Inside the omnibus appropriations bill recently signed into law is legislation that, for the first time, provides mental health care for tens of thousands of combat veterans and sexual assault victims who’ve received other-than-honorable discharges.
Speaking to reporters, U.S. Senator Chris Murphy said the idea for the measure began after an investigative report by National Public Radio.
“What we learned was that there were tens of thousands of veterans just over the last decade who had been injured in war, had PTSD, and were discharged from the military in a way that made them ineligible to get treatment for their injury.”
Relatively small acts of misconduct often caused by traumatic brain injuries or post-traumatic stress disorder led to thousands of veterans getting so-called “bad papers,” and separating them from the VA services they needed to heal their wounds, said Murphy.
Garry Monk, executive director of the Connecticut-based National Veterans Council for Legal Redress, said this began decades ago.
“No one understood,” he said. “They couldn’t get it. What do you mean? You had bad papers. You did something wrong. These veterans had TBIs, PTSD and related injuries. So they received bad papers, acting out, doing what they done.”
Murphy who co-introduced the “Honor Our Commitment Act” says he hopes expanded mental health care for veterans will help to prevent more suicides.
Research by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs finds that about 20 veterans take their own lives each day.