More than three of every five troops dismissed from service for misconduct from 2011-2015 had been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury, drinking or other adjustment-related issues, according to a Government Accountability Office report issued Tuesday.
Of the 57,141 troops with such diagnoses in the two year prior to their discharge, almost one quarter, or 13,283, received an “other than honorable” label, potentially disqualifying them for health benefits from the Veterans Affairs Department.
The GAO study also found that the Air Force and Navy failed to comply with Defense Department policies on screening troops for PTSD and TBI before discharging them.
Stress from repeated deployments and brain injuries from improvised explosive devices (IEDs), the deadliest weapon in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, have affected hundreds of thousands of troops. PTSD and TBI became the “signature wounds” of the conflicts.
The conditions can adversely affect troops’ moods, thoughts and behavior, according to the report. And their actions can lead to discipline problems and ultimate discharge from service.
In a written response, a Defense Department health official took issue with the GAO’s statistics. For instance, Pentagon data showed that nearly 200,000 more troops were discharged during the period studied by the GAO, and the GAO inaccurately counted troops with PTSD and TBI, significantly overstating the number of troops with the conditions.
The combination of errors greatly exaggerates the number of troops affected and creates “the false impression that the majority of service members administratively separated for misconduct had psychological health conditions that would explain their misconduct,” wrote David Smith, a physician and Defense Department official for Health Affairs.
Source: USA Today | Tom Vanden Brook