By Debbie Gregory.
A group of 12 senators called on the Army to investigate a recent report that the service discharged more than 22,000 soldiers who had post-traumatic stress disorder or traumatic brain injury for alleged “misconduct” after they returned home from Iraq and Afghanistan.
As a result, they said, many of these soldiers will not receive crucial retirement benefits, health care benefits, and post-service employment eligibility that soldiers receive with an honorable discharge.
“I have long argued that the military needs to do a better job treating the invisible wounds of war, such as PTSD/TBI,” said Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio. “I believe that punishing servicemembers for misconduct without taking into account the mental health context that may have contributed to this behavior ignores the problem and could have long-term implications for the servicemembers’ care and treatment.”
When left untreated, PTSD can cause high alertness and increase adrenaline in the veterans, even in the most mundane situations. Experts say that feelings of self-guilt that may have been suppressed on the battlefield can explode into feelings of anger and rage that can force a person to isolate themselves from others. Such pain can eventually manifest into thoughts of suicide
Army spokeswoman Cynthia O. Smith said that the Army “is committed to a culture where everyone is treated with dignity and respect, including those soldiers who may be separating from the service.”
Numerous military personnel who served in the Afghanistan and Iraq wars face financial and emotional burden because of extremely punitive sanctions informed by misdiagnoses of their mental health.
The senators said, “We are concerned that it may be easier to discharge servicemembers for minor misconduct — possibly related to mental health issues — than to evaluate them for conditions that may warrant a medical discharge.”