Showing posts with label other than honorable discharge. Show all posts
Showing posts with label other than honorable discharge. Show all posts

Monday, September 20, 2021

100,000 LGBT veterans get justice

There have been a lot of reports over the years about veterans committing suicide. What the reporters leave out, among many, is the fact that if you are not "honorably" discharged, you are not counted as a veteran on anything. The news that LGBTQ+ are having other than honorable discharges changed, is a blessing, however, most of us are wondering what happens to the families when it is too late to honor the service of those who have committed suicide. What is justice for them?

The VA is aware of the problem these veterans have when they manage to get an honoranble discharge. LGBTQ+ Veteran Suicide Prevention proves that, but while today may seem like vindication for up to 100,000, what good does it do to those who are no longer alive because of the way they were treated?

What does justice look like for them?

Biden recognizes the 10th anniversary of 'don't ask, don't tell' repeal
Biden said that many of those veterans received what are known as “other than honorable” discharges, which excluded "them and their families from the vitally important services and benefits they had sacrificed so much to earn."

LGBT vets with other than honorable discharges will get VA benefits under new plan

Military Times
By Leo Shane III
September 17, 2021

Tens of thousands of LGBT veterans forced from the military for their sexual orientation and given other-than-honorable discharges will be able to receive full Veterans Affairs benefits despite their dismissal status under a new move set to be announced Monday.

The change comes as the country approaches the 10th anniversary of repeal of the controversial “don’t ask, don’t tell” law which forced nearly 14,000 service members out of the ranks for admitting their sexual orientation.

But the impact of the new VA announcement goes further than just those individuals, to potentially include troops who served before and after the law who may have been given bad performance reviews or intimidated into leaving the military because of their LGBT status.

Outside advocates estimate as many as 100,000 over the last 70 years may have been involuntarily separated from the military based on their sexual orientation. Data on how many received other-than-honorable discharges is not available.
read more here

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Over 400,000 veterans turned away from VA due to lack of guidance, oversight, and adequate training

Harvard Veterans Legal Clinic Contends VA Unlawfully Denies Health Care to Hundreds of Thousands of Veterans

Harvard Crimson
By Kelsey J. Griffin, Crimson Staff Writer
March 9, 2020

“By law, every person—regardless of military discharge status—has the right to apply for VA health care, to have VA consider that application on the merits, and to receive a written decision,” Veterans Legal Clinic Instructor Dana Montalto wrote in the press release.
Harvard Law School's veterans clinic recently released a report about the VA. By Karina G. Gonzalez-Espinoza

The Veterans Legal Clinic at Harvard Law School released a report Thursday contending the Department of Veteran Affairs has unlawfully turned away nearly half a million veterans seeking health care.

The report — titled “Turned Away: How VA Unlawfully Denies Health Care to Veterans with Bad Paper Discharges” — found that more than 400,000 veterans risk being rejected or dissuaded from applying to receive health care due to a lack of guidance, oversight, and adequate training within the VA.

“Many frontline staff at VA health care facilities have improperly turned away former servicemembers seeking health care, telling them that they are ineligible due to their military discharge statuses—without even allowing them to apply,” the report reads.

Those veterans, who have received less-than-honorable discharges, known as “bad paper discharges,” should in theory receive an individualized review by the VA to determine their eligibility for benefits.
“In many cases, veterans received ‘bad paper’ discharges because they were gay or lesbian, or because they have Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder or another mental health condition caused by their military service that led to actions resulting in their separation from the military,” the press release reads.
read it here

Sunday, March 8, 2020

TBI and PTSD aren't usually diagnosed until long after those other than honorable discharges are handed out

A new insult to veterans: Thousands are unlawfully being denied medical care | Vince Bzdek

The Gazette
Vince Bzdek
March 7, 2020
Just because a discharge is “other than honorable” doesn’t mean that a vet doesn't qualify for medical benefits, according to the VA’s own rules. But the new study by the Veterans Legal Clinic at Harvard Law School says the VA has unlawfully turned away thousands of veterans with other-than-honorable discharges because officials at the VA systematically misunderstood the law and didn’t review the vets’ applications properly.
A new study has discovered that the VA has unlawfully turned away thousands of veterans with other-than-honorable discharges because officials at the VA systematically misunderstood the law and didn’t review the vets’ applications properly. Associated Press file photo. Ted S. Warren
Veterans call it “bad paper.”

In a Pulitzer Prize-winning series of stories reported in 2013, The Gazette found that more soldiers than ever are receiving “bad paper”, which means they are receiving “other than honorable” discharges for some sort of misconduct ranging from drug use to insubordination.

The Gazette investigation, based on data obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, found that the annual number of misconduct discharges was up more than 25% Armywide since 2009. At the eight Army posts that house most of the service's combat units, including Fort Carson in Colorado Springs, misconduct discharges had surged 67%.

