A professor of medical psychology at Columbia University Medical Center said slapping an other than honorable discharge on a service member who acts up because of post-traumatic stress disorder is unfair, after a report found most service members separated from the armed forces suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder.
“Both PTSD and depression and other anxiety disorders result in inability to carry on military demands,” Yuval Neria told The Daily Caller News Foundation in an interview. “So, it is really unfair to give those people dishonorable discharge because it’s not really their fault. If they had mental health problems, including PTSD, they were the result of military experience and to punish them for those problems is really unnecessary and unfair.”
Neria was responding to a recent report issued by the Government Accountability Office on the number of service members discharged from the military from fiscal year 2011 through fiscal year 2015, which found 62 percent of the 92,000 service members separated from the armed forces suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder or other mental health issues. A total of 13,000 service members were separated for other than honorable reasons, which means they cannot receive various health benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs.
“I cannot really change the system but what I would say is that you don’t want to blame the victim for what happened to them,” Neria continued. “You don’t want to blame a woman that was sexually assaulted for being sexually assaulted. And in the same line, you don’t want to blame a soldier who was exposed to a combat mission in Iraq or Afghanistan for developing PTSD following this experience.”
“For me as a clinician but also as a veteran, it’s really unfair to prevent them from any treatment the military or the VA is providing to veterans,” Neria said.
The ban on service members who have other than honorable discharges from receiving at least some mental health treatment is about to change. Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin testified at a House hearing Wednesday that the department is looking to expand care to veterans with less-than-honorable discharges, which he first announced in March.
There are more than 500,000 servicemembers in this category.
The idea is to expand coverage, so as to reduce the astonishingly high rate of veteran suicides currently pegged at 22 every single day.
Starting in June, veterans with other than honorable discharges will be able to receive mental health care at a VA medical center emergency room. They can also call the veteran suicide hotline.
However, these veterans will not have access to preventative services. And even then, evidence-based treatments for PTSD, in general, are only 50-60 percent effective, but one of the most important elements to effective treatment, Neria said, is that veterans undergo treatment in a timely fashion before they turn to drugs, alcohol or other methods of coping with trauma.
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