Today, Representative Tim Walz (D-MN) spoke on the House floor about his allowed amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that would commission a GAO study on the military's use of personality and adjustment disorder discharges. He also spoke about his Service Members Mental Health Review Act (H.R. 975), which would ensure justice for wrongfully discharged veterans by reviewing and, when necessary, correcting service records for over 31,000 veterans who may have been misdiagnosed by the Department of Defense with a personality or adjustment disorder and improperly discharged. Earlier this week, Rep. Walz joined Rep. Jeff Denham (R-CA) to propose H.R. 975 as an amendment to the NDAA, but the amendment was blocked and was not allowed to be debated on the House floor.
"Sergeant Chuck Luther joined the Army after the 9-11 attacks. He served in Iraq until a mortar round hit near him knocking him unconscious. What followed were classic symptoms of Traumatic Brain Injury. Blurred vision, pain, and trouble concentrating.
"Liz Luras served this nation honorably as a soldier in the U.S. Army. She survived a rape at the hands of a fellow service member. She did her best to continue her military career with dreams of attending West Point. She was raped two more times with police reports and hospital visits to prove it.
"I know each of my colleagues here would expect that these warriors were cared for to the best of this nation's ability. Sadly, the reality is far from that.
"Along with Liz and Chuck, since 2001 over 31,000 of our warriors have been discharged from the military without benefits because they were determined to have a personality or adjustment disorder. These are considered preexisting conditions.
"Even though Sergeant Luther had multiple mental health evaluations and served for a decade, it was only after the mortar attack the military determined he had a preexisting condition and casually threw him away with no benefits or healthcare.
"A 2008 GAO study concluded that at least 40 percent of these discharges were handed down without going through the proper Department of Defense Process--that is without the service member being diagnosed by a licensed mental health care professional, without the service member receiving notification of their impending discharge, and without the service member receiving formal counseling.
"Five years after this report, Congress still has not done anything to ensure these veterans' records are reviewed and, when necessary, corrected.
"Yesterday, Mr. Denham and I presented an amendment to this NDAA that would have allowed these warriors a basic appeal process to determine if they were improperly discharged. This amendment is the same as our bill H.R. 975. That amendment was not allowed to come to this floor for debate and a vote. Shame on us!
"A second amendment I offered would have put a moratorium on these discharges until we figure out if personality and adjustment disorder discharges are being used properly. That amendment was not allowed to come to the floor for debate and a vote. Shame on us!
"So the amendment I was allowed to offer today asks the GAO to do another study like the one that was done in 2008, to update the data.
"That's fine and good, but Chuck Luther doesn't want just a study. He wants justice. Liz Luras doesn't want just a study. She wants justice. The American people don't want just another study. They want justice for our warriors.
"I challenge each of my colleagues to go home this weekend and ask your constituents if they want another study done or if they would rather fight for the rights of our warriors to get justice. I would also encourage my colleagues to ask why Mr. Denham and my amendments were not allowed to be heard on this floor.
"So while I ask my colleagues to support this amendment to study the scope of this self-inflicted tragedy, it is not enough. Not nearly enough.
"We should be ashamed that we have not shown Liz and Chuck, and the tens of thousands of warriors like them, the respect they have shown this nation by serving in our military. I for one will not rest until H.R. 975 is signed into law and this injustice is made right."