Legislation Proposed To Correct Improper Discharges of Veterans with Personality Disorder

A man with PTSD covering his face with his hands in front of an American flag.Two Minnesota lawmakers are pushing legislation they say will help thousands of military veterans with personality disorder who were wrongly denied VA benefits. They say thousands of veterans who may have had post-traumatic stress disorder were wrongly diagnosed.

A national study by Yale University found that more than 31,000 veterans were wrongly discharged from the military after being inaccurately diagnosed with either personality or adjustment disorder. The military doesn’t consider those disorders connected to their military service, so these veterans typically are not eligible for all of the benefits that veterans with honorable discharge receive. Many of them should have received help for post-traumatic stress disorder. They instead found themselves without access to the Department of Veterans Affairs.

They were told that what they had was a pre-existing condition, they should never have been allowed to serve, and then discharged them. Either a General or less than honorable discharges based on inaccurate diagnoses left these veterans without the benefits they earned, which denied them the access to the mental health they deserved, denying them the opportunity for career advancement, denying them the right to become made whole again in the sacrifices they made to the Nation.

The Service Members Mental Health Review Act

The proposed bill would make it easier for veterans to contest that kind of discharge and to access VA services. The Service Members Mental Health Review Act would allow veterans to have their cases reviewed by a psychologist or psychiatrist, and allow them to present medical information from the VA or Department of Defense and have their records changed if mistakes are found.

New rules are urgently needed because personality or adjustment disorder became a catchall diagnosis for struggling veterans over the last 10 years of war.

This practice is evolving into a problem largely because the injuries that many veterans are receiving in the combat setting and in other settings to include military sexual trauma, are difficult to diagnose and may take time to diagnose. Many of the symptoms associated with those conditions provide challenges in even trying to figure out what the problem is. Without a proper diagnosis, veterans dealing with combat or other trauma often languish without treatment as their symptoms intensify.

Diagnosing mental trauma is no easy task, said University of Minnesota psychiatry professor Michael Miller. The signature injuries of today’s wars — PTSD, brain and other psychological injury — can be difficult to pinpoint. “They sort of cope and deal with it but don’t necessarily seek proper treatment,” Miller said, “and certainly in the military with soldiers coming out of deployments who don’t want to report certain symptoms or don’t realize that certain symptoms are odd.” Miller said it could take months or years — and in some cases decades — before all of today’s veterans seek the help they need.

Legal Assistance with Veterans’ Claims

If you or a loved one suffers from PTSD and was wrongly misdiagnosed, you may have questions about VA disability compensation and eligibility for benefits. If you need assistance with a VA claim, call our advocates for veterans at (855) 855-8992 or complete our free online case evaluation form. Helping vets and their families is all that we do.

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