Bipartisan Veterans Provision, Championed by Peters, Passed by Congress Earlier this Month
WASHINGTON, DC — Today, President Obama signed into law a bipartisan provision introduced by U.S. Senator Gary Peters (MI) 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). The Fairness for Veterans amendment, which Peters authored, was included in the final National Defense Authorization Act conference report that passed both the House of Representatives and the Senate earlier this month.
“This legislation will give our brave men and women who are suffering from the invisible wounds of war an opportunity to access the benefits they’ve earned through their service,” said Senator Peters, a former Lt. Commander in the U.S. Navy Reserve. “I applaud President Obama for signing this critical provision into law, and I will continue fighting so that servicemembers transitioning back to civilian life have the support they need.”
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.
The provision signed into law codifies the principles of the 2014 Hagel memo 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.
The legislation, which Peters introduced with Senators Steve Daines (R-MT), Thom Tillis (R-NC), and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), has broad support from major veteran groups, including the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Disabled American Veterans, the Military Officers Association of America, the American Legion, Paralyzed Veterans of America, United Soldiers and Sailors of America, Vietnam Veterans of America, and Swords to Plowshares. Congressmen Mike Coffman (R-CO) and Tim Walz (D-MN) introduced similar legislation and led the effort to pass the provision in the House of Representatives.