Most US troops kicked out for misconduct had mental illness


Moreover, the GAO study discovered that the Air Force and Navy did not abide by Defense Department policies on testing troops for the presence or absence of PTSD and TBI before dismissing them.

The GAO analysis showed that 62 percent of the 91,764 servicemembers discharged for misconduct during the fiscal years 2011 through 2015 had been diagnosed within the previous two years with conditions including PTSD, TBI "or certain other conditions that could be associated with misconduct".

The Government Accountability Office found that the Defense Department needs to take action to make sure that commanders appropriately consider medical conditions when weighing what to do with service members facing misconduct allegations.

The numbers of total separations and service members diagnosed with post-traumatic stress or traumatic brain injury and the kinds of conditions included in the report combined to "greatly exaggerate" the number of service members separated for misconduct, Smith wrote.

GAO is making five recommendations, including that DOD direct the Air Force and Navy to address inconsistencies in their screening and training policies and ensure that the military services monitor adherence to their screening, training, and counseling policies.

The report is the result of a two-year investigation, which Congress initiated as part of the fiscal year 2015 National Defense Authorization Act, as legislators were anxious that service members with PTSD or TBI were being separated from the military without adequate consideration of their conditions.

Most US troops kicked out for misconduct had mental illness
Most US troops kicked out for misconduct had mental illness

PTSD and TBI have become the signature wounds of soldiers who suffered from stress due to repeated deployments to war and brain injuries from exposure to improvised explosive devices (IEDs) that are used in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Specifically, 16 percent had been diagnosed with PTSD or TBI, while the other conditions, such as adjustment and alcohol-related disorders, were more common.

"As a result of policy inconsistencies and limited monitoring, DOD has little assurance that certain service members diagnosed with PTSD or TBI receive the required screening and counseling prior to being separated for misconduct and that all service members, including officers, have been trained on how to identify symptoms of mild TBI in the deployed setting, " the study said.

Of these discharged servicemen, 23 percent received an "other than honorable" discharge, which means that they may be potentially ineligible to receive health benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs.

The Pentagon agreed with most of the recommendations, and claims that the policies are now in the process of being implemented. GAO maintains inconsistencies should be addressed, as discussed in the report. He received a General Under Honorable discharge, preventing him from receiving education benefits under the GI bill and from re-entering the Army.

The report bolsters arguments from veterans' advocates who have said that thousands have received "bad discharge papers" despite suffering from one of the conditions.

"It's horrific to think of these young men and women as statistics, but that's what they're becoming", John Rowan, national president of Vietnam Veterans of America, said in a statement.

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