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.
If Connecticut officials are going to continue to allow schools to use seclusion as a behavioral intervention, can’t they at least make sure that seclusion rooms have chairs? That was the understated, soft-spoken plea from a 19-year-old student named Laquandria, who told a gathering of state agency leaders, educators and parents Thursday that she had been secluded and restrained multiple times while attending public schools and special education programs in Connecticut. “The walls weren’t padded, there was nowhere to sit – I felt like an animal,” said Laquandria, whose last name was withheld because of her family’s involvement with the Department of Children and Families. She is now finishing her high school education at a Hamden residential program. “I feel like, you know,” she told the assembled state officials, “we should at least have somewhere to sit.”
Her comments punctuated a three-hour forum on the use of restraints and seclusion in state schools, convened by the Office of the Child Advocate and the Office of Protection and Advocacy for Persons with Disabilities.
Alarmed by a new report that found gaps in the VA’s follow-up care of suicidal veterans discharged from Veterans Health Administration inpatient mental health facilities, U.S. Sen. Christopher Murphy is asking the VA to “act as quickly as possible” to reduce the risk of suicide. In a letter to VA Secretary Eric Shinseki — prompted by a Wednesday news story about the VA Office of Inspector General’s report — Murphy said he had “deep concern” about the findings of deficiencies in follow-up care for veterans who are discharged from inpatient mental health facilities. “As you know, suicide is now the leading cause of death among military personnel who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan, and as many as 22 veterans take their own lives every day,” Murphy wrote. “Given this stark reality, the fact that the VA is not monitoring veterans who are at a high risk of suicide is not acceptable.”
Murphy requested that the VA provide him with a comprehensive overview of the improvements it plans to make to reduce suicide rates. He praised Shinseki for focusing on the “epidemic” of veteran suicides, but said the new report “suggests that we still have a lot more work to do.