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Since 2001, more than 31,000 brave men and women in uniform have been discharged from the U.S. military with alleged diagnoses of "Personality Disorders." Many of these service members have served in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan, or have been sexually assaulted by fellow soldiers while serving our country. Since they were discharged for a personality disorder they have limited access to related health or disability benefits from the military or Veterans Affairs.
Rep. Tim Walz (D-Minn) has introduced a bipartisan bill co-sponsored by Reps. Jeff Denham (R-CA); Chellie Pingree (D-Maine); and Thomas Rooney (R-Fla.) that would require the Pentagon to reopen these cases. Rep. Walz is working with the Senate to add the bill as an amendment of the final defense authorization bill.
For years the Defense Department has been using the diagnosis of a Personality Disorder to kick service members out of the military without benefits, because by definition a personality disorder would be a condition existing prior to military service. Many of these brave men and women in uniform have served in combat in Iraq or Afghanistan, were sexually assaulted by fellow soldiers or exhibited signs of post-traumatic stress disorder.
Protect Our Defenders frequently hears horror stories from our sons and daughters in the armed forces that have been dismissed from the military after being sexually assaulted under the guise of a Personality Disorder. Rep. Walz's bipartisan bill would help fix this injustice.
Since 2001, hundreds, and more likely thousands of soldiers have been given illegal Personality Disorder discharges according to a report from the Government Accountability Office. In 2006, the Air Force diagnosed PD among its population at double the frequency of the civilian population. And an internal DOD review concluded in 2008-09 that 'only 8.9% [of PD discharges] were processed properly.' The Department of Defense must account for this disparity.
The impact of a Personality Disorder diagnosis is devastating for our veterans and follows them for years as they try to find a new career. Secretary Panetta has said that fixing the 'silent epidemic' of sexual assault in the military is a top priority – this is one injustice that can be righted by taking swift action. We urge the Secretary to support this effort.
Will you join us and call on Secretary Panetta to have the Pentagon immediately reopen and review all 31,000 cases? Please tweet the Dept. of Defense @DeptofDefense and ask them to reopen and review the cases. You can also email Sec. Panetta @ Leon.Panetta@osd.mil.