By Debbie Gregory.
If a military service member received a good or excellent rating for their service time by exceeding standards for performance and personal conduct, they will receive a military discharge rating of honorable. But there are many servicemembers who receive military discharge ratings that are other than honorable due to behaviors related to post-traumatic stress (PTS) and/or traumatic brain injuries (TBI).
Many of these men and women had multiple deployments, witnessed friends maimed or killed in battle, and were physically and/or mentally wounded themselves. Yet, instead of getting the help they needed, they were booted.
A less-than-honorable discharge severely limits the care and support options available to those veterans, leaving them with decreased medical support and an increased risk of suicide. These veterans are also at risk of family instability, elevated rates of homelessness, and joblessness. But help may be on the way.
In 2014, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced that boards for correction of military records or naval records should “fully and carefully consider every petition based on PTSD brought by each veteran.”
And now lawmakers who served in Iraq and Afghanistan have introduced legislation that would require military discharge review boards to factor in troops’ mental health issues, and accept a PTSD or TBI diagnosis from a professional as an acceptable rebuttal to a dismissal.
As well as benefitting those currently leaving the military, the legislation could affect past discharges, many for minor offenses related to alcohol use or tardiness.
The bill’s sponsor, Iraq War veteran Rep. Mike Coffman, R-Colo., called expanding treatment for troubled veterans a desperate need.
“In the case of veterans with severe mental health problems, access to these services may be life-saving,” he said. “It is my hope that veterans with questionable, less-than-honorable discharges receive quick access to the mental health care they earned and deserve.”