The Gazette discovered a Catch-22 about those discharges. Many “other than honorable” discharges stem from misconduct due to traumatic brain injuries received during service or to mental health issues caused by deployment. The problem is TBI and PTSD aren't usually diagnosed until long after those other than honorable discharges are handed out.
read it here

Saturday, January 4, 2020

Why is the Pentagon hiding number of other than honorable discharges?

Lawsuit: Pentagon Withholding Info From Veterans' Advocates

By The Associated Press
Jan. 3, 2020
Dana Montalto, a clinical instructor at Harvard Law School's Veterans Legal Clinic"...there are thousands of decisions going back at least 15 years. She said the lack of information hampers veterans' efforts to change their discharge statuses and to get more help." 

NORFOLK, Va. — A veterans group said the Pentagon has stopped releasing information that helps former service members to contest less-than-honorable discharges from the military.

The Defense Department has been breaking the law since April, according to a lawsuit filed Thursday in federal court in Virginia by the National Veterans Legal Services Program.

The group says it lacks access to decisions made by military review boards. The boards grant or deny a veteran's request to upgrade a less-than-honorable discharge. Veterans’ lawyers study those decisions in hopes of building successful arguments for their clients.

The lawsuit comes at a time of growing recognition that a less-than-honorable discharge can stem from behaviors brought on by post-traumatic stress disorder or traumatic brain injuries. Liberal consideration is supposed to be given to veterans with combat-related mental health conditions and to those who were sexually assaulted while in the military.
read it here

More on this subject is a great report on 'Bad Paper' Discharges Would Get Final Pentagon Review in Defense Bill

Who gets to decide if the service member can fight the discharge?
The bill states that the secretary of defense, upon receiving a petition from an individual whose upgrade request has been rejected, could order the service branch secretaries to grant the upgrade "if the Secretary of Defense determines that such recommendation is appropriate after review."
Notice the "could" instead of "must" or anything else that requires a review?

The report goes on to explain how many service members are being kicked out.

According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, more than 500,000 veterans currently have less-than-honorable discharges, and most of them cannot access VA medical care because of their discharge status.
And this part shows how many were kicked out instead of being helped to heal PTSD and TBI.

In a 2017 report, the Government Accountability Office said that 62% of the roughly 92,000 personnel separated for misconduct between fiscal 2011 and fiscal 2015 had been diagnosed with PTSD or TBI.

And all of that is because what happened to Vietnam veterans was repeated instead of corrected by the "grateful nation" all of them risked their lives to serve.

Vietnam-era soldiers eligible for discharge upgrades which came out in 2014. You'd think it would have been fixed by now...but then again, you'd have to think the someone was being held accountable.
PTSD was not recognized as a potential behavior altering medical condition until 1980, which means that disability claims and discharge upgrades based on claims of the condition routinely were denied by government agencies, to include the Army review boards.

Hagel's September instruction to the services followed by several months a federal court class action suit filed by a group veterans and the Vietnam Veterans of America that claims the military systematically denied discharge upgrade applications based on claims of PTSD.

The suit estimated that about one-third of the 250,000 other-than-honorable discharges issued to Vietnam era veterans may have been PTSD-related.

Monday, December 30, 2019

Did PTSD cause your discharge without honor?

'A scarlet letter': Veterans help their fellows overturn bad military discharges

Washington Examiner
by Russ Read
December 30, 2019
“The other than honorable discharge and less than honorable discharge is more punishment, it’s more punitive, than just the name or just getting kicked out of the military," said Marine Corps veteran Thomas Burke. "It’s not just a scarlet letter that you have to put down on an application. It prevents you from reintegrating into society.”

Activist veterans are helping their comrades seek upgrades to so-called "bad paper" military discharges that disqualify them from key benefits that help them re-enter civilian life.

“I think there is a growing sense that something needs to be done," said Kristofer Goldsmith, 34, who advocates on behalf of fellow veterans. Approximately 500,000 living veterans from various wars have been discharged from the military under other than honorable conditions, says Goldsmith, who himself once had "bad paper" from his time in the Army.

Depending on the type of discharge, an "other than honorable" designation can bar former service members from Veterans Affairs healthcare, home loans, and disability payments, and from GI Bill college money. Additionally, the "OTH" discharges confer a stigma that can limit employment opportunities and other aspects of day-to-day life.

The Department of Veterans Affairs in 2017 changed its policy so that former "OTH" service members could get mental health crisis treatment. In 2018, The Honor Our Commitment Act required the VA to provide mental health care to veterans with OTH discharges. Still, advocates say, much remains to be done.
Marine Corps veteran Thomas Burke on patrol in Afghanistan in 2008, followed by local children. Several would be killed while attempting to bring him and his unit an RPG warhead. Courtesy of Thomas Burke.
Thomas Burke

It's something both men know first hand. Burke, now 30, was given an "OTH" discharge following a PTSD-related suicide attempt in 2010. Goldsmith, too, received "bad paper" following his own PTSD-connected attempt to kill himself.
read it here

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

You still matter even with an "other than honorable discharge"

Other-than-honorable discharge?

