars we saw at that moment. I wanted her to know that when she looked into the sky, I would be doing the same, from the other side of the world. After a few solemn and wordless moments with her hand in mine, I led her back down the slightly sloped driveway, and into our small three-bedroom home. I finished my half-empty rum and coke, and went to bed with my wife at my side, thinking silently, and despairingly of the following morning.

Saturday, March 8, 2003, is the morning I left for Iraq. My bags were packed into our only car—an old hand-me-down from the in-laws that had been towed from California to Kentucky by an even older motor home. My hair was freshly cut; my sideburns were expertly trimmed; my face was scraped clean by an old razor, and I took the last hot shower I would know for months. Out of the shower, I rechecked that I had everything: my dry-cleaned and pressed Desert Combat Uniform rested carefully on the dresser, with my tan boots sitting neatly on the ground below. As was the grunt custom, not knowing the next chance to change underwear, I did without them. I had my government issued ID card, my identification and red allergy tags, my Army Values card, and my Humvee license inside my left breast pocket. Most importantly, I had my most cherished memento, a scotch-tape laminated piece of paper with a pencil-drawn, stick figure portrait of my family smiling in front of our small, three-bedroom home. I was as physically ready as possible to leave love and life behind for the uncertainty and horrors of war. Mentally, none of it yet seemed real.

We drove onto post through Gate Six, past the run-down billeting for the families of the junior-enlisted. Every door was shut; every window and curtain was closed. Deer wandered the deserted streets, picking at the grass in the front yards and doorsteps of empty homes whose wives had left for the company of family in other places. An invisible but stale air of absence glided over the fingertips of my outstretched hand through the passenger window. Continuing past the 2nd and 3rd Brigade gyms, and their empty parking lots, we saw no soldiers walking about, and no cars on the roads; it was like a ghost town until we drove into the 502nd Infantry parking lot.

There is no such thing as a goodbye when the deployment orders to war say “one-hundred and eighty days, to not less than three-hundred and sixty-five.” I knew that when I left, our dog would sit by the front door, moping, and awaiting my non-return. She always hated when I packed the big, green bags, and left for a week or more at a time. Deployments aren't just one day leaving for a year. Most people are amiss that the summer and winter before the deployment were spent in training, not knowing when, but preparing for when anyway. Usually, we were gone for a week at a time, every other week for months. Occasionally, we came home for weekends, drank until we passed out, then left again early the next Monday for more training.

Later that evening, Headquarters Company and Bravo Company 2/502 Infantry flew out of Campbell Army Airfield on a commercial 737, enduring a one-stop, seventeen-hour flight to Kuwait International Airport. On the evening of March 9, 2003, at Camp New York, in the Kuwaiti desert, I looked into the sky, seeing the same recognizable but unknowable constellations that I saw from my own street two nights previous. They looked contorted and upside down from the other side of the globe. I thought of my wife, wondering how she would get through the next year without me. Had she looked into the sky the way I was at that moment? It had only been two days in our eighteen-month young marriage, and it would be another ten days before I crossed the border into Iraq.

The war had begun.

* * *

In the summer of 2002, I graduated from the 13F Advanced Individual Training (AIT) at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, and reported to my first duty assignment at the 101st Airborne (Air Assault), Fort Campbell, Kentucky. Eager to make a good first impression, I focused on the little details I was told in training that a good soldier should be. My hair was short, and trimmed to a nice medium fade. You could literally floss your teeth in the mirror black polish on my boots. My Battle Dress Uniform (BDU) was skillfully pressed, and my de-fuzzed beret was worn with the air and confidence of a grizzled veteran. I studied the training and field manuals (FM, TM) for my Military Occupational Specialty (MOS), and although apprehensive, was excited to meet my platoon.

That summer, the 82nd Airborne was fighting in Afghanistan. Consequently, the surplus Artillery ammunition for training originally allocated to them was redirected to the 101st, in an effort to quickly train up for the possibility of going to war in Iraq. We spent that summer in the field, calling fire, qualifying with our weapons, and performing various field-training exercises (FTX) with both the Infantry and Artillery. Our Brigade shot more artillery rounds that summer than they had in the previous decade.

The pace didn’t slow down that winter; we continued to train in the field through rain and snow. During the Brigade Field Training Exercise (BDE FTX), I missed my first anniversary, an unfortunate event that occurred annually. I also got my Air Assault Wings after successfully completing the Army’s Joe Sabalauski Air Assault School. In February came days of snow mixed with days of eighty-degree temperatures. War-mongering assholes left and right were scaring us into the mood of expecting an impending deployment announcement. Of course, we were all aware of Saddam’s actions on the international front, and the puffed up words of our commander “America 6.” Still, it was a shock when CNN broke word that the famous 101st Airborne had been ordered to deploy to Southwest Asia.

That evening, close of business formation (COB) was a huge let down. A whole Battery of Joe’s were sunken into despair, while senior NCO’s were parading around with their heads held high, excited for the chance to blitz into battle. Conversely, what a funny, faggot-liberal, hippie Californian I was to cherish life! The formation was a wreckitude of false “hooah.” We would all be hitting the bottle that night, afraid of the realization of our worst fears. We walked away with our heads low, distracted by thoughts young men full of ambition and a full life ahead of them should never face. It had nothing to do with confidence in our skills and abilities and training. The war just didn’t feel right, and none of us was prepared to selflessly lay down our lives for an unjust war in Iraq.

