Army expels 22000 soldiers with mental health disorders for "misconduct"
October 28, 2015 6:30 PM   Subscribe

 
So, the army convinces them to join up with a promise to care for them after their service, puts them through hell, gives them PTSD, and then declares them ineligible for care due to their mental health issues. Jesus wept.

It would be nice if the US was a country that actually supported the troops, as opposed to one that just likes to tell itself that on bumper stickers.
posted by tocts at 6:36 PM on October 28, 2015 [54 favorites]


With NPR's gradual transition to yet another corporate financed media outlet . . . this was the kind of reporting I like to see (or hear).
posted by Bee'sWing at 6:45 PM on October 28, 2015 [1 favorite]


Enraging. Even more so, to me, in light of the fact that we have a "good" Commander in Chief who should care that soldiers with traumatic brain injury have access to things like a doctor.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 6:45 PM on October 28, 2015 [4 favorites]


The only word I have is "evil".
posted by Pope Guilty at 6:49 PM on October 28, 2015 [10 favorites]


"I've given [the Army] all of my youthful years. I'm 42 years old now," Morrison says, in a defeated-sounding monotone. "And now they want to put me out with no benefits, they want to give me an other-than-honorable discharge — so I can't get a job, I can't go to school — and take my retirement away. So they want to put me on the streets with nothing."

Morrison says he struggles to get just a few hours of sleep each night before he wakes up from recurring nightmares about a buddy who was killed in Afghanistan. A doctor prescribed medication to help him sleep, but Morrison says he doesn't always take it.

"Nightmares are bad but at the same time, they're good, actually, because the nightmares help you remember the guys that are gone," Morrison says. "And you know you can't go see them, you can't call them and you can't go talk to them. So sometimes you want the nightmares — to help you to spend time with the guys that are actually gone."


Typical. Also, the other guys they picture - who got treated badly overall but a little better than Morrison - are white, and Morrison is Black. Just nauseatingly typical. Gin people up with patriotism and lies, ruin them and then get rid of them. This is, absolutely, the military-industrial complex - it's the same kind of thing that happens to workers at Amazon and nursing home assistants and anyone who is the least bit economically vulnerable - work you as hard as they can and then screw you as hard as they can.

The army hasn't changed much since the old imperial career armies you read about, where there'd be these broken down old soldiers begging in the street or barely making a living, the ones who fought in the old colonial wars.

It's just utter shit. I might have some time for this whole system if it at least took care of its own true believers, but it screws them just as hard as anybody.
posted by Frowner at 6:53 PM on October 28, 2015 [19 favorites]


what the hell
posted by adept256 at 6:54 PM on October 28, 2015 [3 favorites]


I'm normally on the camp of, it's not as bad as you think.

This, though. This is some pretty fucked up shit right here.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 6:59 PM on October 28, 2015 [1 favorite]


This is america, soldier! Don't worry; your local (or not-so-local) police force has plenty of positions to fill! No meds or therapy needed! You can work your PTSD out on-the-job, and continue to serve!

Cries
posted by lalochezia at 7:06 PM on October 28, 2015 [11 favorites]


And if you do get out with that Honorable Discharge, then the VA's policy is:

Deny, Deny, Deny;
Delay until they die.
posted by pjern at 7:06 PM on October 28, 2015 [5 favorites]


I'm tempted to begin this statement with, "In a perfect world ..." -- but that's bullshit. This isn't an issue of a slightly-less-than-perfect world, but an aggressively inhumane one.

So:

In an even minimally humane world, it would be the law of the land that any branch of the military that deems a person fit for active duty would be forevermore responsible for that person's mental and physical health till the day they die. Full stop. No exceptions. No takebacks. No "we don't think that's related to your service". Not even "you did something criminal, during or after your service." If you want to put someone into combat, they're now your responsibility forever. If that seems too onerous, then maybe you need to reconsider how you're recruiting and how you're treating your troops.
posted by tocts at 7:10 PM on October 28, 2015 [90 favorites]


Despicable.

There's a debate going on right now that I'm deliberately not watching. If asked, I'm sure every single one would raise their hand and solemnly vow they "support our troops." I wonder what they would say if a moderator brought this up.

[vent] Assholes. [/vent]
posted by zooropa at 7:11 PM on October 28, 2015 [4 favorites]


I wonder what they would say if a moderator brought this up.

