Fighting for the men and women who fight for us.


WRONGFUL DISCHARGES OF OEF/OIF VETERANS

Penalizing PTSD

(Jan. 29, 2007) - We have just successfully intervened on behalf of another soldier at Fort Hood, TX.  He joined the Army when he was 19 and was trained as a medic.  He served a year in Iraq as a combat medic and returned with PTSD.  Prior to his return, he was a good, reliable soldier.  He was promoted to the rank of E-4 and was the personal medic to a major while in Iraq.  He was also exposed to numerous explosions and suffered several concussions while in Iraq.  
 
Private X is a soft-spoken and unimposing young man.  Since returning from Iraq, he has been diagnosed with PTSD and put on Celexa and Seroquel to help him with his depression and anxiety.  His Army psychiatrist told his chain of command not to send him to the national training center, but they ordered him to go anyway.  He felt ridiculed and ostracized for seeking help, resorting to alcohol and marijuana as "treatment", ultimately failing a urinalysis test.  He also went AWOL for 20 days (to drive home to see his mother).  He was stripped of his rank, had to forfeit more than half of his pay, and given a seven day duty schedule.

Although he was diagnosed with PTSD by the military doctors, his chain of command decided to initiate a chapter 14(a)(c) discharge (general) for his post-deployment misconduct.  They told him that his recent misconduct undid any right he had to care for his PTSD.  MSC intervened to stop the chapter and to have this soldier placed in the Warrior Transition Unit for evaluation and treatment instead--which should had happened in JULY when he was hospitalized for suicidal ideation.  If his chain of command had acted appropriately last summer, this soldier would not have had to self-medicate and his misconduct would most likely not have occurred.  

Additionally, we believe he may have an undiagnosed and untreated TBI.  In the time that I spent with him, I noticed mental confusion and memory loss pertaining to conversations that we had, which is not consistent, I suspect, with the cognitive abilities of a medic.  His unit says he was screened for a TBI, but he asserts that he was not.

MSC was able to stop the discharge and have Private X placed in the Warrior Transition Unit. He has been told he is going to be given a medical discharge now instead.  Pending the medical discharge, he will be receiving comprehensive treatment for his PTSD. 

The problem with existing DoD regulations is that the commanders are not required to follow the recommendations of the doctors who are evaluating and/or treating our returning wounded warriors.  MSC is going to be approaching members of Congress to change that.

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ONE FAMILY'S STORY -- Personality Disorder Discharge at Christmas

Military Spouses for Change (MSC) has successfully fought for one of our soldiers.  Nancy is a member of MSC. Her husband, David, has been in the Army for 10 years.  He has served a year in Kosovo and two combat tours in Iraq.  David began experiencing severe depression, suicidal thoughts, and symptoms of PTSD last summer.  When he sought treatment for these symptoms, he was diagnosed as having a "personality disorder" and told he was being involuntarily discharged from service.  David demanded an Administrative Review of his case (to which he was entitled by regulation after six years of active duty service). 

The Board concluded on 10 November 2007, recommending that the chapter be suspended for one year, during which time David be allowed to seek treatment and given an opportunity to disprove the personality disorder.   On November 28, David's Commander (a Colonel), decided to act against the recommendations of the Administrative Review Board and David received a packet for a "Personality Disorder" discharge (AR 635-200 Chapter 5 Paragraph 5-13).  David was ordered to clear his unit and be off post BY DECEMBER 7.

For TEN YEARS OF SERVICE, with no misconduct, David was being kicked out of the Army in TEN DAYS.

According to the Inspector General, the only recourse for David was getting the Colonel who signed these discharge papers to change his mind.

Nancy contacted us. David was supporting his wife and four children as an enlisted soldier in the Army. Christmas is just weeks away.

MSC's leadership immediately began reaching out to our partners, other advocacy and veteran organizations, to get help for David, seeking advice and/or contacts. (The larger we become as an organization, the more organizations we can work with and the more resources we will have access to. That is why telling others about us and joining as an actual member of MSC through our website is so important!)  We also have board members who were able to work with David based upon their expertise with the military review board process. We spent two days and nights, nearly around the clock, rattling cages.

By Friday afternoon, November 30th, one Congressperson and two Generals had contacted Darnall Army Medical Center as well as David's chain of command, demanding to know why he had been discharged instead of transfered to the Warrior Transition Unit for evaluation and, if necessary, treatment for PTSD.

By the morning of Saturday, December 1st, David signed into his new unit, the Warrior Transition Unit.  These Generals are good men and great leaders.  The speed in which they corrected this situation is a testament to their awareness of the seriousness of the situation and their sensitivity to the anxiety of David's family.

What David experienced was a failure of leadership within his personal chain of command.  His Chain of Command should have taken steps to proactively evaluate him for his COMBAT-RELATED INJURIES, which PTSD is.  Even IF David had a personality disorder, what leader (whose job is to inspire trust and confidence in his/her troops) gives a soldier (with a family no less) ten days to get out during the month of Christmas?  Service members committing crimes get more time than that to transition out of the military.  This was just egregious to the extreme. 

THE BIGGER PICTURE

Unfortunately, one's experience with the military is very much defined by one's unit.  A good unit can make the experience as good as you could imagine and a bad unit can nearly ruin your life.  The lack of consistency between units due to this human variable means we have to have some level of protection for our servicemembers, some default upon which they can rely when the leadership within their particular chain of command fails them.   In this case, there should be some regulation in place providing for steps that must be taken when a personality disorder is being alleged and a service member has returned from a combat tour. 

Between 2001 and 2006, 22,000 service members have been discharged under this "personality disorder" diagnosis (http://www.thenation.com/doc/20070409/kors).  Most of them AFTER serving in a combat zone and seeking mental health care.  Rather than diagnosing these service members with PTSD, some units are declaring that these service members had a PRE-EXISTING mental health condition and therefore the military is not responsible for their mental health care. They are given a general discharge and, in most cases, billed for any bonuses they may have received for enlisting or re-enlisting.

In July, both the House (HR3167) and the Senate (S1817) introduced bills that would temporarily stop these personality disorder discharges until the DoD could establish some mechanism for reviewing these cases and ensuring that it is not being abused by the military. Both Houses referred these bills to their respective committees and nothing has happened since.

Sen. Kit Bond is asking the President to set up a Special Panel to review the 22,000 cases who have already been kicked out for personality disorders.

We are sharing this with you because we hope you will share it with others.  Many wonder why we created MSC and what MSC does.  MSC is an organization comprised primarily of men and women inside the military community and/or institutions.  Our goal is to educate, empower, and help one another in a way that is sensitive to the position that we are in as members of the military community.  We are committed to maintaining a strong military but we believe that requires taking care of our service members and their families.  When we compromise the integrity of our human force, we compromise the integrity of our total force. 

Our troops need to be able to perform their duties knowing that they will be taken care if something were to happen to them.  They cannot fight these battles as well.  And they shouldn't have to.

Last week it was Nancy's husband. Whose spouse will it be next week?

Become informed.

Become involved.

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Become a Military Spouse for Change!  (Or join as a friend of MSC!)