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Bad Paper Veterans Obtain New Benefits

Each year, thousands of service members put their life on the line fighting for our country’s freedom. However, during that same year, 20,000 service members get discharged from the military with a “less than honorable” discharge, accounting for nearly 500,000 veterans total earning the title of having a “Bad Paper” discharge. This discharge type can cause these individuals to face obstacles when trying to navigate their new civilian life. These include trying to obtain employment, VA benefits, as well as social stigma that they committed a crime.

In 2017, the Government Accountability Office found that 62% of service members who had a “less than honorable” discharge indicated it was a result of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), or other conditions related to misconduct that was result of their military service. In turn, this automatically barred them from receiving VA benefits they desperately needed once they had been discharged.

Many veterans with this type of discharge are at risk for drug abuse, homeslessness, and mental illness. Combined with the stigma of their discharge, risks, and economic issues, this can ultimately lead to homelessness and possible suicide. The suicide risk for “Bad Paper” veterans is almost double that of those veterans that have an honorable discharge.

Congress recently recognized this as a crisis and previously enacted that “Bad Paper” veterans can receive emergency care at VA facilities as a humanitarian care effort. The VA will also begin offering “Bad Paper” veterans access to the Veteran Crisis Line, which is a toll-free suicide hotline for veterans. Previously, it was policy for counselors to hang up on “Bad Paper” vets.

The state of Connecticut has recently reviewed its policy on veterans with this type of discharge and begun offering VA resources if the veterans can show one of these conditions led to their “less than honorable” discharge. By having a medical professional complete the necessary paperwork with their medical history and submitting it for review, veterans can now have access to therapy, medications, and lifesaving appointments with doctors that should have never been denied.

Connecticut is hopefully the first of many states that recognizes that in order to stop a veteran in crisis, the proper action needs to be taken before a veteran gets to that point. This is a step in the right direction to go above for those that have gone beyond.

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