Stabilizing PTSD Outcomes in the Military
Article Image

Veterans come from all different backgrounds. Brandon Heffinger is a Marine Corps officer, the Director of the Wake Forest Veterans Legal Clinic and a current MPA student at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. He shares his thoughts on why veterans sometimes have troubles when arriving home.

Sometimes when you are on the battlefield and you begin to have experience challenges, it is hard to understand the suffering and pinpoint exact solutions. The following scenario does happen: They act out, struck with PTSD, the next person in the next chain of command is disappointed with them and they do receive less than honorable discharges, which implicates them in the post military life. The discharge prevents a large percentage of veterans being considered from being considered veterans which means they can't get help from the US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to address their PTSD. It is a true blue Catch 22.

This exact practice should not be in place, since it prohibits proper care for people that served which should be unlawful. This problem has existed for a long time, and Vietnam veterans are a strong case in point. The military granted 260,000 less than honorable discharges to Vietnam veterans. Meanwhile, 30% of Vietnam veterans have struggled with PTSD in their lifetimes, according to VA estimates. The issue did not stop them, it continued into 9/11 era.

Efforts have been made to remedy this situation. Over the past three years, the Department of Defense and Congress have done some work to improve discharge upgrade policies, which has vastly helped this scenario. The House of Representatives has passed the Veteran Urgent Access to Mental Health Care Act. The bill requires the VA to provide an initial mental health assessment and provide services if needed. This is substantive work that we should be proud of as it brings change to a new generation of veterans that will need care, of varying levels.

In his second inaugural address, Abraham Lincoln called on the country "to care for him who shall have borne the battle . . ." It remains the official motto of the VA today and we should stand by that.