VAntage Point
Department of Veterans Affairs
Hans Peterson
May 15, 2019

Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has made mental health care treatment available to former service members with other-than-honorable (OTH) administrative discharges through two new programs.
One service, initiated in 2017, is specifically focused on expanding access to assist former OTH service members who are in mental health distress and may be at risk for suicide or other adverse behaviors.

The department’s Veterans Health Administration (VHA) medical centers are prepared to offer emergency stabilization care for former service members who arrive at the facility with a mental health need.

Former service members with an OTH administrative discharge may receive care for their mental health emergency for an initial period of up to 90 days, which can include inpatient, residential or outpatient care.

During this time, VHA and the Veterans Benefits Administration will work together to determine if the mental health condition is a result of a service-related injury, making the service member eligible for ongoing coverage for that condition.

A second initiative focuses on the implementation of Public Law 115-141. With this implementation, VA notified former service members of the mental and behavioral health care they may now be eligible for and sent out over 475,000 letters to inform former service members about this care.

The letters (sample follows) explained what they may be eligible for, how long they may be able to receive care and how they can get started.

“You are receiving this notification because you may be eligible for services from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

Congress recently passed legislation that allows VA to provide ongoing mental and behavioral health care to certain former service members with Other Than Honorable (OTH) discharges, including those who

Were on active duty for more than 100 days and served in a combat role, or
Experienced sexual harassment or sexual assault while serving.

The rate of death by suicide among Veterans who do not use VA care is increasing at a greater rate than Veterans who use VA care; according to agency mental health officials. This is a national emergency that requires bold action. VA will do all that we can to help former service members who may be at risk. When we say even one Veteran suicide is one too many, we mean it.

In 2018, 1,818 individuals with an OTH discharge received mental health treatment, three times more than the 648 treated in 2017.

There was a total of 2,580 former servicemembers with an OTH discharge that received care in 2018 in VHA. Of these, 1,818 received treatment in Mental Health Services. Of the 2,580 servicemembers with OTH discharge, 1,076 had a mental health diagnosis.

Additionally, VA may be able to treat a mental illness presumed to be related to military service. When VA is unable to provide care, VA will work with partner agencies and will assist in making referrals for additional care as needed.

You can call or visit a VA medical center or Vet Center and let them know that you are a former service member with an OTH discharge who is interested in receiving mental health care.

Veterans in crisis should call the Veterans Crisis Line at 800-273-8255 (press 1), or text 838255.

Monday, November 5, 2018

Slogan of 22 Other Than Honorable Way for Veterans Day

Real Numbers Should Matter More Than Slogan Of 22

Combat PTSD Wounded Times
Kathie Costos
November 5, 2018

With Veterans Day coming it is more troubling too many in this country have not had the opportunity to become aware of the other numbers that should matter more than a slogan, when the topic is veterans killing themselves.

For far too many veterans, their days are ended with a bullet, or a rope, drugs, car wrecks, a knife or facing off with police officers.

If you still have the number 22 stuck in your head, after you read this, maybe it will disgust you as much as it has sickened me all these years.

Here are just the facts. We need to begin with the group of veterans who pushed for all the research and funding on what war does to those we send.

Vietnam veterans were the first generation to make the battle to heal PTSD public. They were determined to #BreakTheSilence. 

Most servicemembers receive fully honorable discharges. However, 1.5 million have received less than fully honorable discharges since 1950.
That was from The Comptroller General report to Congress in 1980. That also means that they would not have been counted in any of the suicide reports being released since this decade.

One such veteran was John Shepherd Jr. and this report came out in 2012 on the Hartford Courant.
John Shepherd Jr. enlisted in the Army and earned a Bronze Star for valor fighting with the Ninth Infantry Division in the Mekong Delta in 1969. But after his platoon leader was killed while trying to help him out of a canal, Mr. Shepherd appeared to come undone, eventually refusing to go out on patrol. 
He was court-martialed and given an other-than-honorable discharge, making him ineligible for most veterans' benefits. He believes his behavior was the result of post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD. His immediate problem: PTSD wasn't recognized as a medical condition until 1980.
Why is that important? Because the Department of Veterans Affairs stated clearly, the majority of veterans committing suicide are over the age of 50.
None of those veterans would have been included within the "known" number of veterans committing suicide.

More were added to the omission of numbers that should have mattered. GAO again, released another report May 16, 2017.

