Peters Recognized for Fairness for Veterans Provision to Help Servicemembers with PTSD
WASHINGTON, DC - U.S. Senator Gary Peters (MI) today was recognized by the Vietnam Veterans of America as a Legislator of the Year and delivered remarks at the organization’s annual national convention. Peters was recognized for his efforts to pass bipartisan legislation to help veterans who may have been erroneously given a less than honorable discharge from the military due to negative behavior resulting from mental traumas such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). Peters, a former Lt. Commander in the U.S. Navy Reserve and a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, introduced the Fairness for Veterans legislation in 2015, and it was signed into law as part of the National Defense Authorization Act in December 2016.
“Advocates from the Vietnam Veterans of America working together with Iraq and Afghanistan veterans first brought this issue to my attention, and their support and hard work helped ensure that this important provision was signed into law,” said Senator Peters. “No veteran suffering from the invisible wounds of war should lose access to benefits they’ve earned through their service, and I’m proud that we were able to work together to pass this legislation and keep America’s promise to our veterans by ensuring they have the support needed as they transition to civilian life.”
“The lasting legacy of Vietnam veterans has been their steadfast commitment and service to our country and to their fellow veterans,” continued Senator Peters. “I am humbled and honored to be recognized by the Vietnam Veterans of America, and I look forward to continuing to work with this incredible organization to ensure that every veteran is treated with the respect and honor they have earned.”
“Vietnam Veterans of America is proud to recognize Senator Gary Peters as Legislator of the Year,” said John Rowan, Vietnam Veterans of America National President. “Senator Peters, who served in the U.S. Navy Reserve and rose to the rank of Lt. Commander, continues to lead in the fight for justice on behalf of all veterans. His effort to pass the Fairness for Veterans Act in the United States Senate offers hope to those veterans discharged by the military with less-than-honorable discharges and without due process.”
A less than honorable discharge, or bad paper discharge, is often given for instances of minor misconduct such as being late to formation and missing appointments – behavior that can be seen in those suffering from PTSD, TBI, and other trauma-related conditions. A less than honorable discharge renders servicemembers ineligible for certain benefits, including Post-9/11 G.I. Bill educational benefits and Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) home loans.
Peters’ provision codifies principles laid out in a 2014 memo by then-U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel to give liberal consideration to petitions for changes in discharge status to honorable if the servicemember has been diagnosed with PTSD, TBI or related conditions in connection with their military service. Additionally, the amendment extends the policy to PTSD or TBI that is related to military sexual trauma.
Peters volunteered for the U.S. Navy Reserve at age 34, where he earned a Seabee Combat Warfare Specialist designation and rose to the rank of Lieutenant Commander. After the September 11th terrorist attacks on our country, he volunteered again for drilling status.