September 15, 2016

In Response To Kaine Letter, U.S. Army Updates Discharge Regulation For Misconduct While Suffering From PTSD & TBI

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Tim Kaine, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, 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 a request from Kaine and 11 of his Senate colleagues, 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 and referred those soldiers to an Army Review Board to determine if a higher discharge is warranted. 

“I am encouraged to hear that the Army’s review and scrutiny of these cases will result in servicemembers being assigned the appropriate separation status to ensure they receive the benefits and privileges they rightly deserve,” said Kaine. “I commend the efforts by Secretary Fanning and General Milley and would encourage the other military services to consider implementing similar review processes.”

Last year, Kaine expressed his 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, which revealed that the U.S. Army had dismissed tens of thousands of servicemembers diagnosed with mental health disorders or TBI. In their November 2015 letter addressed to then-Acting Secretary Fanning and Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army General Mark A. Milley, Kaine and his colleagues 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. Joining Kaine in calling for an investigation were U.S. Senators Chris Murphy, Michael Bennet, Richard Blumenthal, Barbara Boxer, Ron Wyden, Jon Tester, Tammy Baldwin, Ed Markey, Gary Peters, Sherrod Brown and Amy Klobuchar.

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. 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. 

In addition to reviewing past discharges, the Army committed to changing related procedures and practices going forward. In his response to the Senators’ letter, Secretary Fanning wrote: “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.”

The full text of the U.S. Army’s response is available online here.