GAO's analysis of Department of Defense (DOD) data show that 62 percent, or 57,141 of the 91,764 servicemembers separated for misconduct from fiscal years 2011 through 2015 had been diagnosed within the 2 years prior to separation with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), traumatic brain injury (TBI), or certain other conditions that could be associated with misconduct. 
Specifically, 16 percent had been diagnosed with PTSD or TBI, while the other conditions, such as adjustment and alcohol-related disorders, were more common. 
Of the 57,141 servicemembers, 23 percent, or 13,283, received an “other than honorable” characterization of service, making them potentially ineligible for health benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). 
GAO found that the military services' policies to address the impact of PTSD and TBI on separations for misconduct are not always consistent with DOD policy. For example, contrary to DOD policy, Navy policy does not require a medical examination—or screening—for certain servicemembers being separated in lieu of trial by court-martial to assess whether a PTSD or TBI diagnosis is a mitigating factor in the misconduct charged. 
This type of separation occurs when a servicemember facing a trial by court-martial requests, and is approved, to be discharged administratively. In addition, GAO found that two of the four military services have TBI training polices that are inconsistent with DOD policy. GAO also found that the Army and Marine Corps may not have adhered to their own screening, training, and counseling policies related to PTSD and TBI. 
For example, GAO found that 18 of the 48 nongeneralizable sample separation packets reviewed for Marine Corps servicemembers administratively separated for misconduct lacked documentation showing that the servicemember had been screened for PTSD and TBI. 
During interviews with Army officers, GAO found that some officers may not have received training to identify mild TBI symptoms, despite Army policy that all servicemembers should be trained. Further, GAO found instances in which both Army and Marine Corps may not have adhered to their counseling policies, which require that servicemembers, specifically prior to requesting separation in lieu of trial by court-martial, be counseled about their potential ineligibility for VA benefits and services. 
For 11 of the 48 separation packets included in GAO's analysis of Army servicemembers who requested separation in lieu of trial by court-martial, there was no documented evidence—or the evidence was unclear—as to whether the servicemembers received counseling.

KPPC in 2016 reported the number of "bad paper discharges" since 1990, was 615,000.

None of them would have been counted in the suicide data.

Getting back to the data itself, this chart shows the "known" suicides in the first VA Suicide report released in 2012.

This is from the latest report from the VA on known suicides.
As you can see, the percentages went up and the number of living veterans dropped by over 4 million. Again, as with all the reports, the majority of veterans committing suicide were over the age of 50, as well as the majority of the less than honorable discharges, were also of those older generations.

If you are among the veterans who were kicked out instead of treated, the VA is trying to find you~

VA Struggles To Reach Other-Than-Honorable-Discharge Vets In Need Of Help

Advocates Fault VA for Inadequate OutreachThe VA last year estimated there are more than 500,000 OTH vets. 
Nationally, 115 veterans have used the program, a figure that's disappointing to veterans advocates. They say it represents just a small fraction of the veterans who now qualify for mental health care. 
"It's not possible that that's the number of people who need help," said Kristofer Goldsmith, an Iraq vet who works with the Vietnam Veterans of America. "It's a failure to contact them, to fully inform them and to break the stigma." 
Vietnam Veterans of America lobbied the VA to help veterans with other-than-honorable discharges. 
"It's a program that most people who are eligible for don't know about, and the reason for that is that VA refused to do any outreach," said Vietnam Veterans of America executive director Rick Weidman.Weidman said there was an internal debate over whether the VA could pay to reach out to veterans who normally don't qualify for VA care.
After racking my brain for one more piece of all of this, is a report from Jacksonville Times Union going back to 2014. The report said that there were only 250,000 Vietnam veterans with "less than honorable discharges" and that "80,000" of them may be due to PTSD. 

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Other-Than-Honorable-Discharge Vets needing help can go to the VA

VA Struggles To Reach Other-Than-Honorable-Discharge Vets In Need Of Help

Steve Walsh
October 18, 2018
Onan is taking advantage of the program. After years of being rejected by the VA, Onan now is getting his PTSD treatment paid for by the agency, and he hopes it helps him get back to being the person he was before the injury.
Former Marine Lance Cpl. Josh Onan was in Ramadi, Iraq, in 2006 when his Humvee was hit by a roadside bomb.
"I remember laying down in the truck," Onan said. "Waking up, there's dust, there's debris all over me, and there's an Iraqi colonel who's sitting in the truck with us, and he's just screaming, screaming. I don't understand what he's saying."

Onan suffered a head injury and post-traumatic stress disorder. During the next year, he was in and out of trouble with military officials, mainly for small infractions, which he chalks up to the medications he was taking.

Then, while on leave, he was caught with a small amount of cocaine and kicked out of the Marines.

Onan is one of the thousands of veterans who have other-than-honorable (OTH) discharges. They don't typically qualify for VA benefits, even though many have service-related trauma. And as a group they have a high suicide rate.
read more here

Friday, October 5, 2018

OEF OIF Marine Veteran Finally Feels Like One

New state law opens up benefits to an estimated 800 veterans
The Day
by Julia Bergman Day staff writer
October 4, 2018

Hartford — Thomas Burke has been out of the Marine Corps for 10 years but said it wasn't until this week that he felt like a veteran.

Burke, a former infantryman who deployed to both Afghanistan and Iraq, received an other-than-honorable discharge for smoking marijuana months after returning from a deployment in Afghanistan, during which he had to clean up the remains of a group of Afghan children who'd been blown up by a rocket-propelled grenade that they were bringing to his military base.

