Military Connection: DOD to Review OTH Discharges: By Debbie Gregory

Discharge upgradesUp to 80,000 veterans with “Other Than Honorable” military discharges due to PTSD have been given the opportunity to petition to have their discharges upgraded.

On September 3, 2014, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel issued a memorandum that directed the boards for correction of military records or naval records to “fully and carefully consider every petition based on PTSD brought by each veteran.”

Secretary Hagel instructed the boards to give “liberal consideration” to any language found in medical records describing one or more symptoms that meet diagnostic criteria for PTSD or related conditions.  Liberal consideration is also to be used when veterans’ civilian providers have diagnosed PTSD. And where PTSD is reasonably determined to have existed at the time of discharge, it is to be “a mitigating factor” in the misconduct that generated an Other Than Honorable Discharge.

The generation of veterans who will most benefit from this new directive will be Vietnam Veterans. PTSD wasn’t formally recognized until 1980. Studies have estimated that as many as 30% of Vietnam Veterans suffered from PTSD at some point after the war.

An immeasurable number of Vietnam Veterans came home with PTSD, and were then punished for behaviors that are recognized today as symptoms of post-traumatic stress. With their Other Than Honorable Discharges, these veterans were not eligible for VA benefits and care. Many of these veterans also faced an uphill employment battle because of their type of discharge.

Forty years have gone by, and for many, the damage has been done. But a number of veterans, estimated as high as 80,000, could have their discharge statuses upgraded, which would possibly qualify them to receive benefits, including healthcare.

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Military Connection: DOD to Review OTH Discharges: By Debbie Gregory