Pretty obviously they'd blame Obama, then wrap themselves in the flag and swear this would never happen on their watch.
posted by Thorzdad at 7:23 PM on October 28, 2015 [4 favorites]


I... I... I don't even know what to say. I'm just ill from reading that.
posted by _paegan_ at 7:28 PM on October 28, 2015


This is exactly what you get when you have a Congress that worships at the altar of the twin hawks, Chickenhawk and Deficit Hawk. Billions for aggressive elective wars (and pork barrel defense programs, of course), but pinch those VA pennies--until the inevitable scandal erupts, then fire the VA head and consider it a job well done; lather, rinse, repeat. And further the conceit that a "support the troops" magnet on your SUV is all the support you are obligated to give. That's their game plan. (And remember how many of them are veterans themselves.)
posted by Halloween Jack at 7:41 PM on October 28, 2015 [17 favorites]


Now if there were more wealthy and influential veterans, maybe those people in charge would give a damn. Until then, its just the same old plan to shove the poor into the meat grinder and keep costs down.
posted by Muncle at 7:44 PM on October 28, 2015 [2 favorites]


.
posted by stoneweaver at 7:46 PM on October 28, 2015


'I'd call my mom and say everyday I wish I was dead'

(paraphrasing here)

Eric: 'They give me medicine that doesn't fucking work'

Top army psychiatrist: 'There's no reason to fucking cuss'

THERE IS EVERY REASON TO CUSS. IF ANYONE HAS EARNED THE RIGHT SWEAR HIS FUCKING HEAD OFF IT'S HIM

so mad right now I need to go for a walk or something
posted by adept256 at 7:47 PM on October 28, 2015 [5 favorites]


As soon as you have a notion of people who deserve and those who do not almost everyone eventually ends up on the not deserving side of the equation.
posted by srboisvert at 7:52 PM on October 28, 2015 [31 favorites]


Pretty obviously they'd blame Obama

And why shouldn't they? This is the sort of obviously shitty policy that HAS to come down from on high. This isn't happening by accident, it's a deliberate decision on the Commander In Chief's part.
posted by Confess, Fletch at 7:58 PM on October 28, 2015 [5 favorites]


Lie down with dogs, get up with fleas. It has always been that way.
posted by metagnathous at 8:00 PM on October 28, 2015


"Okay, now find me 22,000 who were insubordinate!"
posted by valkane at 8:00 PM on October 28, 2015


Pretty obviously they'd blame Obama

Him being the Commander in Chief and all.
posted by kanewai at 8:08 PM on October 28, 2015 [5 favorites]


Sad.
Angry.
Discouraged.
posted by SyraCarol at 8:14 PM on October 28, 2015 [1 favorite]


This is not what most recruits expect when they hear that the Army takes care of its own.

So many people in uniform clearly should be out on their asses, but they're the ones behind this program.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 8:48 PM on October 28, 2015


Requirements for high school diplomas were waived; misdemeanors and low level felony convictions were waived; and then these 'kids', young adults, people that might not all be there to begin with get sent off to a horrific mass of chaos; and then they come back more than a little screwed up worse than before? Really? Do I even need to look at the article to see how this works out for them?
posted by buzzman at 8:59 PM on October 28, 2015 [2 favorites]


> This isn't happening by accident, it's a deliberate decision on the Commander In Chief's part.

Ummmm No. Not even close. Decisions like these are made by Pentagon military DOD officials. The President is completely shielded from these decisions and frankly it isn't his job to decide who gets what kind of discharge. DOD policies are overseen by Congress (especially the Senate committees) so if you want to place blame you can place it correctly on the shoulders of our do-nothing Congress who have been consistently screwing our Vets.

With that said once this is brought to the Executive branch's level there are likely a lot of things that Obama could do to pressure his commanders and Congress to make things right for these service people who deserve far, far better.
posted by AGameOfMoans at 9:03 PM on October 28, 2015 [44 favorites]


Fury. Us.
posted by CincyBlues at 9:42 PM on October 28, 2015 [1 favorite]


Some folks inherit star spangled eyes,
They send you down to war, Lord,
And when you ask them, "How much should we give?"
They only answer More! more! more!

posted by RobotVoodooPower at 10:31 PM on October 28, 2015 [10 favorites]


"As a member of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, Barack Obama has fought to end benefit disparities, bring homeless veterans in off the street, strengthen mental health care, add billions of dollars in additional Department of Veterans Affairs funding, and reform a system that often places barriers between veterans and the benefits they have earned. Obama and Joe Biden will ensure we honor the sacred trust to care for our nation’s veterans...Obama and Biden will improve mental health treatment for troops and veterans suffering from combat-related psychological injuries. They will:

Improve Mental Health Treatment: Recruit more health professionals, improve screening, offer more support to families and make PTSD benefits claims fairer.
Improve Care for Traumatic Brain Injury: Establish standards of care for Traumatic Brain Injury, the signature injury of the Iraq war.
Expand Vet Centers: Expand and strengthen Vet Centers to provide more counseling for vets and their families."

