Fairness for Veterans Act 2016

CBD Screenshot of a news broadcast announcing the Fairness for Veterans Act passage

THE USGAO Report

In 2016, The U. S. Government Accountability Office studied Department of Defense (DOD) data collected from 2011 to 2015. Consequently, their analysis found:

During the years 2011 to 2015, 91,764 service members were separated for misconduct.  Previously, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), traumatic brain injury (TBI), or certain other conditions associated with misconduct had been diagnosed in 57,141 of those service members. While 16% had been diagnosed with PTSD or TBI, other conditions, such as adjustment and alcohol-related disorders, were generally more common. Consequently, of the 57,141 separated service members, 23%, or 13,283, received an “other than honorable” characterization of service.  Additionally, the OTH discharge made them likely ineligible for health benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs. ⁹

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

The USGAO report also noted the other conditions commonly cited as the diagnosed condition that led to a misconduct separation.  To clarify, these conditions include:

  • adjustment disorder,
  • alcohol-related disorders,
  • depressive disorders,
  • substance abuse disorders,
  • anxiety disorders, and
  • personality disorders with behavioral changes. ⁹

The resulting use of the “other conditions” as a dischargeable diagnosis allowed the military to avoid safeguards for service members with PTSD.⁹  However, as many as 500,000 veterans who served in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, deployed and non-deployed, from 2002 to 2015 were later diagnosed with PTSD. ⁷ׄׄ ¹⁰

Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)

The Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center tracks U.S. military TBI cases.  The DVBIC tracked roughly 343,464 first-time TBI cases in active-duty service members from 2000 to 2015 (DVBIC, 2020).²  However, the VA Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) Veterans Heath Registry reported a total of 221,895 veterans registered for care with symptoms linked with TBI from October 2001 to September 2013 and those registering with the VA had once served in Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF), Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF), or Operation New Dawn (OND). ¹⁰

Research supported change

The research results clearly confirmed the need for changes to how a diagnosis of PTSD, TBI, and other mental health disorders were impacting military service members, which then led to the new Act. The diagnosis resulted in not only a negative impact on the discharge process but also on how the characterization of the discharge led to a limited availability of assistance services thereafter.

Fairness of Veterans Act of 2016

On March 03, 2016, the Fairness for Veterans Act of 2016 was introduced in the US House of Representatives by Representative Mike Coffman of Colorado.³  The bill, HR 4683, addressed the need for medical evidence reviews for former US military members who had been deployed and later diagnosed with PTSD or TBI as a result of the deployment, or former US Armed Forces members whose application for a discharge upgrade was based on issues relating to PTSD, TBI, or Military Sexual Trauma (MTS).³

The bill, if passed, would become an amendment to Title 10 of the United States Code, which outlines the role of the US Armed Forces regarding the U S Code.³ The bill also advised that any review board would “provide for a review of the characterization or terms of discharge from the Armed Forces of individuals with mental health disorders alleged to affect terms of discharge”:

  1. by checking the medical evidence of the VA, or a civilian physician, presented by the former service member, and
  2. by inspecting the case with an arguable basis in favor of the service member that PTSD or TBI enhanced the event resulting in their discharge.

The Process

Initially, HR 4683 went through a hearing process held by the House Financial Services Subcommittee on Capital Markets and Government Sponsored Enterprises on May 13, 2015.³ Following the hearing process, Rep Mike Coffman introduced the bill on March 03, 2016, to the 114th Congress.  The 114th Congress later sent the bill to the House Committee on Armed Services.³ The House Committee on Armed Services then sent HR 4683 to the Subcommittee on Military Personnel on March 21, 2016.³

While the House of Representatives took several actions regarding the Fairness for Veterans Act of 2016, eventually, Sen. Gary Peters of Michigan presented the bill to the Senate as S.1567 on June 11, 2015.⁴  The bill was later sent to the Senate Committee on Armed Services after the Senate finished two readings.⁴

Eventually, HR 4683 was included in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) of 2017.  The bill then passed the House of Representatives with a vote of 374 to 34 on December 2, 2016.¹  Later, the bill passed in the Senate with a vote of 92 to 7 on December 8, 2016.⁵  President Barack Obama finally signed The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017 into law on December 23, 2016.⁶

If you believe you have been discharged incorrectly and suffer from PTSD or TBI, then complete the contact form on this page.  Additionally, you may also call Crisp and Associates, LLC today for a free consultation with one of our attorneys experienced in military record corrections.

References

  1. Congressman Lee Zeldin. (2016, December 02). Rep. Zeldin announces House passage of the National Defense Authorization Act. [Press Release]
  2. Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center. (2020, October 2). DoD Worldwide Numbers for TBI. Read here.
  3. Fairness for Veterans Act of 2016, H.R. 4683, 114th Cong. (2016). Read here.
  4. S. 1567, 114th Cong. (2015-2016). Read here.
  5. Susan Collins United States Senator for Maine. (2016, December 08). Senate Passes FY 2017 National Defense Authorization Act. [Press Release]
  6. The White House. Office of the Press Secretary. (2016, December 23). Statement by the President on Signing the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017. Read here.
  7. Thompson, M. (2015, April 6). Unlocking the Secrets of PTSD. Time, 185, 41-43.
  8. United States Department of Veterans Affairs. (2015, June 3). PTSD in Iraq and Afghanistan veterans. Read here.
  9. United States Government Accountability Office (USGAO). (2017, May). DOD Health. Actions needed to ensure post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury are considered in misconduct separations. Read here.
  10. Whiteneck, G. G., Cuthbert, J. P., & Mellick, D. C. (2015, May). VA traumatic brain injury veterans health registry report. Read here.