Over three of every five troops expelled from service due to misconduct from 2011-2015 had been proven with post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury or excessive drinking, according to a Government Accountability Office report released Tuesday.
As the army examined 57,141 troops diagnosed with such issues two years before the dismissal, around 13,283 were granted “other than honorable” label dismissed for health benefits from the Veteran Affairs Department.
The GAO study
Moreover, the GAO study discovered that the Air Force and Navy did not abide by Defense Department policies on testing troops for the presence or absence of PTSD and TBI before dismissing them.
Improvised explosive devices have caused brain injuries and stress that have affected hundreds of thousands of troops who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan. PTSD and TBI were the “signature wounds” of the conflicts.
The conditions can severely affect troops’ behavior and moods the report reads so their performance brings about misconduct, problems with punctuality and discipline and dismissal from service.
The Defense Department responds
The Defense Department health official issued a statement to respond to the GAO’s statistics, including the claim that Pentagon data said that around 200,000 troops were dismissed during the term considered by the GAO, and the GAO was not correct regarding the number of troops with PTSD and TBI, deliberately exaggerating the number of troops with such issues.
“In combination, these errors greatly exaggerate the number of service member separated for misconduct that the GAO reports have been diagnosed with mental health conditions GAO proposes are associated with misconduct,” David Smith, acting assistant secretary of Defense for health, wrote. “As such, the inflated figures create the false impression that the majority of service members administratively separated for misconduct had psychological health conditions that would explain their misconduct.”
Vietnam Veterans of American described the GAO report as “immensely disturbing” and asked President Donald Trump to support affected veterans.
“It’s horrific to think of these young men and women as statistics, but that’s what they’re becoming,” John Rowan, national president of Vietnam Veterans of America, said in a statement. “These are veterans who volunteered to serve in a time of war, yet they’ve been failed by previous administrations. They didn’t hesitate to run into battle. Our current commander-in-chief can’t hesitate now. President Trump has always supported our veterans, and we are confident that he will listen to our plea on behalf of these veterans.”