Veterans currently face a long, uphill battle when trying to upgrade their less than honorable discharges. Many such discharges occur due to undiagnosed post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or other conditions. The Fairness for Veterans Act introduced by Colorado Rep. Mike Coffman on March 3 might provide some much-needed relief. The bill seeks to ensure veterans receive the mental health care and benefits they deserve.
Veterans are required to have honorable discharges in order to obtain full benefits. Otherwise, they may miss out on tax breaks, education benefits and access to the Department of Veterans Affairs health care system, including vital mental health care services.
A less than honorable discharge is often issued to service members for minor misconduct, including absence without leave and tardiness to formation. However, such behavior can be linked with veterans who have a medical history of PTSD, traumatic brain injury and other conditions. According to Coffman, service members are being improperly discharged instead of being medically retired or retained for treatment and rehabilitation.
Since 2009, over 20,000 combat veterans with mental health problems have been forced out of the military with less than honorable discharges. Congress has acknowledged in recent years that some improper discharges occurred due to insufficient screening for PTSD and other combat-related conditions. The Fairness for Veterans Act ensures combat veterans receive due consideration in their post-discharge appeals.