WASHINGTON – Following a recent report finding that thousands of servicemembers with PTSD or other mental health conditions who received “other than honorable” discharges were potentially barred from receiving mental healthcare and other benefits, U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill is seeking answers on what the VA is doing to help these veterans.
“As we approach Independence Day, we honor those who fought for our great nation, whose service and sacrifices allow us to enjoy our unique freedoms. We owe it to these brave men and women to make sure they’re receiving the benefits they deserve,” said McCaskill, a senior member of the Armed Services and Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committees. “If the VA is systematically failing to provide care to veterans who’ve been diagnosed with PTSD or other mental health issues related to their service, we can’t allow that to happen.”
A report from the Government Accountability Office last month found that thousands of servicemembers who received misconduct separations—including “other than honorable” discharges—had diagnoses of PTSD, Traumatic Brain Injury or other related diagnoses within two years prior to their separation. Servicemembers can receive an “other than honorable” discharge for a wide variety of reasons; the characterization of a servicemember’s discharge plays a large role in how the VA determines benefit eligibility.
McCaskill is looking into how the VA considers providing healthcare and other benefits to veterans with misconduct separations who have diagnosed mental health conditions that may be a result of their service. “You have stated a commitment to providing mental health services for [veterans],” wrote McCaskill in her letter to VA Secretary David Shulkin. “However, it is unclear whether and how the VA determines that veterans are eligible for care needed for service-related mental health issues.”
The daughter of a World War II veteran, McCaskill has been a strong voice for supporting our veterans throughout her time in the Senate. Last year, following advocacy from McCaskill and more than one-thousand rural veterans in Missouri, the Department of Veterans Affairs announced it would expand the hours of operation at Missouri’s Salem Veterans Clinic to be open Monday through Friday. Aiming to continue improvements to the quality of customer service at statewide VA facilities, McCaskill created a “secret-shopper program, the Veterans’ Customer Satisfaction Program, which allows veterans to share timely, confidential feedback about their VA health care visits, and helps provide oversight and accountability for VA health care facilities. The program is now active in five regions: St. Louis; Kansas City; Columbia; Poplar Bluff; Southwest Missouri (Fayetteville).
Read McCaskill’s letter to Shulkin HERE.