Congress May Allow Vets to Upgrade 'Bad Paper' Discharges

Posted on Mar 29, 2016

Veterans’ advocates say tens of thousands of veterans are unfairly being denied disability and other VA benefits because of less than honorable discharges in cases where the behaviors that led to the ‘bad paper’ discharges were caused by service-related post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other war-related problems. These are vets that really need federally-funded psychological and other services which could help improve their quality of life, they say.

“As many as 100,000 living veterans were discharged based on conduct related to post-traumatic stress disorder or traumatic brain injury — psychological issues that mostly went unacknowledged by military leaders even after the nation’s newest warriors began coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan,” according to a Stars and Stripes report.

Legislation that would allow veterans to upgrade their discharge status is gaining traction in Congress. SB 1567, a bill introduced last June, is being championed by a Maryland Representative who served in Iraq.  If the law is passed, Department of Defense panels would be required to evaluate a veteran’s claim that PTSD or traumatic brain injury led to a ‘bad paper’ discharge.

“There is a coming tsunami of . . . veterans who have been wrongly discharged for conduct that was, in fact, PTSD-related at a time when PTSD was not well understood,” Ken Rosenblum, a former Army lawyer who served in Vietnam and directs a veterans legal clinic, told Stars and Stripes.

“It’s not fair to them to ask them to fight for our freedoms and then turn our backs when they come home troubled by their combat experiences,” said Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-NY) who sits on the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs. “I think we owe it to these men and women to help them,” she said.

Stars and Stripes summarized the problem this way, “Veterans’ advocates say military leaders often use bad paper discharges to get rid of service members with combat-related psychological issues, rather than help them get healthy.”

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Sean D. Cuddigan
SSA and VA Disability Attorney in Omaha, Nebraska