"I can't explain the feelings I have today, after 10 years of service from returning home, I finally feel like a veteran because Connecticut stood up and told me that I'm a veteran," Burke said Thursday.

A new state law that went into effect Monday allows veterans discharged under "other-than-honorable" circumstances, who have post-traumatic stress disorder, a traumatic brain injury or sexual trauma resulting from their military service, to access state veteran benefits.

State officials and veterans touted the new law at a news conference Thursday morning in Hartford. Several of them said that the law, the first of its kind, makes Connecticut a leader in the nation.
read more here

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Other-Than-Honorable Discharge Attributable To 'Invisible Wounds'...Yep!

Advocates Seek Benefits For Vets With Other-Than-Honorable Discharge Attributable To 'Invisible Wounds'
Hartford Courant
Sandra Gomez-Aceves
February 14, 2018

At 20 years old, Thomas Burke sat on an Afghan riverbank with the barrel of his rifle in his mouth. By then, he had experienced the tragedies of war — he had seen children blow up in an attempt to help American forces and had been left to pick up their remains and place them in the back of trailer — but his deployment wouldn’t end for another three months.
File photo. Veterans who receive other-than-honorable discharge are barred from accessing state benefits and programs accessible to other veterans. (Richard Messina, Hartford Courant)

Burke, now 28, a native of Bethel and a soon-to-be Yale University graduate, was saved by a fellow marine “who followed me out to nowhere” and embraced him in a hug.

After experiencing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Burke returned home with substance-abuse disorders and combat-induced post-traumatic stress disorder. In an effort to get help, Burke took an other-than-honorable discharge in exchange for rehabilitation, he said.

In Connecticut, though, his other-than-honorable discharge barred him from accessing vital state benefits available to more than 200,000 other veterans.
read more here

Monday, January 16, 2017

UK Kicking Out Servicemembers Too!

The Sun UK
“The toll on our troops does not end as they leave the battlefield.”
IMAGE: PA:PRESS ASSOCIATION Mental discharges have made up 14 per cent of troops who have left the services in the last five years 

Theresa May urged to tackle the spiralling PTSD timebomb as shock figures show soaring mental discharges A staggering 473 soldiers were discharged from the Army, Navy or RAF for “mental or behavioural” reasons in 2015-2016 – more than double the number in 2011-2012 

THERESA MAY was last night accused of “betraying” Our Boys after a staggering 150 per cent rise in troops quitting the Armed Forces over mental health issues.

The PM was urged to tackle the spiralling PTSD timebomb as shock figures revealed 473 soldiers were discharged from the Army, Navy or RAF for “mental or behavioural” reasons in 2015-2016. 

The total is more than double the number in 2011-2012.

And the Ministry of Defence stats show that of the 473, 189 were for cases of post-traumatic stress disorder – more than three times the 50 recorded in 2011-2012.

Lib Dem peer Paddy Ashdown said the figures laid bare the Government’s failings on mental health – and urged them to set up funding to tackle post-traumatic stress and depression in the Forces.
read more here

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Vietnam Veterans of America Take Stand for OEF and OIF Veterans

National Veterans Group appeals for pardons for those with bad discharges
WSAV News 3
By JoAnn Merrigan
Published: December 2, 2016
"Ignorance is no excuse for leaving behind these vets. Americans have a responsibility to learn about the sacrifices that veterans have made through their service and they have a responsibility to ensure that those who are the Guardians of freedom are protected from being forgotten. It’s time we all stand together, forget the partisan arguments and support our veterans.”
Kristofer Goldsmith
The effort to get tens of thousands of Afghanistan and Iraq veterans with less than honorable discharges medical and mental health services from the VA is going national. This week, Vietnam Veterans of America sent letters to President Obama and President Elect Trump calling for all of the vets to be pardoned.

“The founding principles of Vietnam Veterans of America is that never again will one generation of veterans leave behind another,” says Kristofer Goldsmith who is an Iraq veteran who now works for Vietnam Veterans of America. “These Vietnam vets came together and formed this organization not just for themselves but for my generation.”

The letter makes a powerful appeal to President Obama to help those who those who served in war despite how they may have separated from the military. It says that “over the last 15 years of continuous warfare, our country has failed to respond to reports of veterans being inappropriately discharged.” Vietnam Veterans of America is asking people to watch the online documentary Charlie Foxtrot which documents the problems of some who have the less than honorable discharges.
read more here

Thursday, November 24, 2016

125,000 OEF OIF Veterans Abandoned by DOD with PTSD

The New York Times reported on how many service members were kicked out the military instead of being treated and compensated for the battle they would have to fight for the rest of their lives.
Since 2001, more than 300,000 people, about 13 percent of all troops, have been forced out of the military with less-than-honorable discharges.
Sounds really lousy until you discover that the number of those kicked out had been increasing since 1990. KPPC News reported it happened to 615,000 up until March of 2016. In 2014, a Vietnam veteran had waiting 43 years for justice. In 2015, Vietnam Veterans of America went to court seeking justice for veterans abandoned by the military. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel ordered reviews of these reprehensible actions.

