Obama, Bond Hail New Safeguards on Military Personality Disorder Discharges, Urge Further Action
U.S. Senators Barack Obama (D-IL), Kit Bond (R-MO) and Joseph Lieberman (ID-CT) lauded the Senate's inclusion of an amendment to limit the Pentagon's use of personality disorder discharges in the FY 2008 Defense Authorization bill. This provision would add additional safeguards to discharge procedures and require a thorough review by the Government Accountability Office (GAO). According to recent reports, there have been some cases in which the Department of Defense (DOD) has inappropriately used these procedures to discharge service members with service-connected psychological injuries. Over the last six years, Defense Department records indicate that over 22,500 personality disorder discharges have been processed; or on average 10 service members have been discharged per day, every day in that time. This amendment is cosponsored by Senators Boxer (D-CA), Lieberman (ID-CT), McCaskill (D-MO), Murray (D-WA), Sanders (I-VT) and Lincoln (D-AR).
"With thousands of American service members suffering day in and day out from the less visible wounds of war, reports that the Pentagon has improperly diagnosed and discharged service members with personality disorders are deeply disturbing," said Senator Obama. "It means that those who have served this country aren't getting the care they need to heal from injuries like PTSD or brain injuries. This provision will add additional safeguards to the Department of Defense's use of this discharge and mandate a comprehensive review of these policies. This is an important first step and I will continue to fight for additional safeguards as well as the establishment of an independent review board to examine questionable cases in which service members were forced to fight a second war at home. Given our service members' courage and sacrifice for our country, it is our moral obligation to ensure that they receive the care and benefits they deserve."
"Many of our troops are returning from combat with injuries invisible to the eye but debilitating to them and their families. Unfortunately, many of these injuries have been ignored or worse, dismissed, for too long," said Kit Bond. "Abuse of personality disorder discharges is inexcusable. This provision will force the Pentagon to stop using this discharge until we can fix the problem. It is critical that we treat our troops' battle wounds - whether physical or mental."
"We have no greater obligation than to ensure that our troops receive the care and benefits they deserve for their service to our country," said Senator Lieberman. "I applaud the inclusion of this bipartisan amendment in the Senate's Defense Authorization bill because the Pentagon must take immediate action to ensure that troops are being accurately diagnosed during their service and at discharge for both physical and mental injuries. This amendment will provide DoD with necessary safeguards, and take a closer look at what may be improper discharges of service members with mental health conditions. I look forward to working with my Senate colleagues and the Pentagon on resolving any inequities in the system because our soldiers can afford no less."
Recent reports suggest that in some cases the Department of Defense (DOD) has improperly and inconsistently used these procedures to discharge members of the armed forces with service-connected injuries such as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBIs). Those discharges can result in the loss of healthcare benefits from the VA as well as the repayment of enlistment bonuses, which can send injured service members and their families into debilitating debt.
Army studies have found that up to 30 percent of soldiers coming home from Iraq have suffered from depression, anxiety or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. A recent study found that those who have served multiple tours are 50 percent more likely to suffer from acute combat stress. The military has discharged more than 22,500 service members with for a "pre-existing" personality disorder over the past six years. There are indications that some of these brave warriors may instead be suffering from combat-related injuries like Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or Traumatic Brain Injuries.
This amendment mandates temporary safeguards on personality disorder discharges, including a high-level review of cases before service members can be discharged, as well as a GAO review of the Department of Defense's current policies and procedures related to this diagnosis.
On June 21, 2007, Obama joined Senator Bond, Boxer, Lieberman, McCaskill and twenty-four other Democratic and Republican senators who wrote to Secretary Gates to express concern over continuing reports that personality disorder discharges were being implemented improperly.