Give Soldiers Discharged for Mental Health and Brain Injuries Benefits

Tom Lea "Two Thousand Yard Stare" - courtesy photo

Target: Ashton Carter, U.S. Secretary of Defense

Goal: Provide promised benefits to veterans unfairly discharged for “misconduct” that was caused by mental health issues.

After serving in Iraq and Afghanistan left them with mental health disorders and traumatic brain injuries (TBI), soldiers in the U.S. army were discharged for “misconduct.” Without honorable discharges, these soldiers will be denied the health care benefits that would have provided them with much needed treatment.

Undercover recordings and an investigation by NPR and Colorado Public Radio (CPR) found that the Army has been violating a 2009 federal law established to protect those with service-related mental disorders from being cast aside. America’s wounded soldiers deserve the support and gratitude the Army promised them.

One of the over 22,000 soldiers discharged for “misconduct” was Staff Sgt. Eric James who served two tours in Iraq. James was told he was being kicked out of the Army for a two-year-old DUI charge. During his tours in Iraq, James witnessed death on the battlefield and suffered from a traumatic brain injury during a Humvee accident. Upon his return, being intoxicated was the only way he could fall asleep and he developed a drinking problem, which led to his DUI.

James recorded his meetings with Army therapists, who criticized him for believing he had mental health problems, even after he expressed suicidal thoughts. The Army’s own investigation found that James’ therapists did not treat him “with dignity and respect,” yet refused to further their inquiry, claiming this was not a systematic issue. There is a systematic issue, however, with the Army’s preference for discharging soldiers returning with mental health disorders and TBI rather than providing them with more intensive, and costly, treatment.

NPR and CPR obtained medical records of other soldiers discharged for “misconduct” and had them reviewed by psychiatrists, two of whom were top medical officers in the military. All concluded that these soldiers should not have been kicked out for misconduct.

Without an honorable discharge, soldiers who’ve served in bloody, traumatizing wars will not receive the retirement pay or health insurance guaranteed to them when they enlisted. It also makes it difficult for them to obtain jobs. On top of this, they have to deal with the mental health disorders and brain injuries caused by their time served. Demand that the Army stop discharging soldiers with mental health disorders and TBI for “misconduct” and ensure all who’ve been discharged receive full benefits.

PETITION LETTER:

Dear Mr. Carter,

The Army discharging soldiers who developed mental health disorders and traumatic brain injuries during their time served is unacceptable. These brave men and women were promised benefits and shouldn’t have these refused to them because of it costs money. Congress passed a law in 2009 specifically to avoid this type of injustice to service-related mentally injured soldiers. The Army’s actions are therefore both immoral and illegal.

Whether it’s persecuting whistleblowers, not investigating rape allegations, or refusing treatment to soldiers returning from duty with mental diagnoses, the military has been abandoning and punishing soldiers during their most vulnerable times. Soldiers who return from war with trauma need extra care, but are instead being cast aside and reprimanded. The Army must uphold their promise of support to their service men and women.

I demand that the Army stops its practice of discharging soldiers with service-related mental health disorders and TBI for “misconduct” and ensure those who’ve been discharged for this receive their full benefits.

Sincerely,

[Your Name Here]

Photo credit: Tom Lea

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