Larry Barnett was among those kicked out. He had two tours in Iraq between 2003 and 2005. His life was spared by two Deputies. But there are so many more of their stories. Far too many, we will never hear about. Some ended up taking their own lives. Some ended up living on the streets with no help at all.

When I wrote Residual War, Something Worth Living For, these were the folks I was thinking about. In 2013, the Army had kicked out 11,000. One of them was Tom Faith. He was found living in the woods in Florida after attempting suicide twice. One of the forgotten veterans, sent away by his family after they thought they had no other choice. Every soldier found themselves facing the same outcome, until a General decided to do something about it. He established a unit at Fort Christmas, where proven heroes could remain in the Army until they could retire with dignity after years of dedicated service to this country. All of them had been diagnosed with PTSD.

While they were helped to heal, the homeless veterans in the clandestine shelter, were used and abused as part of a drug research program to develop a medication to stop them from feeling everything.

Over the years, too many of their stories had gone unnoticed by most, so I had to try something different. I told the truth within the fictional accounts based on real suffering and real peer support that goes on all the time. There are good Generals and bad ones. There are good Chaplains and bad ones. There are good stories as well as horrible endings. In this case, there is all of the above.

Read the story below and remember, he was willing to die for the sake of those he served with, yet betrayed by the same military leaders who sent him there.
Why some who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan can’t get VA medical care
WSAV News 3
JoAnn Merrigan, Reporter
Published: November 23, 2016
Unfortunately, Goldsmith says those worries are well founded. “Those with bad discharges are most likely to die by suicide after fighting the system for so long to get care. And after being denied over and over, they just give up,” he told me.
Since 9-11, tens of thousands of soldiers and marines have seen combat. Now it’s estimated at least 125,000 of them are not eligible to receive any benefits from the Veterans Administration (VA) because they received dishonorable discharges.

“Most people live under the assumption that every veteran is able to get healthcare at the VA. And the truth is that these veterans with less than honorable discharges are prohibited from getting any access,” says Kristofer Goldsmith, a vet who fought in Iraq who now advocates for other veterans.
One of those trying to get healthcare is Michael Coleman. I talked with Michael and his mom Jo awhile back. Michael was in bad shape and had just attempted suicide. He says he was diagnosed with PTSD but drummed out of the Army back in 2004 after serving in Iraq in 2003. “They gave me a bad conduct discharge and released me from the Army,” he told me. “I have tried going to the VA and telling them I have PTSD but they say until my discharge is upgraded, they can’t do anything for me.”

read more here

(Cross posted on Residual War)

Monday, September 19, 2016

Army Kicked Out 73 Soldiers Without Checking For PTSD or TBI

Army: 73 soldiers may have been improperly sent home with TBI, PTSD
Federal News Radio
Jared Serbu
September 19, 2016

Of those 394, an internal audit identified 73 cases where there was no evidence that commanders even considered whether PTSD or TBI was a factor in the underlying offense that prompted their discharge.
The Army is reexamining the cases of at least 73 soldiers who it kicked out under other-than-honorable circumstances between 2009 and 2015 because it may have run afoul of a federal law intended to help ensure troops aren’t punished for mental health issues that were actually caused by their military service.

At issue is a provision in the 2010 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that requires all the military branches to consider whether service-connected behavioral health might have played a role in whatever misconduct officials are using as their reasoning for separating a military member.

Any service member who’s served in a combat zone in the previous two years and who’s also been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress or traumatic brain injury is supposed to receive additional scrutiny before commanders discharge him or her for a law or rule violation — particularly since a less-than-honorable discharge makes them ineligible for mental health treatment or any other veterans benefits.

Eric Fanning, the secretary of the Army, formally notified Congress in an Aug. 25 letter that the service had identified a total of 394 soldiers who had PTSD or TBI diagnoses in their medical records, were sent home with less-than-honorable discharges and had deployed to serve in contingency operations sometime in the 24 months before they were kicked out. Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) released the letter late last week.
read more here

Friday, June 24, 2016

Marines and Navy Offering Discharge Upgrades For DADT Ex-Servicemembers

Former sailors, Marines booted under gay ban urged to appeal
Navy Times
Meghann Myers
June 24, 2016

Since opening the service to gays and lesbians in 2011, the Navy has granted 123 discharge upgrades out of 413 requests, according to Defense Department data.
Navy Department leaders are encouraging thousands discharged under the repealed "Don't ask, don't tell" rules to appeal adverse separations. An estimated 5,600 LGBT sailors and Marines were kicked out while this policy was in effect from 1993 to 2011. WESTERN PACIFIC (June 20, 2016) - Logistics Specialist 3rd Class Luis Bermudez, from Orlando, Florida, speaks during a lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) pride month celebration in USS John C. Stennis' (CVN 74) hangar bay. Bermudez displayed a shirt with the names of the victims of the mass shooting in Orlando, June 12. Providing a ready force supporting security and stability in the Indo-Asia-Pacific, John C. Stennis is operating as part of the Great Green Fleet on a regularly scheduled 7th Fleet deployment. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Kenneth Rodriguez Santiago / Released) (Photo: MC3 Kenneth Rodriguez Santiago/Navy)
Navy Department officials are urging the thousands of sailors and Marines forced out of the military because of their sexuality in previous decades to come forward and appeal their discharge — in a step to restore benefits and right a historical wrong.

