The Department of Defense kicked out thousands of troops over the past five years due to misconduct, but a new report found many of those troops were actually suffering from mental health conditions.
The report, released by the Government Accountability Office Tuesday, examines the health background of 92,000 service members booted out of the military from fiscal year 2011 through fiscal year 2015. It found 62 percent of those service members simultaneously suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury or other mental health issues. As the report notes, PTSD and TBI are “signature wounds” of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“PTSD, TBI, and other mental and physical conditions can go unrecognized and unacknowledged by the military, family members, and society in general,” the report states. “Because these conditions can adversely affect servicemembers’ moods, thoughts, and behavior, they may lead to disciplinary infractions and subsequent separations for misconduct from the military.”
And yet, of that 62 percent suffering from mental health issues, which accounts for about 57,000 service members, 13,000 were separated for “other than honorable” reasons, which means those troops are cut off from various health benefits at the Department of Veterans Affairs.
The report is the result of a two-year investigation, which Congress initiated as part of the fiscal year 2015 National Defense Authorization Act, as legislators were worried that service members with PTSD or TBI were being separated from the military without adequate consideration of their conditions.
“This report proves exactly what we have been saying for decades: that the Defense Department throws troops into the grinder and disposes of them when they’re used up,” Kristofer Goldsmith, assistant director for policy at Vietnam Veterans of America, told Military Times.
Pentagon officials stated that they will implement better screening of troops who face separation, as the report noted that “DOD has little assurance that certain service members diagnosed with PTSD or TBI receive the required screening and counseling prior to being separated for misconduct.”