WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Dec. 18, 2014) – Veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder who were discharged under “other than honorable” conditions can apply on a new webpage to have their discharge upgraded if it was due to PTSD.
The Army launched a webpage for the veterans to get information and ultimately enable them to apply for the change in status, said Col. Matthew B. Coleman, the military assistant to the deputy assistant secretary of the Army at the Army Review Boards Agency.
Veterans can find the information at http://arba.army.pentagon.mil, he said.
“Veterans are Soldiers for life,” Coleman said. “I want to encourage our veterans out there to apply.”
The Army is committed to making sure the veterans receive fair consideration of their service and the conditions that may have mitigated the misconduct that led to their discharge, he said.
The Army launched the site in accordance with a Department of Defense memorandum from September, he said.
“We want to demonstrate our commitment for considering every petition that is brought by veterans claiming PTSD, and requesting an upgrade of their discharge,” Coleman said.
“We inculcate the core values of the agency, which are justice, equity and compassion — and those are the merits by which we look at each and every case,” he said.
PTSD was not recognized as a diagnosis at the time of service in past conflicts such as the Vietnam War, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel said in his memorandum, dated Sept. 3.
In many cases, Hagel said, diagnoses were not made until decades after service was completed. The memorandum provided guidance to the military department Boards for Correction of Military/Naval Records, as they considered the upgrades. The memorandum seeks to ease the application process for the veterans.
The Army wants to get the message out to veterans from all past conflicts and is reaching out to veteran groups to spread the word.
“Upgrades are very important because they are linked to benefits that they could receive through the Department of Veterans Affairs, as well as being able to get medical treatment — that’s probably most important with those who are suffering from invisible injuries of PTSD or PTSD-related symptoms,” Coleman said.
The Army has come a long way and done a “tremendous job” over the years of trying to erase the stigma associated with PTSD. The Army is reaching out to Soldiers and trying to get them to seek help, Coleman said.
“I think this puts the stigma aside and I think the liberal guidance in considering these cases is an important piece of that to gain the confidence of the veterans out there who may have had some sort of misconduct that was related to these symptoms,” he said.
The Army at this point, he said, does not have an estimate on how many applications it could receive.
Veterans who were previously denied an upgrade could reapply. The Army Board for Correction of Military Records would consider such an application as a new case.
The guidance only applies to veterans with “other than honorable” discharges.