In November the Vietnam Veterans of America sent a desperate plea to President Obama. The veterans were asking the President to work with veterans who had been kicked out of the military for behavior linked to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or traumatic brain injury (TBI).
John Rowan, the national president of the veterans’ service organization, wrote to Obama that he would like to see a blanket pardon to post-9/11 veterans. Many of these veterans were administratively separated with an other-than-honorable discharge. They were suffering from service-connected PTSD or TBI.
At the time, Obama was continuing his history of issuing pardons to a lot of people, including criminals that many deemed too dangerous to be released. The veterans were hoping that his record releases would extend to deserving veterans.
Rowan and the other members are working on behalf of at least 22,000 troops have been kicked out of the military with other-than-honorable discharges. PTSD and TBI can cause behavior that will eventually incur punishment.
These behaviors can include repeatedly being late to formation, drunken driving and, getting into fights. PTSD and TBI often cause insomnia, depression and, anxiety. This leads many to self-medicate the problems rather than seek out help. A lot of people hesitate to ask for help from professionals because of the stigma related to illnesses such as PTSD.
Too often when people do seek help, they are punished in ways such as losing their jobs. This is especially true in a military setting.
When self-medicating doesn’t work, which inevitably happens, the alcohol or drugs leads to the behaviors listed above which then leads to more punishment. It is a vicious and futile circle that ends in a lot of pain for everyone involved.
Veterans who are kicked out of the military with other-than-honorable discharges are ineligible for benefits, including access to healthcare at Department of Veterans Affairs’. This seems especially ridiculous since these are some of the veterans most needing of those services.
This is what led to the veterans who drafted the letter also asking Obama to immediately give all veterans access to PTSD and TBI screenings at VA health centers, regardless of their discharge status, to ensure everyone who served has access to help.
They asked that Obama “ensure that this program extends as long as it takes for every applicable veteran to be properly screened and granted the appropriate pardon. This action has the potential to save lives, and is not without legal precedent. Through an executive order, President Carter erased the felony-level offense of draft-dodging for thousands of men who refused to serve their country during the Vietnam War. We believe that veterans who have done their duty and served their country deserve similar consideration before President Obama leaves office.”
Many Vietnam veterans suffered a similar fate. Rowan writes it would be “righteous” to issue a pardon for all Vietnam vets as well, but that Obama should “at least save the current generation of America’s warriors an unfairly marginal life as outcasts in the nation they have so faithfully served.”
Members of Congress have been trying to help the veteran’s cause as well. Representative Mike Coffman, a Republican from Colorado, this year introduced the.
This bill would give veterans the benefit of the doubt if they appeal their discharge. Under the bill, officials evaluating the appeal would start the process with the presumption that PTSD or TBI contributed to the cause of the behavior leading to the discharge.
The Vietnam Veterans of America recognize that Obama giving out the pardons was a chance they needed to seize. “We hope that President Obama, in the final hours of his presidency, will do right by his troops by helping bad-paper vets with PTSD,” Rowan said. “We cannot wait another four or eight years for an outgoing president to take action to help the most vulnerable veterans in the country.”
It would be wonderful to say that Obama stepped up and did the right thing in this situation. He has insulted and disregarded the military so many times during his 8 years, it seemed like a good time to gather some good press for himself.
That was apparently too much to ask. Obama did find time to commute the sentence ofon Tuesday. Manning was convicted of leaking sensitive information about American military and diplomatic activities and sentenced to 35 years in prison. Thanks to Obama, she will be released in May.
Rowan was appalled by Obama’s lack of decency, “As pardons are being issued to people who have been convicted of serious felonies, veterans who served their country in combat wait to be offered the same clemency.”
Fortunately for these thousands of veterans, a much more respectable President is about to take office and may offer the hope that Obama wouldn’t. The letter that was sent to Obama was also sent to Donald Trump.
President Elect Trump has already shown to be a less selfish and spiteful person than Obama. His appreciation of the military and his gratitude to them indicates he will be more inclined to listen and act on the veteran’s behalf.
No doubt the veterans and the current military are in the same situation as most in the nation, ready to see the last of Obama and his hatred of.
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