"This report proves exactly what we have been saying for decades: that the Defense Department throws troops into the grinder and disposes of them when they're used up", Kristofer Goldsmith, assistant director for policy at Vietnam Veterans of America, told Military Times.
The Government Accountability Office (GAO) in its report faulted branches of the Department of Defense (DOD) for having policies inconsistent with - or poor enforcement of - official Pentagon rules for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), traumatic brain injury (TBI) or sexual trauma. For example, GAO found that 18 of the 48 nongeneralizable sample separation packets reviewed for Marine Corps servicemembers administratively separated for misconduct lacked documentation showing that the servicemember had been screened for PTSD and TBI. It also advises the Defense Secretary to actively monitor the implementation of policies relating to PTSD and TBI.
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 report is the result of a two-year investigation, which Congress initiated as part of the fiscal year 2015 National Defense Authorization Act, as legislators were anxious that service members with PTSD or TBI were being separated from the military without adequate consideration of their conditions.More news: Tories on course for biggest local elections victory in a decade
Of all troops discharged after misconduct between 2011 and 2015, 35 percent had some form of adjustment disorder, 29 percent had an alcohol-related disorder, 22 percent had a depressive disorder, 20 percent had a substance-abuse disorder, 17 percent had an anxiety disorder, 11 percent had a traumatic brain injury and 8 percent had post-traumatic stress.
GAO recommended the Pentagon "increase its assurance" that troops are evaluated for PTSD and TBI before they get slapped with "other than honorable" discharge, particularly since these conditions might make it more likely that a soldier break with standard conduct.
Almost a quarter (23 percent) of those discharged with a diagnosis had an "other than honorable" characterization of service, making them potentially ineligible for health benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).
Stephen Kennedy, a founder of the CT chapter of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, said he was "heartened to see the GAO acknowledge what many of us have known for a long time: Veterans with PTSD, TBI and other mental health issues are being hung out to dry".More news: Mexico's president pledges to help protect journalists
Veterans who received other-than-honorable discharges, commonly referred to as "bad paper" discharges, are often unable to receive veterans' benefits, such as health care.
The report added: "During interviews with Army officers, GAO found that some officers may not have received training to identify mild TBI symptoms, despite Army policy that all service members should be trained".
The Pentagon agreed with most of the recommendations, and claims that the policies are now in the process of being implemented.
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.More news: Zabaleta to leave Man City at end of season
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