WASHINGTON. D.C. – U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin applauded the U.S. Army for committing to reforming its policies, regulations and documentation practices in the wake of its multidisciplinary review of misconduct separations of soldiers with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). In a written response to Baldwin, the Secretary of the Army Eric K. Fanning conceded the Army did not have proper documentation for 73 discharged soldiers who were recently diagnosed with PTSD or TBIs. Furthermore, he referred those soldiers to an Army Review Board to determine if a more favorable discharge is warranted. Last year, Baldwin joined Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT) and 10 other senators in expressing concern over reports that thousands of previously deployed soldiers had been wrongfully dismissed, barring them from receiving the critical retirement, health care, and employment benefits they were entitled to. The issue gained national attention following a joint investigation by National Public Radio and Colorado Public Radio revealed that the U.S. Army has kicked out tens of thousands of servicemembers diagnosed with mental health disorders or TBI.
In addition to reviewing past discharges, the Army committed to changing related procedures and practices going forward. According to Secretary Fanning’s letter to Baldwin: “To ensure full compliance in the future, the Army published an All Army Activities message on April 4, 2016, requiring separation authorities to document, in writing, that the results of the Soldier’s medical examinations were reviewed pursuant to 10 USC § 1177. In addition, the Army will update applicable policies and regulations to specify the documents included in separation packets and the requirements for the transfer of those documents into the interactive Personnel Electronic Records Management System.”
“After two decade-long wars, our servicemembers are facing the difficult challenges of PTSD, TBIs, and mental illness,” said Senator Baldwin. “I have long been an advocate for the Services to improve their handling of trauma-related discharges so we can ensure that our servicemen and women are being given the support and care they deserve instead of being thrown to the curb. I am encouraged that the Army took our concern seriously, and I will continue to work to make sure our veterans are being treated with respect.
Army investigators discovered 73 previously deployed soldiers diagnosed with PTSD or TBI who received “other than honorable” discharges despite insufficient documentation. The cases were referred to the Army Review Boards Agency. The letter was led by Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT) and also signed by Senators Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Gary Peters (D-Mich.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), and Tim Kaine (D-Va.).
In a November 2015 letter addressed to then-Acting Secretary Fanning and Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army General Mark A. Milley, the senators expressed serious concern that the dismissed soldiers would not receive the critical retirement, health care, and employment benefits that those with an honorable discharge would receive. The senators also emphasized that the forceful separation of soldiers with PTSD or TBI further denies these men and women much-needed treatments, and may even discourage other servicemembers from seeking medical treatment. Upon receiving the letter, the Army pledged to conduct a thorough, multidisciplinary investigation into allegations that the Army wrongfully dismissed thousands of soldiers for misconduct after they returned from deployment and were diagnosed with mental health disorders.
The full text of the U.S. Army’s response is available online here.