A recent series on NPR recounted the bleak prospects of veterans who left the service with discharges that were less than honorable. Many of them bear physical or emotional scars from their service, but they are cut off from the world of veterans' benefits.
"Many went to war, saw combat, even earned medals before they broke the rules of military discipline or in some cases committed serious crimes," wrote reporter Quil Lawrence. "The bad discharge means no VA assistance, no disability compensation, no GI Bill, and it's a red flag on any job application. Most veterans service organizations don't welcome bad paper vets, and even many private sector jobs programs for vets accept honorable discharge only."
As Lawrence reported in his series, some of the veterans blame service-related injuries for their bad behavior. "Many veterans with bad paper argue that their conduct was the result of post-traumatic stress disorder or traumatic brain injury," he wrote.
What are some of the consequences of having "bad paper"? Without VA benefits, where can these veterans turn for help?
The Daily Circuit takes a look at the series and the issues it raises.
LEARN MORE ABOUT VETERANS WITH "BAD PAPER":
The Vets We Reject and Ignore
No federal agency publishes the numbers of bad paper discharges. But historical studies suggest that at least several hundred thousand veterans fall into this category. Approximately 260,000 of the 8.7 million Vietnam-era veterans were pushed out of the service with bad paper. More recently, according to documents separately obtained by the Colorado Springs Gazette, the Army discharged 76,165 soldiers between 2006 and 2012 with bad paper. Of these recent Army discharges, only one in seven were kicked out following a criminal conviction for a serious offense. The rest were discharged for smaller breaches of military discipline like missing duty or abusing alcohol or drugs. For many of them, their misconduct was likely related to the stresses of war. (Phillip Carter, in a New York Times op-ed)
• Other than Honorable
A Gazette investigation shows an increasing number of soldiers, including wounded combat veterans, are being kicked out of the service for misconduct, often with no benefits, as the Army downsizes after a decade of war. (Colorado Springs Gazette)