By Debbie Gregory.
Since 2001, more than two million American service members have deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan. During the height of the fighting, some experts estimated that nearly one third of those deployed suffered from some sort of traumatic brain injury (TBI), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), or other physical/mental wounds in direct relation to their service.
A great majority of the men and women who have deployed and returned home have not suffered, have not claimed injury, have not received treatment for physical/mental battle scars, and have not been the subject of any disciplinary action. But there have been several thousand Veterans who have returned stateside and received disciplinary punishments, including other than honorable discharges, for misconduct.
Unfortunately, there are individuals who have enlisted into the ranks of the U.S. military, only to later change their minds about their commitment. Many of these individuals choose to behave inappropriatelyin order to get kicked out and sent home. Many of those who have worn the uniform are among the first to voice their disgust for actions that bring discredit to the uniform and their current or former branch of service. And there are many who have no sympathy for individuals, even combat Veterans, who step out line and tarnish the reputation of their service.
But what if some of the unruly service members weren’t trying to misbehave? What if they were simply coping with an undiagnosed mental injury? Americans would agree that no one should be penalized for service-related injuries. But some of these Veterans are.
For the most part, Veteran benefits, including the Post-9/11 GI Bill and the Montgomery GI Bill, are only made available to Veterans who were medically separated or honorably discharged. Veterans who receive general or other than honorable discharges can be subject to forfeiture of thoseand other benefits. Some even lose their right to healthcare through the VA, essential to treating of service-related injuries that may have been the cause of their misconduct in the first place.
“The men and women of our military risk their lives to protect our country, and we need to ensure they receive the care they earned and deserve,” said Senator Gillibrand, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. “Too many of our service members have been discharged as a result of an undiagnosed or improperly diagnosed mental health condition. It is important that a mental health professional be included at all review board hearings, ensuring that our service members receive a correct diagnosis and treatment for mental health injuries like PTSD, TBI and MST.”
Senator Gillibrand has recently announced her support of the Senate Bill S. 2182, The Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act which was originally sponsored by Sen. John Walsh. The bill would help Veterans by requiring a review of military discharges for Veterans with mental health disorders. The bill is intended to reduce suicides among Veterans who struggle with mental health disorders.
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Military Connection: The Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act: By Debbie Gregory