According to recent reports, the U.S. Army has dismissed more than 22,000 soldiers for misconduct since 2009 after they returned from deployment and were diagnosed with mental health disorders
Klobuchar and 11 of her colleagues sent a letter to the U.S. Army calling for a full investigation by the U.S. Army Inspector General into the allegations
WASHINGTON, DC – In response to a letter U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar sent with 11 of her colleagues, the U.S. Army announced it will conduct a full investigation into the wrongful discharge of servicemembers with mental health disorders. According to recent reports, the U.S. Army has dismissed more than 22,000 soldiers for misconduct since 2009 after they returned from deployment and were diagnosed with mental health disorders. Last month, Klobuchar and 11 of her colleagues sent a letter to Acting Under Secretary of the Army Eric Fanning and Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army General Mark A. Milley calling for a full investigation conducted by the U.S. Army Inspector General into the allegations and expressing concern that the dismissed soldiers will 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 post-traumatic stress disorders (PTSD) or traumatic brain injuries (TBI) further denies these men and women much-needed treatments, and may even discourage other servicemembers from seeking the medical treatments they require.
“Soldiers struggling with mental health disorders deserve to be supported, not dismissed for misconduct and stripped of the benefits they deserve,” Klobuchar said. “That is why I pushed for an investigation into allegations that the Army discharged servicemembers for misconduct when they may be suffering from PTSD or brain injuries, and I am glad the Army heard our call. This investigation will help to shed light on what went wrong so that we can set things right for these soldiers and prevent this from happening in the future.”
The letter was led by Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT) and was signed by Senators Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Jon Tester (D-MT), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Ed Markey (D-MA), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Gary Peters (D-MI), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Michael Bennet (D-CO), and Tim Kaine (D-VA).
The full text of the letter is available below:
Dear Honorable Fanning and General Milley:
We are troubled by recent allegations that the U.S. Army is forcefully separating for misconduct servicemembers diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorders (PTSD) or traumatic brain injuries (TBI). We encourage you to conduct a full U.S. Army Inspector General investigation into these recent allegations that the U.S. Army is violating the intent of Section 512 of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year (FY) 2010.
Recent media reports indicate that since January 2009, the U.S. Army has separated over 22,000 soldiers for misconduct after they returned from deployment in Iraq and Afghanistan and were diagnosed with mental health problems or TBI. As a result, many of the dismissed soldiers have not received crucial retirement benefits, health care benefits, and post-service employment eligibility that soldiers receive with an honorable discharge. Soldiers who deploy are at an increased risk for mental health issues and the forceful separation of servicemembers post-deployment only further denies treatment and support at a critical moment in any soldier’s life. Additionally, fear of dismissal may discourage servicemembers from seeking the medical treatment they require.
Section 574 of the FY14 NDAA called for a GAO report to look into these kinds of dismissal cases. That report was delivered to Congress in February of this year recommending that the services develop a method to identify the number of servicemembers separated for non-disability mental conditions and take actions to ensure that servicemembers are appropriately separated for non-disability mental conditions in accordance with DoD’s separation requirements. Serious gaps in DoD policies have been identified and any investigation going forward should take this into consideration.
We are concerned that it may be easier to discharge servicemembers for minor misconduct—possibly related to mental health issues—than to evaluate them for conditions that may warrant a medical discharge. We know that the health and safety of our servicemembers and their families is your top priority and we are confident that you will investigate these recent allegations. Thank you again for your service to our country and we look forward to working with you to rectify this grave offense to the men and women that serve in our armed forces.