Sen. Wyden Calls For Investigation Into Mental Health Discharges
Thursday, November 05, 2015
In a letter addressed to Eric Fanning, the Acting Under Secretary of the U.S. Army, and General Mark A. Milley, Chief of Staff of the U.s. Army, the Senators said they were concerned that dismissed soldiers would not receive critical retirement, health care and employment benefits that soldiers with an honorable discharge would receive.
“We are troubled by recent allegations that the U.S. Army is forcefully separating for misconduct servicemembers diagnosed with PTSD or TBI. 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. As a result, many of the dismissed soldiers have not received crucial retirement benefits, health care benefits, and post-service employment eligibility that soldiers receive with an honorable discharge,” the senators wrote. “We encourage you to conduct a full U.S. Army Inspector General investigation into these allegations. Thank you for your service to our country and we look forward to working with you to rectify this grave offense to the men and women that serve in our armed forces.”
Of special concern to the Senators was the forceful separation of soldiers with post-traumatic stress disorders and traumatic brain injuries. They said that separation denies these men and women badly-needed treatments and could discourage other service members from seeking medical treatment
Read the full text of the letter below:
Dear Honorable Fanning and General Milley:
We are troubled by recent allegations that the U.S. Army is forcefully separating for misconductservicemembers diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorders (PTSD) or traumatic brain injuries (TBI). We encourage you to conduct a full U.S. Army Inspector General investigation into these recent allegations that the U.S. Army is violating the intent of Section 512 of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year (FY) 2010.
Recent media reports indicate that since January 2009, the U.S. Army has separated over 22,000 soldiers for misconduct after they returned from deployment in Iraq and Afghanistan and were diagnosed with mental health problems or TBI. As a result, many of the dismissed soldiers have not received crucial retirement benefits, health care benefits, and post-service employment eligibility that soldiers receive with an honorable discharge. Soldiers who deploy are at an increased risk for mental health issues and the forceful separation of servicemembers post-deployment only further denies treatment and support at a critical moment in any soldier’s life. Additionally, fear of dismissal may discourage servicemembers from seeking the medical treatment they require.
Section 574 of the FY14 NDAA called for a GAO report to look into these kinds of dismissal cases. That report was delivered to Congress in February of this year recommending that the services develop a method to identify the number of servicemembers separated for non-disability mental conditions and take actions to ensure that servicemembers are appropriately separated for non-disability mental conditions in accordance with DoD’s separation requirements. Serious gaps in DoD policies have been identified and any investigation going forward should take this into consideration.
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. We know that the health and safety of our servicemembers and their familiesis your top priority and we are confident that you will investigate these recent allegations. Thank you again for your service to our country and we look forward to working with you to rectify this grave offense to the men and women that serve in our armed forces.
Christopher S. Murphy
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