A bipartisan group of nine lawmakers joined with leading veterans groups Tuesday to call for the final version of a defense policy bill to include language aimed at making it easier for veterans who were discharged for behavior related to mental health issues to upgrade their discharges.
Kristofer Goldsmith, an Army veteran who served in Iraq, said he was discharged after attempting suicide by overdosing on Percocet and vodka.
“We are very close to making sure that these service men and women get the help that they need, and we’re going to make it a reality in the next weeks,” said Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.), whose Fairness for Veterans Act was included in the Senate-passed version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).
The provision in the Senate version would require discharge review boards to provide “liberal consideration” to the diagnosis of a veteran with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), traumatic brain injury (TBI) or military sexual assault when considering whether to upgrade a less-than-honorable discharge.
The House-passed version does not include that provision. Conferees are in the process of reconciling the two versions of the bill.
Advocates say thousands of veterans have received “bad discharge papers” as a result of behavior associated with PTSD, TBI or sexual trauma. Such discharges haunt veterans for the rest of their lives, advocates say, denying them veterans benefits and casting a stigma that can affect aspects of civilian life, such as finding employment.
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