Washington, DC — U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and John Tester (D-MT) introduced legislation to help correct errors in the records of wrongly discharged veterans so they can get the benefits they have earned and deserve. According to one report, over 31,000 veterans may have been improperly discharged for personality and adjustment disorders which denies them the right to Veterans Administration (VA) health care or benefits, even though these veterans might be suffering from service-connected Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), including PTSD resulting from sexual assault while in the military. TheService Members Mental Health Review Act would help correct these errors and prevent future misdiagnoses. Representative Tim Walz (D-MN) has introduced companion legislation in the House of Representatives.
“Our men and women in uniform put their lives on the line serving our country, but too many of them are falling through the cracks when they come home,” Klobuchar said.“This legislation is a critical step to help ensure that veterans who are being denied benefits that they have earned can pursue justice and get the support they need and deserve.”
“Mental health wounds have become the signature injuries of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan,"Tester said. "To ensure the men and women who suffer from PTSD or who are recovering from a military sexual assault receive the treatment and care they need, it is critical that the military first provide them with a proper diagnosis of their condition. This legislation will provide more safeguards to ensure justice can be done for those who are improperly diagnosed and are subsequently denied access to the benefits and care they have earned."
The Service Members Mental Health Review Act would change the avenue under which veterans seek changes to their record from the Board of Correction of Military Records (BCMR) to the Physical Disability Board of Review (PDBR). The BCMR places the burden on veterans by requiring them to provide evidence of an administrative error or factual inaccuracy in the records. Under the PDBR, veterans would be able to present medical information from the VA or Department of Defense (DoD) as evidence in their case. The bill would also require the PDBR to add an independent psychologist and psychiatrist when examining mental health cases to ensure fairness. Finally, the bill requires DoD to inform veterans of their right to a review of their case and to legal counsel.
Klobuchar has long fought to ensure our veterans receive the support they deserve when they return home from service. Last year, Klobuchar’s legislation to strengthen programs aimed at helping homeless veterans was signed into law. In addition, Klobuchar, along with Representative John Kline (R-MN), successfully fought to ensure members of the Minnesota National Guard Red Bulls received the benefits they were promised.