Tuesday, August 9, 2016

A moving op-ed by the father of a Marine

The New York Times has this moving op-ed by a former U.S. Marine whose daughter, who also had been a Marine, drank herself to death following her other-than-honorable discharge. Excerpt:
From 2002 to 2013, more veterans were given “other-than-honorable” discharges than ever before. The rate is five times what it was during World War II, though there is no indication that service members these days are more “dishonorable” than their predecessors. Because of such discharges, more than 125,000 veterans who served since 2001 have been barred from receiving basic veterans’ services, including 33,000 who served in combat. 
A fair review process can be the difference between life and death. Other-than-honorable discharges have serious consequences: They mean being denied access to some health care services enjoyed by other veterans, as well as education and employment opportunities. Veterans with such discharges are at much greater risk for suicide, homelessness and imprisonment. An other-than-honorable discharge can also mean being denied burial in a military cemetery. 
* * *
I spent five years trying to get Carri’s discharge changed. Even though the review board acknowledged that Carri had been given a diagnosis of noncombat PTSD, they said her misconduct was the determining factor in her discharge. 
I should not have been surprised. According to an analysis by the Urban Justice Center, the military boards approved fewer than one in 10 discharge upgrade requests in 2013. My chances on appeal would have been even worse: The Board for Correction of Naval Records, which would be the final arbiter in my case, granted just 1 percent of other-than-honorable discharge upgrade requests from 2009 to 2012. In 2014, the secretary of defense issued instructions for review boards to favorably consider upgrade requests for veterans with PTSD. This has improved success rates, especially for Vietnam veterans. No mention was made of upgrading discharges for sexual assault survivors like Carri. 
I had little hope that my pleas would even be heard on appeal. The boards have been overwhelmed with thousands of cases. According to a recent report by Human Rights Watch, the Board for Correction of Naval Records held no hearing between 2009 and 2013. Board members typically spent only a few minutes reaching their decisions. They were unlikely to see my application. Their staff would most likely have summarized my papers for them and prepared a decision, which the board members would probably not even have reviewed.
No BCNR hearings in a four-year period? 

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