Pentagon expands the policy to upgrade veterans’ bad paper discharges
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The Defense Department issued a policy change that offers more leeway to veterans who seek for upgrades to their other-than-honorable discharges.

A memorandum which is dated Aug. 25 instructs the Army Review Boards Agency, (this is the office that is charged with the responsibility of changing military records) to implement “liberal consideration” when dealing with cases brought by veterans who are looking to upgrade their bad papers/ less-than-honorable discharges, that was due to mental health conditions or traumatic brain injury, sexual assault or sexual harassment. The policy also gives a clear guideline on the cases that ought to be considered when considering an upgrade of bad papers.

In 2014, the former Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, issued an order that instructed the Army Review Boards Agency to give ample consideration to the veterans who wanted to upgrade their bad papers and had been discharged because of post-traumatic stress disorder. This new memo just expands on the order that was issued by Hagel. This is after many years of veterans pleading with the government to recognize that service members can be affected by service-related mental health conditions that change their behaviors and lead to disciplinary problems.

After Hagel’s memo was issued three years ago, many observers noted that the instructions had been applied differently based on the military branch, while the veterans’ applications for upgrades grew into a backlog of cases. And even now some service members suffering from PTSD are still being discharged with bad paper. Researchers from their studies also found out that the Defense Department was not consistent in applying its policy of taking into consideration that a service-related medical disorder could lead to misconduct.

The memo was sent to all the military secretaries and was signed by Anthony M. Kurta, who is a retired Navy rear admiral and currently is performing the duties of the undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness. The memo legally requires that the boards ask whether a veteran had a condition or experience that would excuse or outweigh their other-than-honorable discharge.

In March this year, the VA Secretary David Shulkin announced that the VA will be providing urgent mental health care services to veterans with other-than-honorable discharges – aid. This was not available in the past. The policy was put in place from the 5th of July, and the veterans with bad paper are eligible to be granted up to 90 days of mental health care.