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Former sergeant appeals a suicide-related general discharge

In our last post, we discussed the frightening prospect of a war injury costing a service member his or her eligibility for VA benefits. This may seem unbelievable, as military benefits are supposed to compensate and care for America’s soldiers after their service. Indeed, it’s hard to imagine a situation when a soldier would be in greater need of care than after a war injury.

Unfortunately, a recent story illustrates that some injuries are not receiving equal treatment in the military justice system. The US Army sergeant in question received a general discharge for missing the plane that was going to transport him to Iraq. The May 2007 deployment would have been his second tour of duty; he had also served a year in Iraq in 2005 as a military photographer of war crime sites, including some mass graves. 

Yet the reason the sergeant missed his flight warrants a closer look. The night before the incident, the sergeant had attempted suicide with a bottle of painkillers. He woke up in a hospital with only a foggy recollection of the night before. Notably, the sergeant had also been diagnosed two months earlier with depression and adjustment disorder. However, the sergeant believes his actions reflect a much more serious condition: post traumatic stress disorder brought on by his first tour of duty. 

According to one commentator, an honorable discharge is often needed to receive government benefits. Other-than-honorable discharges, in contrast, may preclude benefits. Despite those severe consequences, less-than-honorable discharges are administratively easy to issue, perhaps involving little more than an officer filing out a paper. Fortunately, discharges can be appealed, and a skilled military lawyer can help a service member fight for his or her rights. 

Source:  Vice News, “After Being Punished for His Suicide Attempt, a US Veteran Is Fighting for Others with PTSD,” Liz Fields, Feb. 10, 2016

Related post: “Can a war injury jeopardize your right to VA benefits?” copyright 2016, Law Offices of David P. Sheldon, PLLC 

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