PTSD Related Veteran Discharge Upgrades

 Many Veterans do not realize this but discharge upgrades based upon service connected PTSD has gotten much easier since 2014.  In fact, the rate of approval has increased dramatically since 2014.

Hagel Memo on PTSD Related Discharges

Secretary of Defense Hagel issued a 2014 Memorandum to the Secretaries of all Branches of the US Military directing them to follow new guidance on the granting of upgrades for discharges under less than honorable conditions if a causal link between such separations and combat-related Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) or related conditions could be established.

The Memorandum directed Boards of Correction to Military Records (BCMRs) to “fully and carefully consider every petition based on PTSD brought by each veteran”.

Liberal Consideration of Evidence of PTSD

Most importantly, the Hagel Memo stated:

“Liberal consideration will be given in petitions for changes in characterization of service to Service treatment record entries that document one or more syptoms which meet the diagnostic criteria of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) or related conditions.”

As a result, Between 1998-2013, the rate of favorable actions by the BCRMs (discharge upgrades) stood at a mere 4.6%.  By 2014-2015 the discharge approval rate had increased to 67% when petitions were accompanied by a PTSD diagnosis rendered by a qualified mental health professional.

Medical Records to be Given Liberal Review

Liberal consideration will be given to the following records for a finding seruce connection for PTSD or PTSD related conditions:

1. VA determinations documenting PTSD or PTSD related conditions.

2. Service records and other documentation from the period of service indicating one or more symptoms of PTSD or PTSD related conditions.

3. Private medical provider diagnosis of PTSD or PTSD related conditions along with case records supporting existence of these conditions at the time of discharge which may have mitigated the Other Than Honorable (OTH) discharge.

PTSD Mitigating Factors

As stated above, it must be found that the conditions would have mitigated the OTH discharge. The gist of it is that the conditions themselves will be weighed against the seriousness of the offense. For instance, premeditated criminal acts would difficult to qualify for upgrade since PTSD is not typically associated with premeditated acts. On the other hand, many other crimes such as drug crimes, DWI, domestic violence, assault…can and are often associated with PTSD or other related conditions.

Few Have Applied Under New Criteria

Despite the huge increase in approval rates, few Veterans have actually applied.  This is in part if not entirely due to the fact that most eligible Veterans are unaware of the changes.  Despite directives to the VA to notify potentially eligible Veterans, it is no surprise that the VA has done very little toward this end.

It is very important to get the word out to Veterans about the changes.  It could save literally save the life of a Veteran.