The Board for Correction of Naval Records can overturn a wide range of records, from counseling letters to detachments for cause, but recently they have been putting the word out to veterans who were separated because of the military's "Don't ask, don't tell" policy — and its previous across-the-board ban — that they can have their discharges upgraded and their reenlistment codes or reason codes changed to reflect a post-DADT world.

"If you were discharged under 'Don’t ask, don’t tell,' come in," Navy Secretary Ray Mabus said in a June 8 speech at a Pentagon event for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride Month. "The Board of Corrections for Naval Records will take a look at changing that discharge characterization … If you have colleagues that were discharged under that, ask them to come in — if it’s under the regulations, get that discharge characterization changed."
read more here

Friday, June 17, 2016

Navy Changing Bad Paper Discharges Policy For PTSD and TBI

Why the Navy is making a major change in its approach to PTSD
PBS News Hour
June 16, 2016

JUDY WOODRUFF: Now to a major change being made by the U.S. Navy that will affect servicemen suffering from one of the unseen wounds of war.

John Yang has that.

JOHN YANG: The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have killed thousands of American servicemen and maimed and injured tens of thousands more, but some wounds are not as easily seen or identified.

Post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD afflicts as much as one-fifth of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans in any given year. Compounding the affliction, personnel who were kicked out of the military because of erratic behavior caused by PTSD, by traumatic brain injury, called TBI, or by other mental health conditions often lose their benefits, including access to veterans health care.

But that will now change for at least one of the services, navy personnel, sailors and Marines, under a new policy enacted by Navy Secretary Ray Mabus.

RAY MABUS: The policy that we had been operating under was, if somebody committed misconduct, the erratic behavior you were talking about, that took preference over everything else in terms of a discharge.

And so people would get discharged with bad paper, with discharges that didn’t give them any benefits when they left. What we have done with policy that I have just signed was to say, if you’re being administratively discharged for some misconduct, we’re going to take a look to see if you have got a diagnosable condition, to see if you have got PTSD, to see if you have got traumatic brain injury, and then that will factor in, so that you may still be discharged, but you will be discharged with benefits, with help that we’re going to recognize the reason for this erratic behavior and give you help after you leave the military.

And it’s not just for combat injuries, combat wounds. It’s also for things like sexual assault that is often followed by PTSD.
read more here

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Other Than Honorable Discharges to Be Reviewed for PTSD and TBI

They know it happened, as with all other wars. What we do not know is who has been held accountable for service members suffering after they were kicked out instead of being helped?
PTSD to be factor in benefits decisions for sailors, Marines kicked out of military
The Virginian-Pilot

By Brock Vergakis
Jun 1, 2016

Under Mabus’ order, sailors and Marines who suffer from PTSD, TBI or any other mental condition who did not receive an honorable discharge may have that decision reviewed.
Sailors and Marines who are kicked out of the military for misconduct now may be eligible for disability benefits if they’ve been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury or any other mental health condition that contributed to their behavior, under an order signed Wednesday by Navy Secretary Ray Mabus.

The order is the first of its type in the military and serves as another acknowledgment that many service members return home from combat with invisible psychological wounds that affect their daily lives.

“For more than a decade, we’ve asked a tremendous amount of our people and their families,” Mabus said in a statement. “In turn, we have a responsibility to support their needs, whether they are serving the Navy and Marine Corps mission around the globe or transitioning from uniformed service to civilian life.”

It wasn’t immediately clear how many people the order might affect.

About 11 to 20 percent of veterans who served in Operation Iraqi Freedom or Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan suffer PTSD in a given year, according to statistics from the National Center for PTSD.

“Keeping faith with veterans under all circumstances is our solemn vow,” Mabus said. “It is vitally important to address those service members whose separation is a result of PTSD/TBI.”
read more here

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Rep. Tim Walz Writes Bill on Bad Discharges But Doesn't Know Numbers?

I was just reading Group works to reclassify discharged vets with PTSD when something made me scream. It seems that Walz wrote a bill he doesn't even understand.
On March 3, U.S. Rep. Tim Walz introduced the Fairness for Veterans Act. The bill essentially does many of the same things Nordgaard is trying to do with his group in Red Wing.
"Walz said the problem is potentially very widespread. Since 2009, at least 22,000 veterans have been discharged who have suffered PTSD or a TBI for misconduct. While not all of these incidents of misconduct can be linked to combat trauma, the potential there is big."
Big? Sure it is since it is a lot bigger than what he just said. He's writing a bill but reports do not indicate he has the slightest clue. I checked and these links are still active. Too bad Walz didn't. 

