Kori Peterson is an activist. She’s a pro-life Christian, a conservative, and a defender of the Constitution and veterans.
But she’s likely to gain notoriety for another reason: Her transgender father.
Peterson is highlighting the apparent double standard by the Veterans Administration, which is assisting her father in his transition to looking and sounding like a woman while other veterans cannot even get appointments for severe problems such as post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD.
One such case is Shawn Lee, a combat veteran who suffered a traumatic brain injury from an improvised explosive device and now has memory and balance issues and seizures.
While Peterson explains her father’s rhinoplasty and vocal cord surgery are being handled through the VA so that he can have his dream of looking and sounding more feminine, Lee notes he is facing a barrage of obstacles for treatment, including, “You need to fill out a form to fill out a form.”
Lee’s combat missions with the 101st Airborne Division in Afghanistan have been described as a constant gun battle. One report said Lee and his comrades “got so used to the warzone that they felt most at home during active fight.”
But since then he’s been called a hypochondriac, and his requests for help have been denied. He works now with a service dog to warn him of a pending seizure, and is battling memory problems.
He said the PTSD makes him feel like he is always under threat, and that produces an anxiety. He wishes for just a little bit of help from the VA to continue his return to health.
Meanwhile, the VA is embroiled in controversy all across the nation. There are those huge salaries and even bonuses to managers who created lists where patients would be put with no apparent hope of seeking a physician.
Some veterans even died while awaiting their appointments with the VA, officials said.
That treatment apparently is for those veterans.
Others find the system more accommodating.
“My dad has believed his whole life that he is really a woman,” said Kori Peterson. “He currently has appointments for a rhinoplasty (a nose job) and a vocal cord surgery, all provided by the VA. Now my understanding is that the VA doesn’t do the gender reassignment surgery … so he has an appointment with a surgeon … through Medicare on July 1 to talk about his genital reassignment surgery.”
“The priorities are a little off here,” said Peterson. “You’ve got these guys who have been on waiting lists forever and so many of them losing their lives as they wait perpetually. And then you have, it seems, like these things that should not be prioritized are being prioritized over life and death situations.”
Taxpayers apparently will foot the bill one way or the other – either through the Veterans Administration, or through Medicare.
“The Transgendered Identity Disorder diagnosis is a new thing, but my dad has been getting his hormone replacement (from the Veterans Administration) … since his diagnosis,” remarked Peterson.
Lee describes his own situation as “a common tale.”
“I have seizures … but I have had no continuity of care, and I have had no quality of care. I had a new doctor every two weeks. At one point I was put in a … chemically induced coma and I was life-flighted to Vanderbilt University. I was in that coma for about two days, and when I got back the command had revoked my driving privileges and so I had to ride my bike along the post to my primary care manager appointment where my doctor told me that because the EEG of my head had come back[showing] that I didn’t have any epilepsy, so I had faked the seizure that had put me in the coma.”
He continued, “I have psychogenic seizures, according to the rating, but nothing has actually been decided as to why I started biting my tongue off every month or so.”
Peterson thanks Lee for his service and for her freedom. She thinks Lee has been pushed in favor of patients like her dad due to mixed-up priorities.
She learned about 12 years ago that her dad was cross-dressing, right before her wedding. She said her emotions have run the gamut, from sympathy to heartbreak, to grief.
“It was kind of an elephant in the room that no one ever talked about, but he knew that I knew,” Peterson said. He would disappear and re-appear, but as she got more comfortable over the last few years, he was invited to her son’s birthday party.
At the end of the party, her 60-something father lingered and told her that he was very pleased to have been diagnosed with Transgender Identity Disorder, because that would mean he could get the sex-change surgery that he had always wanted funded by the Veterans Administration and Medicare.
The VA policy says that “medically necessary care is provided to enrolled or otherwise eligible intersex and transgender veterans, including hormonal therapy, mental health care, preoperative evaluation, and medically necessary post-operative and long-term care following sex reassignment surgery. Sex reassignment surgery cannot be performed or funded by VA.”
Peterson said she doesn’t know if there is guilt on the part of her father about the VA’s “mixed up priorities.”
“His mindset is such that, if you don’t agree with him and embrace what he believes and where he is, then you are just flat out wrong,” he said.
Her father asked her to publicly advocate for transgendered bathrooms in public places, because he sees himself as victim, she said.
“It seems very narcissistic. All they see is themselves,” said Peterson.
Meanwhile, Lee waits. He has no treatment for his seizures, he continues to fill out forms, and he is out of a career – because of the seizures he says he suffers due to combat.
“Can’t really have a machine gun and have a seizure,” he said.
He continues to be tossed from doctor to doctor, with no real regard for what seems to be a worsening disorder with all associated side effects like memory loss and emotional trauma.
“The doctors are immune from the courts because they were either working for the Army or the Department of Veterans Affairs,” he said.
Short-term, problems remain, he said.
But long-term, Lee said he has decided to go to law school so that he can represent other veterans like himself, and he is currently working an internship with a prosecutor’s office in Jefferson City, Missouri, about 30 miles from his law school.
He says that many in his position who have seen combat and were injured during their duties don’t fare as well as he has.
“They didn’t acclimate as well as I did. They started having problems, getting into trouble. And a lot of them, instead of receiving treatment … substance abuse treatment, TBI treatment… they were punished for their trouble. Kicked out of the military and denied benefits,” he said.
“I am going to law school and I am going to represent these people. I have the unique, inside perspective to what is really going on,” he said.