The discharge status for U.S. military veterans can affect their disability and veteran health care benefits, The Seattle Times reports, leaving many men and women who are struggling with drug abuse, post-traumatic stress disorder and other ailments to fend for themselves.
During the past four years, more than 20,000 U.S. veterans have left military service with an “other-than-honorable discharge.” These men and women may be disqualified for health benefits.
According to federal law, veterans who are not honorably discharged — which can include an array of reasons, including misconduct — must complete a review where it will be decided if they engaged in “willful and persistent misconduct,” and whether that behavior disqualifies them for health care or disability benefits.
The Seattle Times found that these rules leave many veterans struggling to find treatment.
“I would go so far to say that, when we speak of Army values, leaving no soldier behind, there is almost a moral obligation,” Maj. Evan Seamone, chief of Military Justice at Fort Benning, Ga., told the newspaper. In 2011, Seamone published a Military Law Review article critiquing the Army legal system.
“We are creating a class of people who need help the most, and may not be able to get it. And, when you do that, there are whole families torn apart, and higher levels of crime. It's a public-health and public-safety issue.”
According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, it has no way to track how many reinstated benefit reviews are conducted or the outcomes.
Click here to read the full story from The Seattle Times.
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