Dems want Army probe of alleged wrongful discharges

Dems want Army probe of alleged wrongful discharges
© Greg Nash

A group of Senate Democrats wants the Army to investigate allegations that it dismissed thousands of soldiers for "misconduct" after they were diagnosed with mental health disorders.

Democrats sent a letter Wednesday to Eric Fanning, the acting undersecretary of the Army, and Gen. Mark Milley, the service's chief of staff, calling for an investigation by the Army's inspector general.

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“We are troubled by recent allegations that the U.S. Army is forcefully separating for misconduct servicemembers diagnosed with PTSD [post-traumatic stress disorder] or TBI [traumatic brain injury]. We are concerned that it may be easier to discharge servicemembers for minor misconduct—possibly related to mental health issues—than to evaluate them for conditions that may warrant a medical discharge," the senators wrote.

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The move comes after NPR and Colorado Public Radio reported that the Army discharged more than 22,000 soldiers since 2009 for "misconduct" after they returned from Afghanistan or Iraq and were diagnosed with mental health issues or traumatic brain injuries.

The Army, according to the report, has conducted investigations into similar allegations, including reviewing soldiers' medical files.

But the senators wrote Wednesday that they believe the Army should conduct a full investigation, including determining whether the Army is violating defense policy.

According to the senators, the fiscal 2014 National Defense Authorization Act asked the Governmental Accountability Office (GAO) to investigate the type of cases highlighted in the radio stations' investigation.

The GAO in February recommended that the Defense Department and military branches create policies to better identify troops who are discharged for non-disability mental health reasons and ensure they are given an appropriate status.

The Defense Department largely concurred with the GAO report.

Sergeant Major of the Army Dan Dailey was asked at the time about the allegations by the Army Times, but he noted that individual cases vary.

"It's hard to comment on that from a generalized term because there's no generalization to those things," he said. "They're individual soldier acts of indiscipline, and they're also individual care needs if they're injured, even if those injuries are not visible."