I have a couple of ongoing prescriptions with the VA. To refill them, I can either mail in a refill request, and they will mail the medicines back, or I can drive 40-something miles to my nearest VA facility and ask for a refill … which they will then mail to me. Apparently, the VA is convinced every one of us troops enlisted circa the Spanish American war and needs to maintain its services at a technical level we can understand.
Our generation invented the computer, ya know.
Anyway, I was perusing the forty or fifty thermal printed sheets of instructions and warnings and side effects that come with every prescription these days because, Lord Knows, we can’t figure out that taking an entire bottle of digitalis with a half quart of vodka might be detrimental, when I noted there was an option to the Post Office refill system: refill online. Really? You mean, there’s a 21st century solution? My goodness, what’s next, bandages and drugs instead of leeches and poultices?
So I go to the recommended VA website which is very happy that I am there and asks me to login with my VA credentials, which I can’t remember. No problem, hit ‘forgot username’ and that very much pleased the site and they said, Great! In order to retrieve it, use your DS Logon.
For those of you uninitiated in the ways of military administration, the DS Logon is the single most complicated, irrational, incomprehensible and downright evil means ever devised for accessing military sites, especially those containing personal or personnel information. Like your pay and benefits. DS stands for “Defense Self-Service ” which already clues you about the overthinking involved. The DoD is so terrified someone will gain unauthorized access to a veteran’s information that they make it nigh on impossible to do so. It’s easier to break into Ft. Knox than log into your own account.
First, there’s the user name. Which you would think would be easy, but there’s lots of people who have served in the military and there’s lots of similarity in names. In my unfortunate case, my Dad and I both served and I am named after him, the only separation of our two identities being “Jr.” Which DS Logon does not recognize. When I first established my account, you have no idea how long it took me to convince the Pentagon computer system I wasn’t some nefarious Nazi spy trying to obtain information on a WW2 veteran who died 20 years ago. Ve vill get back that Luger you took during the Battle of the Bulge, American! Finally, it compared the differences in our service numbers, which I had to provide from his old records and relented. Then it asked for a password.
The DS Logon password is a cruel and hateful string of nonsensical letters numbers symbols whathaveyou that bear no logic nor ability to memorize. It’s akin to the symbols you see above a cartoon character’s head to simulate profanity. The password has to be sixteen characters long, cannot contain a recognizable word or sequence, and must have some capital letters and the aforementioned numbers and symbols. And you have to type it out twice before it gets accepted. And it changes every six months.
Guess how long it’s been since I’ve logged on?
So, yeah, password expired, so I have to log on with the old one to get a new one. Fortunately, I wrote the old one down and entered it … and got rejected. Several times, almost to the ‘permanent lockout’ point, so I said ‘figidabowdit’ and hit ‘forgot password.’
First thing DS wanted, my username, So I provided it. “Wait a minute … that’s the name of a WW2 veteran who passed 20 years ago! Are you a Nazi spy?”
Oh, Lordy. A few iterations later, it finally went, “Oh, THAT D Krauss. Alright, let’s answer your security questions.”
DS security questions are not the conventional ones you expect, like your Mom’s maiden name and the name of your first pet. Oh no. They’re along the lines of, “What is the compression ratio of a rebuilt 1967 Dodge Charger?” “Who was the first member of the Moldavan royal family?” and “What was your Dad’s third assignment after his first release from active duty?” So there are real answers to these questions, not ones you just type in, and DS knows. It knows. So, after some research, I was able to answer the ones they asked me. And, glory hallelujah, I got to change my password.
Except the nonsensical sixteen characters I selected were suspiciously close to a previous password I used about seven years ago, so no go. Since they are all nonsensical, there is no way to know what you used before, so I changed my mental algorithm to something never used before and came up with a series that passed muster. Immediately wrote it down because it’s not possible to memorize. So I’m in.
Great! VA says. What took you so long? Whatever, you can now access the VA site. Which I did. Great! Good to see you! To verify you are who you say you are, use your DS Logon to proceed.
Grumble, grumble, grumble, there. First use of new password.
Good, great! Do you want to see your prescriptions? You do? Well, use your DS Logon to access it!
Nonsensical symbols floating above my head like a cartoon character, then logged on again with only one mishap that caused the US to go into Defcon 3 and threatened me with a drone strike if I got the password wrong again. So I was real careful.
So you want us to renew your prescriptions? Great! Guess what you have to do?
Five. More. Times. Before I got the renewal confirmed. Expecting a drone strike at any moment.
Next time, I’m just driving over there.