In a shocking new report from NPR and Colorado Public Radio, investigators
claim that the Army has dismissed tens of thousands of troops with TBI
or PTSD issues on the grounds of "misconduct." Perhaps most
alarming of the findings is that, despite Army officials’ claims
to the contrary, the practice is likely continuing to thrive in Army bases
all over the country.
The investigation was launched after Sgt. Eric James, an Army sniper who
served two tours into Iraq, secretly recorded his therapy sessions at
Fort Carson. Despite James' emphatic concerns for his own mental health
during these sessions, his recordings reveal that not one, but two separate
Army psychiatrists aggressively downplayed the sniper's claims right
to his face, often interrupting and even scolding him. Later, James was
notified that he'd be dismissed for a DUI—a charge that resulted
from his own self-medicating with alcohol—and barred from receiving
crucial post-discharge Army benefits.
As NPR and CPR found, James' circumstances weren't exactly rare.
James would eventually come forward with his recordings and spur an Army
investigation of Fort Carson. His two psychiatrists were punished, but
Lt. Gen. Patricia Horoho, the Army's surgeon general, insisted that
James' experience was not typical. NPR and CPR, however, dug deeper
and found that nine discharged soldiers with cases much like James'
weren't even contacted by the Army during their so-called investigation.
Of these cases was the one of James Holmer, a Bronze Star recipient who
deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq three times. Holmer had a possible TBI
injury in his record when he returned home and started experiencing debilitating
depression and anxiety. In 2012, he was found sleeping in truck on the
side of the road and was charged for a DUI. Three days later, the Army
began processing a less-than-honorable discharge for Holmer but, in accordance
with a 2009 law, also sent him to a therapist at Fort Carson.
Soon after, Holmer received and email that had been accidentally forwarded
to him. The email was from his therapist to another Fort Carson officer.
It read: "At this time, while [Holmer] may have a significant [behavioral
health] condition, I'll be able to clear him. I believe it would be
in our best interest to assist in expediting the process." In other
words, the therapist recognized that Holmer was in need of TBI treatment
but instead would clear him for a misconduct dismissal. As NPR punctuates,
the email was signed with a smiley face.
The Army's Response
James and Holmer's stories are only some of the few NPR and CPR discovered
that indicated a distinct effort by the Army to dismiss soldiers with
combat-related mental and behavioral issues. As reported elsewhere, many
suspect that misconduct discharges are being used as a cheap and efficient
way to reduce the ranks during peacetime, but the Army insists that this
isn't the case. Lt. Col. Chris Ivany, who oversees mental health in
the Army, told NPR that while many dismissed soldiers do have early indications
of PTSD or TBI, many of the diagnoses are not final and are hence not
necessarily related to misconduct charges.
Peter Chiarelli, the former Army Chief of Staff took an even harder line,
suggesting to NPR that indications of combat-related mental or behavioral
issues do provide legitimate grounds for a dismissal. "Does it [misconduct
discharges] make sense if they're going to be nondeployable for a
long period of time, and if we don't have good diagnostics and good
treatments, yes it does make sense. Because I need deployable soldiers
inside my ranks," he said. "The Army has a mission and that's
to fight and win our nation's wars. When people have any kind of an
illness and are not deployable, they're not going to be available
to do that."
There are some reports from Fort Carson that the base’s therapy protocols
for treating suffering soldiers is improving, but NPR's final case
study of a 20-year veteran who led troops three times in two theaters
suggests otherwise. As the report ultimately concludes, the practice of
"separating" ailing soldiers via trumped up misconduct allegations
may still be thriving in Fort Carson and beyond.
Mr. Jordan and The Jordan UCMJ Law group have successfully represented
numerous individuals in the Army and the Air Force who have suffered from
PTSD and TBI. It is always an important mitigating factor for sentencing.
It always provides context for any underlying misconduct. Lastly, if a
service member is facing a separation board, it is a great mitigation
point to bring to the board members for purposes of characterization of
service. PTSD and TBI is a real problem in our nations military. It is
not generally an excuse for a crime. However in some cases it has shown
to be a very real contributor to several different kinds of violent crimes
and can even provide a mental capacity defense in rare cases. PTSD and
TBI are serious. If you have it and you are facing UCMJ action, please
let your attorney know.
Are you a military service member facing a court-martial or an adverse
administrative action? If so, it is possible to fight to protect reputation
Joseph L. Jordan, Attorney at Law is a 10-year Army veteran who has built his reputation on providing aggressive
and effective legal counsel for military personnel stationed all over
the world. Even in the face of the most serious of charges, he can ensure
that his clients' voices are heard and that the best possible outcome
is placed within reach.
Want to learn more about his firm can help you and your case? Contact us
today to request a free case evaluation.