From Mmss. Hope and Change.
posted by clavdivs at 3:21 AM on October 29, 2015 [1 favorite]


Next up: Amputee soldiers expelled for insubordination due to limping.
posted by fairmettle at 4:29 AM on October 29, 2015 [3 favorites]


That's the crutch of it.
posted by clavdivs at 4:54 AM on October 29, 2015


This is on the current generation of generals and colonels, who started their careers in the late '80s/early '90s and were low-level leaders before September 11th and the Iraq War. For them, if a soldier isn't performing, there isn't a reason beyond "This soldier doesn't want to be here, and I don't want him here," because back when they worked with soldiers on a day-to-day basis, that was the case.

Also, they just don't have a true gut-level understanding of TBI and PTSD, for the same reason -- they never had to be the lieutenant who had to deal with the formerly good sergeant who's trying to deal with issues caused by a combat injury. There just weren't combat injuries back then (the number one cause of lost-time injuries in the armed forces, year after year, both before and after Afghanistan and Iraq: basketball).

So it's a little bit on Obama, in the sense that he needs to call the Joint Chiefs and the Service Secretaries into the Oval Office and say, "Gentlemen, you all work for me, and This. Shit. Stops. Now. I have here several of the most eminent researchers into TBI and PTSD, and they're going to talk to us for the next few hours about how they would solve this problem, and you're going to fucking listen to them, and we're going to have another meeting in a month and go over every single goddamn separation, line by line. And before that meeting, you're all going to write up and sign your resignations, and I'll decide right fucking then and there which ones I want to accept."
posted by Etrigan at 6:08 AM on October 29, 2015 [17 favorites]


Obama and Biden will improve mental health treatment for troops and veterans suffering from combat-related psychological injuries. They will:

Improve Mental Health Treatment: Recruit more health professionals, improve screening, offer more support to families and make PTSD benefits claims fairer.
Improve Care for Traumatic Brain Injury: Establish standards of care for Traumatic Brain Injury, the signature injury of the Iraq war.
Expand Vet Centers: Expand and strengthen Vet Centers to provide more counseling for vets and their families."


FWIW, as of 2012, they'd actually kept most of those promises, and even some of those open issues have since been addressed. Most of the issues still require Congress to act, and the GOP leadership (and most of their caucus, for that matter) seems indifferent if not hostile towards doing anything but chickenhawking.
posted by zombieflanders at 6:31 AM on October 29, 2015 [5 favorites]


I'd like to suggest that these sessions should be recorded, but I think that the asshole brass who are trying to get rid of soldiers for Traumatic Fucking Brain Injury would get access to them when they shouldn't and use them against the soldiers. So instead, I think that there should simply be a sign in every office: "Did you remember to turn on your cellphone's recording?" And the therapist should be obligated to suggest it at the beginning of every session. Make it voluntary, but make it obvious that it'd be a good idea to avoid this bullshit.

The military shits all over common soldiers. Film at 11.
posted by Hactar at 6:52 AM on October 29, 2015 [2 favorites]


Anti-war activists should create informative brochures and websites based upon this information that can be used to dissuade prospective recruits and their families. It'll remain useful even if the military addresses the specifics here since the general attitude remains.
posted by jeffburdges at 7:01 AM on October 29, 2015 [5 favorites]


Something else that occurred to me this morning in the shower as I was thinking about the article: I think that it's striking that three of the soldiers mentioned in the article were kicked out ostensibly for getting DUIs, and another for an alleged domestic violence incident (which his wife characterizes differently). I wonder if this is part of the army's scheme for discharging people on grounds that would prevent them from getting a disability pension or other benefits; automatic discharges for things that most people would have little sympathy for, even if they were never convicted for them.
posted by Halloween Jack at 7:23 AM on October 29, 2015


I was actually just complaining to a therapist colleague that treating TBI is such a difficult thing, because it's an organic neurological disorder that looks a lot like a mental illness (generally due to loss of impulse-control), and so people dealing with it end up in a weird limbo place between the two and (in my non-VA or dealing-with-veterans experience) with both physical healthcare providers and mental healthcare providers pointing fingers and saying, "This is your field, not mine." TBI wasn't even in the DSM until this latest edition, which only started being used about a year ago, and not consistently (my agency is still using the DSM-IV-TR). Which also means that therapists (I can't speak to psychiatrists) likely have not been getting much standardized education about treatments.

The f'ing military/VA, however, should have long ago figured out some integrated neurological/psychiatric/behavioral-health model for treating TBI, because they, unlike many agencies, have a lot more ability to have physical health and behavioral health under one roof.

