The Department of Defense's Office of Inspector General (OIG) has announced it will launch a new investigation into certain "personality and adjustment disorder" diagnoses in military personnel since 2009. The announcement comes after long-standing suspicion that the diagnoses—which enforces an immediate discharge from the service—were used as retaliation against military members who came forward with sexual assault claims.
As Air Force Times reports, the investigation was announced in a June 24 memo to the Army, Navy, and the Air Force. The OIG will identify service members who did come forward with sexual assault claims who are no longer in the military. They will then compile the data on why those service members left—and if retaliation played a role.
The effort is in accordance with a new measure in the 2016 National Defense Authorization Act. Representative Jackie Speirer of California was successful in adding the provision earlier this year. "For years, service members have been forced out of the military simply for reporting a sexual assault, often under the pretext of a false personality or adjustment disorder diagnosis," she said in statement last April. "This report will finally allow us to assess the scale of this issue so that we can begin to crack down on this life-altering type of retaliation."
According to other advocacy groups, like Protect Our Defenders and the Human Rights Watch, this particular kind of retaliation has lasting consequences beyond a discharge from service. Former service members with personality and adjustment disorder diagnoses have trouble accessing military benefits, finding new employment, and can even lose custody of their children.
THE NEWEST EFFORT TO ADDRESS RETALIATION
Representative Speirer's OIG provision was not the only measure lawmakers tried to include with the 2016 National Defense Authorization Act to address sexual assault claims and retaliation in the military. Earlier this year, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York failed to get the votes needed to include a provision that would use civilian prosecutors—and not the chain of command—to try suspected sex crimes. Still, advocates are hailing the new OIG investigation as a much-needed step in the right direction.
"The use of these inappropriate and often retaliatory discharges is a huge problem," Miranda Petersen, programs and policy director of Protect our Defenders told the press. "Unfortunately, we still don't know how widespread it really is."
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