VA Will Begin Offering Mental Health Care For Vets With ‘Bad Paper’

news
On February 1, 2017, VA Under Secretary for Health Dr. David J. Shulkin testified before the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee on his nomination as Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs.
VA photo by Robert Turtil

Veterans with other-than-honorable discharges will be soon able to receive treatment for issues related to mental health from the Department of Veterans affairs. The announcement was made by David Shulkin, the VA secretary, during an evening meeting with the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee on Tuesday.


The issue was too important to wait for Congress to approve it, Shulkin said, adding that the change would take place as soon as possible, according to Military Times.

“We have some authorities to do that,” Shulkin said, reports Military Times. “So many veterans are just disconnected from our system. The 20 a day committing suicide are not getting the care they need.”

Veterans and their advocates have been arguing for the change for years. Commonly called “bad paper” discharges, OTH designations make a veteran ineligible for many VA benefits, including health care. For veterans with bad paper, this can lead to severe problems, and in a significant number of cases the discharge and the ensuing loss of a veteran’s benefits is an undeserved punishment. 

In some of the cases where service members have been dismissed for erratic behavior, substance abuse, or other problems, those issues turned out to be underlying symptoms of a far more serious mental health issue. According to Military.com an estimated 22,000 veterans with mental illnesses have received an other-than-honorable discharge since 2009. Yet with a bad-paper discharge, a veteran loses access to the care that could improve their well-being. Denying these former service members access access to mental health care also dramatically increases their chances of suicide, advocates say.

Related: What Happens When Veterans Receive Bad Paper Discharges? »

“This shift in policy signals a willingness on the part of the VA to finally treat its most vulnerable veterans,” Kristofer Goldsmith, founder of High Ground Veterans Advocacy, told Task & Purpose. In 2007, Goldsmith says, he attempted suicide while serving in the Army, but received a general discharge instead of treatment for his post-traumatic stress disorder.

“We’re going to do whatever we can,” Shulkin said during the meeting. “We’re going to work with you. This is unacceptable, and we shouldn’t have to wait for Congress to force the issue.”

Though no specific timeline was given, Shulkin said he hopes the change will go into effect within a few months, with instructions for individual hospitals on how best to treat those veterans.

Based on Shulkin’s remarks, it appears that this change will only impact those with other-than-honorable discharges. “Bad paper” is often used to refer to bad-conduct and dishonorable discharges, as well.

Even so, for advocates like Goldsmith, this kind of policy change has been a long time coming. He is also the assistant director for policy and government affairs for Vietnam Veterans of America, and he has pushed this issue for years following his discharge in the Army.

The proposed change is “a recognition that denying healthcare to a combat veteran is nothing but harmful but the devil is in the details,” he said.

“We still don’t know who will be eligible, and if they’ll have to jump through hoops to get the care that they desperately need.”

U.S. Airmen from the 22nd Airlift Squadron practice evasive procedures in a C-5M Super Galaxy over Idaho Dec. 9, 2019. The flight included simulated surface-to-air threats that tested their evasion capabilities. (Air Force photo/Senior Airman Amy Younger)

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — As many as 380 Americans on the Diamond Princess cruise ship docked in Japan – which has nearly 300 passengers who have tested positive for the deadly coronavirus, now known as COVID-19 – will be extracted Sunday from Yokohama and flown to Travis Air Force Base near Fairfield and a Texas base for further quarantine.

Read More

Editor's Note: This article originally appeared on Business Insider.

After whiffing on its recruiting goal in 2018, the Army has been trying new approaches to bring in the soldiers it needs to reach its goal of 500,000 in active-duty service by the end of the 2020s.

The 6,500-soldier shortfall the service reported in September 2018 was its first recruiting miss since 2005 and came despite it putting $200 million into bonuses and issuing extra waivers for health issues or bad conduct.

Within a few months of that disappointment, the Army announced it was seeking soldiers for an esports team that would, it said, "build awareness of skills that can be used as professional soldiers and use [its] gaming knowledge to be more relatable to youth."

Read More

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A New Mexico Army National Guard soldier from Mountainair, who served as a police officer and volunteer firefighter in the town, died Thursday from a non-combat related incident while deployed in Africa, according to the Department of Defense.

A news release states Pfc. Walter Lewark, 26, died at Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti where he was supporting Operation Enduring Freedom in the Horn of Africa.

Read More

WASHINGTON — The Pentagon is requesting about as much money for overseas operations in the coming fiscal year as in this one, but there is at least one noteworthy new twist: the first-ever Space Force request for war funds.

Officials say the $77 million request is needed by Oct. 1 not for space warfare but to enable military personnel to keep operating and protecting key satellites.

Read More

NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. prosecutors on Thursday accused Huawei of stealing trade secrets and helping Iran track protesters in its latest indictment against the Chinese company, escalating the U.S. battle with the world's largest telecommunications equipment maker.

In the indictment, which supersedes one unsealed last year in federal court in Brooklyn, New York, Huawei Technologies Co was charged with conspiring to steal trade secrets from six U.S. technology companies and to violate a racketeering law typically used to combat organized crime.

Read More