Why I Support Claire: Terri from Imperial, MO
Tuesday, July 3, 2012
Cutting through bureaucratic red tape is never easy. Terri Odom, a 47-year-old veteran from Imperial, MO, is living proof — having spent two decades wrangling with the Department of Veterans Affairs to approve necessary procedures. But four years ago, Terri contacted Claire’s office for help, and the roadblocks quickly disappeared.
Last week Terri had the latest in a string of dental surgeries to replace rows of teeth she lost years ago.
“I was having difficulty with the Department of Veteran Affairs just taking very, very long with their services connected to the disability claim,” Terri said. “I contacted Claire’s office, and that same day got a phone call from one of her staffers.”
Within two days, Terri had the proper forms in her hands, and within three weeks her case was moving forward at an appropriate speed.
“Thanks to her and her staff I was able to receive medical treatment and mental health care,” Terri said. “In a way, she literally saved my life. I was really struggling. I had fought for almost 20 years to get these benefits, and — until she became our Senator — I was getting absolutely nowhere.”
Born in Bonne Terre and now living with her son in Imperial, Terri has lived in Missouri all of her civilian life. She joined the military when she was 17 — the day after she finished high school — and served in both the Army and Navy. After seven years of service, Terri was honorably discharged from the Navy in 1989 after becoming a victim of military sexual trauma (MST). Among her injuries, Terri had many of her teeth knocked out.
“I don't want to go into a nasty story, but this is the first time in over 20 years that I've had teeth,” Terri said. “It's a unique experience to have teeth again, and every time I feel my teeth, the first person that pops into my mind is Senator McCaskill. Without her I wouldn't have these teeth.”
In the Senate, Claire worked to fix this problem so that victims get the support they need on base and off. Claire was able to work with the military to increase access to counseling services for victims of MST, strengthened the military's system of Sexual Assault Response Coordinators and Victim Advocates, and made it easier for victims to seek justice in court.
“She did many hearings on rape in the military, and she basically said just because you're in the military does not give you a free get out of jail free pass,” Terri said. “She's been very outspoken. She gets it, and she understands that it’s a crime.”
In addition to Claire’s work to combat MST, Terri touted Claire’s leadership in the Arlington National Cemetery headstone scandal.
“She came up against the Department of Defense, which is never going to be an easy task — and she didn't ask — she demanded that it be corrected.” Terri said. “One body unidentified was too many, but there was thousands, and she bit the bullet.”
Terri credits Claire for being “first on the scene” for the Arlington scandal and praises her leadership on the Senate Armed Services Committee.
“I'm extremely proud of what she's done for all Missourians, but what she's done for veterans is over the top,” Terri said. “I respect the legislator — that she's willing to challenge and take on the topics that people don't want to talk about.”