On June 7, 2013. Rep. Mike Coffman introduced an amendment to the 2014 Defense Authorization Act because of a report from the Gazette.
Coffman said his amendment came in response to a three-day series of stories in The Gazette last month detailing how the number of soldiers discharged from the Army for misconduct has surged 67 percent since 2009 at posts with the most combat troops.
This was reported on December 9, 2013 on WAMC
(Eric) Highfill and more than 100,000 other troops left the armed services with "bad paper" over the past decade of war. Many went to war, saw combat, even earned medals before they broke the rules of military discipline or in some cases committed serious crimes. The bad discharge means no VA assistance, no disability compensation, no GI Bill, and it's a red flag on any job application. Most veterans service organizations don't welcome bad paper vets, and even many private sector jobs programs for vets accept honorable discharge only.
April 1, 2015 LA Times reported this.
More than 140,000 troops have left the military since 2000 with less-than-honorable discharges, according to the Pentagon.
October 24, 2015 The Gazette reported this
The Army parted with 24,611 soldiers for discipline issues in 2012 and 2013.
The New York Times reported this February 19, 2016
Observers say the boards are overwhelmed. And, despite a growing caseload from Iraq and Afghanistan, the staff at the Army Review Boards Agency has steadily shrunk. In 2014, it had 135 employees to process 22,500 cases, according to an agency briefing.
That is just for the Army alone.

KPCC reported this number on March 16, 2016
According to data obtained by KPCC from the Defense Manpower Data Center, more than 615,000 Army, Navy, Marine, and Air Force veterans were discharged with less-than-honorable discharges from 1990-2015.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Over 615,000 Veterans Got Bad Paper Discharges Since 1990

2 words on a vet's discharge papers can be the difference between hope and homelessness
KPPC 89.3
John Ismay
March 16, 2016

As the push to find housing for all of L.A.’s homeless military veterans hurls towards a summer deadline, service providers say they’re running into one type of vet over and over again: someone who’s been discharged with “bad papers.”

Translation: they got kicked out of the military without an Honorable Discharge.

According to data obtained by KPCC from the Defense Manpower Data Center, more than 615,000 Army, Navy, Marine, and Air Force veterans were discharged with less-than-honorable discharges from 1990-2015.

Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Co.) is a retired Marine officer and said that high a number is “very alarming.”

Coffman says in his day, a servicemember caught for a minor offense might’ve been denied the chance to reenlist, but would not have been kicked out with bad paperwork that denied them benefits afterwards.

There’s a range of discharges below the level of honorable— and they can be awarded after conviction by a courts-martial for felonies as well as by non-judicial administrative boards for misdemeanor-level misconduct.

Among other things, bad paper can be a pathway to homelessness, according to a recent study by the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Researchers attempting to find factors that contribute to veteran homelessness discovered that bad paper makes a veteran five to seven times more likely to fall into homelessness.

read more here

Seems really high especially when you consider the New York Times report that came out in February had the number at 300,000 from 2001.
Congress created military review boards after World War II to correct wartime missteps, but observers say this has rarely happened in recent years. In 2013, the Army Board for Correction of Military Records, the supreme authority in the Army’s review agency, ruled against veterans in about 96 percent of PTSD-related cases, according to an analysis done by Yale Law School’s Veterans Legal Services Clinic.

“The boards are broken,” said Michael Wishnie, a Yale professor who oversees the clinic. “They are not functioning the way Congress has intended.”

Yet in 2015 the Pentagon said it was just 140,000.

But none of that is new either.
If Vietnam Vets Had PTSD, They Deserve Benefits
Hartfor Courant
Veterans lawsuit seeks redress on discharges
December 11, 2012

John Shepherd Jr. enlisted in the Army and earned a Bronze Star for valor fighting with the Ninth Infantry Division in the Mekong Delta in 1969. But after his platoon leader was killed while trying to help him out of a canal, Mr. Shepherd appeared to come undone, eventually refusing to go out on patrol.

He was court-martialed and given an other-than-honorable discharge, making him ineligible for most veterans' benefits. He believes his behavior was the result of post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD. His immediate problem: PTSD wasn't recognized as a medical condition until 1980.

Mr. Shepherd and the veterans organization Vietnam Veterans of America have filed a lawsuit in federal court in New Haven on behalf of Vietnam veterans who were given other-than-honorable discharges for conduct they say was caused by undiagnosed PTSD. The suit, brought by the activist Veterans Legal Clinic at Yale Law School, seeks to have their discharges upgraded, something the military has thus far been reluctant to do.

The legal action, which could affect tens of thousands of veterans, raises a novel question: Can a soldier be given a retroactive diagnosis for a condition that was not then recognized as an ailment?
read more here

Jarrid Starks, another Army veteran with a Bronze Star for Valor did have his discharge overturned in 2012.