WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Patty Murray (D-WA), Barack Obama (D-IL), Christopher Bond (R-MO), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Joseph Lieberman (I-CT), Claire McCaskill (D-MO) today introduced an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act that would temporarily suspend the Pentagon’s use of personality disorder discharges for those service members who have served in combat until there is a comprehensive review of the current procedures and an establishment of an independent discharge review board. Recent reports suggest the Department of Defense (DOD) has inappropriately and inconsistently used personality disorder discharges to swiftly discharge members of the armed forces with service-connected injuries such as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBIs). Such discharges can result in the loss of needed healthcare benefits from the VA as well as the repayment of enlistment bonuses, which can send injured service members and their families into debilitating debt.
“We need to take a ‘time out’ on these discharges and get the facts. We need ensure these discharges are medically accurate and that service members are not being denied the treatment or benefits they deserve,” Senator Murray said.
“Given the thousands of American service members currently suffering from service-connected psychological injuries, reports that the Department of Defense may be improperly diagnosing service members with personality disorders are deeply troubling,” said Senator Obama. “Given the lasting consequences of a personality disorder discharge, even one misdiagnosis is one too many. This amendment will force the Department of Defense to suspend its use of this discharge procedure until Secretary Gates can conduct a comprehensive review of these policies and establish a review board to ensure our service members have recourse when their cases are in doubt. It is our moral obligation to ensure that our service members receive the treatment, care, and benefits they deserve. That’s one thing about this war we can still get right.”
“Abuse of personality disorder discharges is inexcusable. This amendment will put a stop to these discharges until we can fix the system,” said Senator Bond. “The men and women who put their lives on the line to defend our freedom have earned a debt of gratitude from all Americans that we will never be able to pay in full. The very least we can do is take care of their battle wounds, whether physical or mental, and ensure they receive the treatment and benefits they deserve.”
Senator Boxer said, "It is unconscionable that some of our brave servicemen and women, including those suffering from PTSD and other mental health problems, may be receiving improper discharges for personality disorders and, in turn, denied disability benefits and guaranteed care from the Department of Veterans Affairs. This amendment halts these discharges until measures are put in place to ensure they are handled properly. We owe our brave service men and women nothing less."
“We have no greater obligation to those who serve our country in the Armed Services than to ensure they get the care they’ve been promised,” McCaskill said. “We cannot stand tall and proud as Americans if we allow one single service member to go without the benefits they deserve due to a misdiagnosis. Far too many combat troops serving in Iraq and Afghanistan are returning with mental health injuries that bear the potential for misdiagnosis, and we need to do all we can to prevent that from occurring.”
This amendment mandates a temporary moratorium on personality disorder discharges until the Department of Defense conducts a proper review and revision of its current policies and procedures related to this diagnosis. It also gives the DOD flexibility by granting an exception to the moratorium in those cases in which a service member provides false or misleading information, or omits information about past criminal behavior during the recruitment or enlistment process. The moratorium would be lifted after the DOD reviews its current policies, ensures it is following standard clinical diagnostic practices, and has established an independent review board to ensure that service members who have received this diagnosis may seek a review.
On June 21, 2007, Senators Bond, Boxer, Obama, Lieberman, McCaskill, Murray, and twenty-five other Democratic and Republican senators wrote to Secretary Gates to express concern over continuing reports that personality disorder discharges were being implemented improperly. Over the last six years, Defense Department records indicate that over 22,500 personality disorder discharges have been processed; or on average 10 service members have been discharged per day, every day in that time.