Mental Health Discharges Coming Under Scrutiny

Nebraska service members and veterans might be interested in learning about a growing concern among those who represent disabled veterans and their families. In recent years, over 30,000 service members have had mental health discharges for diagnoses that were not covered by disability compensation. While a veteran discharged for post-traumatic stress disorder is eligible for full retirement benefits, those who receive diagnoses of personality disorders or adjustment disorders are not.

Adjustment and personality disorders, which are characterized by dysfunctional behavior, are non-compensable because they are thought to pre-exist a service member’s term of service. However, some veterans claim they received these diagnoses even though their mental health issues did not appear until after they experienced a traumatic event during their service. In some cases, veterans’ diagnoses were down-graded to a non-compensable disorder even though they had already received one of PTSD.

Although some veterans have appealed their diagnoses and requested military retirement, legal counsel for these veterans claim that the Army Board for Correction of Military Records has denied all of these requests. A former soldier in the Army National Guard recently accused the Army of wrongfully denying him benefits and has filed a lawsuit. Whether or not the suit is successful, it is drawing attention to an issue that affects thousands of current service members and veterans.

Members of Congress have attempted to pass legislation that would obligate the Department of Defense to look again at all cases since 2001 in which a service member was discharged for personality or adjustment disorders. In addition, the Defense Secretary has requested that all cases in which a medical board changed a mental health diagnosis be reviewed. In the mean time, however, an attorney may be able to help those veterans who feel they have been wrongfully denied benefits by advising them on a way to obtain proper compensation.

Source: Air Force Times, “Former soldier sues Army for alleged wrongful mental health discharge”, Patricia Kime, November 21, 2013.