A federal report has found that 62 percent of military personnel discharged for misconduct from 2011 through 2015 had been diagnosed with mental illnesses that could have caused their behaviors. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) report concluded that the military failed to follow policies designed to prevent inappropriate discharge of service members with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). The result is many veterans received less than honorable discharges, making them ineligible for health care, disability benefits, or education aid from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). The GAO said 57,141 service members discharged for misconduct had been diagnosed up to two years before their release with conditions that included: PTSD, TBI, adjustment disorders, alcohol-related and substance abuse disorders, depression and anxiety. The conditions, which the GAO called “signature wounds” of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, can affect moods, thoughts and behaviors and may trigger activities such as drug use, insubordination, absence from the military without permission, and crimes, the report states.
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs suppressed information that shows links between health problems of veterans and the dangers they were exposed to in Iraq, Afghanistan and the Gulf War, according to a whistleblower who testified to a House panel Wednesday afternoon. Steven Coughlin described an “epidemic of serious ethical problems” in the VA Office of Public Health, where he worked for 4 ½ years as a senior epidemiologist until December. “If the studies produce results that do not support Office of Public Health’s unwritten policy, they do not release them,” said Coughlin, in testimony to the U.S. House Committee on Veterans Affairs, Oversight and Subcommittee. “This applies to data regarding adverse health consequences of environmental exposures, such as burn pits in Iraq and Afghanistan, and toxic exposures in the Gulf War. On the rare occasions when embarrassing study results are released, data are manipulated to make them unintelligible,” he said.
The number of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans receiving mental health care from the VA has quadrupled since 2006, with PTSD and depression the most common diagnoses, a new report by the federal Government Accountability Office shows.
A group of senators, including Connecticut’s Richard Blumenthal, is asking President Obama to start sending condolence letters to families of U.S. service members who kill themselves, in what would be a reversal of long-standing policy.