Walz pushes mental health bill for vets

Rep. Tim Walz
U.S. Rep. Tim Walz, D-Minn., shown in a September 2012 file photo, introduced the Servicemembers Mental Health Review Act of 2012 with Rep. Tom Rooney, R-Fla.
Alex Kolyer for MPR

U.S. Rep. Tim Walz, D-Minn., said he will push for the lame-duck Congress to pass legislation restoring benefits to military veterans who were discharged because of personality disorders.

Walz introduced the Servicemembers Mental Health Review Act of 2012 with Rep. Tom Rooney, R-Fla. The bill directs the military to review the cases of more than 30,000 service members who have been discharged since 2001 because of personality disorders.

He said that many of those veterans actually suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder or traumatic brain injury.

"So I'm asking, go back, let's look at all of these cases again," Walz said. "One, it's morally the right thing to do but, two is, we're sending and have sent 30,000 people out on the streets with identifiable mental health issues with nowhere for them to turn."

If the legislation passes, he said, "they would get VA health care."

He added that the bill would restore the records of soldiers discharged because of personality disorders.

"It would change the status of their military records," Walz said. "Many of these people have told our office they're afraid to tell people they were in because it's considered a less than honorable discharge. The real crux of the problem here is mental health parity and treating mental health issues on the same way you would physical injury."

The VA is doing exceptional work, he said, but the federal agency has disappointed some former soldiers.

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