Vietnam group asks Obama to pardon veterans

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A veterans service organization is asking President Obama to pardon veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder who received a less-than-honorable discharge after the president commuted the prison sentence for former Army soldier Chelsea Manning.

“As pardons are being issued to people who have been convicted of serious felonies, veterans who served their country in combat wait to be offered the same clemency,” said John Rowan, national president of Vietnam Veterans of America. 

With four days left in office, the Obama administration announced Tuesday that it was commuting Manning’s sentence, in addition to 208 others, and pardoning 64 individuals.

Manning was serving a 35-year prison sentence for leaking classified information that was later published by WikiLeaks. She will be released May 17, seven years after entering prison. 

{mosads}Manning, who is transgender, has reportedly struggled with mental health issues during her incarceration and solitary confinement, including two suicide attempts.

A senior administration official said Tuesday that Obama believes Manning has expressed remorse, saying her time served is “sufficient punishment for the serious crimes she committed.” 

The veterans group has argued that troops diagnosed with PTSD who have received a less-than-honorable discharge from the military without the due process of a court-martial should have their discharge pardoned, especially since they are denied access to critical benefits. 

“We, at Vietnam Veterans of America, continue to hold out hope that President Obama, in his final days as Commander-in-Chief, will not forget the thousands of veterans with PTSD who have been denied access to health care and treatment from the Department of Veterans Affairs,” Rowan said. 

The group said it has yet to hear from either the Obama White House or President-elect Donald Trump’s transition team.

“We hope that President Obama, in the final hours of his Presidency, will do right by his troops by helping bad-paper vets with PTSD,” Rowan said. “We cannot wait another four or eight years for an outgoing President to take action to help the most vulnerable veterans in the country.”

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