This Is What Happens When Troops Are Kicked Out Of The Military Because Of PTSD

Veterans Benefits
Lance Cpl. Andrew Sedamanos rushes to his squad during Military Operations on Urban Terrain, otherwise known as MOUT, training at Marine Corps Air-Ground Combat Center Twenty-nine Palms, Calif., Nov. 8, 2016. Smoke was used to provide concealment from simulated enemy forces in order for Sedamanos to manuever without the risk of exposure. Sedamanos is a rifleman with Company C, 1st Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division.
U.S Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Juan A. Soto-Delgado

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.

Related: Advocacy Group Calls On Obama To Pardon Post-9/11 Vets With ‘Bad-Paper’ Discharges »

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.

Related: The Mental Health Care Bill For Vets That No One Is Talking About »

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

Editor's Note: This article by Hope Hodge Seck originally appeared on, a leading source of news for the military and veteran community.

In the wake of a heartwarming viral video that was featured everywhere from Good Morning America to the Daily Mail comes a disheartening revelation: The 84-year-old self-described Army nurse cranking out push-ups in her crisp Vietnam-era uniform might not be who she said she was.

Maggie DeSanti, allegedly a retired Army lieutenant colonel who rappeled out of helicopters in Vietnam, was captured in a video challenging a TSA agent to a push-up competition ahead of a flight to Washington, D.C., with the Arizona chapter of the organization Honor Flight on Oct. 16. The video soon was everywhere, and many who shared it, including Honor Flight, hailed DeSanti's toughness and spirit.

Read More Show Less

The summer before sixth grade, Cindy Dawson went to an air show with her father and was enamored by the flight maneuvers the pilots performed.

"I just thought that would be the coolest thing that anybody could ever do," she said, especially having already heard stories about her grandfather flying bombers during World War II with the Army Air Corps.

So by the first day of school, she had already decided what she wanted to be when she grew up.

Read More Show Less
(ABC News)

Peach schnapps, sex on the beach, and piña colada may be familiar drinks to anyone who's spent an afternoon (or a whole day) getting plastered on an ocean-side boardwalk, but they're also specialty desserts at Ray's Boozy Cupcakes, Etc, a bakery in Voorhees, New Jersey run by a 93-year-old World War II veteran named Ray Boutwell.

Read More Show Less
Instagram/US Coast Guard

A former senior Coast Guard official has been accused of shoplifting from a Philadelphia sex shop.

Rear Adm. Francis "Stash" Pelkowski (Ret.) was accused of stealing a tester item from Kink Shoppe on Oct. 8, according to an Instagram post by the store that appeared online two days later. In the post, which included apparent security camera footage of the incident, a man can be seen looking at products on a counter before picking up an item and placing it in his pocket before turning and walking away.

The Instagram post identified the man as Pelkowski, and said it wished him "all the best in his retirement, a sincere thank you for your service, and extreme and utter disappointment in his personal morals."

Read More Show Less

SAN DIEGO —The Marines say changes in the way they train recruits and their notoriously hard-nosed drill instructors have led to fewer incidents of drill instructor misconduct, officials told the Union-Tribune.

Their statement about training followed an Oct. 5 Washington Post report revealing that more than 20 Marines at the San Diego boot camp have been disciplined for misconduct since 2017, including cases of physical attacks and racist and homophobic slurs. The story also was published in the Union-Tribune.

Read More Show Less