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This Is What Happens When Troops Are Kicked Out Of The Military Because Of PTSD
The documentary series, “Charlie Foxtrot,” recently released online, examines the fact that 300,000 post-9/11 veterans have received less than honorable discharges. To put that number in context, approximately 2.7 million veterans have served in Iraq and Afghanistan during that time. The film’s contention is that many of these discharges are due to the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury, and that the military’s handling of these veterans amounts to a charlie foxtrot, using the NATO phonetic alphabet for “c” and “f,” or in common military parlance, a clusterfuck.
The five-part series focuses on several veterans who committed misconduct or attempted suicide after returning from combat in Iraq or Afghanistan. These veterans were not given adequate psychological treatment, and, in most cases, were discharged with characterizations that adversely affected their ability to receive VA treatment. This is undoubtedly a real issue, though the percentage of less-than-honorable discharges that are directly due to psychological problems from combat operations is unclear.
Journalists and psychologists alike have uncovered links between those afflictions and disciplinary problems. Those disciplinary problems lead to discharges, and depending on the type of discharge given, the veteran may see a considerable loss of benefits. Now that vet probably has a more difficult time finding a job due to a less-than-honorable characterization of discharge, and also may not be able to access any VA assistance.
As “Charlie Foxtrot” details, the process for appealing discharges is long and costly. Nicholas Jackson, a soldier with PTSD profiled in the film who received an other-than-honorable discharge after going AWOL, spent five years and $16,000 appealing his discharge characterization. Although Jackson was ultimately successful, many vets have neither the time nor the money to appeal discharges while coping with what may be severe mental health challenges.
One of the most poignant cases profiled in the documentary is that of Brian Portwine, a soldier who killed himself between deployments to Iraq. Reviewing his records, it became apparent to his family that he had been initially been assessed by the Army as a “no-go” for another deployment due to PTSD, an assessment that was visibly crossed out on a form and changed to “go.”
That case is a good example of where the system currently falls short on taking care of individuals while they are still in the service. The military exists to go to war. Commanders up and down the chain have incentives to succeed in what to them is a short-term goal. They need a certain number of trained bodies to take with them on deployment. A broken leg or physical injury is usually a binary diagnosis. A soldier is either good-to-go or he’s not. PTSD and TBI are nebulous, coming in differing degrees of severity with widely varying symptoms. When some of those symptoms involve actions that constitute disciplinary problems in a military environment, it complicates things even further.
When confronted with troubled individuals exhibiting what would normally be a straightforward discipline problem, it is far easier for their leaders to treat them as such. From an institutional standpoint, a discharge is a far simpler solution to troublemakers than months of working with a service member with psychological wounds.
There is also a growing amount of literature showing how PTSD can be reduced by preparation before traumatic experiences and prompt treatment after. Charlie Foxtrot visits Army boot camp and shows that in spite of this, entry-level training in regards to mental health could be generously described as perfunctory.
There is also no screening for those who might be more susceptible to psychological injury. The military keeps up with the cutting edge of weaponry, but is clearly not keeping up with the cutting edge of psychological research.
After half a dozen heartbreaking case studies, I expected that “Charlie Foxtrot” was going to simply ask viewers to feel sorry for service members with PTSD and TBI, and perhaps push for the military to soften its policies in regard to good order and discipline. I was pleasantly surprised that the filmmakers’ goal is for viewers to support the Fairness for Veterans Act, which among many provisions, would mandate consideration of mental health in the discharge process, simplify the process of appealing discharge characterizations for those with PTSD, and allow any veteran without a bad conduct or dishonorable discharge to get a mental health assessment from the VA.
Someday, the military may be able to prevent and treat psychological injuries better than it currently does. In the meantime, the Fairness for Veterans Act is a necessary solution for those left without help after being forced out of the military with psychological injuries that might be service-related.
To see the complete series, visit http://www.charliefoxtrot.org/.
A former sailor who was busted buying firearms with his military discount and then reselling some of them to criminals is proving to be a wealth of information for federal investigators.
Julio Pino used his iPhone to record most, if not all, of his sales, court documents said. He even went so far as to review the buyers' driver's license on camera.
It is unclear how many of Pino's customer's now face criminal charges of their own. Federal indictments generally don't provide that level of detail and Assistant U.S. Attorney William B. Jackson declined to comment.
It all began with a medical check.
Carson Thomas, a healthy and fit 20-year-old infantryman who had joined the Army after a brief stint in college, figured he should tell the medics about the pain in his groin he had been feeling. It was Feb. 12, 2012, and the senior medic looked him over and decided to send him to sick call at the base hospital.
It seemed almost routine, something the Army doctors would be able to diagnose and fix so he could get back to being a grunt.
Now looking back on what happened some seven years later, it was anything but routine.
The US military now has to ask the Iraqis for permission before giving close air support to troops in combat
U.S. forces must now ask the Iraqi military for permission to fly in Iraqi airspace before coming to the aid of U.S. troops under fire, a top military spokesman said.
However, the mandatory approval process is not expected to slow down the time it takes the U.S. military to launch close air support and casualty evacuation missions for troops in the middle of a fight, said Army Col. James Rawlinson, a spokesman for Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve.
Army Spc. Clayton James Horne died in Saudi Arabia on Aug. 17, making him the eighth non-combat fatality for Operation Inherent Resolve so far this year, defense officials have announced.
Horne, 23, was assigned to the 351st Military Police Company, 160th Military Police Battalion, an Army Reserve unit based in Ocala, Florida, a Pentagon news release says.
The soldier who was arrested for taking an armored personnel carrier on a slow-speed police chase through Virginia has been found not guilty by reason of insanity on two charges, according to The Richmond-Times Dispatch.
Joshua Phillip Yabut, 30, entered a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity for unauthorized use of a motor vehicle — in this case, a 12-ton APC taken from Fort Pickett in June 2018 — and violating the terms of his bond, which stemmed from a trip to Iraq he took in March 2019 (which was not a military deployment).