Some Veterans Coping with Drug Abuse, PTSD Lose Health Benefits

More than 20,000 U.S. veterans have left military service during the past four years with an other-than-honorable discharge, which can restrict their disability and veterans health care benefits, The Seattle Times reports. Many of these men and women are struggling with drug abuse and/or post-traumatic stress disorder.

According to federal law, veterans who are not honorably discharged because of misdeeds must submit to a review of whether they engaged in “willful and persistent misconduct,” and whether that behavior disqualifies them for health care or disability benefits. These rules leave some veterans struggling to find treatment, the article notes.

Officials from the Department of Veterans Affairs told the newspaper the department has no way to track how many reviews are conducted, how long they take, or what the outcomes are.

“I would go so far to say that, when we speak of Army values, leaving no soldier behind, there is almost a moral obligation,” said Major Evan Seamone, Chief of Military Justice at Fort Benning, Georgia. “We are creating a class of people who need help the most, and may not be able to get it. And, when you do that, there are whole families torn apart, and higher levels of crime. It’s a public-health and public-safety issue.”

Major Tiffany Chapman, a former Army prosecutor, said some soldiers who are dishonorably discharged were troubled before they joined the military, while others appeared to be relatively stable before they faced combat. “You just don’t know how you are going to react once you have been to war,” she said.

2 Responses to Some Veterans Coping with Drug Abuse, PTSD Lose Health Benefits

  1. Fern | August 13, 2012 at 1:36 pm

    I am a disabled vet. I managed to heal enough to return to work after an almost 20 year absence. Recently we hired a retired vet who has a retirement check, good insurance and has never known “want” or not having what you need to survive. I have to pay for my service with the rest of my life in disability and pain. I get $100 a month and sparse care at the VA hospital. It is an interesting comparison. My injuries were severe due to being left behind in the field and I am left behind after a medical discharge under honorable conditions. I am also doing some work in prevention with some homeless vets, many of whom are the subject of this article. A local charity is trying to help them turn their lives around for the better, as the military and government is not. Interesting contrast. If we had made it through without injury or PTSD, we would have full support. We paid with our well being and have very little support.

  2. Scott Smith | August 13, 2012 at 6:30 pm

    Whether or not a person had some personal issues prior to entering military service the fact is that the military accepted them, trained them, and shipped them off to war. The wars cause PTSD and are often the trigger to substance abuse even in a person with no predisposition to develop addiction issues. It is an outrage that the problems that interfere with a veteran’s ability to function properly, thus being discharged under less than honorable conditions, are left to fend for themselves. Those who commit serious crimes end up incarcerated and well taken care of. This country owes these vets a debt regardless of the words on the discharge paperwork. The military accepted them and should now support them in every way possible as a veteran. Shame on the so called leaders who sit in their air conditioned offices while making decisions to send young people off to war then cut them off at the knees when they are most vulnerable.

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