And none of that excuses military behavioral healthcare clinicians from being so ignorant about PTSD, for fuck's sake.
posted by jaguar at 7:28 AM on October 29, 2015 [6 favorites]


I think that it's striking that three of the soldiers mentioned in the article were kicked out ostensibly for getting DUIs, and another for an alleged domestic violence incident (which his wife characterizes differently). I wonder if this is part of the army's scheme for discharging people on grounds that would prevent them from getting a disability pension or other benefits

I don't think there's really an Army-wide scheme (the total numbers in that chart in the NPR article kind of track with base populations, but not very closely). The main thing is that medical retirements (a.k.a. disability pensions) are much harder to get through the system than misconduct-based discharges, especially if the would-be medical retiree also has a discharge-worthy misconduct offense (DVs have been one-strike discharges for going on 20 years now, and DUIs have been near-one-strike (you can get away with one if you're a very junior soldier) for longer).

There's definitely some thinking by individual commanders of "Fuck this guy, he doesn't deserve it," but it's not at the level of organized crime.
posted by Etrigan at 7:47 AM on October 29, 2015 [4 favorites]


It would be nice if the US was a country that actually supported the troops, as opposed to one that just likes to tell itself that on bumper stickers.

Some long overdue news: Draft master plan is unveiled for long-neglected VA campus in West L.A.
The document satisfies a key requirement of the January settlement of a 2011 lawsuit filed on behalf of chronically homeless veterans. The suit alleged that the VA was illegally leasing land to corporations, schools and other entities while failing to provide adequate care for men and women who had served in the military.
posted by Room 641-A at 8:06 AM on October 29, 2015


While I am not trained in law it's my understanding that in civilian jurisprudence the insanity defense would probably not fly for the described cases of domestic violence and drunk driving.
posted by save alive nothing that breatheth at 8:07 AM on October 29, 2015 [1 favorite]


This is the sort of obviously shitty policy that HAS to come down from on high. This isn't happening by accident, it's a deliberate decision on the Commander In Chief's part.

Yeah, no. Not a bit. And not just because Obama has taken actions against this sort of thing, but because I think characterizing this as a "policy" is missing the mark. I seriously doubt anyone has sat down and written a policy that "anyone who asks for mental health assistance should get kicked out." No, I think it's more likely the military culture of machismo where "only a wuss gets depression." So the higher ups look on anyone asking for psych help as a loser who's probably faking it to wimp out of his obligations, and should be kicked to the curb. It's not a rule or a policy, so much as a cultural practice that doubts the likelihood or prevalence of the problems. At least that was the impression I got listening to this story yesterday, particularly the part where they ask the one official about the harsh reception heard from the therapists and he basically says "we have to do that because we can't tell if they're faking it to be lazy or not."
posted by dnash at 8:09 AM on October 29, 2015 [4 favorites]


While I am not trained in law it's my understanding that in civilian jurisprudence the insanity defense would probably not fly for the described cases of domestic violence and drunk driving.

Good thing nobody is arguing that it should, then.

There is not a problem with a policy that says domestic violence or DUI are grounds for discharge. However, there is a massive fucking problem with following that with, "... and we're totally sure your substance abuse problem or anger issues or impulse control problems have nothing whatsoever to do with having been deployed in a warzone, so we're washing our hands of your healthcare."
posted by tocts at 8:26 AM on October 29, 2015 [1 favorite]


However, there is a massive fucking problem with following that with, "... and we're totally sure your substance abuse problem or anger issues or impulse control problems have nothing whatsoever to do with having been deployed in a warzone, so we're washing our hands of your healthcare."

Even a dishonorable discharge for DUI or domestic violence doesn't necessarily disqualify a servicemember from receiving VA care for service-connected injuries (5-page PDF). But odds are that these people aren't being told that, plus the effects of their injuries would make it harder for them to get through the process.
posted by Etrigan at 8:40 AM on October 29, 2015


THE DEAD-BEAT

He dropped,—more sullenly than wearily,
Lay stupid like a cod, heavy like meat,
And none of us could kick him to his feet;
Just blinked at my revolver, blearily;
—Didn't appear to know a war was on,
Or see the blasted trench at which he stared.
"I'll do 'em in," he whined. "If this hand's spared,
I'll murder them, I will."

A low voice said,
"It's Blighty, p'raps, he sees; his pluck's all gone,
Dreaming of all the valiant, that aren't dead:
Bold uncles, smiling ministerially;
Maybe his brave young wife, getting her fun
In some new home, improved materially.
It's not these stiffs have crazed him; nor the Hun."

We sent him down at last, out of the way.
Unwounded;—stout lad, too, before that strafe.
Malingering? Stretcher-bearers winked, "Not half!"

Next day I heard the Doc.'s well-whiskied laugh:
"That scum you sent last night soon died. Hooray!"

- Wilfred Owen (KIA 4 November 1918)
posted by Errant at 11:56 AM on October 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


I feel so helpless every time I read another story like this, and so angry that I can think of a whole list of these sorts of stories. Is there anything that your average person can do to help? Someone needs to be fighting for these people's rights. Someone has to support and honor the troops.
posted by chainsofreedom at 2:19 PM on November 2, 2015


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