On Monday, a bill granting veteran benefits to individuals who received other than honorable discharges from the military went into effect in Connecticut, according to the Hartford Courant.
Other than honorable discharges include, but are not limited to, prison time after a civil court hearing or failure to meet codes of conduct for military members, according to G.I. Jobs.
The bill only benefits those who have received “bad paper” discharges and have been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or a brain injury, or are military sexual assault victims, the Courant article said.
“What we know is that there are tens of thousands of veterans who have bad paper discharges, who have been made ineligible for mental health services even though they have PTSD,” Connecticut Sen. Chris Murphy (D) told the Courant.
Murphy said the bill will allow veterans struggling with mental health issues to seek help without penalty.
“We have an epidemic of veterans’ suicide and there is a much higher rate of suicide among veterans with PTSD and bad paper discharges,” Murphy said.
Alyssa Kelleher, director of the Office of Veterans Affairs and Military Programs at the University of Connecticut, said the bill will be beneficial once applied.
Kelleher said she was initially perplexed by the process of distinguishing individuals who truly have any of the three existing conditions from those who falsify this information to receive benefits.
The law is not meant to erase serious misconduct committed by military personnel, but rather give these individuals the resources they need to rectify their errors and move on successfully, according to an article on Connecting Vets.
Kelleher said benefits are only offered to individuals who have been diagnosed with and/or affected by any of the above three conditions by licensed personnel at a VA facility. The provider must fill out Connecticut’s Qualifying Condition Verification Form when an individual applies for a service they now have access to, Kelleher said.
“I think there will be no issue with our office using the procedure put in place to approve the benefits that these veterans deserve,” Keller said.
Michael Calo, a Marine veteran and a first-semester political science major, said the bill is an equalizer for actions taken by individual commanders in the military.
“A lot of the discipline and punishment handed down in the military is by the commander’s discretion, so it can change based on where you are stationed,” Calo said. “So someone that did the same thing as someone else may get a different punishment.”
Calo said rules for certain behaviors in the military have changed rapidly over the years, which can also jeopardize an individual’s status in service.
“In previous years (certain behaviors) could’ve been accepted, but then all of a sudden people get hammered for it,” Calo said. “I think it’s a good thing that those guys who had one screw up but had a really good enlistment and were great otherwise can still get those benefits, because a lot of people join for that.”
Taylor Harton is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.