— Many military veterans suffer from post-traumatic stress
disorder, but if they are discharged with anything less than an
honorable discharge they cannot get the mental-health treatment they
Department of Veterans Affairs said that 20 percent of veterans
returning from Afghanistan and Iraq could have PTSD.
who have received less-than-honorable discharges because they
suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder ... or other mental
illnesses are entitled to receive an honorable discharge,” David
Magann, a Tampa-based veterans lawyer, said in a news
LawFirmNewswire.com. “They should not lose their Veterans Affairs
health benefits or GI bill education benefits.”
are five kinds of
discharges from the military besides an honorable discharge: general
discharge under honorable conditions, other than honorable discharge,
bad-conduct discharge, dishonorable, and entry-level separation.
number of veterans advocacy groups are trying to get all veterans the
health-care benefits they need, aside from those given a dishonorable
December 2015, Swords to Ploughshares, an advocacy group for veterans
based in California, submitted to the Department of Veterans Affairs
a Rulemaking Petition requesting simple amendments to the VA’s
regulations that would open up access the care and benefits that we
owe to the veterans. The group was joined on the petition by the
National Veterans Legal Services Program, the Legal Services Center
of Harvard Law School, and Latham and Watkins LLP. The petition read,
veterans are turned away from VA hospitals every day. We ask the VA
to expedite a review and amendment of its regulation in order to
ensure that we are in fact serving all who served.”
is challenging the VA’s interpretation of who is a veteran,”
Kevin C. Miller, a media-relations specialist for Swords to
Ploughshares, told theFlorida
says the Rulemaking Petition has a clear goal.
the VA ends up accepting our recommendations from the Rulemaking
Petition, basically that would grant these veterans eligibility apply
for health-care services, and change their characterization of
discharge to make them eligible for health-care benefits, so they
could seek treatment for their mental-health conditions,” he said.
law was passed by Congress in 2009 saying mental-health discharges
should be treated as medical discharges, but it is not being
is more on the [Department of Defense] side of things and our
Rulemaking Report is focused more on the VA side of things,” Miller
DOD side pertains to service members who have not yet been
discharge, there are avenues to change discharge status, Miller said.
with other than honorable discharge don’t always need a discharge
upgrade. They can actually apply through the VA for a Character of
Service Determination, which basically is the VA ruling if their
service was what they’d consider honorable, and if the VA says it
was then they can be eligible for healthcare benefits,” he said.
“We found in our report that most VA facilities, 3 out of 4
veterans with PTSD have been denied eligibility through these Boards
of Veteran Appeals. So despite going through that process, a majority
of the time veterans are still being denied.”
majority of the veterans who end up committing suicide are outside of
the VA system,” Miller said.