At Fort Carson, Growing Number Of Injured Are Discharged Without Medical Benefits
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Traumatic Brain Injuries are the signature wounds of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Another problem is starting to emerge after soldiers come home and seek treatment.
In the three-part series Other Than Honorable that started Sunday in the Colorado Springs Gazette, Investigative Reporter Dave Philipps examines the growing number of wounded being discharged for misconduct.
According to the Gazette, since 2006 the Army has kicked out about 76,000 soldiers for misconduct. Within this group are an unknown number who have served overseas and returned home with PTSD or TBI.
Reporter Dave Philipps on reporting the series, which focused on Fort Carson Army Post, south of Colorado Springs:
“The thing that really concerned us was that when they get discharged for misconduct, they’re often stripped of any VA medical benefits, which means that sometimes soldiers that need help the most can’t get it.”
Philipps says soldiers discharged with injuries actually have fewer rights compared to civilian workers:
“If you strip away all the big talk about honor, duty and what we owe to our war fighters and you just look at this as a simple workman’s [compensation] case, you realize that soldiers…don’t have the same rights as everyone else. If [a solider] got his head injury when he was mopping floors or flipping burgers, his employer would have to cover his treatment. Because it happened when he was fighting our war, he doesn’t have that same right.”
Philipps says former Fort Carson Commander Joseph Anderson connected the rise in discharges to stricter disciplinary enforcement during his tenure. But Anderson told Philipps that deciphering the wounded from the misbehaving was a really big challenge.
“In fact, he said it was the hardest thing they do and he struggles with it every day. And to address that, he created a special panel to review any type of discharge that might have medical issues involved in it. He cites this as a success. Civilian advocates who work at Fort Carson say oftentimes the information that reaches this review board is not very accurate and sometimes soldiers that really need help are discharged anyway.”
The complete multimedia series can be found at the Gazette: Other than Honorable.