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Peters Cosponsors Bill to Help More Veterans Suffering from PTSD Receive Mental Health Treatment

Veterans Affairs

Source: Charles Ommanney / Getty

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S Senator Gary Peters (MI), a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and a former Lt. Commander in the U.S. Navy Reserve, announced today he is cosponsoring legislation to require the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to provide mental and behavioral health services to certain former servicemembers who received less than honorable discharges, also known as “bad paper” discharges. The Honor Our Commitment Act of 2017 would extend eligibility for VA mental health benefits to individuals with bad paper discharges who are suffering from mental health disorders as a result of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or traumatic brain injury (TBI) sustained during their service.

“Our veterans put their lives on the line in service to our country, and they have earned the right to get the treatment they need for injuries sustained during their service, including the invisible wounds of war like PTSD and traumatic brain injuries,” said Senator Peters, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and a former Lt. Commander in the U.S. Navy Reserve. “I am proud to join my colleagues in supporting this legislation that will ensure our brave servicemembers can get the health care services they need both during and after their military service.”

A less than honorable discharge, or bad paper discharge, is often given for instances of minor misconduct such as being late to formation and missing appointments – behavior that can be seen in those suffering from PTSD, TBI, and other trauma-related conditions. A less than honorable discharge renders servicemembers ineligible for certain benefits, including Post-9/11 G.I. Bill educational benefits and Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) home loans. The bill applies to former servicemembers who received a general or other-than-honorable discharge.

The VA has recently announced that it will extend only limited mental health services for suicide prevention and crisis prevention to veterans who qualify, such as the Veterans Crisis Line. According to an investigation by the National Journal, 13% of Post-9/11 veterans – roughly 318,000 – have left the service with a less than honorable discharge. This status denies most of them of VA educational, economic and other benefits. According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, between 11-20% of these veterans have PTSD in a given year.

Last year, President Obama signed into law Peters’ bipartisan Fairness for Veterans amendment that helps veterans with a bad paper discharge resulting from behavior caused by PTSD to petition for an upgrade in their discharge status. An upgrade to an honorable discharge would help certain veterans access benefits earned through their service like VA home loans and educational benefits provided by the Post-9/11 G.I. Bill.

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