Get the interview. Tell the story from all sides. Stay out of it. That’s Journalism 101. And I’m completely breaking that rule.
What I’ve learned making “Charlie Foxtrot” really has full attention. It's too important for me stay out of it. We confirmed more than 300,000 service members have received less than honorable discharges since 2001. Tens of thousands have no access to VA medical services because of that discharge status. Here’s where it really gets my attention - the reason for those discharges is often behavior linked to trauma-related injuries like PTSD and TBI.
Veterans with less than honorable discharges are twice as likely to die by suicide!
So what can we do? Well, since Memorial Day we’ve interviewed more than seventy-five people to figure that out. We heard from veterans, service members, moms, dads, doctors, lawyers and Presidents. Secretary Robert McDonald, head of the VA, told us, “Only an Act of Congress can change this antiquated system.”
That’s what I want to see happen – an Act of Congress. Specifically, the Fairness for Veterans Act.
The bill, sponsored by Sen. Gary Peters (D-MI) and Rep. Mike Coffman (R-CO) requires the military to consider medical evidence of PTSD or TBI in the discharge review process. It has the potential to get thousands of service members the benefits they were promised when they volunteered.
That’s why I signed the petition to support The Fairness for Veterans Act.
I’m not alone. It’s a bipartisan bill for vets, backed by vets. Forty-four of the nation’s top Veterans Service Organization have signed on in support. This isn’t a “red” or a “blue” issue, and our lawmakers need to know it. However Congress only has a few weeks left to act.
According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, 20 U.S. veterans die by suicide every day. About 70 percent of veterans who took their own lives were not regular users of VA services. Veterans with less-than-honorable discharges are the most vulnerable group. These less-than-honorable discharges are often issued to service members for minor misconduct, that experts say, can be behavior linked to PTSD, TBI or other trauma-related injuries.
Now is the time for Fairness for Veterans. Let's give them hope to help heal the invisible wounds of war. Please support this common sense, bi-partisan bill to require the military discharge review boards to consider mental health diagnoses like PTSD and TBI.
I am asking the congressional delegation from my state to commit to changing the discharge review board policy by passing the Fairness for Veterans Act.