WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill is reaching out to veterans service organizations 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. In letters to the American Legion, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, Veterans of Foreign Wars, and Vietnam Veterans of America, McCaskill is asking for information on how “other than honorable discharges” have affected the veterans they serve and what steps they’d like the Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to take.
“If the VA is unfairly denying benefits to veterans with PTSD or other mental health issues that may be related to their service, that’s deeply concerning,” said McCaskill, the daughter of a World War II veteran. “I’m committed to getting to the bottom of this issue so we can make sure that the men and women who’ve made such tremendous sacrifices receive the benefits they’ve earned.”
McCaskill’s outreach to the leadership of the American Legion, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, Veterans of Foreign Wars, and Vietnam Veterans of America is part of her ongoing efforts to determine if veterans with diagnosed mental health conditions who received “other than honorable” discharges were denied benefits. Earlier this month, McCaskill called for answers from the VA Secretary about how the VA determines benefits eligibility for these veterans. Her efforts follow a report from the Government Accountability Office that found 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 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 letters to the presidents of the American Legion, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, Veterans of Foreign Wars, and Vietnam Veterans of America HERE.