Report Says Most Troops Discharged For Misconduct Had PTSD, Other Brain Injuries

Henrietta Brewer
May 30, 2017

From 2011 to 2015, 62% of the 91,764 service members separated for misconduct had been previously diagnosed with PTSD, TBI, or "certain other conditions that could be associated with misconduct", reads the GAO report.

Almost two-thirds of the 91,764 US troops who were separated from the military for misconduct in a recent four-year period had been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress, a traumatic brain injury or another condition that can lead to misconduct, according to a report released Tuesday, raising questions about the Pentagon's treatment of combat veterans.

16 percent had been diagnosed with PTSD or TBI, while the other conditions, such as adjustment and alcohol-related disorders, were more common.

In a related development, the Connecticut Veterans Legal Center and Swords to Ploughshares of California have received a grant to hire lawyers to represent 50 veterans with less than honorable discharges who have conditions such as PTSD and TBI and are prevented from obtaining VA benefits.

The conditions can severely affect troops' behavior and moods the report reads so their performance brings about misconduct, problems with punctuality and discipline and dismissal from service.

The watchdog agency reported that the military policies for addressing brain injuries and mental health conditions are inconsistent with policies from the Pentagon.

Advocates have long raised concerns about the lack of support for former USA servicemen without honorable discharge papers, which new Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin has said he intends to address. But 13,283 were given the more stringent "other-than-honorable" discharge, which disqualifies them from receiving VA health care.

The office also found that in cases where service members facing disciplinary action chose separation rather than go through a trial by court-martial, the Army and Marine Corps might not have told servicemembers that the decision meant they were ineligible for VA services.

The report also found that the U.S. Army and U.S. Marine Corps may not have screened troops who were in the process of separating for PTSD or other disorders.

"As a result of policy inconsistencies and limited monitoring, DOD has little assurance that certain service members diagnosed with PTSD or TBI receive the required screening and counseling prior to being separated for misconduct and that all service members, including officers, have been trained on how to identify symptoms of mild TBI in the deployed setting, " the study said.

The Pentagon agreed with most of the recommendations, and claims that the policies are now in the process of being implemented. GAO maintains inconsistencies should be addressed, as discussed in the report.

GAO found that the military services' policies to address the impact of PTSD and TBI on separations for misconduct are not always consistent with DOD policy.

Veterans' advocates for years have argued that thousands of the military troops have received "bad discharge papers" even though they suffered from mental conditions.

"It's horrific to think of these young men and women as statistics, but that's what they're becoming", John Rowan the national president of Vietnam Veterans of America, said in a statement."These are veterans who volunteered to serve in a time of war, yet they've been failed by previous administrations".

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