Before driving home that night, I walked upstairs from the formation into the barracks with a buddy. He was a veteran of a six-month deployment to Kosovo the year previous, and knew the rigors and demands that would be asked of us. On any given day of the week, the barracks would normally be teeming with drunken noise. Down the dirty tiled third-floor hall, music would blast from open doors. Halo LAN-parties would extend from room to room in celebration of another day of shamming. But on the night of the day we were alerted, the mood was unusually subdued. Bottles of Jim Beam were not being passed around—everyone had his own. My friend walked over to his stereo with his two Bose loudspeakers, and dug through his book of CD’s. He pulled out an old favorite, and said: "Dude, we’re gonna fucking die.

Generals gathered in their masses

Just like witches at black masses

Evil minds that plot destruction

Sorcerers of deaths construction

In the fields the bodies burning

As the war machine keeps turning

Death and hatred to mankind

Poisoning their brainwashed minds, oh lord yeah!

Warcry Of The Day

by The Usual Suspect

HA! We didn't retreat, you assholes! We went back and got more ammo!

That means:

Give it all ya got, replenish, and do it again.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Different Backpack

by The Usual Suspect

I decided to empty my Stereotypical Veteran Sand Colored Assault Pack/Backpack (not camo) before using it, having last used it to move from one dwelling to another. Inside, I found a brand new pair of Army issue gloves (the kind to be worn while on mission), a seven inch KA-BAR knife, and a video camera.

Not the best load-out to be stopped by the fuzz with. I'm a white adult male. This screams "serial killer".

Thursday, October 1, 2009

The Solitary Weaper

by 13 Stoploss



In my poetry class this morning, we were contemplating William Wordsworth and his Preface to Lyrical Ballads. In it, he professes, in no simpleton language, to defend his rhythmic compositions. Supposedly, he wrote in a style that was accessible to the common folk, but with a colour of imagination. A paradox, no doubt…

As an example, we read The Solitary Reaper.

BEHOLD her, single in the field,

Yon solitary Highland Lass!

Reaping and singing by herself;

Stop here, or gently pass!

Alone she cuts and binds the grain,

5

And sings a melancholy strain;

O listen! for the Vale profound

Is overflowing with the sound.

No Nightingale did ever chaunt

More welcome notes to weary bands

10

Of travellers in some shady haunt,

Among Arabian sands:

A voice so thrilling ne'er was heard

In spring-time from the Cuckoo-bird,

Breaking the silence of the seas

15

Among the farthest Hebrides.

Will no one tell me what she sings?—

Perhaps the plaintive numbers flow

For old, unhappy, far-off things,

And battles long ago:

20

Or is it some more humble lay,

Familiar matter of to-day?

Some natural sorrow, loss, or pain,

That has been, and may be again?

Whate'er the theme, the Maiden sang

25

As if her song could have no ending;

I saw her singing at her work,

And o'er the sickle bending;—

I listen'd, motionless and still;

And, as I mounted up the hill,

30

The music in my heart I bore,

Long after it was heard no more.


Simple enough, I guess. But if you really examine it, it sounds like Wordsworth the rich elitist was wandering the Scottish countryside, pausing to leisurely gawk at some exotic worker girl in the field. I tried several ways to spin it, to make some sense of it. I imagined myself mowing the lawn at my old house, and some rich guy driving up in a Benz and parking across the street to monitor my progress. Somehow, that just seemed a bit too creepy for comfort.

Finally though, the poem brought back another thought, unshakeable, though I tried, a remembrance from a time when I was a PFC radio bitch, trudging through the sticks and reeds of the Baghdad canal system. With the walled city-proper in the distance, and nothing but farms of dirt surrounding either side of the canal, our death-march into the city started early in the morning, and ended past sun down. We had no food; we were low on water; and Joe was dropping out left and right, while the Battalion Commander’s HUMVEE kicked up dust into our dry mouths and eyes, speeding back and forth between Companies on the advance.

A quiet, solitary voice rang out in the ranks behind me: “Mas’a’s got me workin’…

It was weary, but grew in confidence for every new line: “Workin’ all da-ayyy…

I don’t remember the full verse, or the many ad-libs it contained from jokesters chiming in, but it came to resemble the feeling of the day: we were walking aimlessly, through the middle of the fucking desert, past farmers and fields and streams. We were hungry, seemingly abandoned, and until that moment, painfully silent in our shared misery.

It was a hymn that stuck in our minds for the rest of the evening, and I wished to have observed, from the eyes of a bystander, what it must have looked like, that dozens of overgrown children in tan clothes and boots, with oversized helmets, and black, mechanical extensions for hands, were walking like zombies, eyes glazed and lifeless, but singing a lonely slave song from the American south.

For the rest of the morning, I thought of that day. The poor donkey towing a wooden trailer full of loot from Saddam’s Palace. The trail of chintzy, shattered crystal from a chandelier that fell from the back. Urinating into the Euphrates from a Bridge twenty-five feet above the surface of the water. In a sense, I felt that loneliness and despair once again. Instantly, I lost connection with my surroundings, and shut down. Class was over, and I had ten minutes to eat my lunch.