Recent reports through NPR and the Brain Injury Alliance identify a dozen senators that are calling upon the United States Army to investigate some 22,000 service members separated since 2009 that have experienced TBI or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. This request, submitted on November 4, 2015, hopes to expose a hurtful practice that the service branch is performing and to recognize the needs of our injured veterans.
The question was brought to light in 2013 when David Philipps of the Gazette published an article about other than honorable discharges which were increasing significantly. In 2013, it was determined that the separations had increased by 25% since 2009 and that, in many of the base’s housing combat units, the amounts were as high as 67%. Across the board, the article identified that from 2006 to 2012 the amount of misconduct separations Army-wide had increased from just over 7,500 per year to more than 12,500 per year. Something was going wrong.
As time has gone, the numbers have undoubtedly increased. So, what is behind this rise? The Army does not keep statistics on how many wounded veterans are separated for misconduct, which presents a challenge to any study. The reality though is that, over the last few years, the military has surged, grown, and reduced the number of soldiers in uniform. Wars that demanded massive numbers of soldiers were fought, and then requirements were lowered. As budgets decreased, so did demand.
We accepted soldiers that should never have been allowed to walk through the doors of basic training, let alone pick up a rifle. They required morale waivers, their transgressions in uniform had to be overlooked, and separation was a challenge due to demand. Service members with DUIs, drug charges, and assault were deployed because sometimes what a unit really needs is a body. The difference between a platoon of 39 soldiers and a platoon of 32 can be profound on the battlefield and, as is often the case, someone needs to be the mail room clerk. These individuals were retained to fill roles that sometimes did not include direct combat, but did free up others to take the fight to the enemy.
Sometimes quality individuals joined and served honorably, only to struggle afterwards both professionally, personally, and emotionally. Years of deployments wreaked havoc on marriages, friendships, and connections. Friends were killed, injured, or simply PCS’d with the military and people found themselves feeling lost, or alone. These are not excuses, simply mitigating factors that influenced some people to make poor decisions.
Some soldiers began to forget their own responsibilities within the organization. They showed up late to formations, missed movements, drank, fought, committed crimes, or failed to maintain standards. Instead of their actions resulting in a wakeup call, some blamed their service for making them the way they are and did not fix their actions. While it is recognizable that a TBI may have long term effects on individuals, it is the responsibility of those individuals to seek and accept help for issues, and work within their best abilities. PTSD can explain many reactions, but it cannot be responsible for the person themselves. A service member who beats their wife, threatens someone with a weapon, or refuses a direct order, is simply someone who is incompatible with continued military service.
It is not uncommon to hear at separation boards how the individual got a DUI or drug conviction due to an inability to cope. While this is not incorrect, it is also not compatible with continued military service. We are each responsible for our own actions, and for those actions that we fail to perform. Therefore, at the end of the day, while it is appreciated that the senators are taking a look into the decision-making process, it is equally important that they recognize that PTSD or a TBI does not warrant the service turning a blind eye to misconduct. Separation for honorable, or general – under honorable conditions still results in medical benefits being provided. There are many forms of separation and, while the services are decreasing the number of service members across the board, those that cannot meet standards will always be the first to be looked at.
Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.